Too cool for school

February 1, 2013 § 42 Comments

Stereotypes are an interesting subject because they represent a significant cultural dividing line in our society.  They are considered a transcendent evil by most kinds of liberals, and it is perfectly understandable why this would be the case given the liberal or modernist understanding of reality.  It isn’t just that stereotypes imply inherent inequalities among groups of people, although they certainly do that.  And it isn’t just that a stereotype frequently tends to be unfair when it is ‘particularized’ into expectations about and interpretations of individual persons, though that is also true.

Stereotypes are considered a transcendent evil to the modern mind because the modern mind knows only atoms and the void: because if an individual falls into a category, a stereotype legitimately bears truth about that category, and philosophical naturalism is a given, then we might as well all be Nazis.

But none of that represents a reasonable view of stereotypes.  As I’ve written before, while stereotypes are generally valuable truth-bearing high-level insights into what to expect out of groups qua groups, they tend to break down and certainly become less useful as we get to the HD pixel resolution of particular individuals.  The microscope gives a different view than the binoculars, but it doesn’t follow that the one falsifies the other.

One of the reasons stereotypes are of limited value on the Internet specifically when it comes down to personal interactions between individuals is because of all the inside baseball.  I am sure non-Catholics encounter this all the time, for example, when they run into Catholics on the net.  A non-Catholic often has a particular view of Catholics as such and very little visibility into the multifarious intramural disputes which inevitably arise in any group of ten people, let alone a billion or so.  A very wise man of my acquaintance told a new convert to just deliberately ignore all of that and concentrate on the basics: Mass, Scripture, the Sacraments, prayer, fasting, and works of mercy.  Very wise advice.

But those individual divisions begin to matter at certain resolutions.  A stereotype of my own has been my rather uniform perception of people who refuse to send their children to public schools for moral and religious reasons.  It hadn’t occurred to me until recently that there might be, for example, homeschoolers who stereotype private Catholic or Christian schools as an enemy, an Other, rather than as another at-least-sometimes countercultural Christian option for at least some people: something to be encouraged, not envied or disdained.

When I went to Parochial school in the 1970’s the banners were felt and the big controversy surrounding our Confirmation Mass was whether we were going to sing the (naughty) “Stairway to Heaven” or the (nice) “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.  We ended up singing the nice hippy song not the naughty rocker ballad, because the latter was a ‘drug song’ and the former wasn’t.  (Sail on, Silver Girl).  But in Health class we were taught unflinchingly by the very same teacher that masturbation, fornication, adultery, and abortion were moral wrongs; this contrasted starkly to Health class in public school a few years later.  Possibly of note is that our family got financial assistance to go there: if the school had taken on some other burden of charity instead of us we would not have been able to attend.

So I don’t understand if and why homeschoolers should be the enemy of private schoolers, and I’m pretty sure that homeschoolers reserve to themselves pretty broad rights as to who they invite into their homes to tutor their children and upon what moral standards they condition the invitation.   I don’t actually know if this is a significant divide.   But the possibility of a significant divide here has been raised.

Thoughts?

§ 42 Responses to Too cool for school

  • johnmcg says:

    I’m going to heed your acquantance’s advice, and concern myself with whether I’m doing the best job I can loving God and the people around me.

  • Zippy says:

    John:
    It is spectacularly good advice for a new convert, and really for anyone who isn’t equipped to deal with the intramural issues. It doesn’t follow that the intramural issues are unimportant though.

  • Zippy says:

    (The fellow who gave the advice is very partisan for the Old Mass, for example, and very critical of what he sometimes terms ‘neo-Catholicism’).

  • Svar says:

    I don’t know if most homeschoolers are enemies of private schools. It seems that you’re talking about a particular homeschooler who had a very bad experience with Catholic schools.

  • Scott W. says:

    So I don’t understand if and why homeschoolers should be the enemy of private schoolers

    Well schooling gets you into the realm of How Kids Ought to Be Raised, which includes breast-feeding and how long you should do it and how public should it be; attachment parenting vs. Babywise; What Kind of Maniac Lets Their Children Sleep In The Parent’s Bed?; Letting your children wail like a banshee during Mass, etc.

    Frankly, if it was a choice of discussing one the above with a True Believer one way or the other, or ride in an elevator with a drunk, knife-wielding Vice Lord, I’d take the believer, but I would have to think about it. Keep The Giant Internet Hand of Spanking in mind.

