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Trolling the Homeschoolers

No rule of the internet is more to be revered than “Don’t feed the trolls,” but I think I may be about to break that rule. Now, you can rarely be certain that someone is simply trolling; but when a writer digs up and re-posts a piece from 2005, calls it “Death to Homeschooling” [1], and then follows it up with two further equally inflammatory posts on the same subject — here [2] and here [3] — it’s hard not to think that that someone is doing a Dance of the Seven Veils before a roomful of potential pageviews.

Tony Jones’s argument is basically this: “to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society.” If I homeschool I fail to accept the “mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.” To homeschool my kids is simply “to ‘opt out’ of the societal” — he means “social” — “contract.” You can see that Jones really likes the word “missional” and makes it work hard for its money. “Missional means showing Christlike compassion to other human beings and to all of creation…. Missional means being the salt seasoning in the world, and you cannot be that seasoning (no matter your age) if you withdraw from society.”

Now, before I go any further: my wife Teri and I homeschooled our son Wes from seventh grade on, for reasons that I explained here [4]. Just so you know. Now, back to Tony Jones:

I’m not sure whether Jones has noticed that he’s not just denouncing homeschooling but also all forms of private education — though, since he graduated from Dartmouth and attended seminary [5], he evidently thinks that there’s some point, presumably after high school, when the absolute prohibition on private education is lifted. Lucky for him! He also professes puzzlement that anyone could possibly take his posts personally, even though he accuses them of disobedience to God and freely speculates on their base motives: “Sometimes I wonder if homeschooling is a choice that parents make to allow their own adult avoidance of rolling up their sleeves and making public schools better.”

So, you know: sounds pretty darn trollish to me.

But there’s a point I want to raise, because I think it’s generally relevant to mainstream American Christianity, of which Jones is a shining example: notice that his whole emphasis is on the right here and right now. If your kids aren’t in the public arena at this very minute then you’ve bailed on the social contract, bub, and you ought to be ashamed of yourself. But what if you’re educating your kids at home now so they can better serve society later? This is not a possibility that Jones considers, perhaps because he never actually discusses education as such — that is, he doesn’t say a word about what kids learn in school and why they learn it. Perhaps he hasn’t thought about these matters, but they bear thinking of.

Because when properly understood education is for something — it is preparatory to the assumption of full adult responsibilities. In John Milton’s great essay “Of Education” [6] he writes, “I call therefore a compleat and generous Education that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and publick of Peace and War.” You might feel that you’re doing your part for the “societal contract” by sending your kids to public schools for twelve years, and indeed you might be — but what if those schools do little or nothing to prepare those kids to serve the communities in which they live for the remaining sixty or seventy years of their lives? Intrinsic to both conservatism and Christianity as I understand them is the necessity of thinking in the longest possible terms, and well beyond the impulses, gratifications, and calculations of the present moment.

Teri and I tried to raise a young man to be equipped for the challenges of a complex, and increasingly complex, social order, so that he might be able to fill “all the offices both private and publick” that come open for him. We are of course not sure that our choices were always the best ones; but we are sure that we couldn’t have made genuinely thoughtful decisions if we had been working with the simplistic binary categories — public educaton good; private education bad — that Tony Jones prefers.

And we might want to reflect on the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, who was instructing the rabbis in the Temple at age 12, didn’t begin his public ministry until age 30. He seemed to think it necessary to spend a good deal of time in preparation for fulfilling, and more than fulfilling, the social contract. But what did he know?

UPDATE: A comment from a reader: “We homeschool our kids because we are confident that we can teach them more than our local public school. More importantly, we don’t want them to be part of the peer culture in our local school, which is decadent and destructive (for example, pornography is a big deal among the teenagers there, and teen pregnancies are becoming more normalized). It’s a hard thing for us, because we want to be part of the local community, given our religious and political convictions, but how can you be a communitarian when the baseline morality of the community has become so degraded? I am not willing to sacrifice my children’s character formation and education for the sake of proving a political or religious point. What would Tony Jones have us do to “improve” the quality of public schools? The problem is not so much the public schools as it is the public. Jones’s sanctimony about this issue is unimpressive.”

