It Really All is Personal: Thoughts on Choice, Responsibility and Their Relation to Education (part two)

In our previous episode, our hero’s were trapped by the nefarious Joker, well on his way to… Oh hello there!  Welcome to the second installment of my two-part series on my quasi-rambling debate on education policy.  When we left each other, I had promised you a compendium of sorts.  The following is that compendium.  All thoughts not of my own, will be italicized and any particular thoughts of others I find poignant, I’ve quoted.

We begin with my response to an article revolving around truancy, and a parent’s ability to have flexibility in their child’s education…

One could just as easily argue that if a parent’s priority wasn’t ensuring that their kids attend school in the first place, then how should anyone expect them to appropriately educate their children for a 21st century workforce.  It’s no less a fool’s errand to assume that all parents would make for appropriate educators as it is to assume that all schools provide appropriate education.

If your kid does not share the same educational goals then parents need more options to educate their children.  Limiting parent’s options is not the answer.  “She was so disgusted with the system that she did the extra work to get out a year early.” The public school system was a total wasteland.  “My youngest just simply announced at 8th grade graduation that he wasn’t going to high school, and that we were going to home-school him.  Because he read a lot, he knew what kind of education he wasn’t getting.”  The Government education system is bloated, top-heavy, too expensive and does not provide a quality education.  Public education is daycare.

I just had to ask, what life experiences would a kid have to base their opinion on educational goals.  While it’s always appropriate to allow them the chance to express themselves, it’s far to often the case that any kid is provided these perspectives by their parents, as they tend to be the primary influence at an early age.  Perhaps the public education system is a tad tired, but not every parent has a choice.  Making blanket statements about an entire system ignores the complexity of this issue, and the public systems that also produce top-tier students.  If it’s the charge that the public education system is daycare, what then are the options for those parents?  It makes little sense to attack a system in the cases where there are no other options.

There is no expectation of excellence in the Public School system. Just like all other things the Government touches, it sucks the life out and makes it a hollow shell so that we can all fit in; in the interest of fairness.

[Insert personal anecdote involving a child refusing to take science classes, but not receiving what the parent thought was appropriate punishment.]The Public School system made a fool of us. There were no consequences tendered by the Public School system. In the eyes of the Government, it does not matter if you do the work. It only matters that you show up and they get their money for your attendance. The Government promises that it will provide for all your wants and needs. You do not have to work.  “This is what our kids are learning in the Public School system.”  Because the Government has taken over the National education system, the current condition of our system is indicative of Government involvement. The focus needs to be on educating children, not sustaining a Government bureaucracy and Teacher’s Unions. “None of these kids’ decisions to opt out of the public school cesspool was made by me, the parent.  All were made by the kids themselves.”

I then had to ask, what prompted them to not take the negative repercussion into their own hands?  The parents had stated (in multiple cases) they had provided proper warnings on the matter (of not attending classes), but the position kept coming back to the school system.  To which I was curious, what would they have preferred the public system do in these cases?  Holding a child back for one subject, especially if they excel in others, can  be counter-productive, and ultimately counter-intuitive.  As the theory could go,  not acquiring knowledge in a particular subject will eventually catch up at some point further down the academic line.

If the crux of the matter is a parent’s ability to provide appropriate education, I’m curious, does the student have the appropriate perspective to make these rational decisions?  If an 8th grader makes a conscious decision to opt-out of Science, per se, then  should they have the opportunity to chose another topic, or double up on something else? With the corollary being, if they choose not to do so, do they also then just get to opt-out altogether?

To keep this on the level,  I generally don’t believe that meeting some imaginary metric in world comparison is an appropriate way to build an educational curriculum.  I do believe that the public school system is the right vessel, but it’s structure requires improvement.  I don’t necessarily equate one school district to an entire government, so from my perspective I would have taken it as a lesson in particular districts not holding one accountable.  However, it could also be the position that the punishment could also be as innocuous as the lack of knowledge, which may end up playing a larger role in any child’s life.
The point I’m trying to drive home is that education is primarily a personal experience endeavor, but is generally supported by a common base.  School systems differ, whether they be public or private, and what may be good for systems of schooling in one area, may not exactly prescribe to systems of another.  As that pertains to the current legislative agenda, if “CommonCore” and rigid systems of education are not the answer, then neither are the corollary.  Both, in effect, still don’t address the very personal requirements that stem from one’s ability to process information (which is really all it boils down to).

If the current suggestions are that we just build private schools, and then subsidize those who can’t afford, then that’s just more bureaucracy, or that we do away with all rigidity, potentially leaving behind those that require it, then those are as equally unsatisfactory.  Just as there exist children who do not require the structure of a rigid public education system, there equally exists children who do.  While the phrasing “One size fits all” is often used to bemoan the system, I think we would be better served by working to provide the current system with options  agile enough to adapt to personal needs.

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