Imagine a company that cannot fire people for low performance. The company wouldn’t make money, right? And high performers wouldn’t want to work there because they’d have to be with low performers.

So in almost every work environment, people get fired for low performance, for not doing what their boss wants, for not operating the way the company wants. This is why Marissa Mayer ruled out telecommuting at Yahoo,  and why the company’s stock went up after she made that change: commitment matters, and weeding out low performers works.

But not in schools. In California, as in most states, tenured teachers get fired at the rate of less than 1%, thanks to teachers unions. Which means there is no culture of firing the lowest performers. Teachers argue that they can’t focus on teaching if they have to worry about losing their jobs, an argument that underlines the core principle of school: teachers think they are replacing parents. If you have a job in any other sector, you have to worry about being let go all the time. If you are a parent, you never worry about being let go. (You are stuck, actually.)

Mayors and governors who have tried to wrestle the teachers’ union have had little success. The teacher unions are strong politically. But more importantly, the parents feel that if they admit their local teachers are sub-par then they’d have to admit that their kids spend eight hours a day with a poor teacher. That’s a hard pill to swallow. So while parents agree in principle that bad teachers should be fired, parents don’t want to see their particular child’s teacher fired for not teaching anything the year their kid was in school.

Which brings us back to California: If you sue someone in the US, you have to have a plaintiff, and the plaintiff for this case is the kids. So kids are suing California public schools for not firing teachers. It’s a great lawsuit, but here’s the rub: The only way the kids have a lawsuit is that the test scores for third and fourth graders hold the teachers accountable. And the teachers failed by those standards.

So the very same parents who are opting out of testing because it’s a waste of their kid’s time are the parents who are going to benefit from the testing, because otherwise there are no grounds for suing over permitting the outrageous demands of teachers unions at the expense of kids.

To be clear, here is what you should notice:

1. We need testing to push through school reform. No testing means no metrics for proving the need for change.

2. We need to have kids suing teachers to instigate the reforms. There’s no change without a lawsuit and there’s no lawsuit without a plaintiff.

3. To get grounds to sue, kids must take tests and then accept their own teachers as adversaries. So kids spend eight hours a day in school amidst unstable relationships with poor teachers, all in the name of reforming a public school system.

And the worst part: No one even has a plan for how to reform school once we can start firing teachers. So let’s say we eliminate testing and tenured teachers. What do we install in the current system? The research says we need self-directed learning. But there is no path to that, even in the most wide-reaching of all school reform plans.

All we have right now is kids as guinea pigs and plaintiffs for a society wrestling with the problems of a failing publicly-funded education system.

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56 replies
  1. BenK
    BenK says:

    I think you misidentify the source of the tenure issue. Tenure was developed to enable scholarship, so that thinkers were given the freedom to ask uncomfortable questions. Security was considered key to honesty. That is presently being undermined – the need for external funding, political correctness, eternal victimhood. However, it is totally irrelevant in grade school. There, tenure is an inaccurate and inappropriate mark of scholarship meant to convey a false sense of distinction. There are many appropriate distinctions for an educator, but to pretend that they are investigating on the boundaries of new, socially dangerous understandings is not one of them.

  2. Jeff T
    Jeff T says:

    Do you (or anyone) agree with John Taylor Gatto’s analysis that says reforming schools isn’t an option because schools today aren’t fundamentally broken, but are instead doing what they are supposed to, which is make kids obedient and tolerant of tediousness?

    It’s depressing to think this way, but I feel that it is true. I don’t want to reform school, but just end school. I don’t want to fire some school teachers, but all school teachers.

    That would be a reform towards self-directed learning IMO.

    (Me: homeschooler of 3)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yes, I totally agree. I meant to show, in this post, how ridiculous it is to make kids sue their teachers in order to reform school.

      I think we should scrap the idea of public school. Parents who can handle being parents should homeschool. Parents who are overwhelmed with being parents can send their kids to a social services program for eight hours a day of free parenting.

      If we start calling school what it is — a substitute for parenting – then people who are capable of keeping their kids home will do it. And we’ll have money to support kids who don’t have adequate parenting.