29 Comments (Open | Close)

29 Comments To "Trolling the Homeschoolers"

#1 Comment By Clint McBroom On September 21, 2012 @ 9:30 am

My wife and I send our 5-year-old daughter to a private school primarily out of a sense of responsibility to provide her with best education we could provide. You’ve given me some additional confirmation that we have made the right choice. Good word, Dr. Jacobs. Thank you!

#2 Comment By Marcus Jay On September 21, 2012 @ 9:41 am

What public elementary or high school did Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams go to? Help me out, I’m having trouble remembering.

#3 Comment By Steve From New England On September 21, 2012 @ 10:07 am

I read and really enjoyed Tony’s book on the Didache, but as the parent of two homeschooled kids and a public school teacher, I find his views disappointing.

#4 Comment By Leroy Huizenga (@LHuizenga) On September 21, 2012 @ 10:08 am

Two cheers for this. At least.

#5 Comment By Alan Jacobs On September 21, 2012 @ 10:12 am

Tell me what to do to get that third cheer, Leroy, and I’ll do it. Just tell me.

#6 Comment By Roger II On September 21, 2012 @ 10:21 am

Jones’ argument is silly. While I believe we do owe “something” to our communities, that obligation can be filled in many ways other than sending your kids to,public school. That said, I graduated from public school and sent my kids to public schools until graduation. Our local schools are good and have terrific extracurricular programs, so it worked for us. One thing I have always wondered is how homeschoolers teach advanced math and science. It always seems to me as though homeschoolers may have better and deeper exposure to the humanities, I simply cannot imagine trying to teach my kids differential equations or AP physics. And with better job opportunities in the STEM fields, math and science are crucial. I’d be interested in hearing how you and your wife did it.

#7 Comment By JO On September 21, 2012 @ 10:27 am

Great point. Another thing Jones seems to ignore is that Christian parents’ primary responsibility is to their children – ensuring their growth in knowledge, which is to know God, and getting them to heaven – and not to society.

#8 Comment By PEG On September 21, 2012 @ 10:40 am

If I may go on a tangent…

The common “selfishness” argument against homeschooling is seriously bunk, BUT…in a way it is incredibly heartening, and incredibly American.

I mean idea that homeschooling parents are more engaged parents and that it would be better for the system if those parents were engaged in public school education, because of the idea that the quality of a local school system is a function of parental engagement.

I find this idea, in a way, incredibly charming, because of this: it actually rests upon the engagement that parents can and do have an impact on their local bureaucracy. And in the US I’m sure it’s true at least to an extent, or so I’ve been told.

But here in France that idea would seem fantastical, because everything that happens in schools is set by a central bureaucracy, and the idea that parents SHOULD be engaged in their child’s schooling, and that they COULD have an effect on it would seem to come from Mars. (And would probably be quickly condemned as pathologically retrograde and elitist.)

Anyway, this is neither here nor there. I still think it’s bunk. (“THE SYSTEM DEMANDS YOUR CHILD AS SACRIFICE!”) But even the parameters of the debate are in a way heartening.

#9 Comment By Jennifer Merck On September 21, 2012 @ 11:01 am

I don’t know Tony Jones, and I was not familiar with his writing until today. However, I must confess to occasionally entertaining similar thoughts to his, though never so loudly, so publicly, nor so emphatically.

Full disclosure: my husband and I were both publicly educated through high school, as are our three children. Acknowledging this bias is important, I believe. Often, we love what we know. And often, we find ways to love what we know, because if we did not, we must acknowledge having chosen wrongly.