  • Zippy says:

    Svar:
    No, I’m not. Commenter freddy suggested in one thread that all of my recent posts were about Red Cardigan. They weren’t. I go where the ideas and discussions take me, and the way I partitioned my posts was deliberate, specifically to separate out the particular disputes and the general concepts so that I can reference the latter – which is what I am really interested in – later. That’s how I roll.

  • Svar says:

    Oh, my bad. I thought you were in fact referring to her.

  • Peter Blood says:

    Since I have crossed the lines between homeschool and privateschool, I’ve seen both, and also my church has lots of homeschoolers.

    I have noticed that the privateschoolers are generally pleasantly disposed towards homeschoolers–little to no hostility. But that is not always reciprocated. Homeschoolers can view themselves as Totally Committed Elite and even those in privateschool are seen as leaving the education of their children to others (that’s a negative connotation). If you read homeschool magazines there is a whiff of cultism in there. “We are the remnant doing it right.

    It’s not universal, or even a majority, but enough to be offputting to privateschoolers.

    Also, privateschools have plenty of men actively involved, administration, teaching. Homeschooling is totally dominated by women. Totally!

  • Peter Blood says:

    When I say “homeschooling is totally dominated by women” I mean magazines, conferences, co-ops, blogs and forums online, curricul fairs, etc.. There is an understanding that any men involved–such as running businesses that generate content, such as curricula, for homeschoolers–cater to women. I can’t think of any examples in homeschooling, but the idea is what you see at Focus on the Family. Any men running things have an entirely female audience and constituency.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @PB

    When I say “homeschooling is totally dominated by women” I mean magazines, conferences, co-ops, blogs and forums online, curricul fairs, etc…Any men running things have an entirely female audience and constituency.

    This is true, but I don’t see it as a problem. Moms are supposed to do this; even Chris Rock knows that. “If the kids can’t read because there’s not light: that’s Daddy’s fault. Otherwise it’s Mama’s.”, or something like that. So, I pick and provide the curriculum, (lights) and Mama teaches by them.

    As the kids get older though, the curriculum gets more hands-on, and therefore it’s a matter of Daddy guiding their own choices in lights, and less Mama teaching.

  • Peter Blood says:

    So why is there this assymetry of attitudes between homeschoolers and privateschoolers? I’m open to better suggestions.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @PB

    I’m not sure I understand your question, but if I do:

    The reason to send your children to private school is for the benefit of your children. The reason to homeschool is the benefit of the whole family. Women are saved through raising children; not by an impressive work record.

    This is not to say that all homeschoolers realize this, or even accept it.

  • Peter Blood says:

    So the homeschoolers that do get it, that’s why there’s this assymetrical attitude? Or is it because of the homeschoolers who don’t get it?

  • Zippy says:

    Thinking out loud a bit, my inner MBA wants to approach this as a free, make, or buy scenario.

    Suppose that the government gave out free furniture. The government furniture varies wildly in quality but pretty much all of it is covered with pornographic images which cannot be easily covered up.

    Some people buy furniture, instead of using government furniture, for various reasons. Some just want better quality than the government furniture and don’t care about the porn. Some buy specifically in order to avoid the porn while still having furniture. Quality here also varies wildly.

    Finally, some people make their own furniture. This also varies wildly in quality, but almost nobody who builds his own furniture covers it with porn.

    I’m guessing that attitudes/factions would unfold in a similar way.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @PB

    Not sure. That’s the part of your question I did not understand. Please explain the asymmetry you mean.

  • Zippy says:

    Cane:
    Peter’s experience (as I understand it) is that privateschoolers (who privateschool for moral/cultural/religious reasons) have a generally positive attitude toward homeschoolers; while a significant proportion of homeschoolers have a rather negative attitude toward privateschoolers.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    @ZC and PB

    This would be where the usefulness of stereotypes begins to degrade. Some of the homeschoolers who accept that scripture will have a negative towards privateschoolers because they will focus on the perception (true or not) that the wife/mother is avoiding her responsibilities–indeed God’s providence. Some of them will just think they’re better because they’re vain. Some homeschoolers simply can’t afford private school. They might either be accepting of privateschoolers, or resentful of their (perceived) wealth. I know many privateschoolers who do without for the sake of tuition.

