A few months ago I reviewed the very important results of the Cardus Education Survey as they related to homeschooling. The findings weren’t pretty. Homeschoolers in the survey didn’t do well academically, failed at marriage, have checked out of politics, and feel that their lives are adrift.
Yesterday Jedd and Rachel Medefind posted on the Cardus site an interesting editorial that builds on these findings. The Medefinds begin by explaining how modern life since the Industrial Revolution has been increasingly centrifugal–leading to separations between people and between aspects of life that should be connected. Homeschooling, they contend, can amplify this trend when it serves as “a driver of division and isolation.” On the other hand, it “may also hold the greatest potential to work against fractionalization. Homeschooling offers and unmatched forum for helping children to understand and experience more integrated lives, and ultimately to become menders of a torn social fabric for the broader community as well.”
The rest of the piece explains how the divisive and isolationist sort of homeschooling is perhaps behind the poor results of the Cardus survey (along the way the authors give some important and very helpful qualifications to the original data that were not in the report itself). It then explains how a more integrative sort of homeschooling allows children to connect to older and younger people (rather than being segregated by age in school), allows for work and leisure to blend into learning, provides time for community service and for exposure to “the foreign” through such things as long trips overseas.
As I was reading through the editorial it seemed to me that much of the “good” kind of homeschooling the Medefinds recommend is more about social class and political orientation than about homeschooling as such. The Medefinds (who homeschool their five children) value this rich integrative form of homeschooling because they’re well educated, civic-minded, politically moderate or even perhaps liberal people. To use the stereotypical shorthand, they’re Blue Americans. Their kids are growing up in a home that values diversity, encourages critical thinking, deliberately exposes children to a wide range of views, and so forth. The kind of homeschooling the Medefinds associate with the poor results of the Cardus Survey is Red America homeschooling–narrow, fearful of outsiders, culturally isolationist. Longtime observers of the homeschooling scene will not find this division surprising. It’s basically the distinction between “ideologues” and “pedagogues” coined by Jane Van Galen in 1986. It’s “believers” and “inclusives” as described by Mitchell Stevens in 2001. It’s “open communion” and “closed communion” from my own work. The Medefinds are pedagogues, inclusives, open communion folk, and they recommend it here.