Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Answering one of Peter's questions - attitude towards public schools

(Update I) Recently hundreds of people have recently been directed to this post by various search engines, looking for "peter questions." If this is you, you probably want Peter Answers. If you don't know the secret, check out Chris Wondra as he explains the trick.


A blogger named Peter asked several questions in response to my post about our second daughter's proposal to have the concession stand in our kitchen for family movies. I plan to answer each of his major questions or points in a separate post.

His first question was about the attitude homeschoolers have towards the public school system. He wrote:

"Yet I cannot understand why so many who are advocates of home schooling show no more than utter contempt for the public school system. Yes, many public schools are unproductive, failing and wasteful. Yet it is my opinion (and many others) that what is needed is an overhaul and fixing rather than condemnation."

Peter recognizes and acknowledges that public schools are broken. He then went on to list a number of commonly proposed suggestions for "fixing" the public school system.

There are so many different types of homeschoolers that you always need to be careful in trying to say what most of them believe about anything. I find that many homeschoolers have studied the history of education enough to realize that for decades people have been trying to "fix" the public school system, and they realize it has been getting worse. A good place to start is Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell.

I love the line: "Stupid is doing what you have been doing, and expecting different results."

Many homeschoolers have an informed understanding of the current state of education. They know that most of the "new" proposals for fixing public education have been tried, often several times, in the past. So when there is a promise that some new program is going to make things better, informed homeschoolers are very sketical.

I think some of the feelings homeschoolers have towards the public school system are:

Sadness - many children are suffering

Outrage - public school defenders won't admit the serious problems and fix them

Bewilderment - public school defenders continue to claim there aren't any real problems

Fustration - parents invest hundreds of hours in the public schools, and see little or no improvement

Indifference - many people homeschool for reasons other than the current state of the
public school system

I agree that there are a few homeschoolers who have utter contempt for the public school system, but I don't belive that it is most homeschoolers. The public school system has many, many problems. I think it is very reasonable for anyone to be suspicous of any program that this time will fix the public school system.

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Sprittibee said...

One of the main reasons we chose to homeschool is because public school teachers are not allowed to give equal time to both CREATION and EVOLUTION and to teach BOTH as a THEORY, and NEITHER as a FACT. Although we believe in Creation, we teach our kids about Evolution at home and discuss the TRUTH behind the SCIENCE instead of the MYTH OR LIES in the PUBLIC SCHOOL TEXTBOOKS. We read modern research about topics, and we watch lots of Science videos as well. I don't think there's ANYTHING you can do to fix this problem QUICKLY in MOST public school systems. There is simply TOO MUCH MONEY in the hands of Darwinian Evolution-Pushers (as it is the state-funded religion) for them to bow down and allow equality in Science. Therefore, we homeschool so our children can know the TRUTH and think for themselves. I do not hate public schools. I hate lies. I have family members TEACHING in public schools this very moment. I'm glad they are there. They are good Christian teachers that those kiddos need. :)

Rebecca T said...

Here's an example of the diversity among homeschoolers; I completely utterly, totally and unequivocally disagree with everything sprittibee says above. However, since my view is not being forced upon her children and her view is not being forced upon my children, we can co-exist fairly peacefully. Try doing that if our kids were attending the same public school. That's one huge advantage I think homeschooling has over the public school system.
As for the idea that all schools need is for us to work harder at fixing them, rather than rejecting them: first of all, it's just not realistic. There are sooooooo many barriers to anything which would fundamentally change schools. The unions make even the most modest changes to many things impossible, the beuracracy is not going to allow itself to be trimmed and shunted aside in favor of enough freedom for individual schools and teachers to meet their student's needs, the people who design curriculumns have a huge amount of money at stake in keeping their products as the primary means by which students learn. There are just too many entrenched interests at play and too much money at stake to think that anything's going to change.
Also, the fundamental set-up of schools is broken. We no longer need kids to be trained to sit at a desk in one room for most of the day simply being directed what to do and having to ask to use the bathroom. Today's workplaces are much more dynamic and children need to learn to self-direct rather than being what to do all the time in order to succeed. However, this idea is so foreign that most people have a hard time even envisioning what schools that met the needs of the modern world would look like.
In the meantime, I cannot fathom why we should be expected to sacrifice our kids to system which we know isn't working or providing the sort of education and skills they will need to be successful in service to some ideal of the public school system. If you don't mind banging your head against walls for your child's 13 years of indentured servitude to the idea of public schooling, go for it. As far as I'm concerned my kids and I owe the school system nothing - it's not like they'd take what we have to offer anyway.

Anonymous said...

My low opinion of the public school system is less a lack of respect for the people running it and their attempts to fix it than a lack of faith in the system. It doesn't work for everyone. I went to public schools and as an advanced math student, I was forced to do "enrichment" worksheets for every unit whose pretest I aced, while I waited for everyone else to learn the things I already understood.

So the obvious solution was for them to sort classes by ability, right? Well, my mom teaches resource math at a public school, and she has seen that with a "tracking" system, the students in the less advanced classes often turn lazy -- students who work hard and turn out great work in regular classes. How are they going to fix a problem like that? It's a fact that both ways they try it, someone gets cheated out of a good education.

On the other hand, I know of children on both ends of the spectrum who have had great success with homeschooling. What can fit a child's needs better than a personal tutor who knows exactly what he can achieve?

So when homeschool supporters criticize the public school system, it's not always that we're so indignant that they won't fix it; it's that we believe the system is inherently flawed. Believe me, many of us are quite in favor of improving the existing system; after all, not everyone can or will make homeschooling work, and I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of a good education being inaccessible to children in these families. But you get one chance with your own kid, and I'm not going to stick my kids in a leaky ship and hope it gets patched enough by the time it matters.

Anonymous said...

I taught for several years in middle school, in a "good" school district and what I saw did not inspire me to place my children there.
Teaching has a high turn-over because many get burnt out quickly and/or leave to raise their own children. Teachers do not have very much control in what is taught or the behavior of the students, but are always blamed if the child does not pass a standardized test. With no control over sleep, nutrition, character, enrichment, etc it is almost impossible to get any real learning accomplished.
As a homeschooling mother I can direct and control most of these aspects and find that my children actually learn- they are nice children, well-rounded people, score well on all the tests, and remember from week to week, from year to year the material I present.
We only have these children for a short time and their future and souls are too precious to risk on a system that has failed so many for too many years.

Kim L said...

The public schools were never designed for the objective the public thinks they fulfill, eg, education. They were intended to train a certain kind of citizen. If you listen carefully to the powers-that-be in public school officialdom, the rhetoric still reflects this. Then, as Rebecca T references, the system has been coopted as a jobs program. So apparently then, there is an ostensible objective for pr purposes, education; a practical objective for union and daycare purposes; and a founding objective, which is frighteningly antidemocratic, to mold a certain kind of worker-bee-citizen. How can those 3 different frameworks ever be reconciled in one system? They can't. But many models and philosophies could legitimately coexist in non-government monopoly system of free market competition.