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Thursday, December 28, 2006


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This is a topic that I regularly visit. You see, my wife and I chose to home-school our children because it was the best education we could afford.

Amongst the wealth of pro/con opinions I've encountered over the years, I read one article advocating outlawing homeschooling because parents who would home-school are obviously ready to put a great deal of energy into education it would be better to harness those parents to the benefit of all the children in their childs school.

While the article had a good point, I disagreed with the conclusion. "It's not about you -- it's about all of us" is true, but we need to structure things so that it doesn't cost the individual too much to contribute to the common good. To do otherwise just ends up not working out far too often. There are more failed communes than successful ones.

(Incidentally, we've tried working with the local school system to take advantage of their resources and thus bring our kids into contact with the schooled kids as well. We've found that, around where we live at least, they are not open to it.)

I agree that society has an interest in every child's education -- in a political system that is based on "the people", it must.

As far as "people trained in a particular area have given great thought into what goes into instruction as well as how students will be assessed", that is only somewhat true. (Try asking my sister about the NC state-wide geometry exam. Don't forget to duck.) Dawn is, I admit, a double-whammy -- both a teacher and a mathematician.

As you point out, the question begins with a contingency built into it. Educational experts don't usually even try to select what would work best, but what would work best for the least amount of money.

Even in those cases where curriculum and assessment are being selected by people well qualified and position to make the selection, they're selecting for a mass production environment. My wife and I have chosen a student/teacher ratio of 2:1. This is an extreme commitment of resources to a childs education that most people couldn't make and to which almost no school could aspire and thus teaching and assessment methods are available to us that is simply not feasible in a 30:1 environment and would be a stretch even in a 10:1 environment which some private schools *can* reach.

What "educators themselves think works best" varies a great deal. Like many fields, conservatism is often rewarded more than success and people are often selected based on politics more than effectiveness. The fact that "education" is so difficult to measure.

Let's step even further back from questioning "our current public school system" and start by questioning our education system in general. In the many times I've done this, I've formed the opinion that our current school system is so far from the optimum that we need to effectively start over. I think private schooling can assist in this because it allows people to gather around a methodology that they really believe in and try it out, and that we can learn from the experiment and possibly apply the lessons to other private schooling and public schooling as well. I'm a big fan of school choice and vouchers under the theory that if we make the whole situation more fluid we'll be better able to find something better. I'm not a big fan of demanding a system that makes everyone better as I am demanding an environment in which such a system can form and flourish.


John, I tried to get my wife to comment but failed. She's a high school English teacher in Atlanta Public Schools. She's at one of the better city schools, but her students are pretty bad more often than not.

She was telling me that they have a super-student who scored a perfect score on her SATs and plays an instrument, etc. Her college essay was apparently on why she thinks she got a better education at a public school than at a private one because she was exposed to kids from a diversity of backgrounds. This makes me like her.

Granted, my wife's schools has an International Baccalaurette program (you apparently need an advanced degree to spell that). It's like AP on speed. So it's a good public school option.

We don't have kids, but if/when we do, I already see how complicated this decision gets. Sure, the smart kids may help the slower kids, but they get slowed down themselves in the process.


First, Dewey, thanks for the very thoughtful response. This topic is SO complicated that I always worry when I bring it up. I appreciate your thoughtful re-take on the subject. I'll mull over this.

Second, Ben: Yes, my son is in an IB program at the public school he attends. As a result, I often feel somewhat compromised even in making the types of comments I make. I mean, if your kid is attending IB programs and magnet schools, do you have the moral high ground to talk about public schools in general. I'm not sure. We all have the right to talk about anything of course, but my son's enrollment in that program in a relatively wealthy area of town makes me always hesitant to say too much.


As someone who moves often with elementary age children, "school shopping" plays a deciding role in where we choose to live. We have often chosen districts where the elementary school was considered very good, but the middle and/or high school in the same district were considered poor.

We've done DoD, public and private depending on our location. We have not done home-schooling, although many of our friends have (successfully, it seems, so call us lazy).

I always question the "consumer" question when it arises. Probably because I'm at the post-secondary level. Who is the "consumer"? The student? The parent? The employer post-graduation at the university level?

As an educator, I always go with the student first. But all my students are different, requiring me to use different techniques and set different goals based on the make up of the class. Harder on me, but I enjoy the challenge.

We do make our decision on school based on what we think is best for our children, not based on how we think our children might improve the school.

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