Oops…thar she blows!

Here I have in my Netflix-borrowing hands a DVD of “Cat Women of the Moon”, which far surpasses any expectations I had for it, and I’d planned to blog my giddy, glorious wonder of this film on Friday. But then I opened up the Bloglines and what met my eyes but Pharyngula’s “Demand higher standards for homeschooling!” post, filed under creationism and academics.

Said Pharyngula, who’s all hot and bothered by the Creationists,

At my department, we just got the requirements for state licensure of education students, and we’ve been given the task of making sure our course content delivers what future teachers will need. It’s not trivial getting licensed to teach; but any idiot can declare themselves to be a teacher for purposes of homeschooling, and apparently many idiots do.

Please. Can we bring those laws back?

I’m serious. We need to stop this. I think any politician who professed to be concerned about educating the children of this country, by supporting the NCLB, for instance, ought to be required to support increasing the qualifications and standards for homeschooling…and if a district doesn’t have the resources to monitor the competence of homeschool teachers, they ought to simply refuse to allow the kids to be pulled out of school.

Then I began to read the comments, which were about what I expected.

As I’m not a Creationist, one might think this wouldn’t concern me too much. I do homeschool, and one might say well if you’re doing the job you ought to be doing then you won’t mind stricter standards (which vary by state), and if you don’t have a degree (I don’t) then you must certainly understand, as a reasonable progressive, our concerns. But I’m not going there folks because that’s not what it’s all about. If you know how to cut through the fat then it’s not too difficult to see this hasn’t much to do with Creationism at all, and doesn’t even have a thing to do with a desire to edcuate–at least not outside of what is required for maintaining a certain world of status-quo prejudices.

I have mellowed some over the years. Used to be I had almost no use whatsoever for academics, to the extent that if I showed up at a party of a one-time friend who lacked the instrument but could play the hell out of an air guitar (that’s one way of putting it) and I smelled a nest of his co-worker academics in the vicinity then I’d promptly leave. I was almost kind of fine with them as long as they stuck to the dining room table gossiping about department politics and left the rest of us alone to pursue some bonafide conversation–and they’d almost 100 percent comply as they certainly didn’t want to mingle outside their clique, because, after all, what was the use in their mingling when, as far as they were concerned, they had nothing to learn or gain? Yeah, there are academic bloggers now who let it be known how cool they are, really really how cool they and their musical tastes are as well (come sit at my feet my fellow academic bum-licking friends so we may self-congratulate ourselves on our corporate but oh so individual coolness) and love to blog-party and toy with tittilating the whatnot; and what can I say but hey, things sure haven’t changed, because they’ve always been around. But in pre-blog days my experience was that they tended to get too drunk too fast and were really happy with sitting around and bitching about everything and assessing where they were on the king of the hill playground slide between the persons on their left and right.

In the above instance, the number of academics at the parties grew and as they grew they began to feel more secure with elbowing for the respectful distance due them so the numbers of the rest of us dwindled. The third year I dropped by it was almost all academics (though sometimes not immediately distinguishable individually, this is not the case en masse). Eventually the parties were probabaly all composed of academics. They were happy to have the room to themselves and I was happy to not bother them.

Again, used to be I had almost no use for academics, but I like people and I like to find things to like about people, at least when they’re cut off from their herd, though if you’re not secure enough to stand alone then I’ll give you that chance in your preferred environment. I like to give people a chance, a second and a third, even to the point of shutting my voice off and politely, gamely listening and nodding my head after I’ve fully sized the situation up–which is usually just a matter of mapping out someone’s narrow-minded halls and figuring out the concretized (pro or con) conversational points they’re programmed to run. As all that some prefer for a conversation is a party of one then I don’t mind too much sitting back and simply watching the show and experiencing your world and enjoying you, your face, how you move, how you speak, the stories you’ve accumulated. Indeed, most everyone wants others to experience their world, though some people want only that ultimately. Not too many people are that interested in experiencing another person’s world outside of what the price of a shot glass of cappucino demands of them. Even if they imagine they do, they show up at the table with a bag of regimented prescriptions and run through the doctor’s recommendations twenty times before the bladder asks for a break. And they’ll not have a clue. I know that and it doesn’t bother me as long as you’re not abusive. I can look at a good many people, apart from the herd by which they may define themselves, and find much to marvel about in the individual. One thing you learn from listening to many different people’s stories and asking them about things so they tell you even more, enough to give some idea of landscape or what they see the landscape to be, is, of course, how much people are the same and, of course, how different they are. There’s a lot to be learned from really listening rather than just seeing the world and every encounter in terms of scoring points.

