Yeah… I know I use hyperbole like some people use too much ketchup on mac-n-cheese. (What… you don’t? Try it sometime.) So it should be nothing new, when I point to stories like this: Delaware Community Schools will run its own latchkey program to minimize job cuts | The Star Press and say, “See? See? We are on our way towards finding a great new purpose for America’s anemic district schools. Some day, they are going to eventually start keeping kids overnight, then for the week. And then when it’s determined that ‘certain’ kids’ family life just doesn’t meet government standards, compassion will rule the day.
And in the name of compassion, we will think nothing of taking those “at risk” children off the hands of those bad parents!”
Okay… you’re right. This isn’t going to happen in the near-near future. But what other future for our public district schools can you think of? They are terrible at actually educating kids, and they are constantly complaining that parents aren’t getting their kids “ready to learn” before they get to school….
Don’t you think there’s just going to come a time when (in order to save jobs, because we should always have government schools!) they’ll suddenly find out they are better suited for “taking care of children” than many parents?
If your only criticism is that it makes you uncomfortable when I call Government Run Public Schools “Welfare Schools” or “Outpatient Orphanages” then I think you’re just in denial. Think for a moment and take a stab at what YOU think the future holds for public district schools.
Please welcome my friend and SkippingSchool’s guest columnist, Linda Dobson. You can read more of her great work on homeschooling and learning outside the box of public schooling on her blog: Parent at the Helm.
Is Your Child Fired Up – Or Burned Out – On Learning?
By Linda Dobson
I can’t say why, when, or how it happened, but it did. At some point after compulsory schooling began a mere 150 years or so ago, our society accepted it as perfectly normal and natural: Children hate going to school. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the school culture itself enforces the notion with an unwritten rule that those who are smart and/or enjoy classes are geeks, nerds, or just plain weird.
Then there’s that compulsion feature itself, compounded by No Child Left Behind’s focus on test scores. How often does the situation in learning coach Jennifer’s home play out across the nation?
“Three years ago Bethany couldn’t wait to go to kindergarten,” Jennifer remembers, “and she thrived. But within the first few months of first grade her attitude began to change. At first she just complained that she had to go to school, but by third grade she actively fought it.” Exasperated, Jennifer was unsuccessful trying to talk with Bethany, so she turned to the teacher.
“It happens all the time,” the teacher told Jennifer. “She’s burned out.”
Burned Out on Learning
“How does an eight year-old ‘burn out’?” Jennifer asked.
“There are a variety of contributing factors,” the teacher confided. “For some kids, we move too quickly and they can’t keep up. For others, the opposite is true; they get bored and tune out. Some don’t really wake up until after they’ve been in school for hours, while others get distracted while trying to keep childhood energy in check enough to sit still. Some don’t see a purpose, and still others just plain aren’t interested in what I’m talking about. Try as we might it’s impossible to be all things to all children, and we lose some along the way. For what it’s worth,” the teacher added, “Bethany is extremely bright and creative. That’s how we lost her.”
“Lost her?” exclaims Jennifer. “My baby had months to go in this woman’s classroom and she considered her ‘lost’? I don’t think I’ve ever been so angry in my life, and I vowed then and there to change burned out on learning to fired up at home.”
“By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences.”
So what did Jennifer do when she didn’t want to lose any more precious family time together to school-related activities? Especially when she was unable to take complete educational responsibility through homeschooling?
Being Your Child’s Learning Coach Can Help!
In the warmth and comfort of home, she became Bethany’s learning coach. Instead of acting as just another in a long string of teachers, drilling the multiplication tables or quizzing her child on a long list of dates related to the Revolutionary War, Jennifer focused on three elements vital to academic success that aren’t addressed in crowded (or even many uncrowded) classrooms.
