Either Google doesn’t catch everything, or I was distracted in March. The link-to-the-post only popped up (for me) last weekend via Families.com. In reading the comments, though, I see that Chris (COD) was manning the barricades.
Even though I’m late to the conversation — in cyber time ‘so last week’ is akin to ‘so last year’ — I do have replies to Mr. Laden’s objections.
Home Schooling: The Bad and the Ugly, Greg Laden
The main points about homeschooling made by Mr. Laden are:
Home schooling is a way of cheating the system.
Home schooling, on average, provides children with fewer resources of lower quality.
Home Schooling provides children with lower quality teaching.
Home schooling is ideologically driven.
Oversight and testing.
I find these opinions interesting because they reflect what non-homeschoolers may think about homeschooling. I’ve had conversations along similar lines with friends and neighbors. Polite consideration is often the rule in face-to-face discussions, but online the gloves are usually more off than on. I saw that in Mr. Laden’s opinion, rebuttals are seen as fearfulness and obfuscation, but them’s the risks of online communication. Rebuttalers aren’t in control of how the messages are received.
- Home schooling is a way of cheating the system.
Our system serves the children — of the people who want to use it. Children aren’t bred to serve the system and aren’t required to make themselves available upon demand to people who like to teach.
Compulsory school laws were legislated (after the unenforced use of organized schooling continued to rise [footnote 4, page 3]), but there is no compulsion to use only the public schools. In 1925, the Supreme Court said in Pierce v. Sisters that, in addition to children not being “creature[s] of the state,” the public school system is not the only source from which children receive their educations.
“the fundamental liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”
Children are not public school fodder.
Add to that idea the fact that homeschoolers pay taxes but don’t use ‘our fair share.’ If there isn’t enough money, where’d it go? The homeschoolers sure didn’t use it.
It is true that we are not ‘contributing’ by enrolling our children — enrollment allows schools to collect federal funds for each new nose that’s counted — but that is no more our problem than the demise of the buggy whip industry was Henry Ford’s problem. Evolution happens.
Parents do not owe their children to the public school system. If part of the rationale behind public schools was that tribute was owed with live enrollees, as well as the money from all adults who owe taxes, then parenthood would be compulsory.
- Home schooling, on average, provides children with fewer resources of lower quality.
The local school may have a greater number of high-quality resources, but the children must share them with a greater number of classmates. School schedules restrict time-of-use-per-item. There is always someone waiting behind you in line, the sands of time trickle away grain by grain for that class period, and the group must keep marching to the lesson plan drummer.
Lesson assignments aren’t usually open-ended so that if the children’s interest is piqued, they might need to abandon a project before their curiosity about the subject has peaked. This is merely group dynamics. If the group is to progress through ‘material’ ‘in a timely fashion,’ teachers will avoid interesting detours.
Another possible reaction is that the kids must feign interest in a topic that failed to intrigue them, but must still use their quota of time on the expensive resource or risk a lower grade for lack of ‘class participation.’ Be interested or else. This denies time to children with authentic interest. (I hated having to get off the trampoline to make way for the weenie who was afraid to bounce)
Hardware can be valuable to learners, but in the end, it is the wetware that is most important.
- Home Schooling provides children with lower quality teaching.
Perhaps. But it’s hard to prove one way or the other.
“Lake Woebegone” and Fraudulent Testing, John Jacob Cannell biography
Realizing that if all those poor states were “above the national average,” then all 50 states were probably claiming the same thing and more than likely, nobody knew it! Sure enough, the U.S. Department of Education confirmed that they do not regulate or oversee commercial achievement testing in the United States. William Bennett, then Secretary of Education, had no idea what the states were reporting to their citizens, and it was the same with all his predecessors. They did not consider it their business as it was the for-profit business of commercial test publishers like CTB/McGraw Hill and Houghton Mifflin.
Among homeschooling families, statistically there have to be some sucky ‘teachers.’ In a general population, it’s unavoidable. I’d even bet that half of them are below average — and half of them above. Fancy that. But, the teacher assigned to each child in public schooling is luck of the draw. I figure that 50% of school teachers are also below average (and 50% of them are above). Most of them are probably ’round about the middle — like parents.
