Dropping out, hiding out and looking for answers, 21 June 2008, The Age, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The Other tells of two friends, seemingly opposites, who bond as teenagers through their passion for the outdoors. The narrator, Neil Countryman, is a public high-school student of working-class stock who follows the relatively conventional path taken by Guterson – graduating from college, marrying young and becoming a high school English teacher.
Guterson made the case for home schooling in Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (1992) and he doesn’t think parents’ emotional involvement with their children precludes them from being effective teachers. “That’s far less of a problem than what we see in public schools, where there’s no emotional relationship for the most part between most students and most teachers,” he says.
Nor does he believe that it’s important for children to socialise every day with other children their age: “In many institutionalised educational settings there’s a kind of neurotic social engagement that’s competitive and cliquish. It’s not really normal to take a whole lot of people of their own age and just force them to be together all day.”
I think “neurotic social engagement” is a fine counterpoint to “ethically servile.”