Perhaps now, as never before in our lifetimes, a debate has begun to rage about the actual value of Public Education, particularly as it is done today, with “Common Core” and the rest of the mess we see there. Those of you who have read my articles know I favor closing down public education, and that I hold most public schools and public school teachers in very low regard. A former teacher wrote me a fine and thoughtful letter about this, this morning. She references in her letter my own homeschool curriculum, created to help families never again need school, and the fact that in two of my courses, I comment to the student directly about the failure of public schools and teachers. Her letter forced me to think again, and to respond. I’m sharing both her letter, and my response here, in the hopes it will force others to reconsider as well. First, her letter:
I am personally very interested in some of your courses, I looked at the sample pages of the beginning course that you recommend students take, and although I am still very interested in your courses, as I choose to teach my four children to think for themselves; I was actually very offended by the negative light that classroom teachers and schools were portrayed.
I was a slave to the public school teaching system as a teacher for seven horrible years, before becoming a homeschooling mother, and rest assured, any teacher that cares one bit about her students knows that your theories on education are correct. The problem doesn’t lie within the teacher or the school, the problem lies in state testing boards, governmental dollars that are tied into agreeing to use Core Curriculum, and the pressure to perform at standards that are ludicrous just to get the most federal monies available.
Schools are underfunded, teachers are underpaid, overworked, and now they are beginning to be held personally accountable for students that don’t learn at the same pace as everyone else; regardless of what learning disabilities, developmental delays, or if that child is an ESL child.
No, I am no longer a classroom teacher. Yes, I love the idea that your methodology teaches kids to think for themselves and not become drones that can (maybe) regurgitate the information that is being shoved down their throats, but actually teaches them that they are not only capable of thinking and questioning, but should and HERE’S how! My only problem is how the sample pages alone painted teachers and school in such a negative light. So many would love to teach the way you are describing, but they are slaves to a system that the government (both federal and state) have messed up to the point where it is a giant xxxxxxxx (profanity used here).
I just wanted to share my praise and my disappointment.
Thank you for taking the time to read my email.
AND MY RESPONSE:
I do understand your feelings about this. I do appreciate the praise, of course. I easily understand your disappointment, as well. I am truly sorry that you find the derogatory comments regarding public education, “schooling” and of teachers, in the few courses (very few) that employ them, upsetting.
It is dismaying to have to say what I say and to write what I write, and often so. My closest friends on earth were two University-level professors, both deceased, and my wife and the mother of my two children, also deceased, was also a teacher. When I write about teachers, I often dwell on what these people, among the closest to me in my life, would think. In the end, I believe, knowing them well, they would have approved of the truth being told, but it is a bitter pill. They would have known that the student comes first, even at the expense of the teacher.
Let me explain, and answer some of your comments.
Teacher Unions, government and others have heavily promoted for a century, and heavily promote to this day, to students and families the idea that the teacher is the only way to teach, that parents and families are incapable of educating their children, that the methods used by schools are effective and the only acceptable methods, and that schools are noble institutions of learning. This is so much the case that I have found, after over 14 years of working with families and homeschoolers, it requires in many cases a rather severe approach to get people to even look at the reality. And while I do understand that there are many teachers who hate how the system works, and what it does to “teach”, and have had many (such as yourself) write me to let me know that, and have (of course) met more than a few, I would say that until a teacher does what you have done (and what I did), and leaves “schooling” behind as it is performed today, then that teacher is participating and helping to promulgate a very destructive and harmful system whose victims are children and families, as well as the civilization at large.
The “press” on teachers has for many decades almost entirely been weighted on the side of the “over-worked underpaid” teacher – with the flaws of the system determined to be as testing, standards, grading, overcrowded classrooms, etc.
But WHO DELIVERS THAT SYSTEM? Who is the “delivery mechanism” of this destructive system to the end user – the student, who made the mistake of accepting the “requirements” of the state, or buying into the press – and who showed up expecting to have his potentials developed, expecting to ‘learn”?
