order, of discipline, of greater social cohesion. In the name ofrnthe bright tomorrow of world socialism, hi the name of ourrnchildren’s fntnre.rnThe political crime of bringing up a child out of school —rnvnye kollektiva, “out of the collective,” was the standardrnSoviet locution used in my childhood —is still lacking a legalrndefinition in some countries, such as Great Britain, and is onlyrnvaguely defined in others, such as the United States, hi modernrnGermany, as in Russia and elsewhere, it is an offense punishablernby fines and imprisonment, though it is quite certain thatrnnowhere today, with such obvious exceptions as Gliina orrnNorth Korea, are either the penalties or the manner of their enforcementrnas severe as the terrible repercussions my parentsrnrisked in Brezhnev’s Soviet Union.rnIn keeping me out of the Soviet school system, my father wasrnpursuing a dual aim. On the one hand, he was opposed to organizedrneducation for the sort of general reasons that everyonernwho regards himself as a dissenting individualist might give,rnfrom a loathing of the lowest common denominator to an abhorrencernof communally defined intellectual or social goals;rnfrom a disdain for easy popularit)’ (and, by extension, of publicrnopinion) to a distaste for prefabricated life in all its forms; and sornon down the list of good old nonconformist gripes, the most venialrnof which is that school is just a waste of time. On the otherrnhand, there was the verv’ real issue of securit)’ to consider, sincerna child who had absorbed certain ideas in the home of a politicalrndissenter was sure to test them on his schoolmates and teachers,rninviting a police investigation into their origins; equally, arnchild who brought a load of cultural rubbish home from schoolrnwould have to undergo nightiy brainwashing, with the best possible,rnand more than slightly improbable, result that he wouldrndevelop into the perfect hypocrite, a cultural schizophrenicrnspouting acceptable banalities in public and thinking dangerousrntruths once the front door had clicked shut. But in a communalrnapartment such as one which he might consider himselfrnto be extremely fortunate to inhabit for the rest of his life, thatrnordinarilv magical click of the front door was no guarantee ofrnprivac\rnThe longer I live in the West, the more clearly I see that thernreasons which impelled my parents to risk prison by not sendingrnme to school are equally valid here. Here, too, school is at bestrna waste of time and at worst a highly politicized mechanism forrnalienating and subverting the affections and loyalties of the veryrnyoung—that is to say, of the intellectually and culturally defenseless.rnNow aged five, my son speaks three languages andrncan read, write, and do sums in two of them. He can ride a bicycle,rnshoot, swim and row, eat with a knife and fork, play chess,rnand say, “How do you do?” when meeting an adult. He doesrnnot v’atch television because we do not own one; he does notrnwear baseball caps, T-shirts, bandannas, sneakers, or tattoos;rnand he has never been to McDonald’s. To my mind, this makesrnhim a normal child —in the context of the culture to which wernboth belong due to the objective circumstances of race, familyrnliistor}’, and tradition, to say nothing of the attendant subjectiverncircumstances of our personal wishes, individual caprices, orrnprivate whims. To many others, including his American grandparents,rnthis makes him a budding sociopath—which, in therncontext of a culture whose values his detractors do not find abhorrent,rnhe probably is.rnFrom there to tiie pichire we have all seen on the front pagesrnof Sunday newspapers is but a short paranoid leap. Incongruously,rnand unhappily for the logic of the argument, the picturernin question is usually a school yearbook photograph, thoughrnjust about ever)’thing else about it seems like a prett}’ good fit. Arn”loner” is what the boy is usually called. He is brighter than thernrest, but far more socially awkward and, very significant, norngood at team sports—at any rate, not at football. He prefers individualrnachievement, swimming, shooting, running, perhaps arnlittle tennis, or else he is altogether a reclusive bookworm, readingrnNietzsche and Ghesterton, sticking his nose into musty cornersrnthat even the school librarian avoids, flipping through yellowedrnback issues of Life for the obvious reason that there is nornVolkische Beobachter in the library. He is taunted by classmates,rnreviled by teachers, has hardly a friend in the world. Andrnthen finally he snaps, scribbles a note to the effect that somernkind of transvaluation of values is long overdue, and before longrnthe people who manage public relations for the National RiflernAssociation have another hard day at the office.rnThe phrase “mad, bad, and dangerous to know” was coinedrnto describe Lord Byron. Omitted from the media photofit is thernvital fact that the lonely sociopath becomes a homicidal maniacrn—rather than, for instance, a poet or an Olympic swimmer—rnwhen and only when he is forcibly compelled to live within andrnobey the rules of the organized koUektiv, whether of the Sovietrntotalitarian or of the increasingly pseudodemocratic Westernrnvariet)’. In both societies, schizophrenic hypocrisy has alwaysrnbeen on offer as the middle way. In each societ)’, there havernbeen people for whom that compromise was temperamentallyrnunsuitable and unacceptable.rnThe loner who stays at homernrejects society in one of its mostrnvirulent and concentrated forms beforernsociety, in another of its most virulentrnand concentrated forms, has hadrnthe chance to reject him.rnTo them, at least so long as the strictures against homeschoolingrnremain vague enough to allow parents to insulaterntheir children from the collective culture which tliey mistrustrnand abhor, educating a child at home is the answer. The fabricrnof life in the West, when viewed outside such established andrnavowedly collectivist institutions as kindergartens and schools,rngovernment offices, or corporate environments, is still sufficienflyrnporous and permeable to permit a private individual tornwithdraw into the recesses, to nestle and to burrow as he thinksrnbest. It is probably still possible for a young couple in love tornkeep body and soul together, and educate a child in the meantime,rnon $12,000 a year if they are willing to settle in a small industrialrntown in Piedmont, or a Catalan village with little touristrntrade, or an unfashionable Greek island. Not a bad prospect,rnreally, considering that just about anybody who is likely to regardrnhis child’s upbringing as a tragic dilemma, deserving of arnSEPTEMBER 1999/17rnrnrn