Nothing breeds sophomoric resentment like academic success. So it's no surprise that home schoolers and their children are the target of a spiteful T-shirt sold in retail stores and online.
The short-sleeved shirt is white with red trim. A red silhouette of a mobile home is emblazoned across the chest. Above the trailer are the words "HOME SKOOLED." I found the shirt selling for $19 on the Internet at www.tees.com, a youth-oriented clothing company based in New York City's East Village. (The manufacturer's other popular items include shirts glamorizing Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, totalitarian terrorist Che Guevara, vapid pop tart Britney Spears, and pimps. Yes, pimps.)
Until this week, Texas-based retailer J.C. Penney thought the "HOME SKOOLED" T-shirt was cool enough to peddle on its racks in the kiddie section. Only after a heated e-mail and phone campaign by home schooling parents did the department store chain send a notice to J.C. Penney stores nationwide advising them to remove the T-shirts. "It wasn't our intent to sell an item that is offensive," a company spokesman told the Associated Press.
What if the T-shirt had the phrase "PUBLIK SKOOLED" printed on it, with a silhouette of a ghetto public-housing complex emblazoned underneath? No doubt J.C. Penney would have balked at such a blatantly contemptuous image. The National Education Association and minority civil rights brigade would have made a federal discrimination case out of it.
But of course, no such T-shirt dissing the failed public school monopoly is sold on tees.com or at J.C. Penney. Why not? Because when it comes to bigoted insults in our politically correct culture, some institutions and groups get a pass. Despite criminally low test scores, enormous waste, unsafe classrooms and administrative incompetence, the public schools remain a hallowed and untouchable fixture. The snickering snobs of the education establishment smear those who seek to protect their children from that corrupted system as ignorant and intolerant anti-government radicals.
The vicious stereotype of home schooled children as ill-informed trailer park trash flies in the face of the facts. Last week, the federal government released a demographic report on the characteristics of home schooled students and their families. Among its key findings:
-- The household income of home school families was no different than other families.
-- Home school parents were educated, on average, at a higher level than were other parents.
-- Twenty-five percent of home school families are minorities: 9.9 percent are black, 9.1 percent are Hispanic, and 5.8 percent are "other."
And then there are the stunning academic achievements of this gifted and growing group of students. The largest-ever national study of home schooled students, conducted at the University of Maryland, found that nearly a quarter of home school students are one or more grade levels ahead of their peers in public and private schools. They outperform those peers on national tests at every grade level, and dominate national spelling, geography and science competitions.
Hatred and jealousy of home schoolers in the mainstream media help perpetuate the T-shirt stereotype. Froma Harrop, a fellow syndicated columnist and editorial writer for the Providence Journal, wrote an appalling column six weeks ago linking accused child-murderer Andrea Yates, unjustly jailed Idaho mom JoAnn McGuckin, and the home school movement. Under the headline "Children in the family madhouse," Harrop echoed the common elitist attitude that home schooled kids are anti-social, isolated "inmates" held captive by selfish parents.
"Perhaps the time has come to question the motives of some home-schooling parents,"
Harrop wrote. A "movement that insists on parents' rights to do as they wish with their children gives cover for the unstable, for narcissists and for child-abusers." Never mind the certified loonies, self-aggrandizers, convicted felons, child rapists and rip-off artists who make headlines every day for doing as they wish with other people's children under the government's cover, right?
Public school propagandists aren't fooling anyone with their empty, bitter attacks on successful home schoolers. It's a textbook case of SOWR GRAYPZ.