Quasi-Indefatigable Xenolith


Questioning Compulsory Schooling

Here are some posts from early 2000 from me on a parenting board

My biggest problem with school is the clientèle! Just think, if ALL kids are required to go there, you are going to have everything to contend with. The drug-dealing kids down the street go to that school. The up-and-coming pedophiles and serial killers are there, too! They HAVE to go to school! "School is the best place for your child!" Yeah right! If my kids are going to get exposed to all of this garbage, I at least want to have a fair shot of influencing their lives MYSELF! Hard task if my kids spend eight hours a day in school, a few at home with homework, and maybe twenty minutes with me. What has the greatest influence? Just guess.

School isn't evil in itself. School is just where all the evil tends to hang out. I don't let my kids hang out in bars -- school is on about the same level.

Here is a clarification of the posting above, which stirred up much controversy! Much more than I expected!

The problem that I was talking about with public schools is not a question of fairness -- it is just a reality of compulsory schooling!

I am not saying there are not good schools. I am not attacking the education provided by schools because you are absolutely right: Things like school system quality, parent involvement, and staff quality make a BIG difference in what your child learns! I am saying that compulsory public education will put your kids into direct contact with destructive forces over which neither you, nor teachers, nor administrators have much control. Though your present school might be wonderfully devoid of bad influences, your child will grow older and be put into larger middle and high schools where they will be surrounded by all the worst elements. This is not an issue having to do with "good" or "bad" schools -- ALL schools face this when they MUST allow EVERYONE in a geographic area to attend!

This is NOT stereotyping! It is a fact based on the inherent nature of compulsory schools. Though you may feel shielded from it now, maybe because you live in a neighborhood where your public school doesn't serve "bad" neighborhoods, you will likely face it as they progress into high school. When your child goes to the public schools, these things are going to be around your child and you may never be aware of it.

If your children are not exposed to evil influences now, they will be and the vehicle that those evils will use to reach your child is the public school environment. Not because teachers or administrators are wicked, but because school throws EVERYONE (both good and bad) together in tight quarters, away from strong positive influences.

It sounds like you have a good school where you are. Quite likely, most of the other families in your area have standards and values that are similiar to yours. That is good! But, over time, the school your child goes to will take in more neighborhoods, composed of different sorts of families, some of which have values in OPPOSITION to yours, or worse, devoid of values at all. This wouldn't be a problem normally, but we put kids together in the tight quarters of a school, where they will be exposed to philosophies YOU don't agree with.

Schools are stuck because they must (at least attempt) to honor all the beliefs of the families they serve. That means that if you want your children to learn that marriage is extremely important, the school cannot help you there for fear of offending families where living together outside of marriage is perfectly fine and even encouraged (you know, "try before you buy!"). The whole issue of school prayer was a battle between competing cultures and beliefs. In the end, schools are forced to honor NO values past an interest in public health and safety. That is why parents who don't want their children experimenting with sex get so angry when school nurses pass out condoms -- schools can only have an interest in public health in this case, not in teaching values (Character Counts! notwithstanding) which may polarize the community.

I brought up the subject of time last time around, just because I imagine many people argue that parents should be teaching values and those values should be taught at home. These thoughts are both true and vital. Unfortunately, public schooling demands the lion's share of a child's time and thought. This means simply that elements at school have more opportunity to influence your child then you do, based simply on amount of timed exposure. The kid who is trying to sell your kid some drugs and has several opportunities throughout each day to cajole and/or intimidate them has a good chance of winning out over parents that only have a few hours (if that) to even be with their kids, much less spending time innoculting their kids specifically against drugs.

If you think I demean teachers or administrators, I must make this clear. I have the upmost respect for those who educate, especially public educators. They have an extremely difficult and dangerous job. As a former public school teacher, I remember well the days I worried that a particular high school student of mine would hunt down my family and kill them when I gave him an "F," which no other teacher had the guts to do. That student was known to be hot-tempered and violent, had already assaulted other students for pretty small things, and he had signed up for my Child Development class. Just like everything else in school, I had no choice in the matter. When I found a safer place to work (away from public schools), I took it!!

"Just like people, not all schools are bad." I think it is dangerous to anthropomorphize an institution like this. A school is a thing. If you compare it to anything, compare it to a brick. In the hands of a good mason, it can become part of a beautiful building. In the hands of a thoughless person who leaves things to chance, it can trip you up and become a worthless obstacle. In the hands of an evil person, it can break things and kill you. Anyone can pick up that brick and use it as they choose. Anyone who has access to school can use it to whatever end they choose. You are right -- school isn't bad by itself, just like bricks aren't. But the fact that your child is IN school can be used by others in potentially harmful ways, just as much as it can be used for good. If you could put your child in a safer place, wouldn't you?

Don't reduce homeschooling to the level of public compulsory schooling. The first, done well, is clearly superior by every unbiased study that has been done comparing the two. You can say that a lion and a cat are basically the same, but I think you would see the differences of letting one in the house rather than the other!