Sunday, February 14, 2010

Homeschool wars: abortion vs Darwin

Someone posted on my recent observations about the autism wars (oh, be sure to read the Comment thread) that the engagements among the gaming community make the autism exchanges look like ladies' tea parties by comparison (they didn't use exactly that analogy, and of course, a ladies' tea party's got its own powerfully antagonistic and aggressive undercurrents coursing beneath all that china).

And I've posted recently, also, about my discoveries regarding the intense philosophies in the homeschool community: there is, it appears, an "us vs them" mentality in a segment of this community that pits them (in their minds, at least) as homeschoolers against the people who buy into the "institutional" school philosophy. In fact, just today, we had another hapless parent get reamed because she posted a question about needing to put her homeschooled child back into school and was wondering if anyone knew any good Catholic schools in the area. Oops. She got smacked down for that one, once again with the now weary analogy that posting such a question to a homeschool listserv was like asking a question about beef on a vegetarian board. Whatever we do, people, let's be sure to maintain our divisions as clearly as we can.

As someone new to all of this, and as someone who is homeschooling not out of a deeply held personal philosophy but because it's what's best for our son, I found these engagements surprising and off-putting. But the division lines run even deeper it seems, and almost anything can become fodder for disagreement. Is there nothing in our society that people can mention without opening some kind of chasm between sides? I'm guessing even a discussion about desserts could devolve into a shouting match these days. "You like chocolate?!? Are you INSANE? Do you KNOW WHAT THAT DOES TO YOUR LIVER?!?"

But this one was about abortion and Darwin, possibly two of the most divisive topics imaginable (poor Darwin). A strange coupling but one that I'm sure has arisen before, as divisions seem to run along the lines of "all people who are pro-choice also are atheist 'evolutionists' who are really 'pro-abortion' and biblical denialists and think Darwin (poor Darwin) is god" vs "pro-lifers." As anyone reading this who embraces truth would be able to acknowledge, it is possible to believe in the sanctity of life while being pro-choice and to believe in God while acknowledging the scientific validity of Darwin's extraordinarily thoughtful ideas regarding natural selection and evolution. If there's one thing I absolutely detest, it's the tendency to distill a bundle of ideas into a swill of assumed, stereotyped uniformity and label it with a buzzword that leaves no room for nuance, truth, or reality. The word "evolutionist" alone annoys me beyond description, but that's another post.

So it was that Someone in the homeschool community in our area saw fit to post an announcement to a "secular, general" homeschool listserv about a pro-life rally coming up soon. I read it. I thought to myself, "What on earth has this got to do with school, or homeschool?" and I deleted it. Not gonna be taking TH to any rally related to abortion any time soon. A couple of days later, Another Person who apparently reacted more strongly posted a protest, asserting that the announcement was not homeschool related and that it was overtly religious in nature and didn't belong on the list. Then, Someone Else responded back that they didn't see what the difference was between the posting about a pro-life rally and another recent posting announcing a "Darwin Day" event at a local science museum. After all, Someone Else asserted, Darwin's ideas run counter to their beliefs, yet they had to read that announcement about him (poor Darwin). Oh, the humanity.

I'd argue that it's more defensible to call a museum event celebrating the birthday of one of the greatest, most influential scientists who ever lived, one targeting children, something more relevant to school, to homeschool, than a pro-life rally targeting adults. But I didn't see the need to argue, and the disagreement that took place here left me baffled. My reaction is, Pick your battles, the big important ones, the ones in with a big stake. I can't see how an announcement about a pro-life rally on a local listserv to a group of local adults met the "I'm so offended I must take up my sword" criterion. Of course, I don't get the offense in asking about "institutional" schools when you're a homeschool parent facing that decision.

There is, after all, this thing called a "delete" button. I wish it were something we could all use a bit more often, like say, when you're clearly facing a battle that's not worth fighting because no one's gonna win, no one's mind is going to change. In fact, I can't think of a better use of a key on a keyboard than that the Del key. I use it all the time, and then I move on.

Unless we're talking about desserts. On that, I'll battle you to the bitter (chocolate) end.