Socialization Ill: Conformity Over Compassion

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Over winter break, one of "my" college kids was feeling lonely. Her parents' house was empty; she was away from the constant thumping whir of dorm life; not currently in contact with others who keep a vampire's schedule, she turned to the constant chatter of YouTube. And there she encountered Brave New Voices. "I must have spent at least an hour watching and re-watching these videos," she told me. Then she shared a few.

Please note: These videos are not child-friendly and discuss issues related to trigger trauma.

Two of the presentations we watched together: "Rape Joke" and "Somewhere in America". I'm glad I was aware that these are stories she's experienced. She was dwelling on these topics because of her past and present pains and horrifyingly real experiences. These videos spoke to her. They spoke about her. She felt, with the three girls in the second video, that the local mall was a capitalistic smokescreen erected to mask the realities of rape and hunger and privilege. School was a system designed to silence the oppressed, shame the wronged, and promote the trivial. The public educational structure that most people consider essential for equipping children for life in civilization was, at best, a conspiracy against minorities, women, free thought, and meaning.

Friends, there is truth to that.

I am not against public school. But there is a reason I so frequently share Paul Graham's essay on Nerds. See, the pressure of school socialization is to conform to the pattern of that world. And that world -- constructed by your peers -- is petty and pointless. There are great opportunities to be had, to be sure, but the socialization can scar you, so much so that someone started a YouTube channel to provide a cathartic outlet for those who feel silenced by it.

So while this beautiful, talented, wonderful girl was soaking in the brine of popular culture -- dictating her wardrobe, her mannerisms, her behavior -- I was reading missionary biographies and historical fiction which brought to light the travesty of rape, hunger, and the privileged elite. We homeschoolers aren't rocked by evil because we grew up learning about it. And it was no cursory nod from a paragraph on the pages of a dry textbook. We were in the dirt, the mud, the muck with people who bound up the wounds of the hurting, helped free people from literal slavery, and showed their friends their value in Christ. As Chesteron said, we didn't read about dragons to learn that dragons are real, but to learn that they can be killed. We don't wallow in evil. We approach these topics in an age-appropriate fashion with an eye toward building maturity.

Conformity vs Compassion

Homeschooling with Sonlight focused me on compassion.

The focus of the social environment at school is conformity. That is the opposite of compassion. And that is one more in the long list of socialization ills which plague the very halls of the system which claims to be a requisite for better connection with the people around us.

We Sonlighters don't need YouTube to tell us the world is broken. We've been learning what needs to be fixed from the start.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad

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  1. Anna

    Wow. Well-written, convicting and insightful, like all of your blog postings! A couple of weeks ago, I had someone in a kind and sincere way ask me how my kids were going to not only be socialized, but prepared to handle the "evils of this cruel world" if they have not been forced to encounter them themselves. I was completely unprepared to answer this question, but I think I did OK. Your piece answers that question so well. Experiencing those things by having them happen to you personally (and often not at age appropriate times) doesn't necessarily make you more well-rounded or prepared to deal with the world. I have found through Sonlight's reading selections and the discussions we've had that my kids are exposed to the "evils of this cruel" world in a safe, appropriate, healthy way and I am so appreciative of that!

  2. Jenn

    My 7 year old happened to see the computer screen in passing while this blog was opened and before I had read it... she told me she was tempted to keep reading the story opened on the screen but wasn't sure she should go on... i came to see. I think she had stopped at the words rape joke. I did stop her to read it myself (my first encounter with this blog by the way). She doesn't know what rape is... but she reads enough to know its not good and what it may have to do with... I read on and summarized in an age appropriate way what the struggles and contrasts are in this article. We talked about socialization and what some think it should mean... We looked at the conformity vs. compassion picture together and had a great discussion that bounced well off a discussion about sororities that has been ongoing at our house since last fall when we saw flocks of lovely young ladies on a campus near us in unusually acute (and sad) conformity at rush time... Any way, we went on to read the rest of the post together. As we talked about how some think children need to be in situations (harmful or not) to really understand how to know the ways of the world etc. she on her own chimed in somewhat indignantly that she was learning and understanding all that stuff through people like George Muller (we are in the middle of that biography) and others, to make her ready to understand and face it... I was proud of her connecting the dots and her ability to have this deep discussion with understanding. Personally, my instinct is to run and hide from it all... but I know we can't and I am very thankful that she is getting that from literature and with deep discussion together as we go... my heart goes out hugely to the wounded young lady that you wrote about and pray for her healing! As a public school victim of conformity, I know some of those scars...and the One who heals them. This is all over the place, but wanted you to know your post lead, in a sidewinding way, to a very important discussion and great food for thought for this homeschool family. Thanks.

    • I am so glad to hear it, Jenn! And welcome to the blog [smile]. May you and your family continue to be encouraged by what you read here and in the materials you use daily in your homeschool. Thank you, very much, for taking the time to write up these thoughts; I appreciate them greatly.


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