Should We Be Teaching ‘Prepare for Verbal Abuse 101’ In Our Homeschools?

One of the things homeschooled kids miss out on is being criticized by teachers for their personal beliefs.

I don’t think it’s bad to miss out on such experiences, but it does get me thinking about how to prepare (or whether it’s possible to prepare) our college-bound homeschooled offspring for that kind of situation, which is becoming increasingly common.  

Not that it never happened in the past, of course. I recall being graded down in Biology 100 back at the good old U of I for refusing to accept the theory of evolution as a valid one. And as recently as last fall, my teenage daughter took some flak from her community college professor (in a graphic arts class, no less) for commenting that she liked Sarah Palin.

But it appears that the teachers are becoming more vehement and profane:

Jonathan Lopez, who is working on his associate of arts degree at Los Angeles City College, quoted a dictionary definition of marriage as the union of a man and a woman and cited several Bible verses during a public speaking class in late November, his suit says. His professor, John Matteson, interrupted, called Lopez a “fascist bastard” and refused to let him finish his address, according to the suit.

Nice, huh? We don’t have to worry about Jonathan, who has since sued the college district with the help of the Alliance Defense Fund. But what about our kids? John Matteson isn’t the only idiot professor out there. Can we prepare our kids for this kind of attack, and if so, how?

I think we should warn them that this happens, and discuss ways they can deal with it. In the case of my daughter, we discussed the inappropriateness of her teacher’s remarks (which I won’t go into here), especially since her dad and I were paying $400 for graphic design instruction, not misguided knee-jerk political philosophy. We also talked about what she wished she would have said, and what she’ll do when (not if) it happens again. We talked about knowing what you believe and why you believe it. And I told her I was proud of her for politely standing up for herself when verbally attacked by an authority figure.

Did I leave anything out? What else can we do?

Criticizing the Travoltas

Over the weekend I got caught up in reading about the tragic story of actor John Travolta’s 16-year-old son Jett, who died suddenly on Friday after a seizure-related injury.

The comments sections of articles about this issue posted on the Internet were packed with diatribes related to Jett’s possibly having been autistic, and speculation about whether he was being treated properly (the Travoltas belong to the cult of Scientology, which opposes psychotropic meds). The Travoltas have long-denied that Jett was autistic, although some who knew Jett did not believe them.

What really got my attention was the large number of comments from readers who said they themselves were parents of special needs children. I’m sure a few were lying in a misguided effort to boost their credibility (after all, you can say anything on the Internet). But most rang true, because they fell into the two general categories of special needs parents I’ve come to recognize:

1) The Fighters. They cope with their child’s diagnosis by putting their energies into fighting/curing the malady. They join rallies (“Walk for Autism”) and cite studies and statistics. They’re the cheerleaders in the fight against the disability and for funding in related matters.

2) The Accepters. They’ve come to terms with their child’s disability for the most part, often after many years of struggle. They appear more concerned about incorporating their child into normal daily life than focusing on the disability.

Commenters from the first group were more accusatory against the Travoltas. The second group tended to be more sympathetic, with many also suggesting that people who are not parents of special needs children had no right to criticize the Travoltas because they had not “walked in their shoes.”

My thoughts are closer to those of the second group. The lives of special needs parents can be quite challenging and lonely. No one who hasn’t been there should criticize them.

I feel sorry for the Travoltas. They must be in so much pain over the loss of their son. As Scientologists, they themselves are disabled in that they must face their grief without the knowledge and comfort of the one true God. That is the biggest tragedy of all.