I have a new op-ed featured at The Guardian today, “How did I stay normal when I was home-schooled? I watched a lot of TV.”
Like the title says, the piece is about my upbringing as a homeschooler, and the importance TV played in making me ‘normal’—whatever normal means. The editors chopped the last two paragraphs, which had the actual payoff for the piece, so for the curious few, here they are:
This is why, when people express surprise that I “seem so normal for someone who was homeschooled,” I feel the ambivalent pleasure of someone who has ‘passed’; in my case, passed as a normal, upright citizen. Without a TV growing up, I’m sure my situation would be different. But on the other hand, what’s so cool about normal? As a non-institutional practice, homeschooling seems anachronistic in a society where institutionalism is both economically and psychically de rigueur. Yet, the fringe still has appeal: according to the NCES, there were 1.77 million homeschooled students in 2012, accounting for 3.4% of the total student population—up from 1.1 million at 2.2% in 2003. And it shows no sign of stopping.
As entertainment becomes increasingly individualized—compared to the mass one-way pedagogies of the late cable era—the mainstream becomes dissipated in kind. On one hand, this has the potential to be good for education, as more families are better equipped to understand the shortcomings of educational standardization (and accompanying overcrowded classrooms, school violence, bureaucratic corruption, and so forth). But on the other hand, can a modern consumer culture without a standard entertainment subscription support a common narrative?