I am not sure if this is good news or bad news, but it’s pretty clear to me that the purpose of school is to teach kids to be PC. Because how else will you do it? Think of all the major shifts in the social mores of the US: schools were the focal point for civil rights, for example. Evolution plays out in schools. And now, LGBTQ rights are playing out in schools. Schools teach kids how to succeed in a world different from their parents.

On one hand, I think this is a good thing. In order for children of immigrants to be able to assimilate, they have to go to school. Otherwise assimilation would take generations. And I’m pretty sure that immigrants come here because they want their kids to be like kids who live in the US. Is this racist or insensitive? I’m not sure.

But I’m thinking out loud now: The history of the Jews in Europe is that every time they were isolated from the rest of the population they were poor and anxious (perhaps the Shtetl is the genesis of Jewish anxiety?) and when Jews were assimilated into the national population they flourished. Well, okay. Things did not really go well for the very assimilated population of German Jews in in the 19th century but I think I am making my point: children of immigrants want to fit in (in fact it’s a very American thing to make jokes about being first-generation.)

I don’t have an editor right now. It’s been maybe 15 years since I have written without an editor. It’s scary. Is the Jewish stuff an unnecessary tangent?  I love having an editor, but I don’t love waiting for an editor to get around to editing. The trick to writing without an editor is to be brave without someone looking over your shoulder to tell you it’s okay.

So Jews. Yeah. I think it’s important for Jews to feel both a part of the larger community and still hold onto a Jewish identity. This is the core problem of living in the melting pot that is the US. And this, more than anything else, is what I think is the challenge for public school. As a democracy we believe in the power of the melting pot. As parents we have an instinct to keep our kids separate so we can control their moral conscience. And these conflicts are universal to the immigrant population – regardless of ethnicity.

In an effort to be supportive, my mom sent me an article about homeschooling growing in popularity. The article is about how parents in Texas are taking their kids out of school because school is spending more and more time on making sure the kids are politically correct. I feel like the quintessential open-minded liberal to tell you that I agree with the Christian homeschoolers.

I like that school teaches kids that they can get on board with political correctness and even though their parents can’t. The truth is that learning to be PC is actually learning to think like your own generation. Which means kids today don’t need to go to school to learn to be PC, they can just watch YouTube. So you can either let your kids watch YouTube or send them to school. But somehow they need to connect to their generation. They don’t want to be part of your generation because being part of your generation would be lame: duh.

As a democracy, we want an electorate that feels part of the group. The Federalist Papers talk about how much trouble it is to run a democracy with people who are not PC. Madison, Hamilton and Jay don’t use the word PC, of course, but it’s implied. And herein lies the problem of a homeschool parent writing without an editor. My life is one big history tangent right now because we’re studying for AP European history and AP  world history and I’m doing the tutoring because I don’t want to pay for it.

Did Voltaire have an editor? Probably no, because his plots are tiresome. If  asked me to help your kid become a writer, the first thing I’d say is, “get an editor.” Then I’d probably try to sell you on hiring me to be the kid’s editor, but the point is that everyone writes better with an editor.

Life is more interesting if you take risks. It’s risky to homeschool, but I like being scared. It’s risky to write without an editor, but I like being scared.

Wait. I’m lying. I don’t like being scared. People homeschool because they feel that no other choice makes sense for who they are. Being brave is what we do if there’s no other choice. I need an editor. I don’t want to be brave, I want to write and have someone save me from myself. People who send their kids to school also do it because there is no other choice. School is a great way to assure you or the kid or both you and the kid are fitting in. We all want that. Just not all of us get it from school.

8 replies
  1. MC
    MC says:

    “Wait. I’m lying. I don’t like being scared. People homeschool because they feel that no other choice makes sense for who they are. Being brave is what we do if there’s no other choice. I need an editor. I don’t want to be brave, I want to write and have someone save me from myself. People who send their kids to school also do it because there is no other choice. School is a great way to assure you or the kid or both you and the kid are fitting in. We all want that. Just not all of us get it from school.”

    I LOVE this last paragraph. Editor or not, you are a fantastic thinker and writer. Thanks for putting yourself out there for the benefit of the rest of us.

  2. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    I’m politically correct because my mother raised me to have manners and be respectful. Not because of school.

  3. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Thanks, Penelope, you’re on a roll. Careers, Education, and Mailbag have new posts. If you write more without an editor, more power to you.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, no! I like to think I know about this topic! Making the correction. Thank you.

      Penelope

  4. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I think people jump into debates and argue without exploring how the other party defines terms. Political correctness is one of them. Wikipedia has an interesting page on the whole background of PC ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_correctness ). Did you know there are liberal and conservative versions of PC? Also, the Washington Post has an article titled ‘How ‘politically correct’ went from compliment to insult’ ( https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/how-politically-correct-went-from-compliment-to-insult/2016/01/13/b1cf5918-b61a-11e5-a76a-0b5145e8679a_story.html?utm_term=.1f9e268d4420 ) so the context and source need to be taken into account. I don’t consider myself to be very PC. I do try to be respectful and courteous. What I don’t do is mince words at the expense of not being as accurate and complete as possible.

  5. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    What I don’t like about political correctness appeared in an article I read this morning. The article is titled ‘Should Texas Schoolchildren Be Taught That Alamo Defenders Were ‘Heroic’?’ with a tagline of “A committee is recommending that the State Board of Education cut the word from the school curriculum standards because it is ‘value-charged.’” at https://www.texasmonthly.com/news/texas-schoolchildren-taught-alamo-defenders-heroic/ .
    The article starts off with this paragraph – “The concept of defenders of the Alamo being heroic is engrained in the history of this state—and in the psyche of most Texans. The Alamo has been compared to the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, in which an outnumbered Greek army fended off a much larger Persian army for several days before being annihilated. But a committee streamlining the state’s history curriculum standards has removed the word “heroic” from a proposed revision of the curriculum because it is “a value-charged word.”
    The committee has also made some other recommendations which serve to dilute history and “estimates it will shave off 90 minutes of teaching time.” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Land Commissioner George P. Bush have weighed in with their disapproval. A public hearing and vote are scheduled to take place this week. Here’s the thing. If I were doing my own research (self-directed learning), it would be up to me if I were interested one way or the other to explore further. In this case (school environment), the teacher and the curricula are determining factors.

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