Tuesday, May 17, 2011


“My biggest problem with homeschooling is that it makes it very hard to teach leadership because you're isolated.”
                                                                                                                -Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a bestselling author, entrepreneur, public speaker, and marketing guru who has a lot to say about education, starting with his belief that modern public school education was an industrial revolution conspiracy between business and government based upon the fear that businesses would run out of a pool of workers needed to man productions lines as well as run out of people who would buy the goods being produced.  The goal of public education was to create a large pool of compliant factory workers while teaching “kids that the best way to fit in and feel good is to buy stuff.”  1
Speaking mostly about college level education, Mr. Godin wrote that there are two different kinds of schooling.  There are classes where “you learn technique, facts and procedures,” and classes “where you learn to see, learn to lead and learn to solve interesting problems.”2 The second type of class is preferable to the first.  It “is where all real success comes from.”2  Unfortunately, the first type is easier to find.   According to Mr. Godin, “The first type of schooling can even be accomplished with self-discipline and a Dummies book.”2   
“The sad thing is,” he continued.  “We often conflate the two. We think we're hiring someone to do the second type, a once in a lifetime teacher, someone who will change the outlook of stellar students.  But then we give them rules and procedures and feedback that turn them into a type 1 teacher.”2 (emphasis mine)
Mr. Godin believes that teachers are the key to a good quality education.   “Why is it that the rest of the teachers were competent at giving exams and getting us to do well at those exams, but didn’t teach us enough to change us?” he asked.   “The system has hamstrung teachers, handicapped those that want to stand out and make a difference… I think we can’t wait for the teacher’s colleges to change, or the schools to change. We need teachers to care so much that they can’t stop pushing until they create change in the students who really need (and deserve) it.”3
In an interview with Barbara Bray, Ms. Bray asked, “Education tends to be a top-down driven model where administrators, standards, policies, and test scores drive what teachers teach. How do you see education changing with this model where the individual sets their agenda?” 
Mr. Godin replied, “As a student in a digital world, tell me again why I need the building? The administration? The system?  I don’t.  And as accreditation becomes less meaningful because it’s easier to test the student than to test the system, the top heavy organizations will falter. And fast.”3
“It’s sort of pathetic how we’ve abdicated responsibility to a leaderless system that’s actually accountable to no one in particular.”3
So, why would a man who values thinking outside of the box and is so critical of public education also be critical of home education?    Why would he boil down his criticism of an educational process that addresses all of his concerns with the observation that what is wrong with homeschooling is that it doesn’t teach leadership?  
Mr. Godin told Lee Stranahan that schools “don’t churn out people who are creative and innovative and interrupt and ask questions.”  Schools are “a complete failure.” When Mr. Stranahan mentioned that he homeschools his children, and homeschools them for some of the very reasons Seth Godin mentioned in his criticism of public education, Mr. Godin ignored the topic. He stated that Lee’s children were lucky to have him, but then continued speaking about public schools rather than discussing the very real potential for homeschooling to address his educational concerns.
In an interview with Avi Solomn at Boing Boing, Seth Godin expanded his thoughts on homeschooling, saying
“Well, I think we need to ask a different question. School's been irrelevant for a while. The question is what do we want school to do? What do we need to create in our next generation? And I've argued we need to create two things: we need to create leaders, and we need to create people who can solve interesting problems.
“Anything we do in school that doesn't help with those two things we should stop doing. So homeschooling isn't necessarily the answer, unless homeschooling is going to come up with a way to work on those two problems. My biggest problem with homeschooling is that it makes it very hard to teach leadership because you're isolated. But with the right parents, it is much better at teaching people to solve interesting problems. My argument is that every parent should homeschool at night, and then send their kids to school during the day. The homeschooling at night should consist of intelligent conversation, asking difficult questions, as opposed to watching television.” 4
Education should not be so narrowly defined as to be mainly concerned with producing leaders and solving interesting problems.   Those are elements of a greater whole.  Why does a man who believes that school is irrelevant (and has been for awhile), who believes that students no longer need the building, the administrator, or the system, also believe that students should still go to these places each day?  It’s a repeat of the argument that no matter how poorly public schools perform, they are still better than education being taught by a loving mom or dad in the safety of the home.    I’m willing to bet that Mr. Godin has not spent much time interacting with the homeschooling community.   If he had, he would have seen many of his concerns being addressed.  But from a marketing standpoint, we’re being noticed.  People are talking about homeschooling.  The better we do, the more successful we are, the easier it will be for future generations to experience the joy of education at home.  

