The setup: Nachmu the Elder had a hockey practice at a rink foreign to me, so I dropped him off in front of the main entrance, then went searching far and wide for a parking space. Several minutes later, I appeared in the locker room to find another gentleman lacing up The Elder’s skates; it was the grandfather of our goalie.
I said thanks, which, apparently, opened the floodgates of conversation, and by “conversation,” I mean that Grandpa Goalie began to talk, and I began to listen. His prattling was only slightly distracting from getting The Elder onto the ice, but mostly interesting, since he has so much insight into younger kids and development hockey. And I mean to say that he talked without ceasing until I answered his question: “Where does your son go to school?”
I said, “Home.”
“Home?” And he looked at me for a full ten seconds, and I could see that he was wondering if I had mentioned an obscure schoolyard somewhere in the Tonawanda area, and he had just heard me incorrectly. So, after the ten seconds had elapsed, he asked again, “Home?”
“At home, yes,” I said.
He looked at my like I had a pair of ice skates growing out of my head. Then he asked, “Does he have a tutor?”
“No,” I said, “His mother and I do his schooling.”
His eyes became as hockey pucks, at the same time huge in amazement and blank in understanding. He could not fathom the notion that a parent could school his children at home.
It reminded me of a conversation I had some five years beforehand. I was taking a course to acquire a license to sell insurance in New York state, where another gentleman of similar education background, that is, a PhD in one of the humanities, was also taking the same course. His specific area of study, however, was classroom education, whereas mine is in methods of interpretation; our fields of study overlap slightly. When he learned that my wife and I school our children at home, he flew into an un-educated rant which resembled nothing in the way of a studied discourse, as follows:
1) Socialization should occur at school. This is just nonsense. The obnoxious kid who sits in front of the TV consuming sweets, behavior modification drugs, and Nickelodeon hours on end while his parent(s)/guardian(s) wield their energies elsewhere shall not be a primary socializing element for my children. And I mean this with utter prejudice. Jesus loves the obnoxious kid as much as he loves me and my children, I have no doubt, but I shall not be bludgeoned into believing that a learning environment festering with that kind of rot is healthy for children.
2) Moral codes should be tested against the “real world.” Again, this is nonsense. When I mentioned the word “morality,” my interlocutor heard “religious indoctrination.” That is not what I meant at all. While religious indoctrination is my perogative regardless of environment, home or institution, morals are a whole ‘nother beast. Naturally, I believe that morals flow from a solid religious instruction, but I also believe that faith and morals are distinct things. One is a trust in God, the other is a framework for behavior; i.e., love thy neighbor, and all that. School simply does not provide that framework, not any longer: A) we do not have a shared moral code as a culture; B) school is not presently designed (and I argue that it never was) to foster morals. It is, instead, designed to reward the fittest. Those who learn “the rules,” explicit and implicit (adjectives, not adverbs, N.B.), succeed in the classroom, and perhaps on the factory floor, and only when strictly limited to the soulless stations before them, but are essentially trained to fail when encountering thy neighbor. In other words, love and wisdom is the last thing fostered in a classroom. Besides which, public schools, in my opinion and my interlocutor’s opinion, are places to deconstruct proper moral encoding. That attitude is also destructive.
Why should I spend the energy to inculcate love and wisdom, at least into the mind of my child, if not in the heart, so that the government, which I pay for, should undo it, and undo it purposefully, with a mind to undo my procreative act? This leads to point three.
3) The “parentage” is inferior to school. This was the nearest thing to PhD talk he attempted, and it infuriated me, so I shot back, “The teacherage rests on in locis parentis.” I added, in my heart, “jackass,” but I didn’t have the grapes to utter it. The conversation abruptly ended at that point; he didn’t like my use of the term “teacherage” (and I wonder if he didn’t like that I could throw a little Latin phrase at him). Not only is his point nonsense (and perhaps it is not nonsense at all), but it is insidious (which it most certainly is, nonsense or no). Study after study, generations of testing, the lore of wisdom passed down through the ages, demonstrate beyond the shadow of a doubt that whenever the parent yields up the child to anyone or anything in place of, then a compromise has occurred. Institutional education is always a compromise for learning.
The very idea that an institution or another person is more suited than the parents, as a general principle, stands all of civilization on its head. In the parentage is answered all questions of authority, bodily life, human sexuality, property rights, personal reputation, and the desires of the individual heart. No one is more suited to provide answers to these questions than the parents, and if the parents cannot, absolutely cannot, teach a child long division and earth science when he’s nine years old…
Naturally, one is free to send one’s child to school. It certainly has its strengths. The compromise might be suitable for some parents. Nevertheless, nothing has more strengths for the education of children than the home. There are no weaknesses in the home that are not also at school.
And one last note: abusus non tollit usus.
And one final last note: Nachmu, Nachmu the Elder, and Nachmu the Younger, all went out at one o’clock this afternoon to skate on the ice before it melted, while the host of neighborhood children sat in desks in a room with not-their-mother.