"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. 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. 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.
- 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. 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.
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.