Today I feature a guest post from Steven Horwich here at FaithWalkers as I travel on the other side of the world. Steven Horwich is a teacher, writer, director, and founder of Connect the Thoughts, providing resources and training for homeschooling. You can follow him on Twitter @Homeschoolcurr and Facebook.
School education reform is an endless discussion, a droning litany that has pointlessly moaned on for decades. It is a migraine-inducing waltz with little variation and no joy.
You’ve heard it ceaselessly chanted by “educators,” politicians, angry parents. It comes in a few forms. “We must have education reform,” and “We are currently reforming education” are the most common versions of this litany.
The sad fact? There is almost a universal agreement that school reform is necessary. It is, in fact, beyond dispute. Monstrous drop-out rates for public schools, rising functional illiteracy in the real world, the unemployability of college grads, the amount of bullying and abuse taking place on campuses at all levels — Nope. No sane person denies the need for a significant change.
Politicians and teachers incessantly claim that they just need more. More money, more parent involvement, more everything, and well, public education will finally work.
Only it won’t.
Public education has had decades to prove that it does not work. There’s nothing there worth reforming, and the cost in lost generations and trillions of dollars has long exceeded reason or excuses.
How to Reform Eduction
So, how might one “reform” education? I believe you’d need to start by realizing that every student is utterly unique.
No “cookie-cutter” approach will ever work, not for all students, and not for many students. No national or even regional system, no matter how well-intended or considered, will service the stunning variety of minds, and interests innate to our young. Standardized testing, classroom-oriented approaches, grading and evaluations, standardized curriculum (especially when restricted to “approved subjects”), all of the “tools” schools insist on using, doom the entire idea of “school.”
The approach schools are locked into ignores the most basic truth of education – that education is for the student. It is not for the teacher. It is not for “the system.” And given that every student is unique, a system attempting to handle 77 million such students as is the case in the U.S. is simply doomed to standardize everything, and hence, fail almost every child.
Do I need to state the rest of the case for walking away from public schooling? The unbelievably high expense of public schooling, particularly given their abysmal track record? The amount of bullying that takes place in our schools (according to 2,000 recently polled students, some 46% of all students are annually bullied in school)? The atrocity of teacher abuse of students, the number of said atrocities boggling the mind?
Reform this system? Really? Why bother? It is already perfectly sized and shaped — for the nearest trash can.
A Family-based Alternative
There is, however, a system that avoids every pitfall of public education. It has existed for as long as the family, many thousands of years. It is an approach to education that strengthens the family, the building block of civilization. This approach to education has quite a proven track record. In fact, when you open a history book, nearly every great man or woman you read about will be a result of this system. And what’s more, today, millions of families use this system.
We call it homeschooling.
Homeschooling is the antithesis of “standardized.” No one knows a child better than their family. Sorry, Mr. and Ms. Teacher. Sorry, Madame college adviser and Master school psychologist – you folks aren’t even in the running, no matter how often and how loudly you shout about your degrees and your “expertise.”
Mom and dad, you gave birth to and raised that boy or girl. You watched as they first spoke, first walked. You probably were the first to read to them, and to be read to by them. And because you know that child, you can best orient their educational efforts. You will be the first and most-qualified to see the light in their eyes when they discover the subjects and activities that they will love for the rest of their life. You may well be the very first to understand your child’s dreams, even their “calling.”
Schools just can’t do that.
A teacher has on average perhaps 1 – 1 ½ minutes per student per period, and they use seating charts to remember your child’s name. They do not know your child, and they do not have ANY understanding of their dreams, skills, interests. The closest they ever get to actually looking your child in the eye is the issuing of tests that have little or nothing to do with your child, and the following evaluation of the results of those tests.
Parents as the Most Qualified Teachers
It’s the truth, mom and dad – you are by far the best-qualified to understand your child’s educational needs and wants. That makes you, like it or not, the most qualified to deliver their education! Because you will make decisions for them based on intimate understanding and a real passion for your child to do well in the world. A school cannot and will not do any of that.
Can you teach your child? YES. It is almost always legal in the U.S., even if you have no degree and not one minute of teaching experience. There is a ton of assistance available for today’s homeschool families, and many different approaches. I prefer the forming of homeschool groups, three-four families with similar goals, working together. The group shares resources (not many are needed), and the parents parcel out “teaching” time so no one mom or dad gets slammed. (Often, older children can teach, as well!) I had 10 kids in my home (eight plus my two) for years, and two other parents helping with teaching. It worked.
How about results? Homeschoolers, strangely enough, score higher as a group in all testing than public schoolers. Homeschoolers are highly recruited today by most colleges and universities who understand that homeschoolers are BETTER adjusted to a world they are not afraid of, and are academically advanced when compared to public schoolers.
And all of those homeschoolers are taught by “unqualified” parents. Hmmm. Imagine that.