Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!
Mar 21, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I will admit that I am disappointed at the level of discourse that followed my recent video outlining my position. This post, from Dana Hanley, is easily the best of the responses, and engages the details of my argument in a constructive manner. A longer response is warranted, which I will undertake in a few days. The main response seems to be based on the idea that I haven't done any research. There is also quite a bit of attribution of motives ("he's an academic/bureacrat with a vested interest in *pushing* all this newfangled media 'education' stuff," for example). But mostly, the critics misrepresent the position I have taken. So, for the record, I do not equate homeschooling with abuse, I do not say homeschoolers are psychotic, I do not say that most parent-child relationships are flawed. Total: 2055
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Comments

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

I'm glad to hear you don't equate homeschooling with child abuse, but if you read your original post, that's exactly what it sounds like you said (in fact, I'm trying to understand how it can be interpreted in any other way). So please don't throw around emotionally charged words unless you mean it, unless you expect the kind of response you have gotten.

Forgive us if homeschoolers can be a little testy ... we get verbally abused all the time and are constantly subjected to stereotypes by people who have never actually met a homeschooler, watched someone homeschool, or studied its effects. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Steve, mostly, you're making value-based claims on the nature of schooling. It would help if you provided some evidence for the claims you're making. Otherwise, it's simply going to be a contest of opinions. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

I agree with Anymouse, but I really do appreciate your looking into the issue and I enjoyed your video, even if I disagreed with most of it. It was more reasoned, even if I think your reasoning is a little off. But I obviously come from a very different place as one who homeschools and who writes a blog defending homeschooling.

I think the first post unfortunately set us more on the defensive than was intended or necessary, but when you are doing what you believe is best for your children at personal sacrifice, criticisms which sound like you are equating homeschooling with abuse can be taken quite personally.

None of us defend homeschooling in cases where abuse is occurring or where the children are being educationally neglected, but the original entry did sound like you were talking about all of us...or at least that is how I understood it.

I look forward to your further discussion on the issue! [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Oh...and the thing on parent relationships being flawed...The Common Room made a mistake and attributed the thoughts of one of your commenters to you. She apologized for that:

"And here is where I eat crow. I completely botched it when I read the comments- the following quotes are from one 'Weaver' not from Steven. So, yum, yum, give me a pie with at least 4 and 20 blackbirds in it. I am suitably ashamed and very, very embarrassed."

Oops...and I'm not anymouse above or here. I'm Dana from Principled Discovery.
http://principleddiscovery.com [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Stephen,
I was disappointed in the tone and content of your first post, namely, "My own criticism of homeschooling has alwas been in line with the ruling by the court: it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide it." If you were specifically referencing the family in this case, then you should have clarified your statement with that information. Instead, you left that statement hanging on its own merits, assuming that your audience would understand what you meant, and nothing about your first post would lead me to believe (or anyone else, as your comments illustrate) that you *weren't* talking about all homeschoolers everywhere.

As for attributing motives, a mental picture of a pot in a conversation with a kettle comes to mind. ;) And you have yet to offer any references to any research you have done on the subject of home education, and all of the research I have read contradicts the idea that home education is comprised of parents with curriculum recreating school in their garages. So- I am going to assume that 1) you have not done much research or 2) you have done research and are being intellectually dishonest. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed you had not done much reading up on home education, and were proceeding with the usual assumptions and preconceived notions, with which most homeschoolers are wearily familiar.

Then there was a the video, with the recurring mantra "Don't be psychotic"- again, you offer no clarification as to who this is directed towards. You appear to imply that unless folks subscribe to your educational model, they are in imminent danger of ending up in the monkey house.

If you are going to use inflammatory terms to put forth your beliefs, the response is going to be... well... inflamed. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Sunniemom, you are persistently misunderstanding what I have written. At a certain point, this ceases to be my responsibility.

In particular:

First. I said: "it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide it." You are miseading "it" to mean "homeschooling". I am using 'it' in the sense "It is wrong to steal." Or "It is a crime to steal." You would understand this if you realized that substituting 'home schooling' for 'it' in my sentence is grammatically absurd.

