Like a thief in the night, the time has come to choose a kindergarten for Widget1. Yes, we’ve had advance warning, but I didn’t say it was an exceptionally skilled thief – only that no matter how loudly and often your enemy threatens to break down your door and snatch your children away by threat of violence, it still feels scary and maybe even surprising when it actually happens.
I’m not anti-education. I’m not anti-school. Nor do I oppose being able to send the little Widgets away once in a while so the wife can focus on other things. But while I sympathize with the rationale behind compulsory education, I also think Americans are too comfortable with the reality that our government compels us, by threat of force, to send our children away five days a week to be raised, indoctrinated and disciplined by people who are not their parents. And unless you can handle the stress of homeschooling or the high cost of a private education, those people will be the government, and your children will be wards of the state. The values of the state will become the values of your children. The hot button debates of the day (whether sexual, political, racial, etc.) will become a one-sided conversation of the school board versus your child. Infractions against said state will be handled as crimes are handled, with the blunt instrument of the law. Tantrums will result in a visit from the police, and the schoolhouse will serve as training for the jailhouse. You, as the parent, will be barred from visiting or checking up on your child during school hours. If you try to enter school property to intervene in a bad situation, you will be arrested. Plus, to add insult to injury, the state touts this public education as “free.” But it’s only free in the most shallow sense of the word. You are paying for it with your taxes, whether you use it or not, and whether or not you choose to invest in a private education.
I’m told there are some fabulous school districts out there. Ours is not one of them. Ever since I moved to South Florida in 2008, people have been warning me about the schools. And it’s not just the academics. The county’s zero tolerance disciplinary code has been so notorious that the board of education was recently compelled by the public outcry to make revisions (I guess people were tired of getting phone calls that their sons had been arrested and expelled for accidentally having a toy gun in their backpack). In 2012, our school district was the first in the country to officially recognize LGBT history month, thereby requiring all grades, k-12, to celebrate a particular group of people based on their sexual self-identity. You read that right – KINDERGARTEN. Because my son, who doesn’t yet know what sex is, and who is still trying to work out the complexity of having a biological father and a step-father, really needs to learn how to label people groups based on their genital exploits.
I’m also thrilled that the district has issued a LGBTQ handbook granting my son the protected right to be addressed as a female and allowed to play on girls’ sports teams and use the ladies’ room if he decides he prefers to be a girl; a handbook that misrepresents the First Amendment by claiming that cross-dressing is a Constitutional right (and yet refusing to wear a school uniform is not???). I can imagine Widget1 absorbing this information in class and deciding it would be fun to be a girl for a week. Then when Daddy says, stop calling my son Margaret, the teacher will explain to the class that this man is a big bad bully.
It thrills me to know that, having solved all academic challenges, the district has time to worry about political correctness and the division of society into protected minority statuses.
Be that as it may, we are now at an impasse – an impasse that I think is faced by many American parents. We can’t afford private school, but we can’t afford the psychological damage of public school. It’s ironic that while I earn a living raising money for children to go to good schools in other countries, I can’t provide the same for my own. Homeschooling isn’t really an option, because it is a massive commitment and our son would probably hate it. We’ve applied to two charter schools, but they may not be any better than the regular public schools. WHAT SHOULD WE DO???
For the record, I know I’m probably going to receive reams of angry messages condemning my “homophobia.” If that’s what gets you going in the morning, have at it. But it doesn’t solve our problem. Widget1 doesn’t know what homophobia is. To him, LGBTQ is just letters of the alphabet, and I’d like it to stay that way for now. He only recently learned that it’s impolite to talk about penises in the presence of girls. He isn’t ready for the intricacies of sexual politics and aberrant sexual behavior, and he doesn’t need to be joining his local Gay Straight Alliance. What he needs is math skills, reading skills, fine motor development and a practical track to future employment. But I can’t even seem to trust the system with those things, let alone values and character development.