Hold teachers responsible for participating in the system

I’ve structured my kids lives to find the very best teachers for them and I have so much respect for the adults in my kids’ lives who know exactly what to do to help them grow into their best selves.

The photo up top is a day my husband and I went to watch the progress of my son with his gymnastics teacher, Jo. My son has coordination problems, and Jo has worked with him for three years helping him make remarkable improvements that he’s very proud of.

So, okay. There are great teachers in this world. But so many teachers are part of a terrible system, implementing absurd programs, making outrageous requests of kids. At some point, it’s not enough to say “I was following orders.”

The operations assistant for Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme probably will not be off the hook for saying she was just doing what she was told.

We have prosecuted tons of war criminals who didn’t do harm directly but were knowingly part of a system that was bad.

And the US legal system holds someone who has an IQ of 75 accountable for their actions.

So when teachers are clearly doing something completely moronic, why do we blame the system?

What about blaming the teachers for participating?

Anyone who is bright enough to get a teaching job is bright enough to support themselves doing some other job as well. At some point the teacher has an ethical responsibility to himself to say, “I am part of something I don’t believe in. I have to leave.”

At some point a teacher has to have the self-respect to say they don’t like being treated like a monkey, and they have to leave.

This video of Chicago public school teacher training is appalling on a lot of levels. It takes only a minute to watch. You should watch it.

The point of the training is to tell teachers how to teach the common core. The method of training is completely insulting, degrading, and I am stunned that the teachers participated as long as they did.

My first inclination is to declare public schools completely dead, useless, etc. But then I realized that it’s time to hold the teachers accountable. There would be less inanity in our schools if teachers started to have some self-respect and refuse training like this.

Teachers need to say enough is enough. Teachers should go do something else where they are contributing to society, and themselves, in a more meaningful way. At this point, after watching the video, I blame the teachers.

You know your friend who always complains about her boyfriend but never dumps him? At some point you blame the friend. At some point you assume there’s something messed up with the friend that she stays with a guy who is awful. That’s what I think after watching this video. There is something wrong with the Chicago public school teachers that they are putting up with this instead of quitting.

68 replies
  1. sheela
    sheela says:

    Chicago video wasn’t linked.

    One on one teaching tends to be much more effective than one on thirty-five.

    Many smart teachers who you’d think would not be able to look themselves in the mirror are able to do so because of the comfort the system affords them. Pension. Health insurance for whole family. Regular raises. Union representation. Long vacation aligned with kids’ vacations. I’ll never forget when I saw the teacher I respected the most give a standing ovation to the union rep ranting about how ‘we’ll never cave in !! they can’t make us pay a ‘deductible’, whatever that is!’ (seriously, he had not heard of a deductible before.) This insulation is thick enough to keep out the wrongness.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Sheela – I always have trouble with video so we checked this on a multitude of computers after we published. Could you try again? Or could someone else please chime in about whether they can see the video? It works everywhere we test it.


    • Betzi
      Betzi says:

      “‘they can’t make us pay a ‘deductible’, whatever that is!’ (seriously, he had not heard of a deductible before.)”

      Don’t you think that by “whatever that is”, he meant “whatever the amount”. I’m pretty sure a union rep knows what a deductible is.

  2. Heather Caliri
    Heather Caliri says:

    I couldn’t see it through the Feedly feed reader. When I clicked through to your website it appeared just fine.
    That video is horrifying. If they’re teaching the teachers that way, what does that say about how they’ll teach the kids?

  3. marieange
    marieange says:

    Anecdote alert! My reply is completely subjective, but it shows this issue from both sides, I think.
    My mother was a public school teacher for nearly forty years (1962-1999). Her primary motivation was a real, abiding love for kids, and belief in the potential of every kid to learn. All this served her well for a long time. But in the last decade of her teaching career, she was increasingly punished for not toeing the line, and was astonished to have parents respond to her well-meaning suggestions for helping their kids by saying “I can just sign the waiver, and they’ll move up to the next grade anyway.”
    She stuck it out because she loves kids. And because she is a stubborn lady, and didn’t want the administration to “win” by forcing her out.
    And now she is the biggest supporter of my kids’ unschooling journey. She is delighted by their curiosity and the unique insights they have. She never criticizes my choice to unschool, but instead finds parallels between it and some of the theories of mind-development she was taught in grad school.

