Advocating for home education is aplenty for me. A decade ago, I decided to make home education my focus rather than “school reform.” However, I still pay attention to efforts to reform public education. One of the latest is the high profile campaign, Get Schooled.
The Get Schooled website is snappy and well-edited. There’s no chance of getting lost in a sea of position papers. The highly produced video on the site (“Watch the Show!”) features basketball star LeBron James, American Idol Kelly Clarkson, and United States President Barack Obama. The angle seems to be drop-out prevention and prep for college and a competitive labor market. It all seems very noble, but my decade of home educating has apparently made me cynical. The website emphasizes getting drop-outs to finish school and getting students to value education but seems to offer little opening for examining why school is so irrelevant for so many.
From the Get Schooled Press Room:
Every school day seven thousand students walk out on their education. One-third of all students fail to graduate high school. (Read More)
Call me a crazy homeschool mom, but when faced with having created educational opportunities that didn’t work for my kids and that they weren’t willing to participate in, I did major examination and restructuring of what I was offering them. I adjusted and still adjust (two of my kids are in college; one is still in the thick of home education). I don’t presume that my agenda is more important than theirs, and I allow them to learn at their own pace and through the lens of their interests. I encourage them to do a lot of physical work and hands-on projects. We split wood; we make art; we study crayfish; we debate today’s news; we cook; we dance; we write; we read. We discuss emerging goals and how to prepare for them. I’m honest about the work they need to do to reach their goals, and I provide resources, encouragement, and opportunities for changing directions.
I understand that this kind of customization either seems or truly is impossible in the current approach to public education, but I can’t quite see how a system that has seven thousand more students walk out each day can address its dropout problem from the “encourage kids to stay in school” and “parents should be cheerleaders” angles. If one third of the customers you serve walk out on you in the middle of your serving them, shouldn’t something far more radical be under consideration? Like major examination and restructuring of what school offers students? Including examining the presumption that school’s agenda is more important than students’ agendas? Including allowing students to truly work at their own pace and through the lens of their interests? Including allowing students to do physical work and hands-on projects?
The thing is, it’s so radical that we’d have to admit that a lot of what schools are doing can’t work. We’d have to admit that the emperor has no clothes, despite our paying a tremendous amount for them with our tax dollars. We’d have to admit that public education, rather than treating homeschoolers warily, should be looking to home education for insight and ideas for meeting kids’ needs.
And one more thing. “Get Schooled” as a pro-education theme sounds off-key to my ear. I mean, I get the pop culture atmospherics and edgy feel, but “Get Schooled” is far too accurate in encouraging kids to passively submit to a system that is failing so many. We could signal a real intent to serve students, including the 1/3 of students who don’t graduate, if we were creating a system that deserved a theme like “Figure out Where You Want to Go and Learn What You Need to Get There. We’ll Help.”
Alas, this would make kids more important than the status quo.
I didn’t find the political will existed to make kids more important than the status quo back when my sons began their educational journies, which explains why I first began homeschooling. I continue to doubt that the political will exists to make kids more important than the status quo, which explains why other parents will continue to begin homeschooling.
We’re not looking for our kids to “get schooled;” we’re looking for them to become educated.