My girlfriend and I were out a couple of nights ago with her sister, who is a devout believer. The thing is that she's a really smart lady, and the way she uses those smarts both gives me hope and makes me worry. We're convinced that one strong, well-timed push could force her to actually examine (and therefore subsequently abandon) her faith, or could land her squarely and permanently in fundamentalist-style conspiracy-theorist crazy town. It really is the finest of lines she walks. Well the other night we had a lovely talk, and I saw glimmers of hope that rational thought and intellectual inquiry might win out… someday.
For over a year now, she's been saying that she wants to homeschool her kids. Now I have nothing too strong against homeschooling as a rule (although the national spelling bees don't do homeschooling advocates any favors…), but in her case, I could see it was going to be a problem.
|Jesus hates school more than I did…|
As with so many homeschoolers, one of the major reasons she wanted to homeschool her children was that they weren't going to get any (or enough) Jesus talk at public school. To me this was a bit of a weird argument because she's not an intelligent design freak or a literal-bible type, so there's not much public school curricula that I imagine she could object to. I tried to point out the obvious: that she would still be teaching all that religion stuff at home and at church anyway, and that pluralism of thought and experience helps a child learn to process information better, and that interaction with other kids their age would aid her children socially. I stopped short of pointing out that pretty much everybody in their entire community goes to the same church she does, so it's not like there's some danger of activist Satan-worshipping teachers tricking her kids into bad beliefs…
The truth is that my main reason for wanting to talk her out of it had nothing to do with any of that. Her kids are great, but they are way more than a handful, and she was really struggling as a parent. My thought was simply that if she was having that much trouble dealing with her kids at home all day, why the hell would she want to keep them there??? Public school is free!
Here's where religion muddies all the waters, though: she had a dark feeling about public school. Ugh. The dark feeling– the argument for which there is no counter. The intuition which you never need question, 'cause it's from god. God told her personally (though without anything so concrete as, y'know, language) that she should homeschool. Here endeth the discussion.
I HATE this crap. It is such obvious bullshit! We all have dark feelings and light feelings about things. We all have intuitive notions about situations. If we're scared or worried about something, we get a dark feeling; if we're excited or happy about something, we get a light feeling. If it's nighttime and the lights are off, we get a dark feeling; if it's daytime and the sun is out… you get the idea. This isn't divine inspiration, it's psychology.
Even if I believed in a god and that he could communicate with me I'd have to wonder: Why the fuck would god give two shits about whether or not I homeschooled my kids? I realize that there's a lot of pressure on parents because your choices for your kids could have long-term impacts and all that, but be reasonable! This is not good vs. evil here- it's my kid gets educated one way or he gets a slightly different education another way. Some public schools are great, some suck- same with parents who teach. Whichever you choose, there are pros and cons, but neither choice is sinful and neither is exalted.
Anyhoo, the upshot of my story is this: she's decided to put her kid in public school! I'll reiterate that I don't really care much whether or not she homeschools her kids. What I'm excited about is that reason and thought won out over supernatural sensations. It may not mean that she's anywhere near abandoning her beliefs, but at least we can have a conversation.
(By the way, here's another homeschooler-at-the-spelling-bee clip for your viewing terror/enjoyment)