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Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Drop Off Society

"Nobody can be at the same time a correct bureaucrat and an innovator." — Ludvig Von Mises

In the State of New Hampshire a home schooling case is headed to the state supreme court. The case involves a woman, Brenda Voydatch, home schooling her 11 tear-old daughter, Amanda. Brenda divorced her husband, Martin Kurowski, 2008 and as a part of the divorce agreement they agreed to allow Amanda to be home schooled by Brenda.

Even though Amanda was doing well under her mother’s tutelage with a combination of home and public school schooling Martin felt that Benda was teaching Amanda too much religion. Martin believed that his daughter was being taught religious doctrine that he did not believe in and that he had he right of the second parent, while legally divorced, to have a say in the religious education of their child. You can read the details of this case by clicking here

Brenda Voydatch is being represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, an advocacy group for home schooling. The ADF issued a press release in which they stated; ““Parents have a fundamental right to make educational choices for their children,” Simmons said. “Courts can settle disputes, but they cannot legitimately order a child into a government-run school on the basis that her religious views need to be mixed with other views. That’s precisely what the lower court admitted it is doing in this case, and that’s where our concern lies.”

While this case is more about a contentious divorce than home schooling it does bring the issue of home schooling to national attention. More and more children are being home schooled by parents who are fed up with the condition of government funded public schools. These parents want more control over their children’s education and what they are being taught in the public schools. While you may not agree with their beliefs you must recognize that they are exercising their constitutional rights as parents. They are involved, as parents should be, in the education of their children. These parents, like those sending their children to private schools, are still paying taxes that support the public school system.

The teachers unions have mounted attacks on the home schooling of children. They state that while the children may become proficient in he basics of spelling, grammar, mathematics, science, history, geography, and civics they are not being “socialized” with other children their age. They claim that only certified professional teachers can do this. That’s nonsense. When does the government do a better job of teaching children how to get along in society than involved parents?  The drop out and crime rates in the urban school districts across the country present a different story. Parent involvement in a child’s education is much more critical to their success than all the certified teachers in the world. Teachers may be able to follow state dictated lesson plans aimed at some national test standards, but parents can do the same with the added feature of mentoring. This is how the ancient Greeks passed on knowledge.

There is a term in the education business called “the dance of the lemons”. This term is used to describe the many unqualified teachers in the public school system, a term the teachers unions hate. These “lemons” are legion in our public school system. In the city of New York there are hundreds of teachers waiting for hearings by evaluation boards for incompetence or moral turpitude complaints. Some have been waiting for months while being paid during the waiting period.

Today teachers are mandated to teach to some form of government mandate with No Child Left Behind being the most onerous. They are forced to teach to a strict mandated lesson plan that is more concerned with test scores than learning. This id how school districts get the federal funds they so covet. Even the grading systems are structured to ensure self-esteem rather than providing he student and parent with feedback of the students work and progress.

Last week I had a conversation with my sister-in-law regarding the state of education in the public school system. She is an elementary school teacher is a district that is populated with mainly middle class families. The demographics of the district are mainly white and Asian. She lamented the fact that the white parents were very lax in participating in their children’s education while the Asians were very much involved. This involvement probably accounts for the high graduation rate and college entrance for Asians.

Her big compliant was that many of the parents do not show up for the parent-teacher conferences and when they do their number one excuse for their child’s poor performance is that they do not have time to mentor the child’s school work. They claim they go to work early and get home late. They need to prepare dinner and watch TV leaving them little time to supervise or work with the child on his or hers school work. They believe it’s the job of the school to educate the child.

It is my belief that this stems from the “drop off” mentality that pervades our society. In essence they are saying its government’s job, not theirs. This begins when the child is a preschooler when the parents drop the child off at day care and pick them up after work. It continues through the early years of elementary school where the school is considered an extension of the baby sitting function of day care. By the time the child reaches middle school the damage has been done and the parents have lost touch with the child’s education.

As long as this pattern of behavior persists test scores will not improve and children will not get a proper education no matter how much state and federal money is poured into the public school system. Public schools have become day care centers with rules and policies, none of which help the children gain knowledge. Dropout rates will continue to be high and colleges will continue to be extensions of high school where the first two years are devoted to remedial classes. You can read more about the knowledge of college freshmen by clicking here and what’s wrong with our public education system by clicking here.

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