On the Purposes of Schooling

I accidentally insulted a teacher friend of mine (she teaches Grade 9 somewhere in the Niagara Peninsula), so she accidentally insulted me back. I mentioned to her, in connection with the transmission of the fine arts to the next generation, that it’s a little easier for us, since we school our children at home. Immediately, she responded, “I have a friend who’s Catholic who has a large family, and when their kids went to high school, they were unable to function socially.”

It’s the kind of response that makes my left eye twitch. I disciplined myself, reaching for a glass of scotch instead of my revolver, and I said, “We make extra sure our kids are integrated socially amongst their peers.” She would have none of it. She was on offense: “When they got to high school age, the administration had to split them into different schools because the only social interaction they had was family.” It was too late to change the premise because I had gone on defense. It seems that everyone who has an opinion against home schooling knows personally a family whose children do not integrate well socially. I think there is one such family in every region that everyone knows.

She didn’t mention their math scores, nor their language arts scores, neither how they performed in the sciences, or even what the socializing issues were in specific, just that the school administration deemed they were poor performers in social interaction.

The truth is my wife and I don’t work hard in the very least to socially integrate our kids. We throw them out of the house for hours at a time.

The contention is that it is not the purpose of school to learn social skills. In my biased mind, the problem which that school’s administration had was that this Catholic family was filled with children who were introverted learners, and they were overwhelmed by the meat grinder of life as bells, desks, timed tests, and things due. Whereas their previous learning environment was one of nurture and care under mother and father, an environment designed to foster growth and encourage the person, the public school system is an environment of ganglia, clocks, and improving standardized test scores. Besides which, I can’t conceive of a high school social network that is actually healthy.

high school

Isn’t there a body of literature, both scholarly and juvenile fiction, which treats the social difficulties many children encounter when they switch public schools?

There is no doubt that the parents of this Catholic family acceded to the wishes of the administration because they decided, in their parental wisdom, that the advantages of institutionalized schooling outweighed the disadvantages, probably on the understanding that college preparatory work is difficult to administer at home. There are advantages to pooling resources for certain kinds of education.

Nevertheless, in my mind, the problem is the other way around: why couldn’t the high school kids integrate these outsiders?

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