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Breathtakingly crass propaganda by picture

This Comment is Free article, The Dark Side of Home Schooling by Katherine Stewart, claims that:

Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an “ideology machine”. Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.

According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.

The article mainly consists of quotes from people who have posted at a website aimed at those who are unhappy with their home schooling. We hear that some of them have suffered from “depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality.” It concludes that “Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination.” In other words it is a run-of-the-mill article that uses the spectre of every Guardian reader’s favourite villains to protect the class interest of teachers at US state schools.

However, the picture the Guardian chose to illustrate the piece was out of the ordinary.

Commenter JohnCan45 says,

The accompanying photo of a shuttered home in Cleveland… reason?
Perhaps the editor just mixed up a picture from this week’s big story, but maybe they didn’t. And that would be pretty cheap.

Seriously, that is the picture chosen to illustrate this article about home schooling. Go look at it now – it may change later. It shows a picture of a white clapboard house with the windows boarded up. And in case you didn’t get what that meant, the caption says, “A house in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP”.

It does not appear to depict the white clapboard house in Cleveland, Ohio with the windows boarded up in which three women were imprisoned, raped and brutalised for a decade and in which a child was born as a result of one of these rapes and lived her life in captivity. Oh, but, wait! The little girl was “home schooled”. In other words, she received whatever scraps of knowledge about the outside world that her mother and the other enslaved women could give her in the same prison “home” in which she lived her whole life. That’s your connection, there.

What estimate the Guardian makes of its readers can be judged by its evident belief that a smear by association of such crudity would work on them. The degree to which this estimate is correct can be judged by the readers’ comments.

UPDATE: Commenter WDO has pointed out that, as predicted, the picture of “A house in Cleveland” has gone down the memory hole to be replaced by a picture of “a 1950s family at home.”

30 comments to Breathtakingly crass propaganda by picture

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Everyone indoctrinates their children. Parents have a duty to tell their children things they believe to be true, otherwise they would be lying to them. Since not everyone agrees on what the truth is, one man’s truth is necessarily another man’s indoctrination.

    However, on the basis of biological imperative alone a parent is highly likely to have their child’s best interests at heart. So in a sea of conflicting opinions simply leaving parents alone to raise their children as they see best seems the least bad option. Now what is it about Guardianista’s opinions that gives them the right to override parental autonomy?

    Or put another way – why are they allowed to indoctrinate everyone’s children, but parents aren’t even allowed to indoctrinate their own?

  • Julie near Chicago

    JV, a very good question. Perhaps after an afternoon’s pondering, with the brain supercharged by several snorts of the best … ???

    (Cripes, how times have changed. Does everybody still understanding the archaism “snorts”? It’s not that long ago people stopped by the local bar for a “short snort.”)

  • Samizdata-reading Catholic

    “Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an “ideology machine”. Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.”

    Obviously, the exact opposite is true. Political activists on the left were the ones who wanted to put together an ideology machine and change the culture, and control of the public schools was the major part of their plan. Now we’re faced with the consequences of their actions, all of which are absolutely horrific.

  • Julie near Chicago

    “Understand,” of course. Proofreading seems not to be my greatest skill. (Oh dear–But what if it is?)

  • my contribution to the guardian boards

    I agree that homeschooling is bad when the parents teach the kids religious nonsense that isn’t true, but schools teach the religion of the state which is just as bad.
    Those that want to allow homeschooling only if the State gets to decide the curriculum need to consider if they would let Coca-Cola decide the curriculum and if either of those are likely to have the kids interests as number one, and compare that to letting the kids parents set the curriculum.

    Unschooling Rocks !

  • RRS

    Do you wonder that fish spoil when wrapped in the Guardian?

  • Paul Marks

    The Guardian people are vermin – real bottom feeders. Comparing home schoolers to the three brothers who abducted, raped and brutalised three young people for a decade, shows this.

    Nor is this really just about “class interest”.

    Yes the desire for pay (and ad revenue from state schools and universities) matters. But IDEOLOGY matters much more.

    The collectivists see Home Schooling as a threat to their ideological war (which is indeed “quite disturbing”), their war against civil society, against Western Civilisation.

    The left (the Social Justice crowd), both in the context of education and in the context of the media (including, indeed especially, the entertainment media) are not a joke – they are a clear-and-present-danger.

  • Edward Turner

    “depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality.”

    And nobody has ever ended up with these sorts of issues after being (say) aggressively bullied in a bad state school.

    (I’d tend to suggest that “distrust of authority” might be a good thing, though).

