Thursday, November 1, 2007

School Choices

This is part of The Blog Exchange. My Blog Exchange partner is Jerri Ann and she can be found here. Please visit The Blog Exchange for other participants/issues and visit Jerri Ann to see "the other side" of this topic.

I'm supposed to take the "con" side of public schools. This is hard for me in a variety of ways. I'm a teacher by profession. I love education. I love my students. I see very dedicated teachers working at my son's PUBLIC school every day. Many of my friends are teachers. I am excitedly watching one of my favorite former students becoming a teacher this year (for her wonderful insights and reflections, please visit Geetha here).

Despite my background and affection for public schools, I don't see them as a be all and end all. I don't see them, as they are supposed to be, as "Great Equalizers." In fact, when they are used as a tool to wedge us all into equal parcels in society, I think they fail miserably.

The more they push towards fitting us all into the same mold, the more they fail. You can not have schools that promote complete equality and promote excellence at the same time.


Because we are all different.

Yeah, basic but also true. Every time I hear that a new reading method will teach everyone to read, I laugh. The fact is that we have all kinds of learners and there is no "one fits all" method. And just as pedagogy does not fit all, learning environments don't, either.

There are children who are traumatized by crowds and noise. They will not necessarily be desensitized by being in a school building each day; they may simply give up on learning. There are children who don't read well and who never will. It will not be easy for them. But maybe they have a genius for carpentry. They will not be nurtured in our public schools. They may have "accommodations" and they may have a "learning plan," but they will still probably feel both different and a failure, because kids are smart, and if they really are a square peg in a round hole, they know it. There are children who become traumatized by bullies; contrary to popular opinion, social skills are NOT taught in schools, they are taught by PARENTS. And if the parent isn't in the game, the child will NOT learn appropriate social skills, and it is much more difficult to control bullying in schools than anyone from within a school system will admit.

And because public schools have to be everything to everyone, they are not as well equipped to handle many of these issues as many smaller, private schools, home school settings, etc.

If your child is thriving in public school, more power to you. But our ultimate responsibility as parents is to make sure that our children are emotionally, mentally and physically healthy, and if a school environment is causing damage in any of those areas, then it's time to come up with a new learning environment for that child. And it is one of our strengths, here in the U.S., that we do have a right to choose for our children.

Then, of course, you have to be able to afford those other choices.

But that would be the subject of yet another blog exchange.


anno said...

Perfectly stated. Thank you!

Jerri Ann said...

Wow, I didn't think it was all over the place at all...and as a matter of fact, I agree with a great deal of what you say. Even though I wrote on pro public school, the only way I could make it work for me to write was to go against homeschool versus going against private schools, etc.

I have an employee whose children go to the best school in our area and when she tells me stuff that goes on, I am flabbergasted (I don't think I spelled that right).

Anyway, I thought you are very well spoken in your piece! Thanks for the linky love and hope to see you again sometime in the Exchange.

Betsy said...

Very well done! I've been so out of touch with the American school system for so long-- it's very interesting for me to read your and Anno's posts and see it from you perspective!

The US school system is obviously not perfect but I'd trade it for the German one any day!!!

Anonymous said...

You're so right. I'm really disturbed by all the focus on testing too. My older child is only a kindergartner, but I worry a lot about what happens if she doesn't fit that school ideal.

Gunfighter said...

"Then, of course, you have to be able to afford those other choices"


tripleZmom said...

I liked your post as well as I liked Jerri's - I guess I'm very in the middle of this debate. And I didn't think you were all over the place.

Jerri Ann said...

jerseygirl89 - several years ago I wouldn't have even hinted that I had any problems with public schools and right now I still believe they are the best option, BUT, I have learned way more than I would like to and have my doubts about some places.....I guess having kids does that to you or something.

soccer mom in denial said...

Oh I so like you!! I really want you to like me!! But I cannot agree with you on this one. I firmly believe in education and that we need to make it work for everyone. If the engaged parents start pulling their kids out of schools when they could be the ones helping in the class, complimenting lessons, wouldn't our schools be terrific?

And shame on schools for not taking care of all the students.

I also couldn't agree with GF's highlighted quote - I believe homeschooling to be a luxury for middle class. You never hear about poor folks homeschooling. They have to work to put food on the table.

Do you still like me?

Anonymous said...

Very well-written post!

Rebecca said...

good post Jen. Clarifies very nicely for me why you might choose to Homeschool.

Jenn in Holland said...

Hear! Hear!
Well stated points. So many could be expanded upon for further posts for sure.
There is no such thing as a one size fits all anything. This applies to t-shirts and to schools. I couldn't agree with you more.