Michael Jackson: Celebrities as Homeschooling Examples
Although somewhat subdued by other drama, Michael Jackson’s death brought to light that he had been “sheltering” his children by homeschooling them.
Homeschooling celebrities—do we use them as homeschooling examples, both as role models and as cautionary tales?
It’s part of the American culture to put celebrities up on pedestals in general; we wish we had their looks, their fame, their money, their success, their attitudes, their lifestyle. Or, on the opposite end of spectrum, we criticize their fabricated and over-prized looks, their misbegotten fame, their willy nilly use of money, their superior attittudes, and their superficial lifestyles. Americans are not preened to see celebrities as real people. There is an underlying message that celebrities represent something important, one way or another.
Homeschooling celebrities are at once a blessing and a curse to the homeschooling community in general. The more celebrities who homeschool, the more accepted the practice is among the mass population, whether the mass population is aware of this subtle form of influence or not. Also, when a celebrity homeschools, it gives us one more name to add to the list of “famous and successful homeschoolers”. It gives us clout, and someone else to direct attention to. “If they can do it, so can we!”
On the flip side, celebrity homeschoolers can create bad press, and as in the case of Michael Jackson, bring up in a very high profile way, concern for children who homeschool.
But I also think that the case of Micheal Jackson’s kids brings up something very important that only a few news sources have picked up on; children of celebrities are in a position of living an unreal life no matter what. They are growing up with extremely famous parents, which puts them in a world of paparazzi, awards shows, limos, dinners with big-wigs, and potentially many TV and magazine appearances. This is not a normal American childhood.
For some celebrities, that’s OK. Like Will and Jada Smith, they brought their kids along for the ride, and that was their “normal”, even if it was different than most children. Will and Jada were comfortable with their kids being in the limelight, for better or for worse. Their kids were not sheltered from the reality of their parents’ lives, yet they were sheltered from the normal American kid’s life.
Michael Jackson’s kids were in an even more precarious situation. Michael Jackson was not just some run of the mill celebrity. He was the celebrity among celebrities. There was no way that his kids could have anything close to what Will and Jana had, let alone what a typical American child experiences. Michael Jackson homeschooled his kids and hooded them in front of cameras. A little extreme perhaps, but totally appropriate for the extremity of his fame.
Celebrities are not good rulers by which to measure the validity of any particular kind of education. Celebrities are the American aristocracy. And in all of history, the artistocracy has educated their children differently than the rest of society. Perhaps partly because of vanity, but probably mostly because of practicality. Comparing the lives and education of children of celebrities to that of the children in the rest of society requires either cognitive dissonance, or focusing on the tip of the elephant’s ear instead of recognizing just how big the elephant really is.
Micheal Jackson may or may not have made the perfect choices for his kids, but he was in a world all by himself, with nobody else to use as a role model, and many people at once criticizing and idolizing him. It’s amazing that he was able to make any kind of decision at all. Our lives are extremely simple compared to how his was, and look how hard it can be for us. Can you imagine the weight he must have carried trying to be the perfect dad when he basically lived on another planet in an ivory tower?
We can indeed learn from celebrities, but not nearly as much as we can learn from our peers, and people who are living a life that we honestly want to live. People tend to judge their insides by people’s outsides, especially celebrities. Don’t get caught in that trap. Celebrity homeschooling is not the same as homeschooling for the rest of us.