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HOME ED– IT’S NOT JUST FOR LIBERTARIAN WACKOS ANYMORE

Filed at 6:55 am under by dcobranchi

Even the “elites” are doing it.

Like a growing number of creative-class parents, the Aldriches homeschool Slater, splitting the duties. (Aldrich père, who co-founded interactive learning company SimuLearn, handles math and science; his wife, Lisa, a stay-at-home mom, does the reading and writing. Slater’s friends come over after school and on the weekends for pickup games.)

No longer the bailiwick of religious fundamentalists or neo-hippies looking to go off the cultural grid, homeschooling is a growing trend among the educated elite. More parents believe that even the best-endowed schools are in an Old Economy death grip in which kids are learning passively when they should be learning actively, especially if they want an edge in the global knowledge economy. “A lot of families are looking at what’s happening in public or private school and saying, ‘You know what? I could do better, and I’d like to be a bigger part of my kid’s life,”‘ says University of Illinois education professor Christopher Lubienski.

Business Week‘s snooty tone notwithstanding (I guess they know their readership), the rest of the piece is actually pretty good. Of course, there’s the obligatory negative quote from Rob Reich. Is that guy on every reporter’s speed dial? Overall, it’s worth a read.

25 Responses to “HOME ED– IT’S NOT JUST FOR LIBERTARIAN WACKOS ANYMORE”


Comment by
Scott W. Somerville
February 15th, 2006
at 9:14 am

Chris Lubienski, who gets quoted in this piece, is one of the more dangerous academics out there.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 10:00 am

Why? He isn’t anti homeschool, he’s pro improving public school. I don’t see how that is dangerous to academics (or homeschooling).


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
February 15th, 2006
at 10:07 am

Well, either his quote was “spun” dramatically, or he’s had a change of heart:

“A lot of families are looking at what’s happening in public or private school and saying, ‘You know what? I could do better, and I’d like to be a bigger part of my kid’s life,”‘ says University of Illinois education professor Christopher Lubienski.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 10:45 am

Prior to 2003, he did have a few neg. comments about homeschooling – but the guy is a public policy researcher. His latest research/conclusion/contention is that families pulling their kids out of public school (for any other educational choice) is detrimental to the school’s motivation to improve – and I agree. He actually agrees that other forms of education are superior to public education, but our society still needs a way to educate those who want it and have no other choices. It isn’t beneficial to our society to have an uneducated populace; look what undereducation has done….

multil...67.pdf


Comment by
Tad
February 15th, 2006
at 1:31 pm

There is no such thing as an “uneducated populace.” Everyone learns along the way, unless they’re in a vegatative state. There can be a populace that doesn’t get taught the core curriculum. Any one who wants an education, really wants to learn something, can.

One of the (many) problems with public education is that the student gets taught what someone else thinks is important, not what is really important to him. Another, related, problem is that we’ve become dependant on the public school system to do the work and try to make it easy for children to “become educated.” There are always other choices, and there always have been. Anyone that doesn’t believe this should read Fredrick Douglas’ autobiography.

Steve Jobs has it right when he says that dropping out of school was one of the best decisions he ever made. It allowed him to study what was important to him instead of following the requirements set down by someone else. Some of the best minds in American history: Washington, Franklin, Edison, Ford, Einstein, etc. had little “formal” education, but I defy anyone to develop a case that any of these men were “uneducated.” (Someone tried it with Ford once, and lost.)

A socialized, tax-supported system that subsidizes the school rather than the student, that is compulsory and that must attempt to teach all can never rise above mediocrity. The best it will ever do is create factory fodder.


Comment by
Lioness
February 15th, 2006
at 2:00 pm

Unfortunately there are always going to be a certain number of parents who can’t or won’t see to their child’s learning. I’ve known parents who wouldn’t lift a finger to educate their child, even if there was no free public school to fall back on. If the bus hadn’t run by their front door, the child would never have gone.

