Were you creeped out by the essay Joanne Rendell wrote on yuppie parenting Website Babble some weeks ago about "unschooling" her 5-year-old? You know, the one that begins: "My son Benny was out late last night at a bar in Soho," and goes on to describe "an average day at the new little homeschool/unschool/DIY-preschool playgroup we attend each week."
Benny is playing with two other kids in a strip of mud in a small backyard. His two friends are completely naked. Benny has on his underpants and a pair of socks. Almost every inch of childish skin, cotton, and hair is covered with wet, sticky dirt. The kids are completely absorbed in the task at hand: burying a bobbing-eyed baby doll in the dirt. At the moment, the doll's torso and legs are completely submerged. Her head is exposed, but one eyelid is held down by mud. An earthworm wriggles just a couple of inches away from the doll's shining plastic scalp.
Did you think there was something a little fucked up about that? You were probably just jealous. “What got people going,” Babble editor Ada Calhoun explained to the Times today, was a sense that they “were being out-hipped or out-cooled,” as she put it, that they were “feeling jealous on some level that Joanne had the opportunity to stay home with her son.”
Headsmack! Obviously, that was what you were feeling. It wasn't because the insanely creepy earthworm-plastic-doll description made you think: Wow, this woman is maybe kind of unhinged. Or that the whole thing gave you this feeling like: It's so disingenuous and hypocritical to make all of this noise about not wanting your kids to grow up in hypercompetitive New York. Especially on Babble. Just move out of New York already! We found the perfect place for you! It's called Vermont. Check it out. Ya hippies.
The Anti-Schoolers [NYT]