People protect the idea of the school teacher like it’s part of the foundation of the thirteen colonies, inherent in the core of our American being. But it’s not. It’s actually the result of the destruction of family. Starting only with the industrial revolution, while the rich people who needed factory workers were advocating that we put kids in school all day under the premise that the parents were incompetent.

Check out this excerpt from a 1906 document by John Rockefeller’s General Education Board, the group that originally decided what public schools ought to accomplish (via Jay Cross, king of do-it-yourself college)

In our dreams…people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands. The present educational conventions [of intellectual and moral education] fade from our minds, and unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or men of science. We have not to raise up from among them authors, educators, poets or men of letters. We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians, nor lawyers, doctors, preachers, politicians, statesmen – of whom we have an ample supply. The task we set before ourselves is very simple…we will organize children…and teach them to do in a perfect way the things their fathers and mothers are doing in an imperfect way.

So school is there for kids who have incompetent parents.

Teachers today echo that sentiment. When you ask them why they continue to work in such a messed-up system, so many teachers say they do it for the kids. “We have to fight for the kids!” As if that is not the parent’s job. Surely parents are way more equipped than teachers to fight for their own kids, and teachers can and should get on with their lives doing something that does not assume parental incompetence.

There is a snowball effect for teachers who are looking for a way to justify their continued participation in a system that largely devalues them.

For example, I saw this quote over a teacher’s desk: “Teachers who love to teach teach children to love learning.” The quote assumes that kids are not born loving to learn. It’s a sad assumption. It assumes humans are not innately curious, which we know from the history of everything before the industrial revolution to be untrue. The aphorism also assumes that kids, left to their own devices, will stare at the wall all day instead of learning through play. Which is another thing we know to be totally untrue.

So teachers have to convince themselves that both kids and parents are largely incompetent at being their natural, curious and caring selves. This is sad because it is so obviously wrong, but it makes sense. Because people who feel confident, capable, and important do not continue working within an organization that everyone agrees is a total failure.

59 replies
  1. Karo
    Karo says:

    The Rockefeller quote is more troubling than that. It says that children need to be trained to become more efficient cogs in the wheel, ones that make fewer mistakes then their parents did while working the assembly lines. It is really about the commoditization of children and their brains into workers stripped of creativity and the chance of a better life beyond that of a factory walls.

  2. Ari
    Ari says:

    For those who want a book-length version of this blog, including the above quote, see the writings of John Taylor Gatto, in particular “Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” and “Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling”. Both are filled with excerpts from the folks at Rockefeller institute, Carnegie institute, Harvard, etc. creating the school system about how the ideal school will create the ideal subservient class.

    • Sarah L
      Sarah L says:

      I love those books! They confirmed one of my reasons for homeschooling our kids. Another is that they play and learn so well together (learning as they play, too), and I know that putting them in public school would result in the older kids not having much–or any–time to play with their younger siblings.
      I tried K12 last fall–for a month–to see if having teachers with better time-management skills would help us get more learning done in the average day. Problem was the workload was insane X 3 (3 kids enrolled), and so much of the work was a waste of time. We couldn’t keep up. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the fact that we can make it family-centered. The teachers at K12 were okay (some better than others), but it was pretty clear they considered it their mission to bring our children from the darkness of homeschooling to the enlightenment that came of being their students.
      And, from my own experience, I loved learning more before I started school. It was the one year that my mom homeschooled me (for 6th grade) that turned things around for me. After that, when I had to return to public school, I loved learning (again) in spite of school.

  3. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    I actually have quite a few teacher friends. Upwards of 20, if not more, at all levels (preschool through college) and the vast majority of them know that things are bad but won’t admit it, and when I mention some of the benefits of homeschooling, I’m shut down because I ‘didn’t go to teacher’s college, nor am I in the field’. The fact that I did graduate with a BA in English (meaning, I read…a LOT…about anything that interests me), or that I did teach for a few years as a self-employed college student in 2 very poor districts (before and after school, interacting with nearly 100 kids a day), and now homeschool doesn’t give me any credit in their minds.
    I almost never bring the topic of homeschooling up, even though I see great potential for their kids being homeschooled and thriving- the families, thriving. Just this morning I was talking to a friend of mine who was telling a mutual friend of ours she was glad [that the friend] was going to stop homeschooling that year and finally put her kids in school. She told her that her kids’ issues would go away with being in a structured classroom environment with a teacher. Sigh.
    This quote, ” People protect the idea of the school teacher like it’s part of the foundation of the thirteen colonies, inherent in the core of our American being. But it’s not. It’s actually the result of the destruction of family”…got to me because it’s basically what her opinion was, without ever coming out and saying it.

