What a gift. Got up cranky as usual — well, it’s morning. My usual response to that scary phenomenon is screaming (if I’m feeling energetic) or sobbing (more often) or just a grim determination to return to bed as soon as possible and NEVER GET UP AGAIN (current favorite).
Today, all the usual morning agony was forgotten in a wash of dizzying delight.
Okay, you know how whenever you admire someone’s work, there’s always something about the person themselves that makes you wish you didn’t know about their personal lives, because now you know something about them you don’t like and it’s hard not to like their work just a little less now? Maybe some artist or writer is a big fat sexist jerk, for instance. (I know. It’s a stretch.) And you feel betrayed, even if you’re not a member of the offended group but especially if you are. Because here you are, liking them, and they’re not returning the favor.
Well, that’s how every homeschooler has to feel about PZ Myers — he of Pharyngula fame. Myers is so ferociously feminist he makes me look almost tame in comparison some days. (Hey — I said “almost.”) He’s screamingly science-oriented. He’s witty. He’s sharp. He’s prolific. He’s evidence-based. He’s anti-dogmatism. He’s –
Wait. Stop there. He isn’t those last two. Because sadly, Myers is anti-homeschooling because he just plain doesn’t like the idea of it. And he’s not going to let any pesky evidence get in the way of granting his purely emotional response all the validity of Truth.
In this respect, he’s no different from the religious extremists who make him so angry so often. Myers is understandably unhappy (to say the least) at how these people treat evolution as something you can “believe” in or not, rather than quite literally a fact of life.
But you can only flare up against that kind of foolishness with a purely righteous fire when you’re 100% fact-based yourself. And unfortunately, up to this point, Myers hasn’t been. His prejudice against homeschooling is just that — a prejudice. Irrational. Non-fact-based. Just because he feels like it.
Or — I should say — “felt” like it.
Myers has seen the light!
What pushed him to the tipping point?
Maybe it was that article that’s been making the rounds — the one about how public high school teachers do a half-arsed job of teaching evolution when they bother to teach it at all:
Maybe that helped something I’ve been saying all along click in his head: homeschoolers are not the problem; anti-scientific dogmatists are the problem. And those people are everywhere.
Maybe he’s just been feeling the nagging mental restlessness that comes along with cognitive dissonance. After all, it’s got to be pretty uncomfortable to have so many homeschoolers admiring his work — which means that homeschoolers are people smart enough to admire Myers’ work — and still make sweeping statements about how homeschooling is just a bad idea.
The fact that Myers has admitted that some individual homeschoolers do an okay job can’t help that dissonance headache. After all, there’s no greater insult you can offer an individual than to tell them that they’re okay people in spite of their group. Myers’ feminist head would explode like a bar mirror under Carrie Nation’s hatchet if someone said “She’s really smart for a woman” in his range of hearing.
Maybe it suddenly struck him that homeschoolers aren’t hurting the public school system by making the decision not to avail ourselves of its services. We’re paying all the same taxes and letting the money go to children who really need it; and there’s nothing like a hint of competition to prompt an organization to get its act together.
Maybe all the stories about people who are homeschooling for the impeccable reason that the schools simply don’t meet the needs of their children reached some kind of critical mass. It’s tough to stick to party lines about how parents should work to improve the system rather than pulling their children out of it when that system is letting children down not only on the educational and social fronts but can’t even guarantee the basic physical safety of, for instance, severe allergy and asthma sufferers.
Maybe — going back to cognitive dissonance for a minute — Myers found it too difficult to support both the idea that every family should have to participate in the same educational system and that individualism and original thought are in crucially short supply and need to be encouraged.
Maybe Myers realized that being a genuine critical thinker means examining every premise and forcing yourself to look at all the facts, however emotionally repugnant you may find them — you know, the way Myers is always wishing that his enemies would — and that his “I just don’t like it and so that’s why I keep saying I think it should be illegal” attitude towards homeschooling doesn’t hold up under that kind of scrutiny, any more than a prejudice against female scientists or gay marriage does.
Frankly, I’m too thrilled to care. I’m just going to be happy that, on this beautiful first day of April, Myers admitted that homeschoolers kick ass and urged us to keep up the good work.