How Homeschooling Affects Conformity

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Henry Cate asked: Is group pressure what motivates us to root for our home team? He has an excellent (and funny) video in his post, so check it out. Then Cindy mentioned Asch's conformity experiment in a post about protests at BJU. So conformity is at the top of my mind.


Be Yourself

A common critique of homeschooling is that parents will use their authority to force their children to believe hogwash the rest of the enlightened world has rejected. And this is clearly a possibility. On the other hand, it is also clear that children come to a point where they must decide what ideas and practices they will adopt for themselves. Homeschooling parents--as a whole, I believe--wish to allow their children to grow up and gain a firm understanding of reality before they are presented with the biases and agendas found in the wider world. Parents thus become the "partner" of the Asch experiment, not an authority figure like Milgram.*

The corollary to the idea of parental domineering dogma can be found in Paul Graham's Why Nerds are Unpopular; namely, that conformity is the most highly rewarded attribute in schools. Given this, it's not parents we should be suspect of, but classmates. This is especially true if the parents ascribe to Sonlight's stance of "educate, don't indoctrinate." Peers have no such creed.

Furthermore, homeschooling gives us an excellent opportunity to learn to counteract the pressure to conform in (at least) three ways:

  1. We're already non-conformists. Homeschooling, for all it's popularity, is still not mainstream. Thus, our selected educational model promotes working outside the lines.
  2. Our peers are our siblings. I know my little brother looked up to me for a while, but then he decided I was a tyrannical monster--I was--and no longer copied everything I did, unless it was to be annoying. He came around again, sometime after I grew up a bit. The point: My siblings and I are all extremely different, and I never felt the need to conform to them, nor they to me.
  3. We're encouraged to walk our own path. I wrote about this a couple years ago in the comment-happy post The Archer and Control.

Am I more of a non-conformist than my peers from a more traditional educational background? I think so. This clearly isn't only because I was homeschooled. But by homeschooling, my family continued a trajectory of making the right choice for each individual, rather than succumbing to the pressure of the group. One simple example: I may live in Broncos Country, but ...eh.

As a homeschooler, do you feel like a non-conformist? What do you think of the pressure to "fit in" in the homeschool crowd? Are your children swayed to conform, or are they their own selves? Any thoughts you'd care to toss in here?

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester

*I'm shocked--pardon the pun--that this experiment could be replicated in 2009. I realize that "we learn nothing from history," but the fact that these people clearly didn't recognize Milgram's experiment says something about our memory/education....

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