Second. I have not made any statements about motives. I am unsure where you glean the remark that causes you to think of "a pot in a conversation with a kettle."

Third, with respect to the "don't be psychotic" mantra, I have been very clear in my assertion that this is the minimal standard we expect of home school graduates. I am not referring to homsecschoolers at all, nor am I suggesting that anybody is actually psychotic.

It concerns me that you have been unable to understand such fairly straightforward assertions expressed clearly in language that is high-school level.
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Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Steve, if people are misunderstanding you, it is because you are juxtaposing inflammatory remarks next to your opposition to homeschooling. If you are not applying such remarks as "don't be psychotic" to homeschooling, then why are you making it a part of your critique of homeschooling? I listened to your video a second time after reading your comment above, and your assertions are not "fairly straightforward". Yes, you give qualifiers throughout the video, but that is not enough to nullify the juxtapositioning of homeschooling with so many negative comments. In contrast, your attitude about others being "unable to understand ... in language that is high-school level" is "fairly straightforward."
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Your criticism of homeschooling

Stephen, this isn't a question of high school English. It doesn't hinge on a Clintonian dispute over what the referent of "it" is. Your complete sentence was, "My own criticism of homeschooling has always been in line with the ruling by the court: it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide it." Let me condense that. Your criticism of homeschooling is that grossly incompetent instruction is child abuse. In other words, you are saying that a significant number of homeschoolers are abusing children. More broadly, while particular homeschoolers may or may not be abusing children, the practice as a whole does result in child abuse.

By implication, you are claiming that public schools are not abusing children - or at least not as much. Similarly, you are implying that public school successfully teaches "don't be psychotic". You cannot take it for granted that public school is superior in these respects: you need to make the case. In general, your criticisms of homeschooling must be matched with evidence that public school resolves the problems. Public schooling must be the comparison for your claims: regardless of your ideal for schooling, you are supporting a court ruling that prohibits homeschooling today. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Stephen,
I was disappointed in the tone and content of your first post, namely, "My own criticism of homeschooling has alwas been in line with the ruling by the court: it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide it." If you were specifically referencing the family in this case, then you should have clarified your statement with that information. Instead, you left that statement hanging on its own merits, assuming that your audience would understand what you meant, and nothing about your first post would lead me to believe (or anyone else, as your comments illustrate) that you *weren't* talking about all homeschoolers everywhere.

As for attributing motives, a mental picture of a pot in a conversation with a kettle comes to mind. ;) And you have yet to offer any references to any research you have done on the subject of home education, and all of the research I have read contradicts the idea that home education is comprised of parents with curriculum recreating school in their garages. So- I am going to assume that 1) you have not done much research or 2) you have done research and are being intellectually dishonest. I gave you the benefit of the doubt and assumed you had not done much reading up on home education, and were proceeding with the usual assumptions and preconceived notions, with which most homeschoolers are wearily familiar.

Then there was a the video, with the recurring mantra "Don't be psychotic"- again, you offer no clarification as to who this is directed towards. You appear to imply that unless folks subscribe to your educational model, they are in imminent danger of ending up in the monkey house.

If you are going to use inflammatory terms to put forth your beliefs, the response is going to be... well... inflamed. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Steve, if people are misunderstanding you, it is because you are juxtaposing inflammatory remarks next to your opposition to homeschooling. If you are not applying such remarks as "don't be psychotic" to homeschooling, then why are you making it a part of your critique of homeschooling? I listened to your video a second time after reading your comment above, and your assertions are not "fairly straightforward". Yes, you give qualifiers throughout the video, but that is not enough to nullify the juxtapositioning of homeschooling with so many negative comments. In contrast, your attitude about others being "unable to understand ... in language that is high-school level" is "fairly straightforward."
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Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Oops! Sorry about the second post. I refreshed the page not realizing it would post again. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

> In other words, you are saying that a significant number of homeschoolers are abusing children.

No. I'm sorry. It just doesn't follow. You simply can't make that inference from what I said. It's illogical, irrational.


> By implication, you are claiming that public schools are not abusing children - or at least not as much.

Again, it does not follow. I have said nothing about public schools. You are putting words in to my mouth.