    • Jessica B
      Jessica B says:

      I have come to the realization that because I do not have a degree in education, it will not matter if I teach my own kids for 20 years. I will never be a teacher. I will never have credibility with “real teachers” nevermind I do have a Master’s degree. If my children go onto become great professionals, others will claim it was in spite of their homeschooling mother. I have the money (& I suppose I could make time) to go back to school for a degree in Education. My undergraduate university was well-known for its teaching program. So I once wondered in prayer about why I never felt a call to go get a degree in teaching if this was ultimately going to be my path. A few days later, randomly, the answer popped in my head:
      “You need to teach like a mother, not a teacher.” That has been on my heart since. A mother’s love for her children, a genuine dedication to their education and future, that’s the “teacher” I want to be.

      • katec
        katec says:

        I find it fascinating that none of the elite private high schools are interested in ed degrees. They want concrete subject knowledge not textbook methods courses.

      • Sarah L
        Sarah L says:

        “You need to teach like a mother, not a teacher.” Awesome. I needed to read that today. Thank you and God bless you and your family.

  4. Alice Bachini
    Alice Bachini says:

    This is why I left teaching, homeschooled and never went back to teaching. The same Victorian paternalism that colonised countries took over the family, and successfully brainwashed millions over the years by making us forget there was ever any alternative to schools. Sad.

  5. Heike M
    Heike M says:

    I certainly support what you are saying and it makes a lot of sense for parents that live in my upper income academic bubble. But I am not sure how that would work for lower income parents where it sometimes takes up to three jobs just to pay for basic necessities. Or are you not talking about that class?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have written a lot about how low-income people can homeschool. Here’s one:

      http://education.penelopetrunk.com/2013/11/05/how-to-homeschool-as-a-single-parent/

      But I think, actually, the most persuasive thing I can offer is that I had kids right after I lost my job that was across the street from the World Trade Center.

      After being a the site of 9/11 I knew I wanted to have kids, and I was too traumatized to leave the house to work. The combination of the two landed my family on public assistance in New York City for the first three years of my son’s life.

      Basically, I was living below the poverty line so that I could stay home with my son. It was not easy. But it was way easier than leaving him to go to work.

      It’s arrogant to think that only rich people can give their kids a full, engaging childhood. You don’t need very much money to feed and clothe your kids. Especially when you can live in the boondocks because you don’t need a good school.

      95% of the kids in our school district are on public assistance. That tells me there a communities of people who can live from a job at McDonalds. I am living in one.

      I think that people have very little framework for experiencing poverty so they assume that people in poverty can’t homeschool. They can.

      Penelope

      • amber kane
        amber kane says:

        I’d actually like to remove income from the conversation for a moment, as, I said in my last comment, income does not determine if I parent is a good parent.

        Income aside, unfortunately there are parents, that perhaps should have never had children, that would not do well with homeschooling. Parents that aren’t invested in their children, that wish they didn’t have children, that don’t have the patience or personality to homeschool.

        • Penelope Trunk
          Penelope Trunk says:

          That’s not a school issue, though. That’s a social services issue. I am hugely in favor of putting more money into social services for at-risk children. That’s totally different than putting all kids in publicly funded school.

          Penelope

          • amber kane
            amber kane says:

            It’s hard to put each thing into it’s own box. If there were no schools, who would let social services know that kids need help?

            And I would love to see more funding go into social services, thus far my experiences with social services helping students is poor.

            They are there to help students in very bad situations, but can’t do any for those that just have unsupportive, or uninterested parents.

