The Aspen Institute is well-known as a place where the richest of the rich intelligentsia gather to hear each other talk about ground-breaking ideas. You can’t go, but you can read about it in newspapers.
This year Richard Elmore, one of the big education reform guys at Harvard, shook everyone up by saying what homeschoolers already know: “I do not believe in the institutional structure of public schooling anymore,” Elmore said, noting that his long-standing work at helping teachers and principals professionalize their practice is “palliative care for a dying institution.” Elmore predicted “a progressive dissociation between learning and schooling.”
It is disturbing that the education reform contingency agrees with him because it’s so self-serving. The education reform pundits put their kids into private school while they talk about how school and learning are divergent ideas.
Elmore stands before this room full of big-idea guys (it’s almost always guys) and says “The modal classroom in the modal school [in the United States] is exactly the opposite of what we’re learning about how human beings develop cognitively.”
Everyone nods in agreement and invites him to speak at break-out events. As they keep their kids in school.
The other dying institution in the US is work. Work and kids are incompatible. We are no longer able to believe the purpose of work is to earn discretionary spending money for take big vacations. We are no longer buying into the idea that work is for your ego and caring for your kids is a service industry job for low-wage sufferers.
Our society’s collective vision of work is completely incompatible with what we know about child development. We attack schools as in need of reform, yet we say nothing about families who can’t live off of $70K, which is a single income of a person who comes home at 5pm to be part of a family.
You know what? I’m guilty of this, too. A few days ago, we had a photographer at our house, and I was so checked out during family lunch that I didn’t even notice I put no food on my plate until I saw this photo. I’m in the process of giving up a big chunk of equity in my startup so that I can work fewer hours. I’m not doing the work I want to be doing—I’m doing too much work.
The good news is that my life is evidence that you can work ten hours a day and homeschool too. The bad news is that it doesn’t feel very good. In countries that are well past the Industrial Revolution and deep into the Information Age, cultural reform begins at home. Work and school are institutions that should serve the family. Right now they are destroying the family.
The first step toward reform is to stop spewing statistics about too-much work and declarations about the ineptitude of school. And instead, start taking action at home. Widespread respect for time with family is what’s missing from our culture.