Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's Wrong With the Pubic School?

I've been pondering the state of education lately.  Obviously the system is failing in many ways.  Nearly everyone agrees on that.  Of course, the specifics of how and why it is failing are another matter all together...

Being a former teacher who now homeschools I think I may have a different insight into it.  The simple answer is that school fail because we cannot agree on what they are supposed to be succeeding at.  Each individual, whether it be a school official, teacher, parent or student has his or her own idea of what a successful school would be.

Just ask a group of homeschoolers why they homeschool.  There will be as many different answers as there are people in the group.  Some want to shelter their child from alternative viewpoints.  Some think the schools force kids to conform too much.  Some think it lacks the structure and intensity that children need.  Some believe that kids time is better spent pursuing their own interests.  The list goes on and on.

And so it goes with people discussing the public school.  The school day too long, or maybe too short.  The curriculum is too rigid, or is it too flexible?  Do we test too much or too little?  Does the school get too involved in teaching morality or not involved enough?  Do we spend too much money or too little.  Should we invest more in remedial education or gifted programming?  Why do we have these unanswerable questions?

The news is always comparing us to "other" industrialized nations, and we come up short.  Why?  Let's look at those nations... Korea, Japan, Finland... All ethnically and culturally homogenized countries.  Of course it is easier to meet the needs and wants of similar people than it is to meet the needs and wants of a motley crew of assorted groups cobbled together from years of immigration.   We are doomed to fail from the beginning.  There is no way to keep our diversity and take a one size fits all approach.

So can it be fixed?  Obviously, I don't think it will be fixed any time soon.  That is the true reason I homeschool.  I have no expectations that the public school would meet my wants for my kids.  Until, more opportunities for charter schools are available I think things will continue as they have for decades.  Lots of well meaning passionate people will continue arguing points that are all valid for some students.  The pendulum on each issue will make giant swings from side to side, and no one will emerge entirely satisfied.

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