Monday, April 30, 2012

Home Education - Criticisms, Conformity and the Real World

Home education families and advocates are often criticized for isolating children and sheltering them from the 'real world'. Rare examples of children who have difficulty acclimating to a school environment after having formerly been home educated are used as fodder by critics in an attempt to prove that home education is faulty. Two main points are always raised, that the children are not given exposure to the 'real world' and that they are not properly socialized. I'd like to address these misunderstandings.
It is important that we first understand that the purpose of the modern government school system is indoctrination. This indoctrination process is performed using three main principles: Conformity, Training and Socialization. Once we understand this, we can begin to understand the weakness in the most popular Home Education criticisms.
Indeed there are some isolated cases where a formerly home educated kid is plunked into a government school setting and struggles to conform. Immediately we see this as "failure" because we are now holding the child to that public school standard. Let us step outside the thinking box for a moment though, where we can view the forest from outside the tree line and realize that this is not a failure to "perform" it is actually a failure to "conform". The child is not conforming to a very specific and narrow pre-selected and predetermined set of criteria, chosen by those elusive bureaucrats that run that government system. These bureaucrats are at the mercy of the corporate sponsors who provide financial support. So in essence it is the corporate giants that get to dictate what the average child should "learn" (and I use the word loosely here). When child does not smoothly fall into place with that agenda we call it "failure".
As exemplified in popular home education criticisms, the mainstream seems to be caught in this mentality of blindly trusting that the government school system is the high king of learning. We hold children to those standards and very rarely consider who or what industry developed those standards. We don't ponder what they are based on or for what purpose they were developed. We as a society fail to ask ourselves these questions and so we go on thinking that if a child does not fit into that very particular mold then he/she is a failure.
It is imperative that we begin to understand that a child who does not conform well when plunked into a public school setting, is not failing. They are simply used to living according to natural human nature and adhering to God's intent for spiritual freedom. This is why they struggle to assimilate. They are in essence, fighting to maintain their spiritual freedom and they are grasping to hold onto their natural intellectual curiosity; an organic human trait that the system will eventually school this right out of them. If there is any question as to whether the system is producing creative, intelligent adults, all that is necessary is a cursory glance at our modern culture and all that currently plagues humanity. It's quite clear that something is terribly amiss as uniqueness, and creative intelligence seem to have become endangered traits. Most of history's great thinkers - the great philosophers and profound minds that changed humanity, have died off. We've seen only scarce examples since the founding Fathers. (Interestingly, these folks were often home educated).
The system is producing alright, but what it is producing is an obedient army of efficiently conformed adults, who have accepted an artificial reality and are trained to stay on a conveyor belt for fear of some abstract idea of 'failure'.
"No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers dirty looks!"is a popular chant that school children over several decades have sung at the onset of summer break. "School's out!" is always a celebratory statement. Why? It is because children hate school. They feel oppressed and stifled and frustrated. Even the "good performers" find great relief in summer break and vacation time. This is training for a lifetime of longing for and thus working toward collecting more 'vacation days' in the workforce.
We are systematically trained to accept that life sucks, that everything is a frustrating struggle and that is just the way it is. We accept misery, stress and debt as symptoms of existing. We are given years of preparation to acclimate to this idea so that we smoothly accept a life wherein we work a job that we dislike and just accept that this is the way it is. The reward is the vacation time during which we are released for a short burst of time and we rush to pack all the fun into a week before we have to return to the auto-driven conveyor belt that represents the only life we know and understand since pre-K.
The children (and adults) that escape this conformity are 'outcasts' and weirdos and hippies and rebels. Alas, life doesn't suck for us because we don't accept misery as reality and vacation time is irrelevant to our fun. However the majority of society rejects our notions because joy has been packed into an elusive and infrequent experience to be glimpsed only on special occasions.
The problem is that most of our modern culture has accepted pain as reality. It's not; we've just been in the system so long and thus have been so infused with it, that we believe that it is. However, perspective is really the key. All it takes is a single step outside the thinking box to see the true reality - which is that happiness is abundant and struggle does not have to be part of daily life. Once the true colors start to undulate it becomes pretty simple to recognize the beauty and joy in a real life.
The government school system provides an artificial reality wherein children of the same age are boxed together and force-fed a canned and packaged information bundle. If they are not able to regurgitate that information on command they are told that they've "failed". If they are not able to sit still and swallow that information they are diagnosed with a "disorder" and medicated to make them more docile and easy to feed. It's a prefabricated training program.
