Have you ever noticed that socialization has now become – apparently – the sole and exclusive purpose of education? Every single homeschooler on the planet, it seems, has heard the question: “But what about socialization?” (The proven quality of homeschooling be damned.) The implication is that unless children attend public schools, their socialization skills will atrophy to the point where they will become drooling blobs unable to mingle with their coworkers at a cocktail party when they grow up.
And naturally, the ONLY place where “correct” socialization is possible is in government schools.
We have elevated this mythical necessity for “socialization” into an oracle-like status. What child can exist without government-approved social skills? How will they learn to chat, volunteer, work, shop, date, marry, or partake in any other activity unless they’re inculcated with the values taught in school?
Many years ago I heard a radio interview between a homeschooling advocate and a bewildered host who asked that age-old question, “What about socialization?” The guest gave an answer I’d never considered before: “What is the purpose of school? Is it to teach academic basics, or is it to teach socialization?”
The answer, it seems, is very much the latter. To this observation I’ll add that the apparent emphasis on socialization is presumably because the public schools are failing in every academic aspect. But since socialization is hard to quantify, it’s therefore easy to demand.
An extreme case in point for the emphasis on socialization came out of Quebec recently in which a judge ordered three homeschooled children (ages 5, 7 and 9) into public schools so they could be socialized. In what seems like a tyrannical abuse of power, the judge then ordered the family’s 3-year-old son into day care so he, too, could be socialized.
I know nothing more about this particular case except what was reported through the article. But the specifics are not the focus of this column. The tyranny of socialization is.
According to the dictionary, socialization is “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.”
That sounds great. I have no objection to this definition. What I object to is the type of socialization found in public schools with which government officials seem entranced and without which they feel homeschooled kids will be unable to function.
So let’s examine a few of the socialization skills available in public schools. I’ll discuss teenagers since we have two teens in our home.
Fashion. Once a week I take my daughters into the city for music and gymnastics lessons. Our route takes us past a respectable public high school just as classes let out for the day. We call it our “Weekly Afternoon Freak Show” because the girls get a huge kick out of the student fashions they see. Ratty (“distressed”) clothing, tight clothing, revealing clothing, baggy clothing … need I say more?
Attitude. From the decline of common courtesies to slouching insolence to downright hostility toward adults, teen attitudes today are so bad that many people want nothing to do with them.
Language. From the ubiquitous “like” inserted every third word to profoundly scatological terminology, language skills have atrophied to the point where many teens have a working vocabulary of only about 800 words. “Teenspeak,” as it’s known, has become so widespread that it may actually limit a young person’s employment potential because they are unable to communicate effectively.
Sex. More than half of high schoolers are sexually active, and half of those who aren’t have still been “intimate” in some way. That’s a staggeringly high proportion.
I could go on, but you get the gist. This is what happens when you lock up children for seven hours a day and force them to model their social skills on their peers instead of society’s standards. (Of course, society’s standards have correspondingly declined because of this practice.)
Contrast this with privately educated or homeschooled kids who can quite literally be picked out of a crowd. They are almost uniformly polite, neatly dressed, well-mannered, well-behaved and using a rich and clean vocabulary. What a bunch of horrible maladjusted brats.
Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute notes, “Define socialization. Do they mean ‘normal,’ such as the sadly high percentage of public-school students who are functionally illiterate, abuse drugs and alcohol, end up in prisons, are engaged in premarital sex and pregnancies out of wedlock, and waste untold hours of their lives watching TV and playing degrading video games? Are public-school attendance and its peer-group culture fixing all of this, or is it contributing to it? Psychologists and government employees often call for public-school socialization, but they usually do not critically evaluate that for which they are calling. Who is more socially deficient, filling the ranks of tax-funded social programs and not civically engaging at a higher rate as they become adults, the public educated or the home educated? Research evidence suggests it is those who attend government schools, not the home educated.”
So when critics accuse homeschoolers of lacking social skills, what they’re really saying is homeschooled kids are less likely to get along with their publicly schooled peers. And you know what? They’re right. But these critics also fail to realize that most homeschoolers have little interest in getting along with these types of peers.
Naturally, homeschooling parents who want to protect their children from some of the negative socialization that takes place in schools are viewed as sick, twisted and controlling. Apparently, no one has ever bothered to actually ask homeschooled kids whether they regret not mingling with their publicly schooled peers.
Now that my girls are both teens, I believe homeschooling socialization skills are more important than ever. In a few short years, they’ll be leaving the nest and facing the job market in the real world. In this tough economy, it’s important for young people to possess basic manners, have vocabularies greater than 800 words, know how to dress neatly and speak respectfully, and have solid academic credentials. It is not important that they know how to use drugs, hook up, get on welfare, or create more children to be dumped into school-day care to complete the cycle.