"The police... told her she had been brainwashed by her conservative evangelical parents, who home-schooled her"

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Quote:
"Education is a social process," said Ludwig Unger, a spokesman for the education ministry in Bavaria, Germany's largest state. "In classrooms there are 20 or 30 people, and they come from different families with different cultural and social backgrounds, different religious backgrounds, and they have to learn tolerance. Therefore, it is necessary that they visit school."

I regularly meet people IRL and online that say the exact same thing. They believe that parents do not have the right to teach their children according to their own set of beliefs, but that for a child to be 'well-rounded', they must be exposed on a daily basis to many ideas and people, and that parents should allow children to choose their religion... or no religion at all. There are too many who claim to believe in freedom- but not for parents to rear their children in their faith.

schaitel's picture

right, well then, lets see them push that sort of thing on their Muslim community and see how well that goes over.
Its always the conservative Christians that get this sort of treatment.

Jason E. Schaitel MCP

co-founder FrancisSchaefferStudies.org

student at Veritas School of Theology

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Susan R wrote:
Quote:
"Education is a social process," said Ludwig Unger, a spokesman for the education ministry in Bavaria, Germany's largest state. "In classrooms there are 20 or 30 people, and they come from different families with different cultural and social backgrounds, different religious backgrounds, and they have to learn tolerance. Therefore, it is necessary that they visit school."

I regularly meet people IRL and online that say the exact same thing. They believe that parents do not have the right to teach their children according to their own set of beliefs, but that for a child to be 'well-rounded', they must be exposed on a daily basis to many ideas and people, and that parents should allow children to choose their religion... or no religion at all. There are too many who claim to believe in freedom- but not for parents to rear their children in their faith.

I think he has a valid point about social process and tolerance... but the idea that kids should choose their religion, that's another thing. I'm surprised how often I hear this also. It's as though objects, people, cars, food, etc. are all dangerous for children but ideas are perfectly harmless... so you can turn a kid loose in the ideological equivalent of a pharmacy and let them choose which pretty pills they will swallow. How enlightened.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Right, Aaron. Children in their formative years are deeply affected by the ideas they are exposed to, and giving them a Golden Corral of ideologies to choose from when they haven't even honed their reasoning skills yet... How many of us can point to something we heard or saw as a child we didn't understand that had a significant effect on us for months and even years? You don't even want to know what happened after I saw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSy8Ko1vSKQ ]this .

On tolerance- I believe if children are taught to treat others with civility, there is no need for them to be given the details of other lifestyles or cultures or belief systems held by others. I certainly don't know on a daily basis if the people I meet and interact with are homosexual or atheist or Venusian- but I do know that I am polite and cheerful and kind. THAT is what kids need to learn and see modeled by their parents and other mature adults. Are they going to see civility modeled by their peers? I seriously doubt it. Kids usually don't learn proper social skills from their peers. That's like having a couple of toddlers potty-train each other. So expecting a child to learn respect by putting them in a room with 20+ kids and one adult is sorry way to teach tolerance- which isn't IMO the appropriate role of an educational institution anyway. Respect is an aspect of character, not education. There are highly educated folks who are socially inept.

Schools as tools of socialization seems intuitive until you put it under the microscope, and then it looks like twaddle. But what people do is build a straw man of isolationism and tell horror stories of 'this homeschooler I know who doesn't shower'. Really? Does homeschooling cause people not to bathe? Do traditional schools ensure proper hygiene?

If we were really into anecdotal evidence, why not interview all the 'residents' of America's jails and mental hospitals and see how many graduated from a public school? Not a fair measure of public school success? Of course not- but that is usually how 'evidence' is gathered to attempt to outlaw or regulate home education.

To say that "In classrooms there are 20 or 30 people, and they come from different families with different cultural and social backgrounds, different religious backgrounds, and they have to learn tolerance. Therefore, it is necessary that they visit school." is a narrow-minded, bigoted statement, and totally lacks common sense, not to mention imagination and creativity.

Joseph's picture

Susan,

I am obviously sympathetic to homeschooling, and I think as Americans we can plausibly argue that it's something protected for us in our legal system. But most people, including Americans, believe the state has an obligation to educate its citizens, and I don't know many people who seriously question that, seeing as the alternative would be chaotic and a mass decline in general education, if it were to be privatized and left legally optional.

So, I don't agree with Germany's policies, but I understand them. It's one way Europe is simply different than the US (France is extremely strict about education, too).

