If you’re going to set up alternative sources of authority, you need to vet them for fraudulence. John Taylor Gatto is demonstrably set up as a homeschooling authority figure and even when his name isn’t directly mentioned, the boilerplate about the “Prussian system” and “everyone was college-level literate before the evils of public school” shows up in plenty of conservative advocacy of homeschooling. But Gatto’s claims are not vetted, and when they are questioned, the response is that *footnotes are a tool of the man to keep you from going on a heart journey*. An example of not vetting Gatto is the claims he makes about literacy being higher before compulsory public education by comparing WWI literacy *data* with literacy *reports* from before WWI. Subjective reports that ranged from being able to compose a complex essay to being able to sign one’s name are not really a useful way to assess historical literacy or compare it to hard data after the World Wars, yet that very digging into the primary sources and trying to get at the heart of things is ostentatiously absent when it comes to Gatto among homeschool advocates. This is part of a larger problem with modern people conservative and liberal alike running screaming from explicit authority, but then becoming ensnared by the allure of false authorities.
When I first started blogging here, I had a misinformed idea that there was a lot more pro-mother tendency in American women before roughly the 1960s. But that isn’t the case. What is the case is that from the pre-America colonial days up until now in the Age of Devices, American women have always been the definition of Hegelian contradiction, pulling in opposite directions.
Unusually even among European cultures, American women have always had a contingent that privileged the mother-child dyad so extremely that nobody else was supposed to provide care or upbringing of the child(ren). This remains shocking to me and something I’m still trying to accept. But even when women mostly had to have other women around, American women have had a subset that was very loud and pushy about how they could or ought to go it alone and rear their children without any other humans involved, even dad.
The conservative flavor has brought us the sorts of people who believe mother-only childcare and child rearing is universal, historical and natural on the conservative or right-wing side. A different flavor, call it liberal though it crosses many political lines, has brought us the ultimately damaging attachment parenting model. A lot of the mommy wars are American women singing their usual Hegelian song.
The Puritan factory model of child rearing, in which many people got a crack at rearing the child and the mother-child dyad was not privileged as such is the other side of this coin. There’s also always been a contingent of American women who believed children to be fungible, and thus it was merely a matter of applying the right systems to a child by any adult who’d mastered those systems.
There were a lot of women, often mothers, behind the drives for daycare, systematized mass education and other attempts to genericize child care and child rearing.
I don’t have the energy to make a separate post, but the Little Golden Books were a combination child psychology experiment and mass kid-marketing experiment done by a working mother who believed more “authentic” children’s tales would be useful in improving the educational level of young urban children. She herself was a major promoter in the early 20th century of the right of women to combine having a family and having a productive, fulfilling career.
Meanwhile, one of my favorite American writers, Gene Stratton-Porter, was a massive promoter of mother-care as the only real care in her fiction and some of her non-fiction writing. She combined this, in that contradictory way of American women, with explicit commentary about how it was acceptable to have relatives, governesses or tutors though.
So the American project, distaff side, has always been contradictory and oxymoronic. The American woman is a social creature, but yet anti-social. Maternal, sometimes cloyingly so, yet dismissive of maternal love.
I’ve been looking into women’s history around the world and American women are Just Different compared to other women when it comes to all these things. They have always had massive personal freedom, even many enslaved women during those eras. But they’ve also had a sometimes bizarre interpretation of the life domestic compared to historical norms, even ones concurrent to their own for a given point in American history.
The American woman is, was and will be fried ice and its promoter as long as there is an America.
In no particular order.
- Your time is not fungible. With the corollary that DIY is anti-community.
- Aim for mother-friendly, not child-friendly because child-friendly really means “no siblings allowed”.
- Busy is selfish.
- Leisure isn’t lazy. It’s how people get the fun social and civilizational goods they claim to (often “traditionally”) support, after all.
- Service isn’t servile. Having (usually unrelated) people do things for you and giving them money to do so is not imposing servility on them. It was a staple of even the very poor in pre-modern times. The modern era is defined most sharply as the point where paying people to do things for you was utterly deprecated. In America, this was actually the postwar era, but in the rest of the West, it was early Vietnam-era.
These precepts are just a beginning, a tiny seed of a bigger idea, and working the implications out is a longer term goal.