      Penelope

      • Becky Castle Miller
        Becky Castle Miller says:

        This is a great, concise articulation of your position on education reform, Penelope. I think your comment here should be a post itself.

        Here’s my question on implementing this idea: who determines which parents should be keeping their kids home and which ones should send their kids to the parenting substitute?

        Do the parents decide? Do the kids get to decide? Does CPS decide?

        Many homeschooling parents are great parents and great teachers (mine were – glad I was homeschooled). Others are homeschooling as part of an abusive family/religious culture. The kids are not safe at home, even though the parents want them at home.

        The parents who want to keep the kids at home and not always good parents. The parents who want to send their kids away are not always bad parents. So how should the decision be made if this sort of reform were enacted?

        Curious to hear your further thoughts.

        • Jessica
          Jessica says:

          Yes, I too would love to read a post taking that comment further. Perhaps another link with that comment and then Education: Reformed. Where we can all contribute to this idea and hammer out the practicalities. It would be a great source of thought to further implement in our lives. And it would also give the naysayers or mis/uninformed a logical guide to what we can and need to do as a society.

        • Mark
          Mark says:

          The parents decide.

          If the state can prove some facts that objectively support the word “abuse,” then the children shouldn’t be in the home. Absent that, people should butt out.

          • Veggal
            Veggal says:

            But to that point, we have to determine where to draw the line at abuse. As a parent I cannot fathom how someone goes to the store and buys a wooden spoon specifically for the purpose of disciplining their child, however many people say “my parents did that to me and I turned out fine.” On the other hand I’ve heard recent studies say that yelling is the same as hitting, and I tend to yell when I get angry.

      • Mijntje
        Mijntje says:

        Hello Penelope,

        First of all, I’m Dutch and not a native English speaker so if my grammar is incorrect in some places I’m sorry.
        I just read your opinion on public schools and I really have to disagree with it.
        Public school isn’t some free day-care you send your kids too, in my opinion a teacher role is very different from a parent role.
        Teachers are educated to pass over knowledge to children, and to make sure all children in their class are of a minimum basic level of knowledge so they won’t have any problem following future education.
        A parents role is to nurture and protect the child, and while to some extent a teacher will make sure the children are happy, it’s not to be compared with each other. The parent should be the child’s safe haven, the parent should provide a comforting and loving environment.
        On the other hand, a parent might have a lot of trouble educating a child and making sure it’s book knowledge is decent.
        In the Netherlands home schooling is not allowed (except in very special cases) and the government has good reasons not to. Children would vary greatly in level of knowledge because some parents would put a lot of time in educating their child and some would neglect it, and, let’s face it, some parents just wouldn’t be smart enough to educate their child. It would be unfair to the children who really want to study, have the capacity, but not the right parents for the job.
        Monitoring the education level of the children would also be a lot harder to do if they were all home schooled.
        I think public school shouldn’t be viewed at as a free day-care center but as a place where children have equal opportunities regardless of socio-economic status.
        However, public schools should be monitored closely to see if they’re up to par.

        • Jessica
          Jessica says:

          Hi mjnte,

          Very interesting perspective! The public schools in America are incredibly different from the ones in Europe. There isn’t an implicit trust that our government will take care of us (in the form of a respectable education). This is why anyone that can afford private schools (the educated and wealthy) pay for them.

          Primarily though, in America, it is to each their own. School, healthcare (every doctor), vacation time (most max at 10 days and work in service industries forget about any), so on. So the need to be sure we set our children up on a good path is high. It’s not handed to anyone at any fundamental level as such in Europe.

          With that said, our public education system sucks. No one questions that. Even the people that run our education system want ‘reform”. That’s not just the opinion of P.

          P’s opinion that parents know best when it comes to children’s education is backed up by evidence and data as laid out across her blog.

          After my own experiences in public and private American schooling and public English schooling, I understand where you are coming from. Being outside and looking in there is an assumption that the two are the same, they are radically different. Anothe thing I noticed is that Europe cares much more about the mother and child than America. But this is evidenced by a large amount of government programs,.

          It’s just a much more radically different way of thinking than General Europe , because we put so much more dependence on the Self. Eventually adding to the whole and not the whole adding to the Self.

