Sunday, June 3, 2012

Rick Santorum's It Takes a Family 13

In my latest reading of It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good, Rick Santorum talked about education.  I'll use as my starting-point something that Santorum says on page 386 as he defends homeschooling against the charge that homeschooled kids are deprived of socialization opportunities:

"By asking the right question, we can see that when it comes to socialization, mass education is really the aberration, not homeschooling.  Never before in human history have a majority of children spent at least half their waking hours in the presence of 25 to 35 unrelated children of exactly the same age (and usually the same socioeconomic status), with only one adult to keep order and provide basic mentoring.  Never before and never again after their years of mass education will any person live and work in such a radically narrow, age-segregated environment.  It's amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools.  In a home school, by contrast, children interact in a rich and complex way with adults and children of other ages all the time.  In general, they are better-adjusted, more at ease with adults, more capable of conversation, more able to notice when a younger child needs help or comfort, and in general a lot better socialized than their mass-schooled peers."

I appreciated this passage because I've long had issues with the elitism of some public school professionals, who have the audacity to criticize homeschooling, when public schools are far from perfect.  I'm not suggesting that Santorum is against public school teachers, for he talks about good teachers who actually want to work with parents to help kids get a better education.  My experience has been that this sort of concern spans the political spectrum among teachers, for I once had a liberal social studies teacher who said that any parent was welcome to come to his class to observe, no questions asked.  But I still have issues with how some public school teachers and professionals act so high and mighty.

At the same time, I think that public schools are important, for they bring different people together (to some extent).  I fear that an emphasis on private schools and homeschooling could result in right-wing fundamentalists indoctrinating their kids to hate and to fear people and ideas that run contrary to right-wing fundamentalist beliefs.  I acknowledge the value of many of Santorum's arguments: that there are parochial schools that are more diverse than public schools, that the poor should have a chance to receive a good education, that homeschooling allows for parents to spend more time with their children, that homeschooled kids perform well on tests, etc.  But I still have my concerns.  I'm not suggesting that people should not be right-wing fundamentalists, but I think that it's important for them to be around people who are different from them, so that diverse people can learn to get along with each other and to respect one another, notwithstanding their different beliefs.

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