Tuesday, December 21, 2010

School Choice - All the Way Around

School choice advocates are seriously committed to the idea that parents and children know what is best for them in terms of their education - at least when it comes to choosing a school and where they want tax dollars allocated. The logical extension of this is the right and authority to choose how much or how little - or if any - school they want. And, there is something, maybe "ethical," in nearly all of us - save the most liberty-oriented of libertarians - that is reluctant to make schooling completely optional. And I wonder about that.

When I first entered public education, and began encountering issues of student motivation and truancy despite the best efforts of committed teachers and counselors, I briefly entertained the idea that schools need to back off on forcing education upon anyone. Of course, the benefits of a well-educated population and the responsibility of adults to guide children to the best long-term decisions are nearly indisputable. Society certainly needs to encourage - and perhaps at times require - that parents and children submit to mandatory education not only for "their own good" but for the good and stability of society.

But how much to "mandate" is the issue. It's no secret that I believe high school "graduation" should come at the age of sixteen, with the final two years of education reserved for academically motivated students. The expansion of career and technical education should become much more prominent, and the number of students who qualify for taxpayer-funded higher education should be limited based on much higher standards for admission into bachelor and master degree programs. Beyond that, I wonder about core requirements in middle and high school curricula.

Think about school choice. How serious are we? Should education be much more a la carte?


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

No. Children should never be required to attend school under any circumstances whatsoever.

Already there are cries to put this or that into the "national standard" or core curriculum for some social goal or another. You read the blogs. You know what I'm talking about.

I think we should all be free to learn free from government direction and "help." I think we should be able to be totally off the grid on this one should we choose to be. Let them just guess at what I am teaching my children.

mmazenko said...

Yes, I see your point. However, ... and I see the criticism coming for this comment ... some, maybe many, parents are not committed and involved as you are. So, how does society deal with the brunt of that. Perhaps it wouldn't be any more significant than it is now in terms of kids neglecting school. But I wonder.

I guess the issue is - it sometimes seems like some in society, even if we call them educational elitists, might actually know better than the parents. I mean, it's not like becoming a parent automatically endows parents with knowledge of what is best for kids. I've seen too many screwed up kids to believe that. And it's often the teachers who pick up the pieces.

I guess your point is that if the parents are going to make the choice, they should be allowed. I personally don't think anyone really checks. I mean, Colorado has mandatory education laws ... but it's not like anyone is checking - no personnel for that - and as long as the kid stays out of trouble and is off the radar, I'm not sure the state really cares.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Sure, those educational elitists might know better than the parents. And grant you, a fella with a PhD in chemistry could teach the subject better to my child than I could, and so on... So far, we are agreed.

But I see quite a bit of freedom out the window when government determines what's "best" for my child. Though we both agree that extreme cases of abuse and neglect ought be dealt with. I just don't think that "education" is an area in which the idea of abuse or neglect ought apply.

And truth be told, I could name a big bunch of homeschooling families who aren't really teaching their children what *I* think they ought... but then again, did I mention that my 15-year-old is illiterate? He was educated in public schools from the age of 3. Were he homeschooled, I've no doubt that my "bad" parenting would have been blamed. (He is autistic and learning disabled. I think the school could have done a better job and there are some things I would have done differently now that I have more information on the subject. But no matter who educated him, he likely would not be reading college-level material right now.)

I have actually (unfortunately) been in contact with DFS on a homeschooling issue. They don't just leave kids alone when they get a call. A woman I had a few brief conversations with about homeschooling got investigated after a neighbour or disgruntled ex-husband (?!) phoned in. She had listed me as a reference! I had to tell the social worker that based on advice from legal counsel (thank you HSLDA!!) that I couldn't comment about her homeschooling as I was not teaching her children. She backed right off after I mentioned my lawyer from HSLDA, but things probably didn't go so easy for the mom in this case, who I had advised MONTHS earlier to become a member.

What I didn't tell the social worker was that this lady told me she didn't do a blessed thing with her kids except for letting her cousin (?!!) do a few worksheets with them. She neglected to follow my advice about keeping a teachers' log (required by law!) and saving any of these worksheets for a portfolio (also required by law!). When I talked with her on the phone when she called in a panic, I told her to start writing something in a spiral notebook. Gather up those worksheets and throw 'em in a folder. Have SOMETHING to show this lady, even if you don't have everything done you ought to have. Good grief, but I didn't want her to lose her kids because they had different priorities than my family, yk? But yeah... shoddy job on her part.

But would there be a better outcome in public school? Maybe! Probably!! To my mind, though, that isn't the issue. Otherwise, only the very rich would be "allowed to breed," as people so eloquently put it in the comments section of every article dealing with the Duggar family - ha ha!

I do think some of these social workers really do care, but I do think they need to mind their own stinkin' business.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Nothing juicy... just deleting a duplicate comment. :)

mmazenko said...

And, I think your situation - one of an autistic child - is a unique and difficult situation. But, there are many parents whose children don't have medical issues who are simply neglecting to instill any sense of responsibility in their children. I'm not talking abuse and neglect in a legal sense - but there is a lot of neglect of just not caring.

Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with the Sudbury Valley model? I'd like to see more really different schools, so we can gain a better perspective on what really helps students become fulfilled adults.

Sadly, we seem to have a problem with real experimentation when it comes to education - like we're going to break something. If we felt like things we going great, perhaps that would be a concern, but I'm not sure that anyone things things are going great.

A school today looks like a school 20 or 40 years ago, except with some computers in the corners.


mmazenko said...

Not familiar with Sudbury, but I will check it out. Arguably, the system works for the vast majority. However, it could be more efficient, both in cost and effectiveness.