Home > Uncategorized > A Homeschooler’s Analysis of Public Education is On Target… The Consequences, though, Might Not Be What He Expects

A Homeschooler’s Analysis of Public Education is On Target… The Consequences, though, Might Not Be What He Expects

January 3, 2018

Alternet managing editor Chris Sosa wrote a blog post today titled “I Was Homeschooled and I Believe in Public Schools- Here’s What Needs to Change About Them”. In the post, Mr. Sosa offers a concise history of public education in our country and recounts his personal experience as a homeschooler, contrasting his experiences with those of his age cohorts.

In Mr. Sosa’s narrative of public education, schools as we know them today emerged as a result of the nation’s desire to educate former slaves at the conclusion of the Civil War. But, as he concludes, the effort to standardized schooling had at least one unintended consequence: it dampened creative thinking:

Booker T. Washington, a former slave, established a movement to train black Americans as teachers that eventually led to the creation of numerous state universities. But in the 1890s, a standardization effort emerged that resulted in what we now know as the K-12 schooling system, including grade levels and accreditation. American education efforts in the late 1890s are nothing short of impressive in that they emerged from the rubble of a civil war. But almost 130 years later, we’re living with the same system.

Throughout the 1900s, efforts to standardize and further hone and improve this system continued. From desegregation to school lunches, the system evolved to meet the needs of a diverse and rapidly growing citizenry. But one element was lost amid this growth: a recognition that the system itself was designed to stabilize a rocky nation, not foster creativity or critical thought as culture rapidly evolved.

Mr. Sosa then describes the misguided efforts of NCLB, RTTT, and ESSA to “reform” public schooling in light of our nation’s failure to surpass other countries on international assessments. Drawing from a recent book by  journalist Greg Toppo, Mr. Sosa makes the case that the problem with schools today isn’t poor teaching, it’s the system itself:

Our public schools suffer from an authoritarianism problem. We need to start addressing it today. A true embracing of creativity, as opposed to obedience, requires a cultural change. The federal government won’t solve this by default. We need to vote for reformers who understand the problem, foster inquisitiveness in young people who cross our paths and join school boards ourselves in locations where schools are producing mathematically-challenged robot children.

Mr. Sosa sees that such a shift is plausible. While I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Sosa’s assessment of what’s wrong with public education… I don’t see evidence that those who are opting out are doing so for the reasons Mr. Sosa’s mother chose to do so. Indeed,recent NCES surveys indicate that 80% of homeschoolers are “concerned about the environment in schools”, 67% want to provide moral instruction, and 51% want to provide religious instruction. Only 39% opted out of public education to pursue a “non-traditional” approach. If public education reformed in the fashion Mr. Sosa and I desired, by compelling students to dig deeper into the basis for their beliefs, it would not surprise me to see more parents expressing “concern about the environment in schools” and seeking ways to provide moral and religious instruction.

Despite that misgiving, I would love to see public schools abandon the standardized testing regimen that reinforces the compliance and narrow gauge instruction Mr. Sosa’s mother and 39% of other homeschoolers wanted to avoid…. and I join him in his desire to see states and local school boards promoting policies that move us away from producing mathematically-challenged robot children and instead producing self-actualized learners who question everything.

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