Sunday, July 10, 2005

...and the Award for Snarkiest Letter of the Year goes to...

Earlier I said "For crying out loud, don't write letters." Fortunately, Dominick Cancilla (homeschool parent and husband to Deborah Markus of Killer Brownie fame) doesn't listen to me. He wrote:
Mr. Arnold:

I just read your article, "Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs," at NEA.org and I wanted to tell you that you hit it right on the head! There really is no reason to educate children at home, and certainly parents need to recognize that they have to rely on others more expert than themselves for many aspects of child rearing. These parents who question teachers' ability to teach are the same ones who "protect" their kids from "harmful exposure" by censoring their television watching and trust what they read in books or on the Internet more than they trust a doctor's advice!

Teachers are professionals who have years of training in how to handle a room full of children. What parent could do that? And if a family has only a few kids, a child can easily get so much individual attention that it will have no idea how to operate on its own in the real world!

Teachers also are versed in a wide variety of subjects, unlike parents. How many parents know enough about the subjects taught in grade school to teach them all? I certainly doubt that these poor, misguide parents can read and do math with enough proficiency to pass a grade-school-level standardized test, and you can't learn that kind of thing from a book!

And socialization -- don't even get me started! No matter how many play dates and group classes or field trips a homeschooler participates in, there are so many lessons that a child can only learn on a public-school playground! This is where kids learn to stick up for themselves, where they discover their place in society, and where they find out who their real friends are. I got a lot of teasing myself when I was in grade school, and the teachers didn't make a big deal every time someone called me a name like my mom would have if she were always hanging around. I learned pretty quickly that I had to take care of these things myself instead of trying to get "authority" to take care of them, and knowing that I need to look out for number one has served me very well in the business world. If I'd been homeschooled, I'd probably let people walk all over me instead of putting them in their place where they belong! And how will a homeschooler, without school-yard experience, know how to handle some idiot who cuts them off in traffic? What'll they do -- just let it go?

I recently read an article about a 13-year-old girl who was taken away from her family and put in a mental institution with no contact with anyone because she had behavioral problems in school. If that kid was homeschooled, would her parents have given her the isolation and anti-psychotic drugs she needed? And how will kids learn how to deal with cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol if they are homeschooled? Not that kids should be using this stuff of course, but if you keep kids completely sheltered from them, they're going to go nuts with the stuff when they become adults. The same is true about sex -- isn't that too important a subject to be left to parents to teach? Again, what does a parent know about sex that a teacher doesn't know much better, particularly if the parent is just going to blindly teach abstinence or have some other unrealistic expectation!

You're completely spot on about religion in schools, too. Parents should be fighting to get their schools more in line with proper religious beliefs instead of denying their child a real education. And you're also right about the stupidity of retreating from a fight. Who ever won a battle by boycotting? Gandhi? Now there's a man who didn't spend enough time on the school yard!

Finally, I think your best point is that teachers are the ones who are best motivated to do the best job possible. Parents are likely more interested in just keeping things running and avoiding problems than making sure that their kids get the best possible education! Teachers have job reviews based on how their students performed on standardized tests, for example, and homeschooling parents have no incentive to teach their kids this important skill. Teachers also are motivated to move their kids through the system, to avoid "controversial" behavior that might lead to a pointless lawsuit, and to get their kids to learn instead of wasting time with a bunch of unimportant questions. What parent has any of these?

Somehow I doubt that the true believers in homeschooling will be swayed by your article, but that's their loss. I'm pleased that someone with your obvious intelligence and standards is a custodian of our children. Thank you again for the revealing and entertaining article.

No, wait! There's more. Mr. Arnold responded (in full, unedited):

Dear Dominick,

I deeply appreciate hearing from you and receiving your fantastic comments and compliments concerning my article on the fallacies of home schooling. As you likely gathered from my article, it is a subject that is truly a thorn in my side.

I'm acquainted with a couple that have adopted two very cute and fairly inelleligent little boys, but they are turning them into social misfits by not allowing them to attend public school. The only friends they have are home schooled as well and social misfits also. They spend the great majority of their lives within the confines of their own home being home schooled so their lives won't be corrupted by the evils of this world. Perhaps their lives won't be corrupted, but it is primarily because these poor children aren't being allowed to have a life.

Again, I deeply appreciate your compliments. I often wonder if I'm getting the message across and just how it is being received. It is a fantastic boost to receive your letter. THANK YOU !!

My Sincerest
Appreciation,

Dave Arnold
We hear you loud and clear, Dave.

[still wiping tears of laughter]..."Gandhi didn't spend enough time in the school yard"...((slapping knee))...Poor Mr. Arnold. I almost feel bad for exploiting his ignorance by republishing this. Almost.

Here's your trophy, Dominick. May you long stand as a timeless memorial to snarkiness.

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