Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Education: let's actually put some thought into it

I recently listened to a podcast by Jeff Till called "A Complete Case for Home Education (54 Arguments)". You can listen to the full podcast and read the transcript here. If you would like to just look at the list of arguments (although some of them will not make much sense if you don't hear/read the explanation), you can do that here.

Now, before I respond to this podcast and give some of my thoughts, here's a bit about my education experiences...

I was homeschooled for the majority of my K-12 education. The only exception is the year and a half I spent going to fourth grade and the fall semester of fifth grade to public school in a small-ish town. My public school days were fun in a lot of ways, but I also hated all of the time wasting we did. I was all about speed. Waiting on the slowest kid in the class was always annoying to me. As a home schooler, I did my studies at my own pace so I was able to slow down or speed up as I pleased. I may have skimped on a few subjects in high school (such as only completing maybe 1/4 of my Chemistry curriculum), but I was also busy with other activities such as speech and debate club, swim team, 4H, various lessons, volunteer work, working part time, and my own personal hobbies.

Jeff's podcast raises some great arguments to oppose compulsory public education. He also makes a case for home education. As a student who has experienced both but is definitely biased toward the home education side, I'd like to point out a few of my favorite arguments that Jeff makes as well as step back and look at the big picture.

The Argument for Knowledge

Jeff's first argument is one for knowledge. He points out that knowledge is important, but public schools don't deliver. The public education system creates a one-size-fits-all portfolio of knowledge that students remember little of once they graduate (or even after they take that one test or pass that one class!).

As Jeff points out: "How many people learned their career skills through public education?" The only knowledge that is useful is the stuff you can use or the stuff you enjoy. Most people don't even remember what they learned in high school, much less enjoyed it or find it useful to their career today.

My sisters and I used to ask "Why do we have to learn algebra?". We got answers like "studying algebra helps you grow your brain" and "it's part of a basic education". But other learning experiences can also stretch and grow the brain and might actually prove useful later on in life.

The Argument for Powerful Subjects and Useful Subjects

School focuses on math and science. These subjects are truly useful to only the people going into a few specific fields. The rest of us drudge through it until we can graduate and forget it.

What about subjects such as philosophy, ethics, and rhetoric? These types of subjects can help us form our worldview and become deeper thinkers.  What about useful skills such as paying taxes/investing, cooking, and routine car maintenance? These types of skills allow us to function as adults and earn/save money. Public education rarely touches these areas of education.

The Argument for Leaders over Followers and Entrepreneurs over Workers

Public education relies on obedience. In public school, we spent the first two days of each school year just learning the rules and the schedule. We practiced asking to use the restroom, lining up, and taking role. On the other hand, a child who has an opportunity to be self-reliant, self-disciplined, and self-directed can become a leader and entrepreneur rather than a follower and a worker.

What all families should think about in regards to their child(ren)'s education...

Okay, I'm going to stop with those arguments (for now... maybe I'll post more of them in the future). But the bottom line and my challenge to all families is this: let's actually put some thought into this! Some of the arguments Jeff Till makes against public school can be solved immediately by home schooling. But look again at the arguments I pointed out above. Home education does not automatically resolve these issues. Home school families still often use the outdated, narrow school curriculum of reading, math, science, and history with little room for anything else. And just because their child is educated at home does not mean the family avoids strict rules and schedules, leaving little room for the child to be creative or self-disciplined.

Public and home school families: put some thought into your child(ren)'s education. What is useful? What will allow them to be creative? What will make them love learning instead of dreading their studies?

It's unlikely that if we all sat down and really considered the best way in which to educate a child, we'd all come up with the exact way that the American public education system does things.

Be willing to experiment a little. Don't sweat it if your child isn't learning everything they "need" to learn. Remember that Chemistry course I barely started when I was in high school? Well guess what? I'm still a functioning, productive adult without having completed it. 

As a society, I think it's time we took a plunge into some creativity when it comes to our education. Who's willing to dive in?

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