I have written on these topics before, but a recent online discussion has caused me to think about them again. I am writing primarily about the education of children, but I think it involves the broader topic of caring for children, since education is one aspect of providing for the needs of children.
Before answering any questions regarding how children should be educated or how they should be otherwise cared for, two more fundamental questions must be addressed:
- To whom do children belong?
- Whose responsibility is it to provide for the needs of children?
It is my belief that children, like all human beings, are essentially different from what we normally call property. In the strictest sense, they do not belong to anybody–at least not the way that a car or a house can belong to somebody. When we talk about children belonging to somebody then, we are talking not about ownership, but about relationship.
My views on this matter are informed by my Christian faith. Human beings are the property, as is everything else, of God and God alone. That is my rationale for opposing slavery. It is also why I oppose any notion, explicit or implicit, that people belong to the state.
In a statist society the children (and the adults, too) are essentially property of the state. Everyone belongs to everyone else. Each person is everyone else’s responsibility. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It seems like a nice system when you first hear about it. It seems fair. However, it has become abominably unfair and cruel in most of the societies where it has been practiced fully. Enough said on that matter.
In a free society the children belong to their parents. It is the parents, after all, who produced them. Therefore, it is the parents who have the responsibility to care for them. I would go so far as to say that the parents have a duty to care for them. The parents should not demand that somebody else care for their children; neither should they insist on taking care of somebody else’s children. Parents in need can ask for help, and help can be freely given. Experts with good ideas can offer advice and suggestions, but parents must be free to accept or reject the advice and suggestions.
The discussion that I referred to had to do with home schooling. One of the participants in the discussion offered a quotation that mentioned socialization. I think it is important that people understand what that word means and what the concept actually is.
I have heard some parents confuse socialization with socializing. For example, one mother that I know said that she was sending her daughter to preschool for socialization. She really meant that she was sending there to interact with other children. (I suspect that she was really sending there to give herself a break, which I can fully understand.) Other parents have told me that they were sending their formerly home-schooled kids to a public school to get socialization. They meant that they wanted them to rub shoulders with kids from other backgrounds.
Wikipedia has a good article that explains socialization very well. It does not mean interacting socially with other kids. It means being acculturated or learning the norms of the society around you. When educationists write or say that children need to be socialized, that is what they mean. They are not saying that they need to spend time with other kids; rather, they are saying that kids need to be taught how to be good, productive members of the greater society.
On the surface that is fine; however, I suggest people deeply on the matter. If your children belong to you, what values (or rather, whose values) do you want them to learn? Whose socialization do you want them to receive?
More and more we seem to have two disparate societies in the United States. Label them as you wish: leftist versus rightist, modern versus traditional, secular versus religious, blue versus red, urban versus rural. We certainly do not want our children socialized in the same way.
Unfortunately for those in the second camp, which I will call “traditional,” the public schools are mostly run by people in the first camp. Their worldview is irreconcilably different from ours. Many teachers are still in the “traditional” camp, but they are being increasingly influenced (and sometimes forced) by education professors and by interfering politicians to adopt more “modernist” views and values.
So, however much a “traditional” parent might want their kids to socialize with a wide range of fellow students, he or she should ask whether they want their kids to be socialized in a system that opposes many, if not most, of their core values. For example, I want my children to be tolerant, and I have taught them to be so. However, I do not want them to practice tolerance as defined by the “modernists.” In fact, they themselves are not likely to be tolerated by the folks in that camp, though I expect my children to be tolerant of them.
I could list many other examples of where I differ from modern secularists (and modern liberal religionists). I do not want my children to be taught that humans evolved from animals, that they are mere biological machines without souls, that God has nothing to do with our daily lives, that they are born to be cogs in the machine of society, that they only matter if they have a good quality of life, that there are too many of them, that they are a cancer in the ecology of the world, that they have caused global warming, that they should arbitraily believe in themselves or have self-confidence, that all religions are equally valid, that Islam is a religion of peace but Christianity is a dangerous religion, that there are no ethical absolutes, or that they must determine their values without reference to their parents’ values.
I feel fortunate that my children have not attended public schools. I am not absolutely opposed to sending them there, but it is not my first choice. I certainly would not send them there to be socialized, however. My wife and I will take care of that, thank you very much, and we will enlist the aid or our church and of our trusted friends. If I were to send them to a public school, I would work over time to counteract the values that they would be taught there.