Countries such as Germany and Spain make homeschooling illegal, putting the kids before the parents.
Other countries, such as Italy, consider it a fundamental right and guarantee it in the constitution, putting the parents before the kids.
Which do you think is right?
This is one of those things that remains on my “too hard” pile at present because I’m dissatisfied with the trade-offs, unable to determine which I think does the least damage. Instead, what I’ll do is tell you why I’m there in the process for myself so you can sort of get an idea of the variables that I’ve seen, which are certainly influencing the direction I go with this.
There is a woman who is an acquaintance of a person I know. She has never met me, and (presumably) has no idea I exist. This woman writes prolifically online, mostly on social media that is restricted to friends-of-friends that I can see even though I no longer have an active account on most platforms. I’ve been following her, indirectly, quietly for three or four years, because she’s so fascinating. Though I think it’s certainly inappropriate in most cases for a layperson to talk about a medical diagnosis, anyone who has come within a few digital miles of her essays, notes, and postings is likely to conclude she is an undiagnosed schizophrenic with paranoid delusions. She is a walking, talking, living embodiment of the symptoms list to the point I think university medical research hospitals would pay her to serve as a test subject.
For example, in her early-to-mid twenties at the time when schizophrenia manifests in women, out of nowhere she began to experience what she called “spiritual warfare” by seeing and hearing “demons” that were constantly trying to attack her. We’re talking some really, really insane ramblings that are obviously not the mind of a healthy person. She writes of her visions of the end-times, of her conversations with God, or her role as a watchman in the last days as society falls into sin (never mind, as we’ve discussed considerably on this site, that “sin” is near an all-time low as we’re living at a time of lowest rates of murder, rape, theft, assault, poverty, etc., in the entirety of recorded human history because logic has no place in this irrational madness). She goes through periods where she is fine, then relapses into these manic states (in her world, these are periods of heightened spiritual warfare and she is keenly sensitive to their arrival), writing page after page about the battles in the heavenlies, spelled out in detail intermixed with quotes from the Christian Bible in broken, poorly formatted, frantic, disjointed prose. It is the most incredible train wreck you can imagine because it results in escalating into all sorts of self-reinforcing mental models. She believes she is divinely chosen to carry out her special task. She says she’ll be sitting there and suddenly watch demons change the face of one of her male relatives.
As a result of these experiences, she became a fundamentalist religious fanatic, throwing herself more and more into it as her brain tried to make sense of her sickness. Living in the Bible Belt (as opposed to Tibet or Saudi Arabia where her inputs would have been different), the culture influenced her and it resulted in her becoming obsessed with warding off Satan, constantly evoking the name of Jesus as a sort of talisman against the ever-present threat of the dark prince; a fairly common occurrence in a significant percentage of schizophrenics. In her own, irrational way, it made a lot of sense. The brain, not understanding what was happening to it, looked for a system that offered answers.
On top of all of this, she talks about the importance of isolating yourself from all people and sources that conflict with faith because if you see the evidence, it will always be Satan attempting to trick you; to make you doubt your faith. Scientists are liars. In a sense, this is rational because the extreme faith she has, no matter how crazy it is to everybody else, is the only thing that lets her get through the day without living in abject fear of what I have little doubt are very real auditory and visual hallucinations.
She is part of what looks to be a small home-based church because, obviously, few mainline denominations would tolerate this level of mental distress before someone would have compassion on her and try to get her in for the medical tests to diagnose her cognitive impairment. Were she to become a Methodist or Presbyterian or something, she’d be forced to confront reality; that she’s mentally ill and her sensory inputs faulty because of a brain disorder. This isn’t rocket science. She’s broken, she believes what she is saying, and someone, somewhere, should step in and get her help. This woman needs help. She’d be convinced you were just an enemy working for the devil, trying to lead her away from God but it’s incredibly sad sometimes to watch how profoundly upset she gets about some minor world event, convinced it is really a harbinger of the anti-Christ and the end of the world.