  • Vinegar Joe

    My wife and I home-schooled all our children. My oldest son graduated from the University of Washing and works for Google. My oldest daughter graduated from the University of Kentucky and is an officer in the US Army. My two youngest sons are studying international business in Beijing at Beijing Foreign Studies University (北京外国语大学).

    They all got to travel the world, see and do things they would never done had they been stuck in a regular school.

  • Rich Rostrom

    “distrust of authority”? They say that like it’s a bad thing. Isn’t “Question Authority” one of the Left’s most sacred mantras?

    Oh, wait, it’s “Question Traditional Authority”. One must never question “progressive authority”, such as the alleged scientific proof of “global warming”, the United Nations, or Palestinian “victims”.

    That would make one a “denier”.

  • Rickard Thomas

    Likewise depression. You have to stick your head pretty far in the sand (or be wearing state sanctioned blinkers) to not be depressed at the state of the world these days.

    And issues around sexuality? I’m sure there’s plenty of that around but my memories of public school was that absolutely no quarter was given to anyone who even gave the appearance of being a little light-in-the-loafers.

    I home school. But it’s because I went through public (state) school. And whilst it wasn’t too bad academically, I was shrewd enough to see what was going on.

  • Rickard Thomas

    And by “not too bad” I mean “Taught me I could get along with the bare minimum effort”. A terrible habit to get into.

  • Chip

    I read once that home schooling was the most successful path to universities like Stanford, better even than prep schools let alone the regular schools.

  • Or put another way – why are they allowed to indoctrinate everyone’s children, but parents aren’t even allowed to indoctrinate their own?

    Democracy.

    If the people vote for a government which decides that the state has the right to indoctrinate everyone’s children, then it must be all right.

    Of course, people have respected the right of the state to make decisions that affected families since early history. But it seems to me that people today probably respect the right of the state to interfere in the decisions of families more than people in this country did 200 years ago.

    And it also seems to me that this is probably related to the fact that modern democracy gives all citizens a say in decision-making, thereby legitimising state interference.

    It is, perhaps no accident that compulsory education appeared in Western civilisation at about the same time as universal suffrage – i.e. the progressive era (late 19th century / early 20th century).

  • Andrew Duffin

    “modern democracy gives all citizens a say in decision-making”

    I do hope that’s sarcasm and I just missed it.

    Otherwise there may be no hope for you.

  • David C

    “It is, perhaps no accident that compulsory education appeared in Western civilisation at about the same time as universal suffrage – i.e. the progressive era (late 19th century / early 20th century)”

    I’ve heard it said that the first world war could not have been fought without the indoctrination of state education. Wasn’t state education invented by the Prussians in order to have a compliant population to feed their war machine?

  • QuinT

    Well, if anyone is qualified to recognize the putting together of an ideology machine and the breeding and training up of culture warriors, it would be the Left.

  • Very good, Andrew.

    What I said was shorthand for “modern so-called democracy, by virtue of giving all citizens the opportunity to vote for the oligarchies and dictators that run our nation-states, gives the impression that all citizens have a say in decision-making.”

    But I was somewhat lazy and condensed it into ten words, hoping that my meaning would be understood.

    :-)

  • WDO

    Aaaaannnnnnnnd it’s down the memory hole. Replaced by 50′s black-and-white photo.

  • Of course, it’s a lot easier to smear homeschooling with egregious outliers and bogeymen (Christian fundamentalists!!! EEEEK!!!) than to compare, for example, university graduation rates and/or grades. (Exec. summary: homeschoolers kick state school students’ asses in both metrics.)

    And yeah, I homeschooled our three offspring. One graduates from college next month, the second will do so this time next year, and the third is a self-employed contract software tester living away from home.

    Oh, and by the way: my wife and I homeschooled our three kids without the “benefit” of university degrees for ourselves. So much for the “only trained professionals should teach children” nonsense.

    Our situation, by the way, is closer to the homeschooling norm than anything the Grauniad might come up with, which is why they’d never publish case studies such as ours — it lays utter waste to their state-as-best-educator mindset.

  • Lee Moore

    Incidentally, Education Otherwise, a charity supporting homeschoolers in the UK, seems to have collapsed financially. Are there any other organisations that Samizdata folk are aware of that provide useful support to UK homeschoolers ?

  • a_random_guy

    “anxiety, depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality”

    Um…it’s not like any of these issues would be typical for children going through adolescence, right?

    I grant you that fundamentalists educating their children with religious claptrap is a problem. But it’s a minor problem overall, as long as we support the free flow of information. First, not that many parents are extremists. Second, sooner or later those kids will run into other sources of information (like the entire Internet), and many of them will question their beliefs.

