let kids watch beauty and the beast

What can homeschooling learn from the political divide?

Cocking a Snook asks an interesting question that I started to answer in her comment box: What can Homeschooling Learn from Our Present Political Stories? It started with some musing about how Ron Paul seemed to unite extremists on both the left and right behind him over on Spunky’s post NEA endorses Obama. I was never particularly surprised by Ron Paul’s apparent unifying ability at the extremes of both ends of the spectrum, but I’ll get back to that after sharing JJRoss’ quote from “The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics & Religion at the Twilight of the American Empire,” by Matt Taibibi:

The Ron Paul candidacy was an extreme example of outsider politics on the left and right merging…retreats from the mainstream that traveled in opposite directions but were parallel in substance….Both groups were and are defined primarily by an unshakable belief in the inhumanity of their enemies on the other side…

I have not read the book and am only reacting to what was shared. I disagree with the assessment, but I think the surprise that people from seemingly opposite sides of the political spectrum were able to so passionately come behind the same candidate demonstrates something deeply wrong with American politics.

The trouble is, we have all fallen into this “unshakable belief in the inhumanity of [our] enemies on the other side.” Conservatives have cast the liberal as public enemy number one. In fact, they aren’t even really liberals any more. They are God-hating secularists trying to push their homosexual agenda. Conservatives, on the other hand…well, we are “seduced by homophobia and a lust for war.” * Or, as Thomas Frank says in What’s the Matter With Kansas (as if voting Republican were some sort of mental illness), we lack the ability to make “certain mental connections about the world.”

Libertarians have long had a difficult time identifying themselves on the Left-Right spectrum of American politics. Because their political views are not so typically defined by the freedom to/freedom from debate that drives so much of the philosophizing against conservatives and liberals. They embrace both, and the libertarian party has long been split by those who vote Republican and those who vote Democrat. For an essentially libertarian candidate to have united these groups is unsurprising. To have attracted a few people who probably have libertarian leanings whether they realized it or not is unsurprising. Realizing that American political views do not really work along a Left-Right spectrum goes along way in quelling the surprise.

To realize that conservatives and liberals have similar goals shouldn’t leave people standing in the grocery store shocked that a single candidate was able to unite despite seemingly polar opposite political beliefs. We all want liberty. Certainly we define it a little differently. Certainly we see differing roles for government. But conservatives do not want to leave children and the elderly starving in the streets and the rest of the nation without health care any more than liberals want to make us all dependent on the welfare state in order to increase their…I don’t know what exactly. I haven’t quite figured it out because I stopped reading that kind of “reporting.”

What has this all to do with homeschooling? Too much, I’m afraid. Julie left a comment on my post Homeschoolers Threaten Our Cultural Comfort which rings true to the way we often go about advocating our positions.

Well, I think perhaps some of the defensiveness people feel against homeschoolers is legitimate…I started reading homeschool blogs shortly afterward, there are quite alot of entries that more than imply that the only acceptable educational choice is homeschooling.

And if you need an illustration, here is a nice one from the forum over at OneNewsNow (link moved, emphasis and misspelling in original).

My children my choice right? Never will I sacrifice my children upon that alter of mid control and manipulation. I propose bringing against any parent that willing allows thier child to attend a public school up on charges of neglect and abuse. I am raising men and women, not self-centered gender confused diversified evolved sin toleraters.

Is that what we really believe? Charges of neglect and abuse against any parents who let their children attend a public school? No wonder people get a little defensive at the mention of homeschooling. I realize that this is in direct response to the educational anarchy comment by the California Teachers Association, and a few people in the forum were a little insulted by it. But what does this sort of language serve to accomplish?

What certified teacher would read that and be persuaded? What parent of a public schooled child would read that and wonder if homeschooling might be for them? The point of this kind of speech is not to promote understanding, find common ground or really engage the opposition at all. Its sole purpose is to draw a clear distinction between parties and rally supporters behind the “flag.” It is a call to war, not to reason.

All too often, homeschoolers engage the public with the same “unshakable belief in the inhumanity of [our] enemies on the other side” that conservatives and liberals adopted long ago. We engage each other in that fashion, promoting a divide between religious and secular homeschoolers that does not necessarily have to exist. So we are surprised when friendships develop across the divide? As if our views on the origin of life were the dominant theme in our lives?

I am not surprised when I find myself reading secular blogs and agreeing with a lot of what they say. I am not surprised when I find more points of agreement than disagreement with the secular homeschoolers who occasionally participate in the discussion here. We are “polar opposites” to a greater degree than a Republican and a Democrat meeting in a grocery store. But we are parents. With a goal of raising our children in the best way we know how.

What can we learn from the “present political stories?”

Perhaps that we do our own cause a disservice when we march on the public with the same sort of passion that we march on the capitol. That nothing is gained by boxing those we disagree with into a dehumanizing label even as we react to the stereotypes placed on us. That those who appear to be from opposing “camps” very often have similar goals, just a different means of getting there. That homeschooling would get on a little better if we could more effectively engage fellow parents rather than shallow, materialistic people more interested in their careers than their children. Fellow educators rather than purveyors of mind-control and manipulation. Children rather than mindless automatons raised by the state.

* Recorded in Superior, Nebraska by Denis Boyles, p. 14

Update: Dawn at Day by Day Discoveries adds some thoughts.