Moreover, I don't think you're sufficiently sympathetic to the tolerance, etc. argument. I think that's a good argument, and that there are legitimate concerns about children who do not interact with others of very different backgrounds. If you think its just state ministers in Germany who have such concerns, I'll share something I just read last night on Susas Wise Bauer's blog:

Quote:
I myself have had a very frustrating time teaching students who come into William & Mary primed to resist the lies of “liberal faculty.” (That includes a lot of home educated students, who register for for my classes because they think I’m safe.) Every time I say something that strikes them as possibly “liberal,” all of their defenses go up and they tune me out. I can’t play devil’s advocate or dialogue with them–they immediately put me on the list of untrustworthy professors and stop listening.

And at that point they become unteachable.

I’m often asked how home educated students stack up against others in my classes. My overwhelming impression is that they’re more fragile. They’ve got little resilience; I can’t push at their presuppositions even a little bit. Maybe they’re afraid those presuppositions will shatter.

From this http://www.welltrainedmind.com/preparing-for-college/what-not-to-look-fo... post .

Now when I first heard such complaints, I was indignant, but then I realized how contingent my own experience was on my family, my own personality, etc. I am not against homeschooling; in fact, I intend to do it, at least for a while. But I'm learning to be less defensive - there really are problems, and while one might dismiss a German minister, it would be hard dismiss someone like Bauer.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

First- I am not opposed to the idea that a society may choose to educate its citizens and make that a function of gov't, but regardless of whether or not attendance is mandated, let's get real here- you cannot force someone to learn. So IMO it's not really accurate to think of gov't education as being all that effective. Hence the illiteracy that plagues America regardless of the safeguards we try to put in place.

Second, isolationism, bigotry, rigidity, defensiveness... all are IMO human nature issues not reserved for or inherent to homeschoolers. How many 'unteachables' are in traditional schools? How many parents battle gov't schools regularly to prevent their (and everyone else's) children from hearing opposing ideas, reading controversial books, learning about various religions?

As far as interacting with others of different backgrounds- I clearly remember how peer socialization worked in school- there were the Nerds, the Jocks, the Princesses, and the Dopers. And nary these groups did meet. Or did we all miss seeing The Breakfast Club? I don't recall proper socialization skills being taught or required in school. I do, however, recall being shoved down a flight of stairs for refusing to make out in the janitor's closet with The School Stud.

I agree with Bauer, especially when she says "Eighteen and nineteen-year-olds should be mature enough to take classes from faculty they disagree with–or else they’re not mature enough to be at university." Reminds me of the topic of another thread around here. But does traditional education guarantee this maturity? No- this is primarily a parenting issue, not an educational method issue. The ability to consider opposing ideas in a respectful manner is IMO still more about character development than just being exposed to or interacting with different people.

Whenever I hear how parents are not as important to child development as school, I wonder about all the studies that say parental involvement and influence is key to cognitive development, eating/exercise habits, choices about participating in sex/drugs... I mean, either it is or it ain't. KWIM? Schools can't drag out these arguments when they want parental support, and then shove them into the back of the closet when they want parents to hand their kids over and shut up.

Erg- devolved into a bit of a ramble there...

Joseph's picture

Susan,

I don't think it helpful or, more importantly, valid to argue from exceptions or what can happen. So, I agree it would be silly to act like intolerance, etc. don't spring up all over the place. The point is rather about certain kinds of environments that may help mitigate this. I think it's common sense to say that people who are regularly exposed to others of different beliefs and lifestyles will tend to be more tolerant. Some of that is just a fact, as one can see in sociology (cf. Peter Berger on "contamination" from alternate plausibility structures). So, public schools can be helpful in this way. That's the extent of the claim, nothing further: not that they always are, or are in every case, etc.

Secondly, it's would be fallacious to make an inference from American pre-college education to the effectiveness of government education. Government education can be extremely effective, as you can check by looking at the rankings of pre-college countries based on math, science, and literary. The countries at the top are not homeschooling countries. The US has the best post-secondary universities, but probably the worst pre-university school system of any major, post-industrial nation. But that's an argument against current US education, not against the effectiveness of government run schools.

I agree with you on the centrality of parenting in all of this.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Every argument I've ever heard against home education was based on false assumptions (the kids seldom leave home and sit around the kitchen table with Mom) and possible exceptions (what if homeschooling is a cover for abuse?). 'Common sense' or not, there is no evidence to support the conclusion that public education does a better job of teaching community and tolerance than parents.

