It is ironic that socialization is often the first criticism against homeschooling. Examples of really bad socialization in government schools are in the news every day. As a society, do we really want the next generation "socialized" in large groups by an institution?
A simple definition of socialization is "the process where by children learn how to behave similarly to other members in the group." At school, the group is other children, not adults. As parents, we don't teach our children to behave like other children. We teach them to how to behave like high functioning adults.
Good socialization provides the means for children to transition to adulthood. The ability to think and provide for oneself is paramount to this process. Autonomy and moral development are key elements.
School is not designed to promote anything "moral" because now all choices are morally equivelent. Saving sex for marriage and having sex with multiple partners, lying to parents, dismembering the child growing in your body and having it sucked into a sink, are now seen as having the same ethical merit. It just matters how you feel about it.
Since I am not raising my children to lie, cheat, be promiscuous, or have an abortion why would I send them to a government school that normalizes and facilitates that kind of behavior?
Advertisers pay thousands of dollars for just a few seconds of broadcast time. Why? Because research shows that a little well placed propaganda can persuade viewers to buy their products. If only a few seconds can change viewer behavior, how do you think 6 hours a day, 5 days a week in an institutional setting with a "Lord of the Flies" atmosphere is going to influence a child? Parents are kidding themselves if they think a few minutes a day on their part can counteract the hours of negative peer pressure at school. Very few children succeed against such imbalanced odds.
The problem is more than just the lack of morality in the school system. The socialization of children in large groups creates lower ethical and moral functioning. This phenomenon is well documented as "group think and the "bystander effect." This is one of the reasons bullying and other bad behaviors run amok in schools. Children who would otherwise respond in a noble manner will, when in a group situation, stand by and do nothing while another child is victimized. Or worse, these same children will take part in the abuse or other misconduct.
Thus school socialization looks a lot like this.
2000 "Report Card on the Ethics of American Youth"
71% of all high school students admit they cheated on an exam at least once in the past 12 months (45% said they did so two or more times).
92% lied to their parents in the past 12 months (79% said they did so two or more times); 78% lied to a teacher (58% two or more times); more than one in four (27%) said they would lie to get a job.
40% of males and 30% of females say they stole something from a store in the past 12 months.
Drunk at School
Nearly one in six (16%) say they have been drunk in school during the past year (9% said they were drunk two or more times).
Propensity Toward Violence
68% say they hit someone because they were angry in the past year (46% did so at least twice), and nearly half (47%) said they could get a gun if they wanted to (for males: 60% say they could get a gun).
JUDGING SCHOOL DISCIPLINE
"At the end of the last century, approximately thirty students per year died of homicides committed on school grounds; 10 percent of all public school teachers were threatened with injury by students; and 4 percent of teachers were physically attacked in the course of the year. In urban public schools the rate was even higher, with 14 percent of teachers threatened with injury and 6 percent attacked. More than 10 percent of high school males reported carrying a weapon on school property over the past month, while 34 percent of urban high school seniors reported that street gangs were present in their schools."
I don't think anyone would argue that this is good socialization. With a low adult to child ratio in most government schools, peers have replaced adults as role models. Problem behaviors then develop unchecked. One's ranking in the peer group becomes more important than right and wrong.
School is also where many emotional problems begin.
CHILDREN WITHOUT FRIENDS, PART 1:
"...what it would be like to spend over 40 hours a week in school and after-school programs with lots of other people your own age, but to have few of them like you or want to be with you. This is the reality for many children. Indeed, about ten percent of school-age children have no friends in their classes and are disliked by a majority of their classmates."
Reprinted with permission from the National Network for Child Care - NNCC. Asher, S.R. & Williams, G. (1993). Children without friends, Part 1: Their problems. In Todd, C.M. (Ed.), *Day care center connections*, 2(6), pp. 3-4. Urbana-Champaign, IL: University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service.
The system of government schools is not designed to help children learn healthy socialization. Little is done to facilitate wholesome relationships because adults play such a minor roll in the child's social life. In addition, schools measure "socialization" by expedience and popularity.
Socialization Messages in American Primary Schools: An Organizational Analysis
"A more serious problem, they argue, is the tendency of schools to reinterpret values along the lines suggested by organizational interest. Thus, value terms such as citizenship, self-esteem and respect are in widespread use in the schools, but their meaning is interpreted in ways that are biased by the schools' interests in maximizing order, minimizing trouble, and making all students feel a sense of identification with the school."
While researching this topic, I came across an essay written by a graduate student at Harvard Graduate School of Education which included some quotes that relate very well to this topic. If you have the time, the entire piece is worth a look.
From Intimacy, Bureaucracy, and Literacy, Tensions in the socialization of schoolchildren
Essay exam question #5
A-107: The Sociology of Education
Harvard Graduate School of Education
November 4, 2002
“Most high school students have several teachers who know a bit about them, but no teacher who sees them whole. Unless they are in some limited enclave... they are, for all intents and purposes, anonymous. This ill serves the students, obviously. It also frustrates good teachers.” (pp. 208-209)
"The loneliness that results from this lack of intimacy, this isolation, is made palpable in Rodriguez’s writing. “Here is a child who cannot forget that his academic success distances him from a life he loved, even from his own memory of himself” (p. 48). The central theme of the book is that this education separates him from his family, from those most intimate of relationships, and squeezes him into the lonely role of academic in the basement of the British Museum. Up to a point, then, there is a strong sense of his schooling as being oppressive, cutting himself off from the vibrancy of his family heritage."
(The words of Jason Jay)
The problem is that much of what passes for socialization in many schools is really not socialization at all as I define it – there are no intimate relationships, only scripted interactions guided by a hierarchical bureaucracy. As Dennison and Sizer point out, the mainstream public schools do not even allow the time for a true relationship to develop between teacher and pupil, or between pupils in the safe context of the school. One might say that some process of socialization is occurring – a learning of norms and regulations, behavioral contracts of shallow acquaintanceship. But I refuse to let the word socialization be used for that process. Rather I see the shallow forms of interaction and organization as simple obstacles – blocking people’s time and space – from the liberation of true relationship and true socialization.
There are many of well written articles on the subject. Here are a few. If you have a favorite article or post on socialization, please post a comment and include the link to it.
Socialization? No problem!
Homeschooling and the Myth of Socialization
Socialization: A Great Reason Not to Go to School
Social Skills and Homeschooling: Myths and Facts
There is much more that could be said on the topic of socialization, but I will leave it with this last thought.
"Macurdy reviews the early education of many eminent people from the last couple of centuries and concludes (1) that most of them had an enormous amount of attention paid to them by one or both parents and (2) that generally they were relatively isolated from other children. This is very different from what most people today consider an ideal school. It seems to me that much of what we call education is really socialization. Consider what we do to our kids. Is it really a good idea to send your 6-year-old into a room full of 6-year-olds, and then, the next year, to put your 7-year-old in with 7-year-olds, and so on? A simple recursive argument suggests this exposes them to a real danger of all growing up with the minds of 6-year-olds. And, so far as I can see, that's exactly what happens.
Our present culture may be largely shaped by this strange idea of isolating children's thought from adult thought. Perhaps the way our culture educates its children better explains why most of us come out as dumb as they do, than it explains how some of us come out as smart as they do.
Related Tags: homeschool, public school, socialization, moral development, bystander effect, group think, Marvin Minsky