Thursday, May 16, 2013
Don't over do it.
I had a conversation some time ago about home schooling. One person remarked that the kids she had known who were home-schooled were not as socially aware of street wise as school educated ones. Now this person is a friend whose opinions I think worth hearing, but there is a value judgement in what she says there. She is saying that home schooled kids are worse off because they do not have the same apparent worldly savvy as school attenders, and I'm wondering: is that necessarily a bad thing? Are we assuming that what is NORMAL is BEST? It may not be so. Kids of this age, early 21st century, are more informed superficially about the world, more confident in general, but are they also prematurely cynical? To use an analogy here: the age of puberty is decreasing. In 1850, one study found that the average age of puberty in girls was 17. (Seems almost unbelievable, late teenage kids still presexual!) By 1950 the average age had decreased to 14, by 1970 to about twelve. So kids grow up more quickly, and that CAN have problems. Too early maturation can coincide with health problems later in life. So accelerating the maturing process is not necessarily a good thing. Emotionally, some high school kids seem like world weary middle aged people who have been through a divorce and a bankruptcy, and it's all a bit of a drag, and this before they've finished school. Could it be that, as they say, school puts old heads on young shoulders in a superficial way, before those young shoulders can carry the weight of age properly. Does the experience of high school sometimes leave people jaded and worn out before they have had a chance to appreciate life and get the best out of it? This has to be treated carefully. I'm not suggesting that we keep young people ignorant, stop them finding out things that they will have to know sooner or later. It is possible to insult the intelligence of a young person by thinking they're not old enough to know something, when the fact is they can't help knowing it. I recall getting really annoyed by adults who thought I should still believe in Santa Claus because they were scared that they could not scare me into behaving the way they wanted me to. It is pointless, and sometimes really insulting, to treat a young person as an idiot. That being said, sometimes people can't help seeing what they see and you can't sell them convenient bulldust. So where is the healthy balance? Adults are sometimes frightened of kids finding out things in case they can't keep their minds under control they way the want. But then some people pretend to know something, or think they know something, when they've only heard things from others and have not got a proper understanding at all. Then they can fail to see the good in things, or at least understand why they are like they are, and become too disillusioned for their own good. They lose hope of getting or seeing any good in life, at least without being ruthlessly self seeking. That can cripple a person, turning them coldly self centred because they don't believe anything else works. If kids take a bit longer to get their heads round adult understanding, that might give them a chance to adjust less abruptly. It can hurt sometimes to see how shocking the world really is, so let a person be ready for it without forcing it on them before they can cope. Does school really help people learn quickly or does it force them to develop superficially adult ways when they are not adult and don't really know what they are doing? Some people whose lives are very privileged by the standards of this world are the angriest, most bitter people on earth. Did they see too much too quickly, or get too much too easily, and become jaded rather than wise and informed? Too much hardship can stunt people, spoiling their development, that's why we forbid child labour. Can too much intellectual exposure, sustained too quickly, spoil a person's mind, so that they lose faith in life having had to deal with too much before they can cope? It can be dangerous to keep things from children or youth, when they are going to have to know certain things eventually. But it might also be dangerous to overload them, so that they are old in the head before they have had a chance to enjoy being young. School is a human invention, not a naturally occurring thing like the family or clan. Schools should not, I believe, supplant the family as the main source of child nurture. And sometimes it seems to be doing that, especially if apathetic parents find it convenient to let the school raise their offspring for them. Families should raise children. I can see why people are opting out of school for their children. It can be a bad place for some people, and it can start taking over what is not really its role. I would not propose to ban it, our own kids all went to school. But I can see where the home schooling movement comes from. I do not condemn it at all. For some people I believe it is better.