Friday, September 30, 2011

Love it or leave it?

A commenter on this post asked, “Why exactly do you send your children to public schools? It seems as though your tone throughout much of what I have read is that of exteme disbelief in the public school system as a whole. If this is the case, then why not homeschool or send your children to private schools?”

That’s a reasonable question, and I’m afraid the answer isn’t very profound. If I were independently wealthy, and my wife would agree to the idea, and my kids were willing to give it a try, I’d be homeschooling (probably along these lines) in a minute. Unfortunately, I can’t get past even the first item on that list. I’m not willing to give up my career, which is not one that I could just step back into after ten or twelve years away. As for private schools, they are often governed by the same educational philosophies that I’ve objected to on this blog. In any event, there are very few private options here, and none of them excite me enough to justify spending three tuitions times thirteen years (much of which would probably end up coming out of our already inadequate college funds). So here we are.

So I’m certainly not claiming any altruistic “stay and fight” motivation for staying in the public schools. That said, would we really be better off if anyone who was unhappy with the public schools simply took their kids out and paid for private schooling? How would the schools ever change or improve under that approach?

More importantly: taking my kids out of the schools wouldn’t fix what I’m concerned about. Even if I were focused only on my own self-interest, and didn’t care at all about any kids other than my own, I’d still have to worry about what goes in our school system, because I live in a world run by the people who go through it. I worry that authoritarian educational approaches naturally lead, for example, to things like this and then to things like this. I don’t want our schools to model authoritarian values, because I don’t want to live in an authoritarian society. That’s true regardless of whether I happen to have any kids in the system.

When I get asked why I don’t just homeschool, I do wonder about one thing. We’re constantly hearing from school “reformers” who want to make school even more coercive, who want to pile on the schoolwork at younger and younger ages, who want to extend the school day and the school year, and who want ever more intervention into kids’ lives. Do they get asked the same question?


Karen W said...

You can't win. If you did pull your kids out to homeschool, others would complain that you (as an involved parent) are cheating the public schools by fleeing instead of staying and trying to make them better for everyone.

FedUpMom said...

To me, the least convincing argument is that you stay involved with public school in the hopes of changing it for the better. The sad truth is that your impact on the public schools is likely to be very very small, in spite of all your passionate advocacy. I wish it wasn't so!

Chris said...

Karen -- Yeah, I've heard that kind of argument. Of course, I don't agree -- I don't think you do the public schools and favor by sticking around no matter what they dish up. If they want people not to homeschool, let them offer something that's more consistent with what people want for their kids.

Chris said...

FedUpMom -- You'll get no argument from me there. The smart money says that my kids will graduate from a school system that is, at best, completely unchanged from the one they started in, and more likely, much worse, no matter what I say or do in the meantime. But I certainly don't intend to go quietly along with it.