Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Rage Against the Machine

May 03rd, 2016 by MC


My oldest will be old enough for Kindergarten in the fall. The small talk question of the moment from our fellow parents is, “Where are you enrolling him?” In our school district, that’s more than a geography question. It’s a big district with more or less open enrollment, and they’ve done an admirable job of making sure there is an abundance of options. Gifted programs, foreign language immersion schools, charter schools with a patriotic focus, etc.

He won’t be going to any of those, however. As we’ve anticipated since before he was born, he’s going to be homeschooled.

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, why are you homeschooling? Is it for academic or moral reasons or what?”

No one asks these questions of parents who send their kids to the Japanese immersion school. Only homeschool inspires such curiosity. I don’t mind answering, though. The real answer to the “academics or morals” question is “both,” although I usually focus on the academic side when answering the question. That part is easy enough for people to understand. (I’ve found that my leftist acquaintances are still put off by the idea until they find out that my wife is a former teacher with a masters’ degree. Her teaching license allows them to retain their prior stereotype of homeschoolers as toothless morons, while allowing for a Big Brother-approved exception in our case. Which is why I’ve stopped telling them that part; our ability to educate our kids shouldn’t depend on a government license.)

By contrast, the “morals” explanation is tricky. Irreligious people just find it icky, and some religious people, including some Mormons, seem a bit put out by it, as if our decision to homeschool stands in implicit condemnation of their own decision not to (it doesn’t). Perhaps contrary to some stereotypes, Mormons are actually less likely to homeschool than the national average.

But the real difficulty in explaining our “moral” reasons for wanting to educate our kids ourselves is that the reasons don’t fit easily into any of their pre-existing ideas of why a Christian would reject the public schools. It isn’t precisely that we think our kids will be subject to diabolic government indoctrination, at least not in the early grades. Likewise, peer pressure is more of a concern for a few years from now, although I know it happens earlier and earlier.

And no, I’m not planning on starting a Mormon madrassah in our living room. We do not reject the teaching of evolution. We read scriptures in the evening, and we have no plan to spend all day reading the Bible.

No, if you want some idea of why we are homeschooling for moral reasons, try this quote from every right-winger’s favorite lesbian feminist college professor, Camille Paglia, when asked about study abroad programs:

PAGLIA: Right now, our primary school education is absolutely appalling in its lack of world history and world geography.

I know because I get everyone in my classroom. I’m lucky I teach at a kind of school where I’m getting students from a wide range of preparation. There might be a couple private school people, but people from the inner city, from good schools, from bad schools. I really have a very clear sense, after 40 years of teaching, what’s going on at the primary school level.

It is unbelievable how little they know. It is absolutely shocking how little they know. This is a recipe for a disaster. I say yes, send them abroad. Fantastic idea.


Also, the kind of teaching that goes on in the Ivy League where there’s a flattering. There’s these small seminar things.

COWEN: The A-minus seminar, right?

PAGLIA: There’s all this practice and learning how to talk in a slightly pretentious way about things and impressing each other. So what? They’re all packaging them for the bourgeoisie.

COWEN: Send them to Brazil, right?


PAGLIA: They’re so proud of themselves as they produce all these clones, these polished, bourgeois clones, witless, knowing nothing.

This is sort of painful to read, because I know exactly what she’s talking about. The school system I went through does not offer much in the way of substantive knowledge. What it imparts, to those blessed with an ambitious, compliant personality and the ability to score well on aptitude tests, is a strong sense of entitlement. I think back to my fellow law clerks in my clerkship days, highly intelligent people with the “best” education money can buy, but only a couple betrayed much intellectual curiosity beyond the trendy or the narrowly political. They made up for a lack of knowledge with a great deal of knowingness. And if it hadn’t been for my own slightly weird upbringing (a topic for another time), I can only assume I’d have been right with them.

“Wait, you said you were going to explain your ‘moral’ reasons for homeschooling, and here you are talking about a lack of knowledge.” Hang on, we’re almost there.

I once wrote, of our education system, that “the patient is sick, and does not want to get well.” Not long ago, I read a different view, that the system is robust and works exactly as designed:

We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders.  What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, historyless free agents, and educational goals composed of contentless processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”  Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).  In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.  Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments.   Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.

Thus, measly “facts” and “knowledge,” so often derided by educational theorists as academically insignificant, turn out to have a moral dimension as well. A man without knowledge is a man without a self. And so here is the true moral motivation for us to homeschool: Not precisely to protect our kids from evil, nor to monasticize them, but simply to say to the giant corporate/government assimilation machine, “No, thanks.” There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the K-12 curriculum.

Comments (16)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , ,
May 03rd, 2016 01:11:36

Bruce Charlton
May 3, 2016

@MC “Mormons are actually less likely to homeschool than the national average.”

That does surprise me. Especially considering the popularity of BYU. Plus my daughter has a homeschooled Mormon ‘penfriend’ so I assumed it was normal – although, on consideration, I think she may be Canadian.

There may be good reasons why morons are not homeschooled – eg the seminary system. But it may also be an unjustified complacency.

(I have no particular axe to grind, my kids are not homeschooled – and do indeed get a lot of inbuilt and pretty radical secular Leftism – this being the almost universal, hence unselfconscious, perspective of all British teachers – including those who imagine themselves to be conservative.)

May 3, 2016

I hope that was a typo.

My suspicion is that the lower rate of homeschooling among Mormons is simply a consequence of the school systems in the Mormon Corridor being a bit more responsive to parents and in other ways a bit less dreadful than average. There is some evidence to support this view.

