Saturday, March 8, 2008

Homeschooling and why it may not be as great as it sounds

First off, this post is spawned by this article:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/07/MNJDVF0F1.DTL
Now, California has some very different regulations from other states mandating what is required to obtain a teaching crediential and as such may not be the best example in the world to use here, but they're the people doing it and so, here goes.

First of all, I applaud what California is trying to do, although I think some of their reasoning is flawed. This is not to say that they have chosen a bad reason (to be able to monitor all children more closely for abuse) but rather that the reason they have chosen may eventually shoot themselves in the foot. Because there are very real reasons why homeschooling needs to be more closely mandated. As far as I know, in most every state, in order to homeschool you esentially set yourself up as a private school. Private schools are not regulated by the current public school standards which say that, to teach you must have a teacher's license issued by that state. Most people look at this and go "So what?".

Have you ever heard of "unschooling"? It's a concept that essentially says that children will learn what they need to if you just let them go about their own merry way. And hordes of people buy into this concept. And their children spend their days watching tv, playing video games and pretty much being children. So, what exactly does one learn by watching tv and playing video games? Well, I'm not sure either but I know it can't be much because I've seen plenty of video games in my time and watched plenty of tv (and avoid many shows now, for that reason). Unless you're only allowing your children to watch the Discovery Channel, the Science Channel or the local college tv programs I can pretty much guarantee that they aren't learning much.

Yes, this is legitimately allowed to go on. I can point you in the direction of people who do it. And, in fact, think it is the best thing in the world, because the public schools suck.

Well, you won't hear me argue otherwise. The public school system is in a right state. No Child Left Behind has destroyed anything that may have otherwise been left in the school systems that were good. Teachers are forced to teach to tests, even though the makers of said tests swear that's not their goal. Tell me, when your job is dependent upon the test scores your students produce what are you going to do: Teach creative and useful things that aren't being tested or make damn sure you try and drill into their tiny little heads exactly what the state says will show up on that test. In any other arena, this would not be a hard decision. Why would anybody think that teachers would react any differently? We want our jobs as much as the corporate muckity muck does. It's human nature.

There are a million other problems that teachers face. Parents who don't care or expect the school to discipline their children. I've had parents tell me over the phone "What do you want me to do about it? I can't control him/her." Verbatim. Parents who don't take the time to pay any attention to their children - like their kids are simply an accessory they take out for show. Do you think those kids care? Kids whose parents encourage doing the bare minimum. "Look mom, I got a C!". "Oh great job honey - here's a new car!". Yes, that happens too. Kids who are only in school to sell drugs. No, I'm not kidding. This list could go on and on and on. My point? Sure there are crappy teachers. There are crappy doctors, crappy lawyers, crappy executives, crappy mechanics, crappy insurance salesmen. Why would teaching be an exception?

The things I've heard people say about teachers astounds me to no end.
"It's easy to be a teacher!" (Yeah right. You try it.)
"They get the whole summer off." (True, but not a good reason to be a teacher.)
"Anybody can be a teacher, those tests are so easy." (Depends on the person, in my opinion.)
"I spent time correcting my teacher all the time. All they do is read out of a book and they read it wrong most of the time." (If you really think that this is how teachers are trained to teach... well, I don't know what to say to you. If it makes you feel any better, I didn't even HAVE books for the first part of the year, so I guess I just stood up there and made things up until I had books.)

I would defy most people to walk into a classroom of 25 kids and teach them. I bet that most people would be floored by what they found. In fact, most of the people I see criticizing teachers haven't been in a classroom since they were a student. They have no idea what goes on in one or why. But they have an awful lot of critiques. If you asked the general public, most people would probably tell you how easy teachers have it. If that's true, why is there a shortage of teachers? Walk into any high school and ask the principal of the school if they have an abundance of teachers. They'll probably laugh at you. Sure, some areas have plenty of teachers. There are a lot of social studies and english teachers. If you can find me an unemployed math or science teacher who isn't unemployed VOLUNTARILY (or was fired for some egregious offense), I'd be amazed.

The general public has a severe misunderstanding of teaching and teachers and if they think the solution is simply to teach their kids at home we are going to be a very interesting looking country in 20 years.

It's things like this that make me wonder why I don't go work in a lab. At least there my skills would be valued. Because as a teacher nobody (parents, children or bystanders) values my worth. Why in the hell would anybody want a job like that?

1 comment:

that chick said...

unschoolers spend all day watching tv and playing video games? i didn't know that. the unschoolers i know don't have tv or video games. they do have gardens, music lessons and lots of books, though. go look up 'two little birds' on xanga and find out what good unschoolers do.
(i'm not saying that there aren't unschoolers who do nothing and learn nothing, but please don't write off their philosophies so quickly, it can be a kickass way to educate kids)