Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Homeschool Set

"If we continue to accept the status quo and act as if nothing is wrong, the effects on our country's economy and culture will be felt for decades." -- Jeanne Allen, president, Center for Education Reform

As the public schools get worse and more expensive, homeschooling is growing. Is there a connection? Of course, because homeschooling offers superior education without the negatives. Parents now realize the fundamental differences between homeschooling and government schooling.

First comes responsibility. The government system is a top-down pyramid of control--a bureaucratic state-run monopoly. While many parents assume that the state is educating the children, the government is actually required only "to offer educational opportunity," but is not responsible for the results, and the results are atrocious, and the trends are downward. In homeschooling, however, parents assume direct responsibility for their children's education. That is significant because the parents know, and pay close attention to, how their child is doing, while the government seldom checks on its quality and never is accountable.

Does the school board in your town know what is being taught? Does the board know what the test scores actually mean? In my town, both answers are no. At one school board meeting I asked if any member had read or examined any of the textbooks in use. Not one of them answered yes.

Who is actually in charge? In public schooling, it is hard to tell because the enterprise is a large political game, run by politicians, unions and bureaucrats. In many ways it is run by the teachers unions for their own benefit. While politicians try to appear concerned for children, and bureaucrats seek to justify their own employment, the unions make the rules governing most activities and costs. Remember, the teacher union has one goal at all times: more money for less work. Thus, public school is a joint effort of self-serving, often conflicting interests. Parents have no control, even though they are required to pay for it.

Another basic difference: homeschooling is piece work; but the public school system is mass-production. "One-size-fits-all" describes the system well. Even though employees claim that some children receive individual and "special" programs, the basic philosophy of the system is to produce uniformity. The government wants a docile, predictable, obedient "workforce" that it can plug into its military and industrial complex. Why else would they use "standardized" tests but to turn out standardized people?

Mass schooling, then, produces a result far different from the individual training and tutoring available in homeschooling. The state’s goal is uniformity and dependency, while the goal of homeschooling is uniqueness and independence. One is obedience-training; the other is for character-building. One is for group thinking; the other is for creativity and decision-making. One trains to "Do what you're told to do;" the other is for "I'll make my own decisions."

Public schooling is a job for children – a job that is becoming more and more like their parents' 9-5 jobs. Unions seek to increase the school day and year and enlarge the schools' payrolls and union membership. However, homeschooling is a life -- an extension of family and community life with which education is combined. Public school separates children from the rest of society in a segregated and artificial environment, while homeschooling integrates children into the society, giving them direct experience with the real world.

Public schooling serves the government's economic and political interests. It follows political mandates with the goal of turning out soldiers and employees to serve industry and business. Homeschooling serves children's need to become educated, informed, contributing members of society. Public school is a government jobs program for adults, also serving the needs of big labor and the state economy. In contrast, homeschooling is parental sacrifice, dedication, responsibility and love, serving the needs of the family along with the children.

Public schools are agencies of government, offering instruction but taking no responsibility for any children's learning. Homeschooling is a practice by parents who take direct responsibility for the education of their own children, as CT state law requires.

One is a huge growing public expense without accountability; the other is almost without cost, but is directly accountable and responsible. One has a socialist ideology -- coercion and authoritarianism -- while the other is an expression of individual freedom. By all honest measurements, the schools are failing our kids, while homeschooling is succeeding.

Ned Vare is a Yale graduate, an architectural designer and author; a former private school teacher, rancher, businessman, elected official.

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