Friday, March 09, 2012

A discussion on education

Hartlepool Cultural Services
When my family began homeschooling in 1984, I was four years old. Homeschooling was still something that most people were unable to comprehend and I endured lots of people asking me if I did school in my pajamas. My parents had to address the sudden spike in concern over the socialization of their children. Since that time, we've seen homeschooling grow, both in numbers and diversity. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s it seemed that most people, including my family, were choosing this educational model for reasons of faith. It was a matter of deep conviction. Later waves of home educators included people who were fleeing poor public school systems and wanted to give their children better educational opportunities. Others were seeking alternatives for children with learning disabilities or options for students who did not thrive in a classroom setting. The movement now includes people who choose to homeschool for all sorts of reasons and who come from all backgrounds, races, faiths, and socioeconomic circumstances.

Recently, homeschooling has attracted more parents with liberal and progressive convictions, and this has resulted in an interesting debate between Astra Taylor and Dana Goldstein. Astra Taylor was unschooled until 11th grade and is now a movie producer. She wrote an article in the literary magazine n+1 relating her experience and thoughts on education. Dana Goldstein, an education reporter, wrote a response to Taylor's piece in which she states that liberals and progressives have an obligation to invest in their public schools, and that includes sending their children to schools that may not offer the best educational opportunities. This exchange set off a firestorm of debate and brought up many fascinating points. It's interesting to me because I know this same discussion happened between many Christians when home education became more popular. People wondered if they had a responsibility to engage with their schools and try to improve them from within the system. Others argued that their first responsibility was to their children and nuclear family.

To the Best of Our Knowledge just hosted a fascinating discussion between Taylor and Goldstein. It addresses issues of educational reform, social values, and much more. You can listen to the entire program by clicking here.

One of the most important questions asked by the host was "What, for you, is the purpose of education?" I think that is such a fundamental question to consider when making educational choices. As most of BFB's customers have made the decision to home school, I would love to hear what you think is the point of education. And if you do listen to the program, what do you think? What is your reaction? 


  1. The most interesting question is whether the individual's freedom ought to be subordinate to the "good" of the community. Do we "owe it to society" to place our children in particularly low-performing public schools with the goal of improving said schools? Parents whose children already attend those schools are either not willing or not able to do so. There is no suggestion that those parents stop failing their own children (and "society"). Rather, the assumption is that parents whose children attend bad schools are not competent to educate or even to support the education of their own progeny. Think about where this sort of paternalistic thinking leads. Progressive goals require progressively totalitarian control.

  2. I enjoyed the discussion. They both made relevant points. Thank you for sharing that and helping me to consider different viewpoints.

    For us education is about giving the children a chance to think on worthwhile things from a variety of sources (maturity taken into account, of course). There are common skills they need to know as well, which we do, but we also enjoy being able to learn about whatever we are curious to know. Not because we have to, but because... wow, we really want to know that. Of course my kids are not always full of curious, joyful questions every day. We do follow a plan most days. Yet we have the option to run off on a tangent now and then, and that part really excites us all.

    As far as the importance of being in a community of people from various backgrounds, it is an interesting point to consider. I don't have it well thought out yet. We are a military family and being around people from all over the world just comes as a nice benefit of my husband's job.

    I was bothered by the notion mentioned that we need to be sure all children grow up with core values. As a Christian, I wholeheartedly agree, but I think the values I see as important are not the ones those lovely ladies were talking about. It does scare me a bit to think about the schools seeing their job is to indoctrinate our children. In what exactly? and who decides?