In Praise Of Public Schooling

In Praise Of Public Schooling July 29, 2009

In reply to this post in which I contrasted my experience as an Evangelical in public high school in the secular northeast to a midwestern girl’s struggles to be an atheist in high school in the midwest, Dave Smith, Camels With Hammers’ trusty webmaster and blogger, writes:

Maybe, as you mentioned, it was because I grew up in the northeast, but I had a similar experience in high school. To be honest I don’t know anyone else in my class of ~100 who was a Christian, at least in an evangelical sense. Religion was pretty much a private thing and all activities were entirely secular. I didn’t appreciate that fact at the time, but looking back, I’m quite thankful for my public school education. I see that now as the roots of my more “liberal” beliefs, and where my rational worldview started to take shape – despite the fact that it took me many more years to actually shed my religious faith. My parents (apparently after seeing how badly it screwed me up lol) sent my sisters to a private Christian school, and who knows how that would have changed me. Childhood indoctrination is a powerful thing.

Dave, I feel the same sense of gratitude for my public school education.  I attribute the influence of both that and the larger secular culture for providing perspectives that made cognitive dissonance with my religious beliefs possible.  It’s that cognitive dissonance that helped push me to a resolution and eventually (to my shock at the time) resolving the dissonance by abandoning religious faith instead of shedding even more secular assumptions.  As much as my rejection of my faith felt like the loss of my entire identity, it was simultaneously an affirmation of another whole side of who I was and what I thought that I had never allowed myself to embrace.

I see the Evangelical homeschooling movement as a closed-minded, reactionary, intellectually bankrupt and insecure movement’s nuclear option which many Evangelicals pathetically take against the free thought of their children.  I feel really bad for those kids who lack the opportunity to grow up in both worlds that I had.  That is one of the few things I still appreciate about my Evangelical upbringing—it was like being raised bilingual.  I will always have a firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be on both sides of one of the culture’s major divides.  Many of the homeschoolers are denied even that benefit by their misologist parents.

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