As part of Dancing in Hellfire*, I get a bit into parenting and how, to be perfectly honest, the overwhelming majority of parents in the United States are doing it wrong. There’s a reason that I don’t have children. I was married for like six years and was with the girl for two or three years prior to that, and I have only once gotten a girl pregnant–and that was a legit accident, and only a year or so ago. Against my wishes, she aborted; c’est la vie.
It’s not that I don’t want children, or that my sexual identity or orientation get in the way of that; neither of these things are factors. For the longest, it was that I wanted to be able to give the child a stable home life, and there were so many things that I still wanted to do. When I was married, I was playing in a rock band and trying to make something happen with that, while going to college and building a career. This is where I diverged from a large chunk of my generation, as it seems that many, many people in my generation thought that it was their life’s purpose to start pumping out children as soon as they finished high school. Honestly, I’m one of about five people I know my age who don’t have children, and almost everyone else has one or two children, most of which are about ten years old, some even older.
Most parents would gladly say that their primary focus is what is best for their children, but the sky high divorce rate in the United States tells a different story. I’m no traditionalist–obviously–and don’t care if you’ve got two men, two women, or a goddamned lesbian witch coven raising a family; the important aspect is stability. That’s not the end-all-be-all, of course, since there must also be love and attention, and that’s my next point. The high divorce rate shows that stability is not a concern for most parents in the nation, and if stability isn’t a primary focus then the children aren’t a primary focus.
It was difficult enough to juggle my time with my spouse. I have a lot of hobbies. I make music–you can click the embedded music players to hear it. I’m a writer, and try to write daily articles. I’ve written three novels, two nonfiction manuscripts, and miscellaneous short stories. I’m a reviewer with Cubed3 and an editor with the same site, and occasionally I write guest articles for places like eBuyer. The only really pointless hobby that I have is playing video games, and those don’t really take up much of my time these days. It helped that my ex-wife played games, too, because we could spend time together playing games. Oh, god, the thousands of hours in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Party, Mario Kart, and World of Warcraft that we put in together. Not to mention Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and just about any game that we could play together.
Which of those was I willing to give up in order to give my time instead to a child? None of them. I can’t help myself but write, and if I don’t regularly make music I act increasingly weird and become melancholic.
And that’s where parents get things wrong. They don’t have that mindset. They don’t think they have to sacrifice their time. I know one guy who goes to work every morning before his sons wake up, returns home and… watches television. His wife helps their son with their homework, but there was a years-long period where the husband would sit in one room of the house while the son sat in another, each watching a different television, while the kid was like 5 years old. This guy would say there’s nothing more important to him than his kids, but that can’t possibly be true. He preferred television so much that he and his son sat in different rooms every evening while the mother was at work.
Although that’s probably an extreme example, nearly every parent I’ve ever met is at least similar to that. Dealing with the child is a hassle. The child asking a question is met not with “Yes, love?” but instead an exasperated and frustrated, “What?!” that the child dared speak when it wasn’t a commercial–“I’m watching Game of Thrones, goddamnit! You know you’re supposed to wait to a commercial!”
It’s a sad reflection on the state of affairs that that’s even a thing–the notion that a child should wait for a commercial to get attention from his or her parents is disgusting, but it’s so common. My parents did it, too. And I’m sure your parents had at least one show that you weren’t supposed to make noise during, unless it was a commercial. We must fall to our knees in subservience to the bright glowing box.
So what am I getting at? Because television isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom of the problem.
The problem is that we no longer have any fucking idea what parenting is, so go ahead click play to this next one, and I’ll let you in on a little secret.
There is no difference between teaching and child-raising, between educating and parenting.
Parents delegate so much of their responsibility and facetime with the child to schools, totally failing to grasp the significance of what they’re doing. For the average kid, though, assuming a 6:00 AM wake time and a 9:00 PM bedtime, the child will spend equal time with the school as with the parents. But that time with the parents won’t actually be spent with the parents. Dad’s gonna watch television, mom’s gonna cook dinner, and somewhere along the way one of them might actually sit down for twenty minutes and complete the laborious, tedious task of helping the kid with his homework.
And let’s not forget that the average child watches, if I recall correctly, four hours of television a day, while the average American watches five fucking hours of television every single day. These are gargantuan amounts of time to be sitting down and doing nothing. But, again, this isn’t about television. Or is it? It may be, but I’ll discuss it another day. Regardless, the child will get home from work, eat a snack, and jump straight on something with a screen for the next several hours. There’s no parenting going on, no direct one-to-one time with the child, no going for a walk and spending time in nature.
People talk of homeschooling as though it’s some bizarre, unusual thing, and let me tell you–I don’t see parenting or education the way most people do.
See, I think the public school’s only useful function is to serve as a daycare while the adults are at work–an unfortunate reality of life in the United States, but a reality all the same. The knowledge that it teaches is so slowly conveyed that it takes 12 years to cover ground that other countries cover in only six. This is really hard to explain, so let me tell you why I advocate homeschooling, why I don’t yet have kids, by telling you what it will be like when I do have a kid.
I see the kid and me walking through the woods, stopping for me to explain why the leaves are normally green, and why they’ve turned brown–educating the kid and parenting. Because, again, they’re one and the same. The teachers at your kids’ school are parenting your kids. Whether they mean to be or not, whether you’re aware of it or not, and whatever euphemisms we use, that basic fact remains.
“No, Johnny, it’s wrong to hit people. You don’t get recess today.”