Blogworld, and most worlds of conversation, discussion and debate, are not where you can begin to change the regimented prescription and doctor’s recommendations. Nah, you show up to pat on the back, share a tidy story and sometimes play a regimented role of rebuttal, preferably in the matter of a very few one-liners as that’s about as much time readers and commentors can commit to from their work place seat, which we all know as most people play 9 to 5 and blogworld shuts down on the weekend. Most people who comment at blogs don’t even take the time to read the thread of comments preceding their own, much less the comments that follow. When I first began blogging I’d hoped it might be otherwise but learned quickly enough those were the rules and that blogworld is stranded in a world of prejudices and the exact same power jockeyings that rule the real world. Doesn’t mean the internet isn’t a grand tool for disseminating information. No, making information available, the good and the trash, is where the internet excels. But it’s not much of a place for changing opinion through dialogue, just as in real world conversation.

I thought several times about posting a comment at Pharyngula and politely running through some of my views, but anticipating how the comment thread would run I held back. Well before the thread reached 338 comments, I was glad I’d gone with the judgment of not participating.

Nor am I participating by commenting on the post here. I’m not doing a trackback. I don’t want anyone from there to come over here and read and comment. No, I’m instead remarking on why I chose not to particpate, which is the same reason I don’t want anyone from there to come over here and read and comment.

There, that’s all the thought I want to waste on this right now. I’ve got “Cat Women of the Moon” to possibly blog before returning it to Netflix. But all my browser windows are open to slips of documents concerning Sac and Fox mixed bloods that I want to copy into a database and there are 10,000 other things I need to be doing right now so I might not get around to it. But I will certainly try.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

8 thoughts on “Oops…thar she blows!”

  1. Schooling is not necessarily an emergency. My own schooling, which was conventional, was awful. I do not actually know anyone my age for whom this was not true. But schooling fades into irrelevancy pretty quickly, except for the psychological wounds and remembered humiliations which seem to have no expiration date. Probably home schooling on average probably has less of this lasting effect.

    My daughter’s immediate ex-boyfriend was raised in the woods as if by wolves, and got no schooling at all, except what was incidental to life-instruction provided by his eccentric one-legged father who brought him and his sister up in a succession of tattered tents and live-in rusting vans in various national forests, mostly in Texas. The sister, a thoughtful and well-spoken young woman, now has a horse-training business, and the ex-boyfriend is about to finish his master’s degree in geophysics. Graduate school in geophysics did require some catch-up, mostly achieved in junior colleges.

    My stepdaughter, who now has a PhD and a very interesting job abroad, lost a couple of years of schooling during the late 1970s when Kay and I decided to send her to a hippie school because of the usual deficiencies of the public schools, and the hippie school was taught mainly by a woman who was a passionate anorexic vegan who tried to get her students–who scoffed at her–to cleanse themselves spiritually with lemonade fasts. The lemonade-fast teacher was unable to teach anything whatsoever, and the students ran wild, and occupied themselves with lord-of-the-flies bullying and smuggling candy and forbidden food into the schoolhouse, and with ever-shifting and unreliable power alliances that provided quite a bracing education, in its own way. Anna, my stepdaughter, believes it was a very valuable experience.

    PZ Myers seems to take this a little too seriously. He reminds me of the lemonade-fast woman, strangely.

  2. “But schooling fades into irrelevancy pretty quickly, except for the psychological wounds and remembered humiliations which seem to have no expiration date.”

    No kidding.

    Had completely forgotten about your daughter’s ex-boyfriend, and am glad you retold as there was the additional story of the Lemonade-Fast Woman. Who will now probably enter my personal lexicon somehow. Though I didn’t know this woman…I’ve known her. And you’re right on that last point.

