Monday, November 05, 2007

Peer culture and its downsides

Back in my youth, I was a huge fan of columnist Ellen Goodman. And then, as I grew up, I wasn't. (I became more conservative. I got tired of reading her stuff and sputtering, 'I used to believe this? I used to hold this point of view?!? What was I thinking?!!' It was, on the whole, embarrassing.)

Still, though I'm no longer a fan, giving credit where credit is due, I'm pretty sure it was Ellen Goodman who cured me of my opposition to home schooling. (People who know me these days will be surprised to hear this, but back in the day I wanted home schooling to be illegal. Ahem. I'm sorry. I was wrong. Also misinformed, but that's another story.)

I suppose you might be wondering how a liberal-leaning columnist cured me of my objections to home schooling? It's simple. She wrote a column on an educational program that combined senior citizens and kids. I can no longer remember the details (perhaps it was a senior center located on a school campus???), but I remember that it involved interaction between old people and young people, and it had proved to be very good for both young and old. More to the point, she discussed in this column what we'd done to our kids - how much damage we can do to them - by segregating them in "age ghettos." That turn of phrase - age ghettos - zinged right into my brain, and I've never been able to shake it.

Looking around after that, I decided it wasn't just a catchy phrase, but one with stark truth in it. Public schools have their good points. But that whole age ghetto thing isn't one of them, in my view. And so I started to give other ways of doing things a second look. When I took another look at home schooling it was through new eyes.

See "Et tu?": The lost children for the very interesting post that prompted this post (it's not on home schooling, but on peer-oriented children and teens), and a review of the book Hold On to Your Kids, by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.

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