            I don’t have all of the answers or know the solution. It however, needs to be more of a group effort to move forward, and help provide the best for all children, instead of pointing fingers at who is to blame, and what job is for whom.

          • Mark
            Mark says:

            Why do you believe that government social services can do a better job within their sphere than government schools have done in theirs?

      • cheddar
        cheddar says:

        The latest statistics from your school district indicate that 36% of students are eligible for free or reduced price school lunch. The eligibility standards are the same for food stamps and TANF. I’m wondering how this 36% statistic could be consistent with your claim that 95% of students are receiving public assistance.

      • Sarah L
        Sarah L says:

        Thank you for that! We are seriously hurting financially right now, and I’ve been looking for work that I can do when my husband is able to be here with our kids, because I homeschool. We have always been tight, though. That has never made me think we can’t homeschool, though. It just means that instead of buying pre-packaged curricula, we do most of our work using the internet (yes, we still have that, since my husband needs it for work) and the library. It’s amazing how much learning we can do without spending another penny. Plus, our four kids play so well together (learning as they play, too), and I know that if I put them in public school, the older two won’t have much (or any) time to play with the younger two.
        My homeschooling approach is part religious and part covering the basics and using those basic skills (the 3 r’s) to learn more about a variety of interests.
        Math has been a struggle for my oldest, so I’ll probably click on the article you’ve posted on teaching math. ;) All in all, I’ve been spending way too much time on your website this morning.
        But thank you, again!

  6. Julie
    Julie says:

    This piece reminds me of the book “Hold on to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More than Peers,” by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate.

  7. Weschool
    Weschool says:

    It always intrigues me how you say exactly what I’m thinking, when I am thinking it (albeit much better than I could have said it). I have a few degrees and many teaching licenses. I worked as a certified teacher for 9 years. I have two kids….I quit teaching in schools so that we can homeschool. I have read much from Gatto, Rothbard, Holt, etc, etc and can say that it is refreshing. It has all explained to me the “why” behind what I was feeling but couldn’t explain while I was in “the system”. We were never exposed to these authors in our teacher education classes. I never thought to seek it out. Partially, I think that I didn’t want to know “the other side”, if there was one, because honestly what would I do next? And, I was so thoroughly programmed and indoctrinated to believe that 1. without school, without teachers, kids can’t succeed, thrive,or even survive. 2. Parents don’t understand education and don’t care anyway 3. If it’s not researched and given approval by top educators it can’t work… Etc etc….. It has been like moving to a new planet becoming a homeschooler. It’s shattered every glass wall, ceiling, and door that being a public school student and a public school teacher so deliberately built up.

    The most critical point, which is what I thought when reading this post, is that the only way that the schools and teachers and politicians can get away with hijacking our children’s time, creativity, free-thought, and growth is if we let them. We only let them when we feel powerless, ineffective, incapable, and dumb. We feel those things as a result of our own destruction. The destruction of the family, of us, is exactly why schools exist.

    People keep telling me that schools are not about dumbing us down, but it’s so obvious (by the bold admission of the very people who started it) that it is exactly what schools are doing. And what makes me nuts is that the “dumbing down” has been so effective that we are now too dumb to see it…

    Thank you for these amazing posts. You are making a difference.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I like how you talk about politicians hijacking kids’ lives. This reminds me that being “pro-education” is always a safe way for politicians to get votes. But it shouldn’t be safe. It’s the kids who pay for those votes.

      Penelope

      • Mark
        Mark says:

        Yet you’re in favor of pouring more money into social services so that politicians — and unelected bureaucrats — can hijack kids’ lives. Why do you believe that more money will make the problem better? Do you believe that more money will make the public schools better?

        I think you may need to re-examine your premises about government competence.

        • Hannah
          Hannah says:

          I’m from the government, and I’m here to help :)

          In all seriousness, giving money to social services does not have to mean subjecting kids to government provided services. For example, not funding public school might mean that those funds could be spent directly on foster care (both screening, follow up and financial support for foster families) and rebuilding messed up families the lives of some of the most at risk kids would be greatly improved. In that case, the government would do more funneling of money than providing services.

