I generally hate labels. Too often they’re used to put people in nice neat boxes, and too often they’re imposed by people who have only a snapshot view of a person.
But, I kind of like bumper stickers—they’re like little self-describing labels. We get to choose them, which means we can pull from different facets of our life, our family, our selves and our imagined selves. It’s much easier to get a full expansive view of a person when they have a car covered with carefully chosen messages.
On our old van, the one that just got towed away to some charitable organization that doesn’t actively support anything I don’t agree with, I had a few bumpers stickers. I had a couple supporting equality, one that stressed “Love is a family value” and one that questioned the wisdom of killing people to show people that killing people is wrong. Occasionally, I had a homeschooling one; sometimes, I put one on to support a specific political candidate.
On our new van, I just have a few magnets. So far. We have a bone expressing love for our German Shepherd (who’s also a Rott—didn’t have one for that…); we have several little glittery dog prints, and a magnet for our kids’ swim team. Nothing too self-defining yet, but only because I haven’t found the right magnets. Give me time.
Maybe it’s a little judgmental, but I get concerned when I see certain bumper stickers on cars that belong to other homeschoolers. Some stickers that indicate an ongoing support for certain politicians worry me. Symbols that show a disbelief in science or evolution raise concern. Messages that indicate an affiliation with certain homeschooling organizations make me step back. And when those ideals are displayed on the back of the same vehicle in any combination I usually walk away.
Because, to be honest, way too often those things together lead to an intolerance that hurts.
Very recently, a large homeschooling family was in the news, because they just had another baby. I’m not going to name them but I will say that, with only a few more babies, they’ll have 20 children. Their parenting choices have been called into question in discussions because they promote organizations and methodologies that advocate physically disciplining even very young children. So, I’ve been poking around their web site.
And I saw some things linked as homeschooling resources that infuriated me.
Bob Jones University raises prickly little warning signals in my brain, but, worse than the reference to BJU, was something called The Vision Forum. It’s a “Christian” resource site and some of the books they use as “historical literature” have the most blatantly racist prose I have ever read. If they promote books that are blatantly racist, I’d have to wonder what kind of bigotry is laced throughout the rest of the resources, and how much children are exposed to until the more blatant racism goes unnoticed.
Even if the family I’m describing doesn’t think of themselves as racist, their web site promotes racist materials and organizations led by racist individuals. In a sense, those links are virtual bumper stickers, little self-imposed labels that, added together, say more than this family probably wanted to say. And then I have to wonder who, in our local community, uses those “Christian” resources or other similar material, and how their use of those materials impacts their interactions with my children.
It leads me to wonder if their acceptance of those ideals is why certain groups of women won’t even look at me at some homeschooling activities. Is it my family or is it my sweats that don’t fit in?
I know people would argue that they don’t use the racist elements of the curriculum—but if you still purchase from that company, would you be able to recognize the more subtle racism? If you’re already desensitized, how do you know?
A wise woman I know described it like a chocolate cake, a cake that tastes like everything you want in a cake, but has a little bit of lead. Eh, what’s a little bit of lead when it's surrounded by all that chocolate, right? Eventually, though, you eat enough cake, or feed it to your children, and someone’s going to get lead poisoning.
That poison then seeps into the community, and that’s what I worry about.
So I read bumper stickers, those little self-imposed labels, and I add the messages together…and sometimes the messages make me smile, but sometimes they add up to a little too much lead.
Missy's homeschooling journey began when she realized that the walls surrounding her daughter's classroom were too narrow; there was no room for exploration, no space for stretching. Now, she and her three children stretch and explore the world together. My blog: caffeinatedjive.