We have two daughters, ages 12 and 14. We’ve homeschooled them from birth because we believe it is our God-given responsibility to transfer our core values and educational requirements to our children. Most of the time this decision is applauded by those we meet, but once in awhile we’re asked, with a touch of defensiveness, if we think we’re “too good” for the public schools.
Well, yes. Of course. I think that’s obvious. Public schools do not reinforce the values we hold, nor do they uphold the educational standards we feel are important. Ergo, we homeschool. Case closed.
Now I happen to think it’s not the federal government’s place to be involved in education at all (Hello? Tenth Amendment?), but that’s a whole different issue and not the subject of this column. However this leads to the interesting question of, where have schools gone wrong?
If you look at schools during Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” childhood, you would never find the educational establishment teaching how to apply prophylactics to fruit or why America is an oppressive hellhole. (Possibly because there was no “educational establishment” during Laura’s time. Just a thought.)
Recently I read an article in which award-winning teachers gave their advice on how to “fix” public education. The suggestions they make are not necessarily bad or wrong, but they miss the point entirely.
The public-school system in America is failing for two very basic reasons. One, they’re public. OK, for the moment we can’t help that. But two, they’re a monopoly – and that can be helped.
My understanding is that public education in many European countries is far superior to American public education (at least in terms of academics, if not values) for the simple reason that funding is attached to the child, not the school. The child’s parents decide where to send their kid – religious, secular or government-run schools – and academic institutions must therefore compete to attract students.
But in the U.S., funding is attached to the schools, who can then give a virtual middle finger to parents whenever they complain about what and how their children are taught. (And educators wonder why homeschooling has blossomed in the last decade.) Public schools can be unresponsive and uncaring to parental demands because they know parents have no choice but to send their children to school, unless parents make extreme sacrifices to send their children to private, church or home schools. Most parents can’t afford the time or money to take advantage of these options, so their kids become trapped in a system which is designed to do little more than turn them into drones of the state.
Parents are even prosecuted if they’re “caught” in the crime of sending their children to a different school district that may offer higher standards and better academics. This national desire to obtain the best available education for one’s children can and does affect household income, time management and even home purchases. In fact, one of the reasons behind the rising housing market in the early part of this decade was a desperate desire for parents to buy homes in good school districts, where the value of those homes skyrocketed. (I think it’s a safe assumption that homes in rotten school districts aren’t nearly as valuable.)
We have poured untold billions of dollars down the rat hole of government education and have accomplished far less than the one-room classes of Laura’s day. Of course in the “little schoolroom on the prairie,” the educators worked for the local community, and the teachers had to teach what the parents expected or they’d be fired. Like private enterprise, the product (education) had to meet the expectations of the customers (parents).
But when “education” becomes a powerful lobbying group and teachers become government employees, the status quo is viciously defended and other educational alternatives are belittled and sometimes even outlawed.
So we shouldn’t be surprised when 18 year olds can’t read their own diplomas and many four-year colleges have become little more than remedial institutions for what kids should have learned in school.
Monopolies never work, especially when they’re government backed. Monopolies eventually mean poor and uncaring service, high costs and a middle-finger attitude. (As an aside, bear this in mind with government health care and other “progressive” policies.)
But introduce a little competition, and it’s astounding how much a product or service can improve. Schools are no exception.
This solution – introducing competition by attaching funding to the child – is so simple that it astounds me not one of the teachers interviewed for the article on how to improve public education made the connection. I’ve met many dedicated, wonderful teachers and do not wish to question their integrity, but let’s face it – they’re not about to espouse a policy change that may jeopardize their control and might even cost them their jobs.
It should be abundantly clear by now that the government has no interest in improving the academic standards of our children. However it has the strongest possible interest in making sure our children grow up worshiping government and believing in its goodness, charity, mercy and (most of all), its authority. How else can the government increase its anti-constitutional strength and control? This also accounts for the government’s hostility toward homeschooling. Beyond the obvious – how a bunch of uncredentialed yokels are cleaning the clocks of public schools – I know of very few homeschooling parents who are in favor of increased governmental strength and control. (Ooooh, free-thinkers – can’t have that.)
So while the passion of these teachers in the article is admirable, they’re entirely missing the point. The quickest way to improve the public-school system is to allow schools to compete for students by attaching funding to the students.
But this will never be done, so we will continue to homeschool our girls. That means we, and millions like us, will continue to produce intelligent, moral and free individuals who are “too good” to accept government indoctrination.