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Thursday, July 26, 2007

What about Socialization?

I was just reading, again, about Obama's idea of proactive early sexualization sex education for kindergarteners. A few moments later I stumbled upon an article about reasons for homeschooling, and suddenly the obviousness of the connection between the two subjects stood out sharply. I don't just mean the usual connection (homeschooling to prevent exposure to harmful teaching), but a more subtle one.

The part that stood out in the article about Obama was this:

"Keep in mind: I honor and respect young people who choose to delay sexual activity," Obama continued. "I’ve got two daughters, and I want them to understand that sex is not something casual. That's something that we definitely want to communicate and should be part of any curriculum. But we also know that when the statistics tell us that nearly half of 15 to 19 year olds are engaging in sexual activity, that for us to leave them in ignorance is potentially consigning them to illness, pregnancy, poverty, and in some cases, death."


His speech is so riddled with problems it's difficult to know where to start. Clearly, he is damning abstinence with faint praise, using phrases like "not something casual." By offering them the "choice," he is, himself, condemning his own daughters to the possibility of all the things he fears: illness, pregnancy, poverty, and possibly death. Children who are taught that there are no absolutes will almost always choose the easiest (or most tempting) path. Especially when the more disciplined path is presented as an equal alternative. Let's be honest here, unless you have a set of values to back up your choices, self discipline never looks as easy, fun, or desirable as immediate gratification.

Let's apply his style of thinking to food, instead, and see how it measures up. Food is much harder to resist than sex, because it is a necessity for life; yet I suspect he requires a level of parental discipline in the food department. Can you imagine a parent saying "Children are going to choose dessert over broccoli, so we should begin educating them from early on to use diet pills. Statistics tell us that a large percentage of teens are overindulging in desserts, which can lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and in some cases, death." Would he offer young children diet pills while giving them the choice to forego discipline and eat nothing but desserts? Of course not. It is a parent's job to teach good eating habits. It is his job to teach his children that vegetables are better for him than cheesecake. It isn't an equal choice that they should be respected enough to make on their own. A parent who refuses to teach self discipline to his children is a lousy excuse for a parent.

But enough said about sex education and kid sex. What does it have to do with homeschooling? The obvious answer is that many parents opt out of public schooling to prevent their children from being sent these harmful messages about dessert being equal to dinner. Many parents feel that the only way they can prevent their children from being taught whatever the current whim of the educational elite is is to teach them at home.

But the bigger question is also the question often asked about homeschooling: "What about socialization?" And the answer is that one must seriously question just how healthy this "socialization" that takes place in mainstream schools can be, if more than half of youngsters are engaging in these dangerous behaviors, and the educators and politicians are only concerned for their preparation for it. Is an environment where peers are taught to exercise no self discipline a healthy one? If this is socialization, I don't want it.

On the other hand, many homeschoolers have large families and good support networks. When one daughter was in school, she got bullied daily. She was academically abused by the administration, she was physically and emotionally abused by her classmates, and she spent her recess times finding places to hide alone. Another daughter gained greater acceptance by engaging in dangerous activities, from which she still has not fully recovered. Is this somehow healthier than being among people who love them, and choosing with whom to socialize?

The fact is that the over-sexualization that happens in school is only one of the many harmful influences to which young children are exposed and by which they are often traumatized. When teachers and politicians look the other way and refer to it merely as a "choice," they are doing about the same thing that the teachers did when they looked the other way while my daughter was abused and humiliated in 6th grade. They are allowing the inmates to run the asylum, because it is easier than teaching them right behavior.

If society is going to look the other way when students engage in harmful sexual activity or bullying, we might as well stop banning weapons in school. Perhaps along with condoms the schools could distribute knives so that the bullied kids can exercise "safe" bullying. And they could give out thong bikinis to the kindergarteners, too. It's never too early to sexualize children and prepare them for molestation.

Or maybe I could just teach them at home, and protect them from both bullies and politicians.