Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight

It is a spectacularly poor piece of writing. A Mr. Brent Applegath of Vernon sent a letter to the editor of the bclocalnews.com to express his views concerning the benefits of a public school education over homeschooling. No new ground was covered in the arguments against homeschooling. The author believes that classroom teachers have special training, are passionate about providing only the best opportunities for their students, and provide opportunities that homeschoolers cannot provide. “Obvious pluses such as learning with friends, sharing in discussions where many varied opinions are offered, diversity of subject matter, resources, technology and working to make a school a community are aspects of public education that are not as readily available to homeschooled children.” I’ve seen this line of reasoning before. The thing that bothers me about his letter, and kept me revisiting it over the course of the weekend, is the author’s complete lack of desire to share his interests with his children.

“As a parent, I think the instruction of my children is better left to others who are qualified. I have found this when providing opportunities for music lessons, skiing and snow boarding instruction and driver training. These activities are all things which I am proficient at yet lack the proper qualifications to deliver the instruction. In short, I am not passionate about teaching my children old how to play guitar, drive or ski. The amount of whining and arguing is not worth the effort.” (Emphasis mine)

I wonder how many homeschooling critics share Mr. Applegath’s lack of passion concerning their children’s education, whether the subject is music, ski lessons, and snowboarding or math, history, and science. He appears to be saying that since his children can be difficult, they’re not worth the effort. It’s simply easier to let someone else do the hard work. It is easier to send a child to school and let someone else influence them than it is to wage a war for the child’s heart, mind, and soul. The cover story for that position is, “I am not qualified to teach my children.”

Several years ago, I came across an explanation for anti-homeschooling criticism that appears uncannily accurate in light of Mr. Applegath’s statement. Author Sonny Scott, writing in a Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal article titled, “Home-schoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort,” offered an excellent reason why homeschooling is disliked.

Why do we hate (or at least distrust) these people so much? Their very existence represents a rejection of our values, and an indictment of our lifestyles. Those families are willing to render unto Caesar the things that Caesar’s be, but they draw the line at their children. Those of us who have put our trust in the secular state (and effectively surrendered our children to it) recognize this act of defiance as a rejection of our values, and we reject them in return.

I am not sitting in judgment of Mr. Applegath. I am not going to waste a moment’s time wondering about whether or not he loves his children. That would be silly. I am completely incapable of relating to Mr. Applegath’s statements about participating in his children’s education. His lack of passion for teaching his children is as foreign to me as is Mandarin Chinese. Passion. That's a powerful word. If I am anything, I am passionate about my children and their education. What concerns me is that if the expressed sentiments about child rearing are as common as are the weak arguments for preferring a public school classroom over a homeschool, what does that say about the world in which we live? What does that say about the society in which we are raising our children?


  1. I was just thinking about this in the shower this morning, how teachers are said to be passionate about teaching, so we should hand our children over to them. First of all, on what planet are even *most* teachers passionate about imparting knowledge to children? I went to "good" public schools, and had at least 35 teachers during my years there. Of those teachers, about 6--no 7, if you count band--had any passion at all for teaching anything. They were mostly worksheet-tossing automatons. Great, so my kids will get a great teacher at least 20% of the time if we live in a good school district! Color me unimpressed. Maybe I'm not passionate about Latin, but I'm passionate about my kids, and I want them to have the best I can get them. No way could the public schools do better than that.

  2. I have to agree it would be easier to toss the kids off to another person each day.

    But I didn't sign up for kids to have it easy. (not that I totally knew what I was getting into with the kids!)

    I signed up for 18-70 years of hard work, difficult choices, and well I am hoping the daily tantrums stop sometime before 18?

    Caesar can have my taxes, but not my kids.

  3. I was just going to write what Cindy wrote (you know...that "great minds" thing and all,) but she said it so well, I don't have much to add.

    If Mr. Applegath thinks that all his childrens' teachers are more passionate about teaching his children than he would be, he's really got his head stuck in the sand. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to learn that concerning the Applegath children, their teachers share the sentiment of the childrens' father: "The amount of whining and arguing is not worth the effort.”

    Whining and complaining are just as irritating to teachers as they are to parents. Likely even more so. "Passion for teaching" doesn't lessen the irritation factor. In fact, the opposite seems true. The more kids whine and complain, the less "passionate" the teacher...ANY teacher...feels.

    Great post, Arby!

  4. I don't know, I kind of agree with him. The amount of whining and arguing is not worth the effort of trying to teach my kids. That's why I stopped arguing and whining about it and simply learned how to teach them. :o)

    I wish more people would consider putting some effort into whatever they choose to do. It seems to me that too many people give up too easily or decide that the reward is not "worth the effort". What does that say about us as a society?

    Peace and Laughter!

  5. I agree with Cindy...no one is more passionate about my children (in general-educational or not) than my husband and me. No one.

    Good Post. I am now following your blog/FB.