Lies About Public Education (part one) – The Fruits of “Socialization”

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Yesterday was “Super Hero Dress-Up Day” at Stillwater Junior High School, in Oklahoma. What is the educative value of “Super Hero Dress-Up Day”, other than to get kids to read more comic books, or more likely shell out more cash to see more movies? Perhaps we’re encouraging a sort of vigilante machismo in our schools today, to go with the emphasis on math and science? The school claimed that they held “Super Hero Dress-Up Day” in an effort to bring the plague of cancer to the attention of the kids and neighborhood. Seems a bizarre stretch to me. I really couldn’t say, but the inexplicable rationale behind this quaint celebration of values is not what we’re going to discuss today.

So, all the kids dressed up as their favorite super heroes. You know, Spider Man, Superman, Batman, whatever. All except one 13 year-old boy, who dressed up as a “super bad guy”. You might have heard of him, if you’ve seen the recent Batman movies. The bad guy’s name is “Two Face”, a onetime hero gone sour. The boy came to school all dressed up as his favorite messed up guy. And then, just before the 8 a.m. bell, the 13 year-old pulled out a handgun he carried to school and shot himself, committing suicide.

There are so many questions one could ask at this juncture. One might start with “how did a 13 year-old boy get his hands on a handgun”. I’d certainly ask that of his parents or guardians. I don’t think their answers would impress me much. But we’ll save the whole gun discussion for another day.

Here’s another question we might ask. “How did the young boy get the gun unnoticed onto campus?” Many public schools have metal detectors at the front gate now. The very need for such precautions really goes to the heart of what I want to say to you today, but we’ll get to that. Stillwater Junior High apparently has no metal detectors. Did they have semi-vigilant administrators, or nothing at the front gate? Well, I guess that if a resourceful person of any age really wanted to get a gun onto a campus, he’d find a way. A gun can almost always be hidden somewhere.

Yet another question, and this one also leads us to my core concern. “Why did this unfortunate young person kill himself at school? Why not at home, or anywhere else?”

This might lead us to “What motivated him to commit suicide?” And here we are into it. Because according to his friends, and confirmed by local police, the boy who took his own life was a victim of bullying at Stillwater. Stillwater’s superintendent claims that there was “nothing in their computer” to indicate that the young suicide had been bullied. I suppose she feels that the lack of reports exonerate the school district, despite the fact that the boy’s friends stated clearly that bullying had happened.

Does this mean that the incidents of bullying were never reported? Of course it does. Reporting an abuse by one student against another would almost inevitably make one a target for future, if more carefully covert and threatening, abuse. And why would any school child who has been abused in school ever believe that the teachers or administrators would protect them. Kids aren’t that dumb. Bullied children understand that if they complain, then they will be earmarked as problem children by teachers and staff, as likely as not. Perhaps they will be placed in “special classes” for their “protection”. Perhaps the school psych will prescribe them Ritalin or some such poison, because they complained and hence, are “hyper”.

Students know that they are not safe in school, regardless of whatever empty promises the school might give them. Abused children wear their scars as proof.

So, you’re sent to school each day by parents who assume you are safe there. Your parents assume that the adults on campus see to it that all the children are in a safe, productive environment. And after all, most schools today increasingly resemble prisons, with high fences and gated windows and metal detectors and even a police presence. (We won’t even discuss how all of this helps prepare eager young people to accept and live in a police state. We won’t even mention the fact that a 13 year-old, looking at all this, might feel quite overwhelmed and powerless in such a well-patrolled, well-armed and armored world. Some other time, maybe.) Your mom and dad assume it’s safe. After all – what bad stuff could happen in a prison? (You don’t need to actually answer that one.)

In you go, into Stillwater, and Peaceful Valley, or Future Hope, or whatever other school you happen to have been assigned to. Once there, you are one largely unnoticed drop in an ocean. Public schools thrive on large populations – they are paid by head count, after all. And for teachers and staff, it is all about the money, as I’ve discussed so often. Getting the most money for the least effort, and without regard to results. But we won’t get into that today, if you don’t mind. There you are, in school. one of perhaps thousands of kids on campus. Some of the other kids are probably smaller than you. Some of them are bright, and even polite.

