- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 23, 2001

"Kennedy, what's eight plus seven?"My daughter was nearing the end of second grade when I asked that question. It took her about four seconds to answer four seconds too long, four seconds during which I gave up on modern schools.
We had tried public school. But when one of my daughter's fellow kindergartners cussed out the teacher in words that no five-year-old should have to hear, we decided to try a Christian school the next year.
Alas, modern education theory has not limited its influence to public schools. "Creative spelling" was tolerated in the church school our daughter attended for two years, and mathematics instruction apparently did not include the memorization of basic algorithms.
It boggled my mind to discover that my exceptionally bright daughter had almost completed second grade and had not been drilled sufficiently to answer a single-digit addition problem without hestitation.
Advocates of modern theories like "connected mathematics" claim that "problem-solving strategies" are more important than mere "math facts." But I cannot imagine how "strategies" will help a third-grader who doesn't know that eight plus seven equals 15. Some things one simply must know.
Having tried both public and private schools and found them wanting, my wife and I decided to homeschool our kids.
Four years later, I am pleased to report, our 12-year-old daughter is doing math at an eighth-grade level and has the reading vocabulary of a college freshman. (We're still working to eliminate the "creativity" in her spelling.) Our 8-year-old twin sons, homeschooled since age 4, are doing fifth-grade math.
Time magazine is worried about our kids. Our children's success and the success of thousands of other homeschooled kids is dangerous, Time suggests in a cover story titled "Is Home Schooling Good for America?"
The Time article is anti-homeschooling propaganda thinly disguised as news. "Home schooling may turn out better students," Time admits, "but does it create better citizens?" The bulk of the article is mainly devoted to the threadbare "socialization" issue.
For years, home-schooling parents have been answering the question, "What about socialization? Isn't it important for kids to learn to get along with other kids?"
Short answer: Yes. And our kids polite, friendly and outgoing get along just fine with other kids. They have friends just like any other kid has friends, including some friends who beg their parents to be home-schooled like our kids.
What the folks who ask about "socialization" really mean, however, is this: Doesn't healthy development require that every child be immersed seven hours a day, 180 days a year, for 13 years, among dozens of children whose only commonality is living within the boundaries of a certain school district? To this we answer, absolutely not.
The notion that the one-size-fits-all school fulfills a necessary social function is an absurdity, reflecting a profound ignorance of human history. Kids were successfully "socialized" for millennia before anyone concocted anything remotely like the modern school, administered by certified government bureaucrats, where 500 to 3,000 kids are taught a politically approved curriculum.
The "socialization" question takes various forms: "What about school dances? What about football games?" What about, as Newt Gingrich used to say, "subsidized dating?" The widespread belief that school is, or should be, primarily about "socialization," is the biggest clue to what's gone wrong with American education.
So it is that the people at Time magazine who would have you believe they care more about my kids than I do worry that home-schooled kids may "have missed out on whole swaths of childhood." Mandatory condom instructions, middle-school drug dealers, pipe bombs in the cafeteria too bad my kids "missed out" on all that.
The folks at Time profess to be worried that home-schooling is bad for "democracy." But Ben Franklin and George Washington, among other of the Founding Fathers, got most of their education at home, and none of the Founders ever set foot in anything like today's public schools. If the Founders of our republic didn't need public schools, why do our kids?
In the end, Time's greatest concern is that home-schooling limits the public school system's access to taxpayers' pockets. Public school funding is determined according to enrollment. For each kid enrolled, the school gets a certain appropriation thousands of dollars per child.
By draining kids out of the public education system, says Time, "home schooling has become a threat to the very notion of public education." Let me be the first to say, I hope so. I certainly hope so.

Robert Stacy McCain is an assistant national editor for The Washington Times.


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