    I think homeschool is usually more important for women than children; in the same way that headship is more important for husband’s than wives. It’s the work, you see…

  • Black_Rose says:

    A very wise man of my acquaintance told a new convert to just deliberately ignore all of that and concentrate on the basics: Mass, Scripture, the Sacraments, prayer, fasting, and works of mercy. Very wise advice.

    That’s good advice; I personally follow it as I am not heavily concerned or involved with any cultural war issue or domestic issue. I do not believe most people, both in an individual and collective sense, have the influence and power in order to have their political participation be effective. I am a political futilitarian, but it would seem that material contentment and the Peace of Babylon would suffice for an environment conducive for spiritual growth.

    I think there is a tribal element to traditionalism since it tries to forge the bonds of in-group solidarity through a narrative that their own group is beleaguered and persecuted by secular “liberal” culture. This is certainly true to a certain extent, but the traditionalist narrative is largely hyperbole.

    ======

    I don’t see much of a problem with alleged “liberal indoctrination”, provided that the curriculum confers children with knowledge of scientific. mathematical, historical, and cultural value, and is fairly intellectually rigorous to foster critical thinking. (I wasn’t politically indoctrinated as an adolescent and college student, but I did use my liberty in college to study political philosophy and ethics independently and extracurricularly in the university library.) Augustine himself was privileged to be instructed in classical schools focusing on the Greco-Roman classics, but he used that knowledge derived from his education to launch an effective critique of Pagan values in the initial chapters of the City of God.

  • Black_Rose says:

    Actually, the CoG tome consists of 22 “books” not “chapters”; “chapters” are subsection of the “books”.

  • Svar says:

    Gotta love the ‘net. Where people think what they say is important even when(or especially when) it’s not.

  • Zippy says:

    Black Rose:
    I do not believe most people, both in an individual and collective sense, have the influence and power in order to have their political participation be effective.

    I’m probably not a political futilitarian in the sense you mean it; but you might find my posts on voting and elections amusing, if nothing else.

  • Black_Rose says:

    Lisa: Mr. Flanders, with all due respect, Bart didn’t do anything.

    Ned: Do I hear the sound of butting in?! It’s gotta be little Lisa Simpson. Springfield’s answer to a question no one asked!

  • Zippy says:

    Black Rose:
    I don’t see much of a problem with alleged “liberal indoctrination”,…

    In a Health class I attended in the 1980’s an HIV-positive gay man was invited as a guest lecturer for the day. He produced a plastic model of an erect penis, demonstrated how to put a condom on it, and then spent a significant chunk of the class period demonstrating what he thought were the best ways to pleasure a man.

    I have my doubts as to whether St. Augustine’s experiences with secular education mirror my own.

  • Black_Rose says:

    I point out that the majority of my curriculum focused on the biological sciences, and I did not perceive any overt political agenda in the course, although my Biostats professor was a liberal (and admitted to me outside class he was an atheist; I still like him as a person) and used sparingly used slides that referenced his liberalism in a humorous and mild fashion. I valued most of the information acquired in my formal education and did not see any overt political or religious agenda in the curriculum.

    My professor in my introductory political science class was intentionally cryptic about his political beliefs. He even talked about how the United States was founded on “Lockean liberalism” and its tenets — “equality” (in the sense all men should be treated equally in the “blind” eyes of the law), “no monarchs/parliamentarianism”, “economic liberty or capitalism”, and “freedom of speech”. My upper division political science professor was slightly leftist, but the course was about the efficacy of political movements, and he had a good understanding of the relevant facts and framework, and assigned intellectually enriching assignments.

    then spent a significant chunk of the class period demonstrating what he thought were the best ways to pleasure a man.

    You gotta be kidding me! Of course, you aren’t, but that is inappropriate in any classroom since it seems to have no educational merit. That’s not liberalism; that’s just disgusting.

  • Zippy says:

    Black Rose:
    I wish I was kidding about that incident, and I wish it was isolated. Neither are true though.

    In fact I spent several years deprogramming myself from my secular education, and once I had done so its pervasiveness became obvious in hindsight. I think it helps that I am at least slightly sociopathic and don’t usually care much what the cool kids think.

    I valued most of the information acquired in my formal education and did not see any overt political or religious agenda in the curriculum.

