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The Washington Times
May 4, 1999

Tragedy raises question about peer socialization

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
May 4, 1999

The heart of every parent in America ached in sympathy for those who suffered a tragic loss in the recent school massacre in Littleton, Colo. However, mixed with the sympathy was, for many, anxiety about the safety of their own children. “Will my child’s school be next?” is a thought on the minds of countless American parents.

For some, the Colorado tragedy was the final straw. The day after the killing spree erupted onto our TV screens, the phones at the Home School Legal Defense Association began to ring with a steady rhythm: “I can’t take it any more. I’ve been thinking of home-schooling. This is it.”

For some time, violence in schools—usually physical assault experienced by their own child—has been a strong motivation for parents to home-school. I defended a family in Tennessee who began home-schooling after the blouse of the couple’s daughter was ripped open in her home-room class by a relentless suitor who would not take no for an answer.
       A goodly number of other children have experienced the teasing, pushing, hitting, and intimidation of schoolyard bullies. School officials usually respond to parents’ worries with little more than sighs of frustration. One couple in Iowa began home-schooling their daughter in her senior year after she was sexually assaulted by the star football player. School officials were more concerned about his status and protection than the safety of the girl.

Immediately after the Colorado shootings, several schools across the nation found that they had students who were so warped they showed up the next day or two in black trench coats and some even pretended to shoot guns. One press account indicated four such incidents in Pennsylvania alone. So much for the idea that “it can’t happen here.” It probably won’t happen in your child’s local school, but it would be foolish to think that it can’t.

All parents should start asking themselves a question usually faced only by home-schoolers: What about socialization? Home-school parents get hit with this intended rhetorical trump card from people who think that a home-educated child is missing something important that is inherent and unique to the halls of a typical high school.

To believe that what passes for normal these days is good, wise or normal is a fallacy. We have experimented with the notion that children should be the ones to socialize other children for only a short span in human history. After all, the term socialization indicates the process by which a child is taught the proper rules of society. Why do we think that 6-year-olds, 12-year-olds, or even 18-year-olds are the right people for this task?

Peer-based socialization creates the hazing hallways where the big, the popular, and the vulgar pray on the small, the morally pure, and the weird. The two shooters in Colorado were in the last category. While they bear undiminished responsibility for their actions, it is fair to say that the atmosphere of intimidation faced by students who are different from the popular crowd can be frightening indeed.

Another fallacy that must be challenged is that aberrant lifestyles should be allowed a free rein. Those who rent music halls and produce records need to wake up to the fact that satanic and Neo-nazi “music” affects some of its listeners. Listeners who act out the ideas and themes of such music create danger.

Parents of children who customarily dress in black from head to toe need a wake up call—their children are dabbling in a lifestyle that is fraught with danger and evil. Some of these children will never get a chance to “grow out of this phase.”

People should not choose to home school out of a momentary panic resulting from watching the news about Colorado. You won’t have the self-discipline necessary to succeed if that is your sole motivation. But if you are concerned about your children’s safety because of guns, satanic rock, drugs, bullies, and the inherent dangers of peer socialization—and want to do something more than wring your hands - then maybe it is time to think seriously about home schooling your own children.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at