Saturday, August 29, 2015

Blast from the past- College paper revisited

A paper dated April 18th, 1997, nearly 19 years ago.  I already had Michael and was finishing up some of my final courses before student teaching in the Fall.  I kept it because it embodied so many of the dilemmas I faced while I looked at my chosen profession while holding my little boy, only 5 months old.  I was thinking about editing as I retyped it, but I changed my mind... here it is, as originally written.  My opinions and thoughts with the assigned topic of writing about some question I had about teaching.  It is fascinating looking back through time at how home education has progressed, how public schooling has changed, and how my ideas about how children learn as I have watched (and helped) my own and others.

The Question:
To Sacrifice or not to Sacrifice


Education is not what it could be.  We all know this to be a fact.  I have a desire to become a teacher in order to change this situation.  In the Secondary Education program here at Brigham Young University, I have learned many things.  These include how to be a good teacher, how to teach the subject matter, obstacles to being a better teacher, problems in the school system, what the school system is like, as well as how to get things done the way I believe they should be done.  Incorporating all these tasks into my own personal teaching experiences would be difficult, if not impossible.  On the other hand, I, as well as most other teachers, am entering this profession for humanitarian purposes with the goal to make a difference, even if only in some of the students I teach.
Also while in the Secondary Education program here at this University, I have started my own family and have begun to raise children of my own.  I have a difficult time seeing the problems in the public school system and accepting the fact that this is what my children will have to deal with.  This task is made even more difficult by the fact that I know there is a very viable alternative route.  In my experience here at BYU I have learned about teaching my children at home and all the arguments for home schooling, all while taking a class about how to deal with the families following this course.  Do I sacrifice the thousands of children I could change to save my own children?  Or, do I sacrifice my children to the school system, hoping I could make a difference on a larger scale?  This is a question I hope to find an answer to soon.

For Home Schooling

Homeschooling is a movement that, until very recently was considered odd and irregular.  The parents were viewed as backward and anti-establishment.  The children were considered less intelligent and antisocial.  It did not matter that this was how children have been educated for most of the history of the human race.  Now, however, there are legal precedents of parental rights, opportunities for children taht are home-taught to have the same extra-curricular activities as public school children, and many precedents for these students to enter college with honors.  It has been proven that home schooled children score higher on tests, have a better ability and a stronger desire to learn, as well as other positive characteristics.
In home schooling, the situations run from student guided curricula to parent guided curricula to school or district curricula to state curricula.  The student guided curricula is ideal, for the student is motivated to learn what interests him and will do so without complaint.  The parent guided curricula is also good because the parent knows their child and what that child needs to know or is interested in.  The school, district or state curricula usually are more general and are formulated to fit standards decided by non-educators or by standardized tests.  Depending on the state, home-schooling laws usually dictate that the student must take a test to make sure the child is progressing.
The ideal situation for home schooling is the same for public schooling.  This is, lots of individual attention, many different kinds of learning activities, and individually based rates of instruction or learning.  For homeschoolers, this goal is easier to reach than in an overcrowded classroom with an overworked, underpaid teacher.  The materials can be up to date, either with access to a library or by purchasing educational materials.  Some schools will loan their equipment to home schoolers.  The schools cannot afford to update their materials as often or as well as an individual family is able to, in most cases.
In homeschooling, parents can be resources, teachers, fellow learners, and guides.  They can have greater say in what their child learns and how they learn it.  The education does not have to be strictly secular.  Many parents home school their children for religious reasons.  As what we have seen in court cases studied in this classroom, it is difficult to infuse values or religion into a public education.  Also, with the increasing use of technology in the classroom, it is difficult to monitor use of equipment.  Parents are more readily available to "keep an eye" on their children.  Of course, there are exceptions and these are only ideal situations.

The Negative Side of Homeschooling

The reality of homeschooling must also be considered in this situation.  Parents are not always able to stay home with children.  Some take advantage of the schools, saying that they are homeschooling their children, while in reality they are keeping them home to tend other children or work, with little or no learning experiences.  Some cannot afford materials or have no access to educational facilities such as libraries or museums.  Some parents do not know how to begin to help their children learn, or cannot even read themselves.  There are legal problems everywhere, and "the System" can be very daunting.  Many parents do not want their children to be under the social stigma that many home taught children experience, or want their children to have the active social life that, seemingly, only school can give them.  Still others just do not want to be bothered with the responsibility of their child's education and would rather leave it to more capable and interested hands.
The education of a child is a huge responsibility.  This is true whether or not a child attends public school or gains an education through any other alternative.  If a parent really wants to, they can overcome any of the problems listed above through careful planning and research, contacting any of the resources available.  However, it is a difficult thing.  The choice is there for every parent, only most do not know that there is more than one option.  On the other hand, the public schools have been doing a good job for around a century now, and they are getting better all the time.  There are many opportunities available through schools, and many valuable experiences.

