I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Proverbs 24:30-32 KJV
Much has been written and said about homeschooling and socialization, most of which in the context of young children. But socialization does not stop when students graduate high school. For the Christian, socialization is a lifelong process of participating in society – without adopting its standards. In college, socialization continues – away from parents’ watchful eyes.
Preparing homeschoolers for college gives a new perspective on an old question, “What about socialization?”
It seems clear that homeschoolers become well-socialized high school graduates. They form high quality friendships, respect and get along with people of perse backgrounds, have a strong sense of social responsibility, exhibit less emotional turmoil, and have fewer problem behaviors than their peers (Medlin, 2013).
Then why is it so scary sending kids to college today? Because of socialization.
Homechooling provided controlled and safe socialization. College is not controlled nor safe. Today, students socialize on campuses characterized by moral relativity, political correctness, hypersensitivity, trigger warnings, safe zones, and micro-aggressions – in addition to institutionalized hostility toward all things Christian. Lessons from social psychology give homeschoolers important advanced warning of the socialization challenges they will face on campus.
Social psychologists, like homeschoolers, are interested in socialization. The scientific study of socialization includes our perceptions of ourselves and others, group dynamics, how we form attitudes, how we are persuaded and attracted, and the ways that humans are sometimes kind and often cruel (Sabates, 2012). What are we “like” when we’re around other people?
Don’t misunderstand. Social psychology cannot inform Christians about how we “should” conduct social interactions. It cannot provide an example to guide students’ socialization. Naturalistic psychology is amoral.
The Bible teaches that God created us to be social. Social relationships are a primary part of His plan (Sabates, 2012). We should be salt and light. Our social interactions and relationships should reflect Christ in us. We should love our neighbor as ourselves and pray for those who persecute us. We should not conform to the ways of the world. Homeschoolers are well-trained in the “shoulds” and “should nots” of socialization.
Social psychology can, however, inform us about how people actually “do” conduct social interactions. Social psychology paints an unflattering, but sadly accurate, portrait of human socialization. Social psychology reminds us that despite God’s intention, humans are mean and aggressive and self-centered. It provides important reminders of the power of social influences and gives students a “heads up” before they arrive on campus (Sabates, 2012).
For example, in one of social psychology’s most famous experiments, Milgram (1963) demonstrated the power of authority figures and the difficulty resisting immoral authority. Milgram’s study provides a chance to talk with students about authority and morality and is an object lesson in the importance of keeping God as one’s ultimate authority.
The Bible warns that we should not think too highly of ourselves, not judge others unfairly, and love our neighbors. Social psychology suggests we tend to do otherwise. We have self-serving biases, we tend to present ourselves in the best possible light, and we often misjudge and distrust others, especially those who are different from us (Sabates, 2012). Students should recognize it in others and be alert to it in themselves.
Asch (1956) and others suggest that it is difficult to stand out from “the group.” There are social pressures on Christians to conform their beliefs and behavior to those of the group. Students who understand group dynamics are better prepared for the experience of group dynamics.
From the rare mass shooting to the more prevalent assault, harassment, and intimidation, violence on campus is on the rise (Robers, et. al, 2014). Social psychologists and homeschoolers alike are interested in keeping students safe on campus. College violence and risky behaviors demand that we talk to students about the importance of wise socialization decisions, strategies to avoid violence, and ways they can protect themselves.
When our children were young, we guarded their socialization. In college, they must guard themselves. They have their armor and are ready for battle. Social psychology provides students a glimpse of what the battle will be like. Socialization on campus today reflects human nature. Group pressures, bias, conformity, discrimination, and more are manifestations of Sin on socialization. Understanding lessons from social psychology gives homeschoolers advanced warning and highlights the importance of keeping Christ in the center of socialization in college.
Originally published in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine
Asch, Solomon E. (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, Vol 70(9).
Medlin, R. G. (2013). Homeschooling and the Question of Socialization revisited. Peabody Journal of Education, 88 (3), 284-297.
Milgram, Stanley. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4).
Robers, S., Kemp, J., Rathbun, A., and Morgan, R.E. (2014). Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2013. National Center for Education Statistics, Washington, DC.
Sabates, Angela M. (2012), Social Psychology in Christian Perspective. InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.
Turner, M., Pratkanis, A. (1998). Twenty-five years of groupthink theory and research: lessons from the evaluation of a theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 73.