• One-on-one attention
• Basic learning skills the child may apply to any area of study
• Educational customization based on learning style, innate intelligences, and interests
Researchers, too, are noticing the results of facilitating learning in lieu of teaching. In 2002, the University of North Florida’s Rebecca A. Marcon reported on a comparison between three diverse preschool models. The first was child-initiated, including lots of free exploration of interests. Next was the academically directed approach, focusing on early curriculum material. The third was a “combination” approach. Marcon writes, “By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences.”
From The Learning Coach Approach: Inspire, Encourage, and Guide Your Child Toward Greater Success in School and in Life by Linda Dobson
Linda Dobson and family began their homeschooling journey in 1985. They were having so much fun together that she wanted to share news of this educational approach with as many other families as possible. She co-founded a local homeschooling support group that now offers support and learning activities to a growing membership. She helped found and for the first two years served as coordinator of the New York (State) Home Educators’ Network. Upon creation of the National Home Education Network (NHEN) in 1999 she served as its first public relations advisor as a media contact providing reporters, journalists, and researchers with background information and interviews. She was also Homeschool.com’s early years’ advisor.
The Board of Education will vote Wednesday on a plan to randomly test sixth, seventh and eighth graders to see if they are under the influence of drugs. School administrators said they were confident the proposal would pass.
Elementary School Principal Sandra Szabocsik said school officials want to use the testing “as a deterrent.”
“We’re hoping that the students if they’re at say a party or someone’s house or just hanging out somewhere, that they’ll say ‘I don’t want to get involved in drinking or using any drug because tomorrow could be a drug testing day,’” she told CBS 2′s Christine Sloan.
I really don’t have anything prolific to add. It’s just another stupid thing that State Schools are doing to control people, rather than educate them. If you had a choice to send your child to these prisons they call Government Schools, would you? And if you do go to a school like this, and think drug testing your little babies is a good thing, then maybe you deserve the government supplied education your children get.
You’ll be blessed later on in life, when their training in moral relativism kicks in somewhere around your retirement.
“The “Government Education Complex” is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation.”
There it is… in a nutshell. From this, flows most of my theories about how Government Schooling is damaging generations of children.
The following is a more concise definition of how I (and others of my ilk) define and frame our arguments against Public Schools, Government Schools, and State Schools. Actually, for years we’ve been discussing on my AltEdDiscourse List, the problems with Government Schools using this term as a basis for defining all of the systemic problems with Government Run, Taxpayer Funded (GRTF) Schooling. Bruno Behrend has been a huge contributor to our discussions on AltEdDiscourse in the past, and he continues with the Heartland Institute today.
And so, with special thanks to my good friend, Bruno, I would like to present his concise definition of the GEC and why our Government Schools will never be fully reformed until we fundamentally change how we pay for and deliver “education.”
If you want to discuss with me, the state of public education, please read this first. It’ll be good for you to know where I’m comin’ from.
The Government Education Complex
by Bruno Behrend
The “Government Education Complex” is the interlocking set of interests that control the vast majority of American education dollars, education policy, and the steady increase in unnecessary education job creation. The explosion of spending, debt, and taxation we’ve witnessed in the last 25 years was used to fund the growth of this Complex.
The complex is made up not only of associations of administrators and teachers unions, but an interconnected network of bond dealers, builders, architects, law firms, textbook companies, and other service providers who profit off of the overproduction of service contracts, debt, public employment, and bureaucracy. This interlocking network has played a role in funding the campaigns of thousands of elected officials at all levels and in both parties.
Like the Military Industrial Complex that Eisenhower warned of, the “Government Education Complex” is politically powerful and completely self-interested in perpetuating itself. Unlike the Military Industrial Complex, which has provided America with the most effective fighting force on the planet, the Government Education Complex has failed to provide our society with the educated populace we are paying for.
Rather, it merely uses our children as a stick to beat more money out of us while providing, at best, a mediocre education for the lucky. The unlucky get to go to America’s urban drop-out factories.
The vast sum of political money raised by the “Government Education Complex” is used to write legislation at the state level to grow the complex while protecting it from any competition. State school codes are written by and for the complex and its members and passed by the political class whose campaigns they fund.