That said, I find Tony Jones’ points overly-emphatic, but somewhat compelling. The “missional-ness” he speaks of is a large component of my family’s decision to send our own children to public school. I also find Jacobs’ points about preparing children for future public & private service compelling as well. Perhaps there is balance to be found (in our own choices, and also in how we judge others’ choices) if we “mind the gap,” so to speak. That is, if we acknowledge as parents that there is no perfect way to educate one’s children, then perhaps we can live with the uncertainty of how it will all turn out. And if we are willing to live with this uncertainty, this acknowledgement that education is not a factory assembly line where perfect input produces perfect output, then perhaps we might be willing to look at where what we are choosing might have gaps. And if we are willing to “mind the gaps,” then we might arrive at something more balanced, and ultimately, better for our children.

For example, in a public school setting, while I mostly find my children’s teachers to be intelligent, committed, and interested in connecting with their students, this is not always the case. By and large, I have found the teachers in our school district to be excellent practitioners of their craft. Because this is not true 100% of the time, as a mother, I need to “mind this gap,” and stay connected with what is happening with homework and classwork. I need to be connected with the administrators at my children’s schools. I need to be aware of their assignments. I also “mind this gap” by offering my children supplementary material at home and outside our home that is intended to create for them a more richer educational experience.

If we were to home school, or send our children to a private, Christian school, there might be a gap in my children’s experiences of diversity (of race, of language, of intelligence, of socio-economic status, of religion). There might be a gap in my children’s experiences of “mission,” to use Jones’ word. And perhaps, as a parent, I would choose to “mind that gap” by offering my children other experiences that supplement what they are getting in their home school setting or their private, Christian school setting. Perhaps our family would find other ways of being salt and light, other ways of modeling engagement with the world.

As parents, we do our children a disservice if we believe that we can choose a means of education, and that it will provide everything that our children need. Let us “mind the gaps!”

#10 Comment By Josh McGee On September 21, 2012 @ 11:41 am

Our oldest child started kindergarten this year – in public school. We’re fortunate that it is a small town with many good families, and the school has always been well ran. It may not produce any (eventual) PHDs, but many college degrees, even masters degrees, and many fine citizens. But, I can say that I am already feeling the pressure of ensuring our children receive a good education and find myself wondering if my wife and I can qualify as ‘good’ an education that lacks (mostly by ignoring) the integration of a Christian moral rigor into the academic disciplines. All to say, I am perfectly okay with binary alternatives in some instances (murder = bad), but Jones seems to be unaware how many countless hours many parents spend praying about the education of their children, knowing there are treacherous mountains to scale whichever direction one chooses. In other words, he has confused the subject of the source of education as a moral law (a guideline to help us through the adventure of life) as opposed to leaving it as one of the adventures of life we all must take.

One of the ways we can know something is an adventure full of unknowns versus a guideline to help us through an adventure is how much time we spend praying about it and in what manner. I may pray that God would give me strength to be truthful, but I never pray that God would help me to know whether being truthful is the right thing to do. In the same way, I don’t spend time praying to God asking if education is important, but I do spend lots of time praying and wondering which source of education for our children is the right path to pursue. Jones seems to be confusing the difference between the moral imperative that helps us in our adventures with the adventure itself. Sorry I can’t explain that better.

#11 Comment By Rod Dreher On September 21, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

I mean idea that homeschooling parents are more engaged parents and that it would be better for the system if those parents were engaged in public school education, because of the idea that the quality of a local school system is a function of parental engagement.

I question this idea. What, exactly, can parents who are more “engaged” in the public school system accomplish? My late sister was a public school teacher, and a strong advocate of public schooling. She did not like that my wife and I homeschool our kids. Yet she told me over and over that so many kids she taught struggled mightily with their classwork, not because they were dumb, but because they come from such chaotic and screwed-up home lives. How are “engaged” parents supposed to fix that problem? I’m serious — I’d like to know. How are parents who are really committed to their children’s public school education supposed to make up for the problems caused by those who aren’t?

To be clear, I’m not saying that this is a reason to keep your kids out of public schooling. What I’m saying is that I get the impression that lots of folks who take the Tony Jones line aren’t doing anything more to help the public school than sending their kids there — and that by chastising homeschoolers in their fashion, they are trying to score status points for their public-mindedness.

