On the NYTimes or forums or blogs etc, a common refrain among commenters when the subject of fertility treatment comes up is that there are so many kids in the world (and so many kids in the US) that people should really be adopting. And they should really be adopting in the US (because apparently international children are not as important as US children). [They seem to think that adopting kids is as easy as calling an orphanage and having Anne of Green Gables sent on the next train. The reality, of course, being that adoption can be as heart-breaking and uncertain a process as infertility itself, even in states with supposedly easy adoption and quick termination of parental rights. (We have some friends who tried and failed adoption when a biological aunt came out of the woodwork.)]
Even people that are supposedly skeptical and critical thinkers can fall into stupid fallacies. For example, PZ Meyers is very vocal that people who homeschool their kids are selfish assholes equal in their danger to society to people who refuse to vaccinate their kids. He says:
I am not a fan of homeschooling; in fact, if I had my way, I’d make it illegal.
If you don’t believe in vaccination, then don’t vaccinate your kids.
Sorry, but the same logic applies. Public schools are for the good of the community; homeschooling is intended for the good of the individual child. I know that homeschools can be good (but most aren’t), and that public schools can be awful (and most are), but I consider homeschooling to be a distraction from the cause of a greater good.
he goes on from there in the comments, basically arguing that if you keep your kids out of (bad) public schools that hurts all the kids still in public schools, mainly because the school doesn’t get the federal money for the kid being there (partly because he says parents have some kind of obligation to be involved), despite perfectly logical arguments responding to his own (such as: I homeschool because my child is autistic/requires other special accommodations– he would be costing the district much more than he brings the district in per-student federal funds and isn’t mainstreamed anyway… or, My kid was hospitalized after getting beaten up/bullied to the point of self-harm and the school did nothing… or simply, I pay taxes but am not costing my district anything).
All you holier-than-thou folks on the internet: It’s easy to volunteer other people to be saints. Not so easy to be one yourself. If you don’t have 20 foster kids and 10 adoptees, then don’t tell people using fertility treatment there are tons of needy kids out there needing homes and that they’re sinners for trying to have a baby instead of adopting one. Bless people who do foster and adopt, but if you’re not one of them, then why are you telling other people that they should do more than you are?
If you don’t have your own kids in dangerous crumbling schools (because you decided to live in a more expensive district, your kids are grown, or you just don’t have kids), and you’re not volunteering regularly and donating heavily, at least the amount that the federal government would be giving* for say, I dunno, 5 kids, then don’t say that parents who pull their kids out of public schools for private or homeschooling are selfish. You’re even more selfish because you have more time and money to give, and you wouldn’t be physically, mentally, or emotionally scarring any minors as collateral damage.**
These “you want/have a child you should be doing X” are all stupid arguments. No one person can save the world. And nobody, just by dint of being unable to easily have biological children or by having children should be required to contribute to those specific causes. Nobody is actually required to contribute to any specific cause. But if someone chooses to put their kids in private school and also donates to people starving in developing countries rather than joining the school board at the local public,*** does that make them selfish? What about public school teachers who send their own kids to private?
These kinds of arguments seem to be focused on fertility, race, and gender. If you have kids then you’re supposed to support specific causes. If you want kids but can’t have them, then that must be a sign from God that you’re supposed to adopt (but people who can have kids easily have no such obligation). If you’re a black college grad, then you’re selling out your race if you’d rather be an investment banker than a high school teacher (this is a narrative that two of my black studies colleagues frequently argue about). If you’re female then you have to have a certain kind of active feminism and aren’t allowed to make choices to be the trailing spouse or the one who cooks dinner, even if your husband is allowed to make those choices. Why do these immutable characteristics (it’s hard to give a kid back), many of which we have no choice over, provide such obligations when others do not? Owning a pet doesn’t make you have to support spay and neuter laws or pose nude for PETA. Being a white male provides no obligation to any race or gender. And yet, when historically you’ve been chattel, all of a sudden you have an obligation to change the world. IBTP.
*~8% of the school’s budget… meaning that actually your paying state and local taxes without costing the local district to educate your kid (at a cost of ~10K/year to the district) is probably more than making up for not having your kid in school. And if you kick an additional $800/kid-you-don’t-have to the school district, you should be able to say STFU to any guilt-mongers. Me, I prefer to spend my education charity dollars in high poverty districts using Donors Choose because they need my money more than the local school district does. If our district had less money they wouldn’t fricking change districts every 5 years because they wouldn’t be able to afford to bus kids to schools so far from where they live.
**Before having kids the one of us with a kid volunteered extensively tutoring and teaching math in failing urban school districts and at migrant summer programs in rural agricultural areas. There’s a lot more time to volunteer when you don’t have a small child.
***After years on the school board, and while still on the school board, my mother sent my sister to a Catholic high school. Does that make her selfish? She continued on the school board after my sister graduated as well, even though she no longer had kids in school. Her research career suffered substantially from her public service.