The website, Opposing Views has hosted a debate between the California Federation of Teachers and the HomeSchool Association of California: Are homeschooled kids at a disadvantage?
The premise of the debate is:
Each year more than a million children are homeschooled in the United States, and that number is steadily growing. While some parents believe homeschooling is an ideal situation, others fear that a student’s education can be severely hindered in such an environment. When making a decision about your child’s education, which is the more reasonable school of thought?
Topics listed so far under the CFT side are:
- All students deserve to have a quality education
- Parental involvement
- Educational support
Current topics listed under the HSC side are:
- Homeschooling often benefits children greatly
- Homeschooling works well because parents can work with each child
- Homeschooled children are academically prepared for college
- Concerns about socialization have no factual foundation
- Families that choose homeschooling are not condemning their children
In the debate, participants on each side can lodge “objections” to the opposing side’s statements. Readers can comment, but the Terms of Service specifies that by commenting on the site, readers give the Opposing Views company …
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I was going to comment at the site, but I think I’ll stay here.
Synopses of the responses from the California Federation of Teachers follow, with my responses.
All students deserve to have a quality education: common standards; transparent evaluation processes; administrative oversight and accountability; a diverse community
The “common standards” used in schools sometimes are anything but common or standard. Experimentation or fads can affect the offered instruction, and the children have no recourse for correcting the experience if the experiment doesn’t return positive results. It is true that a parent may choose a resource that is a poor fit for a child, but a chief benefit of homeschooling is that a parent can change course as needed. Homeschooling eliminates the bureaucratic necessity of sacrificing parts of a child’s education because of administrative decisions.
“Transparent evaluation processes” What does that mean in reference to homeschooling? I’m guessing that it is about an individual’s GPA on a transcript that includes “generous” grades by “Mom.” The solution for institutions is for an applicant to take a screening test, or the SAT or ACT. If the individual produces a winning score, does the GPA matter? If the s flops with a poor score, it does not matter how many times the grades A or B show up in a column — poor score = no acceptance.
“Administrative oversight and accountability” Here’s another bureaucratic mouthful that has little to do with children learning within a family. Citizens and their children are not “accountable” for their learning to school systems. In this context, it is the reverse. School systems are accountable to citizens for the use of the money provided by the citizens to the school. The schools are also accountable to the students for the quality of schooling, just as I was accountable to my kids for the quality of materials and resources I provided.
“Diverse community” Sitting in a classroom, or walking the halls, among a group of people riddled with cliques does not equal a “diverse community.” Any average-looking kid in regular school who has changed schools and filled the position of ‘new kid’ can tell you about the invisible cattle chutes directing where you go, and with whom you associate. I find it surprising that institutional school advocates can’t remember that. Have they no eyes while they walk among the kids?
None of that demonstrates a lack of quality in what children learn at home.
Parental involvement: compulsory education as engine for democracy; employment preparation; parental ignorance of how children learn; parental training; lack of cooperative social interaction
The points presented under the topic, “parental involvement” are odd. How is “parental involvement” a justification of the position that homeschooled kids are disadvantaged?
Still, to address the points, the example of homeschooling demonstrates participation in civil society. It must be inspirational for a child to see his or her parents sticking up for themselves. Homeschooling parents as a group have demonstrated their political participation in state after state and have inspired parents in other countries.
As for the “rhetoric … of training future workers,” that does not come from homeschooling advocates. It’s quite enough to defend homeschooling based on what homeschoolers say, without having to defend homeschooling based on what business interests say about education in general. The writer should get his culprits straight.
Finally, in this section, implying that parents lack “the necessary understanding of how children learn” is an insult. The sum of that statement is that parents — most of who went to public school, so what does that say about what happened to them educationally? — are incapable of learning now that they’ve become parents. According to this line of thinking, our daily living with our children counts for nothing.
