A Retort: Homeschooling vs. Public School

Recently, Andrew Anglin decided to comment on homeschooling, much to the chagrin of a number of observers, including myself. Now I happen to like Anglin a great deal, particularly when I get to do a NAZI version of “Half In the Bag” with him about some remake of a classic 1980’s sci-fi movie. He also looks exactly like my bike mechanic so there’s likely some implicit bias at work here. Because of this and homeschooling in general being a pretty tame topic for debate (lol yeah about to be disproved on that one), I figure I can offer a rebuttal here without anyone getting too ass-blasted.

To begin with, Anglin brings up this topic with the implication that homeschooling produces maladjusted Unabombers that commit terrorism with explosive packages. We can safely assume everyone gets the obvious retort that it’s public school students out there trying to hit the top score in real life recreations of their favorite Doom level in classrooms full of live kids and armed with everything from shotguns to AR-15s (BFG 9000s are not available without an FFL). We probably don’t need to do much demographic research here to conclude mass killings are public school phenomena, not a homeschooling problem.

Typical public school student trying to get to Algebra 2.

Home schooling is Not Good for Kids

“Homeschooling is a meme in the right-wing which I have always been opposed to, and assuming that this Conditt fellow isn’t a part of an MKULTRA mind-fuck program, than the psychology of home schooling appears to be at the center of this story.

The fact of reality is that children are biologically designed to spend the majority of their waking hours with other children, in a pack-type social structure. When you deprive them of that, you deprive them of their natural human development.”

To be clear, does the “pack-type social structure” involve being carefully segregated by age and temperment into sterile rooms where you sit quietly in uncomfortable chairs and get lectured by an adult until a Pavlovian signal directs you to the next sterile room where another adult lectures you on a different topic? How is that a crucial part of natural human development?

“I have never met a homeschooled individual who was well-adjusted. Certainly, there are a lot of people in our society that are maladjusted, but from what I have seen, home schooling guarantees a very specific type of maladjustment which people do not usually recover from.”

This is an anecdote. Maybe it’s because I was homeschooled and had so much free time to read that I developed some seriously honed critical thinking skills, but I prefer evidence based statistical research over “I met a weird homeschooled kid that one time in Target.” Als,o exactly what’s the nature of the “specific type of maladjustment”? Are they socially awkward? Are they part of fringe-tier political movements that alienate them from their entire home country?

Anglin goes further to state:

“Part of that is presumably the type of people who do homeschooling for their kids, which tend to be ultra-religious. And as much as I like religion, and wish the situation with religion in this country was different, the fact is that being ultra-religious in our society is virtually always anti-social in nature. Some of that comes through in the interviews with Conditt’s parents.

I am not sure if I have ever done a proper analysis of why and how the ultra-religious in this society are anti-social. I probably have. I can’t keep track of everything I write (a lot of the best stuff is embedded in news pieces, like what you’re reading right now, because I’ve found that attaching larger ideas to news bits is a good way to communicate them to the largest number of people in a way that makes sense). But it’s a big issue that needs to be looked at in detail to make sense, but if you know any ultra-religious people – and you would probably only know them as neighbors or at work, as they do not tend to be friends with people who are not also ultra-religious – then you know what I’m talking about.”

I could definitely agree with this. A lot of people homeschool for religious reasons, meaning this is going to correlate to weird traditionalist and fundamentalist sects. Also, I agree that ultra-religious people are basically living in their own little parallel societies and don’t integrate with the untouchable heathens around them.

“That said, I know a lot of normal people who have talked about or tried homeschooling their kids, so this is not exclusive to the ultra-religious, and those that are homeschooled in more normal environments also appear to develop social problems.”

Weirdly non-specific social problems? At what age? Did the social problems resolve?

“I don’t have kids so I have never had to deal with this. If I did, I would want to raise them in Eastern Europe, where they could go to public school. But that isn’t a real life option for most people, so the best I can offer is Catholic school. Yes, these schools do now have some of the same problems as public school, but not to anywhere near the degree.

