When you are deciding what's right for your kids, you probably seek out some trusted people to listen to. That's how I started homeschooling. (And every trusted source told me to forget about curricula, but that's another story.) Something I've noticed is that all the people who are telling us about education reform actually have a vested interest in the status quo. Which creates a chronic problem of intellectual dishonesty among school reform advocates.
1. Journalists can't get their work done if they homeschool. So they don't tell other people to.
This month's issue of Wired magazine has a great article about school reform in Mexico. Letting kids teach themselves and how great it's been for them. But is this an article telling people to homeschool? No. That would be heresy! How would the Wired editors get any work done?
This article epitomizes everything I hate about journalists who write about school reform: They yammer on and on about big ideas but don't touch the biggest idea, which is that kids should be home, learning on their own.
2. School reformers want to be big-time voices of the people, which means they can't advocate homeschool because they'd be stuck home with their kids.
Will Richardson is so eloquent when it come to making very good arguments for why school is stupid. Yet he sends his kids to school. I did a little research on the topic of Will Richardson's kids and it turns out he thinks their school is just like all other schools in so far as school is stupid.
So why does he send his kids to school? I think it's probably the same reason that Seth Godin sends his kids to school.
Seth Godin writes bestselling books about online marketing and he makes tons of money speaking. Recently he has made a foray into school reform. He writes that kids should be self-directed and passion-driven learners. But kids can have that only in a homeschool environment, so why doesn't he write that?
Because then he'd have to homeschool. And he doesn't want that. He wants to believe that educating kids requires an expert, because then he's off the hook since he's an online marketer.
Will Richardson doesn't homeschool his kids because he thinks his time is too valuable as a school reform advocate for him to stay home all day making sure his kids are following their passions. So he tells people whose time isn't so valuable that they should do it.
I want to say how I don't get it. But I do get it. People who are BIG VOICES in school reform would never want to homeschool their kids because then they couldn't be BIG VOICES. School is a systematic justification for all parents to do something instead of raising their kids. School reform is a systematic way to do that with more self-righteousness than others.
3. Child advocates do intellectual gymnastics to avoid telling you to take your kid out of school.
The American Medical Association recommends that kids have very limited computer time because kids are too sedentary. But why are kids sedentary? We know that boys are so unable to sit still that they have to be medicated to sit still in grade school. So most certainly it is not in kids' nature to be sedentary. And what is more sedentary than school?
What the AMA is really saying is that if you have to be in school for eight hours a day, then kids should not choose their own fun after school, but rather they should make up for the sedentary time they were there.
Here's another way to think about it: Kids sit in school for 8 hours a day Monday- Friday. Does the AMA recommend sitting at the computer for 8 hours a day on Saturday? Is that okay? No. Of course not. Because being sedentary for eight hours a day is not good for kids.
Parents are ignoring all the research because it's too challenging.
What if the AMA did say that kids shouldn't be in school? Parents would say they have no way to keep their kids home. Parents would say "How will kids learn math?" (Did you know that basic math skills are innate? Kids will learn them on their own because counting is like reading – you get the urge to do it to be part of society. Yes, reading is something kids teach themselves as long as there are books in the house.)
My point here is that parents who listen to the experts holding up the status quo feel comforted, because they do not have to face reality. So they listen.
Curriculum is the fallback for parents who can't handle change.
There is no evidence that kids need to learn chemistry in order to have a good life. There is no evidence that you can teach someone to be a good writer. There is no evidence that boys should go to school before they are eight. But parents continue to force curriculum down kids' throats. Parents want to get a gold star for parenting. They want to say they taught their kids something. But the real gold star for parenting comes from being able to turn your back on self-interested experts whose lack of vision and intellectual honesty is stifling your ability to do what is best for your kids.