          • Mijntje
            Mijntje says:

            Yeah, there’s definitely a huge difference between America and Europe education wise.
            I think in most European countries good education is easier to get than in America, and I think America could maybe learn a thing or two from the European school system rather than rely on home schooling. It’s not that I think home schooling is bad, I just think in some cases it could be unfair to children of less intelligent or less involved parents.
            But yeah, reforming a very large school system is very hard so it’s easier said then done.

        • Commenter
          Commenter says:

          I don’t know if you’ve heard the phrase “apples and oranges,” Mintje. The Dutch school system and the American are two different kinds of things. Defending the American school system on the basis of your familiarity with the Dutch is ridiculous.

          I think most of us would be happier if the American school system were as good as the Dutch system. But it’s not, and it’s getting worse rather than better.

          We are not homeschooling as an alternative to the Dutch system but to the American system. I tried sending my son to public school here but he experienced such traumatic levels of stress from violence and bullying that he has nightmares about it three years later. He was also horribly bored by the slow-moving academics; the only ‘advanced’ track here is the same stuff at the same pace, but with three times as much homework. Speaking for myself, if my family lived in Holland, or Switzerland, or Denmark, or Germany, my children would be in public school and we would all be reasonably happy about it.

          If you really knew what our schools can be like you would agree with us. You say “a teacher is educated…” but I remember having to bring a dictionary to school in sixth grade so I could show my teachers the words I used in my essays and they’d stop marking them wrong. I had many teachers whose real educational level was below high school, and when it dawned on them that I was already better educated than them (my mother has a PhD) they always became abusive.

          In my son’s school most of the kids came early because they had no breakfast at home and the school gave them a free breakfast of really bad food like you’d get on a cheap airplane, nothing fresh. They keep the school partially open in the summer so they can still eat. This is nice for them, but it is a different purpose for a school than you have in Holland. In Holland you first of all don’t have the huge impoverished class we do here and second have social services outside of the school system to take care of those children. We don’t, and so a large part of the school system is dedicated to these other social needs.

          We also have a very different society in America than you do in northern Europe. One of the differences is career flexibility: you have a much greater tendency to be trained in one thing and then to work in that one thing. We do not have this tradition, but must always invent and reinvent ourselves, bypass qualifications and standards, and improvise. I had, as a PhD in literature, a rewarding career in statistics and logistics engineering. My wife, with a degree in music theory, has made a wonderful career in business. The work world we train for is one in which our inherent abilities and characteristics are more important than our degrees. I’m not sure it’s the same in Holland.

          Penelope’s perspective, although extreme and sometimes hyperbolic, is a rational response to the situation we find ourselves in in America. We cannot change the schools we have access to through hope and good will; they are bigger than we are. In many cases, teaching our children at home provides a far better education that our children could get in our public school system.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            Schools do not exist in a vacuum – they always reflect the status of the society we live in. And the US is a society with considerably more social extremes than the Netherlands, or Germany. But, if you go to the cities with high unemployment rates in France, Germany and such you will find similar issues you see in the US schools. Classes where 70% of the students don’t speak the respective countries language, or students who don’t get enough food at home – and this is a big issue. However, this should be seen as a problem of society as a whole and not just an isolated issue of teachers not performing. And just to throw in another piece of information: in Germany the teachers have tenure for life usually the moment they are hired, and they make a reasonable salary for the whole year and not just the 9 months or so of the school year. Nonetheless parents complain still a lot about teachers if the kid is not perfect….

        • Weschool
          Weschool says:

          In all of my research on the origins of public schooling, there is no country that is better than another for two reasons…. The State is in charge and the kids are separated from their parents/families…. No State “cares” about the well – being of children, or any citizen, out of the goodness of it’s heart because a State does not have a heart…. it’s an entity which will inevitably always go to its administration interest or the “greater good”, but never to the individual… Therefore, while some countries’ systems may be better in one area or in many areas it is misguided to believe that public schooling (in any country) is better for children than individualized, freely – chosen and non-state-funded/run education (ex. homeschooling)

        • Jessica
          Jessica says:

          Can’t reply to your reply so posting here.