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Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

> Yes, you give qualifiers throughout the video, but that is not enough to nullify the juxtapositioning of homeschooling with so many negative comments.

Um... how do you think language works?

Seriously ... do you think that if B juxtaposes A, that A is somehow tainted by B? Do you think there's some sort of logic having to do with the number of times I say something?

Your criticisms are unreasonable. It's hard enough sticking to real science and logic, much less the odd made-up kind. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

Note- I did not re-post my original post under 'Anymouse', so I don't know why it appears twice.

Stephen, I don't know what to say. Your original post was entitled "Homeschoolers Vs. The State". You agreed with the judges' ruling about home education, and gave your reasons. Your video was entitled "On Homeschooling". Thus it is reasonable to assume that the content concerns the subject of home education. The idea of sanity as being a 'minimal requirement' as applied to homeschoolers is rather condescending, whether you intend it to be or not. Words mean things, and if you aren't getting the responses you'd hoped for, perhaps you should reconsider some of the terms you are using, which have been an impediment so far in this discourse.

Just as the judges' ruling doesn't focus on the one family involved, but attempted to encompass all home educators in CA, your comments are composed with too broad a brush. We cannot assume that parents are guilty and criminalize all for the actions of a few.

Abuse happens, and it is terrible when it does. But are you going to suggest that all parents be screened for the potential for abuse before they bear children? Since many who were abused as children tend to grow up to be abusers themselves, should we either prevent those folks from having children, or after they do expect them to submit to regular investigations of their parental fitness?

It is the same with home education. IMO what you suggest is that parents who wish to determine and direct the education of their own children prove to the state that they are fit to parent. It asserts that parents who have been through 12 years of public education are not able to communicate what they have been taught. It suggests that parents are guilty of educational neglect until they are proven innocent. One of the founding principles of American is the idea of personal freedom. We assume that people will be responsible and act within the law until there is evidence to the contrary. We don't prosecute a la 'Minority Report' on the potential of criminal activity or negligence.

Currently, our system of public education is faulty. It allows children to fall through the cracks, to be brutalized and abused by other students as well as staff and teachers, and it cannot attend to the individual needs of children. Until the system can prove to parents that it is of such a quality as will be a help and benefit to their child, they should not be forced to submit their children to that environment, and be allowed to find such solutions as will fit the needs of their family, whether that is charter, private, cyber, or home education.

Thanks for considering my comments. I do not intentionally misrepresent or misunderstand your posts, but your words are all the tools I have with which to understand your message, and so far your language has not communicated what you apparently wish it to communicate.
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Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

OK- the above post is not 'Anymouse' but Sunniemom. I was logged in when I commented..maybe it timed out... I don't know. [Comment] [Permalink]

Dana

OK, some thoughts:

When you wrote:

"My own criticism of homeschooling has always been in line with the ruling by the court: it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide it."

I took the antecedent to "it" to be education, thus rendering:

"My own criticism of homeschooling has always been in line with the ruling by the court: it is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide [an education}."

This much I agree with:

"It is a form of child abuse to subject children to an education at the hands of a person who is manifestly unable to provide [an education}."

And so the education apparently should be on how we can best preserve the rights of families while protecting children from abusive situations. When you pulled in the introduction to your criticism, ie., "My criticism of homeschooling has always been..." it sounded as if you were talking about homeschooling rather than the Long family.

I am not defending the Long family. There are two restrictions on homeschooling I have no issue with: notifying the state and a background check. If someone has a history of child abuse, they should not be homeschooling.

The aspect of the ruling that has homeschoolers upset is the potential interpretation that this affects all homeschoolers in CA, but even that is disputed. I'm not qualified to get into that discussion, but I think the only ones defending the Long family are those who don't realize that this is an abuse case. Not all the reporting on it has been that good and as is typical in these things, World Net Daily has not helped the situation any.

The second half of your post which has largely gone undiscussed is one I've been contemplating for awhile. It is troubling, but as I look at the history, it is a pretty common goal for education going back to one of the signers of our Declaration of Independence. So it would be interesting to look at what exactly these people mean by "loyalty to the state."

In a republic, does that mean "loyalty to the people?" "Loyalty to the Constitution?" Why is it that we have come to view the will of the state as something separate from the will of the people?