For the Schools

The Schools are how the United States, as well as other places, have been educating their youth for many years now.  The system is in place and, for the most part, efficient.  The public supports it and grew up with it.  Several generations have used it.  Changes are made periodically to improve the whole or its parts.  It is competitive on a world level and categorizes people into classes in which they fit best.
Schools have the resources they need to educate their students.  They can afford educational equipment that smaller scale operations cannot, like large models and expensive sets of books like encyclopedias.  Sports and other such programs are much more economical on the large scale level.
Schools have trained teachers.  Teachers must be certified to teach the students.  This includes specialization in specific areas to be taught, so that greater expertise can be reached.  Teachers are also taught how to discipline, how to deal with different types of students, and basically how to teach.  This process is in place to produce better quality teachers so that a better quality education may be gained from attending school.
There are also many services that are offered at school that students may not be able to get anywhere else.  There is usually a school nurse, and many health services are offered, like eyesight and hearing tests.  Food is also provided at little or no cost through school lunch programs.  Some schools even serve breakfast.  School counselors and sometimes even psychologists are also available for emotional, vocational, or educational help.  Teachers also fill this need, when there is time or even when there is not.  Still, there are only a few of these functions available to so many students that not everyone's needs are met.

The Negative Side of Schools

As much as everyone seems to want them to, schools are not the answer to every social problem.  They do have a responsibility to educate the students, and are expected to do a lot more.  However, there are many schools that are not even equipped to provide the necessities of schooling.  There is a great inequality in the school system in this country, and it is going to take a lot of work to solve it.  No one seems to be willing to do the work necessary to change the way it works so that every child can have the same opportunities.  There are children meeting in condemned buildings with books that are so old the information is out of date.  On the other hand, there are students meeting in school buildings that look like they cost more than the malls in the richer areas of Southern California, and have equipment that rivals the nation's universities.  The quality of a child's education can depend on where they live.
It is well known that it is desirable for each student to get individual attention in class and individually based classwork and teaching for a child to learn at his ability.  Nevertheless, class sizes are growing as there are more students per teacher.  This puts a strain on the teacher as they try to do the best they can to give the best education to each of their students.  There is a limit to what a teacher can do.
Another problem present in the schools is the sorting of students according to race and socioeconomic status.  Many steps are being taken to try and stop this, but it is still prevalent in the schools today.  Many intelligent children of races other than the dominant white Caucasian are being held back from their true potential.  Aspirations are discouraged and some students are doomed to failure from the beginning.  This is all based on whatever impression they make on the teachers, whether it is because of race, hygiene or learning style.  This categorization is not conscious, but it still is happening in our schools today.
Another problem with the schools is with curriculum.  The curriculum of the public school system is decided by people who have nothing to do with the students.  They can be administrators, businessmen or local government officials.  Parents have little say in what their children learn.  Teachers have no connection to what they teach.  The result is that students have little interest in what they are "supposed to" learn.  The motivation for discovery is not there.  No more time can be spend on something that a class is particularly interested in .  True experimentation and spontaneity is lost.  The whole purpose for learning is thwarted by the arbitrary assignment of what should be learned at what age.


These considerations are what must be looked at in making any decisions involving my vocation and my children's education.  I was educated through the public schools, but I saw the problems involved with the system, and, as a good student, did a lot of learning on my own at home.  I would not have succeeded without these experiences.  Studying to become a teacher made me more aware of the things that can go wrong with a child's education.  I wanted to change the world one student at a time, but there are so many obstacles.  Could I give each student the attention they deserve?  Am I a good enough teacher for other parents to entrust their child's education to me?
There are also so many obstacles to a good education through homeschooling.  Finances are short, and schools usually have access to better equipment, or even equipment that is impossible for me to obtain.  It is a gamble to surrender my children to an unknown system in some as yet unknown school district.  Would these teachers educate my children as I would?  Would these teachers care about my children and their education?  It seems the only way I am to be sure is to supervise their learning myself.  I know that, no matter where we are, we can learn from what is around us.  Which is the greater sacrifice, though- the students I will never see, whose parents cannot give them what I can give, or my children, those that will see me at least some of the time, whether they attend school or not?
It is a difficult decision for anyone to make.
What does all of this mean to those others involved?  Truly these considerations bring up many questions.  The ideal solution is to bring these two options, home education and public schools, closer together or even to fuse them into one. Possibly in the future we will see schools that involve self directed learning at home integrated with group activities and lab work at schools.  Education is an important thing to consider, and the future is moving up on us rather quickly.  We are the ones that need to solve the problems of today.

I got a A- and a lot of great comments.

I do not regret my choice in the slightest, because I had one more thing to consider that wasn't included on a paper for a college course- what prayer alone helped us decided, which was to educate our children at home.

1 comment:

  1. Wow! You really thought carefully about your options from an early time. I'm quite impressed. I love your conclusion about fusing the two together to allow self-directed learning and access to group activities/equipment.