Thursday, January 3, 2013

Slightly Grouchy Blog about Public Education

Colin is turning five this spring, which means I need to give some serious thought to his education. School seems like a good idea, and I know he would like to have more friends and playmates, not to mention the advantages I see to getting an exuberant young boy out of my hair for several hours a day; but I keep thinking back to some of my own problems I’ve had with the conventional schools.

In my own experience I’ve seen that we expect way too much of our public school teachers. How can they do any actual teaching when having to coach and police a large classroom full of students who either don’t want to be there, or have a rare student in the mix who is a spazz who should never have been mainstreamed? Combine that with pressure to meet standardized test expectations, monitoring for bullying activity, and conforming to the latest agendas in the educational bureaucracy. What a struggle teachers must have. Teaching a student is easy: no advanced degree or special training required. Teaching a classroom of bored or dysfunctional children in a high pressure social engineering experiment is impossible. No wonder American students seem to be falling behind.

Regarding school security and safety, I’m not overly concerned about it. It seems America is starting to pay attention to the tragic fact that hungry wolves kill and eat lambs and it’s best not to leave them unprotected. God be thanked that school shootings are rare; but what does concern me is that no one will address the problem directly to children. I was in high school during the Columbine shootings and subsequent paranoia. No one addressed the students about it or said anything reassuring. They just installed cheap security cameras and pretended to go about life as normal. Children need to be allowed to talk to the adults about these things and deserve to be reassured that the world is not spinning out of control.

My biggest problem with public education is the educational content. I’ve always hated it when scientific theories are taught as scientific fact. Once I took a test in American history. It was a list of true/false questions, and at the end there was a choice of one of three essay questions. One of the true/false questions went, “T / F: the Native Americans came to the Americas by a land bridge across the Bering Strait”. I had been drinking the Kool –aid all my life, but even I knew better that to answer that question the way the teacher expected me too. I answered that the statement was “T, according to the THEORY”, then ignored his choice of essay questions, and elaborated on the possibility of making the crossing via water craft. I also pointed out that by his own admission, there is zero evidence of crossing by land bridge as all such evidence, if any, would have been pulverized and destroyed by glacial activity… I got a very rare extra credit for that rebellious little essay and a commendation for actually thinking. Then I got reassigned to another class taught by a younger teacher. No one was happy about it.

 We learned a lot in school about civil rights and “The Evil White Man”, evolution as a scientific fact, the virtues of promiscuity and sexual obsession, and that firearms are dangerous, scary, and bad; but if you asked any of us at high school graduation about the Bay of Pigs, or to give an opinion on modern economics, or even how to balance a check book, you would have been unlikely to get more than a blank stare, much less an intelligent answer.

School was fun for me, but mostly a failure. I do much better on my own, and as much as I want Colin to have a school experience, I want more and better for him than what was given to me, even if I have to do it myself. He deserves to be free, he deserves to develop to his fullest intellectual potential, and he deserves to decide for himself what the truth is; and these are opportunities that the public school system cannot give him.

I’ve rambled a lot in this blog, but it’s fun. Maybe someone will disagree with me about my views on public education, I know my mom sometimes does and we still love each other.

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