The Washington Times
March 27, 2001

The social value of school is mythical

By J Michael Smith
The Washington Times
March 27, 2001

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is an advocate in four areas: the courts, Capitol Hill, state legislatures and the media.

In the courts, we defend two fundamental principles of liberty: parental rights and religious freedom. On Capitol Hill, we monitor federal legislation and maintain relationships with key Senate and House offices. In state legislatures, HSLDA assists state leaders and tracks legislation that may affect home-school and parental freedoms.

When it comes to the media, the court of public opinion, we strive to present an informative and accurate picture of the home-school community. It always has been HSLDA's policy to provide media nationwide with research and information that promotes home-schooling and counters negative reporting.

Sometimes a very public incident sends reporters to us. Such was the case with the recent tragedy in Santee, Calif., in which two students were shot to death and several others were wounded. I'm not sure what reporters are seeking by contacting us, unless it's a controversial statement condemning public schools. But our job is to emphasize the positive elements and benefits of home education rather than offer criticism of public education. After all, the media seem to do a thorough job of that themselves.

Incidents such as the California shooting inevitably lead to questions about socialization. Those asking the questions usually seem to assume that spending large blocks of time at school with peers is positive. But rage seems to be the consistent characteristic of the perpetrators of violent acts such as those that took place at Santee, a rage developed because their peers rejected them because they were "different." Their ears were too large, their hair wasn't cut right, they didn't wear the right clothing or shoes, and they just didn't fit in with their peers, so they were ridiculed and rejected.

As a matter of fact, when a renowned psychologist spoke to parents after the shooting in Santee, he advised parents that they should make sure their children have the same clothes and appearance as their peers. In his wisdom, it is more important for high school students to be accepted by their peers than to have the approval of their parents, even if it means wearing their pants 10 sizes too big.

This kind of "positive" socialization is what is being denied to home-schoolers.

The foundation for all this thinking is summed up by John Taylor Gatto in his book "The Underground History of American Education": "The destructive myth of the 20th century was the aggressive contention that a child could not grow up correctly in the unique circumstances of his own family. Forced schooling was the principal agency broadcasting this attitude."

We home-schoolers have not bought into this myth. After all, we can teach our children ourselves. We take full responsibility for the education of our children, but have we really escaped the myth? When we face that dreaded question, "What about socialization?" what is our answer? Do we hastily defend our position by explaining the depth of the enrichment programs we are providing for our children outside our home piano lessons, ballet, debate, soccer, basketball, church youth group? Don't get me wrong, none of these activities is wrong if kept in balance. But are we not giving in to the assumption that parents cannot provide all their children need to develop into adults who honor God in their daily lives and provide service to their fellow man?

I submit that the companionship our children receive through interaction with all the members of the family (grandparents down to toddlers) under appropriate supervision will ensure that our children as adults will be not only morally upright and self-sufficient, but very well socialized. God has ordained the family to meet every need of a child, including socialization.

If you are worrying about being overprotective, chances are you're not. If the violence continues to increase in our nation, especially among young people, your actions to properly limit and monitor the activities of your children outside your home will be applauded and we will return to a time in our nation when we no longer are asked, "What about socialization?"

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
Home School Legal Defense Association
He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to media@hslda.org.

Copyright 2001 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at http://www.washtimes.com.