#12 Comment By Jennifer On September 21, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

There is a false dichotomy being presented in that homeschooling does not automatically equal removal from “society”. My four homeschooled sons spend hours every afternoon interacting with peers from public and private schools. Plus because they are not in school, they have opportunities to serve our neighbors as the needs arise.

#13 Comment By isaacplautus On September 21, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

I wonder if Jones and the Christian Left realize how their rhetoric too often mirrors that of the Christian Right: Namely, our way is most Christlike, and your way isn’t. Nothing productive is going to happen when either side is that uncharitable.

#14 Comment By AKMA On September 21, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

I guess Tony Jones has written me off, too. I’ll have to learn to live with that disappointment.

#15 Comment By Steve From New England On September 21, 2012 @ 5:24 pm

Jennifer- I like your balance viewpoint. My wife homeschools our 2 kids and I teach at a nearby public school. Having a foot in both worlds I can tell you that “gaps” exist in both venues and paying attention to them is important.

Rod- You questions depends a lot on the system and the general population it serves. In my small suburban school there are a number of parents who are extremely involved in setting up service projects and the like for students. This could certainly be viewed as missional. I suspect if I taught in an urban setting I would see something different.

#16 Comment By Bob Jones On September 21, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

Rod said “How are “engaged” parents supposed to fix that problem? I’m serious — I’d like to know. How are parents who are really committed to their children’s public school education supposed to make up for the problems caused by those who aren’t?”

Here is my answer to you as an engaged parent with two children in public schools. You cannot, you cannot do anything about what other parents do, or that other parents do not give a damn about their children’s education. In fact, I have as much control over what other parents do to raise their kids as you (a homeschooling parent) do. Thus, I think this is really a silly question.

As an engaged public school parent (I should say parents, as my wife is probably more engaged that I in this respect), you can do several things to facilitate the best education through the public school for your own children.

1. Set a proper example of what it means to be an adult. Meaning as an adult you need to follow rules, treat others with respect, and ensure your kids learn to respect others. The best way to instill these values in your kids is to live you life and provide an example of what this means.

2. Spend time with your kids, help with their homework, discuss their lessons with them, read to them and let them read to you.

3. Encourage them to engage in extracurricular activities – music, sports, etc., and then volunteer to help with, and then attend those events. For example, my oldest daughter is in the school band (actually a middle schooler who was invited to join the local high school band), thus I have become a booster, and my wife and I encourage her musical development, but participation on our behalf has led to her becoming more engaged in the program and the music.

4. Work on projects with your kids – both required and extra credit projects. Things like Science Fair and History Day. There are lots of opportunities through the public school system to engage in extra type of work, thus encouraging them and then spending the time to help, listen, etc. is important.

5. Volunteer at the school, both through the PTA as well as directly in the classroom. My wife spends time in the classroom, as a parent volunteer (about an hour each day) so she gets to know the other kids and some of the other parents. It also helps to see how the kids interact with one another and provide some background when guiding our kids in how to deal with things like conflict resolution, etc. I volunteer with the PTA and other parent support groups for evening and other special events.

It is also pretty obvious that it is always the same parents who are engaged (usually about 20 to 25% of the parents). These are also the kids who consistently get good grades, and receive honors and other academic recognition.

This is certainly not a complete list, but I think all too often Homeschooling parents are too willing to sell everyone else short on whether they care about their kids education, and often come across as dismissive and condescending, and seem all too willing to blame society, as if the local public school is the only source of the types of things they complain about. After all I went to Catholic schools where two teachers and a principal (priest) were pedophiles, so there are plenty of moral problems with private schools as well.

My sense is, if you choose to home school, then fine that’s you business, but you shouldn’t be badmouthing other parts of society as a justification for your choice, because if the only reason you aren’t sending your kids to a public school, is because the community culture is bad, then I think you are doing your kids a grave disservice. It seems you should have a strong philosophical reason for choosing to self educate your children, and also be prepared to make the effort to thoroughly educate them. If it is just because the community is promiscuous, well then move, that is likely the better option for the kids.

