There’s a new TV show called Dream School. It’s so offensive that I normally wouldn’t even think twice about it. But it’s on the Sundance Channel, and the people involved with it are remarkable:  Suze Orman, Steven Spielberg, 50 Cent.

Here’s the problem, though: The assumption is that if you take kids who are failing in the system and give them inspirational teachers, then they’ll somehow turn themselves around.

These are kids who suffer from circumstances largely beyond their control – they are bullied, they have marginalized parents, etc. The idea that school can solve these problems is absurd. For example, there are no bullies if there is no school. And marginalized parents affect the kids no matter how many hours you put the kids in school.

To say that great teachers will make these kids “do better” implies that the kids are lacking some motivation. Of course all kids are motivated to learn and do what interests them. It’s part of being human. They don’t need to be lectured by people who have no teaching credentials. They need someone to give them tools to explore. Like: safety, predictability, and food.

Spare me the sunshine from rich, famous people. Poor kids don’t need that. They already shine, all by themselves. But if we admitted that each kid is a smart, curious, person waiting to explore the world, then we’d have to blame the system, not the teachers.

Then we’d stop pretending to fix things by bringing in new teachers. We’d have to admit that the real Dream School is not lectures in a classroom but exploring in a forest.

Here’s an idea:  Let’s stop paying for public school and start paying for parenting classes in exchange for food and rent. If you want to get money for food and rent, you go to parenting classes.

That’s it. There’s no school. We start trusting kids to teach themselves, and we start trusting parents to be parents. If parents want to raise their hand and say they need help, then we can help them to create an environment where the kids can learn.

This would mean a lot of parents would have to stop working to stay home with a kid. That seems fine. There is no fundamental right to pass off your kid to someone else for eight hours a day. I’d much rather give money to families to keep them together than give money to schools to pull families apart.

10 replies
  1. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    “I’d much rather give money to families to keep them together than give money to schools to pull families apart.”

    Yes. That exactly.

    • Sarah m
      Sarah m says:

      They could easily have a childcare center where ever the classes are held. Our local high schools all have them for teen moms. It works well because then the moms can have quality care and see their kids during off periods, and can still finish high school.
      Sarah M

  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I read the article about Dream School. I watched Episode 1 of Dream School online this morning since it premiered last night. There is nothing dreamy about Dream School other than the first rate facilities and instructors. There’s uniforms that need to be worn by these at risk kids, rules contrived by both the students and administrators, and tests to assess the effectiveness of the teachers in a strictly lecture environment. I can only hope some adjustments are made by the teachers and celebrity instructors to connect to these kids.
    Dream School is a great reality show. It has a lot of drama and entertainment. It highlights the problem of school for kids that can’t learn or handle that environment. There’s so much wrong with this notion of 30 days of the best classroom instruction to turn around the lives and future learning of these kids. It’s not sustainable or scaleable. It reminds me of 30 days of weight loss to a new you. You lose the weight but then a few months later you’re back to the same weight. It will take a lot of effort and time on both the kid’s part and their parents or other adults for positive and lasting change. That’s my assessment of Dream School based on episode 1 and three days of class. Hopefully the adults will learn a few things and make adjustments for a better experience for these kids. The problem is it’s still school as you say.

  3. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    Sorry if my take on Dream School is a little different. I don’t think it’s about the kids at all. It’s about a bunch of super wealthy people who are feeling guilty and want to do something for poor people; but this “Dream School” is a joke. You want to change that poor kids life? Give him a good set of parents and a chunk of change to put him in a safe environment… not this… pathetic. But instead of it being about the kids it’s all about the celebrities “Oh look at me and how wonderful I am and all the great things that I do.” Eyes rolled a lot when I read about it.

    I don’t have any answers for how to make public school better; because it can’t get better until everyone takes their kids out and homeschool; then they’d HAVE to make a real change. Until people leave the system they have absolutely no reason to try to change it… just more tests, assessments, curriculum changes, teacher training… nothing for the kids or what they want/need.

    All I can offer is that school should be like homeschool. Kids are free to come and go, they can choose when, where, what to study. Student to teacher ratio 5:1, this way the poor kids will still have a place to go and eat… teacher’s facilitate learning not demand crowd control or teach to standards… teacher’s wouldn’t need credentials and it could be a volunteer position so that parents could fill those roles to keep the ratio 5:1. Experts, tutors, and mentors on hand to help guide the kids. Kids can float around from one room to another when they please, they can eat, go to the bathroom, and have recess when they want. There are a couple of schools that model this already, but they cost like 50k a year in tuition. Since we already know by many studies that have been done that humans want to learn without being forced; we don’t have to worry about standards or tests or homework. Just give kids a place to explore, discover, and develop their passions.

    A lot I know… and maybe pie in the sky, but I agree changes are needed, the system is broken.

  4. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    Centralized institutions imparting parental advice and education seem born from good intentions but will always be flawed and ultimately ineffective. Parents, concerned neighbors, and those within local communities can better fulfill this need as they will best identify individual circumstances and address them effectively. There will always be those that are marginal who have children. I believe there are more marginals in the current system than would be otherwise.

  5. tcmullinax
    tcmullinax says:

    Parents have to care enough about their children to do whatever needs to be done to make sure their kids’ needs are being met…needs, not wants.

    That obviously means different things to different people…one may need to quit doing drugs, one may need to make adjustments at school, one may need to stay home with their kids.

    Personally, I felt I needed to quit my (fairly lucrative and exciting) interior design career to stay home and teach my daughter. The bottom line for me is that nobody in this world is going to care about her education, well-being, and quality of life more than her father and I. Sometimes it totally sucks-I’ve had to re-learn algebra and Latin (her choice) for crying out loud! I made the conscious decision to bring her into this world of mine. It is my responsibility to do what I know is best for her.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      I agree tcmullinax, the bottom line is that no one is going to care about your child’s education more than you.

      If the parents don’t care enough about the education of their child, no amount of “Schooling” will be able to alter the effects that has on the child.

      I believe educators know this and that’s why school is so long. It’s as if they are trying to remove any effects parents have on the child’s development, just in case they are bad and replace them with the school system’s.

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