The only thing this experience really trains a child for, is proper assimilation into a world where they must get their certificate of validation (degree) in order to work for someone else so that they can build credit to acquire substantial debt by consuming and taking loans to pay for their consumption. It trains young humans to be able to sit at a desk or in a cubical (box) for long hours (or some other monotonous task), without complaint. It gets children used to doing things that they dislike in order to gain a reward (passing grade, degree, paycheck, vacation time etc.).
Those who do not conform to this procedure are called "failures" and those who do are rewarded with higher limits on their credit cards so that can effectively perpetuate the system. We are taught to desire money and financial stability and are discouraged from desiring joy and divine connection. We are taught that those desires are for hippies and nut-jobs, and it's better to want a big house and nice car. In short, happiness is elusive, stuff is better. While I don't think there is anything particularly wrong with enjoying stuff, in my experience I've found that life is far more pleasurable when we unplug from that paradigm and perceive it more like this: Stuff is alright, Happiness is better.
As for socialization... my concern for the world is that we are filling up the population with clones that have been assimilated into a system that compartmentalizes them by age and/or gender and segregate them into boxes for several hours per day under the authority of a handful of adult strangers whom we blindly trust to deliver some sort of benefit to them.
My question is this -- how exactly does this 12-15 year experience reflect the "real world"? With the exception of the Holocaust and other war-time social experiments, in what normal situation in nature are humans forced into a room to be downloaded and indoctrinated? How does this pass as an effective social experience? It passes because we've blindly accepted it and that is because WE have been "socialized". Thankfully many of us have since unplugged from this, and we're the ones who have been labeled as oddballs.
The idea that the ability to interact with people is a learned skill that can only be acquired through practice is so sad to me-- and sadder yet is that there are still so many who believe it!
On the contrary, our ability to interact with other people is natural. We are born with it. It is a divine gift. It gets squashed and schooled out of us and then we struggle to find a fake process by which to recreate it. Interacting with others is not a skill that we are somehow naturally lacking and need to learn. It is a natural human trait that should be nurtured. But we don't nurture it. Instead we murder it and then attempt to recreate it by artificial stimulation as we drop our young children into a room full of similar people, leave them there feeling frightened and nervous and instruct them to "go make a friend".
Anxiety, fear and artificial relationships are fostered from the beginning. Conformity is encouraged and rewarded. Our individuality is suffocated. Our natural curiosity is strangled and our ability to love one another is killed. Then there is a great attempt to replace it with a preservative filled fake reality.
The Reality and Real World
Regarding those common criticisms mentioned above, I'm sure there are some children whose parents for whatever reason could not continue to educate them at home and so they enter them into government school. In my eyes it is the parents who have given up and failed to find a way to make it happen. Perhaps they themselves have had their sense of self-worth schooled out of them. I won't pretend to know what reasons parents give themselves. Whatever the reason may be however, the facts (according to statistical data) of the matter are that these cases are very rare and very far and few in between. There are far more children that are schooled all the way who arefailing within the system, than kids who enter from home education situations and then cannot cope.
We cannot use these rare cases as a litmus test because it's inadequate and weak. If we compare the social graces and academic performance (to scale) of the home educated population against the schooled population, then statistically the home educated population blows the schooled away by a huge margin. Statistically speaking, it's a landslide. Spotlighting one child who struggles to conform to his/her grade level when plopped into a classroom, is truly a very poor and feeble attempt to defend an obviously broken system. I often wonder if it is also an attempt made by those who have chosen the school system, to validate their own choice and soothe their insecurities about that choice. Something to consider indeed!
The minute we wake up each morning that Real World is right there! And it is filled with opportunities to interact with millions of people and experience unlimited wonders. The 'real world' is not inside a classroom. It's everywhere, waiting to teach us all we need to know about living in it.
In conclusion, the child that fails in school is not failing to perform, they are failing to conform. Perhaps we should take the hint.
An Unplugged Home Educator of her own children for nearly a decade, Laurette is passionate about helping people discover parenting in such a way that it resonates in their life, their children's lives and their world! Her objective is to help parents discover the benefits and joys of family life with Unplugged Education - an experience that goes beyond the logistics of academics and breaks free of the box of simply 'schooling' at home. It is a way of looking at parenting from outside the box and making deliberate informed choices for our family; a bold and audacious journey into the art of active Parenting that shakes the foundation of 'normal' as we learn to unplug from the doldrums of status quo and begin to dramatically improve the entire family dynamic!

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