#17 Comment By Joe On September 21, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

“What public elementary or high school did Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and John Adams go to? Help me out, I’m having trouble remembering.”

Not the one their slaves went to, I can tell you that.

#18 Comment By Rod Dreher On September 21, 2012 @ 8:17 pm

Here is my answer to you as an engaged parent with two children in public schools. You cannot, you cannot do anything about what other parents do, or that other parents do not give a damn about their children’s education. In fact, I have as much control over what other parents do to raise their kids as you (a homeschooling parent) do. Thus, I think this is really a silly question.

It’s not a silly question, and here’s why: if the school environment where your child would normally attend is socially destructive or unhealthy (for any number of reasons), or it is too difficult for your child to get what you regard as a good education because the teachers have to teach to a simplistic level, owing to the unpreparedness of most of the other students, then you do have to wonder what you, as a parent, can do to change things.

I’m thinking of a Dallas friend who said the social environment in the public middle school where he taught — that is, the peer culture at the school — was so toxic he wouldn’t send his daughter to school there. There was only so much the school itself could do to stop it. The kids came into the school and brought their bad culture with them.

This is obviously not the case in every public school, but as a matter of principle, volunteering at the PTA is not going to change that. And it’s not going to make the kids who come to school from families who don’t share a sense of mission about their children’s education any better prepared for classroom work.

My view is that we expect teachers to be parents and social workers, and that that is wrong. It’s not just public schools. A friend of mine is an administrator in a very expensive private high school, and says that many of the parents of kids there think that because they’re paying a five-figure tuition bill, the teachers ought to parent their kids.

#19 Comment By charlotte On September 21, 2012 @ 8:31 pm

Since public schools and colleges became infested with leftist socialist policies, I also homeschool my children since I cannot afford private schools.It is not about teachers parenting the children, it is about who the children learn from,what they learn and what values they are taught.

In some schools, even saying the pledge of allegiance is forbidden, having a flag pin is forbidden, having rosary beads is forbidden. Then there’s the issue of police in the public schools who treat misbehaving kids like felons–for minor offences like dropping crumbs on a floor.

Everything taught in public school is tainted with socialist revisionism. There is also the consideration of what they are exposed to at public school: drugs, sex and other kids with bad/no values who disrupt the classes.Same with teachers who have no morals and sleep with students or teach them sex ed in a way I do not approve of.Now this does not happen in all areas, but in some socio-economic areas.Thank you very much, but I homeschool.

#20 Comment By Steve From New England On September 21, 2012 @ 8:34 pm

Rod said “My view is that we expect teachers to be parents and social workers, and that that is wrong”

Again, as a teacher myself I can completely agree with this statement. I work in a fairly well off district and I can’t tell you the number of times a parent has come right out and told me that disciplining his child is my responsibility, not his.

Don’t get me wrong, I am fairly strict in the classroom and for the most part have no problem maintaining discipline, but I only see the kids for an hour a day for 180 days. I, as a teacher, can not be the primary disciplinarian.

#21 Comment By Jeffrey On September 21, 2012 @ 9:24 pm

I have always felt that, for a Christian, the missional argument was the best argument against homeschool. Christians are called to live sacrificial, missional lives because we are called to salt and light. Not only are we called to be missional, we are called to be missional RIGHT NOW (Jesus said that he did what he saw the Father doing, which was a present tense kind of thing). To me, it is clear that a Christ-relating family would have a huge missional impact on a local public school when it contributed to that school with thoughtfulness and prayer.

With that said, we quasi-homeschool our kids (which in our case means they attend a classical Latin school in suburban Dallas that meets three days per week with two days at home in study). We do this because, in addition to being called to missional living, we Christian parents are also called to raise our children toward truth, develop our children’s gifts, and do our best to foster our kids’ relationship with Christ. We have concluded that we can be most faithful to our calling as parents by educating our kids in our quasi-homeschool kind of way.

