Home Schooling and Socialization
By David Henderson
David Friedman has an excellent comment on home schooling and socialization, in response to another commenter, on Bryan Caplan’s recent post. Here are my thoughts, two excerpts from “Freedom and Education Versus ‘Public’ Schools,” Chapter 16 of my book, The Joy of Freedom: An Economist’s Odyssey.
We should become modern abolitionists, like the abolitionists of the nineteenth century who demanded the end of slavery, and for similar reasons. Abolition brings an end to the government’s role in schools, which means four things: the end of compulsory attendance; the end of government control of content; the end of government control of who teaches; and the end of the government’s practice of taxing some people to pay for other people’s children to go to school. With the end of government’s role, learning would flourish. I can’t tell you how. No one can. I can tell you what I think is unlikely: classes every day in big buildings from 8:30 to 3:00, or, in the case of our local government middle school, from 8:13 to 2:40. The beauty and the power of freedom is that different people use their freedom differently to produce all kinds of results, results that they themselves, and certainly the rest of us, can’t predict. I can make some educated guesses though.
If freedom of education were restored, I would expect to see formal schooling occur more often on a part-time basis, giving children time to explore, with their parents or other mentors, the world around them, including the world of work. Many successful adults report that one of the most valuable learning experiences was their part-time jobs when they were teenagers, or, in some cases, preteens. One of my best work experiences, for example, was hunting for golf balls on the local course and selling them to golfers. I learned about the relation between effort and reward. I learned, by trial and error, where to find the maximum number of golf balls in a given amount of time. I learned some minimal negotiating skills. I also learned about exchange rates because the golf course was in Canada and many of the golfers were Americans. During years when the Canadian dollar was worth a few pennies more than the U.S. dollar, I insisted on those few pennies when they paid in me in U.S. funds. (In years that the U.S. dollar was worth slightly more and they asked if I would accept U.S. funds, I said, “Sure.”) And I learned all this between ages 8 and 13. I would bet that many parents would let their children use some of their freed-up time to take part-time jobs. Some children would even take apprenticeships. If you wanted to make movies, for example, think about how much you could learn, at age 15, by being a gofer on a movie set.
And finally, after listing 5 ways to free children from the clutches of government, I write:
Finally, if you have teenagers or preteens, or if you are a teenager, open yourself to a new possibility. People say that the reason teenagers are so hard to get along with is that that stage “is part of growing up.” But, then, why don’t teenagers have the same problems when they work at a summer job or a part-time job during the school year? They are exposed to lots of people, often within a wide age range, but they aren’t treated cruelly, and they don’t treat others cruelly, nearly as frequently. Could their better attitude be the result of three facts: they are free to quit that job; the other people at the job typically want to be there; and there’s not as much time for cruelty when you’re trying to be productive? Teenagers treating other teenagers cruelly is part of growing up⎯when compulsory schooling is part of growing up.
Update: If you found the above compelling and/or interesting, as many of the commenters seemed to, then check my follow-on post. But be warned: the content can be upsetting.