The Onion is a satirical newspaper, but sometimes it comes uncomfortably close to the truth. Consider this headline: Increasing Number Of Parents Opting To Have Children School-Homed.
Confused? Remember that it’s a twist on the term “home-schooled.” As in “school that takes place at home.” In the twist, we have “home life that takes place at school.”
Here is the lead sentence of this “news” article:
“According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home.”
There’s plenty in that sentence to appeal to a wide swath of people, including teachers and administers (seeking to deflect attention away from poor test scores) and socially conservative parents (who say that schools undermine parental authority).
The story continues: “Deputy Education Secretary Anthony W. Miller said that many parents who school-home find U.S. households to be frightening, overwhelming environments for their children, and feel that they are just not conducive to producing well-rounded members of society.”
In other words, public schools are not about imparting knowledge and teaching academic skills as much as they are about providing socialization opportunities.
To be sure, there’s plenty of blame to be laid on the feet of parents: “In addition to providing better supervision and overall direction, school-homing has become popular among mothers and fathers who just want to be less involved in the day-to-day lives of their children.”
For their part, school and political leaders (such as former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius) eagerly embrace schools as tools of childrearing through measures such as taxpayer-funded early childhood education. They hope (sometimes against hope) that getting children into the public school system earlier and earlier, and wrapping more social services around them, will produce beneficial results, not the least of which is that school test scores improve and the achievement gap narrows.
There’s a longer column of mine waiting to break out of this little post, and maybe it will come in time. We certainly do expect schools to do too much. I have a feeling that increased school choice would help address some of the real issues hidden in the satirical article. For if there’s one thing that public school (with its lack of choice) encourages, it’s cynicism and apathy. After all when was the last time you were able to exert influence over a political institution of any significance?