by Michael Leppert
Go to any small town in America and you may see a proliferation of locally-owned businesses. “Mom and pop” restaurants, drycleaners, gas stations, stationers . . . corporate America hasn’t completely wreaked its damage on Main Street, yet. Sole proprietor businesses are just like the people who own them – they have a unique, individual quality that often reflects the owner’s personality. In a sole-prop restaurant, when you sit down at a table for a meal, the person waiting on you might the boss – or is doing the cooking. In some rural areas of the country, such businesses may seem quirky or eccentric, but to many of us, that is the very quality that makes such a business endearing and worthy of patronage.
On the other hand, corporate entities tend to have a slick, fabricated, designed look and feel. Plus, the “owners” are usually very far removed from you. Some corporations pride themselves on having a consistent floor plan and décor in every single location. This often lowers costs, and seems helpful to one who travels a great deal. Think of any national wholesale department store or restaurant chain, and you know how it is: You could be dropped blindfolded in the middle of any American city, walk into a local chain location and go right to the appropriate area of the store where a particular household, automotive, clothing item or menu selection can be found.
I think this is boring and I believe that such sameness is not laudable in most instances. (If I go to New England, I want to see “New England” – not the Madison Avenue version of New England.) Television has, of course, helped to spawn this homogenization, this de-geography-ing of American life. Everyone who watches the tube often, finds himself becoming hypnotized by this across-the-board identity. No one can argue that some industries or endeavors cry out for standardization. Railroad gauges have to be standardized. Pure food practices should be standardized nationally, so that a traveler from one state to another does not feel he/she is entering a third-world country. But beyond such matters where flat-lining serves an intelligent purpose, sameness is not beautiful, inspiring or desirable to real people.
If you are homeschooling, you already know how these observations apply to family life and academic pursuits. Your unique family character produces unique offspring. Your homeschooling is centered around your individual home life, too, so it is as unique as your family. On the other hand, public schools strive to produce corporate sameness in the “product” they turn out – the students. Public schools are designed to produce a workforce that knows and follows the “rules” of the working-class society. Homeschooling tends to produce people who develop and maintain themselves as individuals; a child’s uniqueness is apt to be nurtured by his/her parents and self-reliance is encouraged. Learning to actually think and then applying the resulting skill of thought to conclude what one believes about religion, politics, life, you-name-it, are part of the core of homeschooling’s value. Raising children capable of establishing their own tastes and values rather than joining the cult of celebrity-worship and following the herd is probably the most important aspect of homeschooling. We can be proud that we are raising the “small town” version of people rather than the Madison Avenue, strip mall version! I celebrate and appreciate the “small town” in all of us! MjL