Thursday, 28 July 2011

Schooling and the crisis in Egypt

Plowed through John Taylor Gatto's "Dumbing Us Down" again. Randomly flipped through John Holt's "Teach Your Own." Still getting through Gatto's huge work "The Underground History of American Education."

James and I had a great fireside chat while camping about homeschooling. Holt has a whole chapter on the myth of the social benefits of public compulsory schooling, arguments that really need to be heard. That led James to pose the question: if not school as it currently is, then what?

The answer is that no one really knows. The authors I'm reading all admit they aren't sure what the solution is, but what they do know is that the current system is failing miserably. More and more money is being pumped into a system, while more and more kids dropout or are truant, and literacy rates are plummeting.

Is homeschooling the answer? Obviously, no. Homeschooling is not an option for everyone, that's a plain fact. What I compared homeschooling to was a protest. Take what happened this past year Egypt. For 40 years their economy has been collapsing and eventually people realized that the current system was so broken, it couldn't be fixed. It had to be completely dismantled. The first step was the protest. A small fraction of the entire population (it seemed big, but percentage wise wasn't everyone) took to the streets in protest. They stopped participating in the broken system to show they were serious about having something different. After the protest, came the period of uncertainty, and a little chaos. This period will likely last for years, while the people figure out what new direction they should take. There will be missteps, mistakes, victories, detours. But in the end something new will emerge, something true and honest, not forced by government but propelled by true social change.

The answer to a new education system lies in much the same vein. Currently, parents all over America are protesting the current schooling system by pulling their children out of schools and educating them in other ways. Alternative schools, private schools, homeschooling, unschooling, apprenticeship, travelling...their are as many different ways as their are families involved in the movement. These protestors may only account for a small percentage of the mass population, but their numbers are growing every year. Eventually, enough people will hopefully see what the alternative could look like, and a protest by a big enough population will hopefully lead to the dismantling of the current compulsory education.

What the step after that is, no one knows. Just like in Egypt, it will be chaotic, splintered, a crumbled mess of bricks slowly being built up again one by one. But what will emerge will hopefully be much better than what we have now, and perhaps all those homeschoolers will once again reintegrate into community education.


Anonymous said...

Great thoughts. I can tell this is a topic you're really chewing on!

As a homeschooling mother, I am beginning to reap some of the incredible benefits of having my children by my side day in and day out(the oldest will soon be ten).

I believe that "the family" is the answer to "governmental educational institutions".

The Bible lays out a beautiful expectation on families: to be teaching all the time within the safety of a life-long-committed love relationship (imagine Noah working with his sons for a hunderd years!).

Of course, in a world hindered by sin and brokenness it's not that easy... but... family, I mean a community culture that is bent on creatively supporting families (of all forms) in forging unique paths for their unique children. I find it near impossible to imagine a mass, institutional movement that can have the same positive impact - there are always agendas at play.

The only agenda I trust is love :)

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... Just thinking...

What we probably need to do is "begin with the end in mind."

Rather than trying to imagine what the system for educating children should look like, we should probably begin by stating what it is we are shooting for, and then work back, working with the environment to support the growth of this kind of individual.

At 18 what would you like your child to be like?

Off of the top of my head here are some things that come to mind for me (my dream list!). I would like my child to be passionate in her relatinoship with God, compassionate, a contributer in the world (not a taker), intelligent and a good critical thinker. I would like her to be a good communicator, and someone who is free to hold the unpopular position, creative, loving, and skilled in some areas that she is passionate about. I would like her to have "life wisdom" (how to pay bills, cook meals, grow food, shop wisely, earn a living) and be relationally wise.

We learn so many, if not most of these things, in the context of meaningful relationship (parents, extended family, neighbours, friends, aprentice situations) that I wonder how it is that we, as a culture, got locked into thinking a mammoth government-run institution could possibly provide all of these things.

Even though I think about these things a lot, it is well worth discussing again... and again... and again...

Terri-Ann said...

Bonnie - I love your comment about how our children learn most of what we really want them to learn in our home. I remember saying to someone that sending my child to school feels like a way to pass 6 hours until they come home and I can teach them what is really important. What a waste of time that is! I really feel that I will walk down the homeschooling path some day soon, after the boys get a good foundation in the French language (something I can't give them and I feel is so important this early) and things are slightly less chaotic with Benjamin!

PS - thanks for the recommendation on the book (Underground History...) While some thoughts sort of just pass through my brain, many of his ideas are taking roots, or giving life to new ideas.