Educated in a Tent by Bob Wallace
A few years ago, I ran across an article about a 52-year-old man who had lived with his 12-year-old daughter in a tent in a Portland, Oregon park for four years. When they were discovered, the girl was described as "well-spoken beyond her years." This girl, who would have been in the seventh grade, tested at the 12th grade level. What did her educational materials consist of? A set of old encyclopedias and a Bible.
Not long after, in one of those odd synchronicities that happen to all of us, I ran across another article about a father encountering three high-school girls who were talking about a party they had attended. He writes:
"Seemingly still semi-drunk from the party, the 16- and 17-year-old girls began to recount how much coke, weed, vodka, guys and girls they did the night before. Listening to the F-bomb riddled report of the previous night's peccadilloes left me thinking, how sad . . . and . . . what a waste . . . ."
He recounts how he and his wife pulled their daughters out of the public schools: "It's been eleven months since we pulled our teenage daughters out of the public school system and started to home-school them, and I could kick myself for waiting so long. The educational, emotional, spiritual and physical progress they have made has been amazing."
I'm certainly not defending an obviously very eccentric father raising his daughter in a tent from the ages of eight to 12. But I am sympathetic to his reasons. It's entirely possible his daughter might have turned into one of those 16- and 17-year-olds.
I find it bizarre that I am sympathetic at all to a man raising his daughter in a tent in a park. But I am. It's because of what the public schools have finally, after all these years, created: kids whom I wouldn't want for my own.
When I ask myself if I would like to be raised like that, of course I say, "No." But then a little voice says, "Remember seventh grade?" When it comes right down to it, in many ways the tent in the park would have been better.
When a girl raised in a tent in a park, with only a Bible and an obsolete set of encyclopedias, turns out so much intellectually and morally superior to kids from the public schools that a comparison isn't even close, it shows the public school are now beyond repair.
I'll bet this 12-year-old isn't damaged in the least. She certainly will have some interesting stories to tell for the rest of her life. As for the three girls soused on the coke and booze and weed? Who knows? Only time will tell. But I've met these people, lots of them, and so have you. Not all of them make it out okay.
What would I have done if I had been a police officer encountering this father and his daughter, living in their tent? Not much. I would have suggested to the father that maybe at the age of 12 she'd be turning into a young woman very soon, and perhaps he should take that into consideration. But I wouldn't have been too concerned about the situation. Amused, yes, and probably astonished, but overly concerned? No.
On the other hand, who wouldn't be concerned about the three drunken and stoned girls? Here's the kicker: exactly what could anyone do with them? The father and his daughter only needed a better place to stay. But what are you supposed to do with the three high school girls? How do you get them to straighten up? Your guess is as good as mine, and probably better.
I'm sure those who support the public schools had a conniption fit over this fundamentalist Christian father raising his daughter in a tent. Oh, the horror of it all! Yet, when it comes to those three girls and others like them, all we hear are excuses. And, of course, the eternal whining that more money is needed.
The public schools have been going bad for a long time. They were going bad when I was in them. Even with all the partying we did, we would have thought those three drunken and stoned girls were nuts, the kind almost all of us would have stayed away from. They were the exception then. Now it looks as if they are becoming the norm in some places.
Some people claim we need the schools to "socialize" kids. Schools don't socialize kids; they traumatize them. I am reminded of the popularity of Stephen King's first novel, Carrie, which was about the shark pit that high school can be. And King, who obviously based the novel on his time in school, went to high school in the '60s. Now it's 40 years later, and things are worse, not better.
When you stick a bunch of kids together who don't want to be together, the only way to control them is with authoritarian methods. And when no is looking, some of the kids will go after the others. In many ways, the public schools are just like prisons.
It truly appears the public schools appear to have finally gone over the cliff. No wonder home schooling is so popular. We need more of it. A lot more of it. And we certainly need the public schools closed down.