In my book, Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs: the Trivalist's Guide to Life Without Oil, two chapters stood out as causing the most controversy among the readers.
Chapter 18 is entitled "Schooling", and in that chapter I talk about alternatives to our current education model. Most people who read my blog or follow me on Facebook or know me in real life know that I homeschool, and so, naturally, there will be this assumption that I think homeschooling is the end-all and be-all of education. For my family, yes, I do, in fact. Homeschooling is not an educational choice for us, but a lifestyle choice, and the fact of our homeschooling simply follows the natural, organic flow of our lives. I don't know if everyone should homeschool, and in fact, that's not, at all, what I say in the chapter.
Taken in the context of the book, (which is a thought experiment based on the notion that in twenty-one days something will happen that will change the world as we know it) one can understand that I'm not attacking schools. In the preface, I talk about several possible scenarios - things that are happening right now in our real world - that could herald TEOTWAWKI, but the fact is it could be something as simple as losing a job, and if you don't think life as you know it would be significantly changed by a job loss, then, you're one of the lucky ones who is still working in today's economy.
The point I'm trying to make in that chapter is not that our educational system is bad (although I do, truly, believe it is), but rather that, if we do experience a larger collapse, one that affects entire communities or regions, then maintaining our very expensive educational infrastructure (providing heat, water, and electricity to the buildings, bussing kids long distances to a central school, maintaining the buildings and grounds, etc.) will not be possible. In short, if our communities become short of funds, we won't be able to pay for the schools, and in Chapter 18, I offer some alternatives - including homeschooling, but not only that.
Unfortunately, I think some of the people who reviewed the book didn't really understand the premise of the book, and so they took my commentary on schooling as an attack on our educational system.
In fact a lot of the criticisms about my book came from people who didn't really seem to get the premise, as evidenced by the backlash from the chapter in which I discuss health care. Because the book is also very anecdotal, based on the real things my family has been doing to lower our personal impact (as an example of how easy it really is for a suburban family to live a lower energy life), it seems like a lot of people forgot the original premise.
Like the reviewer who accused me of being a luddite, because Deus Ex Machina and I prefer to do things by hand. It's not that I don't like technology (hello! I'm writing this on a computer ... oh, and there is a whole chapter in which I discuss why we might want to be able to continue powering our computers - that has nothing to do with the Internet, by the way), but rather that I think too much dependence on it can lead one into trouble (oh, like when the electricity goes out during a winter storm, and people don't have a back-up system for staying warm ... like that?). Embracing a lifestyle that enables me to enjoy modern conveniences (like cars and computers) and live without them at the same time makes me more resilient when systems fail. It doesn't make me a luddite (although, in truth, I may actually be ... but that's for a different day).
In the health care chapter, I open with a story about how we went to the doctor, and the doctor and I had a discussion about vaccines. Not to open up the whole vaccine debate, but FOR ME, there is enough of a question about the efficacy and safety of vaccines for me to want more information before I allow them to be pumped into my daughters' bodies. I just have questions, and I haven't had one doctor, yet, address my concerns. The doctor I'm talking to in the book just tells me that she believes the risks of getting the illnesses outweighs any potential risk from using the vaccine. I disagreed.
Reviewers accused me of believing some study by some guy in Europe, whose study was later discredited, when the fact is I had to look him up, because I didn't even know who it was. For the record - I don't have a Disciple personality. I tend to be wary of truly enigmatic personalities, because history has provided too many instances in which people have been duped by guys on white horses, and I like to question commonly held beliefs, anyway. My grandmother used to call me contrary.
It's true that I started seeing some articles questioning vaccines, and so I started researching vaccines - what they were supposed to prevent, and what those diseases were, and how those diseases were treated if one contracted them. I also looked at the fatality rates, and I found some interesting stuff that seemed to show the incidence of the diseases were on the decline BEFORE the vaccines were put into use.
And I started to wonder. I started to look for more information, and what I found just made me question more, and so I put off vaccinating - not because I'd been duped by some flawed study, but because I started paying attention to the fallacy of Doctor = God, and the notion that our modern medicine has significantly improved our health and longevity - neither of which is true.
We are not healthier than our forefathers. And, with the exception of infant mortality, we are not living longer, on average, either.
But in the context of the book, my personal opinions about vaccines and modern medicine are secondary and that three paragraphs where I mention my discussion about vaccines with my family doctor was just to introduce the topic of medicine in a powered down society.
In the context of my book (preparing for a catastrophic event that will herald the end of the world as we know it), modern medicine, including medication, and YES, vaccines, might not be available. And then, what? My answer to then, what is to suggest ten herbs that are both culinary and medicinal and can be easily grown in most temperate climates.
The fact is that many modern medicines are highly toxic and have numerous side effects (don't believe me? I've been working in the medical industry for more than a decade, and while I only need to know how to spell the drugs to do my job, I have access to the complete information about what those drugs do, how they're used, and what to avoid if one uses those drugs). The same is not true of herbal medicines (although any medicine improperly used can be dangerous - including herbal remedies).
In addition, modern medicine has created some pretty horrific diseases, like MRSA, which is caused by a bacteria that is naturally occurring and almost always present on our skin. It's when this bacteria gets out of control that it becomes a problem, and the most serious problem with it is that the newest mutations of this bacteria are now immune to the medicines we have (i.e. antibiotics). The reason these bacteria have developed an immunity is that the antibiotics have been overused and/or used in ways they were never intended to be used.
Sometimes things happen, and I get to feel a small sense of vindication. Reviewers accused me of failing to grasp the (apparently infallible - Ha! Ha, ha!) "science" behind modern medicine (I understand science) and blasted me for promoting herbal remedies as an alternative to (costly and questionably safe) professional medical care, and then, a few years later, a study using essential oils to combat those antibiotic resistant bacteria strains is conducted and proves the efficacy of the herbs against those germs.
Hmm .... Herbal remedies can be a substitute for modern medicines ... ? ....
Isn't that what I said?