In my newspaper this morning, I read David Brooks’s column (subscription) titled, “Of Human Bonding” in which he points out the link between oxytocin and trust and bonding. I think this may be the connection I’ve been wondering about concerning homeschooling’s apparent success in educating children when homeschooling is, for the most part, an initially amateur undertaking, while public schooling is, also for the most part, run by professionals. Using Brooks’s reasoning, one difference may be oxytocin.
Good value for money
In his column, Mr. Brooks uses the example of the how the cost of organized schooling has not given a return in line with the cost. His example contrasts school funding with dropouts from that schooling: billions of dollars spent, yet a 30% dropout rate.
The spending has been going on for some time, as evidenced by a pre-NCLB article:
- Forbes.com, 29 December 1986, Are We Spending Too Much on Education?
Some 64.2 million Americans, more than a quarter of the entire population, were studying, teaching or otherwise occupied in schools and colleges in the fall of 1986. Their activities are consuming about 7% of GNP–almost exactly the same as the much-reviled defense establishment. Perhaps another 6% of GNP is spent by the military and business together on their own education and training programs.
Comparisons are difficult because of the influence of miscellaneous factors like the differing proportions of children in the population. But it is notable that spending on public and private schools and colleges was only 3.1% of GNP in 1929 and still only 3.8% in 1953, after which it started to rise.
And the amount continues to increase.
- U.S. Department of Education, 28 June 2004, Remarks by Secretary Paige at the Executive Leaders Forum, Committee of 100, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce
It’s time we recognized a central, cardinal fact: education is a big business. It is a huge part of our economy, a large segment of our gross national product. Last year, as a nation, we spent more than half a trillion dollars on K-12 education.
The best things in life are free?
How is it that without billions of dollars to spend, homeschooling families manage to get kids through the expected schooling? Instead of ‘one-on-one tutoring’ being a magic bullet, maybe it’s just caring and attachment? The attachment relationship is something that is left out of the superficial perception of homeschooling as evidenced by a Brevity cartoon (click on 7/05), a little something that was also in my newspaper this morning. The drawing is of a girl at a table with ‘school work’ in front of her, and Mom holding an achievement certificate with a “Student of the Month” star-poster on an easel. The caption reads, “As a home-schooled student, Renee found it tougher and tougher to muster any genuine surprise.”
This cartoon makes the classic mistake of those whose perception of learning is still shaped by the modern version of education: that homeschooling, too, is about books, grades, tests, competition and being ‘top dog.’ Of course little Renee wouldn’t be surprised at being “Student of the Month,” time after time, if, indeed, her mother was fool enough to use such a reward with her.
If it works for homeschoolers, will it work for everyone?
Now, is homeschooling itself a magic wand for curing the nation’s educational ills? Of course not. Mandated homeschooling would work no better than mandated public schooling, and might be much worse, which is probably what we see with ‘push outs,’ and dropouts classified as homeschoolers.
- Kay Brooks, 5 May 2005, Truancy and push outs
- Appeal-Democrat, Marysville-Yuba City, California, 13 April 2006, Student “push outs” on the rise
- Columbia Daily Tribune, Columbia, Missouri, 6 April 2006, State auditor finds schools skewing data
Mandated anything in the arena of human connections is misguided, unless parents will be required to submit to oxytocin injections to ensure bonding at the approved level, to offset parent-child distancing exacerbated by the current social expectation of full outside-the-home employment of all adults. In that case the legislators don’t have to mandate behaviors, they just have to mandate ‘vaccination’ in the name of public (mental) health. In light of the many developing mother and child mental health requirements, that possibility may not be as deep in the province of sci fi as it first seems.
- Universal Preschool, 3 July 2006, Ohio Preschool Threat
- MediLexicon, 20 April 2006, Kaiser Daily Women’s Health Policy Report Highlights Governors’ Actions In Various States (see New Jersey)
- Magic City Morning Star, Millinocket, Maine, 21 March 2006, Government’s Big Lie: The “Crisis” of Babies With Undiagnosed Mental Illness
- EdWatch, 23 November 2005, Sounding the alarm: Infant mental health
- Psychiatric Times, October 2004, Illinois Passes Controversial Child Screening Plan
- Susan Ohanian.org, 12 September 2003, Whistle-Blower Tells Houston to Face Up to Reality
- 18 October 2001, $500,000 check from Eli Lilly to Screening for Mental Health
Care and concern
Now, of course there is legitimate concern for anyone who is truly ill, and I would hope that the people who need care receive it. Yes, there are children who need help, such as children born to drug addicted mothers or to alcoholics, but to apply the reasoning that because they need help, we all need help is as biased as our majority view of the relationship of children to school.
I remember a speaker at a conference of the Episcopal churches in Europe in the mid-1990s. The man’s specialty was co-dependency and it seemed to be the filter through which he viewed all relationships (I’d Google his name if I could remember it). By the end of the week I was convinced that he thought that anyone who considered the thoughts, feelings or opinions of any other person was co-dependent. We were ALL co-dependent (and in need of his book). There was much grumbling among attendees after the conference, and he was not invited back.
Using that speaker’s line of thinking, each man either had to be an island, or wind up co-dependent. That viewpoint looks more and more, to me, how we post-modern moderns seem to stand in our relation to school. All children have to be islands-in-school, and to be brought up chiefly to relate to others-in-school.
- Statement of Dr. Joy D. Osofsky, 28 April 2004
The goal of ensuring that all children are “ready for school” has become a national priority. As a result, programs that support children’s school readiness are becoming more and more important to policy-makers, parents, and the general public. It is becoming very clear that efforts to improve school success cannot begin at preschool, nor focus exclusively on academics. In fact, studies suggest that emotional, social, and behavioral competence is a strong predictor of academic performance in elementary school.
Yes, we need to listen to respected researchers who study problems, but we aren’t all problems and we don’t have to be weighed and measured only in our relation to bureaucratic organizations.
I’ve yet to work out how to apply what I see as ‘homeschool think’ to all homeschoolers, much less to unfortunate parents whose idea of family doesn’t include nurturing adults imbued with a deep sense of responsibility for the welfare of their children. How to apply a homeschool ethos to public agencies whose focus is cohorts of children, not Jamal-as-Jamal, Lourdes-as-Lourdes, or William-as-William, still lies deeply in sci fi land for me. I can only hope that the idea that David Brooks broached in his column, helping “mothers and fathers secure bonds with their infants,” expands to include the toddlers, young children, children and teens of those parents as well.