          I think also the approach in education and life in General is just so culturally different. We value different things. One of my biggest observations living there was that life was easier. I didn’t have to schedule doctors (they send you notices! Amazing! But if you don’t show up watch out for the questions, lots of questions!) the school provided any extras to my kid no questions (a tutor) each establishment had baby changing facilities (small detail but still!) , being paid monthly really changes your perspective on time and purchases, Not as many fast food places, restricted television for kids (kids channels off at 6pm!), rushing out of stores so they can close prior to their closing time, just a general awareness of everyone else’s time. When I came back to US it was really interesting to me to notice just how much we have to plan our own lives and think things through. Then I realized all the benefits I was enjoying in UK was due to government regulations, which really defines ones life there. So in a way I see the benefit and on the opposite end I see the benefit of the complete freedom of the US. Over here it’s about total responsibility, no one or program has your back if life falters or you miss plan so for a lot it’s tough.

          We have 80000 people in solitary confinement, we have an atrocious prison system. We have a homeless population three times the size of your country. We have real winners and real losers here. And when dealing with that being a term for a life, it’s quite sad. So basically, im of the opinion we need reform in more ways than one but as you say education is for people with less opportunity and chance that’s more of a social services issue than a formal classroom issue. We have a lot of kids that need to be rescued in a sense and school is just not the place that will help most of them.

          Sorry this was quite a ramble but I hope you understand my sentiment.

    • Weschool
      Weschool says:

      I completely agree with the idea that schools are not broken or failing. They are succeeding, brilliantly at exactly what they were created to do…. so much do that we don’t even want to believe it when it is shown to us because we have been taught that schools are all about everyone gaining knowledge and critical thinking skills. .. it’s a ruse, a sham, and a distraction. We become distracted thinking that if the school wants the best for us and we are not becoming the best then there must be something wrong with us…. then we start the infighting while the Rockefellers, and the Gates’ et al sit around over a brandy and a cigar and watch us all fight with each other…. The only way to “reform” the system is to say bye bye to it… or, as others have said, call it what it is —– state-sponsored childcare

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Gates kids don’t go to public school. The Richie Riches of the world don’t send their kids to public school. Ok, so I don’t either, but the conversations that we all have here are way more relevant than theirs. I don’t consider them qualified to make judgements on this topic.

        • Weschool
          Weschool says:

          I see your point, however the relevance of their discussion lies in the fact that they run the public school system….

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Ah yes I see. I have spent time with people in that hemisphere, they love saying cool things like “Reform public schools!” and then talking about the awesome things they said and clanking their glasses of wine in celebration. Meanwhile, nothing changes.

          • Weschool
            Weschool says:

            And I have to believe that success of the schools in creating people who do what they are told (Rockefellers) and are now submitting to unprecedented big government/corporate control(Gates) all while the population points fingers among themselves is rather satisfying to them (Rockfeller family, Gates, et al)

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Yup, they love sheeple. But they love free thinkers too… there are too few of those at the moment. But trust me, any new flavor of the month and they get all crazy about it… Although, this is a big part of why I homeschool/unschool, the ability to think freely and customize a focus for each of my three kids.

  3. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    I think the real key to school reform is having a vision for what reform will look like.

    I see a lot about why natural learning fails in classroms: For example, this link:

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201311/the-reading-wars-why-natural-learning-fails-in-classrooms

    But What is the goal of a school or even of a childhood? Do schools have to be composed of classrooms? Can self directed learning happen safely with minimal adult supervision and instruction? Does instruction matter?

    Pitting kids against teachers is too anti-authoritarian for me and leads to quickly to the conclusion that kids know better than adults.

    Although I believe in natural learning and interest based learning, I also value instruction for kids. Perhaps this worldview comes from one of my Dad’s favorite scriptures, Deuteronomy 6.

    http://biblehub.com/niv/deuteronomy/6.htm

    I guess I didn’t suggest any solutions. I merely stated the belief that this problem can be solved without a Revolution reminiscent of the Communist Revolution.

    • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
      YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

      I think the fact that I homeschool is a scream of anti-authoritarianism… it IS revolutionary and not all revolutionaries are reflective of communism. Revolutions have happened since recorded human history and that is how societies changed and progressed.