The “Government Education Complex” succeeds because of one key factor in its structure – the school district. The “district” is an artifice that provides voters and citizens with the false perception of “local control.” In fact, your local school district is merely a “franchise” of the centralized complex – like McDonalds, only more expensive. That is why America has literally thousands of school districts, almost all of which are creatures of the individual states’ school codes. While there is some variation state to state and district to district, most of that variation is due to differing socio-economic or regional factors, not district autonomy.
This raises the question of whether the “Government Education Complex” is corrupt. The short answer is, “Yes.” At any given moment, you can find hundreds of local news stories about wasted money, insider contracts, or the difficulty citizens encounter when looking into school district finances. The entire process, from the complex property tax collection system to the overly complex fund accounting dictated in many states, is designed to obfuscate spending.
The long answer is more complex, simply because a great deal of what most regular citizens call “corruption” has been legalized by most state school codes. The Government Education Complex is designed to grow itself while spending money by the billions. It is operating exactly as intended. The actual education of America’s children is not its agenda. Spending money is its agenda.
In conclusion, the Government Education Complex cannot be reformed. It must be dismantled. If you are serious about educating America’s children, you must disabuse yourself of the notion that any combination of tepid reforms – a transparency law here, a teacher merit pay tweak there, or teacher measurement improvement law anywhere – can “fix” our education system.
Dismantlement means that we need to move toward the money following the child to a much more vast array of education content providers. We need to create a “Parent/Child Education Network.” This means that there will be a place for every imaginable learning system, from the traditional school to international digital learning content beamed to tablets and smart phones. This Parent/Child Education Network must replace the Government Education Complex.
That should be your goal, and every incremental step in education reform must be measured by whether it leads there. Anything that leaves the Government-Education Complex in place will fail to improve America’s education outcomes.
Wow… I wonder what goes through the heads of bureaucrats, that makes them think wasting time on an “I will be responsible for the education of my child” pledge is worthwhile?
The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has recently released [10/2010] their Parent Pledge which—and I quote—is supposed to create “a caring, involved and accountable [public schooled] parent.”
[Update: 12/2016 – After a couple of administrations have come and gone, obviously this important document meant to create a caring and involved and accountable parent… has vaporized from the IDOE website. In fact, a search for “Parent Pledge” returns ZERO hits for the entire DOE IN.gov website. This should serve as a lesson to everyone that anything the government does to help you… is never intended to really help you. Requesting you to, “Sign zee paperzz,” is the first sign that the government wants to hold YOU accountable, not the other way around. PS: How many tens of thousands of dollars were spent on something that ended up being this uselss?]
After rereading the document [view the PDF copy here], I had an epiphany! What Tony Bennett, the State Super of Schools really wants all good Hoosier parents to do … is HOMESCHOOL!
Holy Cow! I couldn’t believe it myself, but it’s right there, all in black and white, ready for everyone to sign and GET BUSY WITH HOMESCHOOLING THEIR KIDS!
But believe it or not, I think this form is a little TOO simple. Maybe it’s written for a certain grade level of adult reading. (What grade level is “Sheeple?) Anyway… Here’s what the pledge is really asking parents of publicly schooled children to do, in a “what they say” vs. “what they are really saying” fashion.
Buckle up! What they “say” vs. what they *mean:
As a parent, grandparent or caring adult I hereby affirm my commitment to the academic achievement and career success of my child. I promise to make the pursuit of knowledge a priority in my household.
* I promise to not abdicate my responsibility as a parent to direct the education of my own children. Therefore, I will not expect any government agency, including public State Schools to raise my children. I will also promise to be the sole arbiter of the definition of academic and career success.
To demonstrate my commitment to this goal, I pledge to adhere to the following principles:
* To demonstrate my newly reclaimed responsibilities as a parent, I will proudly call my child MINE, while gently reprimanding anyone (public school employees, politicians, social workers, nib-nose neighbors) who refers to other people’s children as the collective “ours.”
i.e. “We need to raise everyone’s taxes because it’s in America’s best interest to assure all our children receive the best free government accredited education possible.”(Verbal spanking follows if gentle reprimands don’t work.)
