After a wonderful, short vacation, I was saddened to see that the first major homeschooling report to come across my screen after I returned homeÂ was a tragedy.Â I first saw it mentioned on email lists, and, of course in my Google alerts.Â In one alertÂ I found that there was a Missouri connectionÂ as well, which caught my eye as that’s where I live.Â
In the Missouri story, the homeschooling angle of the crime was mentioned in passing, which is where it belongs.Â I’ve read other reports, though, such asÂ the transcript of theÂ CNN program, Nancy Grace, that the homeschooling itself is cause for alarm:
- GRACE:Â I want to go straight out to Patricia Saunders, clinical psychologist.Â … Neither of them having been in trouble before. Dr. Saunders, what do you make of it?
PATRICIA SAUNDERS, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Well, this might be a Romeo and Juliet horror story where everything went wrong. Look, these two kids were both home schooled.
SAUNDERS:Â … And even though kids who are home schooled do go out and have other relationships, they`re really isolated from their peers, so relationships can take on an unusual intensity, kind of these hothouse relationships.
Homeschoolers are really isolated?Â With hothouse relationships of unusual intensity?Â
So what thisÂ psychologist is saying is thatÂ homeschooling relationships can be as intense as the oneÂ between two of my 1960s-eraÂ public school classmates (who later married, and I assume are now grandparents) wherein, when the young lady’s Air Force fatherÂ retired away from the area to another state, she was so inconsolablyÂ distraught that the family moved back (rumor had it that the parentsÂ sold the house they’d just bought)?Â
Relationships between homeschooledÂ teen boys and girlsÂ can be that intense?Â Wow.Â Katie bar the door.
My point is that teenagers-in-generalÂ can have relationships that are hothouse-intense.Â Anyone who’s ever been in the girls’ restroom at a dance where boyfriend-things didn’t go quite as planned for one of the attendees, can attest to that,Â as didÂ Leslie Gore in theÂ song,Â "It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To."Â (I can’t speak for what happens in the boys’ restroom, although I’ve seen one or twoÂ eye-opening occurrences between young soldiers that have made me sit up, take notice, and moveÂ away from theÂ area until after the MPs carted off the main participants.)
It matters not where the teens are matriculating, only that they’re teens.Â
- Charleston Gazette, Knight Ridder Newspapers September 27, 2000, Teen Recklessness Linked to Still-Developing Brains
The brain does reach about 95 percent of its maturation by age 5. But the corpus callosum, a cable of nerves that connect the right and left halves of the brain, continues growing beyond 20-something. The corpus callosum is linked to intelligence, consciousness and self- awareness.
The prefrontal cortex matures the most between the ages of 12 and 20.
Add to this brew of disconnected neurons a healthy dose of active hormones spiked with the power of peer pressure and a need for autonomy. That’s a recipe for teen-age behavior that at times is risky at best.
It doesn’t even matter ifÂ they’reÂ not in love,Â or whether the kids are evenÂ American.Â The teens are human, and humans of all agesÂ get themselves into terrible situations.Â Enough teen-related tragedy happens for a phobia about them to have a name, ephebiphobia, but the author of the article linked a few words agoÂ under "not in love" says:
- Los Angeles Times, Sunday Opinion, 21 April 2002, The New Demons: Ordinary Teens
Journalists and commentators who claim weâ€™re imperiled by a teen apocalypse rely on isolated cases, a selective morality, historical amnesia and sheer illogic to spin their tale of an entire generation gone bad. If such a tactic were used against any other group, it would be branded hate speech.
And that’s how I see theÂ focus on homeschooling by some reporters ofÂ the Pennsylvania tragedy.Â
LivesÂ were cut short in a shocking manner, and the remaining years of all those related to the two teens will be scarred, not because of homeschooling or because of any other incidental feature of their lives, butÂ because of who these people were, their relationships with each other, and how they chose to act.Â We’ll find out details as time passes, and probably see aÂ condensed version of the events in a television mini-series, or maybe a crime programÂ episode ‘based on true events but not representing any individuals.’Â The draft screenplay has probably already been sketched out, emailed, and is being cast.Â We’ll watch it, remember our ‘current events’ for a moment, forget it, and they’ll keep living the nightmare for the rest of their lives.
Short of having the entire populationÂ effectively controlled by perfect controllers (which religions try to do, with mixed results), bad choices are made, both in ignorance and on purpose,Â andÂ tragedies happen.Â Would there be ‘history’ if such things didn’t occur?
As homeschooling spreads into the ‘general population’ (as if that’s not already where it is), and if the numbers continue to grow, there will be a rise in the same kinds of problems that already afflict humanity, and have afflicted usÂ all along.Â I only hope the rise takes a very long time.