I wrote a post a couple of days ago about how schools were not designed (and still aren’t) for learning. I found this blog today of a man who is not a homeschooler, and in fact, doesn’t even have kids that I can fathom.
His blog is about freedom.
You have to read this post. Because it it well organized, powerful, and real. Even if you don’t agree with his conclusions, his message is a powerful one.
It’s time to do something different. Completely different. If we truly, really, want kids to learn and be successful, tweaking schools is not the answer. We need a different kind of tool. And a different approach to measuring success.
Be it homeschooling, charters, co-ops, early admission to community college, apprenticeships, work-study, or whatever, anything to break us from this spell of cultural thinking that traditional schools can serve every child and bring every child to a certain level of education or understanding. They can’t. They just can’t do it.
On my previous post, one comment mentions that some teachers really make a difference. I totally agree. Individual teachers, and individual parents, can make a difference – but only so much. Teachers are still tied down by the system. They have to make a difference from within the reach of a very short leash. Teachers, even when they are wonderful, can never release children from the demands to be mediocre. Teachers can never give children enough one-on-one attention to make sure they are all taken care of. Teachers, even the most wonderful ones, can’t be there for everyone. They can’t even be there for *one* child.
For individuals, school can be a great place. There are great teachers out there. And I commend every teacher who bears the brunt of our society’s demands to educate our children. Teachers volunteer for an impossible task, which is largely thankless. The parents who are involved in school, trying to make it better, to make it work, to give all the kids as much as they can, are also deserving of a standing ovation. They sacrifice themselves, and their own children, for the betterment of everyone.
But all that effort, it makes me sad. It’s like volunteers jumping in to save some people on a sinking ship. The ship is still sinking, and people are going to die. Only a few are saved. The people who jump in, and try to save as many as they can, are the heroes. They are the ones deserving of a medal. But how I hate that the boat is sinking, and how that boat took down so many people that couldn’t be saved. Who were helpless to save themselves, because they were told they had to be there. That there was no other way to get across the water. That boat was built by someone else, paid for by someone else, and it was mandated that everyone who had children had to put them on this boat, even though everyone knows, that every single time that boat gets filled, some of the kids are lost.
That’s what we do in school. We fill the schools, and demand that parents send their children to school. And threaten those that don’t do it (either with law, or with social pressure and criticism). Even though we all know that every single time we fill those schools, a huge number of kids drown. We don’t know if it will be our kid. We think, “no, it won’t be my kid. My kid will be saved, because I’m on the boat, and he’ll be one of the first kids I save.” But what if that kid gets his foot stuck in between the planks? What if that kid gets dragged down by other kids?
Schools are are a sinking ship that drag down kids every year, and the worst part – they don’t give the kids a choice. And they don’t give kids the tools to save themselves when they know they are drowning. Instead, the kids are told – you’re accountable for whether you drown or not. We’re here, trying to save you, but if you don’t do what we ask, the way we ask, we can’t help you. And we can’t show you how to save yourself, because we are too busy trying to save the kids that are doing what they are told to do. And we don’t want you to get off this boat – even if you are drowning.
Lastly, to labor on this comparison a little longer – the saddest thing, is that there are tons of other boats to try – over there. And they are empty. And nobody wants to try them, because they “might” sink. No, that’s not it… we’re afraid, that if we go over there and man our own boats, that WE might make them sink. Then, what do we do? At least, on the sinking boat of public school, we’re not alone, and we’re trying to help – not responsible for whether the boat sinks or not.
Public schools are doing what they are supposed to do – and people are busy trying to save them. That’s how it is, and how it will be for a long time. I don’t want to put my kids in that. Or myself. I’m OK taking the responsibility of whether we sink or not. I took that responsibility when I gave birth to my children. I will continue to do so. And I will continue to support the people who try to save the kids in school. Because if it weren’t for them – everyone would drown.
It’s the teachers and parents who work so hard to keep things afloat that allow some kids to succeed and learn in school. Thank you teachers and parents for doing what you can in a system that you have so little wiggle room. Hats off to you.