Second to that is just getting them in a public school that is in a white, non-poor area. At least in theory, you can raise a kid in such a way as they are not affected by the brainwashing, and in such a way as they avoid drugs and the girls avoid sex. But I don’t even see a theoretical way that you can successfully homeschool a kid.”

We can conclusively say that successfully homeschooling a kid must be possible since so many of them have careers and created their own families, a state of affairs that doesn’t currently apply to the guy criticizing this method of education. Like I alluded to earlier, I would rather look at the facts then use anecdotes. I could relate that myself and my brother were both homeschooled using the Abeka curriculum, or that despite this crippling handicap we both got married and started families, but statistics trump case studies.

In terms of educational attainment, there’s a common perception that homeschoolers do better academically than public school kids. There is evidence to support this, but it goes without saying we can chalk most of this up to socio-economics and race. Obviously, the parental investment required to homeschool requires one partner in a marriage to have a reliably good income, and this was certainly the experience of myself and my peers. Knowing what we do about income, IQ and childhood outcomes, those factors probably explain the better academic performance more than anything. Poor widdle under-achieving dindu nuffin tryna get his lyfe togetha definitely ain’t gettin’ homeschooled, and statistics back this up.

On balance we can say that homeschooling itself is a luxury of high IQ white people with enough disposable income to engage in this type of parental investment, make of that what you will.

But what about muh socialization? I’ve waded into these muddy waters before and unfortunately it needs a lot more research. The biggest problem is the epistemology itself, which asks a vague, undefined question. I would recast this as “Do homeschooled students acquire the interpersonal skills they need to function in society?” The answer to that appears to be yes. We could break this into detailed questions about individual metrics, and research has found homeschoolers score higher in areas related to cooperation and assertion than their public school counterparts. They’re less likely to get arrested, abuse drugs, or commit suicide than their public school peers. In fact, most of the data indicates public school children are going to be worse on virtually every metric. How much of this is due to the selection bias inherent in excluding a certain fatherless low-income demographic from the results and also raising these homeschoolers in a racially and culturally homogeneous environment is unknown. About the only curious effect noted was that homeschooled female students have, in one study, been shown to have temperaments more similar to male students (male students are all virtually identical in temperament regardless of the school system). It’s possible that because of the small coed environment these girls are turning into tomboys. Anecdotally, I can say I observed this a lot growing up, but you’d need to do a real deep dive to find out how it effects things like having kids of their own.

The other unasked question here goes like this: Are we wanting students to develop socialization skills among a carefully age segregated group of young cohorts, or is the end game to prepare them to grow up and socialize properly with other adults? If they’re taking cues from adults, which we all know they are, what messages are they receiving?

We’re not so sure about the content of homeschooling social cues from their teachers, although research is ongoing there. What we do know about public schooling is pretty alarming though:

“Brint, Contreras, and Matthews (2001) observed 64 public elementary school classrooms and “coded every socializing message the teachers communicated to the students” (p. 159). They found that 84% of these messages “reflected the teachers’ efforts to quiet the students, keep them from asking questions without recognition, or to redirect their straying attention to the task at hand” so that they would “work faster” and “finish on time” (p. 161). In many classrooms, the only messages recorded were of this kind. Communications about positive social behavior were rare: cooperation (2%), self-control (1%), responsibility (1%), and respect for group differences (0.3%).”

In other words, public education is a heavily industrialized system designed around completion of tasks and keeping those lowest common denominators from chimping out and disrupting the classroom. If we’re concerned with stamping out reliable office workers designed to consume the latest soyboy tech products and mindlessly absorb Buzzfeed articles, then by all means advocate for sending kids into the clutches of liberal catladies managed by a soulless collective of bureaucratic Vogons. Surely this bizarre dsytopian environment based on an assembly line model of education is the most compatible with “natural human development” since age segregated social interaction curated within the confines of bleak rectangular prison-like structures is how our species evolved.

Sorry Andy but I disagree, I think homeschooling with a good curriculum and plenty of access to other homeschooled kids is pretty much the apex of white high-parental investment child-rearing strategies. Don’t believe me, just ask the star of your favorite sci-fi remake:

BR 2049
Ryan Gosling has said that homeschooling gave him “a sense of autonomy that I’ve never really lost”