December 14 - December 20, 1995


B y  T o m  D a n e h y


FEW PHRASES ELICIT as visceral a response from me as "home schooling." I'm sorry, but that whole thing strikes me as being a creepy mixture of xenophobia, racism, arrogance, paranoia and selfishness. It's the height of self-indulgence.

So foreign to me is the concept of a parent wanting to keep his child away from society that when I hear the words "home schooling," I envision a family living up on Ruby Ridge along with cousin Earl and his kids and they're all stockpilin' guns 'cause the Bible told 'em to and watchin' out for the United Nations helicopters at night. The kids get taught at home when they ain't off learnin' survivalist skills with Pa. 'Course they don't tell their kids about Christopher Columbus, 'cause he was an eye-talian. Eventually, they'll all intermarry and have kids who can play the banjo. And if they don't want to get married, they can always date the farm animals.

Now, of course, after awhile, I realize that's going too far, so I formulate a different mental picture. But even then, the best I can come up with is the exact same thing, only without the farm animals.

I'm sure there are a couple good reasons for educating a kid at home. Maybe the kid is physically unable to attend school. Or maybe y'all are Amish and your horse-drawn buggy broke down in Tucson and you decided to stay.

Unfortunately, the reasons most often given by people in this growing, selfish movement are either vaguely religious or something pertaining to the schools' environment and/or curriculum. They all sound like code words for: I don't want my kids associating with:

a. Negroes

b. Catholics

c. People who speak foreign languages

d. Gun-control proponents

e. Anyone who knows what a condom is used for

f. People who don't accept Rush Limbaugh as their personal savior

Actually, there are all kinds of rationalizations for keeping one's kids locked away from the evils of society. (And make no mistake about it: I do believe our society is partly evil.) But rather than hiding from evil, I choose to fight, first by being an active citizen, and also by turning out good, well-adjusted, socially conscious kids who can make things better for their generation. And having the kids learn how to get along with all different kinds of people at school is part of that process.

Still, people can do whatever they want. It's not like home schooling is child abuse, although it is within shouting distance. I love my kids, but I would never subject them to being around me 24 hours a day. That's nuts. Heck, the Menendez brothers were probably home schooled.

It'll be interesting to see whether this movement grows or fizzles. All I know is that I'd love to be there when Mrs. Gritz pushes little Jason out the door at age 18 and says, "Get out there in the real world, and don't forget all those neat finger-painting skills I taught you."

The Arizona Legislature, which should never be underestimated for its maximum level of stupidity, has, not surprisingly, gone out of its way to help the home schoolers. They've made it possible for virtually anybody to keep his kids out of the school system. They've eliminated the testing meant to ensure kids are making reasonable progress, and now they've paved the way for home schooling to become the height of hypocrisy.

Recently one of the dailies ran a front-page article about some home-schooled kid who's playing soccer for Palo Verde High. I couldn't believe it. They made this big deal about how he avoids gangs by watching educational videos at home. (Of course, if he were Amish, he'd have to watch those videos by candlelight.) Then he goes to the school and gets to play on a real team. It's sick.

As it turns out, the legislature made it legal for school districts to allow such a travesty, but they stopped short of mandating it. Naturally, leave it to the Tucson Unified School District to exhibit a complete lack of common sense and intestinal fortitude in letting this kid play. It's wrong for a number of reasons:

1. If you want to home-school your kid, that's your business. We've already established that. But if you want him to play ball, he should have to go to school. Otherwise, it's outrageously selfish and unfair on your part. It's the equivalent of having your cake and eating it, too.

2. All of the other kids on the team have to go to school all day and make grades in order to play. Little Jason here could study at home for one hour, practice his sport for five hours on his own and then have Mom sign a note saying he's making fine academic progress.

3. Think of the possible abuses of this system. Some kid could be a killer in basketball, but a marginal student. Mom and Dad, living vicariously through little Shaquille, take him out of school, have him work on his jump shot all day, then have him play on the high school team without his having to worry about grades and with a physical advantage over those who have to attend classes.

4. Take it a step further--say a bunch of parents get together and do the same thing, and take away the team roster spots from regular students. Don't tell me it's far-fetched; we've yet to reach the boundaries of parental indulgence when it comes to youth sports.

5. If you talk all that mess about keeping your kids away from unsavory elements, what makes sports different? They could run into a Catholic or a Hispanic person on the soccer field, and then what will you do to ease the trauma?

Home-schooling parents should have to choose. They shouldn't be allowed to have it both ways. You want to be paranoid, be paranoid. If you want to stay out of the public school system, stay all the way out of the public school system. It's like wanting to be sorta pregnant.

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December 14 - December 20, 1995

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