    I know she was not a typical teacher, even in her time (life would have been much easier for her if she had been). But she chose to stick out her career in teaching and battle the system from within, for the sake of the kids. So I still blame “the system” more than the teachers in it…
    Anecdote done!

  4. Amber Kane
    Amber Kane says:

    While reading this I felt all kinds of emotions popping up.

    I am a teacher, and have considered leaving many times,for all of the above reasons.

    First why I haven’t: THE KIDS. I love my students and look at them as though they’re my kids, if I leave, whose fighting for them? Whille I don’t forsee myself staying here forever, I continue to examine, how to create a better system, as homeschooling and unschooling are not viable options for many students.

    Do I follow the rules. No, and everyone knows it. I’m quoted in the student paper saying, if the rules don’t make sense , I don’t follow them period.

    I work hard to create an environment where actual learning and discovery takes place in my classroom. And work to buck the stystem regulary. Could I do more? That’s what I’m working on everyday.

    I would love to see all of the teachers stand up and walk out when standardized test are given out.

    Yes, we have become too comfortable, and too afraid.

    I believe the other thing that has happened is all studies show that only about 2 % of adults are turly divergent thinkers, we have the school stystem to thank for this. Therefore, while this is not okay, I feel that many of the adults in the school system don’t actually know how to make a change, and don’t know the write questions to ask.

    I could write on this topic forever. But’s that’s enough for moment.

    • Jayson
      Jayson says:

      Taking a stab at answering your question about who would fight for the kids, I’m gonna say the parents. If every person who teached as a profession suddenly disappeared from the planet (or got another job). Children would still be taught and educated people would still emerge.

      Not to dispirit you, I love the enthusiasm in your post and it makes me feel jaded…but you have to consider that when you are designing for your new system that you are creating a system for those who cannot leave the current system. Those with talent and/or means will become fewer and fewer over the years as the system continues to degrade.

      One other thought, consider the possibility that truly divergent thinkers are more likely to emerge absent a system.

      • amber kane
        amber kane says:

        Jayson, While there is a group of parents that will fight for their kids, there is also a large group of parents that will not, and that don’t even know how.

        Just as parents that are educated enough and care enough, can and will find a way to educate there children no matter what. Unfortunately we live in a world, where there are a lot people having kids that don’t have the level of knowledge or desire to do so. And right now, that’s what I”m looking at and attempting to figure out.

        Children that have engaged parents can make it through most systems fine, because they’re parents are fighting for them.

        I totally agree with your thoughts on divergent thinking, and that blooms more outside of the system.

        I wrestle with all of this on a daily basis. I don’t have all of the answers, but I also don’t think having all of the great teachers walk out the door is the solution.

  5. christy
    christy says:

    Because the video didn’t embed in my reader, I came over to the site. The video is horrible. It’s meant to show the worst (or the norm, which may be a synonym here). I get that.

    But I then clicked through to read the youtube comments on this video. Everything from “copyright violation; take it down” to “EEK! Is it really like this?” to “Yup. I’ve been a teacher for 21 years, and this just is what it is.”

    So many people create so much sound and fury, but ultimately do nothing. If even 1% of those horrified by this pulled themselves out of teaching or their kids out of school, if nothing else, things would have to shift due to the massive demographic change.

    Gandhi’s “be the change you want to see…” was never more relevant.

  6. Meghan D
    Meghan D says:

    This video is appalling! Its would be merely annoying if it were a class of 2nd graders with attention problems, but to speak to professionals (many with graduate degrees) that way is demeaning and ridiculous. If this is the type of training that teachers are receiving, it does not bode well for children in traditional school environments. How can children be inspired to learn, grow and explore when their instructors are trained to behave and teach like robots?

  7. redrock
    redrock says:

    i think in general this is a double edges blade: we want teachers to care and do good work (lets forget the common core for the moment and the tons of testing) but they are not really well paid considering that the job is rather stressfull. And they are beaten up from all sides, the parents, the administrators, the students. And then everybody shouts that teacher performance has to be measured and back it is to counting the test scores of students as a measure of performance instead of accepting that good teaching can take many forms and defies general quantitative measures which can be summed up in a number.