That’s not to say we don’t take missional living seriously. In fact, my prayer and aspiration as a dad is that we live missionally in every arena – in our neighborhood, our business, our extended families, our youth sports teams, our government, etc. There are many ways to live on mission, but we’re simply trying to be faithful to our entire calling as Christian parents. And, as Alan mentioned in the post, we want our kids to be prepared to live on mission for the rest of their lives. While not perfect, we think our kids’ school gives them the best shot under our particular set of circumstances.

#22 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 21, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

Our three children were engaged with the publicly and privately schooled after class hours and were leaders.

Their homeschooling benefited their peers and the community.

#23 Comment By Johnny F. Ive On September 22, 2012 @ 12:57 am

I think the main difference is in the hidden curriculum that people like John Taylor Gatto talk about. I disagree with Tom Jones. Public school is withdrawing from society. Children are not participating in the larger society. Instead they invent their own in their age segregated prison. In some cases what they create is a less violent commercial version of the society in the book Lord of the Flies. I would be pleased if public school was open to everyone of all ages and was a learning environment instead of a place that measures each person’s value numerically.

#24 Comment By Fran Macadam On September 22, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

I do believe the public schools are enormously important to the democratic health of the nation and in the important sense of instilling shared purpose.

But, like so many others in our current society, this is an institution that has lost its way and which doesn’t empower many of those it keeps underserving, but has become in many ways its own purpose for existing.

Private schools are definitely the province of the well-to-do and exacerbate the growing divide in wealth and status within a society where almost all the spoils are going to a few.

But those who can’t afford private schools (and may in fact disagree with their elitist purposes as well) really have no choice but to undertake the strenuous personal choice of forgoing de facto public school day care and engage in homeschooling, if they come to a decision of personal circumstances that their own children are going to be left behind if not homeschooled, or mistaught things they can’t buy into.

We cannot sacrifice our own children to a wait for eventual reform.

The biggest influence for good on future generations that we can actually do, is to make sacrifices for them now – and that benefits everyone in the long run.

Even if public school professionals have spent a whole lot of time and money demonizing and even criminalizing homeschooling parents, I applaud and encourage those who similarly care about our future.

#25 Comment By John Tagliaferro On September 22, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

I applaud the home schoolers and wish I could have done it your way.

My son the Infantry Officer (with two degrees) turned out fine, but unlearning him all of that nonsense he was fed in government school sure took up a lot of hours.

#26 Comment By Karen On September 23, 2012 @ 2:40 pm

People who support state run education or State education and who grimace at the idea of home schooling are often the same people who demand the State and states provide a “safety net” for an ever widening group of people. When you get down to it, it’s not these people are afraid that groups of people would naturally for through social cooperation to solve their own problems and find ways of educating children. They are afraid they would do in in ways they disapprove of. And to a progressive Statist, that IS truly frightening.

#27 Comment By Matt On September 23, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

Given I’ve considered some of what Tony says in my own context this post is pretty good response. I do think my complaints had more to do with the logic some people use to justify home/private schooling and I do believe like all decisions people can decide the same thing with completely different reasons.
But one thing this post hasn’t taken up is how the decision to private school effects those of us involved in ministry with youth. In my expierences if half a youth group has kids from a private school the private school culture dominates living the public school kids behind. This is more the youth ministers problems than the parents but another interesting thing happens with most private school kids and that’s the message they have been given through their educational choices is that schools are the primary site of our formation not the church. This one I think both parents and those who work with youth need to work harder at breaking. I don’t think we need to play church and school off each other completely but as school comes to an end often times the role schools played in their formation they see as unable to replicated by the church. It’s kind of like the opposite of the young life syndrome (being entertained so much around faith no church can cater to them after they finish.) The decision to private school your kid is an important one but often times the underlying message is that this decision is the one that effects your life (college, morals, sports, faith, etc.) and not the role the church plays in your life.