- Home schooling is ideologically driven.
And public schooling isn’t?
(in his defense, Mr. Laden did acknowledge that point)
Yes, I was waiting for someone to point out that yes, it’s all ideologically driven.
But you know what I am referring to here: I’m referring to people going through great lengths to either drive Fundamentalist Christian Beliefs into our public school system, or, when that does not work, to drive their kids home and give it to them there.
And? Because of this should we work to eradicate Fundamentalistic Christian beliefs? Or ban the teaching of any other beliefs with which we disagree?
I’m reminded of the controversy about the proposed 1977 march in Skokie, Illinois. Please understand that I am not, not, not equating anyone to the people proposing to march, I am only referring to the principle of freedom of speech and, presumably, thought.
When the Nazis Came to Skokie: Freedom for Speech We Hate, University Press of Kansas
In the Chicago suburb of Skokie, one out of every six Jewish citizens in the late 1970s was a survivor–or was directly related to a survivor–of the Holocaust. These victims of terror had resettled in America expecting to lead peaceful lives free from persecution. But their safe haven was shattered when a neo-Nazi group announced its intention to parade there in 1977. Philippa Strum’s dramatic retelling of the events in Skokie (and in the courts) shows why the case ignited such enormous controversy and challenged our understanding of and commitment to First Amendment values.
A gap exists in American culture. An ABC poll taken in 2001 showed that (according to the poll) 60% of Americans believe that the Genesis account of creation is a reportorial account of How It All Came to Be. But, until there is a requirement that we all think the same way, the people who believe that the books comprising the varieties of available Bibles may believe what they believe. We do not want a Cultural Revolution in which those who think in ways we consider wrong are stopped from doing so.
A problem is that the people who don’t agree with what the public schools are teaching are still required to support them through their taxes. It seems cold to require that they ante up their children as well as their cash.
A book by Stephen Prothero, Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know — and Doesn’t, gives one explanation about this gap.
Blind Faith, 4 March 2007, Washington Post, Washington, D.C.
The weakest part of this otherwise excellent book is Prothero’s proposed remedy: high school and college courses dealing with the historical and cultural role of religion. As the author rightly notes, teaching about religion — as distinct from preaching religion — is not prohibited by the First Amendment’s ban on “an establishment of religion.” But given the failure of so many schools to inculcate the most elementary facts about American history, it is hard to imagine that most teachers would be up to the task of explaining, say, the subtleties of biblical arguments for and against slavery. Furthermore, a curriculum that would meet with the approval of Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Protestant and nonreligious parents would probably be a worthless set of platitudes.
Thought control by working to compromise the passing on of beliefs from parent to child is not an answer to differences in cultural outlook.
- Oversight and testing
Mr. Laden thinks homeschoolers cheat, but what would be the point? It isn’t as if homeschooling families would continue to get their NCLB funding through their children scoring well on standardized tests … because homeschooling families do not get subsidies.
Accountability for spending money from taxpayers is one of the reasons for testing in the public schools. A billion here, and a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking about a lot of money! Other than testing, there are few ways to find out if the tax money collected from parents (and singles, and empty-nesters, and retirees) is being put to good use (at least in the context of school).
The pencil and paper weighing and measuring of children to determine the whether the public’s money for schooling has been well spent conditions people to think of testing as necessary for learning. However, the results of the pencil and paper tests of homeschoolers are as immaterial in the public sphere as the results of the tests of children in private schools because homeschooling families don’t use public funds, even though they contribute to the communal moneypot.
Concerning homeschooling, no, we don’t want thousands — perhaps millions — of children growing up to be like the dummies I see driving on the roads because the homeschooled kids’ stupid parents, who don’t know an asterisk from their elbow, broke them. Fortunately, there is no indication that this is happening.
Many people may not like what some homeschooled kids were taught, but as a group the kids are not growing up ignorant.
These answers to Mr. Laden’s objections to homeschooling are from just one point of view but, with luck, conversations such as this will help clear the air about homeschooling.
posted by Valerie