  8. Anon for this :)
    Anon for this :) says:

    My mom is an award-winning public school teacher in a 90% poverty rate middle school. She taught 6th grade science and math for a long time and her kids had great test results. She mixed up their activities all the time so kids weren’t just sitting all hour. Then the administration made a new rule that science and math teachers had to follow the curriculum by the day – meaning that teachers had to teach the same page on the same day county wide. So she left science and math for art a decade ago because she couldn’t do that to her kids (She had two bachelor degrees, art & ed). It was a good run in the art department, but now administration is requiring a more prescriptive teaching of art. It boils down to she is supposed to interrupt the flow of the projects on a regular basis. So while she was going to teach as long as she could, maybe age 70, because she loved it so much, now she’s considering retiring. Sucks for her kids who have a reputation as the best prepared students for high school art. Maybe she’ll move here and unschool my kids for me.

  9. Kristi
    Kristi says:

    Oof, the line about war criminals and the title are keeping me from sending this to someone I know who would otherwise be interested.

    I think the war criminals link is going to come across as sensationalist and offensive to those you are trying to influence (assuming that some of those folks are teachers). And while I get why the title is appropriate (and maybe SEO-friendly, depending on your goals there), it’s abrasive without being actionable enough to be worth the abrasiveness. Hold them responsible, how? Hate on them?

    • Kristi
      Kristi says:

      After thinking more about why this came across as abrasive to me, it’s because it seems to lack empathy for the teachers. To present one video and deduce that teachers don’t have self respect–that’s insulting and simplistic.

      Probably people in most professions need to have more self respect. Insults probably won’t help them see that.

      You show empathy for parents who are still sending their kids to school, maybe because it’s easier for you to understand their point of view. If you want to convince teachers of something, I recommend demonstrating that you respect their point of view.

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Well, first of all, I don’t have a lot of empathy for parents who still send their kids to school. I think it’s a cop-out.

        Also, my job is being a career counselor. And I always advice people who are getting treated like crap in their job to change jobs. And I always advise people who are doing a job that does not align with their values to change jobs.

        Anyone who went into teaching to help kids would have to admit that teaching is probably not the best place to help kids. So they should find something else. And anyone who went into teaching to get summers off can also find a different job to get summers off. But at this point, I have no empathy for teachers who are teaching in a system they know is terrible. They can leave. And I question why they don’t.


        • amber kane
          amber kane says:

          I see this both ways. I”m able to allow a lot of self directed learning in my classroom. And in my room, I”m able to teach in a way that I believe in, and a way that impacts my students.

          It would be awesome if all parents were involved and informed as you are, but they just aren’t. I”m fighting for the kids that don’t have parents that will. I”m listening to them, asking them questions, helping them explore, counseling.

          Leaving and just screwing the system is easy. Leaving and screwing those kids, not so easy.

          I am much more the belief that the teacher needs to be aware that the system isn’t working and strive everyday to make change, and make people more aware of the change that needs to happen. We need all different kinds of people in this world, and because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this. I don’t feel that leaving is always the solution for everyone.

          • Amy
            Amy says:

            Amber, you appear to be talking about a school where kids need real help, not just a place to go so mom and dad can work upper-middleclass jobs. Even Penelope has stated something to the effect that there does have to be a place where kids whose parents are not equipped to help them can go. Call it “school” call it “K-12 daycare” call it “resource area for kids who need it”, but there does have to be safety-net for some kids whose parents are not providing it. It sounds like you are describing that place. (I know the school I work at is that place.) Sometimes this discussion gets convoluted because the schools we are talking about are not the same thing. Working at a place where you sometimes just want to take 1/2 the kids home so you know they’ll have a safe night with some food and a warm bed is hard work. It is easy to get burnt out and quit because just when you think one kid finally has a more secure, safe situation, there will be another who doesn’t. As Penelope mentioned above, this does have to align with your values. When I lose sight for even one minute that it’s the kids that count (and get dragged into all the baloney about “systems” and “educational groups”) it makes me question why I’m a teacher. When I put my energy on making one kid’s life even a little better, I know I can keep doing this no matter who thinks what about me.

        • Kristi
          Kristi says:

          And I agree with that advice for people in shitty jobs. What I’m pointing out is there’s a difference between questioning why someone stays and assuming you know. I’m pointing out that posting one out-of-context video and declaring teachers don’t have self respect because they’ve apparently arrived at a different ethical conclusion conveys the latter.

        • marieange
          marieange says:

          Please talk to some real teachers. You are such an intelligent woman, and this extremist thinking leads me to believe that you are either underinformed, or misinformed.

