Controversial Topics: What else, but the Akron Beacon Journal?
The thing that first comes to mind after reading the Akron Beacon Journal homeschooling-articles is that the reporters have discovered that homeschoolers are human and have faults. Stop the presses! (which is what they seem to have done)
Among the articles are positive stories about people involved in homeschooling, but the overall picture is one of murderously incompetent adults who are pretending to know how to raise the children that they've stolen, lying about how well they're doing, all while trying to take over the world in their spare time. Would you want these people to move in next-door, or would you hope that The Authorities will do something about them before they show up? Is the series meant to be about homeschooling, or about bias behind the curtain to change how Americans see homeschooling? In asking Whose Business Is It?, do the reporters really want an opinion, or do they want to frame yours?
If the bad actions of a particular group of people are distilled into a body of work, the result has impact. Since muck can be raked up about any group (even through spur-of-the-moment freebie web searches), be they dog trainers, ice cream vendors, pilots, athletes, or textbook publishers, it is evident that a year-long LexisNexis investigation focused on parents (because the status of 'homeschooler' is porous, not fixed) will turn up something. What would be odd is if it didn't.
Homeschoolers spring from America's general population, a population that includes not only people like Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin (both of vaccine fame) and Mother Theresa, but also people like Ma Barker, Lizzie Borden and Charles Manson. Statistically, homeschoolers-from-the-general-population will run the gamut, and unless sociopathic behavior is eradicated from the human gene pool, chances are that some individual bad actors with kids may choose to homeschool. The group 'parents' is an editorial treasure chest of choice for choosing which stories to include and which to ignore, given the events on any specific news-day, and the space available.
Words, too, are part of this choice. In the Beacon Journal articles, "Home Education Magazine," (HEM) the original mom and pop homeschooling magazine, and one that supports state-specific grass-roots activism in addressing legislative activity concerning homeschooling, is mentioned five times while "Home School Legal Defense Association," a later-comer whose active public face is lawyers, and whose political activity extends beyond homeschooling, is mentioned 42 times; "HSLDA," its acronym, is written 108 times, "HEM" none.
How would the article-series have been different if "Home Education Magazine's" political position had been the focus of an article and was mentioned 150 times, with "HSLDA" mentioned only five? Would the content of the articles be different if Patrick Farenga, of Growing Without Schooling, was mentioned 54 times and Michael Farris of HSLDA had Farenga's number of mentions, which was zero? How would the series have differed if, instead of using religion as a common-denominator, sports-orientation was used to describe families, and homeschoolers were characterized by their participation in bowling, ice-hockey, horseback riding, gymnastics, sailing or skiing, instead of whether they were pagans and practicing witches, or Christians and practicing Presbyterians (hierarchically, witch is to pagan, as Presbyterian is to Christian)? Is there a difference of worldview through sporting activity?
Other comparisons between the frequency of words are:
The overall theme of the articles, with elegantly embroidered emphasis on incompetents, liars, rapists, and murderers, is one of, 'If someone doesn't rein in these people, the bad and stupid ones among them will cause children to suffer.'
A sub-theme is the takeover of America. Political domination would take too long to analyze because, down through recorded history, invading the neighbors' turf, and often removing the neighbors from it, has been such a popular hobby for humans-in-general that it comprises most of what passes for world history.
There is no doubt about it, homeschoolers fit the profile of Human.
On the one hand the Beacon Journal series is so heavily biased against homeschooling (see the letter titled "Clarification") that it is hard to take seriously.
On the other hand, to let the series stand without comment would be to give the impression that there is no defense, and that the best strategy is to silently slink away like the family pooch caught on the dining room table with the turkey in its mouth.
On the one hand if no rebuttal is made, a subsequent tide of regulation, to control and correct non-standard parents in order to contain and neutralize the bad ones, may sweep over everyone. If homeschoolers aren't free from governmental oversight in raising their children in the style of the day, no one is (this isn't to expect to be free from prosecution for criminal activities, that's a different category).
On the other hand, if homeschoolers rear up on their hind legs to point out the inconsistencies, fallacies and misinformation in the articles, the gauntlet is thrown down: What are you hiding? When did you stop beating those children?