    I have been aware of a very few people who really really loved school. My mother-in-law is one. She loved school and did great in it. She loved all the clubs and the proms and many people she knew in school who also loved it remained her friends for life but were also many of them part of her church community. She returned to college in her later years and came out top of her class, one of those people who tests well, and was quite proud of it and we were proud of her achievements, though it was bothersome to me that she would never read anything on the profession she was pursuing which wasn’t for class. And despite her being a very schoolish sort of person, and our many many disagreements on things and our vastly different outlooks on the world, she’s never expressed any concerns about H.o.p.’s being homeschooled. She has never expressed any criticism of it, at least not to my face, and I doubt she has done so behind my back as at her husband’s funeral last year a number of friends and relations of hers came up to comment on how they’d heard the artistic H.o.p. was being homeschooled and how they thought that was great. In fact, almost everyone Marty and I know (even vaguely) think it’s great, the ones most outspoken about it being musicians and artists for whom the psychological humiliations and wounds of their schooling have, as you say, lingered long. We also know many musicians married to educators who work with children or at some point have themselves become child educators in private schools, and not a one of them appears to be anything but enthusiastic about homeschooling.

    Over the past couple of decades my mother-in-law’s had some hard knocks that caused her to think over some of her views on society and she put herself into a positon of coming into contact with people outside her life-long normal sphere, and though we still have very different views, I’ve no doubt that these experiences altered her perception some on schooling and its role in people’s lives.

    H.o.p. has many cousins on my side of the family and a number of them are homeschooled. Those cousins are homeschooled partly for religious reasons, though they’re not Creationists either. They are however homeschooled partly for religious reasons and it would never occur to me to attempt to change that or want to. Those kids are loved and their parents are wholly committed to seeing to it they get more than what they need. We use different methods and different resources but we’ve a common ground of wanting to do the best we can for our kids in our own way, and we share information on new things we’ve come across, books and programs, and have done a number of field trips to museums together, but what’s important for the cousins, as far as we’re all concerned, is their confidence in their extended family, that their extended families love and care for them. And I’m secure that if instead any of those cousins were raised in tents on Texas park land then they would do more than all right as the key thing seems to be the confidence that comes with having had in your corner someone who loves you and doesn’t obstruct a child’s naturation inclination to learn. It’s a big world out there and humans are geared to learn not just particulars from their environment. No, they have the ability to take what they know and translate that knowledge into doing more than just coping in whatever setting they may land in.

    What prepares a person for what they decide to try to do with their lives likely has less to do with their educational experiences in PS than many teachers would like to believe.

  3. I was hugely damaged by an experience at school that affected the whole of my life. I’m only beginning to get over it now. I wonder though if the reason that it affected me so deeply was that I was all alone at a boarding school and my parents were on the other side of the world.

    My children like school a lot although they have encountered some really difficult situations. But I think that is partly because I have worked so hard to ensure that the same doesn’t happen to them. i.e. they feel completely supported and loved by me in dealing with the school.

    I couldn’t imagine homeschooling my kids though – I think I would worry about their social skills apart from anything. But I think homeschooling is a lot more prevalent in the US so perhaps kids aren’t so isolated from each other. I’d like to hear more about your views on this as I’m sure my perspective is from a position of ignorance.

  4. Here there’s little opportunity to socialize, at least in the lower grades. Ten years ago, Atlanta eliminated recess altogether, under the excuse that those fifteen minutes would be spent better prepping for tests. I read now that since then all new Atlanta schools have been built without playgrounds. To me this seems not only counterproductive but cruel, not giving children the opportunity to expend some energy or excercise their imaginations during play time.

    There are homeschool groups that gather for socialization but many are religious and exclusive. As homeschooling becomes more popular, which I suspect it will, the choices will broaden, just as resources catering to homeschoolers have taken off in the past several years. For now we are doing what I’d planned to do, which is socialization through specialty classes outside the home and getting together with children of friends and family. H.o.p. loves theater and puppetry, and we know a number of people who have been involved in theater and children’s theater here (I was once involved in theater here), and he’s begun becoming involved.

