A paper I wrote for my State and Local Government class:
Education in America
Millions of American children get up in the morning, rush through a quick breakfast, get dressed, and strapped down with a sometimes very heavy backpack, and sent out the door to school. Millions of them also come home with the same heavily loaded pack and sit up to the dining room table to work on homework that their parents are unable to understand. A family is a child’s best asset when it comes to his education, but American children spend the majority of their day separated from this important asset. American parents too heavily involved in pursuing careers, are abdicating the best opportunity they have of providing an education. Educational institutions have so forcefully asserted their supremacy in the arena of education that many Americans now narrowly believe only formal education is valuable.
Because of this new narrow mentality Americans feel like they are unqualified to educate their children, expecting schools and professionals to perform the magic. Convinced they need the public school system, they pay taxes in order to achieve education. Nameless others spend the money, set the timetables and priorities, create the lessons, instruct, supervise, grade and decide who is now educated, leaving parents completely left out of the equation. It is almost impossible in a system such as this for a parent to be any more than passively involved in their child’s education. As a result of this family separation and new freedom from responsibility that schools provide to parents, the majority of Americans now blame our schools for continually lower education outcomes.
Some parents persevere in trying to partner with their children’s schools and are managing to limp in the direction of directing the public education of their children. But most settle for submitting to the authority of an education establishment that aggressively asserts its own superiority over families. No longer do observant experienced parents tell schools how to reach their particular child. Instead schools now educate parents on how to be good attentive parents in tune with their children’s education. We have an institutional reversal. Thousands of years of parenting, are now being subjected to the latest whims and limited experience of our educational intuitions and its professionals.
Some parents, preferring to chase their own goals, simply like the convenience of handing their children off to schools and letting them assume the responsibility for the whole educational affair. In this way, many American parents abdicate the important responsibility of education. The result of separating parents from children is that they no longer have access to the learning that their children do everyday and they are easy prey for the assumption that they cannot teach their own children.
Allowing schools to be run by governments has exposed them to the chronic inefficiency that accompanies anything done by governments. Policies are tossed around like political footballs. Unsuitable and unqualified teachers are never sent away. Curious and intelligent children are diagnosed, drugged, verbally abused, bullied, and even molested by these professional educators. School retirement has become an entitlement.
In recent years social issue advocates have found fertile minds in children separated from parental influence. Controversial issues are decided by policy makers and are then presented to gullible children as if they are fact. These issues range from moral issues such as human sexual practices and multiculturalism, to theories like evolution and climate change. Public schools have become like the halls of Congress; full of adult political agendas.
The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 sought to address the failing academic achievement in public education. It imposed testing requirements on all schools to track the performance of schools. It allows parents the opportunity to get out of failing school systems, using that school’s money to fund better alternatives. The legislation has come under heavy criticism from many groups, some opposed to any alternative, some enjoying the security of the status quo, and others opposed to losing their influence on young minds.
The most useful and praiseworthy aspect of this bill it that is recognizes parents supremacy and responsibility in children’s education. By setting up a way for interested parents to receive the means to take their children elsewhere and by empowering them to make those decisions, the federal government has forced state and local governments to recognize parental rights (Bush).
Some parents are already choosing to accept responsibility for the education of their children despite negative social assumptions. Parents have been fighting for the right to completely educate their children outside of public schools. The movement is referred to as home-schooling. All fifty states have passed laws allowing parents to completely remove their children from public schools. In the 2000-2001 school year 250,000 – 340,000 high school students were home-schooled (HSLDA). Parents plan personalized priorities, lesson plans, activities, and trips. There are as many ways of doing this as there are children. Parents who know the child best are supremely qualified about what methods and subjects are best suited for each child. An additional benefit of this movement is that parents are finding that dormant skills need improving and they end up relearning with their children also creating a more educated adult population.
Since the explosion of information sharing via the Internet, resources available to parents are everywhere, whether a parent does full home-schooling or supplements public schooling. The home-schooling movement has shown impressive results in recent years. Many colleges are actively seeking students who have been home-schooled. Regina Morin, admissions director of Columbia College says, “Home-schooled students, whose numbers in this country range from an estimated 1.1 million to as high as 2 million, often come to college equipped with the skills necessary to succeed in higher education” (Zagier). Some states are even providing limited funding and creating partnerships for these families.
In order for our educational problems to improve, parents must first accept responsibility for the education of their children. Once that is done, local school boards and superintendents need to be more respectful of this fact. Parents must be given options to make unique opportunities available to their unique children. Some system of public schooling that provides basic education is needed; however the burden needs to shift to parents. Society must recognize that public schools are nothing more than a tool for parents. Local school boards need to understand that they are not the authority on children. No matter how educated and experienced they are, school boards will never know the specific needs of each individual child.
If the public must be taxed in the name of education for all children, then children who are not part of the public system need to share in the same funding public school children receive. Funds needs to be provided for whatever choice the parents decide for their children, whether it is private religious instruction, homeschooling, or private non-religious education. Another aid for proactive parents would be a home education tax credit for parents who do not use the public school system for their children. Government must drop its arrogant assertions that it knows best and begin to show more respect for families outside the public school system. PTA’s and other parent teacher partnerships need to be more than the fundraising wing of the schools. They need to be involved in making important decisions. All levels of government and society need to recognize and promote traditional families as the ideal situation for children and the unique benefits that a mother and a father offer to their children. Society needs to be more accepting of non-employed women who want to be mothers first.
Once parents recognize the potential they hold for the future of their children, they can begin to assert themselves into the decisions and culture of public schools and they can demand the freedom to educate their children in whatever way suits them best. The hard part is that they must first recognize that they can do it and then resolve to do it.
Home School Legal Defense Association. “Frequently Asked Questions.” January 25, 2007.
Bush, George. The White House. “No Child Left Behind: Title IV Overview”. January 25, 2007.
Zagier, Alanscher. “Colleges Coveting Home-Schooled Students.” Sept. 30, 2006. CBS News. January 25, 2007 http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/09/30/ap/