          • marieange
            marieange says:

            Sorry, that was directed to Penelope. But I would give the same suggestion to anyone who has an extreme position; always get a rational explanation from the “other side” even if you end up disagreeing anyway. That is one of my core values!

  10. MBL
    MBL says:

    I highly recommend reading Amanda Ripley’s The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way. It is an excellent, engaging book that gives insight into top or rising PISA performing school systems of Finland, South Korea, and Poland.

    In Finland they start with rigorous requirements for entrance into and graduation from teaching programs. Then they allow a great deal of autonomy to the capable teachers who are well respected because everyone knows they have completed such rigorous programs. Of course there are loads of other differences, but autonomy and respect seem to be key–with everything.

    nytimes.com/2013/08/25/books/review /amanda-ripleys-smartest-kids-in- the-world.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    I hope I doctored that up enough to keep me out of “moderation/time out.” I do recommend reading the book and not just a review of it as it was really well done with “in the trenches” accounts from exchange students.

    I was positively stunned by the CPS training video. Is it really, for really and truly real, real? Please say no.

  11. Betzi
    Betzi says:

    I just would like to point out that it is highly likely that the instructor was modeling instruction while instructing the teachers. Which would explain why she was talking to professionals as if they were children. The idea is that teachers, like everyone else, learn better by experiencing it than by just being told how to do something.

    Even knowing that, though, as I watched I pretended I was a high school kid receiving instruction that way and I wanted to scream.

    I am unsure whether that delivery method is a common core thing or is just the personal style of the presenter. Either way, it is excruciating.

    • mh
      mh says:

      My mother-in-law reports that her most recent CE for neo-natal ICU nursing was the type of training shown in this video.

      So she retired. from nursing.

      Just for comparison sake.

      Who can make the case that the more the government owns the delivery mechanism for the desired good (educated students, housing for the poor, healthy citizens) the better the outcomes become?

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        but… the video was from a company doing the teaching and not a government employee, right? And in the often cited example for education quality – Finland – the schools and as fas as I know also Universities and the teacher education is under the auspices of the government.

    • Lyndap
      Lyndap says:

      I don’t think you need all…I think you probably only need 10 percent of teachers to get change to happen.

      I was thinking how ironic it is that many schools want their kids to be leaders yet the kids are surrounded with people who don’t lead…simply people who follow what they are told to do…

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I like the idea of teachers striking, but against whom? I mean, the teachers all know that self-directed learning is great, and what we do in public school now is the opposite of great.

      But we don’t have enough money in this country to afford all kids publicly funded self-directed learning. So what would the teachers be aiming to do by striking? We don’t have a sustainable system. The teachers should just get out of teaching.


  12. Heather McCurdy
    Heather McCurdy says:

    I don’t know how I feel about this. So a teacher revolts and ends up fired. Fat good that does. Second, teachers are in a system where parents don’t care how well their kids do, they just want the A, so they email, yell and insult the teacher until it happens. That is more often common then not, w upper management supporting grade change because of test scores, etc. Third, whoever decided “common core” was in it for the money, look at all the experts, books, etc that are being force fed into teachers mouths instead of being used to come up w relevant & serious change. Follow the $ of lobbyists in DC too see what new education “program” will fall into place, which are usually expensive but worthless ones. I just don’t think we should shoot the messenger. Lots of great teachers are out there AND fed up w the system. They are no longer autonomous. If they aren’t up to “standards”, they now have reviews every month or so to nake sure they are in line. I think many are bucking the system when they can, but you and I will never see it because only one or two students benefit. Your proposal is a handmade raft in a tidal wave…

  13. Jackie
    Jackie says:

    I spent 6 years in college to “prepare”. I knew nothing about teaching when I started. My first year was when I learned to survive. I worked so hard, spent so much time and money trying to be a great teacher. But, as time went on, I began to see my future – quit within 5 or so years or become like most of the older teachers in my school- bitter. Teaching is so difficult. Let me rephrase that, classroom management is so difficult. Dealing with administrations and testing schedule and state laws that always change is so difficult. The teaching was what I enjoyed. But, in schools today, clearly, teaching rarely gets to really happen. I look back now and wince when I think of all the good I tried to do and how little of it was really good. I don’t regret leaving and I never want to go back. I will homeschool my children without regret.

