Monday, September 15, 2014

Homeschooling and the walls of Jerusalem

In this millennial world, about twenty years after we first lost ourselves in homeschooling in that pre-Internet era back there with the dodo bird, public education bounces around (more than ever) between union power struggles (as my should-be-starting-second-grade nephew in B.C. has found out), billionaire buyouts (as The Common Room reports), and never-ending struggles with philosophy and course content.  And this is mostly in the "first world," where it comes down to those who do want to paradigm-shift their way out of what some call the industrial-revolution or Prussian models of education...and those who don't.  In other parts of the world, more chaotic, often less affluent, but also less bound by teachers' unions, less tied to the big-red-schoolhouse tradition, there seems more room for innovation.

Sounds a bit like North American churches, but that's another post.

I'm thinking about our family's almost two decades of living, to a large extent, on the fringes of the educational system, at least regarding the elementary schools.  (For those who don't know us, one of our older girls went through the Ontario public high school system, the other is still there.)  Our goal, all along, has been to let the power of ideas change us (and I had never seen a Ted Talk video until a year ago).  It has not been to line up with the government schools. Mortimer J. Adler in How to Read a Book says that a reader must come to terms with an author, that is, to make sure that they are (so to speak) on the same page in vocabulary and terminology, that he's not getting left behind in the discussion by a failure to understand how that author uses language.  I feel like that happens a whole lot of the time, still after twenty years, millennial or not, when we talk about school.  All you have to do is read the comments after any major online article or video about homeschooling, and watch the insults and misconceptions flying free.  If I haven't paid a lot of attention to public education over the past two decades, the commenters equally haven't paid enough attention to where homeschooling has come from and where it might be going.

And of course, why should they care, and, equally, why should I care at all what some dingbat in a faraway American state thinks about homeschoolers' right to exist?

It reminds me of a passage from Nehemiah that was read in our church yesterday.  Nehemiah got a government grant (along with royal permission) to go spearhead the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, that, as our pastor put it, Nebuchadnezzar had previously done such a fine thorough job of knocking down.  Each family living near each part of the wall worked on "their" section, and somehow they managed to get the whole thing rebuilt in fifty-two days. That included all the time they had to waste fighting off their opponents and enemies.  But they did it, each one taking responsibility and then joining their work together. A ground-up job.  Like a lot of homeschoolers and small-schoolers, they just did what needed to be done, and then had a great party at the end.

Imagine if all that wall-building was planned out by one of our current urban construction planning departments? They'd probably still be at it.  And if the educational walls were planned out by...oh, you see where I'm going with this?

In Nehemiah's day, enemies tried to stop the building of city walls.  In our day, years after all the educational fuss should have stopped, some people still challenge our builders' permits. I wish they could stop hollering long enough to pay attention and watch how it's done. Lay on a few bricks instead of throwing them. Watch what kinds of wall-building are popping up around the world, and maybe learn some new construction ideas. What's been broken down and left to crumble can be put back together, even by those of us who didn't go to masonry school. The world is changing and that doesn't mean we need less DIY, it means we need more. More Nehemiahs to kick off the projects.  More local team leaders to connect the workers. More brave souls to just pick up the bricks or the rocks and do what needs doing.

More to plan the party and blow the horns.
(It doesn't have to be just about our own families; there are projects and schools and learning needs everywhere.)


Susan Raber said...

As much as our society claims to embrace diversity and individuality, it is clear that when anyone dares to go against the cultural flow, they will be met with name-calling and shin-kicking.

Max Weismann said...
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