It is true that there are always other choices to public education, but are we really going to put the burden of scrounging up a decent education on a disadvataged child? It’s true some would be able to resist the distractions and keep their eyes on the prize, but not many.

We need working public schools as a safety net of last resort. We don’t need to force children into them who have other options. But we do need them.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 2:25 pm

While fundamentally I agree that “anyone can learn anything if they want to”, the truth is, it’s much easier to *learn basics when you’re younger. An adult who can’t read isn’t going to learn “whatever they want”, and it’s much harder to teach an adult to read – trust me, I’ve been an adult literacy tutor for 20 years. Much, much harder to instill learning as a habit in an adult too.


Comment by
Tad
February 15th, 2006
at 2:29 pm

You are correct that there are, and there always will be, parents who “wouldn’t lift a finger to educate their child,” but forcing them to send their child to school simply moves the problem. Its the old problem of leading the horse to water. In this case, since the education is “free” (that is, someone else is paying for it) and forced it is not valued. The safety net has a hole in it.

The burden of “scrounging up a decent education” is always on the student, disadvantaged or otherwise. This is usually done in spite of the public education system. At best, public schools, or any school for that matter, offer no more than an opportunity. If it is something the student values, then he will “resist the distractions and keep [his] eyes on the prize,” but if not, he will simply take up space when forced into the classroom, or worse, distract the others. In most cases, the student will reflect the values of his parents.

Before we had tax subsidized public schools, the disadvantaged had opportunities to learn, even to go to school. I have a paper in my files somewhere that examined a pre-civil war school in North Carolina, I think. This school provided tuition subsidies to poor children out of donations and excess tuition paid by the wealthy students. In addition to that, there was a Lancaster School that provided services to the poor by allowing advanced students to teach the less fortunate. Finally, there was a school that taught white kids during the day for one price and black kids in the evening at a reduced rate that the parents could afford. (Remember this was in the pre-civil war South!) Private charity provided the means for anyone in this city to receive an education!


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 2:31 pm

“A socialized, tax-supported system that subsidizes the school rather than the student, that is compulsory and that must attempt to teach all can never rise above mediocrity. The best it will ever do is create factory fodder.”

Be sure to qualify that statement with “US” schools. Successful, academic challenging public schools exist in many parts of the world.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 2:34 pm

You’re telling me that “black parents” in pre civil war south (slaves?) sent their children to school? Amazing. I’d have to see that “paper”. Forgive me my skeptic nature.


Comment by
Tad
February 15th, 2006
at 2:37 pm

I thought all of the other “qualification” would do the trick. Again, it is a matter of how much value is placed on the opportunity, and I would suppose that it would also depend on how heavily socialized the system is.

I didn’t say slaves. The paper discussed free black children. The paper was published by Teachers College Record. I’ll see if I can find my copy and get you the title


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 2:41 pm

Oh, it’s alright, you don’t need to. I’m tired of trying to defend my lack of total distrust toward the institution of public schooling. I have enough trouble explaining to my peers why I don’t hate men. Just today I was emailed and asked “hey, why do you have links to a bunch of guy bloggers on your site?”. Shrug.


Comment by
Tad
February 15th, 2006
at 2:51 pm

As you wish.

And perhaps I should qualify my remarks just a little. The schools themselves will never rise above mediocrity, but that doesn’t mean that a student who does value education cannot use the resources of the public schools to obtain one. I am not advocating tearing down all public schools, I am merely trying to point out that the reasoning that “we must have public schools to educate the poor” is a fallacy.

And things are worse in the US. Primarily because education is a political battlefield where the curriculum and focus is set by the legislature, often based on compromise between the left and right that works out to lose-lose.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 3:08 pm

I don’t see where you’ve proven your point – you certainly haven’t presented an alternative for the nation’s poor, which in my town, counts as 80% of the population. To expect them to educate themselves, and not slide into a life of crime or meth addiction is just plain scary. Really.


Comment by
Tad
February 15th, 2006
at 3:48 pm

Then I have failed indeed. But I will try again.