    One thing about homeschooled kids is I’d heard they don’t tend to develop prejudices against playing with children outside a narrow age peer group, and from what I’ve observed so far this appears to be true. Plus he’s comfortable with the adults down at the music studio and he not infrequently is able to spend time down there around sessions, coming into contact with quite a variety of people. No, he’s not at all a precocious child–every bit an eight-year-old–but he’s not intimidated with being around adults.

    So, no, I’m not worried about socialization.

    I’m sorry to read of your experience in school. My husband I both experienced schools largely as torture chambers, and despite that had we had H.o.p. when we were in our twenties, I don’t believe I’d have ever considered homeschooling. I remember being in my mid twenties, reading about people who were homeschooling for religious reasons and thinking it was nuts. The idea that people might choose to homeschool for a host of other reasons was foreign to me. Having come up through the system, it took me a while to break away from the idea of it being the only option.

  5. Thanks for explaining that. No recess, no playgrounds? That’s bizarre to say the least. I live in a village so the age peer group thing is less pronounced. Same goes for dealing with adults, but I notice those tendencies in children of my city friends.

    I know people who removed their children from school because of bullying which I think is an utter indictment on the inability of the school to deal with the issue.

    I am a single parent, have to work full time so couldn’t consider homeschooling even if I wanted to. Each child brings around $6000 per year into a school but when you homeschool them you don’t get a penny – they just get to save that money.

  6. Just read Jim’s first, fascinating comment and now I’m torn: let me first post this part of what you wrote so I don’t forget; then go back and finish reading the rest of the comments as they look really enlightening. (I want to know more about the Lemonaide Fast Woman!)

    “When I first began blogging I’d hoped it might be otherwise but learned quickly enough those were the rules and that blogworld is stranded in a world of prejudices and the exact same power jockeyings that rule the real world. Doesn’t mean the internet isn’t a grand tool for disseminating information. No, making information available, the good and the trash, is where the internet excels. But it’s not much of a place for changing opinion through dialogue, just as in real world conversation.”

    *Sigh* ‘…same prejudices … and power jockeyings that rule the real world’ YES, how terribly frustrating it is for me and others, I notice, to be constantly tripping over the power trippers and hidden prejudices that are disguised behind semantics I am unfamiliar with til it’s too late. Tired of constantly finding myself ensnared in painful traps, I usually elect to keep my blinders on, avoiding all (potential) conflict, out of self-preservation. I do not get a pay-off from engaging in conflict, like others do. My stomach ties up in knots.

    If only I had learned somewhere, in the home, in school, in college, how to engage in dialogue with people — how to debate, the fine arts of communicating, skills all lost, not only just to me as an internal writer … but evidently lost to many others out there as well; I always felt if I were armed with these abilities, my life might would be so much richer. So, when I discovered the computer late in life, and the tremendous voice it has given to us all on a global level, shrinking the world, I thought the blogging world was going to be an open door to reach through, a magic pill against loneliness and ignorance (my own,) a teaching tool, a sit-down potluck lunch, ongoing, a way to socialize with the freedom of the uninhibited-ness of children at play.

    But, you are right. This is not necessarily an embracing community, tolerant, nurturing, not as a whole. There are many rules. Some are unspoken. One must tread lightly and leave few footprints, if one is to avoid the screaming discussions that are won, not by logic, rationale, or reason, but by those who can yell the loudest. Forget the facts! Strong opinions and matching vocal chords seem to be the most cherished possessions of today’s gladiators.

    I go read the rest of everybody else’s voices now…

  7. Wait a second! No recess? They took away the kid’s recess?! What the hell is going on down there?

    Even up here in Alaska, even when it’s -30 below zero, the kids get to go out and play! Twice a day and after lunch! If they didn’t get to expend all that pent-up energy and get some fresh air, I guarantee you, the teachers would be swinging from the light fixtures from their necks by Christmas!

    What a travesty…

  8. Around 2004 they tried to bring a 15 minute recess back but the bill didn’t pass.
    I can’t imagine being a teacher having to work with 30 plus kids, much less 30 plus kids who have been stuck in desks all day. Seems an ironclad assurance of creating a fairly big subgroup of kids who are going to be labeled as problematic.

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