Horton Homeschools a Who

As anyone who has kids, was a kid, or was an adult who has the good sense to read great kid books knows, Horton was an elephant who heard a tiny voice on a speck of dust and sought to protect the infinitesimally tiny population therein. His antagonist in Dr. Seuss’ classic “Horton Hears A Who” was a sour kangaroo who maintained “A person on that? … Why, there never has been!”. Not to belabor the obvious, but we have Horton representing imagination and free thinking, and the kangaroo preaching narrow-mindedness and suspicion.

So, I took my family to see the movie yesterday. The movie takes the ten minute tale and strrrreeetttccchhess it into a 90 minute film with mostly topical humor. As father to a homeschooled son, I was pretty offended by one joke. Early on, the haughty, over-critical kangaroo, voiced by Carol Burnett, protests that Horton can’t be allowed to spread these horrible lies about tiny people, that he’ll corrupt the youth with his overactive imagination. But her little kangaroo will be all right – “he’s pouch-schooled”.

This promotes the sad, but popular stereotype of homeschool parents as over-protective and narrow-minded. It’s this type of stereotype that, last month, led a three judge panel to rule, in a case of possible domestic abuse, that children can’t be homeschooled in California unless the primary parent doing the homeschooling is an accredited teacher.

Three judges ruled on one case of possible neglect and abuse, and then took a giant club and swung it as wide and far as they could, hitting every one of the estimated 200,000 homeschooling families in California. We aren’t abusing our child; we aren’t hiding him from the world — quite the opposite! What we’re doing is working as hard as we can to provide the educational environment that he will soar in.The state government should respect that.

I’m blogging this because it’s the tip of a very large iceberg. While homeschooling wasn’t our first choice, public school isn’t an alternative that we would consider, even if our kid was one of the minority of children whose learning style meshes with that educational model. The No Child Left Behind Act is ravaging our school systems, and creating an environment where fear and threats determine the curriculum, much as fear and threats have dominated our political arena in the George W. Bush years. Children are taught to pass tests, and the ability to test well is a skill unrelated to the ability to think.

The kangaroos are in the classroom. What kind of world will my child grow up into, if all of his peers are taught only how to memorize, not to imagine and discern?

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