For more than a century now, Americans have been unwittingly shaped by the American public education system. But wait, you might be saying! We’re a homeschooling family. Our children have never been in a public school. How is it possible we have been shaped by a system in which we have never participated? That’s a fair question.
The first clue that we’ve been schooled comes from the very word, homeschool. Consider how the etymology of the word rightly implies both a denotation and a connotation. The word homeschool denotes a particular approach to education—families who educate their children at home. But consider also the connotation implied by the word “school” in homeschool. It implies we are still getting the education we received at the brick and mortar building; we are just getting it at home now.
Of course, I recognize not everyone thinks of homeschool in the same way. I have met parents who have owned their parental agency and taken an individualized approach which has provided each of their unique children with a first-rate education that prepared them for a fruitful life. I have also met families who feel homeschooling is merely taking what is done in the government system but keeping their kids home to do it (like the above example). Parents who school according to this philosophy have many good and legitimate reasons for schooling at home but they still see the method and function of education in terms of what they recognize as mainstream or regular—normal education.
In some ways, these approaches are opposite ends of a spectrum, but there are gradations between the two bookends. The point, however, is that the concept of homeschooling is particularly ingrained in the culture’s psyche as an alternative to regular (i.e., government) education. It’s the standard by which the public tends to consider every other alternative.
The second clue we’ve been schooled can be seen in the fruit of our own education. I talk to parents on a regular basis who recognize glaring deficiencies in their own education—many are outspoken about wishing they could recover something of their education—and want something better for their children. Eight out of ten times, those parents were publicly educated. A good number of folks who are homeschooling their children do so because they were homeschooled by parents who saw the writing on the wall a few decades ago. But some others who homeschool today had to experience public education for themselves, unfortunately.
The third clue that we’ve been schooled can be seen in the culture at large; our current cultural malaise is a product of the American public education system. It used to be the case that people would say “your kids are going to be weird if you keep them at home and don’t let them socialize!” It’s now the case that your kids have a greater chance than ever that they will be weird if you send them to public school.
But here’s the rub. What if the current manifestation of culture is not due to neglect, or normal tendencies of cultural decline. What if it was engineered? Before writing me off as a conspiracy theorist, watch our 11-minute short film on education, “We’ve Been Schooled,” and let me know what you think.