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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Breaking Free

Learning should be a joy and full of excitement. It is life's greatest adventure; it is an illustrated excursion into the mind of noble and learned men, not a conducted tour through a jail.
Taylor Caldwell
I have often thought about the loss of wonder through educational facilities. I can't help it... or at least I haven't figured out how to help it... I have a way with making my public schooling friends a bit upset... Deep down I just HATE hate HATE the whole system. I will say that I think it is good for some people, just not my family. Not only do I not agree with the system, I find it insulting to the kids that are there. When people tell me that their kids do fine there I often do not credit the school system but the incredible resilience of the human race, the younger ones in particular. 
Human beings are creatures that have intellect and reason and many of them can rise above trauma and plagues in their lives. This is the challenge of the school system that many kids in the homeschooled environment don't face. They are not put in with many and told to learn this and that. But that being said, I was informed recently that this is more my own view as a liberal and borderline unschooling parent. 
Recently I put my own son to the test, unintentionally of course. When he wanted to go to public school we let him. We found out he was on par in many areas and exceeding others. While I had fears that would be behind, he wasn't. The teachers seemed shocked by this. In fact, one teacher expressed how it was refreshing to have him in their class. 
I was also tested recently. My niece is married to an absolute jack... um... not a nice guy. He recently informed me that my oldest was weak because he is not a fighter and said that he was socially retarded. not my words, but his. I was upset, obviously. It made me think though. Is my son socially inept? Am I missing something as I raise him behind mommy goggles? While pondering, I decided that my niece's husband is a jerkface and his own words that were in essence, picking on my son who is 12... they are unfounded. 
But I also realized that perhaps my own judgment was flawed as well. I realize that some people don't have a choice. That stinks. There are those that would like to spend days with their kids. There are also those that couldn't manage their kids all day and in that case - maybe it is better for all family relations that public schools do exist. 
The argument over whether homeschooling was good or bad is not the issue. The question in my mind is whether or not public schools are indeed like prisons.  So, I did the same thing that I would tell my own sons to do when they wanted to find out more information. It's amazing what a school library and Google could find. Actually, I found there were concerns just like my own. There were many others out there, even those with more experience than I have, that questioned the higher incidences of severe punishment for our youth and how more stricter education systems were turning school environments into prison like institutions. 

One of the reasons that I initially took my older son out of school in 1st grade was because the local school in Las Vegas had the feel of a jail. There were high wrought-iron fences and a security guard. I didn't like the environment or the careless attitude from the women at the front desk. When I sent my son to middle school at his request, I had a similar incidence with the principal but he didn't seem to take concerns for my son seriously. On one hand it is almost as if the schools don't care but they are forced to by sensationalized stories such as Columbine. Their attitude gives me the same feeling that I had when I worked in customer service for the insurance field and we had to care or we would get sued. I guess it is partially the way of the world these days with medical practices and law firms. The problem with that mentality is that we are dealing with children. CHILDREN. One study actually found that, 

The historical reality is that America's public schools are very safe, even when located in high crime neighborhoods. Yet, school discipline is becoming increasingly punitive, moving from the schoolhouse to the courthouse. This is apparent in Texas, where a multi year study has determined that schools' discretionary decisions to suspend, expel and/or criminalize student misbehavior contribute to student push out, dropout, and what has been described by researchers as the school-to-prison pipeline. (Fowler 2011) 

I am not a parent that forgoes discipline, I simply cannot fathom how it is in the best interest of further generations to treat kids in a proactive manner based on criminal instances of other schools. The statistics do not merit this kind of reaction. My own opinion is that why do I personally need an institution to do this to my child? Children are no longer opportunities to teach but rather, they are are liabilities for the school, dollar signs for funding, and an example waiting to be made.

Over the last several months, the Committee on Education and the Workforce has been actively examining the current state of education in the nation. Everyone has listened to state and local leaders who are working to improve the quality of education the children receive. Through a series of hearings, they have heard stories of both challenges and opportunities facing schools. The opportunities are found in the determination of countless individuals who realize the current system is failing our children and are fighting to do something about it. (Committee of Education 2011)

 I am sure there are great teachers out there but it seems to me that if they realize the system is broken then is there not a better way to utilize their love of education and desire to help young minds than by joining the same broken system that they don't agree with?  How likely is it that the current system can be fixed? It all just seems ironic and silly. 

In the end, parents have the right to decide. It would be interesting to see how we would fare if there was a different choice. We do seem to be getting more of those with charter schools and online. In fact, we had a good experience with HOPE Academy in Colorado. I am sure there are some options out there emerging. Perhaps I should give kudos for those fighting the good fight. I tend to think that by withdrawing we are taking our own stand. We are showing our own kids that this is how we do things and trying to make it in society. It's easy to point fingers, which is meaningless. It's also a hard habit to break.

Fowler, D. (2011). School Discipline Feeds the "Pipeline to Prison". Phi Delta Kappan, 93(2), 14-19.
         US House of Representatives. Committee on Education and the, W. (2011). Education Reforms:      Promoting Flexibility and Innovation. Hearing before the Committee on Education and the Workforce. U.S. House of Representatives, One Hundred Twelfth Congress, First Session (April 7, 2011). Serial Number 112-17. US House of Representatives.

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