Quote:
I think it's common sense to say that people who are regularly exposed to others of different beliefs and lifestyles will tend to be more tolerant. ... So, public schools can be helpful in this way.

I agree with you on the centrality of parenting in all of this.


We agree much more than we disagree about this topic, I think. I most certainly grant that traditional schooling can be helpful- but not without solid adult role models. Children do not learn social skills, tolerance, or compassion from other children. They may exercise them if they have already acquired them. Any parent can provide opportunities for children to be exposed to others of different beliefs and lifestyles. Schools do not have a monopoly on social opportunities.

But even if a child is exposed to many different people at school- who is still more likely to wield the most influence on their attitudes towards others? Parent and peers- the unavoidable double whammy. Which one Scripturally should trump the other?

If public schools are our best solution for encouraging tolerance, we have to deal with the significant percentage of students who have and will experience class warfare, bullying, cliques, sexual harassment and molestation, drug abuse, violence, adversarial relationships between students and teachers...? See research at National Center for Education Statistics, such as http://nces.ed.gov/programs/crimeindicators/crimeindicators2010/index.asp ]Indicators of School Crime and Safety 2010 , and the CDC's http://www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/index.htm Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System . Also check out http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/200909/seven-sins-our-... ]Seven Sins of Our System of Forced Education at Psychology Today.

Comparing American schools to European is problematic. But I agree that their successes are just an argument against some of our current practices, and not against gov't education. But taking all of this into consideration, we as Christians are still compelled to keep Biblical principles in mind, and not sacrifice the structure of the family on the altar of academics.

What all this means IMO is that if a gov't is going to make such a comprehensive judgment about what environment is best for children to learn tolerance, they need to get the Brooklyn Bridge out of their eye before they use the tweezers to get at the dust they think is in the parent's eye.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I agree with the basic premise that tolerance is about peaceful coexistence, not the absence of disapproval (which so many have tried to make "tolerance" mean). And so if kids successfully learn to be respectful and kind (and wise... it only makes sense to be friendly and agreeable with someone you hope to straighten out!), that's all the tolerance we need.
I'll add though that I think some of that has to be learned by judicious exposure. I don't believe tossing a kid into an ideological and moral piranha tank with some raw hamburger is a good way to learn tolerance. But I do think that the theoretical needs some practical by meeting people who are different and getting along with them. There's knowledge of theory and then there's skill. You have to get a little messy to get skill.

That's where "socialization" comes in. I don't like the term a whole lot. Too loaded. But there are skills involved in getting along with people, working with people, etc. Unless you have these naturally (some people do, I believe) you can only learn them by being among people. To a degree, a large family can take care of this. But one thing a family can never do--no matter how large--is provide real world experience in getting along with non-family. The relationships are different and draw on some different skills (though, sure, many of the same ones).

My own experience in schools growing up was pretty negative over all. Felt like I was getting knocked around all the time (usually in pretty subtle ways) and just generally being a square peg. But even that was very educational. I used to think I'd like a jr.high/highschool do-over in which everybody likes me. But I'm not sure now that that would be good at all. I'm not sure how much stupider I'd be without those painful experiences. Smile

Have to say, though, I still think the "homeschooling is bad because the kids can't learn social skills" argument is a huge exaggeration. There are lots of workarounds to help grow those skills without a "school environment," and the school environment does come with downsides too (how many and how severe depends mostly on the school).

Joseph's picture

To be fair to all involved, it's worth noting that learning to understand and interact with people whom we disagree or in some respects disapprove of is not just an educational problem, limited to certain modes of schooling. It's a general cultural problem, in both the North and the South. Kevin Roose's generally very good book, The Unlikely Disciple, (a very funny book about Roose, a Brown student, and his time undercover at Liberty University) is most profound not in what it says but in what it shows: how strikingly different cultures even in the English speaking, white US are, and how little they understand each other or interact with each other. That's a big problem, in my view, much bigger than a debate about home schooling. (A good review of Roose's book is by Karen Prior, Books & Culture)

How many gays do most Christians know? I am disturbed by the fact that the realistic answer to that question is: none. Ditto with liberals in general, etc. That makes for toxic misunderstandings, caricatures, etc. Part of being offensive consists precisely in not being aware how your behavior and speech are perceived by the person you are offending (as happens when one only talks about people, not to them), which I have seen when often when hanging around both liberal and conservative people. Whenever it happens I know that the person does not have any regular, meaningful interaction with the person/group they are speaking about. That's one reason it is very important to actually have meaningful interaction with different people.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

True, Joseph- and one thing we as Americans struggle with is our desire to preserve individualism and cultural heritage, while at the same time promoting societal unity. Personally, I think we can have both, because, as Aaron points out, tolerance does not equal approval. While I would define prejudice as more of a sin nature problem than a cultural one, certain historical/cultural factors exacerbate inherited bigotries, I'd certainly grant that.