The idea I’m refuting is that we need the current system in order to educate the poor and “prevent them from sliding into a life of crime and meth addiction.” The current system is not educating them, and they are sliding into crime and addiction with the system in place anyway. Why is this so? Is it because there are no alternatives? Or is it because they choose not to take advantage of the opportunities made available? Or, could it possibly be that we have created a welfare, entitlement based economy for them that creates dependancies on the state and removes the motivation to rise above their current condition? I believe it is one of the latter two choices.

On the other hand, the historical record shows that educational opportunities not only can, but do exist without the need to use the taxing power to achieve them. When a school is tuition is based, rather than “free,” the student is requird to place some value on his attendance there, and that value translates into motivation to succeed. The “disadvantaged” can be helped by direct subsidies from private charity, or even from the government, but those subsidies need not, and probably should not, be to the school, but to the student. And should probably not be total subsidization except maybe in cases of merit. For students that are not performing, the subsidy should go away or be reduced. In other words, nobody gets a totally free ride. This is the viable alternative.

This does several things: 1. It reconnects the consumer of education with the producer economically, 2. It creates value in the eyes of the student and his family thereby motivating the student, 3. It removes the deadwood who do not want to be there and that don’t benefit from being there, and 4. It provides a motivation for schools to serve their clients, instead of holding their hands out to the government for more funds. It is my view that such a system would provide a better education to more students than the present system does or can. The educational opportunity would be there for any who wanted to take advantage of it.

But then I’m one of those Libertarian wackos.


Comment by
COD
February 15th, 2006
at 4:10 pm

I think we could make significant progress towards Tad’s model with one simple change that on the surface does nothing to improve the schools.

Instead of property taxes flowing straight to the schools – they should be refunded back to the parents for payment to the school. The mere act of handing over $7000 a year I believe would make a lot of people a lot more interested in just what the schools are doing with that money.

This changes nothing except the perception of who is paying. However I think that change in perspective could be huge.


Comment by
Tad
February 15th, 2006
at 4:20 pm

I’m not sure I’m following your idea completely, Chris. Would the property taxes be refunded/credited to the parent taxpayer (as in tuition tax credits — property tax edition) or would the money go to any parent (as in vouchers)?

Either way, you would definitely get a huge change in perspective. It never ceases to amaze me how little folks around here know about how schools are funded and where the money comes from.


Comment by
COD
February 15th, 2006
at 4:49 pm

Either way probably works. The idea is that the parents have to personally hand over the money, so the idea that they are paying for this “free” education becomes clear. I think a lot more parents would start to hold the schools accountable.

Of course, I think if federal witholding were eliminated and we all wrote a check to the IRS each quarter the sheep would start to hold Congress a lot more accountable too.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 6:17 pm

In my community, there are no alternatives. There are no opportunities. Not everyone wants to live within urban growth boundaries and metro areas. You can’t force the poor to move from small rural, fairly inexpensive areas. And yes, by being in school, it at least prolongs their slide into crime – and thereby, just maybe, providing them a “way out” of this podunk town, maybe a scholarship, maybe themilitary. You may be saying that school isn’t necessary, but you’ll simply replace it with something that you deem necessary, something of your own choosing, be it some industry (that wouldn’t be welcome here) or .. what? Unless you have a car, there is no college, no job, no entitlement. There is no mass transportation, and no reason to provide any. This is reality. This is rural america, and it covers a lot of ground. This is a town that once supported one of the largest lumber mills in the country, and had a base population of 45,000 people. Now its an isolated bedroom community for the electronic valley 30 long miles away with perhaps 2500 people. People who do not have the money for tuition – they don’t even feed their own kids. You can’t envision an educational utopia without the aparatus to build it. And what of these people?
” It removes the deadwood who do not want to be there and that don’t benefit from being there” The deadwood – if my dyslexic son were in public school, he’d probably be one of the “deadwood”. Again, I don’t see your viable alternative to public school for the poor – making them pay for it is not logical. I don’t think you understand what poor is. Come to my town. In my state, schools are supported by property taxes and state/federal income taxes. Unless you’re a property owner with an income, you won’t be getting the $7000 “back” from the gov’t to educate your kid. Every property owner pays taxes to support schools, whether or not they use the system – do they get their $7000 back too?