  14. Amy
    Amy says:

    I know I will not change the entire US educational system on my journey, but I also know I do make a small difference in my small part of the world. I will not quit because I am good at building successful working relationships with students, especially those students who come from the bleakest of situations or who need the most help. The students I teach are far more important than the content or subject I teach. I have been a high school teacher for about 15 years, and I will “retire” when I no longer have enough energy to put 100% into it, whether that is next year or in 20 years. I do not lose hope because I focus on the small victories.

  15. Evelyn
    Evelyn says:


    Any chance you will ever do a post about just HOW you went about finding the best teachers for your children and how often they work with them? Do you just decide what they need and follow their interest…and then find teachers who want to teach them in one particular area?

  16. Becca Leech
    Becca Leech says:

    Penelope, I can’t describe how sad this post makes me. I just discovered your blog a few days ago and was so thrilled to have found someone who seems to share so many of my opinions, and seemed to be sharing honest, constructive ideas for independent thinkers. …And then I read this post. I cannot believe that you, too, are on the teacher bashing bandwagon. Is there no one left who doesn’t think they are having some sort of radical idea to start blaming teachers for all the problems with our educational system, or all the problems of the world, for that matter. “What about blaming the teachers for participating?” Really?!?!? That is exactly what our school administrators do , it is exactly what leaders in the Department of Education do, it is exactly what the mainstream media does, and parents, and students… And it must stop. Now.Be strong enough to resist this brainwashing. Most teachers do leave the classroom, leaving school systems to fill positions with unqualified teachers, who they can pay less. But guess who gets hurt by this? Children. The teachers who stay are those passionate enough to make a difference no matter how badly we are insulted on a daily basis. We are badass! No matter how many demeaning training sessions, press releases, or blogs you post. We stay because we care. Here is a video about our cause https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9w4skd0TZoU&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL9910x9Yk1pmGv56Jtk7cXfoItiu7mqXjre

    • Kevin
      Kevin says:


      I was a public school teacher for 8 years. Thanks for your passion for teaching. You say, “The teachers who stay are those passionate to make a difference.” I’m certain this is the case for you, but in my experience most began with a passion but only stayed because of the secure paycheck, benefits and retirement. These were good people, miserable in their jobs but unwilling to take a risk and lacking the belief they could do something else with their lives. Many were still young, already burned out and dreading going to work in the morning. Were you offended by the video when you thought of the teachers who had to endure the “training?” I sat through “professional development” sessions just like this where I was treated like a child and told I needed to follow the district’s rules as if I was incapable of thinking for myself. I was passionate but enough is enough. You say that school administrators and the DOE blame teachers for participating in the system. Isn’t it the opposite? They wrongly blame teachers who don’t participate in the system for the problems. That’s why we end up with “professional development” sessions like the video. Penelope wants people to find a meaningful job they love. If you love your job and believe you are making a difference, then you are blessed. However, in my experience, you are in the minority of teachers. I believe most feel stuck in a system they detest. Like I said, I’m speaking from experience as someone who still works in education. Thanks, Becca, for sharing your thoughts. I hope you are successful in changing things.

      • Becca Leech
        Becca Leech says:

        Hi Kevin,
        Yes, there are many burnt out teachers, but I would never say it was the majority, not by a long shot. Most people have no idea of the pressures placed on teachers. I first saw this video on a teacher forum a couple of weeks ago and it was being shared and discussed by teachers, who were, of course, outraged. I have never been in an inservice quite this bad, and neither had any of those who commented. I have been in some bad ones that I have walked out of, and others that I have stood up and spoken out about in the session. Quitting my “job” would not have been an option. Teaching is more than a job to me, and to many, many other teachers. Teachers are joining together to stop practices like this video (in fact, the teacher who posted was one of those teachers), and are communicating online about our efforts, and we are getting noticed. My point was that blogs post like this that heap more guilt on teachers are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Anyone who cares about children (not just their own) should be working with teachers toward a solution. At the minimum, please stop hurting children by adding to the problem.

  17. chris
    chris says:

    “Do you just decide what they need and follow their interest…and then find teachers who want to teach them in one particular area?”
    That is what we do, for some specialized subjects such as music, etc. We are homeschooling semi-unschooling our two kids and loving it. Tired of all the lying at the school. Tired of skirting around that word, too.
    My oldest’s self esteem is comparatively through the roof, happiness at optimal levels.
    Liked this article; the video is appalling and the teaching style seems degrading. I wonder if the training is by contract and a pass rate for the class is part of how much the contracting/training company gets paid. Do companies do stuff like that?

