The Daily Beast has a story about homeschooled kids who have grown up and are blogging about their negative experiences. I didn’t have the kind of negative experiences that those kids had, although I’ve definitely seen the kinds of problems that the article discusses. I think most of us who have grown up in homeschool circles have seen the problems and have stories we could tell–stories like the time I overheard moms at homeschool skate talking about how they weren’t going to teach their daughters algebra because they didn’t need math to be a stay at home wife and mother. What jumped out at me though, was this quote from the article:
Now the first wave of kids raised in these homes has reached adulthood. Many were trained to be activists, to argue, to question the verities of the dominant culture. Debating skill is hugely important in many homeschool circles, because it’s seen as a crucial tool of Christian apologetics. (Patrick Henry, the Virginia college for homeschoolers that Farris founded, has a moot-court team that has twice defeated Oxford’s Balliol College.) The movement’s leaders never intended, though, for students to turn their prowess against the culture they were raised in. “Michael Farris, his whole idea was creating this cultural army. The finishing point of everything was supposed to be debate,” says Stollar, 28.
I’ve written before about how I’d applied to do the HSLDA intern program after high school, and how in retrospect I’m glad I didn’t get it. The above quote rings so true to me because the great irony of the fundamentalist homeschool world is that they told us we were the activists who were going to change the country–that was a common theme in World Mag articles about homeschooling, and definitely so in the HSLDA newsletter–and well, things didn’t quite work out how they expected. For me, personally, the activist streak that I have came from my parents, but the messages of the homeschool world definitely reinforced that. You’re going to grow up, go out and change America and the world, and it’s because you’re an extra special homeschooler who has been trained to be different that you’re going to be able to pull it off.
I’m a living example of the irony of what they set out to create versus what they actually got when we grew up. When I was browsing the amicus briefs filed in Hollingsworth v. Perry (a.k.a. the Prop 8 case) and came across the brief that Mike Farris filed for Patrick Henry College arguing the constitutionality of Prop 8, the irony was obvious. As I’ve mentioned before, I worked on a brief that was arguing that Prop 8 should be found unconstitutional. My first experience with constitutional law was the con law book that Mike Farris wrote and sold to homeschoolers through HSLDA. It’s what first showed me that law was something I might be interested in. That was the goal of the book–to get homeschoolers to be interested in law so that we’d go off to law school and get ourselves involved in the culture war. And hey, I learned my lesson well and concluded that law was interesting stuff, and went off to law school where I found myself in the culture war but, as in all great ironies, on the other side. Not just the theoretical other side either, but quite literally working on a brief that argues the opposite side from Mike Farris in one of the biggest culture war Supreme Court cases in a generation.
So thanks, Mike Farris and HSLDA, you put me on the path to where I am today. Just not in the way you wanted. The irony is delicious.