Why Do We Hide Behind Institutions?

This post is inspired by a meme I saw on Facebook late at night (below). Now, anecdotal evidence is always problematic. I’m only trying to use these commonly accepted anecdotes to show flaws in how we think about our lives; not to prove one lifestyle is better than another.

So: I was homeschooled so I often hear about the stereotypical, awkward, ill-socialised or unsuccessful homeschooler. Many folks use these stories to conclude that homeschooling doesn’t work; you need institutionalised education.

Now look back at your high school classes (if you went to school). Were there any awkward, ill-socialised or unsuccessful students? As a public school teacher, I see so many. So many.

So how come we’ll say that awkward homeschoolers proves homeschooling doesn’t work, but all those stunted public schoolers doesn’t dismiss public schooling in our minds?47317633_2044461182241084_7275273054341562368_n

Leaving aside the debate about whether homeschooling does in truth work, why do we hold our anecdotes to a double standard?

I don’t attend a church service. Christians ask me tonnes of questions about whether that’s really healthy for my faith. Yet, I also sit on so many conversations where we mourn that many people attend church but do not grow, without anyone suggesting this abject failure means we must reject church-going.

At least, that’s where conversation goes when no one’s buckling an institutionalised trend. Hrm…

Again, we apply a double standard to how we live our lives, based on whether you’re using an institution or not.

It seems to me that as a rule, we are often okay with stunted growth provided it happens under the auspices of a socially approved organisation or norm. We chalk it up to the inevitable “falling through the cracks” that always happens in large groups of people. Maybe this is okay; maybe this is the only way to psychologically cope with the horrible fact that in a fallen world, not everyone’s going to have a good experience.

But when God’s love drives you to see people flourish, you talk about their flourishing and the best ways for them to achieve it. Their methods’ normalcy or institutionalisation is not relevant; only their effectiveness.

So why do we keep coming back to institutions, regardless of results, when we should know better?

This is probably too harsh, but at least on the surface it feels to me like intellectual cowardice. Needing institutions regardless of results can blind us to the scary truth that our flourishing is ultimately our responsibility, even if we choose to use an institution. Instead, we fob that responsibility off to an institution. This shirking is so ingrained in us that we actively distrust any efforts to secure flourishing aside from bureaucratic organisations!

I’ll repeat that: we actively distrust efforts to secure flourishing aside from bureaucratic organisations, independent of fact!

Josh’s blunt, late-night brain (which really shouldn’t allowed to blog) says we should develop the testicular fortitude to own our own flourishing, whether we use the formidable resources an institution has to offer or craft our own solutions. We should judge the results based on the results, and not out of fear that we are not under the covering of a wider organisation.

The overworked, more winsome side of Josh’s brain wants to ask: “next time you see someone embrace unorthodox choices, can you find a way to keep the conversation on the fruit of their behaviour and not their non-conformity?”

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One thought on “Why Do We Hide Behind Institutions?

  1. Certainly true Josh (though there are a few words in there that even my middle of the day brain can’t understand!) I wonder how the prejudices of those outside of institutions make assumptions too? Something for me to ponder.

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