Wednesday, June 11, 2008

My Rebellion

Over the last few months, my wife and I have decided that we are going to home school our children. We are doing this for some of the same reasons that others are doing it, but our focus is different.

In the end, my children will annihilate most of their public school counterparts both socially and academically. This is not necessarily our goal, but it is simply stating the way it will be. In addition to the path that they choose, they will be extraordinarily well learned on the virtues of freedom both externally, through the study of history and free market economics, and internally, through philosophies that lead to freedom from sin.

Why Are Public Schools Inherently Inferior?

We believe that public schooling, run by a government monopoly, has proved to be so endemically miserable because the system inherently cannot escape failure.

Reason 1) A public school system is a large public bureaucracy and suffers from a principal-agent problem (no pun intended). School managers cannot actively observe the behavior of individual teachers. The teacher’s prerogatives, as virtuous as they may seem, are not going to align perfectly with the prerogatives of management and parents. Thus, states and districts create curriculum and measurement that applies to all teachers in an attempt to curtail inferior or aberrant teaching.

The curriculum binds teachers to present information to students that will not match the interests or passions of every child. The more uniform the curriculum and the more diverse the population of students, the less likely that any individual child will be engaged to learn. The curriculum will approximate the values of the dominant political class in the region creating the curriculum. It will serve only the students who most embrace those values. Students who differ from the ideal will receive an inferior education. Many students will receive instruction that is impertinent and impersonal. Thus, the public school monopoly fails many students.

Any measurement of success used by schools will inherently distort the behavior of managers and teachers to maximize the methods that lead to measured success. Much as we have seen through by the No Child Left Behind act, which is amongst many failed measurement techniques, teachers focus on certain subjects at the expense of others. Measurements based on minimum standards will lead educators to focus on improving those students below the minimum standards at the expense of those who are already above them. The bad incentives brought by measurement yield an incomplete education to every student.

Reason 2) A public school system groups children with varying levels of expectations. These expectations reveal themselves in the behaviors of students. These behaviors model inconsistent values. Modeling of these behaviors (peer pressure) will push all students towards mediocrity. This mediocrity dulls the genius of the most academically focused students, and slows the progress of human ingenuity overall. An educational system that leads to mediocrity leads to a society of mediocrity.

Reason 3) A public school system, because of the separation of church and state and other requirements of pluralism cannot offer purpose in education. A public school system can only offer bland and inoffensive materials in political, economic, religious, and literature. It is a system that squelches minority opinions. The lack of purpose leads to the oft repeated tautologies “It just is”, “You’ll need to know this in the real world”, and “It will get you ready for next year” in response to students who question the importance of pieces of curriculum. Older children learn less because they do not see a purpose to what they are learning. They see less purpose because a public school system is limited from imbuing purpose to maintain political harmony. They see less purpose because the bland purposes that public school systems are allowed to imbue are highly unlikely to match the values of many students.

Why is Home Schooling Inherently Superior?

Reason 1) Home Schooling can teach with purpose. The direction that home schooling education takes can be guided by the purpose the child finds most appealing. In early years the child will need direction and a purpose imposed on them, but as they discover their talents and interests they can be supported in those endeavors without the choking limitations of public schools.

Reason 2) Home Schooling greatly reduces the predatory behavior of social competition. A home school student will not waste his or her faculties worrying about their clothes, hair, skin, makeup, car, or other measure of status during their education. They are free to dedicate their faculties to things that will actually matter in adulthood. In my home, they will not be exposed to the peer pressure of low expectations, or inculcated with the “virtues” of anti-social behavior.

Reason 3) Home Schooling is less restricted by the pragmatic realities of a larger public school. A home school environment is not bound by bells, bus rides, bathroom breaks, calendars, report card cycles, or curriculum. It is not bound to a classroom, a couple field trips to local museums, and a simple playground. Home School students can make use of the wasted time of a public school with more learning or more playing. Home School is not bound by geography and can take children to experience what their public school counterparts will only read about.

Reason 4) Home Schooling does not suffer from a principal-agent problem because the principal and the agent are the same person.

Aren’t you limiting your children by only offering a Christian viewpoint?

No, because we won’t only be offering a Christian viewpoint. No, because you do not understand that sin is a burden, and that the optimal life is found by throwing off its shackles. No, because my children will not be so dulled by a mediocre educational system that they will not have the brainpower to question their own beliefs.

2 comments:

Jonathan said...

Shelley,

How do you propose your kids are going to excel socially with more limited contact. The theory that they will not have to concern themselves with superficial things in school is nice, but when they get into the broader world (work force or college) those things will become prevelant. You want your kids to be able to stand in the minority if they choose, but put down antisocial behavior, which is just going against the norm. Look at yourself, was public schooling all that bad?
Do you know of any homeschool Universities?

Brian Shelley said...

Sorry that I didn't respond sooner, but I've been without internet for a few days. A storm knocked out power and the internet still hasn't come back on.

What I remember about my public school education was it's mediocrity. I don't have horrific memories, but I never felt engaged in school. Too many people have accepted the status quo as the best that education can really be.

My beliefs on socialization on not born of guesses. It is my actual experience around a number of home school children. I have yet to meet any home school children who match the stereotype. What I have experienced is a number of young people who seem to have an inspring lack of self-conciousness. I wouldn't describe them all as extroverts, but they show little problem walking right up to an adult and begin carrying on a conversation. I, through my life long public education, was not nearly as well adjusted as virtually all of these kids.