A thinking non-human observer (presumably unbiased concerning human social struggles) given this information about humans-who-procreate and told it was true, would have to conclude that the event of parenthood permanently impairs adults, and that any children who are in the company of these parents learn nothing until the children are taken in hand by … by whom? By unimpaired adult non-parents who have retained their ability to learn through not procreating?
My apologies, but tortuous logic requires tortuous explanations.
Both parents and children learn during their daily life together. The parental learning may not include how to get 20 small children to use their fairy shoes in the school hallway, but most parents don’t shepherd 20 children from classrooms to bathrooms. Parents may miss the classroom management instruction received by trainee-teachers, but they don’t need it for managing family life. Using ‘lack of training’ as an argument against homeschooling is another example of the absence of ability to think outside their own system by people within a system — perhaps despite many of these people having children of their own.
I readily admit that some adults lack talent in dealing with children, whether the children are in a group or on their own. We’ve all seen these parents battered in supermarkets by their savvy offspring. But that trait is apparent in many people and is not restricted to people-who-are-parents. I’ve seen teachers with that ‘challenge’ (shall we talk student teacher dropout rates?), so ‘training’ does not provide a panacea for a lack of talent with children.
As for subject training, perhaps parents do not have the schooling necessary to single-handedly teach a class, but parents can find published experts to teach their children.
- Was I qualified to teach physics to my kids? No, but Professor David Goodstein and the folks at CalTech are.
- Was I qualified to teach chemistry to my kids? No, but Frank Cardulla was, and the people at the Teaching Company brought his lessons to our house.
- Was I qualified to teach calculus to my kids? No, but the people at Saxon wrote texts that taught my son and daughter well enough to get them through college.
Guides and mentors do not have to be in-person instructors.
As for “lack of cooperative social interaction,” if that’s the case, then I’d like to lodge a retroactive complaint against all those teachers who told me I wasn’t in class to be visiting with my neighbors. I didn’t like having my notes confiscated, either.
Standards: quality instruction; standards for all teachers; teacher certification; training and supervision; evaluation procedure; non-opposition to homeschooling
Again, this argument is odd. The bulk of the argument is that parents have no training to teach other people’s children as public school teachers have, but the argument finishes with …
We’d prefer that home school teachers/parents were certificated, but requiring it is not practical or wise. … So we don’t outright oppose home schooling, just as we don’t oppose well-run private schools.
That was a concession, right?
Educational support: proper support; appropriate materials; no standards for homeschooling; no high school exit exam for homeschooled kids; homeschooled kids should meet college entrance requirements
The point made in this part of the argument is that parents who are “set on home schooling” (those wrong-headed rascals), should do so only if they are supervised by someone with credentials (and that sounds like job protectionism here in the cheap seats).
The argument trots out “high standards” and the presumably sad fact that no standards for homeschooling exist. The implication is that homeschooling parents — most of whom learned their own basics in public schools — are flouting the opinions of experts who know more than we do. By not adhering to established “high standards,” we are substituting low standards (from David Goodstein, Frank Cardulla and John Saxon?) and we are wrong to do this.
Right about here, I think the argument suffers from the same cart and horse problem as it does under the concept of “accountability.” The purpose of “high standards” and the rules and regulations implementing them is to ensure that the people and systems using the public’s money to teach the public’s kids do so as well as possible. The rules do not hold the public accountable to the system, but rather the system accountable to the public.
If the schools were a restaurant, the rules of public health would apply. No child-customer could go in the restaurant’s kitchen and lick the beaters. At home, though (and if the parent buys salmonella-free chicken eggs like they used to be when my own kids were little, but I’m digressing), the children can lick the beaters every day and twice on Sunday without the public health department closing the place down.
There is a difference between the public sphere and the private sphere.
As for the statement that homeschooled kids “can and should … meet college requirements,” 1) what makes you think they don’t, and 2) do all public school students graduate with records that meet college requirements?
