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As homeschooling parents, my husband and I often find ourselves the target of self-appointed critics who take exception to our militant insistence that our children are best educated at home. Some of the most comical criticism we receive (besides the obligatory “socialization” question) is that we’re “brainwashing” our kids.
So what, precisely, IS “brainwashing”? The term apparently originated from the Chinese methods of coercive persuasion used under the Maoist regime, which aimed to transform individuals into “right-thinking” members of the new Chinese social system. Keep this in mind.
A couple years ago I received an email from a progressive reader who stated, among other things, that he was “disgusted by evangelical Christian homeschooling parents who brainwash their kids into being just as ignorant, narrow-minded, intolerant and self-righteous as they are. … This kind of brainwashing is nothing short of child abuse. Mental, not physical.”
This person further indicated that all children – without exception – should be enrolled in public schools in order to shape their beliefs in accordance with current “acceptable” standards, including moral relativism, diversity, revised history, socialism and full accessibility to reproductive health services. It doesn’t matter what the parents think. ALL kids need a public school education to shape their minds in compliance with progressive ideology.
What my critic refuses to grasp is how horrifically intrusive this is for parents who don’t want that for their kids. Homeschooling parents knew darned good and well that if they were forced to surrender their tender young offspring to the clutches of the public schools for eight hours a day, the children they cherish would be indoctrinated with beliefs that contradicts theirs. So, rather than futilely agitating to change the system, they did the next best thing: They quietly withdrew their children from school to teach them at home and asked only to be left alone, free from government interference and control.
Ironically, critics call this kind of home teaching “brainwashing.”
Consider some of the issues parents are now facing with regard to government schools. In Connecticut, a proposed bill would require mandatory mental-health assessments of all public and homeschooled children. In a suburban Nashville, Tenn., elementary school, parents are furious at a new policy that restricts them from eating lunch with their own children more than twice in a nine-week period. In Texas, parents are up in arms about a one-size-fits-all curriculum called CSCOPE, the questionable contents of which – I’m not kidding – were until recently kept secret. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the nutrition Nazis who dictate what your children can and cannot eat.
All these tactics are geared toward a single goal: uniformity of thought and behavior in accordance with the state. Dissidents are viewed with hostility. No diversity of opinion or belief is tolerated. But progressives won’t call this brainwashing because they approve of it. The only “correct” viewpoints are theirs.
As a result, public schools have abandoned any pretense of academic excellence and are instead concentrating their considerable clout on pushing for uniform criteria and state-approved socialization for all children. Everyone knows the best education comes from full immersion, which accounts for the efforts to limit parental influence in school. Much of the hostility toward homeschoolers stems from their refusal to conform to state-sanctioned socialization requirements.
In a 2004 essay entitled “What is Progressive Education?” Wayne Dunn notes, “Certainly parents want their children to know how to communicate and cooperate with others, in other words, to be sociable. But that is not the legitimate purpose of education. Why not? Because communication is valuable only if one possesses mental content worth communicating. Cooperation is valuable only if the one you’re cooperating with is rational. Thus, thinking skills and a command of facts are the essentials of education. Otherwise a student would be unable to distinguish the communication of a Ben Franklin from that of an Adolf Hitler, and would be as likely to cooperate with one as the other. … The socialization mongers are busily sacrificing kids’ minds for the sake of society. And evidence is amassing of just how nonsensical – and dangerous – that is.” [Emphasis added.]
This emphasis on socialization to the detriment of critical-thinking skills dovetails well with proposed mandatory mental health assessments, which, according to a Connecticut homeschooling father, will “measure and record [a] child’s level of compliance with State-sanctioned norms of behavior, thereby producing a body of evidence for intervention should non-compliance be found.” (Who defines non-compliance?)
So why the hostility toward homeschoolers? Why not just leave them alone? Why the unfounded accusations about socialization, academic standards and the ever-popular “brainwashing”?
It’s because homeschoolers are proving their methods produce intelligent, educated, polite and well-adjusted children whose family values remain intact. This threatens the agenda of the state-sanctioned monopoly.
What if the state-sanctioned norms of behavior contradict parental values? What if the state says guns are evil, but the parents are hunters? What if the state says abortions are no big deal, but the parents believe it’s murder? What if the state prefers revisionist history, but parents want their children taught the truth?
And what happens to public school kids? These children are “brainwashed” to discard the beliefs of their parents and embrace the one-size-fits-all Marxist philosophy currently in vogue. But somehow that’s OK. The state says so.
Now go back to the original intent of brainwashing: coercive persuasion used under the Maoist regime, which aimed to transform individuals into “right-thinking” members of the new social system. So tell me, who is brainwashing whom?
What it all comes down to is control. The state wants control of children in order to mold them according to its agenda. Parents want control of their children in order to raise them in accordance with their beliefs. What progressives refuse to admit is children belong to their parents, not the state. If parents want to “brainwash” their children, it’s their business because they are their children.
There is a reason education is not mentioned in the founding documents as a federal matter. Education in the hands of the government is a dangerous thing, and there are endless tragic historical examples to demonstrate this.
I’ve heard it said that brainwashing is the job of parents, not the schools. This is not quite accurate. Homeschooling parents aren’t brainwashing our children; we’re raising them.
Public schools are the ones indoctrinating children in compliance with state-sanctioned requirements that often contradict parental authority. They’re the ones doing the brainwashing.