Just in case anyone relies exclusively on Dr. Phil for information on homeschooling.
The Great School Debate The Dr. Phil Show, “The Great School Debate” (Proposed Air Date: October 27, 2006) begins with a couple that calls themselves “Radical Unschoolers.”
During a recent discussion on the California Homeschool Network E-mail list, Kirsten shared her first-hand experience as an invited guest on the Dr. Phil show for an upcoming episode about the controversial subject of Unschooling.
First of all, I was present during the taping of the program, which is scheduled to air later this month. Additionally, I’d like to provide a little background history into the Dr. Phil Show.
Presenting, “Radical Unschoolers,” as the norm of homeschooling to the mainstream world, implies that all homeschoolers are radical, controversial, Unschoolers. Unschooling is by far the least understood and radical concept of homeschooling, and the easiest target for critics to judge and condemn.
To use this family as representative of the homeschool population is sensationalism at best, and deceitfully manipulative, at worst. The film portrays the Unschoolers as spending all of their days basically playing and hanging out. To seasoned homeschoolers, that may not seem a bad thing, and, to some, would even seem a good thing. But, to every mainstream American, who does not understand homeschoolers and homeschooling, let alone Unschooling, the film and the footage shown of the family serves to reinforce every negative stereotype mainstream America has about homeschooling.
Stereotypes and Hype I know that we value play, and why we value play. But mainstream America does not value play the way homeschoolers do, and has many ingrained negative stereotypes about homeschooling. To them, we are Religious Zealots, or Unschooling Hippies, or Over-Permissive, Overly Attached Parents, or Paranoid, Overly-Protective, Control-Freaks, or, perhaps, Just Plain Lazy.
Dr. Phil plays upon every one of these stereotypes in his “Great Debate,” episode. There were so many homeschooling families that Dr. Phil could have chosen to represent homeschoolers, and he deliberately chose the family with the least understood homeschool style to promote his own bias and agenda on homeschooling that day.
It was then that I realized that the huge groups of teenagers were from local high schools from the San Bernardino and Inland Empire Areas, and that these school children had been deliberately and purposefully bussed in specifically for their presence on the Homeschooling Episode.Ontario Christian High School was represented; San Bernardino High School was there, as well as several other local Inland Empire High Schools.
After the lady who chewed homeschoolers out as the future of her government had spoken, Dr. Phil then did something that clearly indicated why the homeschoolers had been brought to be part of an audience of an episode in which hundreds of high school students had been bussed in: Dr. Phil then asked the audience, “How many of you support Homeschooling and how many of you support sending children to school?”
Well, of course the 10% to 15% of the sparsely spread audience that were passionate homeschoolers proudly raised their hands in support of homeschooling. And when Dr. Phil said, “How many people do not support homeschooling,” all those young high school students that had been unwittingly bussed in specifically for that question in this episode, raised their hands — A forest of “No’s,” against homeschooling.
Although, that was just one brief question in Dr. Phil’s episode, he took no chances. He deliberately rigged that audience to be a few sparsely spread homeschoolers, and an imposing majority of those who were currently in traditional schools.
We certainly left our young ones behind. We did this, because of our passion for homeschooling, and Dr. Phil preyed upon this passion in having us as his audience, so that we could be the flimsy 15% that raised their hands in favor of homeschooling, so that he could have his biased TV show. He preyed upon our cause, our dreams, our passion and our hope. A true predator.
The show is actually only about a half hour long. In between sets, the guests are quickly hurried off stage, and swiftly replaced with new, equally bewildered guests. Between sets, Dr. Phil deliberately goes out of his way to avoid eye contact with the audience, thus avoiding engaging the audience.