I feel it is mightily unethical to work in such a system. Just being there, showing up in the morning to “teach”, and collecting a paycheck for it, more than implies one supports the system, and at the least, that one takes pay for using it, even if one intends to “change it from within” – which, of course, is the battle cry of reforming teachers who, in fact, can’t change the system very much, and they never have. In the meantime, the children and their families suffer, and the system actually gets increasingly worse results!
One more thing. When I worked for LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District), I met many teachers who hated their students, and who said so in private. This somewhat destroyed for me the myth of the caring and devoted teacher. Now, I have known and know some highly devoted and loving teachers, as I mentioned. But most of them are outside the system, as you yourself are now. There are reasons for this.
So, as you say, “any teacher that cares one bit about her students knows that your (my) theories on education are correct”. Yes, that may be so. But if so, then how can a caring teacher continue to harm kids with testing, homework, report cards and the rest of the litany of harmful practices teachers within the system are “forced” to use? If the teacher “cares”, as you say? If they “know” the methods used are destructive and wrong, as you say.
There are always options, as you yourself have employed – and one is to leave the system and stop supporting it, as you did.
by the way, as the Chicago teacher’s strike of two years ago amply demonstrated, schools are NOT underfunded, as you stated, and teachers are NOT underpaid! When they strike, it is NEVER for the “sake of the kids”, as they claim, but unions strike solely and only to benefit unions and, to a lesser degree, their membership. Those teacher made over 600 demands – and every one had to do with teacher pay, teacher rights, teacher perks. Yet one actually wept when interviewed that it was all “for the kids”. Yes – her kids, and the vacations her family planned, perhaps, at a pay scale reaching $80,000 for 9 months work – for a beginner teacher – plus insurance and other major perks! I understand that you truly feel public education is underfunded, the cry of teacher unions everywhere – but given what a homeschooler can do for their children for just about no money, and given the cost of, on average, between $15,000-$25,000 PER STUDENT for public education, the cost of some 600 billion dollars annually for public ed (what the Department of Education admits to), much of it going to the some 3,000,000 teachers it employs – you have to know that the underfunded myth is not even remotely true. if you were unaware of these figures, you know them now and I hope you’ll reconsider that specious argument – especially as you homeschool, and so you know what that costs, negligible in the extreme by comparison – AND with far better academic results.
One more thing – I rarely if ever discuss Public Ed or schooling outside of a few basic courses that students use to learn how to do STEPS (Steps, the curriculum in question) – and how to start thinking for themselves. My views on Public ed and of “schooling” are almost never discussed in Creative Writing, History, Science, Arts courses, Current Events, etc. So these views are easily skipped over with a small amount of “search and destroy” on your part, if you wish.
But before you remove these sections or comments, do consider that a child who has been locked into the system as it is, forced to use and suffer by the tools used, has first to be broken free of the idea that education is tyranny. That’s a difficult adjustment for a child, and one of the first things to be done, required I think, is to acknowledge what the child already knows but what he’s been told over and over is wrong – that the way he was being “taught” was wrong, and that it was not the child (the student) who was wrong! So before skipping over these statements, do consider that a the student has been told a hundred, a thousand times, that it was HE OR SHE that was failing, he or she that couldn’t ‘do the work”, he or she that did not understand. And that was and is always a lie. It is the system that has failed the child, and not the other way around. In the process of empowering a child to take on and even reach for their own education and studies, I have found this to be an indispensable step.
And if teachers or teacher unions don’t like it, well, they made the step necessary, I’m afraid, if in no other manner, by using and promoting the tools they use, and claiming a profession out of harming children.
Thanks for your honest response. I do commiserate, but there is a method and reason behind the things I say and do, which I’ve tried to explain here. I hope they help make STEPS more acceptable to you, but if not, I do understand.
As to taking the time to read and respond to your email, I always do so, quickly, for anyone who writes me with some respect, and without some sort of rabid attack. I respect your views, and am happy to respond. Thanks for writing!