      So the real key to reform is not just having a vision, because everyone has different visions. The goal is to collapse the current system and start fresh… anything else is like putting band aids on top of gaping flesh wounds.

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      The teacher is a random person selected by someone other than the parent to be with the child eight hours a day. Forcing the child to blindly trust someone that their physical mental and emotional needs will be met during the 35 hour weeks, at a young age, reinforces the notion that kids can’t be trusted and must rely on strangers to meet those needs.

      My child is 6. I took him to a childrens museum the other day and watched him be bullied by another parent. She used several manipulative techniques to try to get what she wanted when she wanted it (even tried to make him feel too old for the activity he was engaging in) and was extremely persistent. I was tempted to step in an intervene several times (I normally would) but I didn’t because I trusted that my child could handle an abusive adult and keep his boundaries. He did. He addressed her directly, he held his position, he went on with his activity. It was amazing to see this person seem to get more riled up with that. I bit my tongue and stepped back once I noticed he could hold his ground with her. She was trying to embarrass him but he wasn’t having it, he just ignored her comments and kept playing. Afterwards, I was so impressed I told him that he handled the woman exactly how he should and what he did was right. He wrapped his arms around and hugged me and said yeah mom that lady was nuts. Then we moved on. I was there to be his support if things continued to escalate, and I wouldn’t be there in school if the same situation occurred with another adult (even ‘authority figure’) I think too many people look at children as pushovers and that their feelings and thoughts don’t matter. Raise kids that they do, and their world and yours will be much easier to handle.

  4. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    So, you are in favor of testing kids in public schools? I hadn’t really thought about it till the other day when I read Michelle Rhee’s article saying she supported it, and then I saw that linked in your post and now I am thinking more about this. My usual position is if you are going the public school route then you agree to the testing, I mean, you are already giving up so much putting them in that environment why get all upset over testing? Hasn’t there always been testing since NCLB? The argument seems specious. It’s not grading the kids, it’s grading the teachers, it’s not like the SATs (which won’t matter soon anymore either). So what’s the problem?

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      There’s an insoluble contradiction in the concept that only through more testing can schools be saved.

      It’s like burning the village to save it.

      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Or maybe, without any testing we can all move forward in saying that public school is really a baby sitting service? Would that be a stretch?

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Yeah, that’s my point. But also, the idea that we are holding teachers accountable for making public school work is absurd. It doesn’t work. We don’t have enough money to make it work. I can’t believe we need lawsuits to show that public school doesn’t work.

        We should replace public school with social services that get kids alternative models for parenting for eight hours a day. Then we can start evaluating the parenting providers on if they are providing better parenting than the kids would get at home.

        Penelope

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          We may be approaching that tipping point sooner than we think… too many bubbles on the cusp of bursting, college loan debt in the trillions, the end of the industrial age… all these different strands are starting to be interwoven and a collapse will happen in our lifetime. It will lead to the next age of “whatever” the next path is for humanity. I want to be on the forefront of that. Education is the key, home education and learning in life… not staring at textbooks in classrooms for 8 hours a day.

          Just my observations…

  5. redrock
    redrock says:

    so, everybody loves the netflix video about corporate culture – but it promotes that you can only succeed (and be employed) at the company if you go for their corporate identity 150%. They want independent thinking – but only if Netflix is your life’s identity. Fit to corporate culture is excessively important – at some point lack of fit to corporate culture is equated with low performance. Do we want that in school teachers? Tenure to some degree protects from that (yes, I agree that it has been misused) – but everybody thinks they know how teaching works, the parents (why do you not teach what I think my kid needs? why do you disagree that my kid is a genius?), the kids, the grandma, the person in the other school, the administrator, the school board – how can a teacher develop their own style, their strengths in the classroom if they can be fired at any time? There are ways (and there should be, no question) to fire poor and abusuve teachers, even those with tenure. But we also should give teachers some support – it is a very hard job to do and a very hard one to do well. How many of those who complain about teachers have ever tried to teach?