Ivan Wolfe
May 3, 2016

Here in Arizona, there are charter schools that are basically “Mormon” schools (the student body is mostly Mormon or conservative Christian, though not exclusively so and the curriculum is very conservative socially – no social justice), so there’s probably less of a desire to homeschool.

el oso
May 3, 2016

In areas with high mormon population, there are frequently select schools or districts where the leadership is predominantly or significantly mormon. Some of these schools are “better” in a variety of ways, up to and including the apex of this trend that Ivan describes.
In areas with less highly concentrated population of mormons, we still may see clustering in certain schools due to proximity to church buildings or due to perceived acceptability of the local schools.
We have homeschooled all our children, but still chose a home in a “good” school district when we moved to this state.
There is almost no charter school program around here, so most conservative Christians opt for a private school or one of several homeschool associations. We are currently involved with 2 groups and have previously been involved with others. In one group, all of the boys from a graduating class were accepted at good universities and the average outcome over several years was superior to any of the local public schools.

It is laughable that many urban/suburban liberals think that most homeschool families are barely literate, ultra-conservative, religious fanatics. Give them a middle class income in middle America and have them look at 45-minute forced busing for their 5-year old, extreme discipline problems in most classes, Uber-indoctrination from overpaid administrators, and school boards that worry about filling the athletic stadiums and they will become dedicated homeschoolers in a year or two.

May 3, 2016

My family started home-schooling during my high school years. There are advantages, and there are disadvantages.

Obviously, schools leave a lot to be desired. But unless you are very disciplined, it is easy to get sloppy in home-school as well.

On the positive side, it separates you from the wicked. One the downside, it separates you from others.

I have no love of our current anti-educational system, but I am no longer convinced home-schooling is necessarily the best alternative either.

May 5, 2016

I have noticed a trend. The frequency of people asking you to justify your homeschooling decision is going down, and the frequency of people who respond by excusing their public school decision is going up.

May 5, 2016


I’ve had the same experience. Mrs. MC have been talking about possibly doing this for years, and the reaction was much more skeptical at the beginning than it is now.

In fact, I suspect that most of the “weird homeschoolers” stereotype was based on the fact that in the 70s-90s, only people who were truly out on the margins, hippies and hardcore Christians, were willing to do something as radical as not send their kids to school. The parents were a little weird, so of course the kids were weird. Nature, not nurture. Whereas now that it has penetrated mainstream consciousness as a real option, the weirdness vibe is probably going to recede.

And of course, to the extent that homeschooling itself ever was truly isolating, as Zen mentions, the presence of more and more homeschoolers in the community will make it much less so.

Wesley Dean
May 5, 2016

Has anyone read Deschooling Society? I’m only 30 pages in, and I’m completely blown away by it.

May 6, 2016

Not familiar with it. Tell me about it.

Wesley Dean
May 6, 2016


It’s by Ivan Illich. It’s a critique of obligatory schooling, and examines the underlying problems of being schooled by a society-endorsed system. Basically, school’s are bad (public, private, doesn’t matter). Plus, they don’t help you learn. It’s very Charltonesque. But I’m only on chapter two.

May 6, 2016

Keep us posted.

May 6, 2016

Wesley’s comments reminded me of the following:

“A government system of education in Prussia is not inconsistent with the theory of Prussian society, for there all wisdom is supposed to be lodged in the government. But the thing is wholly inadmissible here [in the U.S.]; not because the government may be in the hands of Whigs or Democrats, but because, according to our theory, the people are supposed to be wiser than the government. Here the people do not look to the government for light, for instruction, but the government looks to the people. The people give the law to the government. To entrust, then, the government with the power of determining the education which our children shall receive is entrusting our servant with the power to be our master. … In a free government, there can be no teaching by authority, and all attempts to teach by authority are so many blows struck at its freedom. We may as well have a religion established by law, as a system of education, and the government educate and appoint the pastors of our churches, as well as the instructors of our children.”

Orestes Augustus Brownson, Boston Quarterly Review, Vol. 2, 1839, p. 408.

May 7, 2016

When my parents questioned our decision to homeschool I was at a loss as to how to explain except that we felt called to do so. Later while I was reading in the Book of Mormon I came upon a verse that perfectly answered my parents questions (and felt like one of those JS scriptures that came with more power to my heart than any other). Paraphrasing 1 Nephi 18:2 “Now I Rozy, did not educate our children after the manner which was learned by men, neither did I homeschool after the manner of men; but I did educate them after the manner which the Lord had shown unto me; wherefore it was not after the manner of men.”
Later I realized that we live in many ways “not after the manner of men”; our financial lives are different because we pay tithes and offerings; our social lives are different because we obey the law of chastity and we follow the standards in For the Strength of Youth; our heath is (or should be) different because of the Word of Wisdom; and so on.
I wish you much success in your adventures in homeschooling. It was the best decision we ever made. All our children are adults now and are productive, contributing members of society.

Bruce Charlton
May 8, 2016

General comment – I don’t seem to be able to edit/ correct my comments, nor to delete them – but I’m not very familiar with this blogging platform. Advice?

May 9, 2016

None of this is new, of course.

I can recall being a college freshman back during the Reagan Administration, in a “Western Civilization” class, being agog and ashamed that a young woman sitting two rows over from me did not know the names of the continents, or even what they were or what the shapes on the globe represented. Yes, she had a high school diploma.

She was an “Early Childhood Education” major.

If I had children, I would homeschool them. In my opinion, to subject children to the system that produced that young woman amounts to child abuse–even before we talk about some of the more whimsical Diktats handed down recently by the Nine Kings in Black Robes, pertaining to school restrooms.

May 9, 2016

BC, click “log in” at the bottom of the right hand column. Log in. Click on comments in the admin menu. It should take you to where you can edit comments.

You may have had to be logged in when you made the comment in order to edit a comment on a thread that you don’t own. Entering name and email in the comment form is not sufficient to log in.

Or maybe editing comments was not enumerated among your super-powers.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.