Here are my core principles according to the State:
My child will read with an adult or be encouraged to read independently each day.
* I will read to MY child or encourage him to read on his own, as long as he likes, from books that interest him, each day.
My child will complete all homework assignments given by school instructors and will be encouraged to ask for help when it is needed.
* I will encourage my child to complete whatever project he begins, as well as any work I assign. I will–of course–answer his questions in a timely fashion and help him learn difficult tasks when asked.
My child will arrive at school on time, well rested and prepared for a full day of instruction and learning.
* I will not stress my child with busy-work so he’s well rested and healthy. He will be able to learn at his own pace, with an emphasis on what interests him. Instruction will take a back seat to learning and I will model the difference in our new learning lifestyle.
My child will treat teachers and fellow classmates with respect and compassion. I will make positive behavior the expectation in my household.
* My child will treat EVERYONE with respect and compassion. PERIOD. No matter what the situation, or whom my child is interacting with, positive and proper social behaviors are expected. I will provide models for this proper social behavior by being present in his life as much as possible (acting like an adult) and not expecting other adults to provide this important form of socialization.
My child will graduate from high school and will understand the importance of a strong education in determining future success.
* My child will graduate from high school and be prepared to lead an independent life as an adult. (I have no interest in rearing my children into their thirties. Really.) They will learn the true meaning of success–it is based on one’s character, not one’s diploma–before they graduate. (See next principle.)
I will encourage my child to dream big and always give 100 percent effort.
* My child will learn that 100 percent effort doesn’t always mean 100 percent success. Dream big, but expect to WORK and make lots of mistakes if you want to make your dreams come true. This will provide a balanced and realistic view of the world because there are no self-esteem building programs after high school and employers will NEVER tell you, “Good job!” when you really don’t deserve it. Heck! They will probably only grunt when you DO do a good job. Get used to it now.
I will treat my child’s teachers as a valuable resource and work with them to support academic improvement and classroom behavior expectations.
* I will treat everyone that can positively influence my child as a valuable resource for learning. We will be on the constant look-out for interesting people from whom we can learn interesting things. Our experiences will be broad and diverse because we will socialize with others with broad experiences, age ranges and lifestyles different from our own. By living this lifestyle, I will be modeling proper social interactions for my child. Some people call this “Socialization,” and they are absolutely right. Socialization is best handled in the home by the family. (Thank you so much for returning this responsibility to the home where it belongs! How this would work in a bland institutional classroom with 20+ other children, I’m not sure… but I suppose that’s the school’s job to figure out.)
I will monitor my child’s academic growth and stay as involved as possible in my child’s education. I will let the teacher know right away if I notice any problems.
* I will monitor my child’s academic AND character growth (at home) and then take action right away if I notice any problems. There is no need to notify a teacher, since they are not my child’s parent. Intermediaries aren’t necessary and only delay academic growth, not to mention suppress or counter proper character development. I WILL, however, be sure to notify the school–right away–if I notice my child’s teacher indoctrinating my child with values counter to those of our family.
Together, my child and I, in partnership with Indiana’s educators, will make education our #1 priority.
* Together, our family will take back our responsibility to educate our children and raise them to be responsible and educated adults. We will carefully choose those who are to be in authority over our children. (Possibly including Indiana’s Educators.) And finally, we pledge to make our home-learning lifestyle our #1 priority for our children and our family.
[Addendum: Please provide a similar pledge of responsibilities to the entire teaching staff of the school our child attends. We will schedule a meeting to interview each teacher and witness the pledges THEY sign… just so we know we’re all on the same page. Thank you.]
Yup, sounds like homeschooling, doesn’t it?
*NOTE: These principles were all derived without the use of tax dollars, government programs (or legislation), suggestions from unions, psychological counselors, government employees or state school appointed parent councils. You are welcome.