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schools of thought VS the other kind

This morning’s rumination ‘tween awakening and arising was on the objectives and results we get from the various schools we send our children to. I’ve written a bunch on that subject, ran for Idaho Governor with a real cure as one third of my platform *, studied it nearly as much as I have economics and political science, and had our mass-mishandling of youth burning in my head since I observed its effects on my children.

In Community Vision over 5 years ago, I wrote on a community-development seminar the whole town of Grangeville was invited to. An impressive, heartening turnout and inspiring seminar flopped face-down in the mud of the same old people guiding the process into the same old ruts. You can see the process unfold at Idaho in late 2007. It coulda been so much better.

One lesson I’ve carried since that seminar has been:

40% of American 12-year-olds expected to create their own businesses;

to be self-employed and even employers as adults.

That number drops to 4% by high school graduation.

Waving at the grand display of trophies ringing the high school auditorium, David Beurl asked what would we get if we encouraged kids to develop their creativity and entrepreneurship as much as we did their athletics? Perhaps instead of sending athletic teens away [from our community], we might retain clever young business people and leaders. I would now add “and artists, inventors, creators, musicians, happy and ambitious people.”

As I said, “our” education system was churning in my brain when I got up. This morning’s news (I get mine online when I want it, on topics I select and from sources who have earned my trust) had this article: Homeschooling Growing Seven Times Faster than Public School Enrollment, which was full of good and bad news … good for the growing number of families and communities that are escaping the Prussian mold.

It is not just home schoolers who escape the dehumanizing, mechanical, rote training model, but the Waldorf system I experienced with my youngest daughter does it well too. I recall hearing of others and am confident they are out there. We as parents, grandparents and people who care about our communities need to encourage them to exist and thrive.

New York state Teacher of the Year, author and educational reform champion John Taylor Gatto explains a big chunk of the problem in Why Schools Don’t Educate. Homeschooling advocates as well as many non-governmental schools highlight and correct a destructive system that was designed to create obedience rather than thoughtfulness.

segregate children by age rather than interest and ability

move from room to room by time and bells rather than completion of task

listen and recite rather than analyze, challenge and comprehend

fit in rather than stand out

spectate rather than participate

defer to experts rather than develop expertise

obey authority rather than morality

There’s more. It’s worse. But it is HUGE. It will take an inspired group to effect serious change in any community. That is why it is so wonderful to see that homeschooling is now at 4% and growing at 7-times annually. Here is one good forum on homeschooling that discusses many of the advantages. There are certainly a lot more resources and encouragements out there.

My ‘great idea’ this morning was to highlight the results of the Prussian model our public schools use compared to homeschool and other models via a survey focusing on valued developmental results. While homeschoolers seriously kick butt in standardized testing, spelling bees, math bees, and college performance, even those are not ideal measures. Others are much more universally important. I would love to see a survey of youths by educational system that asked truly relevant questions.

What do you see as your career opportunities?
What would you like to do to support yourself?
Where do you think you will be as an adult?
What do you think you will be doing as an adult?
What do you enjoy doing?
What do you think of your community?
What do you think of your education?

I don’t really think my list is the end-all of lists, but merely seeds for a good survey. I also don’t think I can or will get it done, but I would love to help. More importantly, I would like others to create their own and get them done in their neighborhoods. Anything but continuing to accept our public educational system as the only model we can imagine.


* see candidate statement and/or watch Idaho-wide televised debate for one way to encourage educational alternatives.