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This Week in Schadenfreude: Teach Your Children Well

At this point, the narrative being perpetrated by right-wing political and religious leaders is abundantly clear: Public schools, from kindergarten through PostDoc, are liberal indoctrination centers. For parents whose kids must attend these institutions, war must be waged against "problematic" books, teachers, subject matter, pronouns, etc. Even better is for parents to homeschool their children, and to avoid the Liberal-Educational Complex altogether.

It presumably goes without saying that this is nonsense. For the right kids, and the right parents, operating with the right set of goals, homeschooling can certainly work. But the notion that schools are propaganda mills, and that the very best corrective is to build a counter-propaganda mill at home, where kids are fed a steady diet of creationism, and American exceptionalist history, and "safe" literature, and the like? Certainly a case of the cure being worse than the alleged disease.

Of course, folks who embrace homeschooling for these reasons don't give a damn what a couple of college professors think. After all, we are part of the problem. But that brings us to an item published by The Washington Post this week, about Aaron and Christina Beall and their four kids. Reporter Peter Jamison explains:

Aaron and Christina had never attended school when they were children. Until a few days earlier, when Round Hill Elementary held a back-to-school open house, they had rarely set foot inside a school building. Both had been raised to believe that public schools were tools of a demonic social order, government "indoctrination camps" devoted to the propagation of lies and the subversion of Christian families.

As you can infer from that excerpt, the duo began to have doubts about homeschooling their kids, and so decided to enroll 6-year-old Aimee in the local public school. When that worked out swimmingly, they added 5-year-old Oliver and 9-year-old Ezra to the list (their fourth child is still too young for school of any sort).

If this subject holds your interest at all, you should consider reading the whole piece, which is very well reported (sorry for the soft firewall). But the upshot is that the Bealls have reached the conclusion that public schools are actually pretty even-handed, and that it's the homeschooling where the real distortions and brainwashing take place. The couple still follows their religion, but they won't be going back to homeschooling ever again, and they have become outspoken critics of the practice.

Again, homeschooling can work well under the right circumstances. But the type of homeschooling that has become popular on the right (especially since the pandemic) is a sorry excuse for an education, and doesn't prepare kids for college or for most careers, especially since politicians are largely unwilling to hold parents accountable for content when they homeschool. On top of that, the homeschooling system facilitates various abuses—unscrupulous profiteers who sell largely worthless educational materials, physical abuse of children who literally have no one to go to in order to report the abuse, and sometimes even sexual predators (as noted in the WaPo article). For these reasons, it is very good to see people who came through the right-wing homeschooling system working to change (or even destroy) it from within. (Z)

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