          Maybe some similar solution might exist for first generation immigrant kids as well. Basically, the government funnels money to niche agencies to ensure that immigrant families have access to jobs, paperwork, housing, ELL, transportation and are getting plugged into faith communities (or at least some community), etc.

          If someone (not the government) provides government funded services for those kids, maybe we could do away with public schools. I know I didn’t address the low income kids or kids of single parent household issues which are the two other significant reasons that public schools exist.

          These problems are not a social services gap, but a financial gap for low income households and a time gap for single parent households. In both cases, relationships and networks are the only real way to solve the problem and no government policy or program can provide those no matter how well funded.

          • Mark
            Mark says:

            Unless we’re talking about taking millions and millions of kids away from their parents, foster care is a minuscule part of “social services.” I didn’t even remotely get the impression that foster care was the kinds of social service that was being suggested.

            I just think it’s odd that so many people say “government is terrible at this, government is terrible at that, government is terrible at the other thing, but if government just spent more money on the things *I* think it should, I bet it would solve the problem.” Even more egregious are the people who say “more money isn’t going to help the problems with public schools, but more money for X would.” It’s not sound reasoning.

            We’re stuck with having the government do some things, but since it breaks almost everything it touches, the fewer of those things it does, the better off we’ll be.

        • Hannah
          Hannah says:

          Sorry, my previous response didn’t make sense. I think we are on the same side, but I’m stating things stupidly, so let me try again.

          One reason that many politicians are pro-education is that it “levels the playing field” and it can be a backstop to something that economists call vicious cycles (of poverty, crime, etc).

          I’ve personally identified the four groups of children who are most likely to be victims of vicious cycles who need some sort of intervention in their lives.

          The four groups that I came up with are:
          1. Foster kids
          2. First generation immigrant kids (specifically refugees who don’t speak English)
          3. Kids from low income families
          4. Kids from single parent families

          I think spending money on groups 1&2 would have the “million dollar murray” effect (http://gladwell.com/million-dollar-murray/) whereby a targeted solution would ultimately be less expensive and yield better results than trying to make a level playing field for all the kids.

          But what about kids in groups 3&4? Its somewhat well documented that these kids are more likely to be victims of vicious cycles, and they also need to be supervised during the day so they don’t get taken advantage of. But I don’t think they will get “opportunity” through public schools but at least they get supervision.

          I also don’t think kids in group 3&4 will get anything more than supervision from increased or differentiated social services spending and you might have the unintended consequences that always accompany wealth redistribution.

          Free public schools for everyone is a bit more politically palatable way to spin wealth redistribution, and it ensures that the spending is on kids not adults which I think is a really important point.

          I guess all I am asking for is a politically palatable option for kids in groups 3&4 if you are going to honestly propose abolishing gov’t spending on public schools.

          And sorry if this conversation was not the intent of this post at all.

          • Amy
            Amy says:

            Thanks for being willing to share your ideas Hannah : ) You weren’t stating things “stupidly” at all and you don’t have to say sorry for anything. This is just a complicated question with no simple answers, and everyone sees things differently depending on thier own life experiences. Thanks again for being willing to share your thoughts.

  8. elina
    elina says:

    always love your counterintuitive view points, but you’ve lost me here. first i have to work, so i can’t spend time teaching my child at home and i am grateful that my tax dollars afford a solution. besides that fact, whenever i try to teach my son anything it’s a blank wall. but when a teacher shows him something, he’s just so open to it and it sinks in. parents role is to moralize and civilize the little beasts, it’s a full time job as is. The teacher’s role is to teach them the ABCs and hopefully how to think, though schools today don’t really focus on the latter.

    • mh
      mh says:

      elina,

      Wait… what?

      So moralizing and civilizing children is a parent’s full time job, ok.

      But not yours, because you work a full time job so you send your child to school to do the parent’s job of moralizing and civilizing.

      And that leads directly back to Penelope’s post, which says teachers are being used as a lesser stand-in for parents, which you say you disagree with.

      Or are you simply saying that you like sending your child-beast off to school because of the convenience of it?

      Please clarify.

