Friday, July 20, 2007

Are Homeschoolers Intolerant?

On Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post published an editorial by Frank Cerabino, a columnist who apparently thinks homeschooling is nothing but a place for parents who have eccentric religious beliefs to shelter their kids from anything remotely resembling the real world. Frank's article is sarcastic and sometimes downright rude, a classic example of someone who has rarely had a conversation with an intelligent homeschooler. Here's a sample:
She's the West Palm Beach mother who did a quick word search on library computers at a couple of local public high schools and was shocked, simply shocked, to discover 80 objectionable books available to students.

Let's face it, some books are just plain hard to even look at - never mind to actually open them and read the words inside. . . .

I agree with her that the public schools are very light in their teaching of those early days when people were tyrannosaurus food. And if that's your issue - making sure that your children learn that the collected wisdom of science is dead wrong - then public schools are in regrettable shape.

I personally don't agree with Ms. Lopez' crusade to rid public school libraries of everything she doesn't agree with. I'm surprised she even expected, in our pluralistic society, to find anything other than what she found. In fact, I'm amazed she found only 80 objectionable books, especially given that her criteria included evolution, abortion, and atheism! And I DO agree with Mr. Cerabino that perhaps the best solution for Ms. Lopez is to homeschool her children. But I must take issue with Mr. Cerabino's reasoning as to WHY she ought to homeschool:
This is why there is home schooling. Home schooling is a wonderful form of school choice. It allows parents lots of elbow room to create parallel universes, worlds of their own making inside the comfort of their own homes, where there never shall cross a fragment from the outside world that hasn't been purified through the crucible of their own narrow beliefs.

It's a safety net for the intolerant.

I think Ms. Lopez ought to homeschool because it would give her children a better education and expose them to more of the real world (rather than the insulated world of the classroom, where input is controlled exclusively by the teacher and the child's peers of identical age). In spite of his recommendation, it would surprise me if Mr. Cerabino were actually supportive of homeschooling. It seems quite clear that he thinks it is nothing but a way for religious and conservative people to raise their kids in a cocoon.

This morning, Dana over at Principled Discovery takes on his argument - and does an excellent job of it, too! She points out that parents have every right to direct the education of their children. (I would suggest that not only do we have the right, but we have the responsibility to direct our children's education, whether they attend public or private schools or are homeschooled .) She brings up the recent Supreme Court judgement making it clear that private schooling and homeschooling is an option for those of us who disagree with the way the public schools are teaching our kids. And then she makes this statement:

And teaching them through my worldview, with my faith and my values is not creating a parallel universe. The essence of pluralism is diversity and mutual respect. It allows each of us to keep our own culture, our own religious beliefs, our own traditions intact while respecting those around us (emphasis mine).

I have no disrespect for atheists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. I have no desire to impose governmental regulations on any group for religious means. But I do think it ironic that, as a member of a group attempting to preserve a segment of that which has historically been distinctly American, I am accused of attempting to create a parallel universe. Because it doesn't fit with the vision certain social engineers have for America.

If you agree with these social engineers, that is fine. I don't mind what you teach your children. Just leave mine out of it.

I agree 100%!

What amazes me is that people like Frank Cerabino have the nerve to write editorials like the one published this week, and then to call me intolerant! Mr. Cerabino is able to obtain an education in accordance with his beliefs in the public schools (whether because his beliefs were shaped by public education or merely because he now agrees with the values taught by public education really doesn't matter much at this point). All I want is to educate my children in accordance with my own values; I have no wish to impose those values on others. But because I homeschool, I am intolerant (and therefore apparently worthy of ridicule, in which he freely engages) - while his wish to see all public school children (preferably including mine) educated according to his values is somehow tolerant.

He's right - Ms. Lopez can't expect the public schools to teach her children according to her beliefs, and she ought not to be surprised when they don't. On the other hand, the desire to teach our children in accordance with what we believe is normal and natural, and there's nothing intolerant about it.

Look at Dana's statement about pluralism again:
The essence of pluralism is diversity and mutual respect. It allows each of us to keep our own culture, our own religious beliefs, our own traditions intact while respecting those around us.

She is exactly right! Pluralism doesn't mean that we are spineless wimps with no belief system, "driven and tossed by the wind," but that we hold firmly to our own beliefs without denigrating others. That is what tolerance is all about - and homeschooling our kids is a great way of achieving that.


Dana said...

Excellent thoughts, Marcy. Thank you for pointing me to it.

I am getting a tad perturbed at the number of people who seem to be attempting to silence me and minimize my ability to teach my children for the sake of "tolerance."

Marcy Muser said...


Thanks for the kind words.

As for people attempting to silence us - I know what you mean. I don't understand how they can claim to advocate tolerance when they are so intolerant of those who disagree with them.