Got Viable Alternatives to “Government of the Gaps?”

15 06 2007

(Read recent blogposts here and follow some links, if you’re coming late to the debate.)

Reasons to regulate home education include:

1) some people (homeschooling or not) are religious wackos and messing up science education; or

2) all moms (homeschooling or not) are unpaid domestic labor impeding gender equity progress for society and themselves; or

3) children might not learn to believe the right things if their parents (homeschooling or not) are wrong, and it takes a village to raise a child right, er, left– rightly left?; or

4) individual diversity (homeschooling or not) is so important in education and society that it should be standardized by bureaucracy (??)

Clearly these aren’t home education problems, not a one. Is it likely then, that home education answers will solve them? Wipe out homeschooling entirely, and the problems remain.

Another logical problem is that because most home-educating parents were themselves schooled according to government regulation but now don’t, or won’t, or can’t, educate their own children within that same prescribed framework in turn, regulated and standardized schooling probably isn’t transmitting what we think it does. (See John Taylor Gatto.)

But bottom line, here we are logical or not, unfairly targeted or not. What now? If we do see problems but we don’t see regulating home education as the solution, then can we work out some viable alternatives? And is it possible that the real solution for homeschooling at least, lies in demonstrating that we CAN reason through this?

Here’s more from my 2005 conversation with Rob Reich at Scott Somerville’s blog, suggesting one approach:

The “Viable Alternative” Issue

Here’s my take on the “viable alternatives” question – if we assume universal agreement with Professor Reich that it’s right for all homeschooled children to learn to think and reason morally for themselves, are there effective alternative means to this end, besides his proffer of regulation?

How else might we reason through and resolve this postulated ethical dilemma?

One thought I had was that if we can reason ethically about this ourselves, as homeschooling parents, we might demonstrate to our own satisfaction (even if not to universal agreement!) that as a community, homeschoolers are in fact both sufficiently qualified and temperamentally inclined to value, use, respect and teach ethical reasoning.

That alone might do the trick! If not, it would be take us in the right direction, surely, and point the way to better answers than the widely troublesome “regulation” as proposed.

And as the diverse community we truly are as homeschooling families, we’d no doubt benefit from more ethical reasoning and less “shooting from the lip” as we confront other demands and dilemmas too.

One practical outline for ethical reasoning is explained at

The three principles outlined here are drawn from the traditions of moral philosophy. Of the many theories that have been propounded for ethical decision making, these represent three that are particularly useful in helping us think through right-versus-right issues.

Each gives us a way
to test the twin rights of a dilemma. Each has a long and noble tradition behind it. Each, as we shall see in later chapters, has powerful arguments in its support—and significant refutations lodged against it. . .

The point, here, is not to perform three tests and then vote to score a three-to nothing or two-to-one victory.
The point is to reason.

The usefulness of these principles is not that they will deliver
an airtight answer to your dilemma. They are not part of a magic answer kit that produces infallible solutions: If they were, ethics would be infinitely easier than it is, and the moral problems of the world would have been satisfactorily sorted out centuries ago.

No, the principles are useful because they give us a way to exercise your moral rationality. They provide different lenses through which to see our dilemmas, different screens to use in assessing them. . . .



14 responses

15 06 2007

If we do see problems but we don’t see regulating home education as the solution, then can we work out some viable alternatives?
Who’s we?

“We” can think real hard and do our best for our children or our communities. But “we” can’t impose any of our brilliance on the next guy who has some crazy notion that his kid should go to public school.

Not enough Americans have a real understanding or appreciation of (fill in the blank) — science, religion, your particular religion, history, math, etc., etc.

That’s the problem? One of the problems?

The only choice you have is to do your best to help your children in learning and leaving mine the hell alone.

Because there is no one answer (even though I think I know it all! 🙂 ) that everyone will agree is THE answer. What exactly should a child understand and appreciate about, say, orgasms. Or hell. Or war. Or peace. Or economic systems. Or the environment. Or space travel.

So you get to strew and I get to spew and that’s all. Nobody, including the Reich/Laden/ITAV crowd or the folks on the right-hand side of the spectrum, gets to have only their version of reality and truth taught to my children. (Although I could fill their kids in on the real truth about school, for instance, if they’d like. But not if they don’t like. 🙂 )


15 06 2007

I could’ve done without some creep at Greg’s spewing about Favorite Daughter’s vagina and calling me a man-hater. . . apparently his concerns don’t extend to what our daughters (sons too) learn from THAT.

15 06 2007

hazmat and company are not even in the same sphere of civilized human beings I think we are considering here.


15 06 2007

Have you, btw, visited his vile troll site. He’s really insane. In an ugly way.


15 06 2007
Rolfe Schmidt

That thread pretty much stopped me from visiting Greg’s site. Life is too short to waste time filtering through that garbage. If someone attacked me or my family that way, I don’t think I could handle it as gracefully as you have JJ.

I like your breakdown of the state of the debate. I really want to believe that cool heads and rational discussion can persevere and rise above the nonsense.

I want the discussion. It is the best defense against an emotional attack down the road. I just happen to believe that the result of that discussion will be that you “do your best to help your children in learning and leaving mine the hell alone”.

15 06 2007

Rolfe, I can’t tell you how welcome you are to the community and the debate! 🙂
Thanks —

15 06 2007

For Nance et al — re: do we even have a problem and if so, what to do?
“I don’t know how to solve all those problems and how to make that
happen. But what it all boils down to is, get the current system out
of your head. . .” —Alvin Toffler interviewed for “Edutopia” by James Daly.

15 06 2007

I’m even starting to wonder if hazmat, cmf and other anonymous posters there without blog links of their own, are sock puppets . . .

15 06 2007

You’re both wrong!

. . .I know that you both are fathers who thus are responsible for addressing all those direct, real-child concerns too, so having had this same esoteric and intensively divorced-from-reality debate with you both before, I suggest this time you respond the way we mothers do instead.
Let’s stop debating who has more right to teach them NOT to think for themselves — my answer is no one, case closed — and be more concerned about finding ways to help them learn to think critically without any despotism whatsoever! Then they can protect themselves from despotism, without being “ethically servile” to their parents OR the State.
(Not to mention a biased press, propaganda from any source, or their own peers and fellows at any age.)

16 06 2007

//I’m even starting to wonder if hazmat, cmf and other anonymous posters there without blog links of their own, are sock puppets . . .//

CMF. Ugh. He’s like Greg’s Igor or Mini Me. I like Greg but his blog’s cast of supporting characters seems pulled from a bad B movie.

16 06 2007

Rolfe has a good debate about what we really want and need from “education” going at his place, and it might actually go somewhere interesting. It’s got potential anyway.

Greg Laden is there and has invited his regulars to come check it out.

“Keep Your Radicals Free”

17 06 2007

Um, part of the country fair centers around this discussion – I’m pretty sure you won’t mind (since you made a contribution), but I may link this post (because of some of the comments). Just didn’t want to catch you off guard.

17 06 2007

Hey, that would be ducky, Doc, thanks! (Why would we all DO this if we didn’t want to reach people with our thinking?)

29 03 2008
Valerie, Rob Reich, NPR and THE Conversation « Cocking A Snook!

[…] philosophy or preschool testing or college algebra mandates, in NHEN legislative forum debate or Scott Somerville’s blog or on National Public Radio, in a California court called “child protection”or the […]

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