      • elina
        elina says:

        wow…so glad you are not teaching my kids as your reading comprehension leaves much to be desired. i said as parents, our role “is to moralize and civilize the little beasts, it’s a full time job as is.” where did it say that i was excluded from that role? last time i checked i was a parent, too, so moralizing and civilizing is my other full time job on top of my other full time job which provides the basics for living. please read more carefully. i hope you are teaching your kids about reading comprehension as well.

  9. Christopher Chantrill
    Christopher Chantrill says:

    Robert William Fogel in his book on slavery, “Without Consent or Contract” points out that the industrial system was invented in the slave plantations. The plantation “gang system” was just a prototype of industrial factory discipline.

    Unlike the slave owners, the early manufacturers found that they could not get post-pubescent males to submit to factory discipline. But if all the kids go to school and learn factory discipline from their teachers, then children are prepared for work as nice obedient robots, as per Rockefeller.

    Note that “Prussian discipline” for soldiers in the armed forces also fits this model. But after World War I the Germans decided that robot soldiers couldn’t get the job done. The army needed “to make of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier.”

    The startup, entrepreneurial business model wants to do the same. But government and government schools do not.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      This is such a cool take on history. It sounds so true yet even as a history major in college I’ve never heard this laid out so clearly over the course of so many historical transitions. Thanks.

      Penelope

  10. redrock
    redrock says:

    I am probably missing the point you are making. However, I do not think that the post WWI soldiers were a prime example of the responsible soldier who is upstanding in character. After all, these are the troops who fought in WW II – following some of the most atrocious and inhumane orders ever given in the history of mankind.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      The question remains whether we want to take the military tactics developed by van Seeckt (as far as I know the citation about soldier education is ascribed to him) to advise us on education. Van Seeckt was certainly an outstanding military officer with a fine grasp of tactics – the preference of “educated” or in his words, well-trained soldiers was partially driven by the need to build a smaller, powerful army within the constraints of the Versaille treaty. He essentially built the army Hitler had at his disposal. In addition, van Seeckt was deeply anti-semitic and plaid an active role in the NSDAP after 1933.

  11. amber kane
    amber kane says:

    While I don’t totally agree, I love that I’m challenging by it. I am a teacher, that will openly tell you that the system is broken. And I can tell you that most days over lunch, a group of us talk, argue, and push for change. There is a lot that happens behind the scenes that parents and the public never hear about.

    As in all things, we must realize that it never works to discuss an entire group of people and pretend that they all have the same beliefs. We also cannot assume that we know and understand why all teachers are teaching or how they are teaching.

    Yes, the system is broken, however that does not mean that there are no good things happening in any classrooms, that does not mean that all teachers lack confidence.

    In a perfect would, all children would have parents that love them, that are invested in them, and that can help them to learn, explore and discover. We don’t live in a perfect world, so do not fault teachers for seeing that, and making an attempt to be there for their kids that have lackluster parents.

    Will I stay in the school system forever, no. I can see my passions moving, and my talents being more effective elsewhere. I’ve purchased a gallery, and am working to connect with homeschooling parents to bring art activities to their children.

    • Weschool
      Weschool says:

      Something I was reminded of… Whenever my fellow public school teachers tell me (I’m recently resigned so we can homeschool) that the system is broken, this is my reply (which I concluded after much research)–> The system is not broken. It is, in fact, succeeding brilliantly at exactly what it was created to do. If success is accomplishing exactly what one sets out to do,then the school system is a poster-child for success. “Take children away from their mothers as soon as possible so as to not let them be influenced by mothers’ beliefs” Check. “Create a streamlined, easy to maneuver population” Check. “Do not focus on higher education, intelligence, freedom but rather on compliance, group think, industrial skills.” Check. Until we all admit that we’ve been “had”, nothing will ever change. AND there is no way to change the current system until it’s origins are recognized and condemned. The system can’t be changed. It can only be bid farewell and demolished. We’ll then have to turn around and decide how each child will learn, which won’t be hard since they are innately programmed to seek out knowledge and to learn. So really what we’ll have to learn is how to unlearn everything we (the adults) believe about needing to “teach” children.

      The one thing that is preventing us from doing this? The false belief that parents aren’t qualified to teach their own children.

