Monday, September 20, 2010

Why NOT Public School?

A couple of years ago, while engaged in a conversation with a fellow homeschooler, I made a fairly extreme declaration:
"I would never send my children to public school."
A day or two later, this fellow homeschooler called me and challenged my statement.
"Why would you say something so extreme? You don't really mean that, do you?"
In fact, I do mean it.

I acknowledge that this position is extreme. Parents decide to teach their children at home for a multitude of reasons. Many of these are more proactive than defensive. While I agree with many of the proactive reasons, for me they are all secondary. The main reason I homeschool my own children is defensive…I don’t want them in public school. I am a certified teacher and my arguments against public schools are based on experience and observations from more than 20 years of association with and involvement in public schools. I began to recognize many of these issues early on in my teaching career…some even before I graduated from college! And the problems I began to observe more than 20 years ago have only gotten worse in the years since.

So, the question remains: Why would I say something so extreme?
  • Schools are institutions designed to educate the masses. They are not designed to meet either the emotional or academic needs of the individual. As such, they will most effectively reach "the average" student, often missing the needs of the lowest and highest performing children.
  • Schools are places where values such as tolerance, acceptance, self-esteem, diversity, and relativism are esteemed more highly than academic excellence. Ironically, the tolerance and acceptance so tenaciously advocated is often not objectively practiced by its most vocal proponents.
  • Schools are places where a dangerous brand of socialization is valued. This brand of socialization insists that children are capable of preparing each other to be meaningful, productive members of society. This brand of socialization argues that being bullied, ostracized, and laughed at is a necessary part of the socialization process. (How else will your children learn to get along in the world?) This brand of socialization exalts rudeness and vulgarity over civility and decency. It values disorder and chaos over discipline and self-control. This brand of socialization favors the popular, the attractive, and the likable, creating a social hierarchy which diminishes the value of those who don’t “measure up”. Ironically, in a place intended for learning, this brand of socialization often values academic mediocrity over academic excellence. In other words, in school it’s often considered "not cool" to be smart.
  • Schools are places where government bureaucracy and union mentality prevent good teachers from being rewarded for being good teachers.[1] This same system keeps bad teachers from being penalized for being bad teachers and could even prevent dangerous teachers from being removed from the classroom.[2] And to add insult to injury, schools are places where parents often have no say in who teaches their children. The NEA (and the politicians whom they control) stubbornly refuse to create a system which would provide parents with their choice of schools—a system which would inevitably result in improvements to our schools and a better education for all our children.[3][4]
  • Schools are places where curriculum rich in revisionist history, humanism, environmental indoctrination, multiculturalism, and liberalism is often taught by teachers who share a similar agenda. Current “feel-good” teaching methods often stress self-esteem over academic excellence.[5]  In much of today’s curriculum, activities which promote “teamwork” and “cooperation” are more highly esteemed than activities which encourage a strong academic foundation.
  • Schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for "teaching-to-the-test". Performance is judged by standardization rather than by the presence of inquisitiveness, curiosity and wonder.
I could go on, but I think I’ve made my point.

It was 1985. I was a newly married college graduate, recently certified and looking for a teaching job. I was reading a book, Child Abuse in the Classroom, by Phyllis Schlafly, which presented startling evidence of the existence of many of the issues which I have just addressed. I looked at my husband of just a few months and said,  

"I will never send my children to public school."

And I haven’t.



  1. Wow, can't believe there are not any comments on this yet.

    What school district(s) did you spend your 20 years of teaching at? While I will acknowledge that the things you present have and are taking place in school districts now and in the past...its not like that EVERYWHERE. To completely bash all public education and educators is a slap in the face.

    In every industry there are flaws, people who don't belong there, etc... Right now my district and NEA are working on better ways to evaluate teachers. As a proud member of NEA, teachers are struggling to feel supported, well equipped with materials, and pressures are on more than ever while they increase class sizes. One of the main reasons teachers join NEA is to have legal protection in case they are ever in a situation where they would need it. Just last year, a teacher in my district was accused by a student and their parent of bashing the kid's head into a bus window. While there were cameras that proved this to not be true, he still had to go to court to prove his innocence. NEA provided the legal counsel he needed. There are GREAT teachers who are getting treated horribly!

    I have nothing against homeschooling. It is a great choice for many. However, I'm sick and tired of hearing the homeschool/public school bashing. There are better ways to be spending our teaching our kids no matter where that may be.