1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ea5IgyVd3_U
4 http://www.boingboing.net/2011/05/16/interview-seth-godin.html

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Indiana Homeschoolers Beware: The Police May Enter Your Homes Whether Or Not You Allow Them To

Imagine, that you are at home teaching your children when the front door of your house is forcefully opened and in walks a police officer and a social services worker.  Without a court warrant, without establishing probable cause, they gain access to your home, demand to interview your children away from you (which may or may not involve visually inspecting your children in a state of undress), and demand access to your curriculum, record plans, and grade book.  And you have no legal right to resist.  
Does that sound farfetched? 
If you live in the state of Indiana, it shouldn’t.   The Indiana Supreme Court ruled this week “that there is no right to reasonably resist unlawful entry by police officers.”  Writing for the majority in the decision, Justice Steven Davis wrote, “We believe however that a right to resist an unlawful police entry into a home is against public policy and is incompatible with modern Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.”   In short, the police may enter an Indiana citizen’s home unlawfully, and that citizen has no right to resist.  The court justified their decision by writing, “We also find that allowing resistance unnecessarily escalates the level of violence and therefore the risk of injuries to all parties involved without preventing the arrest.”  They continued, “…we find it unwise to allow a homeowner to adjudge the legality of police conduct in the heat of the moment. As we decline to recognize a right to resist unlawful police entry into a home, we decline to recognize a right to batter a police officer as a part of that resistance.”  In essence, they gave the police a master key into Indiana homes.   
The decision stems from a case where Fort Wayne, Indiana, police officers entered a home without knocking in order to serve a search warrant to two men with prior felony convictions.   The police believed that the men were armed, and that a no-knock entry was justified out of concerns for officer safety.   The Indiana Supreme Court decision went far beyond supporting a no-knock entry for police safety.   They gave police carte blanche to enter homes, telling homeowners that their only course of action is civil litigation.  
It will not take long before Indiana social services will team up with local police to gain entry into a home in order to investigate homeschoolers.  The HSLDA Court Report is filled with stories about social service workers across the country lying, threatening, bullying, and intimidating homeschooling families in order to gain entry into their homes, more often than not based on non-credible concerns that children are being physically or emotionally abused and/or educationally neglected.   The HSLDA regularly defends homeschooling families against such intrusions.  Social workers are known to threaten families with the removal of their children, while demanding the opportunity to interview children alone, away from their parents.  Sometimes these interviews include strip searches, ostensibly to look for signs of physical abuse.  Anything children say during these interviews can be and have been used against parents in court.  
Indiana homeschoolers have reason to be concerned.  
The court ignores the damage done when police unlawfully enter homes.  There is a loss of trust and respect from citizens towards law enforcement and government, which ultimately results in a loss of cooperation between citizens and law enforcement.   No amount of money can repair the damage done when citizens no longer feel safe and secure in their homes.  No monetary settlement can repair the damage done to our children when they are raised in world where their government can enter their homes and remove them from their families without probable cause, even if they are ultimately returned to their parents.
I would like to believe that the Indiana Supreme Court decision will be overruled by the US Supreme Court, but I would never have believed that any US court would rule as the Indiana justices ruled, since the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution clearly states that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”   We will have to wait and watch carefully. 
This decision is a dangerous precedent.  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why Do Some Homeschooling Parents Accept The Unacceptable?

