Friday, May 05, 2006
Stunned

A client of mine is a young girl home-schooled by her mother.

I have never been a defender of home-schooling; while public schools run amok with standardized tests and fisticuffs and courtesy officers willing to tazer students, I believe public schools are important to the growth and development of the average child. If a family is fortunate enough to afford private school, then I hope it isn't one of those crazed church schools where sex education is a dirty word, and Bible class is the epitome of education. The alternative to these two options is this notion of home-schooling.

Home-schooling is the equivalent of repressive parents continuing to repress their children. Why someone who never went to college is permitted to be responsible for her child's education is beyond me. And in this particular situation, I fail to understand how one woman could possibly be able to provide the specific education necessary for a child with special needs. Yet, some parents claim it is a safer, truer, and more hands-on approach to the social stifling necessary in rearing a healthy, repressed, narrow-minded individual.

The loudest argument of home-schooling parents? "It's my right to teach my child as I see fit."

But getting back to specifics: This client's mother is a bit loopy. The first time we met, I was lectured on God's amazing grace and the Power of Heaven and all that good stuff. Mom X was also open in telling me about her ex-husband, who was possessed by evil spirits and took to abusing prescription drugs. He left the family and withdrew any rights to be with his children. This is very sad. I felt very sorry for the children; two of the three possess that charming 'Leave it To Beaver' friendliness, with manners that would make Miss Good Housekeeping smile.

Yesterday, I perched on the sofa of this woman's home and talked about her daughter, who has taken to some rather anti-social behavior. She picks her nose in public and ingests the results. She is fourteen years old. She is doing this on purpose, said her mother, to embarrass her siblings.

Yeah, I'm thinking, anything to be different.

And as we sit, discussing this child's behavior, the youngest daughter comes in and takes a book off the shelf. It is Anne of Avonlea. I mentioned to this young girl how impressed I was to see her reading such a light classic.

This young girl said to me, "Well, I would like to read some of the Harry Potter books..." when she was interrupted by Mom X.
"We don't read trash in this home."

Mom went on to explain that her children were only permitted to read 'the classics'. Any book that was written before 1960 is permissible.
She said, "But because the 60's ruined our culture, and perverted our sense of literature, and raped the ideals of America, I will not permit my children to read anything published after 1960."

Shock.
And.
Appall.

FIRSTLY, I would suggest that the "Anne of ...." series is hardly considered a classic series in keeping with what makes classics, classics.


SECONDLY, I believe that true classics (The Brothers Karamazov, A Tale of Two Cities, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Great Gatsby) are all works of reveal, and all articulate a social import. That is: classics are considered classics because they introduce important social concepts to the world. We read classics because they show evolution in our culture.


THIRDLY, can she REALLY suggest that Jack Kerouac (even though I hate him, I respect him), Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, and Harper Lee did NOT contribute to the society?


FOURTHLY, Edith Wharton writes about suicide in her book Ethan Frome. Is this, then, appropriate reading material for gentle, innocent babes? Nay. But the classics are rich with violence, intrigue, sin.

I sat there, with my nose piercing and my tattoos, and wondered how a woman just into her forties could assert that nothing good has come out of the last forty years of social change in this country. I called my parents after this episode and relayed the whole thing.

In short, I am so fortunate to be raised among the true literate elite, where just about any book was better than no book, and a book that questions norms, mores, and accepted fact is a catalyst for growth. I just hope Mom X and her children will one day come across Catch-22, A Separate Peace, or The Lord of the Flies. And I hope these classics will make a mark on this family as they've made marks on me.

It frightens me to think what Mom X is teaching her children. It scares me to think of their isolation. I think I shall begin an Underground Book Railroad for them, and the Hardy Boys will not be included.

Written by FRITZ
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Name: Fritz

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