    Your experience contrasts to a graduate level molecular cellular biology course I took (along with a number of other graduate courses) at a major university several years ago. (I do that sometimes just for the Hell of it, because I find myself interested in a subject). The final slide on the last day of lecture was, literally, the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I specifically elected not to continue a course of study there toward a formal degree because the Bioethics curriculum was wildly partisan and morally abhorrent, and I am too old and too independent to put up with sitting through it.

  • Svar says:

    “Lisa: Mr. Flanders, with all due respect, Bart didn’t do anything.

    Ned: Do I hear the sound of butting in?! It’s gotta be little Lisa Simpson. Springfield’s answer to a question no one asked!”

    Haha, indeed.

    Zippy, I am shocked that you had to learn gay acrobatics from a sod. In my experiences I have not had to deal with that but then again I went to private school in Texas, which while secular didn’t give any quarter to known perverts.

    But seriously, anyone comparing contemporary public school to the secular classical education of Augustine just doesn’t know the situation on the ground. I’ve gone to public school for several years of my life before transferring to private. Public school is more seen as a daycare for the community’s problem kids than a place to learn.

  • Zippy says:

    To be clear, the incident in question was at a secular college. But it simply mirrored more graphically and slightly less clinically what I had already been “taught” in high school.

  • Peter Blood says:

    Getting back to homeschooling and privateschooling, I put Mrs. Blood on the hotseat last night and gave her a good grilling about this. She doesn’t notice it like I do, although she conceded that there are some homeschoolers who do it for reasons where they might look down on privateschoolers.

    I would refine Zippy’s characterization that the number of homeschoolers like that is “substantial,” but the few that are like that are noticeable because they’re so annoying. Most are really nice about it all and know everyone has reasons for doing what they do.

  • joycalyn says:

    Mr. Blood: Our family has been homeschooling for 23 years. There is a camp of homeschoolers who believe God mandates it in Deuteronomy 11:19. Since it is a command of God, all parents are required to obey. Thus, those parents who choose any school outside home are disobedient. These folks tend to have very strong ideas about everything and often even other homeschoolers do not measure up. There’s no question that we can be a difficult bunch.

    For my part, any parent who keeps their children from Caesar is my ally. Homeschooling is demanding (I’ve seen mothers break under it) and I think that’s some of the reason you find such strongly opinionated people in the group. It takes a will of steel to keep it up long term, but it’s certainly tragic when that is expressed in making enemies of allies.

  • Zippy says:

    Peter Blood:
    …the few that are like that are noticeable because they’re so annoying.

    Apex fallacy, hah!

  • Black_Rose says:

    But seriously, anyone comparing contemporary public school to the secular classical education of Augustine just doesn’t know the situation on the ground. I’ve gone to public school for several years of my life before transferring to private. Public school is more seen as a daycare for the community’s problem kids than a place to learn.

    Svar, you are indeed correct. I’ve read Steve Sailer discuss in detail the abysmal quality of Los Angeles County public schools. If that’s the case about public schools, then the problem isn’t ideological indoctrination or the curriculum, but a lack of intellectual rigor.

    ===
    I don’t have much of a problem if an instructor injects his political opinions in class, but one may rebut that if those opinions are religious, then that instructor would be in a precarious position, while one could refer to the flying spaghetti monster with impunity.

  • Zippy says:

    Black Rose:
    the problem isn’t ideological indoctrination or the curriculum, but a lack of intellectual rigor.

    I’d say it is both/and rather than either/or.

  • Svar says:

    Thank you for understanding, BR.

  • Anymouse says:

    It is interesting that public schoolers tend to have a strong preference towards private schools over home schooling, and home schoolers prefer the private school over the the public one.

    This does seem to suggest a continuum of choices, with private schools in the middle.

  • Zippy says:

    Anymouse:
    This does seem to suggest a continuum of choices, with private schools in the middle.

    It does, and perhaps the best in homeschooling is objectively better than the best in private schooling. It is a virtual certainty that quality-per-dollar-spent is better for most homeschooling, at least when we don’t consider the financial aid that many poor families get for (some) private schools.

    Still, I expect that quality varies widely, and that the social rivalries (to the extent they exist) are more a function of self-justification and insecurity than they are about objectively evaluating the three-sigma tails of the quality distributions.

