Monday, July 30, 2012

Why We Will Homeschool

As a preface, I will say that I've tried several flavors of schooling, public, private parochial, homeschool, and private college.  I did fairly well, and my public school experience (kindergarten, sixth and seventh grades) wasn't terrible.  It also wasn't great.  I have to say I learned the most while I was homeschooled through high school, and I knew I wanted to homeschool my children if I was given the opportunity.  I will be willing to consider a good private school if one is available, but if our only alternative is a public school there will be no two ways about it.

People always ask us why.  I have a host of reasons, many of which are aired in these documentaries.  Because this post could go on forever if I tried to discuss each issue, I'll confine myself to bullet points.

The Cartel - 2009
"an American documentary film by New Jersey-based television producer, reporter and news anchor Bob Bowdon, that covers the failures of public education in the United States by focusing on New Jersey, which has the highest level of per-student education spending in the U.S."

  • Despite the fact that the United States allocates more money for schools than any other country in the world, students of our public school system consistently score below average in international tests.
  • All this extra money is usually absorbed by an inflated bureaucracy of administrators and rarely reaches the classroom or the teachers.
  • When funds do actually reach schools, they are often wasted on superficial building improvements (such as new sports fields) rather than invested in improving the education offered.
  • Scores and student performance are often inflated to make the school appear more functional than it is for the sake of the administrators.  Actual learning suffers as a result and is not a priority. 
  • The stranglehold of the teachers' union makes it impossible to reward good teachers or to remove bad teachers.  This socialist model of blanket equality gives no one any incentive to excel and the quality of education suffers.  
  • The union often wields an unhealthy influence over school boards and superintendents.

Waiting for "Superman" - 2010
"a documentary film from director Davis Guggenheim and producer Lesley Chilcott.  The film analyzes the failures of the American public education system by following several students as they strive to be accepted into a charter school."

  • The established system of bureaucracy is too invested in the status quo to accommodate any change or improvement.  Student performance is not a priority. 
  • National scores collected for the No Child Left Behind program revealed student proficiency in math and reading is well below 50% across the board.  (We're talking about numbers like 35% and 12%.)
  • Research has revealed at least 2000 public schools bad enough to be labeled "drop-out factories."  Kids can somehow reach high school with a 1st-3rd grade reading level.
  • A lack of accountability in administration allows children to slip through the cracks while the adults take whatever they can get for themselves.
  • Teachers who can't teach, don't teach, or who are actively destructive cannot be fired because of automatic tenure and protection from the teachers' union.  They continue to drain resources which might otherwise be spent on high-performing teachers.
  • The teachers' union is such a powerhouse that no one is "allowed" to broach the subject of their detrimental position that no distinction should be made among teachers.  By union contract, bad teachers cannot be let go, and good teachers cannot be rewarded.
  • Because they cannot be fired, failing teachers are rotated from school to school within the district.  Some colloquial names for this process include "the dance of the lemons" and "pass the trash." 
  • When the administration of the Washington D.C. school district offered to authorize merit pay for good teachers in return for canceling automatic tenure, the union felt so threatened that it would not even allow a vote.  In the words of Michelle Rhee, the superintendent, "There's this unbelievable willingness to turn a blind eye to the injustices that are happening to kids every single day in our schools in the name of harmony amongst adults."
  • Global competition has highlighted the shortcomings of our education standards.  Out of 30 developed countries, we rank 25th in math and 21st in science.  Our top 5% students rank 23rd out of 29 developed countries.  However, our students do rank first in blind confidence.
  • The falling standards of public education are depriving this country of a skilled domestic work force, leaving technical companies no choice but to outsource. 

The War on Kids - 2009
A documentary directed by Cevin Soling.  "The film takes a look at public school education in America and concludes that schools are not only failing to educate, but are increasingly authoritarian institutions more akin to prisons that are eroding the foundations of American democracy."

