Education triggers a lot of painful emotions for Ken Wheeler. Find out how his own regrettable academic career leads him to the wrong conclusions about public education and home schooling in the United States.
For most of human history, societies viewed formal education as a privilege rather than a right. If your father was the king’s personal physician, like Aristotle, you could go to the Academy and have Plato as your professor.
If you were an everyday pleb, like 99% of the populace, you’d pick up as much as you could from your parents and older siblings and hope for the best. That’s why so many people in the ancient world ended up with the same job as their parents, whether it suited them or not.
Home schooling as the norm back then could be okay with the right parents, but not usually. A good example is a letter one of my own pioneer ancestors sent back to relatives in her native Scotland. She writes, “there is no school here for the children, so we have to learn them ourselves.”
Cultures that Valued Universal Education Early On Excelled
Cultures that valued universal education early on excelled. For example, Scots and Jews were overrepresented among the wealthy, scholarly and successful because even people of modest means received a basic education within their societies.
Universal, compulsory education finally emerged in the United States in the early 20th century. Governments viewed it as essential for two main reasons. America needed an educated electorate for democracy to function, and it needed a skilled workforce to compete with its rivals in international trade.
Public education ensured that teachers were certified and accountable for what they taught. It also established standard curricula that elected school boards could at least try to match to local socioeconomic needs.
Public Education Provides Equality of Opportunity
As we’ve seen, public education also provided equality of opportunity. When everyone gained the same standard body of knowledge in school, priviledged kids like Aristotle no longer had any advantage over others.
Ken Wheeler didn’t get along in school. He tells his viewers that “of all the horrible things that have happened to me in life, public school was easily the worst.”
With characteristic intellectual humility, he explains his unhappy academic career this way. “I had the the gift of wisdom and insight to know these teachers were all fools. I didn’t listen to them, I didn’t obey them. I knew I was smarter than them, and still am, of course”
“Angry/Irritable Mood, Argumentative, Defiant Behavior”
The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, 5th edition (DSM-5) identifies an interesting childhood condition. It’s called Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). They define it as, “a pattern of angry/irritable mood, argumentative/defiant behavior, or vindictiveness.” Readers can decide for themselves to whom this description might apply.
The Angry Photographer goes on to explain, “You know, I didn’t disrupt the class or anything. There were a few times when I told the teacher ‘you’re a fool, this is just not true.'” The DSM-5 explains that ODD is different from other behavioural issues in that, while children with the disorder are argumentative and insolent, they’re rarely physically aggressive or inclined to lie or steal.
The Angry Photographer declares that public schools teach “filth and nonsense to their kids.” He explains that he has “no love for teachers because most of them can’t teach, they don’t know anything, they don’t care about their job.”
Would Like to See America Return to Home Schooling
The YouTuber behind Theoria Apophasis would like to see America return to the days where home schooling was the norm. The problem with this approach is that home schooling in the 21st century has all the same shortcomings it had in the 19th.
There’s more to being an educator than reading textbooks to your kids or having them watch videos. Teachers use their experience to offer professional guidance to ensure children master the skills they need through tailored homework, lessons, testing and projects.
Most children perform better academically in school than at home because their peers influence them. Social stimulus from other kids boosts their IQ, and a bit of healthy competition motivates them to perform better in a formal classroom than in a family setting.
Classroom Environment More Stimulating for Most Kids
Children find home schooling tedious and being cooped up at home all day makes them restless. Spending all their time inside the home often leads to depression and obesity. A classroom environment is much more stimulating for most kids.
Home schooling involves more screen time than classroom education. In addition to the mental issues this entails, it’s very bad for a child’s eyesight.
Home schooled children don’t interact with peers outside their family. This leads to poor social skills and a less well-rounded personality.
Home Schooled Children Are More Likely to Be Bullied
Home schooled children are more likely to be bullied. They have fewer opportunities to socialize and don’t have school friends to support them. Neighbourhood children outside their own families view them as outsiders.
The main concern though, is that very few parents are equipped to be teachers. They don’t have the training, the time or the resources to take on the role of a professional educator. As a result of all these shortcomings, most home schooled kids aren’t well prepared for college or for the workplace.
Very Few Parents Are Equipped to Be Teachers
Parents who home school often make grave mistakes that harm their children’s development. Academic performance suffers as a result. There’s a very good reason why only about 3% of American families home school their children even though it’s perfectly legal.
Kentucky Ken insists that he’s never heard of a problem child who was home schooled. The truth is that a growing number of home schooled children have grown up to become violent criminals and even mass murderers.
They include Adam Lanza, the school shooter who killed twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook. Chevie Kehoe and his brother Cheyne, two of America’s most infamous white supremacists, were also home schooled. So was Alaska’s notorious serial killer Israel Keyes who confessed to eight murders and whom police suspect was guilty of several more.
Sandy Hook Shooter, Alaska Serial Killer: Home Schooled
None of this proves that home schooling is a breeding ground for criminals. However, it does strongly refute Kentucky Ken’s claim that home schooled kids never grow up to be problem adults.
Money is one of Ken Wheeler’s perennial preoccupations. In terms of education, he declares “I pay property taxes. I think I pay too much in property taxes and most of my property tax bill goes to these rotten, little, evil, hell-holes that we call the public school system.”
The Angry Photographer has no children. However, if he did, and he chose to home school them, he’d be shelling out thousands of dollars more in personal expenses over and above what he pays in school tax.
Penny Wise and Pound Foolish about Education Tax
These costs include textbooks, materials, field trips and extracurricular activities. As always, the Theoria Apophasis host is being penny wise and pound foolish.
Ken Wheeler also had a regrettable college experience. He describes it as a “total waste.” He claims to have spent “years in college.” The truth is, he spent just two years studying Russian at the University of Kentucky in his hometown of Lexington and didn’t graduate.
He tells his audience that the university’s only worthwhile resource was the library. He reports spending most of his college days in it, rather than doing his assignments or socializing with any of his peers.
“I Spent Enormous Amounts of Time” in the Library
“I spent enormous amounts of time there,” he says, “Quickly finding the really, really good stuff and being self-taught in a superior education.” As part of this process, the Angry Photographer dabbled in the philosophy of Plato.
It’s beyond ironic that someone who identifies as a platonist would also boast about being self-taught. Plato was strongly against learning independently from books.
He believed that books had their place as a pastime for scholars or to leave a legacy as teachers’ lives drew to a close. However, he thought they were no substitute for lectures because, as he put it in his Protagorus dialogue, books “can neither answer nor ask.”
Plato: “Writings Are but a Reminiscence of What We Know”
In his dialogue the Phaedrus, Plato went further, saying “that even the best of writings are but a reminiscence of what we know, and that only in principle of justice and goodness and nobility taught and communicated for the sake of instruction and graven in the soul, which is the true way of writing, is there clearness and perfection and seriousness.”
Plato established the first academic insitution, The Academy, because of his passionate commitment to classroom instruction over self-directed book-learning. There’s an old saying that “every self-taught man had a fool for a teacher.”
The Angry Photographer displays an intense dislike of formally educated people in every video. It seems to derive from the social dysfunction he endured during his own school years.
Many of Us Lived Through Similar Diffriculties
Many of us lived through similar difficulties, especially if we went to school before teachers learned to identify and address learning challenges like ODD and take bullying seriously. The Theoria Apophasis host is entitled to our compassion for his crushing experiences.
Even so, he’s not entitled to resent those who had meaningful and rewarding academic and professional careers merely because he didn’t benefit from the same experience.