What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
Because I’ve written several books along with hundreds of articles, op-eds, and other material all dealing with politics, economics, history, and religion, people often assume that my educational background deals with these subjects.
The truth is quite different—I strongly disliked, and performed poorly in, these types of courses in school. I didn’t write well at all, and couldn’t stand English class. I majored in Information Technology and became a web developer. I often wished I could have been spared my “general education” coursework and be allowed to focus on the subjects that I found interesting and worthwhile.
Upon graduating from college I had massive amounts of free time on my hands. There was no more homework, no more assignments, no more summer classes, no more reading requirements. I was liberated! No longer required to think about and invest my energy in issues other people deemed important, I began to spend time thinking about issues that I wanted to learn more about and better understand.
I began to research subjects that I found interesting, and my studies led off in myriad tangential directions; I pursued what I wanted to pursue, when I wanted to pursue it. This laissez-faire educational process ultimately led to a developing interest in the very things I disliked and performed poorly in while in school: politics, economics, history, and religion.
As I researched, I wanted to share my developing opinions with others—so I started a blog. As my readership increased, I realized that I needed to write better. I needed to master persuasive writing. Almost subconsciously, I observed how authors whose books I was reading would construct their arguments, and I began to pattern mine after them. I became a good writer not by reading textbooks about the English language and mastering its dry semantics (who cares about the conditional use cases of the past subjunctive?), but through observation and imitation.
Put more simply, I learned to write well because I needed to. It was a means to an end—that end being the ability to persuade others to agree with my arguments. In school, subjects are often taught as ends unto themselves; one learns something for the sake of learning something. At best, students are told that general education topics may (emphasis on the may) be useful to them at some future point in time.
So I now enjoy and do well in the very topics I couldn’t stand in school. Educational freedom is what changed it all for me—and its late arrival in my life is not something I’d like to repeat for my children. It’s a gift I’d like to ensure they possess and utilize from a young age. As such, our children will not attend government schools.
I know many homeschooling families. I’m troubled by what I see in many of them, where the parents effectively recreate in the home what exists in government schools: a rigid curriculum created by a faceless organization, segmented into various time increments throughout the day. While clearly better than the public school setting, this is not educational freedom. It’s not purposeful learning, which is what I desire for my children.
My children did not spontaneously come into existence upon birth. They are children of God, and their spirits have existed for quite some time. As such, they have their own identities; my children have talents, passions, and preferences. Why would I want to suppress that? Why would I project onto my children what society believes they should think and learn and do? For that matter, why would I want to project what I think upon them? I don’t want a clone or a drone—I want my children to discover who they are.
To discover that, they’ll need freedom. They’ll need the ability to pursue their interests, develop their talents, and discover the path God intends them to follow. They’ll need unfettered access to the resources I can provide them in order to research, experiment, and innovate. They’ll need support from their parents, yes, but also other competent individuals who are experts in their craft. I want my children to learn from those who do, rather than those who have a certificate to teach about doing.
They’ll understand the world around them by being a part of it—not by reading about it in an approved textbook in a bureaucratic, highly regimented institution. They will interact with people of different ages and backgrounds, rather than being forced into groups of similarly aged children whose interests and abilities they neither relate to nor share. If they want to learn about a topic for several hours, they won’t be hearing a bell after 45 minutes telling them to close their book and move on to something else.
My children’s curriculum will be what they want, when they want it. As a concerned parent I will expose my children to ideas and information that I believe are important and true, but if they would rather read about penguins or rockets or combustion engines, then that’s what we’ll focus on. They will be free.
Most schools today have become industrialized factories of mass production where the ideal is not to educate and inform, but to produce a homogeneous output of submissive cogs to be placed into a master-planned machine. Conformity, rather than individuality, is the fundamental requirement of success in such a system. As a parent, I can’t think of anything worse to force upon my children.
Educational freedom will require energy, creativity, experimentation, patience, and planning. It won’t be easy, and it won’t be something we will be able to delegate to anybody else. But having seen what it has done for me—how it literally has changed the course of my life, and the lives of others who have been influenced by my writings and efforts—I can’t help but demand the same for my own children.
A Spanish translation of this post can be accessed here.