Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In the American Forest, Everyone's a Mockingbird

In evangelical circles, you can always tell who has been to public or private school and who was home-schooled. The simple test is this: does the person mock others? Is he sarcastic? Ironic? That will usually answer your question for you.

I've applied this homemade test lots of times and found my hypothesis proven on many occasions. There are exceptions to every rule, but I have found home-schooled students to be kinder, less manipulative, and more earnest than students from public or private school. The public and private schools attract a predominantly non-Christian student body. In my public school, many kids were from homes wracked by conflict or torn by divorce. Such circumstances, and the common absence of a stable parental situation, combined with the depraved instincts inherent in every person, combined for a climate among students that was generally hostile, unfriendly, and angry. Strong adult authority often countered such a situation, but sadly, I think that the majority of children educated outside of the home experienced something like I did.

The point of all this is that such a climate breeds a culture of mockery, of disingenuity, of cynicism, and that this culture assassinates more virtuous dispositions. There were precious few moments of genuine, shared earnestness in my public school. There was always someone to mock, someone to laugh, and with that, a potentially meaningful moment would be lost. But forget about unsaved, unhappy children. Even in many Christian circles today, mockery prevails. I'm not against cultural awareness by a long shot, but too many of us ape the world's desperation for coolness, and cut down friends, family members, and church members who violate the postmodern code of conduct and commit the unpardonable sin: being earnest and sincere. In such places, people close up and go quiet. Fearing mockery and the shame that comes from being on the receiving end of it, Christians avoid one another and genuine, meaningful exchanges. Far too many of the younger generation have capitulated to the culture of coolness. While they wouldn't allow Friends to dictate their sexual ethics, they are more than happy to allow Seinfeld to set the tone for personal conversation. They do so failing to realize that they have become worldly, and have allowed the culture to condition their dealings with other people. This is a sad state of affairs.

Let's just be honest. Sometimes, home-schooled children suffer ridicule. Occasionally, such ridicule proceeds from demonstrable social awkwardness. Far more often, however, such youth simply display a sense of earnestness and sweetness. I can recall classmates savaging students for being nothing other than kind. We Christians should not ape such behavior. We should not make coolness the greatest social good. We should not sin against others by humiliating and shaming them. We should instead work against the culture of mockery, and allow the hopelessly cool among us to sound the mockingbird's cry. Of course, in today's age, the forest is filled with them, and everyone sounds the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Cousin Owen,

I would like to read any kind of resources that you have backing up your hypothesis (besides personal observation). Yes, I would say that children who attend public or private school do have a higher probability of coming from a broken home, which could lead to a behavior flaunting mockery etc. But I would also have to play the "I disagree" card.

The people/ students who I have encountered who come from the home school environment are more verbally acute and know how to present themselves but they also lack the ability to share ideas, think outside themselves and resolve conflict. Being a student of the public school system, and a believer in public education students who are in or products of the public school system are misjudged and many times viewed as under educated. Why? Probably because of NCLB messing up the way funds are distributed and putting the negatives on display. Despite whatever, I have found that public school students tend to excel in the art of maneuvering through and handling conflict (both face to face and via technology), accepting and seeing past difference in others and ulitmately understand the good and bads of the world. This may be true for many students of the private school system as well but I found their rebellion against "rules" to be overwhelming.

Just my thoughts,

Hannah Boyd

4:26 PM  
Blogger Reid S. Monaghan said...

As a public school kid - I would like to mock Owen but don't want to hurt his feelings. By the way, I am just kidding.

Owen, do you not think Jesus used irony, sarcasm and subversive humor with the Pharisees?

Very nice post title.

8:46 PM  

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