P R E S I D E N T S P A G E
Excited Kids and Establishment Bigotry
Tara Lipinski paced in eager anticipation as she waited for the judges results. On the ice she had shown the world a smooth, sophisticated image as she jumped, twirled, and elegantly glided through her final routine. The results were posted. And the whole world watched a normal young teenage girl squeal and jump in absolute delight.
No one criticized Taras emotional outburst. Americans, at least, took special pride in her reaction. We like it when ordinary kids win gold medals, world championships, and national honors. Its part of our egalitarian tradition. Anybody willing to work hard in America can succeednot just those born rich and famous and trained to exude an air of cool sophistication.
Last spring most Americans saw nationally-televised news reports of a home school girl from New Jersey, Rebecca Sealfon, jumping and squealing with exuberance. She had just won the Scripps Howard national spelling bee, eliminating hundreds of others by her superior performance. She too was the talk of America.
But unlike the universal acceptance accorded Tara, some critical voices blasted Rebecca for her excitement. In an appearance on Capitol Gang, Margaret Carlson of Time magazine sniffed, Send this irrationally exuberant child to a public school.
Home schooling produces great academic results, the critics begrudgingly admitted, but look at their social skills. Yes, your kids may be smart, but they are social freaks. Your way is inferior after all, the critics sneer in self-satisfaction. If your kids were in public schools, they would know how to behave in a better, more appropriate fashion when they win.
The educational chauvinism reflected in Carlsons criticism of Rebecca Sealfon is reminiscent of the bigotry shown to black athletes as they broke the color barrier into professional sports. When the establishment couldnt criticize their athletic performance, they focused on the off field behavior of black athletes to suggest that whites were superior after all. It took until 1997 for a black athlete to wear the Green Jacket at the Masters. And the watermelon jokes immediately followed, indeed from a fellow pro, Fuzzy Zoeller.
Carlsons bigotry may not have been racial like Zoellers, but it is bigotry nonetheless. It is a reaction from a member of the prevailing order who simply cant stand the idea that people coming from another segment of America may prove themselves to be superior.
Most Americans reacted to Rebecca much the same way they did to Tara. They enjoyed her delight and admired her success in the contest. Dozens and dozens of non-home schoolers congratulated me on Rebeccas success. What I had done to deserve congratulations was a bit of a mystery to me, but I received the compliments as a desire to communicate a message of goodwill to all home schoolers: We accept you because of your individual merits and efforts. We dont care if you do things a bit differently from the rest of us.
Let me give some unsolicited advice to Margaret Carlson, the National Education Association, and other members of the education establishment who feel compelled to assuage their own crumbling feeling of superiority by criticizing home schoolers.
Grow up. Open your minds. Stop the bigotry. Home schoolers are here. Were not going away. Sometimes we will win. Sometimes we wont. We may squeal when we win. We may shed a few tears when we lose. Were normal. Were part of America. Get used to it.