image courtesy of flickr user spree2010
(My continued rant about Dana Goldstein’s Slate article, “Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids: Why Teaching Children at Home Violates Progressive Values”)
No one thinks that teachers or administrators are out to oppress parents or children. It is the system that is, inherently and fundamentally, oppressive. Public school staff are placed in an impossible situation. They are given large groups of children who vary from each other in every imaginable way (except for chronological age) and are expected to teach these children the information they need to perform well on standardized tests created by people who know nothing of their particular students or situation. Their schools’ funding, not to mention their jobs, depend on their ability to achieve this task. No matter how hard they work, how much they sacrifice, they are told they are not doing enough. Curriculum becomes increasingly standardized, laws become increasingly strict, and ultimately schools become little more than child management facilities. No amount of vociferous debate will change this central fact.
How could it be any different?
If “government is the only institution with the power and scale to intervene in the massive undertaking of better educating American children” – the government that allows children to starve while bazillionaires drive around in private jets, that is more concerned with playing party politics than enacting legislation that will benefit its people – then we are doomed. Perhaps other Western democracies enjoy a greater investment in public education because in other Western democracies the public enjoys greater government support. Other countries provide guaranteed health care and paid family leave to citizens. Other countries take food and environmental safety seriously. Perhaps other Western democracies have earned their citizens’ trust.
As a counterpoint to Betsy Blanchette, I proffer the story of my friend F. whose son has Down syndrome. At the time he was required to enter school in order to continue to receive special services, he was non-verbal. He did, however, have an extensive sign language vocabulary; unfortunately, that did not do him any good. You see, his school district refused to hire an aide who was fluent in sign language, saying that it was not necessary for this three-year-old boy who could not chew or reliably use the toilet to have the ability to efficiently communicate with a responsible adult. Despite his parents’ retaining counsel and entering into litigation with the district, exercising their legal recourse, the school would not budge. I have heard similar stories from other parents of special-needs children.
Are you f*&%ing kidding me?
Luckily, his parents had the means to move to a different school district, one more in touch with its “expertise, resources, and legal responsibility” with respect to this child. But what if they hadn’t?
Broad scale buy in followed by kicking and screaming at school board meetings is unlikely to cause any meaningful shift in the behemoth that is American public education, at least not any time soon. On the other hand, is it possible that the best way for education reformers to be heard is to homeschool – boycott if you will? Gandhi, King, Chavez…need I go on?
Frankly Ms. Goldstein, your judgement regarding social values practiced versus preached is offensive. Your accusation that I either enroll my children in public school or practice piecemeal philanthropy is disrespectful. I want my children to grow up to be kind, compassionate, honest, generous, courageous, self-disciplined, wise and principled individuals who are motivated and passionate about making this world a better place. After my daughter’s short time in our public school (in one of the top-rated districts in our state) it is clear to me that although lip service is paid to these qualities, they are not really valued. Obedience, academic performance, and conformity are most highly prized. In order to be taught, they must first be subdued.
If you can convince me that children who are trained to obey, conform, and be people-pleasers are well situated to bring about broad social change, then I am willing to reconsider the whole public school thing.
Good luck with that.