Sunday, April 09, 2006

Homeschooling Support from Unexpected Places

In an opinion piece in The Washington Post in which a couple of dames try to dismantle the myth of 'The Boy Crisis,' I have found statements that I think are supportive of homeschooling, though I doubt they were meant to be.

To demonstrate the timelessness of the concern over boys in school, the authors cite a quote from the early 1900s:
In Congress, Sen. Albert Beveridge of Indiana railed against overeducation. He urged young men to "avoid books and in fact avoid all artificial learning, for the forefathers put America on the right path by learning completely from natural experience."

Well, I certainly agree, though I extend this to girls as well -- my own, in fact.

This piece does make me giggle. I don't pass judgment on whether there is a boys crisis or not, I have girls, what do I know? I have seen a lot of posts on homeschool lists about the negative effects school has had on all students (of course, that is why they turned to homeschooling). I don't think life is easy for any kids in school.

Anyway, the authors question whether there really is a crisis.
The boy crisis we're hearing about is largely a manufactured one, the product of both a backlash against the women's movement and the media's penchant for continuously churning out news about the latest dire threat to the nation.

Personally, I think its just filler until another hard-hitting, news article about the Mommy Wars is written.

The opinion piece goes on to allay any fears that parents of boys may have -- turns out that white suburban boys are just fine (phew!), its the inner city and rural boys who are having the problem. No solution is offered for their problems, it seems it is enough to know that if you're white and living in the suburbs (like perhaps much of the paper's readership), then you really don't have to worry about the boys crisis. I think I'm overly sensitive, but it strikes me as offensive that the authors suggest there is a problem and then don't address it. I'm being unfair, they simply frame the problem differently -- they see the problem as white suburban parents worrying about their sons and the solution is not to worry.

The opinion piece rounds to its point, that boys-only institutions are really not needed to address the boys crisis, because there is no boys crisis (for suburban white males).

Have you ever talked to a feminist about the value of single-sex education for females? I used to be very against the idea, feeling that society is comprised of both men and women and its good to have them together in class because you'll have to deal with them together in 'the real world.' A friend of mine (a Smith alumna) sold me on the benefits of women-only colleges -- I'm not a proponent of them, but I no longer disagree with the concept philosophically. Of course I can't, I'm a homeschooler and my old argument could be turned against me -- why don't you put your kids in school, they'll have to deal with other people throughout life? (of course, as homescholers, we deal with other people everyday, just not agemates in a cell block). The argument doesn't really work in a homeschooling context because adults generally don't act like elementary or middle school students. We may have to put the kids in high school though, since adults do tend to act like high schoolers.

But, I digress. I don't know if the authors consider themselves feminists and even if they do, they may not think that single-sex education is good for women. And even if they do, they still have a right to think its not a good idea for boys. I guess I could read their book.

The piece ends with a ringing endorsement of homeschooling (albeit unintentional):
Obsessing about a boy crisis or thinking that American teachers are waging a war on boys won't help kids. What will is recognizing that students are individuals, with many different skills and abilities. And that goes for both girls and boys.
And that is why I homeschool.


Stephanie said...

Wow! I do have to say that I don't really think that it is a "boy" crises or a "girl" is a "school" crises because schools can not tailor their teaching to match what each child individually needs. So things denigrate into a boy vs girl thing when really it is a problem with the fact that each child is different and learns in a different way.

I see this with my own two is a visual/spatial learner, traditional teaching doesn't work because it does not teach the way that he thinks. I have finally gotten a grasp on what works for him and it is great. My youngest is more of a traditional learner, loves workbooks and is very sequential. Probably would do just fine in school. But I am glad that we are homeschooling him too! He deserves a learning environment tailored just for him. Not a one-size fits all.

I won't even go to the "no problem because white rich kids are doing fine" thing. Wow. I guess they see that as a poverty problem? An inner city school problem? I don't quite get that....

I have a feeling that I may need blog about this one too LOL! Before this comment gets to long!

h said...

I posted on boys' school performance a while back, and my thought was that schools increasingly value conformity and obedience, which girls are socialized toward more than boys. Many grades are based on obedience (e.g. homework completion) more than learning these days, and many families still raise their girls to be more passive/obedient than their boys.

I'll also say, though, that testosterone increases the toxicity of mercury, aluminum and other neurological toxins. This may be why autism, ADHD, and learning disorders disproportionately affect boys (something like 4 to 1 vs. girls). I'd call this one a "Merck" or "Eli Lilly" crisis. 1 in 80 American boys is now on the autism spectrum, but how many others have slight or "sub-clinical" developmental delays?

In any case the bottom line is the same: kids needed individualized learning. Thanks for the post!

Marjorie said...

Hi Stephanie and H, thanks for your comments.

H, I did not know that testosterone increases sensitivity. I have read of the 'feminization' of school and agree that girls may have an easier time adapting to the system -- but what a cost!