    • Weschool
      Weschool says:

      I have taught (9 years in public elementary). My experience is that there are very few teachers who are actually there for the kids. Many are there because they like telling people what to do, others because they like their subject of interest (math, history, whatever) and want to share it, others because they have a martyrdom complex, and yet others because they want to eventually be principals. Some are there because they truly want to meet each child where they are at and help that child to be everything they can be, no matter what that is. Those teachers, who are in it for each individual kid, are rare and they burn out quickly because the fight for the child is beyond exhausting. There is so much pressure to just go with it and to save yourself. If you are in it for each child as an individual, you are the few. We are too hard on teachers when we expect them to take over our parenting responsibilities, because that is an exercise in futility. We are not nearly hard enough on teachers when we feed into their martyrdom complex. It’s only hard to be a teacher when nobody around you is actually focused on the child.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        are there teachers who feel sorry for themselves? Sure. Some demands from the unions go too far, that is how you enter a negotiation – you start high and at some point you get an agreement. However, teacher salaries are rather on the low end, the job is tough, it is impossible to be a substitute parent, but a teacher is a teacher and not a social worker or psychologist. And a hell of lot of anger is directed at teachers – teachers are not responsible for everything which goes wrong with a kids education, after all the parents also have a job to accomplish. Low salaries and a lot of frustration, very judgmental parents and press – this does not usually support high performance in the job. We cannot expect perfection and angel like performance from ALL teachers, there a good ones, superb ones, and yes, some who are not cut out for the job.

        The Micron approach of constant threat of job loss, ranking, automatic cuts of a predefined percentage makes for a climate where collaborations and working together is absent since it is not beneficial to securing your job.

        • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
          YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

          I am fine with that scenario, even more of a reason to topple the system. We will always have life lines for the poor, but it’s time for this behemoth to be laid to rest.

  6. Cate
    Cate says:

    I totally disagree with your premise that teachers are inadequate. What has failed kids is systematic and not attributable to poor teaching. By the way, if you have been following the school reform debate, you will have seen that teachers have lost any independent ability to create curriculum. They must march in lockstep with company-created manuals and have little freedom. Likewise, we handicap them with several problems: too many kids of varying abilities in their classroom, who may or may not be ready to learn (needs glasses, can’t hear, hasn’t slept b/c parents fighting all night, no food in the house), and then we say: you are responsible for their outcomes. Well, then, let’s give them actual freedom to teach! I grew up with a mom who taught in urban schools, and experienced all these problems, but decades ago, she had the freedom to create projects, curriculum, etc., to address her actual student’s needs, rather than having to move on to Lesson 27, regardless of readiness, because the principal/admin/school board, etc. has mandated that everyone must be doing such-and-such at this time.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      I agree that blaming teachers for everything is the wrong path to take. And we have to accept that teachers don’t have to be super-people but can have their weaknesses just like everybody else.

  7. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Ok, so steve jobs thought we should take the tax money back from the government, roughly 5k a student per year, and create our own form of education, or social services.

    I think if we had children at birth knowing we had the ability (most people seem blind to this) to choose various forms of educational child care (however the approach manifested) under the same cost umbrella, we would have more proactive society in creating new educational environments. That’s the primary problem- it is the illusion that our school childcare is free, so most just defer to that. And because they are already ‘paying’ for it via the taxes they feel like they should at least get something from it.

    I just think things would change much quicker with this approach, generally people want a good deal and school is a very bad one.

    • Hannah
      Hannah says:

      This is the best idea I’ve heard yet. Not school vouchers. Childcare vouchers.

      Parents can choose what is best for their kids given the cost constraints.

  8. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Haha p,

    I clicked over to your blog after writing that comment.

    ‘There’s a high price to hiding from the need to transition’

    Touché.

  9. Kathy Donchak
    Kathy Donchak says:

    I love this post. I think you are on to something with the public services angle, but the main problem is that public school is geared toward challenges populations, and the test scores of a school (instead if an individual) are largely dependent on the children that are at the greatest risk improving. If a child in an AP class score stays the same or improve it effects the total scores of the school as a whole very little (at least in Texas). So we have parents that move into a nice school district to buy a McMansion, and send their kids to school for free. They want one thing from that school, that is funded to do the exact opposite since large districts make centralized decisions. I am not saying it is wrong – it just is. The system cannot support two different objectives – Advanced College Readiness and supporting challenged populations. In my opinion that is why charter schools are thriving. They are specialized in the way the large consolidated public schools cannot be.