Dana
http://principleddiscovery.com [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

I wrote, "In other words, you are saying that a significant number of homeschoolers are abusing children." Stephen replied, "It just doesn't follow. You simply can't make that inference from what I said."

Do you agree that "your criticism of homeschooling is that grossly incompetent instruction is child abuse"? If so, but you don't think that abuse is actually taking place, then what is the relevance of your criticism? Perhaps you misspoke. For example, one respondent proposes that you were referring to that specific court case, not to homeschooling in general. I have seen you say "I didn't mean this, I didn't mean that." It would be very helpful if you could write down what you did mean.

I wrote, "By implication, you are claiming that public schools are not abusing children - or at least not as much." Stephen responded, "it does not follow. I have said nothing about public schools. You are putting words in to my mouth."

The fact that you have not mentioned mention public school is my whole point: you cannot support specific legal measures against homeschooling without considering the context. The ruling you support prohibits homeschooling. This does not take place in a vacuum: the affected kids must be educated. In practice, that means the vast majority of them will end up in public schools. If public schools suffer from the same flaws you find in homeschooling, then your criticisms do not constitute legitimate grounds for prohibition. [Comment] [Permalink]

Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

I am not going to respond to any more responses based on what I meant. I meant exactly what I wrote, and then I corrected your misinterpretation of it. If you are not able to accept this, it is your problem and not mine.

>If public schools suffer from the same flaws you find in homeschooling, then your criticisms do not constitute legitimate grounds for prohibition.

This presupposes that

> In practice, that means the vast majority of them will end up in public schools.

But my position advocates reform for public schools as well. I do not feel compelled to choose between two unpalatable options, and do not accept the proposition that this is the totality of scope available to me.

As I suggest in my blog post, one thing that should be done is - as in Finland - to pay what it takes to ensure that all teachers are fully qualified. And in my newsletter, over a number of years, I have outlined many more suggestions for improvement and reform (everything from hot lunches to personal computing).

Such measures can be undertaken at the level of the public school, but they cannot be undertaken at the level of the home. And measures that detract from the public system - private schools, charter schools - home schooling - all make it more difficult to support the public system (which is a major reason why it continues to decline). I will address this further when I address the subject of equity.



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Re: Note to Homeschoolers: Don't Be Psychotic!

It might be interesting to apply Stephen's criteria to community schooling. Just some preliminary and skimpy thoughts.

Qualifications: Teachers need "capacity for reason or any ground in pedagogy or communication theory ... the skill to pass on the knowledge." There is no reason to expect that subject matter experts, such as foresters or carpenters will have any background in pedagogy or communication. Just think of the university professors, some who are brilliant, but can't pass on their knowledge. And there's no reason to expect that mechanics or carpenters will have more than a high school education.

Motivations and content:
The big rules are established in the home (or not). Just look at the rampant cheating that goes on in high school and universities (Check out Donald McCabe's extensive research in this area). Just look at the constant corruption in government and graft and fraud in commerce. So, regardless of the system--public vs. private vs. home vs. community--the big rules will not have much success if they are not practiced at home and in the entire community.

Accountability:
Community schooling potentially has e a better chance on helping students to critically examine values. But what effect does examining values neutrally have? None. Just look at the research on values-free curricula that incorporated either a values-clarification or a "moral reasoning" approach to developing character. It has been shown that they do not work.

Resources:
Certainly, having resources and curriculum guides in place are important for a good education. It will take more than a little bit of time to prepare curriculum guides for all the community "experts" who will teach our children. As far as being publicly reviewed or accredited, there could be requirements on home scooling, too. On a sidenote, California is in the process of replacing all of its textbooks with its Open SourceTextbook Project. That could work as well for home schooling as for community schooling.

Equity:
This seems to be a red herring to me. There is no question that at a minimum we want a good education for all children. But if we also want a free society, we have to let people make choices. Otherwise, we have a dictatorship of the state. Well, actually, in many ways, we already have that.

So, I would not oppose community schooling to home schooling but give sufficient support to community schooling to provide a good education to all while still allowing freedom to others. That does not mean that there should not be a system of review and assessment.
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