Note: This article originally appeared in my homeschooling column at examiner.com in 2010.
Recently, Minnesota science blogger PZ Myers got a sincere request for advice from a homeschooling mother in Arizona. She wanted suggestions on how to publicly respond to a creationist speaker who was coming to her state homeschool convention, in order to let others know that not all homeschoolers reject evolution. Instead of offering advice (I have plenty!), he turned the question into an opportunity to insult homeschooling and spread the same tired cliches that we homeschoolers have been fighting for decades.
I am not a fan of homeschooling; in fact, if I had my way, I’d make it illegal. Too often it’s an excuse to isolate kids and hammer them full of ideological nonsense, and in a troubled public school system, it doesn’t help to strip students and money from a struggling district — it should be part of the social contract that we ought to provide a good education to everyone.
Later, he went on to say:
What can be done in the short term to protest damning choices like bringing Ham in to speak to a convention, and what can be done in the long run to get better quality science into homeschool programs? That last one will be a real challenge, given that my impression of the majority of homeschoolers is that they’re doing it specifically to indoctrinate their kids in a specific conservative Christian ideology.
I personally am not a fan of ignorance, and these statements show nothing but ignorance — about homeschooling, about public education and about common courtesy in our society.
I’m willing to bet that Myers does not spend a large amount of time around homeschoolers. It always annoys me when anybody with very little experience with any subject loudly opines about it. When it’s in a public forum, I find it especially reprehensible.
I don’t personally know of any people who choose to homeschool in order to isolate their children! Do they exist? Perhaps, but they certainly don’t represent the majority or even a segment of the population large enough to mention.
Why do parents homeschool their children? The answers are incredibly varied.
Many times, school was not a good fit for children. Sometimes the children were bullied or the parents witnessed their kids losing their love of learning or becoming depressed. Some children have health issues, allergies or other special needs. Some parents want to be able to customize their children’s education to their academic needs. Others want to be able to spend more time together as a family, travel, and learn through life. Others have concerns about the safety of their local schools, while others have concerns about the curriculum. Most of us have more reasons than we can list, and this list barely scratches the surface.
You can no more generalize about why people homeschool than you can generalize about why people have children to begin with — and you certainly can never lump us all together with sweeping statements about what we do, how we do it, and why.
It does no good to argue with people like PZ Myers. They’ve made up their minds and any comments made will simply be seen as traffic and ad revenue. It does do good to speak out against statements like those that he made, though.
It’s important that we homeschoolers are vocal about our diversity and our unwillingness to be discussed so ignorantly and rudely.
Think about it. Would a professional columnist get away with making any of these statements?
- “I think raising children as Mormons should be illegal.”
- “It’s my impression that the majority of Asian parents disapprove of sports.”
- “While some poor people can be good parents, most of them are not.”
- “Stay-at-home parents are not adequately equipped to take care of babies the way day cares are.”
- “Childless couples are depriving the local school systems of needed revenue.”
Of course not. So why do so many people think it’s okay to make this sort of statement about homeschoolers?
Dr. Myers is a fascinating man and writes a very popular science blog. It’s all the more troubling that he can be so knowledgeable about science and so misinformed and ignorant about homeschooling.
Which is why, perhaps, he should stick to writing about science.