Debate As Socialization: Luke’s Thoughts
HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Luke” is a pseudonym.
One of the very first things you learn in debate is the necessity of defining your terms.
So I’d like to begin with defining “socialization.”
In the spirit of late 1990’s homeschool debaters, I am going to use an online dictionary. Here’s how Dictionary.com defines “socialization”:
“a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.”
This definition of socialization fascinates me, because it has absolutely nothing to do with how we homeschoolers think of socialization. When we made fun of outsiders asking that age-old question about it, we’d kinda laugh it off and say, “Um, we have lots of friends! We don’t have a socialization problem!”
But what’s really funny is not the question itself. What’s really funny is that having friends, or park days, or co-ops, has nothing to do with socialization. Because socialization isn’t just interacting with like-minded or ideologically similar people of the same (or even different) peer group. It’s about a process that allows you to become you. And my early homeschooling years had nothing to do with me being me. They had to do with me being a mini-version of my parents and my subculture. I wasn’t learning how to think for myself. I was learning to think like my parents. Actually, that’s not fair. I was learning to think how the writers of our homeschooling curriculum wanted me to think. My parents, like me, were pawns on a cultural chessboard that transcended our little home.
But then debate came around. Debate was like my own Enlightenment, my own personal Great Awakening. Debate forced me and inspired me to look at different sides of an issue, to examine opposing viewpoints with earnestness and dedication. Debate taught me to question assumptions and challenge norms. Debate put me in a position to realize how complex life actually is. And it is far more complex than my homeschooling curriculum tried to trick me into thinking.
As the black and white facade faded, for the first time I got to figure out what I thought. What values and policies and ideas I thought made sense. I was beginning the process of acquiring a personal identity.
And as I acquired my own identity, I also learned the norms and skills necessary to being a good citizen in the public square of ideas. In short, I was becoming truly socialized. I learned how think for myself, how to articulate my own thoughts, and how to interact with people that thought differently.
The socializing aspect of debate was truly a blessing. It made me me. And that’s something I would never give up for anything. Learning to be one’s self — and to publicly express that individuality — is one of the greatest lessons someone can ever learn.