  10. Jim Gilbertson
    Jim Gilbertson says:

    I agree with this. I am a parent of two and I am thinking of home schooling them.

    I think the most important thing is that we continue to teach our kids good manners and right conduct.

    Thanks!

  11. Mark
    Mark says:

    @Mijntje:

    Who said life is fair?

    Apart from that, who are you to judge what is “fair” or allowable for someone else’s kids? If you don’t think it’s “fair” for someone you don’t consider smart enough to homeschool, that’s fine. That doesn’t mean it’s your place, or the government’s place, to do anything about it.

    What if someone didn’t think you were smart enough to raise your kids. Should that person have the power to take them away from you?

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      What if someone didn’t think you were smart enough to raise your kids. Should that person have the power to take them away from you?

      In the EU, the government does have that power and they do exercise it. A doctor, a teacher, a police officer, a librarian, anyone with any authority in any setting has the power to witness parental behavior and request a social services intervention. Social services follows up each case and does a thorough investigation of the child, the family relations, the school observations, so forth….they judge if the child is currently at risk, or if the child is at risk of something happening in the future (emotional, physical, sexual abuse- yelling is in this category). Either way a plan is put in place and must be followed by the family.

      For example, I just met a lady visiting from Switzerland. She is here for one month and the Swiss gov demanded their child attend local schooling while they are away.She put her daughter in school because when she gets back, if she hadn’t, she would be deemed an unfit parent. Her other son is slower in the speech department, so when she went to the doctor (he’s 2) and the doctor couldn’t get the boy to speak directly at him he demanded they get him speech therapy 2 a week. so now she HAS to do this. She has friends calling her with her mail to be sure she doesn’t miss anything govt related, which is everything.

      • Commenter
        Commenter says:

        There’s another peculiar thing about Switzerland requiring the child attend an American public school for a month: when Swiss and other European kids come here for a year’s exchange program they have to repeat the year in school when they go home, because our school system is so crappy it doesn’t count as school. So being in school that doesn’t even count as school is better, per the Swiss state, than not being in any school.

        I wonder if it would be possible to arrange an exchange year for a Swiss kid to hang out with my homeschooled son doing his stuff, since school here doesn’t count anyway. I bet there’d be hell to pay.

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        who has the power to contact social services in the US? Cannot anybody who witnesses or thinks he/she witnesses child abuse contact the authorities?

    • Jonatan
      Jonatan says:

      @Mark

      If you take time to read Mijntje’s whole post, you will find that she never does say life is either fair or unfair :). As an answer to the “who are you to… etc.” She is a person who is entitled to her opinion, which is: people should be able to rely on a public school system primarily for education, instead of homeschooling. She does not argue that home schooling is always a bad thing.

      As for your third point, it is the government’s task to protect it’s civilians. If a civilian happens to be a child of yours and you are unable to either educate or even raise a child, I think it’s a good thing that the government can either assist you or even take over your role as parent. Of course if and only if it is for the childs sake. Which means you would have to fail really bad at being a parent, which is not a rare case, even though a genious crackhead can be a great homeschooler. Of course, you might disagree with me on this point, but that’s ok :).

      • Mark
        Mark says:

        The implication of writing that something is “unfair” is typically that it should be made fair. Otherwise, why make that moral judgment in the first place? In this context, the relevance of its being “unfair” to some children if their less “qualified” parents homeschool them pales beside the “unfairness” of genetics and economics.

        I never said she wan’t entitled to her opinion. I would, however, argue that she isn’t entitled to impose that opinion on others. She writes, “In the Netherlands home schooling is not allowed … and the government has good reasons not to.” She goes on to write why she believes this is a good policy.

        If you take time to read my whole post, you will find that I never write that she argues that home schooling is always a bad thing.

        “Of course if and only if it is for the childs sake.” Spoken like someone who’s never had to deal with CPS. The bureaucracy is more important than the children.