  2. Dear Leanne,
    I did not bash teachers. I'm a teacher. My daughter is a teacher. I believe there are MANY good teachers in the system, BUT I believe the system is greatly flawed. In my post, I address several areas of concern regarding a system of education that is, in my opinion, doing a lot of harm to our nation's children.

    We are in two completely different arena's concerning our views of the NEA. They may do some good (as in the example you cited), but I believe their agenda is a dangerous one. When I was teaching, the only reason I joined the NEA was because I wasn't given a choice. And that is one of the biggest problems I see with them. I was forced to give money to an organization that in almost EVERY area was diametrically opposed to my own political and personal viewpoints. I was forced by my financial contribution to support political candidates that I would NEVER support. I was forced by my financial contributions to support a social agenda that I found personally repugnant.

    I thank you for being a VERY unusual educator in your assertion that you have nothing against homeschooling. You are in a definitely minority. The only reason that I (and other homeschoolers) have begun to fight this fight is that WE are tired of being bashed. We are tired of the misconceptions about homeschooling that prevail within the education community. The point of my last point is that FINALLY after 20 years of hearing people question homeschooling, I'm standing up for what I believe. Trust me, I know there are many that won't agree with me. That's fine. They haven't agreed with me for the last 20 years. But for the first time in nearly that long, I've decided that I get to have a say too.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Arby and I started this blog because we WANT this to be a conversation! We're truly glad that you stopped by and cared enough to join in.


  3. I always enjoy reading passionate posts by thoughtful people. Thanks for sharing your reasons why you choose to do what you do.

    At this point, my husband and I do plan to homeschool...but we aren't opposed to exploring all the options. We will likely re-evaluate our decision each year based on each child's interests and skills, the available school choices, family considerations, etc.

    One question: what is wrong with multiculturalism? ;)

  4. Even if you didn't mean to "bash" public education and teachers, you did. I definately felt insulted as an educator reading this. I would have used the word "some" a lot more. Where are teachers forced to join NEA? I have always known that to be a choice, so if that is happening, I'm very curious to know where.

    I have no problem of anyone defending their choice to homeschool. You could have written your post in a different way. Someone who doesn't have a clue about education could very well read your post and get the impression that is public schools everywhere. And it's not.

  5. Leanne:

    Thank you for reading our blog. It’s always good to have readers who disagree, disagree passionately, and are not afraid to speak up in the face of an argument with which they disagree.

    You will not find much sympathy here if you feel “bashed” or “insulted.” Welcome to the homeschooler’s world. Teachers, NEA officials, liberal politicians, and news reporters do not worry about insulting homeschoolers when they present some outrageous ideas about homeschooling. I know you’d like me to write “some” before that last sentence, but I won’t. Those same people I just listed rarely use qualifiers like “some” when they bash homeschooling. From a purely technical standpoint, qualifiers such as “some” and “very” weaken a sentence. They should be avoided at all costs. Are there exceptions to every rule? Probably. Are we required to list them each and every time we write? No. I do hope that when you overhear colleagues bashing homeschooling, or when you read anti-homeschooling sentiments in the NEA platform papers or in the media, you speak up and encourage those people to qualify their statements with “some.” If you come back tomorrow you will have the opportunity to contact a newspaper in California to share your “some” views.

    I taught in public school classrooms in two states that were both “Fair Share” states. I had the choice of not joining a union, but I would have been forced by law to pay %85 of union dues to the union to cover the cost of my “fair share” of the benefits that I would have received as a non-union employee. The “fair share” system has the effect of forcing people into the union. I will have to devote an entire blog to the NEA as soon as I have the time to properly research the article so that I can document my post, but I am very busy homeschooling three children, so finding the time may prove difficult. I view unions as part of the problem in education in America, not part of the solution.

    Thank you, again, for reading and commenting.


  6. “Teachers, NEA officials, liberal politicians, and news reporters do not worry about insulting homeschoolers when they present some outrageous ideas about homeschooling.”

    Do you see how the word “some” weakens that sentence?

    Honestly, it should be avoided.

  7. Dear Stephanie,
    Thanks for reading! I'm glad you enjoy our posts and that they have become a helpful part of your process of evaluation!! Believe it or not, I also regularly evaluate the options that are available to me for my children's education! In fact, my 6 year old is doing some of his schooling outside of my home...that's a first for me!

    My problem with multiculturalism essentially is WHO is teaching it and HOW it is taught. I teach multiculturalism from a position of love for and pride in my country. In current curriculum and in classrooms, multiculturalism is increasingly being approached from position of national shame.