  • The idea of "zero tolerance" stemming from the drug war led to a clamp down on kids.  Sociologists observed this new fear of children and their apparently unpredictable and violent behavior and coined the term "super-predator."  The "super-predator" generation is increasingly considered a menace to be controlled rather than children to be educated.  "Zero tolerance" was expanded to include all real or perceived "weapons" rather than simply firearms, and then all vague concepts of "violence" of any kind.  Schools are becoming more like containment facilities and prisons.
  • Principals have no discretionary power anymore.  Children are expelled not only for having a gun on campus, but for having miniature plastic guns, or for drawing a picture of a gun.  A third grader was suspended for drawing a picture of an armed soldier.
  • Minor incidents are more and more often being given over to police for criminal prosecution rather than school discipline.  A shoving match in the hallway may now be considered assault or even felony assault.
  • Zero tolerance policies on drugs apparently include mouthwash, Midol, Alka-Seltzer, and Ibuprofen.  Nail files are weapons. 
  • "97% of all infractions that resulted in suspension involved no weapons, drugs, or alcohol."
  • Due to a supreme court ruling in 1977, students are not entitled to due process.  Principals often extract statements from children only to turn that statement over to police.
  • A boy in Virginia tried to prevent the suicide of a classmate by confiscating a knife and hiding it in his locker.  When he reported the incident to school officials, they sent him to retrieve the knife and then suspended him for violating a zero tolerance weapons policy while at the same time commending him for his actions.
  • Many schools now have entry points and surveillance systems exactly like minimum security prisons.
  • Columbine responded to the shootings by installing more security cameras to make the students feel "safer," despite the fact that there were already cameras installed before the shootings.  Students say the additional cameras make them uncomfortable and discourage social contact because of the risk of being falsely accused of drug deals or other suspicious activity.
  • "Being under constant surveillance often results in psychological illness."
  • "On November 5, 2003, Principal George McCrackin initiated a SWAT Team raid on Stratford High School in South Carolina based on his suspicion that some students were dealing marijuana.  107 students were forced at gunpoint to lie on the ground.  After an extensive police search, no drugs were found."
  • The war on drugs is self-perpetuating.  A study on rats revealed that a rat in a small and restrictive cage will chose drugs over food to the point of death.  Rats in spacious comfortable cages with the means to occupy themselves showed little interest in drugs.  As the schools become more like prisons, the more students turn to drugs to escape them.  The emphasis on young and underage drug abuse masks the fact that the vast majority of drug abusers are over thirty.
  • Sub-standard teachers who are unable or unwilling to deal with high-energy or willful children have led to the over-diagnosis of attention deficit problems and the over-medication of otherwise healthy children.  The United States has six times as many children on Ritalin than any other country.  The vast majority of these children are medicated for the benefit of the teacher, not for their own health or learning.
  • This over-medication of children is dangerous for a number of reasons.  These drugs often disrupt the chemistry of developing brains and lead to side effects including depression, anxiety, organ damage, obsessive compulsive disorder, stunted growth, nervous ticks which can sometimes become permanent, as well as suicidal and homicidal tendencies.  These drugs are themselves designed only to mask symptoms in the short term, and inevitably lead to long term problems with brain function.
  • Many school shootings were perpetrated by students who were dosed with or withdrawing from powerful antidepressants such as Luvox, Paxil, Prozac, Effexor, and Celexa.
  • Students are growing up with the experience of a police state in their schools and are desensitized to the erosion of civil liberties as adults.
  • The sheer volume of students in public schools does not allow individual student-to-teacher interaction or any personal application of the education process.  It's a mass-produced product, one size which doesn't fit all.
  • Homework before high school is a pointless chore unless the homework directly reinforces the lesson of that day.
  • There's a new trend of "school phobia."  The observation is made that nobody talks about "prison phobia," or "concentration camp phobia."  "Who wants to go to a place where your thoughts and actions are controlled all day?"
  • People talk about the benefits of the socialization that happens in schools, but it really isn't of a particularly valuable kind.  "You learn to talk to a fragment of people your own age, you learn to envy, resent and fear people older than you, and you learn to have contempt for people younger than you."  The oppressive atmosphere of school lends itself to the formation of underground cliques of students which breed an institutionalized intolerance of other cliques and the social harassment of certain unlucky individuals.

Seriously, are there any questions?


  1. Wow. That was...scary. Especially the War on Children one. It is interesting to note that drugging kids to prevent problems may really cause bigger problems later. :'(

  2. You have put numbers and research to my personal observations.

  3. I remember the shock I experienced when I learned of the "safety" measures put in place at Jonesboro, Arkansas following the shooting there. "They have made the school a prison!", was my reaction. I cried for those poor innocent (not for long) children. We are damaging these kids so badly that we are creating monsters. Mary, pray for us!