  18. redrock
    redrock says:

    i don’t think we can expect teachers do be better people than we are ourselves. Yes, some of them juststay in their jobs because it is a relatively secure income, some stay because they need the health insurance, some stay because they are too afraid of change, and many stay because they see that they can do good despite beying squeezed relentelessly between administration, the desire to teach weel, to work with kids with clearly horrible homes, and parents complaining about everything and their kid not getting an A plus. And now some here demand that teachers should selflessly go on strike, while at the same time cursing the union, which would allow them to even organize a strike without loosing their lifelihood. How many of you would do this?

  19. Susan Wolfe
    Susan Wolfe says:

    “Well, first of all, I don’t have a lot of empathy for parents who still send their kids to school. I think it’s a cop-out.”

    So… all parents should homeschool? All of them? All? And if they don’t it is a cop-out?

    I just started reading this blog, so I don’t know if you work full time outside the home (one or more jobs), have a supportive partner, a good support network, etc etc. But wow. I think your experience with “parents” must be very different from mine.

    Speaking from privilege much?

    Not everyone has had the advantages you have had. I take it this blog is directed at the upper middle class?

  20. Linda Lou
    Linda Lou says:

    If everyone who is working in an unethical manner for an unethical institution or in an unethical, upside down field, we would wind up with no teachers, not very many physicians, no politicians, no bankers, no one on Wall Street, no one working for pharmaceuticals, Monsanto, and many other corporations. We would have no education, little medicine, no oil or power, no banking or Wall Street, and society as we know it would promptly cease to function. Most people follow the all mighty dollar. I have no idea how many people in many professions live with themselves. But you would not recognize your world if all those people up and left their job.

    • Susan Wolfe
      Susan Wolfe says:

      Linda Lou – Agreed. This is why when simple minds come up with simple “solutions” they are usually pretty useless.

  21. marieange
    marieange says:

    I agree that not everyone can homeschool. My mom, for example, would have been intrigued by the idea when my sisters and I were kids– though that was back in the ’70s, so there wasn’t as much awareness of the option as there is now. But my Dad died when I was 9 and sibs were 7 and 5, so a full time job was pretty much necessary for my mom.
    Having said that, I have also seen single parent families homeschool successfully in my community. In all of the cases I am familiar with, the Mom has her own business, and the kid helps out/learns around the office. And there are many 2 parent families who are creative and mind-blowingly thrifty to compensate for the financial hit homeschooling makes to the family bank account.
    That is why I like Penelope’s blog. Although I disagree with her on the universal ability of parents to homeschool, I totally agree with her that it is a wonderful way to support kids’ natural ability to learn, create, and discover the world.
    I think my experience as an unschooler is part of what has made me so sensitive to extreme proclamations. “All those unschoolers will be able to do is communicate by grunts and throw feces at each other!” An exaggeration of the attitudes I have encountered, but only a slight one. The school system, like all large organizations, is not going to be able to turn around quickly. 10 or 15 years from now, my kids and their peers who are being homeschooled/unschooled will be part of the ongoing process of developing good educational options for all children. And they will be able to say, “See? there are other ways for children to learn.”

    • Susan Wolfe
      Susan Wolfe says:

      marieange, agreed to some extent.

      Extremist of any kind tends to make me back away slowly – and I take my kid with me. My kid is homeschooled – I’m the extremely lucky working class single parent who has a qualified mom who can do it. But I sure don’t say that people who don’t have my kind of support system and cannot do all the things I do as a result are “copping out”. In my opinion, that is as bad as the negative attitudes people have towards homeschoolers/unschoolers. Extremism, as long as we are invoking terrorists, is why we have terrorists and there is no place for it in an adult, responsible discussion about raising our kids or fixing our schools.

      I’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback about my kid’s schooling situation; in fact, many of the people who hear about it are jealous they can’t send their kids to her “school.”

      But then, I don’t accuse them of copping out or being terrorists because they don’t do things exactly the way I do, so maybe that is part if it.

      All kids are different. What works for P.T.’s kids and family won’t work for every single other child and family out there. Part of that is temperament, and part of it is that there are a lot of people (99% maybe?) who do not have the advantages she has had. (interesting side – studies show the more money a person has the less able they seem to be to feel empathy for others. Ouch)

      Here’s a radical unschooling idea. Let’s teach our kids that sweeping generalizations don’t have a place in a kind and intelligent world, and they they tend to marginalize, over simplify, and obscure the underlying issues with any problem. I get that complex problem solving is hard and takes work, and I get that people want their fixes served up fast and easy, with a side of blame the “other”. That’s not going to fix the education problems we have in our country, it only exacerbates them and adds to the problem.

