Friday, December 21, 2007

Reaching Out, Radicals and Teachers

One thing I see flung at homeschoolers from time to time is the accusation that we've given up on public schools, that we've abandoned them instead of working for change. It's the one accusation that really drives me up the wall because I really think that leaving the system IS a valid and important way to work for change. Even if changing that system is the very least of our concerns and we want nothing to do with institutionalized schools our leaving makes an impact and does help those who choose to stay within it.


We build alternate models that educators can look to. We create a demand for alternate curriculum (like Singapore Math) that school parents can use in their home or lobby the school boards to adopt. We demonstrate the need for more flexible approaches to schooling with our demands for online schooling or partial enrollment. We explore elements of education, unschooling, interest-led learning, etc. that schools, by their nature, often can't. We create a different standard and example for how involved parents should be in their children's life and education. We push the conversation surrounding education to places it simply couldn't go otherwise.

I think we're the radicals in education. Every discussion has the radicals and every important discussion needs them. Now, I often don't like what radicals have to say myself. In the discussion of religion and atheism I generally can't hack a Sam Harris or a Christopher Hitchens but at the same time they move the conversation to places that people only whispered about before. Religion as child abuse? The thought makes me angry and uncomfortable but it's not a statement without some foundation and it does encourage a better examination of matters I might previously have ignored.

In education, that's us. But if that's us then maybe we need to take a step outside our circles. Of course, this relates to my Inviting People Into Our Homeschooling post. It also relates to this excellent post by Taylor the Teacher who seems to be encouraging teachers to start speaking up about school issues in their blogs because:

I mean, I hate to be a bitch, but this thing is irreparably broken. The school system, that is.

Look at that. It's broken. She's a teacher and I'm a homeschooler and we completely agree on that. That step outside our homeschooling could be towards those entrenched in the system who see from the inside what we see from the outside. Granted, we probably wouldn't agree on what the solutions might be but in discussing our differences we might start to see the beginning of some new avenues to explore. Heck, in the past when teachers and homeschooling met look what we got out of the deal, John Holt, the beginnings of unschooling and John Taylor Gatto.

End of ramble.


JJ Ross said...

Good post!

It comes very close to explaining why after the disillusionment of trying to unite diverse homeschoolers through NHEN, I put my efforts into understanding and bridging divides in education rather than in HOME education-- between different methods and philosophies, between schooling and unschooling, opposing creationism and standardized testing, etc.

And not just to reach parents but teachers, politicians, policy researchers, social workers, professors, journalists, authors -- the entire citizenry of my nation. Because they vote and pay taxes, their opinions and decisions about education affect us all no matter what I might do with my own kids.

I eventually figured out that trying merely to "unite" entrenched dogmatic camps of rival homeschoolers online is pointless in my view, even if it were possible.

Say we somehow succeeded beyond our wildest dreams, then what would we have? A united movement of only two to five percent of the electorate, smaller than the percent convinced we never really landed on the moon! And we couldn't be united on much.

All while the other 95 to 98 percent doesn't know or care and hasn't changed its education views. So that doesn't begin to change the real world of learning for most kids.

That's why I started blogging at Culture Kitchen, before Snook. I wanted to reach way out, past the incredible self-referential, insular bickering of pious cliques of homeschoolers to build my education "community."

I wrote things like this there:
The Public's Interest in Education Might Be Better Served By a Lot Less Public Interest

". . . Let's leave prayer and religion out of it, too, since most folks in schools and government (and politics) also self-identify as god-fearing believers; religion is a confounding variable in education analysis that may quack like a duck, but really is more of a duck-billed platypus."

frugalcountrymom said...

You said: "One thing I see flung at homeschoolers from time to time is the accusation that we've given up on public schools"

I am asked that a lot with local teachers when they find out I am homeschooling They ask me whats wrong with the public system?...

I feel like saying, "Well where do I begin? But I know in a way they
are taking it more personal because of the tone they are using on me so I use more caution.

Instead I list the few things I know they will agree on too, teachers underpaid, classes jammed packed, parents relying on the school system to teach their kids things that should have been taught at home, safety issues in school.

Most of them just nod their heads in agreement and go on from there and put in their two cents on the school system flaws.

Most of the time at the end of the conversation they actually encourage me to continue homeschooling.

I am not saying all teachers will say that but the local ones around here have had this conversation with me many times.

Taylor said...

I appreciate the link. It has honestly taken me this long to respond because you really made me think. My post, Open Letter to American Parents, was in part inspired by you. Don't know what the answers are for public schools, but glad some are talking about it.

Dawn said...

Thanks Taylor. I think it's the discussion that hasn't happened because so many of use don't seem to talk beyond our groups - teachers, homeschoolers, whatever. We pick one role and play it and don't go beyond it. Hopefully we can change that! I also think you've addressed a larger issue than the Maerican public school system. I'm in Canada and what you've said is just as applicable here.

concernedCTparent said...

Dawn, this is an amazing post. I can't wait for you to get more people thinking and talking about this.