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    I grant you that fundamentalists educating their children with religious claptrap is a problem.

    I disagree random, I don’t think it is a problem at all. At least no more of a problem than Guardianistas raising their children to be granola-munching eco-hippies with totalitarian leanings, or vegetarians raising their children to avoid meat, or Tories who raise their children to admire Thatcher and love a good Pheasant hunt.

    Everyone tries to pass their values onto their children, religious or otherwise. Why should I perceive children being raised to believe things I disagree with as a problem?

    The reason the Guardianistas believe this is because they adhere to the claptrap doctrine of “children belonging to society”, and accordingly think it reasonable for society to punish parents who deviate from their perception of societal norms in terms of child rearing.

    Of course, children don’t belong to society. They belong to themselves. And since they are not legally responsible, that self-ownership is held in trust by their parents until such time as they can look after it themselves. So in the absence of very strong evidence indicating both prolonged harm and ill intent, decisions regarding child rearing really should be left up to the parents.

  • Rob

    There sample appears to suffer from a bias in self-selection, but then again the Guardian can turn on or off at will the Scientific Method.

  • Alastair James

    JV Surely there is a difference between thinking something is a problem and thinking that therefore Government should do something about it. I think everyone on this thread is agreed that the Government setting itself up as the arbiter of what should or shouldn’t be taught to children by their parents is both dangerous and futile. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t a problem if religious extremists teach their children to persecute homsexuals or oppress women or undermine their critical thinking ability by trying to teach them creationism; or if socialists teach their children that property is theft; of if some of the poor teach their children that the way to make your way in life is to milk the benefits system; of if the less ethical captain of industry teaches his children that you make your way in business by lying and cheating and gaining favours from government. The point I thought Random was making is that all we can do to counter these wrong teachings is argue against them (and of course take a more robust stance if as a result of any of these teachings the children grow up and transgress the Non-Agression Principal)

  • Jaded Voluntaryist

    Alastair, my point was that it’s only a “problem” depending on where you happen to stand.

    I teach my children several things you would likely disagree with, most notably that the universe was created by a deity. And while I disagree with the views of others on this subject, I am unwilling to stand in judgement upon them and declare it to be “wrong” for them to teach their children what they genuinely believe to be true.

    Parents, for the most part, do the best they can with what they have. I can’t bring myself to fault people for doing that.

    Once the kids are grown up they have to find their own way anyhow. As long as their parents haven’t permanently maimed them, they’ll do fine.

  • Alastair James

    JV, I certainly don’t have an issue with you teaching your children something metaphysical which I disagree with – I love a good religous/atheist argument and I couldn’t have them if no one was religious! However I would hope that you also teach your children that there are other points of view which people hold sincerely. I would also hope that you make it clear to them that as they grow up they should form their own opinions. I hope you let them know that should they decide to become atheists you won’t love them any the less – even if you would of course seek to persuade them of the error of their ways. If as a result of your beliefs (I obviously don’t know the details of them) you are also teaching them that God hates homosexuals and that women are subservient to men I would certainly think that was a problem. And if as a result of that as adults they infringe the (negative) human rights of homosexuals and women then I would feel within my rights to seek to do something about that. And if they committed such acts as minors then I would hold you to account (interesting side issue – in an anrcho-capitalist world, who decides when someone is a minor or a responsible adult). I also think that there is a huge difference between those religous parents who pass on their metaphysical views to their children in a way which allows for debate and those who at a very young age put the fear of God and hellfire and damnation into them should they ever stray from the path of righteousness. The latter in my view are not discharging their responsibilities as guardians of their children in an ethical way. But I think it would be even more dangerous for a Government to regulate what parents teach their kids because that can impact all of us not just the few with unfortunate parents. I suspect (hope?) we don’t disagree much (except of course on the metaphysics). But I do think it’s important that we recognise that just because we don’t think the state should regulate education, that doesn’t mean some things which parents teach their children aren’t a problem.

  • revver

    Several decades ago, political activists on the religious left began to put together an “ideology machine”. Public schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.

    According to the Department of Education, the public schooling student population more than doubled in between 1900 and 2007, to include millions students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to public school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from leftist fundamentalist sects, unions, avande-garde psychologists etc,. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.

  • Julie near Chicago

    revver: Yes, astute observation.

    There are stories that would curl your hair. :>)

  • Is it just me, or is the fact that these kids are doing well in colleges and universities is not necessarily a point in their favor? I’d be interested in Kim’s input on this.