Home Schools: The New Melting Pot?
On Sunday I caught some of David Gregory’s interview with Rick Santorum on Meet The Press. Gregory’s question near the end caught my attention because he quoted Santorum’s book, It Takes A Family, which somewhat contracted something I wrote a few blog posts ago on schooling. Feel free to skip to the 11:14 mark.
GREGORY: I’ve just got a minute left. I want to pin you down on a couple of quick issues, if I can. One is education. This is something that you wrote in your book, ‘It Takes the Family’ back…
GREGORY: …in 2005 about public education vs. homeschooling. I want to put it up on the screen, it caught my eye. ‘It’s amazing that so many kids turn out to be fairly normal, considering the weird socialization they get in public schools. In a home school, by contrast, children interact in a rich and complex way with adults and children of other ages all the time.’ You want to be President of the United States, public education’s one of the foundational parts of our country, and yet you say the weird socialization is kids being in school with kids their same age?
GREGORY: How is that weird socialization?
SANTORUM: Where else is that – where, where else in, in America, outside of school, do kids go to a place where they sit with people basically the same age, same socioeconomic group, and interact for, for a defined period of time? That’s not what life is like. Life is very different than that. You’re dealing with a whole bunch of different people. And I think, you know, the one-room schoolhouse was the example of how you had interaction, you have sensitivity. I can see it in my, in my own family, I see it in other children who deal with children of different ages, respect for elders. This – what I’m saying is that the – that we need to transform public education to reflect more of what the dynamism is in the private sector. And, and that includes a whole, a whole way of infusing parents into the system, a dynamism of having not people stuck in classrooms. They – the sort of the old factory model of how we educate people…
I wrote in my post that “Humans instinctively create in-and-out groups, but schools – especially American ones – allow kids a unique context to experience others different from themselves.”
Now obviously American public schools are fairly sorted along demographic lines and it’s also true that most classes kids take with peers their own age, but is it really true that home schools are more complex in age and other demographic groups? Home schooled children almost by definition only interact with kids in their same socioeconomic and ethnic groups. Public school kids also spend plenty of time socially interacting with children of different age groups (note to Santorum: public schools usually have more than one grade level in them). Also, just in terms of descriptive accuracy, aren’t many of life’s experiences spent dealing mostly with people from a similar socioeconomic group (communities, workplace, even hobbies)?
I’m not trying to bash home school or elevate our public school system as some heterogeneous utopia, but if you want your kids to interact with “a whole bunch of different people” keeping them at home doesn’t seem like the best strategy.