  • Kidamadge says:

    After much prayer and discernment, my wife and I decided God was calling us to homeschool our children. Embracing that we are the primary educators by nature, it suited us to be proactive, rather than responsive, in the formation of our children.

    This belief– that it’s a calling– gives us great confidence, but also just enough humility to realize that we all have different gifts, resources, etc., and that not everyone is called to live out their vocations in the same manner.

  • freddy says:

    Zippy said, “Commenter freddy suggested in one thread that all of my recent posts were about Red Cardigan.”

    Well, that’s not really what I said, nor intended to imply, but it’s his blog; he can be as accurate as he likes!

    I’ve been homeschooling for about 17 years now, and have had a chance to meet a variety of folks. In our old neighborhood, our kids played with kids who went to the local public school as well as those who went to the local private schools. (Oh how sad my kids were on snow days, when their friends would show up and they’d still be working!) Generally parents I’ve known think it’s cool that we homeschool, but wouldn’t want to take it on themselves, for a variety of reasons. I’ve known home schooling families to be welcomed into all sorts of activities; from Scouting, to band, sports, drama and all kinds of clubs.

    I’ve also met parents who won’t even let their kids play with those who attend “regular school.” And I’ve met those (oddly, all public school teachers) who think that parents who homeschool are mentally ill. Not kidding.

    Generally I think it’s those who are entrenched in their own worldview who have the most difficulty imagining any possible success outside it, and those who are most fearful of “the other.” Bad experiences with schools or teachers while growing up, or conversely, seeing one’s school days as “glory days,” can also color one’s perceptions.

  • Zippy says:

    freddy:
    Well, that’s not really what I said, nor intended to imply, but it’s his blog; he can be as accurate as he likes!

    I do strive to be accurate. What you actually said was this:

    This is, I believe, Zippy’s tenth post reacting to Erin Manning, as opposed to her three.

    Zippy, I think this qualifies you for “Official Internet Stalker” status. 🙂

    I do note the smiley. If you think my paraphrase was unfair or inaccurate, by all means correct it. In these comboxes a commenter is the authority on the interpretation of his own comments.

  • Cane Caldo says:

    Thinking out loud a bit, my inner MBA wants to approach this as a free, make, or buy scenario.

    Throughout the day, I remember that I wanted to say something to this, and then I forget when I have the chance.

    It’s the kids, really, who do the making of the furniture. So, it’s actually worse than the government giving out furniture with porn on it: They’re providing examples of porn, and teaching children how produce and apply it. They do it so much it becomes rote, and they learn to be suspicious of any furniture without it…church pews, for example.

  • freddy says:

    Thank you, Zippy; that was gentlemanly!

    Regarding home schooling: do you foresee a day in which homeschooling families will be welcome to share resources with public and private schools? I am aware that some schools already do this while others resist vociferously. Would you see this sharing as a good thing? Or do you think the divide between mindsets too large?

  • Zippy says:

    freddy:
    I have no special knowledge here, but I can give my views FWIW.

    As far as sharing between private schools and homeschooling goes, I was under the (apparently false) impression that it was pretty normal. The example of Dr. Warren Carroll and his wife Ann is instructive here: he founded Christendom College, and she founded both a private school and a homeschooling organization. Both have written textbooks used by homeschoolers and in private schools. People who treat Catholic education as ‘public school for rich kids’ are undermining the work of these living saints[*].

    As far as government schools go, it is my personal view that they should not exist at all. I understand why people send their kids there, and it is possible that not all of them are completely awful. But I think they should not exist.

    Again, though, I have no special knowledge and this isn’t an area I’ve explored in detail.

    [*] I believe Dr. Carroll died a few years ago.

  • joycalyn says:

    Our experience matches Zippy’s impression. Most curriculum used by homeschoolers, whether by people who do school at home using a private Christian school curriculum, or people who are trying to resurrect what education used to be (classical educators, which is the fastest-growing movement among homeschoolers), is developed at private schools. There are, of course, curricula developed just for homeschooling, but those don’t tend to be as popular.

    Sharing with public schools is problematic since education is passing on a culture and they love the culture of death. I don’t see how Christians can have any points of agreement with what goes on in public school, but then I’m with Zippy on that too – they shouldn’t even exist. Education is inherently religious in nature and, as such, submitting a child to the public schools is submitting that child to their religion.

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