Kids are not just getting dry science facts and learning math. They’re learning the rules of our society, they’re learning our moral values, and they’re gaining role models, learning how to live and function. They’re being raised, and they’re simply being taught science, math, reading, and stuff through that process. There is no way to separate the two. Public education is turning your kids over to the state to be raised, and it can never be anything else. It never stops at just education, because it cannot stop at just education, unless you hire a private tutor who you give explicit instructions to avoid all subjects besides math, science, and language.
Parents in the United States turn their kids over to the state and then bear almost no responsibility for it. They pat themselves on the backs for being great parents, when the school has done at least as much parenting, and probably more, given that the television eats up so much of the time at home. It’s always a boarding school, but the roles are reversed–the school is the child’s true home, and the place with the parents is just where the kid watches television and sleeps. The place where the child is raised, brought up to be a fine, upstanding cog in the machine–that is the school. And the parents play almost no role in it.
There is a stigma against homeschooling for a few reasons. First, some parents use it as an excuse to utterly fail their children and shirk their responsibility to raise their children. I knew a few kids like this growing up, who were “homeschooled.” Except they weren’t. They didn’t have any school.
That’s rare, though. The real reason is that it makes the other parents feel like shit, because they know–they must know on some level, deep down inside–that they’ve effectively turned their parenting duties over to strangers. Because they didn’t put their kids first, they react in anger and hostility to people who did, because those people inadvertently hold up a mirror into which they have to look. “Oh, I’d love to homeschool my kids, but I just don’t have the time…”
I love that argument, though, that it turns kids into weird, isolated socially awkward rejects.
That’s so true, you know? Because everyone knows that before the Department of Education, we were a society full of weird, isolated socially awkward rejects. This happens with almost everything that the government does. The government took over mail delivery–“But how will we get our mail without the government? We need the government, or we can’t have mail!”
“But muh roads! OMG WHO WILL BUILD THE ROADS”
Libertarians hate roads.
So now we have “public education,” which basically means that I, a person without kids, get to pay for the education and parenting costs of other people’s kids. And when I challenge them on this, they reply that they just can’t imagine any other way that they could possibly have education for their children–partially because they lack the time to educate their children.
I’m sorry, what?
Isn’t that kind of like the mother of four who is pissed off and angry at the world because she can’t afford to feed her family with her minimum wage Wal-Mart paycheck? What happened to individual responsibility, foresight, and thinking shit through? “Should I have children? Well, hm… I don’t really have time to properly raise the child. So… No.”
People say this shit with a straight face, man. We can’t abolish the public school system, because they don’t have the time to homeschool–they don’t have the time to be parents. And I’ll give it to you that one won’t be able to devote 24 hours a day to being a parent, and no one is asking anyone to do that, but the idea that someone with a child doesn’t have the time to homeschool is both stupid and wickedly irresponsible. It’s the equivalent of saying, “But I need my foodstamps, because otherwise I can’t feed my kids.”
What is the matter with such people? Why would someone have children that they can’t fucking feed? This is where sympathy becomes nihilistic, because if we send our minds back to early homo sapien, what would have become of a woman who had four kids, no specific mate, and no way of acquiring food for her four kids? That irresponsible, reckless behavior would have caused her death–but probably not the kids’, honestly, because our species has never been able to turn away from crying children in a wide enough scale for it to matter, and it’s a red herring to demand 100% anything–and her kids would have seen that and said, “Shit. We better not be great big fuck ups like mom was, because that didn’t work out very well for her.”
Similarly, why would anyone have children that they don’t have time for? They do have time, though. We all have 24 hours in a day–16 minus sleep. So that bullshit that someone doesn’t have time? Yeah, that’s bullshit. We all have exactly the same amount of time in every given day as everyone else. No one has more or less time than anyone else. If anyone has ever had time to properly raise their children, then it means, ipso facto, that everyone has the time to properly raise their children.
What they really mean is that other things are a higher priority, and they aren’t willing to give up part of their time and spent it raising their children. They don’t say that, but they can’t possibly mean anything else, because, as I said, we all have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else. I don’t have five more hours in each day than other people, and homeschooling parents didn’t manage to magically conjure up 31 hour days.
So I don’t really advocate homeschooling.
I advocate people taking responsibility and owning up to their decisions and choices. I advocate people having the self-awareness to say, “You know what? I do have the time. I just can’t be bothered. Tell you what, why don’t you pay for my kids?”
The first step of fixing our supremely messed up society is to drop the euphemisms. There’s no such thing as “public education.” There’s only sending kids off for other people to raise so that the parents don’t have to. We can examine whether or not it’s actually necessary for some parents to do this, and we can discuss whether it’s beneficial to the parents and children for it to happen, but before we can discuss that, we have to call a spade a spade. Public schools aren’t “educating” children. They’re raising children.
What is really the difference between homeschooling and public schooling? In real terms, the difference is that in the former the child is raised outside of the state apparatus; in the latter, the child is raised communally. I’m not here making the argument that either one is really better than the other, although I would certainly say–based on mostly gut feelings, though–that homeschooling is vastly superior to public schooling, because the parent knows the child as an individual and can cater directly to the child’s needs, while the teachers cannot. If a child is to be taught to their potential, then that is a task that only the parents can accomplish.
* I heard back from the agent about two weeks ago, informing me that she had a very busy end of the year and hadn’t read it yet, but that she is going to and will get back to me. That’s twice now that my instinct about this agent were correct, which I take as a good indicator she’ll ultimately take it.