      • Jayson
        Jayson says:

        You forgot “instill patriotism for the home country”. This belief is crucial.

        It is the Prussian Education model that the US follows and has expanded. The goals are no secret. Free education comes with a price

        • redrock
          redrock says:

          so, the public or private schools are substituted by using internet resources. Those are not free of ideology, and they are driven by a system which wants to make money for building education, learning or whatever resources. Or the game company who wants to sell games. The idea that everything is now on this “internet” and can be googled does not mean that the intent is the betterment of education. Noble intent for delivering the perfect educational environment for exactly every single child is only demanded from schools and teachers.

          • Weschool
            Weschool says:

            Redrock, I’m really not clear on your point? If you are saying that homeschoolers all use internet-based curriculums like K-12, you would be mistaken. If you are saying that the information outlining fact that our school system is modeled after the Prussians can be found on the internet (among other places) that it is then untrue…also mistaken.

            Either way, I see you still missing the critical component to education….. Parents. It’s not that parents are critical to making teachers’ jobs easier or more effective. It’s that parents, using whatever resources meet the interests, needs, etc of their children are what kids need.

            Whether school teachers are aware or not (most are unaware, and I AM a former public school teacher with many licenses), we (teachers) will never be able to succeed at the dream of differentiated, interest-based, appropriately leveled-by-student education that we all strive for because the system was not structured to achieve that. Differentiation, teaching to the individual, encouraging free thought or critical thinking…NONE OF THESE WERE THE INTENDED PURPOSE OR AN ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME for the creators of the system. And just like a circus cannot be suddenly comprised of adults in business suits sitting at desks in the three rings and still be a circus (a form of entertainment) teachers cannot educate (grow, think, expand,etc) in a public school (a system for subduing, indoctrinating, and homogenizing.)

          • Weschool
            Weschool says:

            Redrock, after re-reading your text again… I that you are making the assumption that parents don’t have the ability to discern good from bad or true from false. That parents simply bring their kids home and then blindly teach verbatim some curriculum they pick off a list. And furthermore, that there is a homeschool “track” just like there is a public school “track”….

            So here’s the deal on all of that. Luckily, we haven’t gotten to the point where nobody can discern…. Yet…. A few more generations of public schooling will get us there. School teachers, especially now with Common Core, have pretty much no say in what they teach (even if they think it’s wrong, or know it’s propaganda they have to teach it). Some take “artistic freedoms” and even then there’s no guarantee of accuracy. Teachers are not experts, in most cases, in their subject areas. They are, in most cases, almost or complete experts on classroom management and curriculum coordination and adjudication…. I see no noble attempt at delivering a perfect environment or education in this set-up.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            no, I don’t make the assumption about parents not able to select the best materials for their kids (I realize my comment was not particularly clearly written…). I simply wanted to say that all resources used for teaching and learning are imperfect. School is imperfect, purely interest based learning is imperfect, in my opinion it is not a problem if kids and college students are exposed to some material they are not interested in at the time. Internet resources are often driven by an exploding industry of game producers and the like who just want to make money. I don’t think there is a perfect solution – but I also don’t think schools are the source of all evil, who suppress all and every creativity, and personally favor a more diverse approach of coexistence.

  12. Weschool
    Weschool says:

    Amber Kane, I did not intend that as a “reply” to you personally. I don’t know why it’s showing up that way? However, as a fellow teacher, feel free to respond :) Just know that my comments were not directed at you.

  13. amber kane
    amber kane says:

    Yes, perhaps schools are succeeding at what hey were originally created to do. However, they are not succeeding at educating or encouraging learning, which is what they say they intend to do.

    I believe that many parents are capable of teaching their children, however, there are many parents that are not, and that have no desire to do so.

    My mom is a teacher, and a great one. She was going to homeschool me in my younger years, but I would have none of it, I wanted to go to school, I wanted to be with classmates, I wanted to be taught by someone other than my mom. Also while, my parents always encouraged my in my love for art, both hate making things. They needed to seek out others to help to encourage my love for art and move my skills forward, which they did.

