Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Conversations with a liberal

The following is an email conversation between my favorite liberal detractor, a very polite fellow who sends thoughtful emails from the liberal side of things. He’s replying to last weekend’s column on Selective Feminism.

Hello Patrice! You're absolutely right about how wrong many feminists are. The extremist ones are always making wildly exaggerated claims about women's "oppression," and some are guilty of misandry, the equivalent of misogyny. Radical feminist Marilyn French has stated that "all men are rapists, and that's all they are." And some of these feminist wackos actually believe that all sex between males and females, even between consenting adults, is rape and should be prohibited, and that all reproduction should be by artificial insemination.

But the "Keep 'em barefoot and pregnant, women's place is in the home" conservatives are just as bad. They want to roll back all the progress that has been made for women. They are a kind of American Taliban.

I recently read an interesting book by Phyllis Schlafly, of whom I'm no admirer, in which she mocks radical feminists, makes fun of the whole feminist movement, and completely distorts and misrepresents much of what feminists say and do. She just sets up all manner of straw men (or women).

For example, she claims that one of the bad things about feminism is that so many women no longer stay home to take care of their children, and pursue their own careers. Supposedly this has a very bad effect on children. Day care facilities are bad, very bad. Women should be at home taking care of their children.

But what she conveniently fails to mention is the fact that many married couples have to have double incomes, and they would never be able to get by otherwise. These are the economic realities of today. Get a grip on reality, Phyllis.

And I'm still convinced that homeschooling is a very problematical thing. If parents have the skill and ability to teach their children everything they need to know, then it's alright. But too many of these parents are members of the evangelistic religious right, and they don't want their children exposed to ideas they don't like, such as the idea that the Bible isn't literally true, the world wasn't created in six days and is only 6,000 years old, which is 1,000 years after the ancient Sumerians invented glue, dinosaurs existed side by side with people, and that Adam and Eve, and Noah etc really existed.

They're also deathly afraid of having their children hear that what consenting adults do in private is nobody else's business, and that homosexuals are just ordinary people who deserve the same rights as every one else’s, and should be left alone as long as they harm no one else.

Their narrow-mindedness, intolerance and self-righteousness is appalling. I don't mind people being Christians. I don't hate them because of this. I just disapprove of their whole social agenda. I don't want to take any rights away from them, or interfere with their religious observances.

But I'm just as opposed to the stupidly multicultural and politically correct indoctrination in so many public schools today. Students should be taught to think for themselves, and to be ready and willing to disagree with other people without being disagreeable.

My own upbringing and early education was like neither. I wasn’t taught to be a homophobe. Homosexuality wasn't even discussed! It wasn't an issue back then. I wasn't taught that only Jews will go to heaven; my family has never even been observant Jews. Judaism teaches that God does not judge us by what religion we happen to follow. He does not care whether we are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus or whatever. We are judged by our actions and our actions alone.

My parents never even mentioned abortion when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s. It was a very different world back then.

Many conservatives whose websites and blogs I respond to consider me a terrible liberal, even a communist, even though I'm anything but that. But when I email far left ones, they think I'm much too conservative!

And in a separate email:

Another thing I meant to say about homeschooling is that it can deprive kids of the chance to be exposed to kids from other religious backgrounds and with different opinions and attitudes. It can give them a narrow and limited outlook on life by depriving them of the exposure to different worldviews. And the chance to discuss things and disagree with others, or possibly to come to realize that some things other people say might make sense, and that they may have a point.

In an ideal world, kids would just be educated rather than indoctrinated, either with a multicultural and politically correct viewpoint in which they are taught to be paranoid about offending others and being offended, and that the whole history of the world is one of evil, greedy and crude whites oppressing all non-whites, etc and all that garbage, or a strictly religious and evangelically conservative viewpoint in which the Bible is literally true, and homosexuals are evil perverts doomed to hellfire, and that abortion must be ended at all costs, and that any one who does not subscribe to their narrow religious views is doomed to hell, and that liberals are evil atheistic moral relativists, and hedonistic immoral people who are out to undermine the nation's morality.

Kids must learn to think for themselves, and not see things in black and white.