Some of the kids are not very bright. Some of them are not polite. And some of them are much bigger than you. Some of these big, not-bright, rude children have been instructed by their parents to believe in their own “superiority”, and they exercise that superiority on your head or your back, while maybe taking your lunch money and demanding future like tributes. Sometimes, these kids have just seen too many super hero movies, and they want to try out their new “Bat move” on your solar plexus, just to see if it works. Maybe that’s why the school had “Super Hero dress up day”, to encourage such creative activity?!

I hope not.

Anyway, sometimes you become the target just because, well, you are different. And in many households and cities today, children are firmly taught to believe that “different = bad”, or “different = target”. Good job, mom and dad! And often, the movies kids see, the books they read – and yes, the “education” they receive in class, reinforce these views. After all, in teaching a kid that their country and the people in it are somehow “better” than other people could (and does) easily lead to a belief that “others” are somehow unworthy of respect, civility, of even being considered human on a scale with one’s self.

Folks, you know this happens. You’ve either lived it or seen it. Kids learn to hate others in many places and ways, and schools and their curriculum often promote such views. I get that they intend to instill a patriotic sense in the child. That’s fine, we should each love our country if it is worthy of that love. But that love does not need to be a trade-off, love your country and despise all others. Anyway, we won’t get into this today.

So, there you are, a target. And I guess that means that you’re learning that thing which public schools like to say they excel in. Yup, you’re learning socialization skills. You know, how to get along with others. That, the schools and school psychs proudly tell you, is the difference between schools and, say, homeschool. Homeschoolers never get such lessons in how to get along with others.


So you bend your pained head low in hopes the bullies won’t see you, and you try to figure out this “socialization” crap. And it doesn’t add up. It certainly does not FEEL like a good thing, not to you. It hurts. It perhaps makes you feel worthless, or even angry. Angry at yourself for somehow being “less than”, or “inferior”, and hence an easy target. Perhaps angry at your folks for sending you to this hell hole called “Stillwater”, or you-fill-in-the-name-of-any-public-school. Angry at those who hit you, certainly. Angry at those who tell you to just put up with it. Angry at teachers and staff who turn a blind eye, or who somehow make YOU wrong for what has occurred if you have the nerve to file a report. You may even experience anger at the world for being the way it is.

And too bad for you, kid. Children have no power, here. Your pains are yours, deal with them. (There are MANY adults who make this exact and disgusting claim for public schooling – well, a kid needs to learn to deal. Right. And if someone bigger than that adult comes up on them in a dark alley and gives them a bit of the same treatment the child gets at the hands of bullies in public school? You can bet the adult is crying to the police, and not dealing at all. Or he’s buying a gun, and that’s how he will plan to deal with the next attack.)

So, in your rage and your helplessness, knowing that every week day you will be forced to go to a place where you are not safe, where physical and emotional abuse await at every corner…what do you do.

We know what this one thirteen year-old did. And what many hundreds, perhaps thousands have done before him. All as a result of public school’s claim for the need of “socialization”.

Where did this horrible, brutal, destructive idea come from? Why does anyone believe in it, given the results? Why do public schools use it as an argument against homeschooling?

More to come.

In the meantime, we should all rightly grieve the loss of unknown potential, future joys, better days. A child has taken his own life, and he chose to do it on a public school campus.

I am a proponent of homeschooling.  (You have probably figured that out.)  I’ve authored two books about education which help make very clear the strengths of homeschooling when compared to schooling in other forms.  That is particularly true of my book, Poor Cheated Little Johnny.  My second book, Universal Private Education, lays out defined methods that one can use to successfully homeschool. I have also created a series of ten courses to be done at home by parents who wish to homeschool.  (One course completely debunks the socialization myth, and provides the parent ways to homeschool and still offer their children active social lives.)  These courses each highlight an aspect of homeschooling and help the parent master skills and ideas they can use to truly triumph in teaching their children.   I hope that some of these resources might be of value to you.

Finally, I provide a second blog that talks purely about how to homeschool, Homeschool Hows & Whys.  Take a look, it’s free!

10 comments on “Lies About Public Education (part one) – The Fruits of “Socialization””

  1. Gabie Dominiq says:

    I still have lead (from very sharp pencils) in my knees from grade school. I had a classmate tell me at 10 yr reunion, that if he’d known I was going to be so pretty now, he wouldn’t have been so mean to me.

    Very sad story. I could add more, but I’m homeschooling in Kansas and proud of my bright children.

  2. Hi Gabie,

    Sounds painful! That wasn’t very nice! Just keep homeschooling, and put all the pencils away.