Study finds early difficulty for community college students, 20 August 2007, UC Berkeley News
A new report by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) finds that six in 10 students who enter the California community college system as freshmen with high school diplomas and aspirations to transfer to four-year institutions drop out or lower their academic sights after just one semester. The report recommends increasing support for these students.
Get back to us when you sort that out.
Accountability: no one knows how many homeschooled kids there are; few parents homeschool; public schools have problems, but are best hope for kids; no transparency in homeschooling; public schools need “involved” and “highly motivated” parents
The point of this part, strange to say, isn’t accountability. Since this final section has taglines at the end, I have to wonder if the CFT’s position was a full piece submitted to Opposing Views, and an editor chose where to break it up, and what to call the segments. But, that’s just wondering.
Again, this part’s point is difficult to pin down. It begins with the bogeyman of “no one knows.” I first saw a version of that scare-line applied to homeschooling in 1995 in an American military community newspaper in Germany: “DODDS doesn’t have data on whether there are children overseas who aren’t getting an education …” More recently, it showed up concerning military kids in Japan (and if DoDDS personnel really want to know the numbers, all command has to do is compare the unit NEO numbers with the number of kids enrolled in their schools, but I’m digressing again).
“No one knows” lots of things, but that is no justification for establishing official means of finding out without probably cause of criminal behavior.
Another odd point in this section is the revelation that “relatively few parents choose to go the route of home schooling.” Ohhhhkay. I’d have thought that would be cause for celebration in the public schooling camp. Since there are so few homeschoolers, maybe the homeschool-objectors could focus their energies on the kids dropping out of community college after one semester? Ya think? Saves the kids; doesn’t annoy the homeschoolers. Win/win.
The next section emphasizes the imperfections of the public school system, the low funding and the “stringent standards.” I’m not sure what this has to do with the disadvantage inflicted by homeschooling. It’s another odd argument. I think the point is that ‘schools have to put up with these problems, so homeschoolers should, too.’ Again, this indicates a horse/cart inversion, as well as a toddlers & eggbeaters non sequitur. There is no connection between the oversight of a public service paid for by taxpayer money and what people do in the privacy of their own homes in the absence of criminal behavior. But maybe that’s the rub. Some interest groups may equate legal compulsory school attendance with ‘should be legal’ compulsory learning by children of the interest group’s material.
Finally, the argument that parents owe their energy to public schools is as specious as the one that they owe their children to those same schools. Taxpayers give their money for a public good, they do not also have to give their time and their children. Public schooling is a benefit, not a mandatory state religion.
As of this writing, the justifications I see at the Opposing Views site about the contention that homeschooled kids are disadvantaged constitute nothing more than handwaving. Either the context of the justifications is administratively bureaucratic, or the justifications themselves are nonsense.
Although I would prefer to ignore the non sequiturs because it takes so much time to tease out meaning (3 days of steady work now), I’ve given replies to many irrelevant justifications. I’ve noticed that if no answer is given, some people presume that the opponent has owned the defender and no reply is possible.
The premise given for the Opposing Views debate was, While some parents believe homeschooling is an ideal situation, others fear that a student’s education can be severely hindered in such an environment. When making a decision about your child’s education, which is the more reasonable school of thought?
This premise is like other statements throughout the argument, odd in itself since the aforementioned “such an environment” is a family, and where else should a child be raised if not in a family? After saying that “others” think learning in a family environment will hinder a child (misuse of an indefinite pronoun — who are these “others?”), the question swings back to the parents — since “your child’s education” would necessarily be asked of a parent — whether these parents think their family life will hinder their child. Now, if the questioner is truly asking parents which school of thought is more reasonable, why are careerists with a vested interest, the California Teachers Federation, doing the answering?
Pretend cartoon: Grocery store owner to lady in restaurant: “Madam, don’t you think you’d look less porky if you stopped eating here and instead bought your food at my store?”
Unfortunately, people must answer illogic or risk having people think you really do beat your wife.