Dr. June Talvite-Siple lost her $92,000-a-year job as the supervisor of a high school math and science program.  The former teacher resigned amid the furor she created after she posted on her Facebook page that the residents of her Cohasset, Massachusetts, community were "arrogant and snobby.”  She went on to state that she was "not looking forward to another year at Cohasset schools."  Apparently, some of her teenaged students understand something that quite a few homeschooling parents do not.  Student Terry MacCormack said, "It's not smart, but if you are in professional position, maybe you shouldn't be putting what you really feel about your job or whatever on Facebook."  You can read the entire story here.
School teacher Christine Rubino faces a similar problem.  As reported here, the day after a 12-year-old girl drowned at a beach while on a class field trip, Ms. Rubino, a fifth grade teacher,   posted on her Facebook page, "After today, I’m thinking the beach is a good trip for my class. I hate their guts." When a Facebook friend asked whether or not Ms. Rubino would “throw a life jacket to little Kwami," one of her students, she replied,  "No, I wouldn’t for a million dollars.”  Ms. Rubino was taken out of her classroom pending a Department of Education hearing. 
It is very easy to become frustrated, angry, resentful, and disillusioned while teaching professionally.   It’s a difficult job.  Teacher attrition rates are staggering.  Half of teachers leave the profession after only five years.  As difficult as the job is, it does not excuse the comments that teachers are making online, neither the comments quoted above nor the ones mentioned in yesterday’s blog.  Whether simply venting frustration or sharing true feelings, posting comments on the internet is inappropriate, unprofessional, and unwise.  Thankfully, there are public school administrators like Ken Blackstone, a Prince William County Schools spokesman, who told the Washington Post, "as public employees, we all understand the importance of living a public life above reproach."  
These teachers are making comments about students.  They are making comments about our children.  And our children are not stupid.  It only takes two clicks of a mouse on the The Apple forums mentioned in yesterday’s post to find each teacher’s name and the city and state in which they teach.   If I can find those comments and the names of the teachers writing them, students more computer savvy than I am can find them.   Once a student locates them and shares them with their friends, the teacher loses all credibility in the classroom.  That directly affects classroom control, as well as the ability to deliver content in a meaningful manner.  What student is going to listen to a teacher who has commented on line that his or her students are stupid?    
I was stunned to read the response to yesterday’s post as discussed by homeschooling parents here.  Disappointed, really.  I was disappointed that anyone would make excuses for the comments I reported.   I am equally afraid to ask the question, “Why?”   I’m not certain that I want to know the answers.  Did someone not think through this situation thoroughly?  Do they not understand how comments such as these affect children? Has our society become so crass that postings such as the ones I’ve documented are now acceptable?  Are homeschooling parents looking past some teacher’s online comments because they agree?  Would they say these things about their own children?  Would they accept having these things written about their child by their child’s teacher if their child was in a public school?    I have a dozen more questions, but for once I am glad that there are very few comments left on this blog.  I really do not want to read the answers.
I was also disappointed that yesterday's post was viewed simply as an attack on teachers.  That’s silly, but apparently I did not write the post as well as I should have.  I know from firsthand experience that the vast majority of teachers do not write derogatory comments about students online.  That wasn’t the point.  The NEA and their supporters believe that public schools are superior to private and home education.  No matter how poorly public schools perform, no matter how many problems are documented in the media, no matter how many crass or vulgar or inappropriate comments are posted online, supporters continue to believe that those public schools are head and shoulders above any other choice.  They will take away your choice to educate your children at home if they have the opportunity to do so.
I reject their claim.  I reject their claim that public education is superior to home education in all instances.  I hold as one example the comments that teachers post online.  I do not speak about my children in the angry manner I have documented teachers writing about their students. I do not know of any homeschooling parents who would.  I did not speak about my students that way when I taught professionally.   I am surprised anyone would find it acceptable for teachers to write about students in the manner some teachers choose to write.   I reject any excuses for them doing so.   I am grateful that there are public school teachers, administrators, and school boards who recognize the unacceptable and take action to stop it.  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Real Thoughts from Real Teachers about Our Children

Bob Tate, a senior policy analyst with the National Education Association (NEA) believes that the interaction between a “trained professional educator” and our children is critical to our children’s “social, emotional and intellectual development.”  Do “trained professional educators” agree?  What do they have to say about their interaction with the children they teach?  If the comments made by teachers at The Apple: Where Teachers Meet and Learn, is any indication, public education is in big trouble.

According to its website, The Apple was started by 2003 Jackson Elementary School (Atlanta, GA) Teacher of the Year, Jill Hare.  The Apple "...brings members of the education community together to support and advance the profession. The Apple provides resources to promote careers in education, while fostering a community with exclusive benefits where information about the education community is provided to the education community by the community itself."  The Apple partnered with careers website Monster.com, whose “vision is to bring people together to advance their lives.”

