Sunday, September 11, 2016

Us and Them and Cultural Resistance

This just in from Guy Noir:
Amy Welborn on the home schooling movement ...
I hope readers of my blog over the last few years have picked this up from what I have written. Much of what moved me to homeschool in the first place was a dissatisfaction with the lifestyle school forces on a family. We have so little freedom in the way we lead our daily lives anyway: work limits our families, as do economic concerns. School – with its daily, weekly and yearly schedules, with its homework and projects, with its fundraisers – slams one more constraint on. As I have written over and over again, the reason we accept this is that we accept that what school gives is worth what we must give over to it. The tipping point for many of us comes when we realize that what the school gives is not worth it and what it demands is counterproductive to our children’s flourishing and our family lives and that the resources available to us, our own schools, and our childrens’ not-yet-deadened curiosity means that we can do the same thing at home just as well or even better, and have a lot more fun doing it.
Guy Noir again:
I found this doubly interesting since a teaching colleague, someone who tilts liberal, told me she moved her family inland to get it away from the materialistic encroachments of the urban center where they were. And she came in on Monday very pumped by the movie "Captain Fantastic." There is very real counter-cultural emphasis in the Faith that should appeal across political lines, as Alexi Sargeant gets, at "First Thoughts":
I recently saw the film Captain Fantastic, and enjoyed it immensely. The film stars Viggo Mortensen as Ben Cash, a man raising and schooling his six children off-the-grid in a remote corner of Washington State forest. The family are Leftist, slightly pagan hippies (the eldest son informs his father that being a Trotskyist was just a phase, “I'm a Maoist now”), and yet their homeschooling experience absolutely reminded me of my own. Sure, I wasn't learning to hunt animals with a bow and arrow or celebrating “Noam Chomsky Day” in my heavily Christian homeschool community, but I totally recognize these characters’ family solidarity, their quirky erudition, and their combination of regimented learning with an anti-authoritarian streak.

The film’s plot is kicked off when Ben hears from the parents of his wife, who left the forest to be treated in a hospital for bipolar disorder. She has committed suicide. Ben’s father-in-law, who blames his daughter’s mental illness on the family’s unconventional lifestyle, orders him not to come to the funeral. But the children insist on paying respects, so the whole family climbs into a battered bus named “Steve”—and set out on a collision course with contemporary America.

While there are immensely satisfying scenes of Ben’s young children demonstrating how real their education has been to skeptical aunts, uncles, and cousins, the movie is also committed to questioning Ben’s model of homeschooling. His motivation for raising his kids the way he has is twofold: both a great love of learning, and a fear of the corrupting influence of modern mediocrity. The movie’s conclusion sees Ben and his kids try to reach some sort of compromise with society—so it’s finally a film about the Benedict Option as well, asking how we can stay part of the wider world while modeling a more humane culture.

1 comment:

c matt said...

Brilliant move - make the homeschoolers "left leaning," otherwise the film would never have seen the light of day.