      • mh
        mh says:

        I look at it this way.

        The habits that make us successful tend to become our default problem-solving mechanisms.

        If we have become successful by challenging outmoded ways of working and questioning received authority, as many people in my generation have been, then why wouldn’t we apply that same method to other problems?

        Questioning received wisdom — as it comes to parents from school districts — might be the smart way to go.

        I just read the comments on a Salon article written by a mom who decided to opt out of standardized testing for her public-schooled children. Whoa! There are many, many commenters who think the needs of “the system” should outweigh the decisions of the parents. But I don’t agree.

        • Susan Wolfe
          Susan Wolfe says:

          I’m not sure it your meant to reply to reply to me… Several communities have made the news lately for opting their kids out of standardized testing and I think it is a wonderful idea.

          It is a positive action, with positive consequences.

          I don’t see anything extreme about that at all.

          Calling people names for sending their kids to school seems a little extreme.

      • mh
        mh says:

        The link is awaiting moderation. So.

        It’s a Slate article.

        “I Opted My Kids Out of Standardized Tests”

        • MBL
          MBL says:

          I had read that too, but didn’t get around to reading the comments. Now I am kind of scared to. Perhaps I’ll brew some chamomile and take a peek.

  22. Kate
    Kate says:

    “Union representation” or union rule?? I have read and heard a bit about how over payed union heads hinder progress in public schools. Maybe there is more than one culprit here. My oldest went to kindergarten in public school because I was alone in my opposition of going that route. I had a terrible experience in public school. I was constantly in trouble for being myself. My vice principal in highschool finally told me to “just be quiet, keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself” after an incident which left my comp teacher in tears. It was awful, and kindergarten here in a different town proved still to be no better. My child, now refuses, and almost loses it if I use the word “class” or “lesson” or “teacher”. It was hostile, understaffed, with the stink of an even lower morale. I volunteered a bit and couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. And all I heard was copout after copout, “We have real detailed lesson plans” (southern, nasally, and hungover sounding old lady). I can’t imagine someone who could not give less of a shit, nor would I expect that person to be engaged enough in their field to refuse money in hand and the promise of a pension over change and excellence. I tried holding the teacher accountable and I was met with tired, stagnating, apathy with an entire system to back them up. So i chose to abandon institutionalized education all together. I ripped my child out in December and am now winging it, with very little support (my husband is having trouble conceptualizing childhood without traditional schooling), a preschooler, and a new baby due in August. I found this blog yesterday after googling “Homeschool help I don’t know what I’m doing” It’s nice to read material from a mind I can relate to.

    • mh
      mh says:


      Go ahead and breathe. Kindergarten at home could not be worse than kindergarten in compulsory school. Decide about reading and math concepts, and just spend days together as a family and talking/reading to your little ones.

      You’re going to do fine. (You can hear that southern and nasally like the lady at school, but I’m saying it in more of a casual surfer-dude way.)

      • Kate
        Kate says:

        Thanks. It’s nice to hear support rather than opposition. Which is what i’m usually met with as a young parent with big ideas that casually tells the stewards of the traditional system they are stupid. It’s easy to question or second guess myself with all the disappointing looks and back handed comments flying at my head. And I’m always worried that I’m projecting my experience in school on my children. So all “you will do fine’s” are greatly appreciated.

  23. VegGal
    VegGal says:

    The system is flawed for the teachers, the more years they spend in the school system the harder it becomes for them to have skills for the business environment. Especially at any kind of pay level you get after completing you masters+ hours.

    • mh
      mh says:

      Hmmm. Teachers could always contact a group of homeschoolers and facilitate education opportunities for those families.

      The thing about life outside government employment is that there is substantial risk involved. Most people who have participated in the compulsory schooling bureaucracy for any amount of time are uniquely unsuited to employment in the free market.

      Frankly, the unemployable teachers are not where I focus my concern: I am more concerned about the children who are being systematically mal-educated.

  24. Ginger
    Ginger says:

    There’s a reason the cliche is true: Those who can, do; those who can’t teach.

    I majored in education, and then worked for a major city’s school board for years. The things that bad teachers get away with, because the board is afraid of the unions, would shock.

Comments are closed.