      • Weschool
        Weschool says:

        Jonatan, “… it is the government’s task to protect it’s civilians. “….. Are you kidding? The government does not and will not ever protect… At its best it will allow you to think it is protecting you (FDA, ICE, FDIC, etc). This is exactly what is wrong with the education system. It “educates” people to believe that 1) “It” is capable of feelings or empathy, or even thought… it’s an entity, a machine. 2)”It” uses its (non-existent) empathy and feelings to do what is best for you. 3) “It” should be defended by its citizens (regardless if it is doing right or wrong) at all cost…. The first cost usually being logical thought, and the second being common sense. ..

        It’s human to seek out security. It’s misguided to find in any government….

  12. redrock
    redrock says:

    AS far as I understand Mintje is not suggesting to police parent quality and smartness. But I understand her comments as coming from someone who sees school as save place for children to learn – math, writing, reading, foreign languages. And as an opportunity for children to learn something their parents cannot teach them – the view of school presented here by many is the evil place where children are violated and morphed into little monsters. However, school can also be seen (and I personally also think this should be the core business of school) as a place where kids acquire a knowledge base. I can hear the answers already: but my kid will never need math and is not interested in it so it should not have to learn it, and these comments show the general difference to the more european centric view of school. There is a general acceptance in many european countries that kids should acquire a basic canon of knowledge to give them a good start in the world. It is a much less individualistic approach to schooling in general.

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      There is a general acceptance in many european countries that kids should acquire a basic canon of knowledge to give them a good start in the world…

      yes but now that the flow of knowledge is much more accessible, how will that (well roundedness) keep their citizens relevant/competitive in 20 years?

      I’m now thinking that since our society’s production output is just so high, it comes down to a time management issue within schooling. We are wasting a lot of unnecessary time in the current dated model(s).

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        not sure about the competitiveness argument – at the moment european countries with their more rigid (there is definitely less of the testing craziness going on in the US, so in some respects it is probably less rigid) approach to curricula and schooling in general are highly competitive in many parts of the workforce. I don’t really see the US passing the average european country by a significant margin anytime soon.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      There’s a lot of diversity among homeschoolers. Some of us are homeschooling not because our public schools provide too much of a knowledge base, but too little.

      I don’t know whether our American public schools are irremediable, but I know this will not happen within my son’s childhood. If I want him to have the foundation I have and think is useful, I have to either find and pay a private school that will provide this, move to Europe, or provide it myself.

      In our majority poor public school system, an upper-middle class kid does little but sit in the corner while the teacher addresses the kids who “really need her.” There’s no attempt whatsoever to meet the kid where he is – if he can complete the dumbed down curriculum, he’s written off as okay. In fourth grade, they get the opportunity for “advanced work,” which means the same slow pace as everybody else, but with more homework.

      I’m not as opposed to school in all its forms as many homeschoolers. For my son right not it’s not right at all. If he had the opportunity to spend time during the day at a school that met him where he is and engaged him intellectually, and he wanted to go, I’d send him. He might go back sometime when he wants to, maybe at the high school level.

      Without the distraction of six to eight hours of irrelevant bullshit and antagonism in the middle of his day, he can spend more time focusing on the things that matter to us in an unhurried fashion, among family and friends.

      This vision of school as “a safe place for children to learn” is something I can’t contemplate without a sense of nostalgia for a time I never knew.

    • Weschool
      Weschool says:

      Redrock… What would you define as “…something their parents cannot teach them…” and, before you say Calculus be reminded that true education is knowing how to find what you need. So, since I never took Calculus, I’ll be searching out resources and learning right along with my kids…. and before you say not all parents will do that, does that make schools a good thing? Or do parents just need to step up? And before you say, not all parents can or will know how to step up, ask yourself what role public education might have played there….

      • redrock
        redrock says:

        I simply do not think that school is evil, I also don’t think homeschool is evil. I personally (feel free to disagree) learned and saw many things in school I would never have known existed had my parents homeschooled. Even with the internet I am sure I would not have discovered many things, or just never searched for them. And I did not really love to go to school, but it did provide me with a lot of stuff intellectually which I know my home would not have provided despite quite capable parents. But, as I said before, this was a good solution for me and I grew up in the german school system, it might or might not be a good solution for someone else or another family. I am more a proponent of “finding the way which works for you”.

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