  3. Powerful and thought-provoking writing! And true, too. I’m dealing with a grandson who has ADHD, ODD and maybe Asbergers Syndrome, too. Schools are only barely capable of dealing with these things. Medication has him (barely) under control. but he blows up when some one tries to bully him or just provokes him. Then the teachers invariably, because of his ‘condition’, blames him for it all! My biggest hope is that we are not raising a ticking time bomb. He is a VERY smart kid, but his ‘socializing’ skills leave something to be desired. And, no, the schools here are NOT doing a good job of even that. Homeschooling might be a better choice, but I am retired and certainly NOT qualified to be a teacher and my wife must work a few more years. I have recently begun to think that I may have had some signs of his condition as a boy, too. There was no such thing, then. I get hyper in noisy, confusing surroundings. When he goes off the deep end I also get upset. So, I am not the one to homeschool him. What is the answer? I sincerely do not know.

  4. Hi, PC Bob,

    Why is it you don’t think you could homeschool him? Could you perhaps write me at, and we can discuss? As to the school handling him well, I really don’t believe that any child who is “unusual” in ANY way (which would include EVERY child), does well in a system intended to flatten out any and all differences. Public schools do not and cannot handle anything out of the “ordinary” – and really, what child is “ordinary?” Write me, I’ll try to help.

  5. Well written! I am just getting into homeschooling as my oldest is only 4, but articles like this are reminders of why I chose this route to raising my littles. So terribly sad and thought-provoking. The school system makes me say things I don’t normally say. And that’s putting it lightly.

  6. Hi Allie,

    Thanks! I’m with you. 4 is young to start, I think. You should read a lot, maybe do basic numbers – and have lots of fun. No pressure, no expectations. Five is okay to start, 6 is better, so long as they’re learning to read. Go for it! Homeschooling is wonderful.

  7. Such sad stories, repeated over and over.
    My son grew up in a small Somerset village with a lovely farm next door. Knowing where eggs came from, he eagerly started his first school aged 5 in Hampshire, a disaster, lack of staff and no stimulation. I offered my son a choice to leave, which was empowering to him. He chose to stay for the short while we lived there. Another primary school, in Surrey UK, was bliss. However, during the next stage I took my son out of school for several months when a Head was unresponsive to my concerns over a teacher. Fortunately, in the UK there is an organisation called ‘Education Otherwise’ that supports home tutoring, so I had no problems. I strongly believe parents should stand up for their children and protect them from institutions and authorities when they are intimidating and dysfunctional.

  8. Hi Ashen,

    Never heard of “Education Otherwise.” Sounds interesting, I’ll look into it. At a time when homeschooling and the efficacy of education in general is under serious attack in the U.S., yes, parents MUST stand up for their children. Well done, homeschooling yours!

  9. I left teaching over 7 years ago with the birth of my first son. I didn’t realize how miserable I was in that job until I left. I was in denial. Told myself i loved it. Despite what you write often I and many (though sadly not all) fellow teachers worked 12+ hours a day, most weekends, and straight through most vacations just to keep up with the paperwork and lesson planning. I forced myself to take two weeks off in the summer. That’s really all of the time off I truly ever got. All for no more than $40,000 a year and tens of thousands in student loan debt. I’m sure you realize you paint with too broad a brush.

    In support of this article, you are right that schools aren’t healthy places for anyone. I now homeschool my own children and we are far better for it. As far as socialization which this article is truly on, teachers are not set with the task to develop well socialized children. If the child can cope in school then that is all that truly matters. The real world means nothing. A kid who doesn’t make himself noticed would be totally looked over. He could be depressedand yes suicidal. But if he is quiet and obedient no one cares. Because in school that is good social behavior.

  10. Hi Crystal,

    Well done, leaving the school and in homeschooling! I admire your decision and follow-through!

    As to pay, nope, I do not paint with too broad a paintbrush -I work with the actual numbers from many school districts, and would ask you to look at (as an example) the articles I wrote about the Chicago Teacher strike last year. $80,000 per year is the AVERAGE, and that does not include perks. You were working for the “wrong” school district, I guess. And I knew far too many school teachers who did not work the hours you described. They did not care. The Chicago teachers turned down a 40 hour work week – that was a reason they went on strike! 40 hours = too much work. After all…they’re “teachers.”

    As to schools, of course, we are in agreement. Your sad description of what teachers and schools aim for as “socialized behavior” is all-too accurate. Thanks for writing!

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