the homeschooling discussion
Tue, 21 Oct 1997 17:01:32 -0400 (EDT)

There is an ugly undercurrent in the ongoing discussion about
homeschooling, and related topics, that I have encountered often in other
contexts, and that I deeply regret seeing surface in this particular
It has to do with a peculiar double standard, which allows everyone to
discuss freely the pros and cons of any subject, and offer whatever
criticisms they wish, in the name of open discussion -- and which at the same
time severely takes to task people from Sudbury Valley who dare to offer
criticism of other modes of education. When a member of the Sudbury Valley
community venture to find fault with homeschooling (and not all members of
the SVS community agree on this, by a longshot), or with this or that other
form of education (again, with no opinion having the force of consensus of
even necessarily of widespread agreement), the partisans of the criticized
group almost always cry foul, accuse SVS of being "holier than thou" or
"close-minded" or whatever else comes to mind, all the while viewing their
own criticisms as somehow different, somehow open-minded, etc.
A person who has strongly held opinions is no more likely to be
close-minded than a person who has weakly held opinions, or none at all. The
measure of open-mindedness is the willingness shown to participate in open
discussion, to give and take criticism, to respond rationally to arguments
pro and con, etc. I have seen few people from Sudbury Valley over the past
thirty years who have not been willing to engage in discourse with others
having other sets of beliefs. Most of the members of the SVS community over
the years have been thoroughly engaged in dialogue -- while at the same time
taking the liberty that open debate offers them, of holding to strong beliefs
and being willing to articulate them and defend them.
To have a coherent philosophy does not mean that you believe that no one
else does, or that you think yours is the only one that is right. It means
that you have reasons to hold to what you think, no more and no less, and
that you are not convinced at the moment that alternative views are as valid
for you as they seem to be to their exponents.
I am taking no position at this time on the substance of the homeschooling
discussion. I only wish that people would stick to discussing the substance,
which in fact constitutes much of what is going on in this exchange, and
refrain from criticizing someone because that person has the nerve to
criticize _their_ preference.