By Chris Klicka
Homeschooling parents often receive much criticism for not allowing their children to be socialized by their peers in a conventional classroom setting. Some educational experts, however, believe that children are better socialized by their parents than by their peers. Three questions then arise. What is socialization? How is socialization measured? And what is negative socialization?
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines the process of socialization as emto make social; to fit or train for a social environment.” This definition of socialization is inextricably bound to self-concept or self-assurance, because a child will not be able to operate successfully in interpersonal relationships (a social environment) if he lacks a healthy self-concept. Loving and supportive parents are going to provide a more healthy environment for the development of a positive self-image than a classroom of children who are often insensitive in their ridiculing of fellow students’ failures or peculiar traits.
In fact, a recent study of 224 homeschooled children demonstrated that, as a group, homeschoolers have considerably higher self-concepts than other children. The Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, one of the best self-concept instruments available, was used to evaluate these 224 homeschoolers in grades 4–12. One half of the participants scored above the 90th percentile on the scale and only 10.3% scored below the national average. (Taylor, J.W., Self-Concept in Home Schooling Children. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan 1986).
In spite of this study and many others, people in our country still believe that the public school system is a superior vehicle for positive socialization than the home. Even though the homeschool setting can provide greater loving support and positive reinforcement, not to mention more consistent moral values, many educators and others continue to believe that much of the socialization children experience in the public school setting is vastly superior to that of the homeschool.
While socialization can be measured through self-concept evaluations, observing behavior is perhaps even a more poignant method, and although the academic failures of American public schools have been widely discussed in recent years, there has been less analysis of the negative socialization aspects of the public school system. School-age children and young people are often easily influenced, and they not only learn decadent moral behavior from their peers, but often from their teachers as well.
When one thinks of violence and sexual misconduct in the public schools, what typically comes to mind is the misconduct of students toward one another and students toward teachers, but recently there has been a horrifying number of incidents of violence and sexual abuse on the part of teachers.
There have been a number of sexual molestation charges brought against public school teachers in the last two years. Events in Chicago have caused PTA groups and others to call for legislation requiring FBI fingerprint checks of all Illinois school employees. In February of 1986, four male public school teachers in Chicago were arrested in one week on charges of sexually abusing students in their classes. One of these arrests came as the result of one teacher displaying photographs of another teacher engaged in homosexual practices with two of his male high school students. In his statement to the police, the teacher photographed admitted to trading grades for sex. (William F. Jasper, The New American, March 24, 1986, p. 36).
A similar situation occurred in Los Angeles, where a camera store owner told police that a teacher had brought in film for development that showed an eleven-year-old boy in sexually explicit poses. On March 3, 1986, the elementary public school teacher was sentenced to twelve years in prison for sexually molesting four boys he had taught. (Ibid.)
In only one issue (June 11, 1987) of West’s Education Law Reporter, a highly respected legal journal which reports on current cases involving education (published weekly), there were four cases discussed involving teachers being charged with sexual misconduct, one case where a public school was charged with negligence which led to a rape, and one case of willful misconduct (involving physical abuse) on the part of a teacher.
Montana: A teacher was convicted of having sexual intercourse with an 8th-grade girl.
Ohio: An 8th-grade student was required to do twenty-five pushups naked for violation of a school rule.
Florida: A teacher’s aid was convicted of lewd assault upon an 8-year-old autistic boy at school.
Pennsylvania: A wood shop teacher hit a student on the head with a chisel.
Oregon: A 15-year-old girl was raped in a public school doorway when school officials knew there had been a rape at the school just fifteen days before.
Wisconsin: Parents are suing public school for not detecting or preventing a teacher’s homosexual assault on their son.
Not only has there been a rise in the number of violent and sexual acts committed against students by teachers, there is also an increase in crime and violence on the part of students. During the 1984–5 school year, New York City reported a 12% increase in crime in the city’s elementary schools (William F. Jasper, The New American, March 24, 1985, p. 36). Los Angeles Unified School District also reported an increase in crime during the 1984–5 school year. The total number of incidents were up 7% over the previous school year. The breakdown of incidents in Los Angeles schools were as follows: “1,096 assaults; 252 robberies; 3,139 burglaries; 332 ‘sex offenses’; 2,457 thefts; 51 arson acts; and 828 narcotics charges.” (Ibid.)
The last nationwide study concerning school crime was conducted by the National Institute of Education in the 1970s. The institute issued a report in 1978 entitled Safe Schools. The study concluded that: approximately 5,000 teachers per month are assaulted and 1,000 of those are injured seriously enough to require medical attention; 282,000 students are physically attacked each month, about 11% (or 2.4 million) secondary school children are victims of robbery or theft each month; approximately 2,400 acts of arson are committed in a given month; and the total cost of crime to the schools (in the mid or late 1970s) is about $200 million per year.
The HSLDA staff can confirm the effects of negative socialization in public schools. Hundreds and hundreds of applications submitted for HSLDA membership are replete with individual family accounts of physical and mental abuse children received in the public school setting.
The violence and crime, combined with the academic failure of public education, should have long ago destroyed the myth that the best way to instruct children is to put them in a class with twenty-five or thirty other children and teach them moral relativism. Since the failure of public schools has been highly publicized in recent years, it is inconceivable that there are still millions of Americans who believe the influence of loving parents on children instructed at home is inadequate, because the children will not be properly “socialized” without experiencing peer socialization in the school system. And, even though state certification has nothing to do with the ability to teach, or the moral qualifications for teaching, some still insist that children will be better educated by state certified teachers than by loving parents who can give children one-on-one instruction.
Our society ahs been deceived by an educational system that promises everything for nothing (at least, nothing but lots of tax dollars). The system promises to do the parents’ job for them. All parents are required to do is send their children to school and let the system inculcate their children with amoral values. Few parents wake up to the inherent deficiencies of the system until it explodes on their family through instances of drug abuse, sexual abuse, or other horrifying aspects of the public school socialization process. This is not to say that the public schools are the sole reason children turn to drugs, alcohol, etc. On the contrary, the main reason such things occur is parents do not take seriously their God-given responsibility to guide and instruct their children. Our modern-day education system only makes it easier for parents to abdicate their responsibility.
God, however, does indeed hold parents ultimately responsible for instructing their children in all areas of life. The precepts of God are not only the framework from which we should view the world on Sunday mornings. Rather, we must develop in ourselves and our children a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day world and life view that is founded upon biblical truth. This excludes no area of life and necessitates diligence, persistence, and discipline.
In Deuteronomy 6:6-7, God instructs the Israelites on how all-encompassing his commands are when he says:
And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.
The Israelites did not send their children to school to be instructed by strangers and socialized by peers. Hebrew families accepted their God-given responsibility to instruct their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren in the ways of God, which embrace all of life. Let us do the same.