#28 Comment By Tim Davis On September 25, 2012 @ 12:56 am

I relate to three things that this article and the commentary bring together: the academic impact of homeschooling versus public schooling (in a single instance of each, anyway), the now vs. later approach to social influence, and the impact parents can have on public schools (Rod’s comment)

I was home schooled (almost un-schooled, really), never experienced “studying” for a test, and kicked college’s ass. My wife was valedictorian of her rural public school and struggled every day at the same college because of egregious academic under-preparation. The primary difference in our education was that she never learned to read for pleasure, whereas that was my primary occupation from age three onward. This was not just a dispositional difference, but a systematic one: on the part of my parents to provide the time and books, on the part of my wife’s school by providing no full-book studies and socially shaming anyone who was not a multi-sport athlete from early grade school on. I’m not knocking sports – I was a multi-sport athlete myself – but my wife would say she had no free time and no motivation to pursue reading for fun. This is a serious factor as we look at schooling options for our daughter. Even though the public schools in our area are “good” in terms of test scores, I wonder if that curiosity and self-propulsion into higher learning will be fostered there, or the deadly self-congratulation of grades and pragmatic minimums of effort (there are options in between, of course). It’s not only that I don’t want my daughter to be shocked at the difficulty of college – I want her to look forward to it.

On the argument of the deferral of influence versus a “missional” presence, I think it is a false choice. Certainly, my homeschooling prepared me for engagement with public affairs as an adult – no question. But the fact remains that being home schooled, in the case of my brothers and myself, led directly to greater influence among our high school peers – during high school. We were the hospitable weirdos whose home became the hub of social activity for our public school friends – I would like to think, in large part, because we were uniquely available (i.e. had finished our schoolwork at, like, 10am) and were haplessly unaware of the exclusionary identity politics being played out constantly at school. That being said, we were certainly not in any position of influence until then – we were hopeless. socially speaking, until our teens – and thus, oddly enabled to cultivate our curiosities.

On the various points that have been made about the impact engaged parents can have on public school quality, it seems to me that the influence is really powerful only when the engagement is not only for the sake of one’s own children, but for the sake of other’s children, regardless of those parents’ current engagement levels. With my parents as an example, it was the welcoming, mentoring presence that they had with our public school friends that led to the greatest impact. The sincerely respect for and emulation of my parents that our friends have clearly exhibited in the decade and a half since high school are clear testimonies to that influence. Now, this is only related to academic benefit in an ancillary way – but perhaps more direct than at first glance, as the stand-in parental role my parents played for my friends from families of divorce, poverty, and substance abuse was a fairly concrete way of addressing that particular and well-rehearsed corollaries of academic troubles.

#29 Comment By Joshua On October 5, 2012 @ 4:52 pm

I don’t agree with Mr. Jone’s argument (it seems a rehash of arguments that can be used against monastics, against domestic virtue and priority…so many problems there)

But there are legitimate social concerns of education. No less a radical as Pius XI, pope in the 30’s, emphasized the essential social nature of education. The difficulty is that the state and the family, as well as the Church (speaking in a Catholic context) all have legitimate claims. It is right and proper that the State should want its citizens to be educated, to understand how the government works, and be able to be informed voters, and so on. So it does have a legitimate role. But what people like Jone’s don’t get is that, while the state has a role, and even, in limited respects a superior claim in education it does not belong to the state by nature to undertake education as such. By nature that falls first to the parents, and any teacher is always acting in loco parentis, never as an agent of the state. Public schools may or may not be an effective way of the state aiding the family in education. There are certainly some public schools that are great. But many are abysmal failures in aiding the family. They in fact hinder the proper education of a child. It is not, perhaps, ideal to have home education always or for the most part, but in lieu of a bad public school, it can be argued that even the legitimate interest of the State is better served in many home education enviroments, even if not ideal. More ethical and better educated citizens are good after all.