My reply:

Goodness, you had me worried there! For a moment I thought we actually agreed on something, in which case, of course, I'd wonder what I did wrong (smile).

While I don't agree with the more excessive "keep 'em at home" conservative extremists, I believe a LOT more people can live on one income than you might suspect. But people have become accustomed to luxury. The wife works to provide money for extras. If people learned to be frugal and live within their means, more women could stay home. And believe me, a lot of women *want* to stay home. And yes, I happen to think daycare is bad. We've worked our fannies off since our kids were born to make sure one parent is at home - I've worked nights, swing-shift, etc. to make sure our kids never darken the door of a daycare.

We have an appointment to have our taxes done today, so yesterday I just finished crunching all our income and expense numbers for the past year. I learned something very interesting. If we exclude the very modest amount of money I make from writing (and let the records show, I don't get paid by WorldNetDaily), then we are $70 below the federal poverty level for a family of four. We have plenty to eat, our girls are in music lessons and other extracurricular activities, we have a lovely home and a small farm. Don't tell me people can't live modestly and have one person at home. It can be done if the priorities are in the right place.

Now here's something interesting – you segued from feminism into homeschooling with nary a blink and went on an oppositional rant worthy of the stuff I spew in my columns. Goodness me, you must have had a *seriously* bad experience with some homeschoolers along the way because I've never seen homeschoolers like the ones you describe. I can honestly say the homeschoolers I know – and I know a lot – don't fit your stereotype in the slightest. My literary agent just asked me to write a book on parenting because she admires how our girls are turning out, and a lot of how they're turning out has to do with homeschooling (lack of exposure to peer pressure and learning to treat one's parents with shocking disrespect, principally). I could as easily hand that assignment to any homeschooling mother around me because their kids are turning out just as admirably.

You speak of conservative Christians as if we're interested in turning this country into a bullying, intolerant Theocracy along the lines of the Taliban. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are horrified and appalled at how things are "progressing" in this country, but the vast majority of us *just want to be left alone.* We want our liberties as outlined in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be left untampered. The government has no interest in leaving us alone, though, so we must fight. We fight to homeschool, we fight to keep our kids unpolluted by what we see as the evils of the world rather than forcibly spoon-fed things in public school, and we fight to keep such basic rights as gun ownership and freedom of speech/religion/etc.

Believe me, homeschooled kids are exposed to a whole lot more stuff than you think simply by virtue of not being locked into a classroom with one age level for eight hours a day. Parents of homeschooled kids tend to take their kids with them everywhere and meet all sorts of people. We don't keep them locked in a trunk in the basement. They're in the real world – talking, socializing, working, volunteering, learning, seeing, growing. Studies have demonstrated over and over and over and over that homeschooled kids grow up to be highly socialized, competent adults. They just happen to become adults with their parents' morals intact...which, you must admit, is the dearest wish of most parents, *yourself included.* We just happen to differ on what those morals might be.

That said, I'll admit I find it fascinating to get a glimpse into liberal thinking through your emails. I'm quite serious. Frequently I'll ask my husband, "How can they THINK like that?" and you provide me with answers, for which I'm grateful.

Okay, off to get our taxes done. Joy.

Best regards,


  1. Thank you for posting those e-mails. My boyfriend and I both shake our heads at "these people".
    If I followed the beliefs of those groups, I could not live with myself or stand to look at myself in the mirror. Honestly!
    I am always amazed at how they "attack" those who do not believe their way and they are "unbending". I will watch and listen, then call it as I see it on most issues, with the exception of those that go against the BIBLE. Say what you will, but that is the Manual to follow. I will not waiver.

  2. We live well with three kids on 25K without goverment aid so don't tell me it can't be done.And my kids meet many more 'diverse' people in the real world then they would in school.Thanks.

  3. Are you qualified to teach math, science, literature, music? If you are not then what do you do to teach your children advanced subjects?

  4. In response to the question about whether we're qualified to teach math, science, literature and music...yes we are. My husband and I each hold master's degrees in science (me, biology; him, geology). I come from a family of engineers and have been well-drilled in math, thanks to my dad. We have over four thousand books in our house and no television reception, thus our children are superior readers. And both girls are in music lessons (violin and piano).