One of the features of The Apple is a forum for teachers, and one of the forum topics is "10 Things You'd Like to Say...as a Teacher."  With contributions written by trained professional teachers from all across the United States, the following list contains the actual thoughts of educators about the children they teach, as they have written them.  Be warned, this unedited and uncensored list is raw.  As you read it, ask yourself if you would want these people teaching your children. 
  • "I am only one person students! If I don't get to you today...there's always tomorrow."
  • "Well, then why don't you go home and don't come back!"
  • "Shut the f*** up, please..."
  • "JUST F*** OFF!”
  • "WTF are you doing?"
  • "Are you really that stupid?"
  • "Yes, I talked to your mom, I see the apple didn't fall very far at all."
  • "Why? Because I hope you can graduate and get a job rather than live off of 33% of my wages."
  • "No, I don't think your girlfriend/boyfriend is hot, I think that you are 2 dogs in heat."
  • "I think your parent is disgusting and you really would be better off in a program, at least they feed you there."
  • "How about you not come to school high, there are more fun things to do outside when you are stoned."
  • "You cannot be THAT dumb!"
  • "I wish I could like your Momma should (beat you)"
  • "Meet me in the parking lot at 3:30"
  • "I don't know how you made it to the 7th grade."
  • "I guess there really is a such thing as a STUPID QUESTION"
  • "Shut the ____ up"
  • "Please use birth control, I really don't to see your kids here in 12 years."
  • "Stop having kids!"
  • “Wow, your child is really fat and lazy.”
Presumably, the last two comments are directed at parents.  Mr. Tate, Ms. Hare, and the folks at Monster.com will have to explain to me how this forum brings people together and advances lives.   Are we really expected to believe that teachers who think about their students as these teachers do can adequately mask their feelings and promote healthy “social, emotional and intellectual development?”

So, are you ready to enroll your children in a public school?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sorry, NEA. Saying it Doesn't Make it So

Faced with growing problems in the public school system (falling test scores, over-crowded classrooms, etc.,) NEA officials continue to gloss over the issues and encourage parents and teachers to "suck it up and deal."  Rather than admitting and working to solve the problems that no one argues actually exist, the NEA just keeps chanting a mantra that goes something like this:
"As bad as the schools are, they're still better than homeschooling."
A recent mydesert.com post, As Class Sizes Rise, So Does Homeschooling, provides a mixed bag of opinions concerning public schools and homeschooling.  The article addresses the problems facing public schools, namely growing class sizes, and suggests that a growing number of parents are choosing to homeschool in order to escape the problems that school officials seem unable to solve.  While generally speaking, the post manages to provide a mostly positive view of homeschooling and homeschoolers, the NEA senior policy analyst that was interviewed for the article makes a typical "head-in-the-sand" statement that reveals the disconnect that exists between public school officials and public school parents' growing dissatisfaction with the status quo.
“The NEA believes home- schooling lacks regular interaction with caring, trained professional educators, which we believe greatly aids a child's social, emotional and intellectual development,” said Bob Tate, a senior policy analyst with the NEA. “(Home-schooling) provides no assurance of regular face-to-face interaction with peers in the structured setting of a school, which we believe is an important part of a child's development that cannot be fully realized through online or informal neighborhood interactions,” he added.
The assertions of public school officials that interaction with "trained professionals" is more important for a child's social, emotional, and intellectual development than interaction with his own parents is downright insulting.  And their continual insistence on the necessity of school-based socialization is laughable.  Their constant harping on these two factors in light of growing evidence to the contrary (see studies in linked article,) proves both their unwillingness to address the real issues that face their schools and a complete lack of concern for the needs of the students and families they are paid to serve.

There is an adage that expresses the belief that "blowing out someone else's candle won't make your candle burn brighter."  The NEA and many local unions and school administrators have long relied on the practice of attempting to blow out the shining candle of homeschooling in an attempt to brighten the glow of their own fading light.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work.  Parents aren't being fooled and increasingly, they are giving up on the schools.  They can see beyond the illusion.  As a growing chasm develops between the success of schools and the success of their homeschool counterparts, parents are waking up to the reality that the mantra doesn't ring true...simply chanting it doesn't make it so. 

Parents are beginning to demand solutions from our nation's school administrators and from the unions that control the money.  And until the self-proclaimed experts of "the system" stop ranting about the supposed short-comings of the competition and begin to own up to their own significant problems AND offer real solutions, the defection will continue.