Debunking “Socialization” Myths About Homeschooling

As it becomes increasingly obvious that homeschoolers do significantly better than victims of government “education” on every academic metric, apologists for the public-school system often fall back on their “socialization” mantra.

But under its true definition, “socialization” is hardly something to be desired. And under the commonly held understanding of socialization — gaining certain desirable social skills — the data show clearly that home-educated children outperform public school students on every key indicator.

Before examining the issue of “socialization,” it helps to define the term itself. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it is “the process whereby an individual learns to adjust to a group (or society) and behave in a manner approved by the group (or society).”

Contrast that with the biblical command that Christians “be not conformed to this world,” or that they are to be “not of the world.” Throughout the Scriptures, God repeatedly makes clear that His people are not supposed to “adjust” to a society that does not respect Him and His moral code.

In short, if one accepts the common definition of “socialization,” Christians — and anyone else who realizes that the “world” and society are becoming increasingly immoral — should be deeply skeptical at the very least of this supposedly essential process being carried out by government schools. In fact, alarm bells should be ringing.

Of course, many of those who ask about “socialization” regarding home education do not have that definition in mind. Instead, they are mostly thinking about whether children will fail to learn basic social skills such as communication and healthy interaction with others. In that case, the “socialization” questions are based on myths and anti-Christian talking points.

The first myth is that homeschool families deprive their children of contact with other people outside the home. While there are always exceptions, nothing could be further from the truth. Typical homeschool families are involved in educational co-ops with other families, church, sports teams, and all manner of extra-curricular activities.

Under the guidance of their parents and other family members, these children become “socialized” in the best sense of the word. This has been true for virtually all of human history prior to the widespread proliferation of government “education” over the last century.

Indeed, to the extent that the term “socialization” is meant as some sort of process whereby children acquire positive social skills that can be measured, homeschoolers do far better than their government-educated peers. This is true on everything from peer interaction and self-concept to leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, tolerance, and self-esteem.

According to a review of the empirical research on home education published in the Journal of School Choice by National Home Education Research Institute chief Dr. Brian Ray, “87% of peer-reviewed studies on social, emotional, and psychological development show homeschool students perform statistically significantly better than those in conventional schools.”

But there is more to the story. In his book Faithful Parents Faithful Children: Why We Homeschool, Christian author Donald Schanzenbach explains that the entire concept of schools as engines for “socialization” is relatively new and did not exist even 200 years ago. Indeed, the term was not even in the dictionaries of the early 1800s.

Rather, the idea of “socialization” goes back to anti-Christian philosopher Auguste Comte, the founder of sociology in the mid-1800s. His goal was to overturn Christian civilization by replacing the Christian moral order then reigning in the West with the pseudo-scientific principles of “sociology” derived from the “study of society and group life,” as Comte put it.

With that in mind, it is true that what is referred to as “socialization” does occur in government schools. But that should hardly be considered a positive development — much less as reason to subject children to godless indoctrination by a government that openly wages war on Christian morality. As the Bible explains in 1 Corinthians 15:33,

“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’”

In a typical government school today, a child will be surrounded by peers who are all being indoctrinated to believe morality is subjective, the Bible is at best irrelevant if not downright harmful, parents are “old fashioned” and should be ignored, and much more. The pressure from fellow students to get involved in drugs, promiscuity, perversion, crime and evil is ubiquitous.

Schanzenbach, the homeschool author, cites the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of socialize: “1. To place under public ownership or control. 2. To convert or adapt to social needs. 3. To take part in social activities.” He argues that this is precisely what is happening on all three levels, very much including the placing of children under government control.

“Socialization is an idea in direct opposition to biblical thought,” continues Schanzenbach. “Socialized children will likely spend their lives working against the Kingdom of God just as a matter of natural habit. They will have been taught to do so under the socializing influence of a humanist mindset, taught by example, and assumed in every classroom at the government institutions.”

Even the best teachers in government schools have publicly repudiated the notion that they are helping “socialize” the children in any positive manner. Consider John Taylor Gatto, the New York City and New York State teacher of the year in the early 90s. After realizing the damage he was doing to children in the public system, he sent his resignation letter to the Wall Street Journal.

“I’ve come slowly to understand what it is I really teach: A curriculum of confusion, class position, arbitrary justice, vulgarity, rudeness, disrespect for privacy, indifference to quality, and utter dependency,” Gatto explained in his letter that sent shockwaves through the education world. “I teach how to fit into a world I don’t want to live in.”

“My orders as schoolteacher are to make children fit an animal training system, not to help each find his or her personal path,” added Gatto, who went on to write books on the devastation caused by public schools. “There isn’t a right way to become educated; there are as many ways as fingerprints. We don’t need state-certified teachers to make education happen–that probably guarantees it won’t.”

Those who fashioned the system to socialize children appear to have had some of that in mind. Anti-Christian humanist John Dewey, widely regarded as the father of America’s public-school system, outlined his views on the subject in Democracy and Education in 1916 shortly before his infamous trip to fawn over the Soviet Union.

“Education, in its broadest sense, is the means of this social continuity of life,” Dewey explained, implying that education was not so much about the individual or God, but about society and the collective. “Each individual, each unit who is the carrier of the life-experience of the group, in time passes away. Yet the life of the group goes on.”

In other words, in Dewey’s mind, the purpose of education and “socialization” was to train individuals for the benefit of the group and its perpetuation. Whatever this may be or not be, it is certainly not the biblical view of education as a parent-led means of teaching individual children to know, fear and glorify God while giving them the tools to live a moral and meaningful life on this side of eternity.

Next time somebody asks about “socialization” of homeschoolers, you might start by asking exactly what they mean with that term. No matter how they answer, for Christians and even those who simply value true education, homeschooling clearly comes out on top.

This article was originally published by the Illinois Family Institute.

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