During the nineteenth century, social reformers took hold of an already existing institution—the school—and sought to make it compulsory. In the process, they supplanted parents and domestic life—the home—as the primary educational force for children.
As education was taken out of the home, American classrooms were at the same time remade into a particular kind of home life—one based upon a sentimentalized maternity, where love can always triumph over the “public” and “masculine” forces of competition, merit, and hierarchy.
And so love entered into the discourse of teaching …
In this model, a good teacher loves her students. She makes her classroom into a home. Like a good mother, she sacrifices for them, enduring long hours of isolation, low pay, and little public support or recognition. Students, in their turn, should love their teacher. To please her, they should learn the values that would sustain a more virtuous republic. Parenting, through all of this, was redefined as a private activity. Battle lines were drawn and the stakes were love, learning and control.
It doesn’t need to be this way.
It is time to rethink the ways in which parents and teachers interact with one another. It is time to redefine “homeschooling” as something all families engage in and that all public schools should seek to support.