On the one hand the writing is difficult to engage because it jets the reader over single-sentence paragraphs that are often illogical non sequiturs. This gives a 'lions and tigers and bears, oh my!' emotional rush, but provides little documented substance, given the acreage of the articles.
Readers of the hard-copy editions had an even greater rush than online readers with seven days of front page articles-with-photos, complete with headlines that, on four days, were a larger font size than the newspaper's masthead. The inside pages of the articles took up 18 full pages. There were lots of big photographs. One close-up photo of a graveyard headstone covered the top 1/3 of the page. There were only two 1/2 pages. How well-financed was the series so that the newspaper could do without a week's worth of advertising on eighteen inside pages? In my edition of the book Page One, Pearl Harbor has three pages (not consecutive), the Cuban missile crisis has one, Kennedy's assassination has two (not consecutive), and the Pentagon Papers has one.
On the other hand, analyzing the articles probably builds character.
I assume that concern for educating children is the reason for the drumbeat for governmental oversight of homeschoolers, and I wholeheartedly agree with concern about children. However, I don't think the concern should focus only on homeschooling families. I think all families should be examined because I wonder if the incompetence of the bad parents in the Akron Beacon Journal articles is an artifact of the public school socialization they received. At least four generations of people have grown up outside close family relationships during the decades of our social experiment with mass-schooling, so a change in close-relationship competence may have occurred. But, without four generations of a control population who did not attend mass-schools, how do we know mass-schooling hasn't had this effect? No one knows. No one is looking.
I choose to assume that the many calls for 'homeschool accountability' are meant to ensure an adequate education for all young citizens so they'll have the adult ability to pursue happiness. I hope these calls for accountability are not something else, such as:
Accountability to ensure quality of life, and the successful pursuit of happiness of the next generation of adults, isn't guaranteed by threatening to increase governmental inroads into families by requiring a return to public schooling if a family's educational path doesn't conform to the Universal path. What would be more useful is support of families. Relieve some of the pressure on families to 'provide it All.' Give comfort to those who worry about 'getting it all in.' Provide depth to the pursuit of happiness, not just an economic surfeit of stuff. And do it for everyone.
We, the family members of service personnel, are often stressed by the needs of the military. To offset the stresses, many family-support services are in place so that individual families need not maintain a comprehensive, portable support-system for themselves. Military installations have installation libraries, recreation services, housing, and youth services. It isn't 'perfect,' but so far (again, in historic perspective), nothing is 'perfect.'
We who have lived in Europe (and mastered the culture shock), often found pleasure in the (sometimes-)ease of transportation, the enlightenment of cultural events, and the intellectual stimulation from a variety of educational opportunities. Many of us who return to the more 'newly' settled areas of America (in overall terms of human settlements) found . . . shopping. As a meaningful experience, shopping goes only so far.
Instead of a Pedagogic Plan for All buttressed by the No Child Left in Peace act, communities should look to themselves to provide a supporting infrastructure available to everyone, but not required of everyone. The military services already do this for their families, apparently the Air Force above all. More than one military email list has a message in its archives saying, "Yeah, in the Air Force we don't get promoted as fast, but we have excellent support services." Comprehensive support, chosen as-needed, is often seen as superior to maintaining our own private 'stashes' of whatever it is we stash. Examples of such civilian 'community stashes' could be:
The Akron Beacon Journal hit a hot button: human weaknesses, but the focus is too narrow. Homeschooling parents are not the only ones affected and American communities should build-in support for the people who live in each one, rather than suffocating parental acceptance of the responsibility of raising children.
Support families, don't suffocate
Ohio Home Education Coalition:
Responds To Ohio Newspaper Series On Homeschooling
Rebuttal to Akron Beacon Journal newspaper's series on homeschooling
The Education Gadfly of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation: Good news is no news on home schooling
WorldNetDaily: Abusing Homeschoolers
Cato Institute: Is There No Peace for Homeschoolers?
Daryl Cobranchi's blog:
Driving in the car (during field trips; PCSing; vacations)
Hobby Horse Stable: Op/ed
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This site was last updated: Wednesday, 10 March 2010