The people around her are their own brand of interesting, too, as they’ve formed their own little quasi-cult. Many of them are just as nuts as she is – one writes these incredibly long essays that make no sense at all because he can’t pass up the chance to use some obscure, multi-syllabic word even if it doesn’t fit contextually. These messages literally say nothing. He just randomly selects words for their size that have no relationship to the sentence content. The people in this home church fawn over how smart he is because they can’t understand the work (the reading level of the rest of the group isn’t very high).
But what gets me is, a few – not many, but a few – of the people in this group, for all intents and purposes, appear to be perfectly normal, nice, reasonable citizens with whom you’d be happy to sit down to a cup of coffee and talk about your day. They fascinate me. How do such reasonable individuals find themselves in league with the more interesting characters? At what point did they wake up and say, “I think I’m going to go spend a big part of my week listening to a demented fifty-something housewife who clearly has one of the most severe cases of mental illness I’ve ever encountered rage about spirits from beyond the fade and their plot to overthrow the United States for our refusal to obey Israel, to whom she believes we should be subjugated?” There was once a post about how – let me see if I get this right – because there were flies in a White House interview with President Obama and one landed on his face, it was God revealing that he was working for Beelzebub, the old testament pagan demon. It wasn’t satire. She believed it.
Why do I follow this woman’s writings? I read them to remind myself of how completely detached from reality some people’s mental processes can be; how irrationality can make even the simplest policy decisions completely non-workable. It’s a strategy tool. I can’t wrap my mind around that level of dysfunction and so I want to try and understand it; to gather as many perspectives as I can.
Now, here’s the thing. This woman has children. Fairly young children, too. They were raised in this environment. I doubt a day has gone by when they haven’t had to listen to this sort of endless ranting. She is constantly, aggressively, putting these kids into a total siege mentality. Everything is the enemy. Every normal, good, wonderful life experience is potentially bad. She hates people who believe in, for example, prosperity. If you “picture” the life you want and work toward it, that’s somehow witchcraft. I can’t keep track of it all because it’s contradictory but I’m sure it makes sense to her at the time.
Anyway, thankfully, she sends her kids to public school which is the one string of yarn between them and normalcy.
Imagine that she decided to homeschool. What possible chance would you have in life if you were brought up in that kind of environment full-time from 5, 6, 7 years old? If, by the time you were 12, you thought that lunar eclipses were symbols of future events, not ordinary, predictable movements due to gravity that show up on the calendar because we can calculate them? I cannot fully communicate to you the degree of mental instability and religious imagery in which this woman is submerged. Somewhere, in the back of my mind, I wonder if she’s ever going to go all Deanna LaJune Laney and kill her kids on her front lawn because she heard a voice she thought was God, telling her to do it. She’d do it. She would absolutely murder her own children if she thought that is what God wanted. There is no doubt where she falls on Plato’s Euthyphro Dilemma or how she would have ended Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns.
Does a woman like that, who is otherwise able to hold a job and provide for her family, have a right to intellectually hobble her children to the point it could destroy any chance of them ever escaping? We would never tolerate her hitting her kids but should we sit by as she tells them clearly deranged things resulting from her refusal to seek medical treatment? To my knowledge, she’s never done anything quite crazy enough to be committed. And she’s surrounded by those who think she’s speaking for God so they just think her episodes are normal.
Do her constitutional rights to raise her kids override her kids’ constitutional rights to make an informed decision upon adulthood? Can that happen were she to completely isolate them from all outside sources and fill their minds with this insanity?
I’m inclined to say absolutely not. It would be child abuse. How far of a moral line do we draw between taking away someone’s kids because they don’t teach the kid how to read and taking away someone’s kids because they ban them from reading any book that isn’t – literally – the Bible? And only a specific version of the Bible?
It’s Not Just the Far Right Wing We’d Have to Worry About – The Nutters on the Left Side of the Spectrum Are Just as Bad
On the other hand, giving the state, or any centralized authority, unmitigated control over the curriculum is a bit frightening. The ability to protect against indoctrination also comes with the ability to mass indoctrinate if there aren’t checks and balances. Hitler Youth was a real thing. That is terrifying.
