Thursday, July 24, 2008

Compare and Contrast

 Two articles on Home Education

Home schooling gets quite a bit of press. Most of it seems to be of the 'Aren't those oddballs interesting?' variety, but some actually shows thought and research. Some, on the other hand, shows no particular use of intelligence at all, except maybe in spelling and grammar, assuming they didn't write in Word and use the Spell and grammar checks.

Recently, while touring the exotic world of Stumbleupon, I was carried off to the National Education Association's website. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, it is the mouthpiece of the largest and most strident of the teacher's unions in the USA. For some strange reason, they hate homeschooling. Must be something about putting their jobs at risk. In this article, written by school janitor Dave Arnold, teaching children is compared to car and home repair and homeschool parents are derided as "well-meaning amateurs."

Being an amateur would be a disadvantage if there was real evidence that 'certified' teachers actually gave children better educations than parents do. Obviously, according to results of standardized tests, this is not so. The author also troubled himself to go to exactly ONE homeschool website, and proceeded to rip a few quotes right out of their contexts and into La-la land...

“It’s not as difficult as it looks.”

"Wannabees" like homeschooling parents have no idea...and apparently aren't capable of learning as they go along. This is silly. Teacher's training is supposed to make sure that the teacher can communicate their subject(s) to any child. Parents only have to learn about how their own children learn. Considering that a local teacher in my district recently recommended that 22 of the 24 kids in her class of second graders be put into special education because of their 'learning difficulties (how about the teacher's 'teaching difficulties??), I'm not sure if the lessons always stick.

“What about socialization? Forget about it!”

The site recommends that parents be careful of their children's contacts, but does recommend neighborhood kids, church groups, and other outside activities. This apparently wasn't noticed by our fine author, who decided that they meant that children should be locked in a closet. Seems he needs a lesson in actually reading the whole paragraph.

In contrast, check out this recent article by former school board member Julia Steiny, as published in the Providence (R.I.) Journal.

While Ms. Steiny says that she doesn't think that homeschooling is the best option for some families, she does see the value of it for those who dedicate themselves to it. She says that,
Many home-schoolers have compelling reasons for getting their kids off the educational grid, " citing violence, incompetent teachers, lack of response by the schools, etc. She blames the last at least partly on the lack of competition for the privilege of educating the children. Since public schools may be the only game in town, at least the only one that doesn't cost large sums of money while we also pay more to the government, they have no reason to be responsive or to individualize. One thing she isn't familiar with, though, is the idea is that many parents aren't necessarily homeschooling because the local schools are bad...they mainly want to have more time and more input with their children.

She also derides the passivity of children in
"traditional, factory-model schools", and says that we should "stop organizing schooling of all kinds for the benefit of the ' grownups." Meanwhile, Mr Arnold seems to personify that 'adults first" attitude that some educators and administrators have.

Julia Steiny gets it. In contrast to the unresearched ramblings of Dave Arnold, Ms. Steiny has actually done her homework, so to speak, and considered the issue from more than a knee-jerk perspective.


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