    Of course, I also strongly believe that school is supposed to be about learning academics. Filling our textbooks with instruction in HOW our students should THINK, rather than WHAT they should LEARN is the problem.

    So there you have it!! :-)

    Again...thanks for reading and commenting!


  8. Actually, Leanne, I DID mean to bash public education. But I not only didn't MEAN to bash teacher; I didn't bash teachers. I bashed the basic educational system which dictates how the system runs. I also bashed the NEA, curriculum trends, and socialization. In fact, my only negative mention of teachers WAS qualified with the use of the word "often". I didn't say "always".

    I live in the Chicago area. Union mecca. If you want to keep your job, you join. Technically speaking, you have a choice. Practically speaking, you do not. And of course, as Arby mentioned, through "fair share" your forced contribution supports NEA's political agenda whether you join or not.

    Just wanted to clarify. Again, thanks for joining the conversation!!


  9. Well I sure hope I'm not screwing up the 170 kids I see each day as I teach them in public schools. I can't imagine how anyone finds success is such a horrifying system.

  10. I used to be a public school teacher as well, I totally agree with your post, and thought it's something that should be said. Thank you for writing such a well-written post! My thoughts on the subject exactly. I would never send my kids to public school, and I worked in my county's #1 "top-performing" school!!!

  11. Arby- no the word some doesn't need to be left out of that statement. It's just in the wrong spot. For the statement to be true, the word some should be in front of the word teachers.

    "Some teachers, NEA officials, liberal politicians, etc...."

    I'm not going to waste any more of my time on this.

  12. "Current “feel-good” teaching methods often stress self-esteem over academic excellence.[5] In much of today’s curriculum, activities which promote “teamwork” and “cooperation” are more highly esteemed than activities which encourage a strong academic foundation. "
    To think that a strong academic foundation and teamwork and cooperation are exclusive to each other is ridiculous. THere are MANY good activities and projects and include both. To point this as a negative towards public schools emphasizing this too much is absurd.

  13. Interesting post, very interesting comments.

    I feel ill equipped to join this conversation. I homeschool one child and one is attending public school kindergarten.

    Regarding the NEA - I generally don't.

    I know of one excellent teacher that teachers in North Dakota. She loves her job, she loves her students, she's passionate about it.

    She was voted teacher of the year.

    Hours after she was announced as teacher of the year she showed up to attend a reception "celebration of excellence" held to honor the top teachers.

    She was barred from the reception because she had declined to join the union.

    She could not attend the celebration that was designed to honor the teacher of the year - because she wasn't a member.


  14. Dang! There's never a public school teacher around to defend the NEA when you need one!

  15. Arby and Linda, I notice you left out the word "all" in front of your statements. :)

    Leanne, as a teacher, you should know that when a modifier is not used, the statement is general. Clearly, without a modifier, exceptions are allowed if not assumed.

    Hear- hear to what you say. This, from a homeschooling wife of a good public school teacher working in very flawed system. (who is not part of a union.)

  16. Bravo! Well said.

    From a homeschooling mom with a B.A. in education, who already sent two children all the way through the public school system, against her better judgement, and has now chosen not to do that again. From the daughter of a lifelong teacher, now retired, and the daughter-in-law of another retired teacher. From the mother of a daughter who is now pursuing a degree in education. From teh sister-in-law of two teachers, and the best friend of two teachers.

    It is most definitely not so much about the teachers as it is about the system. That can be said again and again.

    And it is about the unions and the politics, which have a way of ruining education for the masses. Teachers know how to teach to the masses; they've been trained on how to individualize it. However, they have become so limited by so many factors, public school becomes a disappointment to parents who "know" what their children are missing out on, and what their children are actually learning that they'd rather they didn't.

    I once wrote a controversial letter to the editor when our school district's teacher went on strike. I was so disappointed in them. "Teaching" had become about the paycheck. I'll be the first to tell you that teachers who become homeschooling parents are the ones who know that teaching is not about the paycheck.

  17. Linda and Jane,
    Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! This post has definitely evoked a strong reaction from both sides of the issue. And that's exactly why Arby started this blog.

    I have found it VERY interesting over the years to find MANY, MANY former teachers who now homeschool. Almost without exception they share my views on the issues I raised in this post. I know there are still many teachers that are offended by what I write. I'm sorry about that. However, I spent many years keeping my mouth shut so as not to offend. I'm not going to do that anymore. Those who are offended don't have to read.

    Thanks again for stopping by.