    That said, some of the best homeschooling moms I know have a high-school education and use pre-packaged curricula to assist them in their homeschooling. They are producing some of the most awe-inspiringly educated kids you can imagine.

  5. Most people singing the praises of pubilc school fail to see the dark side. Prior to my removal of our yongest child form the local public school six years ago, he was often kicked, puched, hit or hit in the face with whatever balls were available.The physical and verbal abuse he endured was apalling.In the local high school, students often arrive drunk stoned or high. My child will finish grade 12 in a couple of months. He is a happy well adjusted young man.
    I will never regret homeschooling him.

  6. I am growing ever more tired of the anti-homeschoolers who claim that parents are inherently unqualified to teach their children because the parents are identified as "right-wing evangelicals" and must therefore be presumed uneducated and ignorant.
    I am a right-wing evangelical. One of my two bachelors degrees is in Education. I was certified to teach K-12. I used to teach in a public high school. I know exactly how LITTLE of what I was taught earning that particular degree actually applies to teaching. My husband is a law professor. He teaches for our living - mostly students who are products of public schools, who, despite having received undergraduate degrees, are still incapable of writing a sentence that is both grammatical and coherent.
    The vast majority of their teachers were and are left-wing secularists. Who receives the better education? Who is the more qualified teacher?

  7. Someone above asked what one does if one is not qualified to teach advanced subjects...

    In the Lansing, MI, area, homeschoolers have formed a support system for each other - over two hundred homeschooling families and growing. One of the many ways we improve our children's education is by team-teaching, and trading subjects. I wanted my children to learn Chinese, which I don't speak, so they take Chinese from a mom born and raised in Taiwan. I have a degree in Spanish, so I teach Spanish to 10 students from 7 other families. Their parents teach other subjects, from Science to History to Writing to Culinary Management to LegoRobotics to... you get the idea. This ensures teachers passionate about their subjects, and students still learning what an individual parent may not have the resources to teach.
    As a former public school teacher, it is a joy to get to TEACH a class, rather than waste time on admin "duties" and disciplinary actions, and to have students whose parents are actively involved in their children's education - the other members of my teaching team are parents of half my class - they know what their children are learning and rarely does a student come to class unprepared.
    These students
    1)get the classes they need for an education equivalent or better than public schooling; 2)they have qualified, passionate teachers intensely interested in their understanding; 3)they learn how-to-learn-in-a-classroom-setting; 4)they do all this without the negatives associated with the gov't nanny/public schools.

    We also have other options - my husband can teach what I cannot (that would be Calculus and Trig). And when my children are old enough, they can take Physics and Chem as high school students at the local community college, where there are laboratory facilities that we don't have at home...

    I submit that homeschoolers are NOT the ones getting an inadequate education in this country.

  8. I am so glad I don't have children so others can't judge the way I raise or school them. Whew!

  9. hmmm I find myself in the strange position of agreeing with both views. Homeschoolers are often judged unfairly. My sixteen year old daughter will be attending college full time next fall. My children are members of groups that have awesome opportunities that they would have never done in public school. However, having been an active homeschooler for many, many years, I have found few homeschooling families that I want to associate with. Self righteousness, arrogance and intolerance is plenty prevalent with this group I am a member of. I know way too many that cannot handle anyone disagreeing with them in the slightest and will actively freak out if someone's views do not cookie cutter theirs. The world wasn't made with cookie cutter people.

    I leave the judgment to God. I resent the people who profess that we are ALL sinners and then forget their basic tenet of their faith and presume that they could not possibly still be imperfect. I hate that I am SCARED of saying anything that might "offend" the ultra conservatives and their paranoia. Having lived over a decade with the military as a soldier and a sailor's wife, I got sick of being called a traitor for questioning why we do some of the the things we do. We are supposed to "fight for freedom"--as long as you agree with me. It makes me sick--but I live the belief that someone can disagree with me without my whole world collapsing.

  10. At the time the previous poster was writing (last year to me), I was in the same boat as she. I was new to home schooling and was disillusioned by the quality of home school families I knew at the time.

    Thankfully, a friend at church invited me to a support group in the next town over, and I discovered home schooling families that I could enjoy being with, even if we don't always agree.