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.