    The role of the teacher needs to change from someone that is just forcing information into students, but I don’t think that we should be striving to get rid of teachers, or making the teachers out to be the bad guys.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      Amber,

      I hear you saying something similar to what PT has said before – that school may still be necessary for some parents. She has expressed a vision before where parents who need it leave their kids in all-day school and those who don’t (the majority of middle to upper class parents) homeschool.

      Do you see a bifurcated role for teachers as well? Teachers could sometimes teach school for the inmates and sometimes class for the interested.

      I know that, in our homeschooling, we hire people who do or did teach at school to lead art or science classes.

      Some former teachers seem to be making a freelance career for themselves.

      • amber kane
        amber kane says:

        First I think that it’s important to acknowledge that there is not one right way , no matter your social class. Just because people have money, does not mean that they are a good parent, or that they would do well with homeschooling their children, and vice versa.

        I see things going many directions. I would love to see everyone working together more. Parents being more involved in schools, teachers being open and willing to help homeschoolers.

        Somewhere along the line it became a competition, where homeschoolers often hate the school system and the school system hates homeschoolers, or private options. I would like us all to realize that different options work for different people. We need to stop seeing options, or things that are different as a threat, and start seeing what we can learn from each arena. As all have their pros and cons.

        I myself am looking more into the freelance realm because I’ve reached the point that I still feel limited in the public school. I feel that I’ve pushed the boundaries as much as I can from within the walls, and that the structure of the day and the system feels limiting to my personality and my teaching style.

        • Mark W.
          Mark W. says:

          Amber, I just wanted to say how much I like your comment. It’s well said and puts the focus on the well-being and education of the children regardless of the method. One of my nieces is in elementary school. My brother and sister-in-law both have four year college educations. They could homeschool but their choice is public school. In fact, my sister-in-law is an assistant at a Montessori school and she does keep close tabs on my niece’s education. I once asked her if she ever considered homeschooling my niece. She laughed and asked me if I wanted to homeschool her. I don’t really think she meant it seriously so I asked her for a more honest answer. She said she didn’t believe she could teach her as well as her teachers in school. She added that there would be too much conflict between my niece and herself. I would also like to add she has some friends who homeschool or have homeschooled so the homeschooling concept is not foreign to her. This is my stance – education for the child that works best for them is the best solution. The adults are not the focus.

  14. Amy
    Amy says:

    “Surely parents are way more equipped than teachers to fight for their own kids …”

    Yes, most are. In my experience as a public school teacher, it’s not poverty that makes parents ill-equipped. Parents can be poor and still be great parents. Sadly, drugs, alcohol, and untreated mental health issues are the problems that I’ve seen most harming kids.

    I can’t even explain the harm that an alcoholic or addicted parent does day-after-day-after-day to a kid. (It seems to be especially bad if it is the mom that has the issues.) By the time that kid is 15-16, the stories he or she has could fill a book and make any grown person cry. And, if perchance the kid is now not an alcoholic or an addict themselves, they are likely having to act as a parent to their younger siblings and to the addicted parent.

    I know this discussion is about home-school being better for kids, but I know that the school I work at is a place for many kids to try to find just a bit of safety. I never focus on “educational systems” or “organizations” or who thinks what about them. I just focus on that one kid, that moment, that day. Maybe that’s what’s being laughed at here (“We have to fight for the kids!”) but I can tell you, there are kids out there that desperately need someone, anyone, any adult that can help make their life a little more safe, a little more sane, a little more like a kid’s life should be. Do I think I have to have a teaching license to do that? No. But I do, and I’m there, and I’m going to continue to do whatever I can for that one kid, that one moment, that one day, even if anyone thinks I shouldn’t because the “system” is messed up.

  15. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    “Kids don’t need teachers. Kids need parents.”

    Succinct.

    Teacher’s can provide value to a child’s life, but they don’t “need” teacher’s, they NEED parents… PERIOD.

  16. Karen Hasty
    Karen Hasty says:

    My son just turned 17 and has speech language impairment. Above average IQ. He is flunking 11th grade is miserable and distraught. I just quit my job so that I can home school him or he and I have also been discussing studying for GED. Could be some legal road blocks by the state on that not sure yet. Spring break just ended and I am not returning him to school. Thoughts, ideas, suggestions.

