Thursday, June 30, 2005

Schooling for All

I'm a little behind on this one (you may have heard that I had some other stuff going on this past week), so I can't find a free link, but there was an article last Wednesday in the NY Times (front page then jump to page A13) about people who are home-schooling their kids but want their kids to have access to school sports teams. To them I say: Bite me.

I'm not, in general, a fan of home-schooling. For one thing, home-schooling takes away resources (tangible as well as intangible) from public schools, and I regard good, free public schools as an essential component of a free society. (Hence my where-the-fuck-are-the-media rants as well: an ignorant or uninformed populace is a populace that is ripe for exploitation by the wealthy and powerful, as we are seeing right now.) If you want to pay extra to send your kid to a private school, well, okay, but you still have an obligation to (and, if you're paying attention, should have an interest in) making sure that a good, free public education is available to everyone.

I understand that some people regard public schools as insufficiently educational for their children, perhaps because their child has special abilities of some kind. (It's kind of ironic that parents of kids with developmental disabilities often are fighting to get their kids into the school system.) Why not find an adjunct to the public school system for your kid, something in addition to what's available? If you think the schooling the children get isn't sufficiently well-rounded, well, work on that, run for the school board, something. Really, though, we need to increase the funding for schools everywhere, because surely we all benefit from a better school system.

I understand that some people regard public schools as insufficiently protective of their children (for example, in cases where children are being bullied relentlessly, especially for being a racial, (non)religious, or sexual minority of some kind), and here I'm more torn. I believe the schools have a mission and an obligation, but if (a) they do not meet that obligation and (b) the child is at risk, parents should not have to sacrifice their child's health and well-being. I also believe that a fair number of these problems and the special-needs problem could be solved by a greater investment in our children's education; in California, I believe, small class sizes were mandated and that did, indeed, affect the quality of education. A teacher who has 35 students is going to have less opportunity to identify and stop bullying, for example, than a teacher who has 20 students in a classroom.

I also understand that there are communities--like the Amish and, I think, some Mennonites--who historically have not utilized public schools. I think this is potentially quite divisive, but the Amish seem to have worked it out pretty reasonably, and, to the point of the article, the Amish don't pick and choose. The article, though, highlights people who want to keep homeschooling their kids but want to partake of activities like sports or music--even though, for example, the kids presumably couldn't be thrown off the team for failing a class.
"We found enough activities within the homeschool community to satisfy our needs," said Maryalice Newborn, who runs a support netowrk . . . "But if somebody else wants to participate, shouldn't they have that right?"
In brief: No.

The whole point of public schooling is to provide a common, shared, framework--and, really, a common, public good. If you take from it only the bits and pieces that you want, you end up with the tragedy of the commons.

10 Comments:

Blogger COD said...

(Hence my where-the-fuck-are-the-media rants as well: an ignorant or uninformed populace is a populace that is ripe for exploitation by the wealthy and powerful, as we are seeing right now.

What you don't understand is that a populace that is ripe for the exploitation by the wealthy is the purpose of forced schooling. In the early 20th century, wealthy industrialists like Mellon and JP Morgan spent more on the school system that the Federal Government did. The system was conceived set up to control the waves of immigrants hitting our shores in the late 19th and early 20th century, and to ensure that there would be a steady supply of factory drones to work for the man.

The school system has done exactly what it was designed to do.

6:29 PM  
Blogger bitchphd said...

Brava.

11:40 PM  
Blogger bitchphd said...

And re. Chris's comment, yes, I know a lot of people feel this way, and I don't think they're entirely wrong.

But just because a system was set up to serve a particular purpose doesn't mean that that's all it does, or that it's irreocably flaws. Public education was also set up for a host of other reasons, many noble and right.

And the people who have the most power to change what's happening in the schools are the parents who send their children there--if they'd only realize it.

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Jason said...

Yeah, public schools are free. Want to pay my property taxes?

7:49 AM  
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