But do we really want to solve that problem? IOW, what would it take to create a truly 'tolerant' or 'homogeneous' society? And should that be one of the primary functions of school as an agent of gov't? It appears to be what Mr. Unger and the German gov't are advocating with their 'school is necessary' mantra. And it is what many homeschool critics focus on as well.

So to directly address questions about proper socialization- How often should children interact with others to ensure they are receiving adequate socialization? An hour a day? Six hours a day? How much time is actually spent socializing or learning social skills in the average traditional school? At what age should this interaction start? ASAP? When they are old enough to communicate? Wait until they are old enough to reason?

We should also ask, Scripturally speaking, who should be the primary teachers of our children? How and when do we apply principles in verses such as Psalm 1:1, 1Cor. 15:33 and Prov. 13:20?

Along those lines- I agree that it is sad when Christians become isolationists of one stripe or other. If we are to separate from anyone Biblically, it is from an unrepentantly disobedient brother, not necessarily the lost. But are these commands directed at children, or mature, regenerate adults?

It's true that we all have our 'circle the wagons' impulses. However, as long as we acknowledge the wrong-headedness of that attitude and dismantle the old hierarchies that have allowed it to flourish, I think we can make some headway in that area. We have several threads going right here at SI addressing various aspects of this problem.

BTW, I was taking a look at Finland, whose educational system has everyone going 'ooh-aah' lately, but IMO the differences start at the cultural level, and not at the school level. Finns have a completely different mindset about child-rearing.
From http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120425355065601997-7Bp8YFw7Yy1n9b... a WSJ article -

Quote:
With a largely homogeneous population, teachers have few students who don't speak Finnish. In the U.S., about 8% of students are learning English...

Finland separates students for the last three years of high school based on grades; 53% go to high school and the rest enter vocational school.

Another difference is financial. Each school year, the U.S. spends an average of $8,700 per student, while the Finns spend $7,500.

...College is free. There is competition for college based on academic specialties -- medical school, for instance.

... the Finns don't begin school until age 7, a year later than most U.S. first-graders.

Once school starts, the Finns are more self-reliant. ... some first-grade students trudge to school through a stand of evergreens in near darkness. At lunch, they pick out their own meals, which all schools give free, and carry the trays to lunch tables. There is no Internet filter in the school library. They can walk in their socks during class, but at home even the very young are expected to lace up their own skates or put on their own skis.

Sorry- rambling again. But I started this comment an hour or two ago, and I've made pancakes and sausage, started a load of laundry, helped the kids with math, washed the breakfast dishes, and walked the dog during the writing of this post.
http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-chores003.gif[/img ] http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-chores004.gif[/img ] http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys.php ][img ]http://www.freesmileys.org/smileys/smiley-chores016.gif[/img ]

Becky Petersen's picture

Joseph wrote:
it would be hard dismiss someone like Bauer.

Please educate me. Who is "Bauer?" Who is she, except a professor at W & M? Is she a famous Christian?

Becky Petersen's picture

Joseph wrote:

How many gays do most Christians know? I am disturbed by the fact that the realistic answer to that question is: none. Ditto with liberals in general, etc. That makes for toxic misunderstandings, caricatures, etc. Part of being offensive consists precisely in not being aware how your behavior and speech are perceived by the person you are offending

This is so true.

One time we asked a visiting missionary family from another country to sing in our church here in Poland. Their teens sang in English about being a missionary to the heathen--and how they were going to win the heathen to the Lord, etc. I was a bit distraught--trying to think of how it sounded to the average Polish religious person--it could be/would be a huge turnoff for them.

I was very relieved to realize that not one Polish person there understood English (and no, we didn't translate the song for the people!) But I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised as this is a couple that taught their boys to look down as they walked lest they look at girls who were wearing immodest clothing (i.e. tight jeans)!

Joseph's picture

Becky,

Susan Wise Bauer is a prominent figure in the home education movement; she and her mother wrote an influential and widely consulted book called "The Well Trained Mind."

She is herself a product of an impressive home education, and she and her husband home school as well.