    • Ellen
      Ellen says:

      Karen, if you live in the U.S., you need to know your state’s laws regarding homeschooling. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, but each state has different requirements. If you do not already know your state’s laws, you can go to http://www.hslda.org and click on “my state” under Quick Navigation. After clicking on your state, you will find options for Laws and Organizations with further information. Many states have homeschooling advocacy groups that can help you. If you are already aware of and in compliance with your state’s requirements, then the next step is deciding what your goals are for your son. You’ve taken a big leap, leaving the familiar and traditional path, which can seem scary at first, but the further down the path you go, the more freeing and wonderful the journey can become. All the best to you and your son.

    • katec
      katec says:

      Google 2e learning. And SENG. Focus on his strengths, not his disability. So much of what happens in school focuses on remediation and forgets what’s really important – that we should define ourselves by what we can do, not what we can’t. It is tragic.

  17. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    This is a good argument for why we don’t need schools, but not for why we don’t need teachers. Sure there’s lots of things we don’t “need” but make life so much better. Anyone who’s had that experience of a teacher opening up their eyes to something new, giving a fresh perspective or getting you excited to learn about something you didn’t think you cared about will understand why there is such a strong urge to romanticize the teacher. And sure in this way a teacher is anyone who can coach, mentor and inspire – in fact for me Penelope is often that teacher. But there is something even more compelling about those who dedicate their days and lives to it. And indeed if everyone agrees that school is the total failure that you say it is, it like churches and institutional religion will fall by the wayside and naturally become less relevant to our day to day lives. Then those teachers can find new relevant places and ways to teach and inspire.

    • Mark
      Mark says:

      I had approximately 48 teachers between kindergarten and graduating high school.

      Three of the forty eight were exceptional. Forty five or so were run of the mill.

      My third grade teacher taught me middle school math during lunch. When a classmate tattled on me for reading a book while we were grading papers, the teacher told her, in front of the whole class, “Mark can do two things at once and do them both well. You worry about your own business.”

      My seventh grade math teacher let me work through the book without having to pay attention to her and she answered my questions before or after class.

      My sophomore English teacher let me — encouraged me — to do different, more advanced writing assignments than the rest of the class.

      Three out of forty eight, even given the small sample size, isn’t enough for me to risk my kids’ educations for the prestige, employment, or benefit of the doubt for teachers.

      • mh
        mh says:

        It is now more or less illegal for a public school teacher in Texas to alter the curriculum or give a child extra work without an IEP. Your thoughtful, memorable, exceptional teachers would probably be written up for treating a student today the way you were treated.

        My Texas schoolteacher relative has said that even simple discipline depends on the child’s IEP.

        My question: if every child ( gifted, typical, and challenged) is on an IEP, why not hire tutors instead of teachers?

        If we HAD to recreate public school from the ground up, would we go with the model we currently have?

        Almost certainly not.

        Then why are education functionaries so desperate to defend the status quo?

        I keep asking myself: Don’t they see what the rest of us see?

  18. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I didn’t read all the posts so if this topic was touched, I apologize in advanced. What about kids who are 1st generation American? I’m one of those “kids” My mom is from the former Czechoslovakia. She went to the school in Europe and when I was a kid, she couldn’t help me with certain subjects like English and American History. She knows how to read and write English and knows her fair share of American History but not enough to help me as I got into middle school. Which got me thinking. What about other 1st generation kids? Are they the only ones that really need a traditional school to learn since their parents don’t have the “American” education to teach to their children or otherwise homeschool?

  19. Anastasia @ eco-babyz
    Anastasia @ eco-babyz says:

    Penelope, love this post! It is absolutely true. I think public education is at the core of tearing apart families.
    If you haven’t yet, you ABSOLUTELY NEED TO see and write about “Building the Machine” movie! Have you seen it? It’s a short documentary about Common Core, it would be awesome if you drew some attention to it. People need to know about this! Most parents are clueless and don’t know what’s really going on. You can watch at commoncoremovie.com

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