Dave invites me to comment on this Samizdata post and the associated Local6 News article, referring to the monstrous couple who tortured 5 of the 7 children in their care. Antoine Clarke (at Samizdata) has this to say:
There are two benefits of even the most useless schools. Children meet other children their own age, which is useful if one is not intent on becoming a hermit.
Of course there is plenty of unreported abuse that occurs in full view. In some schools abuse is ignored or even inflicted. But most basically of all, a 12 year-old child turning up weighing 35 pounds with burn marks and bruises in rags might be noticed. So having children turn up somewhere where their disappearance or injury will be noticed is a valuable function of schools. Perhaps they need to open twice a month for roll-call and then let them go home?
Oh, where to begin? With the condemnation the acts truly merit, I suppose is the best place. I have nothing but contempt for people who would do this to children, and there are no excuses nor meliorations (the Local6 article brings up a history of abuse on the woman’s part – it’s not an excuse if your life sucked to make sure other people’s lives suck, too). Apparently, they’ve been caught, and they deserve the full protection of the law until (and assuming) they are found guilty, at which point they deserve to die, as far as I’m concerned. As a father of four, I’d be glad to be the one to kill them; and I’d have no moral issues with doing it.
I don’t see any way in which homeschooling (assuming the Dollars were homeschooling, as opposed to not sending their kids to school) is connected to the abuse. That’s somewhat like saying that a person who abused their kids with pliers and pipes and also had a gun in the house abused the kids because they were gun owners. The two issues don’t connect.
I do see that people can use homeschooling as a way to hide kids who are being abused, but even ignoring teachers who abuse students, there are also the cases of severely abused kids who are in school for years without being detected as abused.
But to Clarke’s points, there are some problems that I have with them even aside from the homeschooling/torture issue. First, Clarke talks about socialization – meeting kids their own age. Well, why is that purely a government school thing? My kids know several good friends their own age – or within a few years of their own age. My kids also have relationships with several adults, which is something that government schools don’t nurture. In fact, government schools generally segregate to the year, so even having friends a few years apart is not common. When the kids grow up, they’ll meet, work with and live with people of all different ages; how does only knowing people their own age as children prepare them for this?
Second, the idea of schools as society’s guardians of proper child rearing frightens me deeply. I was going to say that teachers are paid to teach, not to tell us how to rear our children, but the truth is that teachers are largely paid to keep kids busy until they’re 18, and hey, some of them learn things. (It’s an essay for another time, so let’s see if I can get back on topic.)
Oh, yes. Education is inherently a very fad-based undertaking. Like any large body of practice in which it’s not possible to tell the results of a new technique in advance, crackpots and quacks flourish. “New math” is not the worst of it; nor is “multicultural math”. There are a lot of ways in which schools actively mitigate against education. Education is hard, and “schooling”, which is really just basic skills training plus warehousing, is much easier. Secondarily, teachers are not trained in how to raise children, just how to deal with them in a classroom. Third, teachers tend to follow a particular political (and often union-oriented) line, which is not necessarily in tune with all – or even most – parents’ ideas of how to raise children. I do not want a group of government bureaucrats to have the power to tell me how to raise my kids.
Homeschooling is no more nor less than a way to educate children. Some homeschoolers produce fantastically well-educated and well-rounded adults at the end of the process, and some make real messes. The same is true of other methods of education or schooling.
The reality of the situation is that government schools do an excellent job of producing a society in which nearly everyone is educated to a minimal level: they can read and understand and follow instructions given to them. The problem is that the government schools have not only raised the lowest rung, they’ve also lowered the rungs above the average. Training mechanics and scientists is beyond the government schools, and so is training leaders and philosophers. Some of those kinds of people will emerge anyway, and so far that’s been enough. But in our case, we want our kids to have a superior education, and the government schools cannot provide that, even in good school districts.