Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who Appointed Rob Reich as Spokesman for Homeschoolers?

It's bad enough when actual homeschoolers presume to speak for the entire homeschooling community (think Mike Farris of HSLDA), but now Professor Rob Reich of Stanford feels entitled to do so as well. For those of you unfamiliar with Professor Reich, he is a professor of Political Science and a prominent critic of homeschooling.

On Monday, March 24th the Diane Rehm radio program discussed homeschooling and Prof. Reich was a guest. According to the transcript posted on the Home Education Magazine blog, he stated:

"The dissatisfaction with public schools has built up homeschooling has nothing to do with public schools because regardless of the quality of local schools, homeschoolers would not use them. The public school itself is the problem for homeschoolers."

On what evidence does Prof. Reich base this assertion? From his article calling for the regulation of homeschooling, it appears to be purely anecdotal: "from my experience with homeschoolers".

The first issue is the definition of a "high quality" school. What Prof. Reich might consider to be a "high quality" school may not meet the parent's definition of one. Is it simply a matter of high standardized test scores and successful placement into prestigious colleges? Is it one where the children enjoy learning and are free to follow their intellectual passions? One where children learn to love God with all their heart, and with all their soul, and with all their mind, and to love their neighbors as themselves? Some combination of the above? Or something else entirely? Ask 100 people this question, and one is likely to hear 100 different answers.

It's my belief that a certain percentage of homeschoolers would not send their children to a traditional school of any sort under any circumstances. But a sizable number would consider enrolling their children in one at least part-time if they had the resources and an appropriate one available to them. But it would take a radical overhauling of the educational system in order to convince them to do so.

Here's my "wish list" for a school for my child:

  • a safe environment that is conducive to learning. This is obvious but sadly a huge problem in many schools. Even schools in "nice" areas often have issues with bullying and cliquishness.
  • flexibility in scheduling. I'm not interested in having my children be enrolled M-F 8-3 for 9 mos/yr. That's too much time spent in a peer group setting and not enough family time. Classes should be offered on an a la carte basis.
  • grouping by achievement level rather than chronological age and advancement whenever the individual student is ready. If my child can read The Chronicles of Narnia, don't put her in with kids just learning to sound out Hop on Pop simply because she's 5. Also, let her move up to the next group whenever she's ready, rather than on some arbitrary timetable.
  • authentic assessment rather than standardized testing and traditional grading. I want to know what my children have actually learned, not how they compare with others.
  • a rigorous academic curriculum that avoids boring, politically correct, "dumbed down" textbooks and constructivist fads like "fuzzy math" and "whole language". 'Nuff said.
  • plenty of time devoted to subjects aside from English & math such as science, history, geography, foreign language, and the arts. Another obvious one but too often these are given short shrift in this era of No Child Left Behind.
  • a low teacher-pupil ratio. I don't want my child to be lost in a mass of 20-30+ other kids. Even the best teacher cannot provide much in the way of individual attention and tailoring of lessons in that kind of crowd.
  • teachers who are hired, compensated, and retained based on merit rather than other factors. Eliminate bogus credentialing, seniority-based pay and layoffs, lifetime tenure, and so on.
  • a recognition that parents are the primary educators; the school should assist rather than undermine parents. This should be obvious but unfortunately a quick glance at the headlines shows how big an issue this is nowadays.
  • require parental permission before providing access to medical services and controversial materials in the library. This goes along with the previous one but is important enough to specify. I'm not asking for censorship or elimination of school clinics- just that parents be the ones to decide for their own children.
I'm sure there are more but these are the biggies that come to mind at the moment.


Anonymous said...

We are in the percentage that would not send our kids to PS or private schools regardless of their quality, but your list is exactly what is needed for parents who would like to see their kids get a good education in a safe environment, but that also allows the family to nourish itself.

Rob Reich is a nimrod- his comment comparing homeschooling studies to tobacco companies publishing the effects of smoking is ridiculous. And I guess he never heard of Lawrence Rudner?

At least he admits his evidence is anecdotal. The problem is that he thinks his anecdotal evidence is unquestionable.

momto5minnies said...

I am not anti-school, just not sure there are many schools out there that I feel are good enough. I like your list!