As homeschoolers, from time to time, either I or my wife is asked about how we are ‘socializing’ our children, or the importance of ‘socialization’ is brought to the fore. The vast majority of people who use the word socialization in the context of education have neither thought about what it is to ‘socialize’ a child, nor what it means to educate a child. Education simply means sending one’s child to whatever institution the government dictates in order that the child can someday have a good-paying job, and ‘socialize’ is simply another buzz word which has been picked up osmotically via the quotidian channel surfing and media feeding rituals of our society. The idea of socializing one’s children, when encountered in the intellectual vacuum and comforting glow of today’s media venues, manufactures a false sense of pride and self-contentment. Because one’s child is being ‘educated’ and ‘socialized’ according to the prescriptions of the herd and those “above one’s pay grade” (to quote our inestimable president Obama) it is in fact a virtue, not an abdication of parental duty, to surrender one’s children to total strangers throughout the entirety of their formative years. At least, that’s what the flickering screen being rendered at 30 frames per second tells them.
As such, the typical proponent of socialization, when queried as to what precisely socialization is, is unable to offer a cogent answer. This holds true for our public educators just as much as it does for those who pass the responsibility of education off to them. Some attempt to quickly reconstruct what the talking head has spoon-fed into their minds, and it generally comes out something like this: “Well, socialization is about teaching kids how to get along with others.” Even more sadly, many simply assert that it’s important because the ‘experts’ have said so. Argumentum ad verecundiam à la Tocqueville, who opined that enslavement to public opinion and experts is the natural end for all democratic societies which place decision-making into the hands of those who have not been schooled in reason. For those who muster up the former response, when queried as to what ‘get along’ or ‘others’ means, the dialogue usually grinds to a peremptory halt. The most cursory glance at a typical American high school, or if one attended an American public high school in recent decades, a moment’s reflection upon one’s own experiences within it, will reveal that the reality sharply belies any such notion implied by the vague characterization: the kids largely flock to their own kind, form their own cliques, and rarely interact with those of the ‘other’ cliques, derision excepting. This is not an exception, it is the rule.
The entire concept of socialization was almost wholly absent from any dialog regarding public schooling, or any schooling for that matter, until recent times. The reason for this is due to the fact that homeschooling as an educational phenomenon was not yet demonstrating its superiority in every relevant and measurable category of education as compared to the mass of public schooling. Once it started to do so, a red herring needed to be conjured, and that right quickly. The red herring devised is what we’ve come to know as ‘socialization.’ Socialization as such can be likened to being a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle of government-driven conformance training: the more questions one asks about it, the more confused and opaque it becomes as a concept. When no questions are asked about it, it is perfectly understood by all right-minded people.
This morning, as I heard my children playing and reading together, and yes occasionally arguing and bickering as people of all ages are wont to do, I reflected upon how thankful I am that all of them, with rare exception, get along with one another. They help one another, play with one another, learn alongside one another, and genuinely care about and spend time with one another. I realized that this closeness was fostered almost entirely by the fact that they spend all day, every day, in one another’s company and under the supervision of someone who genuinely loves them and guides them based upon that love. Consequently, their relationship with their mother is also quite strong. This led me to think of another question to ask the socialization proponent: In what ways does government schooling ensure the stability of and foster harmony within the family? Surely, one would be hard-pressed to refute the case that the strength and stability of our civilization rests largely upon the strength and stability of the family, a truism whose manifest negation is becoming all too, and all too painfully, clear in the United States. The reality is that the public school system, in large measure, serves to destroy the ties that bind: siblings in lower grades are ostracized from the groups comprised of older siblings, the hours are different, the activities of both pre and post-school hours are different, etc. All of which point in one direction: the alienation of siblings. This is absolutely not to be confused with saying that close family relationships are impossible in a public school environment, only that the direction of such is inevitably in an opposing direction and that it requires conscious effort or prior inculcation of corrective principles to mitigate.
When it comes to the education of children, all parents with school-aged children and all those who have a vested interest in the education of children must ask themselves this most basic of questions: In the process of educating and maturing a child, what are the most critical components, which among them will serve a child for all of their days? When each of us comes to the end of the road, if we have a moment to reflect, what will matter the most to us? That we learned a little bit more, that we were more conformant and pliant to the wills of those around us? Or will what matters most be the relationships that we’ve forged and that we’ve sundered? As the family is the most basic unit of society, if we are not doing all that we can to foster strong family bonds, then by what reason can we expect that despite broken and fragile relationships in the home, a child is going to go out and forge strong and lasting bonds with those outside of his family? What will his pattern for such relationships be?