Personally, I think it would be somewhat of hell on Earth were the Tumblr In Action crowd to take over the public school system, producing generations of students who ran not on logic but on feelz and sadness. Look at the Title IX madness that has resulted from the “Dear Colleague” letter that is blatantly unconstitutional as it violates the very foundations of due process. (If you aren’t familiar with it, this presentation is absolutely worth your time. The lawsuits and financial exposures of universities are going to be huge.)
I mean, imagine if people like the delegates to a recent conference of the National Union of Students in the United Kingdom managed to take over the public school system. That group was hijacked by what you can only nicely refer to as moonbats. It does not strike me as outside of the realm of possibility that they may someday want to control speech and access to knowledge the same way other fundamentalists do.
Doubt it? You really can’t make this stuff up. Prepare yourself because this actually happened. It is not an article out of The Onion.
- Exhibit A: They are now attempting to police people’s identities and self-expression to make sure they conform with stereotypes. For example, they just passed a resolution banning “privileged” gay men (hey, it has been 12 months since they finally won the right to marry over on that side of the pond; look at them dripping in all of that power now that it’s been a whole trip around the sun since they could enjoy the same rights as everyone else) from “acting like black women”. Stop and truly appreciate that for a moment. Forget the implicit homophobia of such an offensive suggestion. (Side note: Why do people get tripped up on the etymology of that word? The suffix, -phobia, has multiple definitions, with “fear” being only one of them and not the one used in the construction. It also refers to something toward which you feel antipathy. That’s the relevant definition. Is it because they only encounter it in a medical sense involving fear, like claustrophobia or arachnophobia? Do they not read very much? Or know how to use a dictionary? It seems so weird when you can just look it up. Even if it weren’t a literal etymology, like it can be in this case due to the sub-definition of phobia, people change the definition of compound words through cultural all the time. You don’t, for instance, think of a butterfly as a stick of butter that is flying. It’s an attempt, ironically, to be pedantic). Forget that half of the behavior they think is problematic was actually originated in the Paris is Burning era of gay culture in New York City and subsequently adopted / appropriated by black culture but they’re too ignorant of history to know that, completely erasing the contributions of those who gave birth to it. No, just stop and appreciate the sheer, naked, raw racism and classicism of a group of upper middle class white girls, many of whom are living on mum and dad’s dime as they haven’t, actually, contributed anything to world, declaring what real black women act like. It’s so offensive, on so many levels, you really wonder if we’re getting into Poe’s Law territory.
- Exhibit B: This same group also just passed a resolution calling for the banning of – I kid you not – clapping. You know, just like Dictator Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus did a few years ago. They think the sound of clapping “triggers” those with social anxiety. Everyone is expected to … I’m trying not to lose it with laughter here … use jazz hands, instead. They want jazz hands. If they had their way, we would all be living in a production of Chicago. Bob Fosse!
When the rest of sane society mocked them mercilessly, some of these delegates posted very serious essays on “trolls” attempting to “derail” their serious work. I think it’s great. All you can do is point and laugh. It probably doesn’t even deserve a rebuttal because there is no higher level cognitive thinking going on here. They’re just reactionary fools who feed on faux oppression.
My personal favorite mock tweet following the news was this one …
Though “sizzle fingers” and “scissor fingers” (slightly NSFW? maybe? maybe not?) cracks me up, too.
Alright … sorry. Got off track. It’s 6:11 a.m. and I should at least attempt to get a few hours of sleep. All of this is to say that, if I’m forced to make a choice, I’m going to protect the kid, first. Switzerland seems to have a good balance from what I can tell. In many parts of the country, homeschooling is legal but there are strict standards and qualifications that must be met. You can’t raise a child to adulthood and have them think that dinosaurs didn’t exist but are merely a ploy of Satan to trick man into thinking God is a liar. Such an outcome just isn’t going to happen there in practically all cases.
Then again, we don’t let parents do dental work or open heart surgery on their own kid. Why would we let someone who is clearly not qualified to operate a push lawnmower mold the mind of someone completely innocent? Going down that path scares me, though. It sets a precedent I don’t like.
Throw it back on the too hard pile. I’ve wasted 2,725 words to tell you: I don’t know.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice my jazz hands.