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 6:22 pm

And again, I’m not saying the gov’t system is best – but I don’t see a viable alternative. I doubt many taxpayers are going to want to see the educrats writing each parent a check so they can educate as they see fit – I know I wouldn’t. I’d rather see each child assigned a specific amount of tax money to be educated, and that money follow the child on his/her educational course. Let schools compete for the money attached to that child. That would make a connection between the consumer and the consumed.


Comment by
Lioness
February 15th, 2006
at 6:49 pm

Doc, you just described my neighborhood. Before we moved here and dh started teaching, it had been 20 years since anyone from the local high school had gone on to college. The school prepared students for futures as factory workers (only the factories shut down), minimum wage earners (only those jobs now went to laid-off factory workers) and day care providers (which no one can afford now). The superintendent tried going around to the churches and such to drum up interest in getting the school good enough to prepare kids for college, but the adults couldn’t conceive it.

Since dh started teaching, every student of his has not only been accepted at college, but graduated from college, many with honors. This is not to say that the school itself doesn’t need a major overhaul. Corruption and indifference are rife among the faculty and administration. But it can be done. The kids’ futures can be salvaged. A college degree is not magic, but in a tight economy it beats not having a college degree by a mile.


Comment by
Doc
February 15th, 2006
at 8:39 pm

That sounds like the local high school, but then again, nobody cares. I do not blame the school. I know many many very good teachers. I know more than many parents who don’t care what happens when their child is in school, what is taught, or what happens to thekid after they’re done with school. It’s almost as if their responsibility to raise the child ended with kindergarten registration. When parents step up and demand change, schools will change. Until then, school is the only parent a lot of kids have – and unless a viable alternative is presented, I’d rather those kids are in school all day instead of “hanging out” in front of themini mart.


Comment by
Lioness
February 15th, 2006
at 9:19 pm

Some schools are bad. When you’ve got a huge pot of money, little oversight, and a tolerance of corruption you’re going to have thieves and bad schools. When you’ve got a tolerance of indifference you’re going to have indifferent schools. When you’ve got a tolerance of corruption you’re going to have corrupt schools and when you’ve got a tolerance of violence you’re going to have violent schools.

I think we need to reframe the whole school debate. The arguement has become “We need to have good schools for OUR kids.” That’s selfish and counter-productive. It should be “We need to have good schools for producing productive workers and well-educated citizens who can help our communities thrive.”


Comment by
Lioness
February 15th, 2006
at 9:30 pm

“The current system is not educating them, and they are sliding into crime and addiction with the system in place anyway. Why is this so? Is it because there are no alternatives? Or is it because they choose not to take advantage of the opportunities made available?”

There’s two answers, Tad. The first is that sometimes alternatives aren’t available. The second, more subtle answer is that people have to be trained to see alternatives and to take alternatives.

You can’t just waggle an opportunity under the nose of people who’ve never seen one and expect them to jump for it. They’re more likely to look at it suspiciously and back away. In their opinion it’s alien and probably dangerous.

There is a combination of bad habits and defeatism that sets into disadvanted communities that keeps the people who live there from looking for alternatives, from seeing alternatives when they are pointed out, and from pursuing alternatives.

“That won’t work.”
“Nobody from here has ever done that.”
“It’s just a scam.”
“That’s not for the likes of us.”

It takes years of hard and constant work to change those attitudes, not to mention success stories.


Comment by
Lioness
February 15th, 2006
at 9:37 pm

Re: “Deadwood” I take it you mean children of parents who don’t care if they are in school or not? We had a girl like that a few years ago in the school system. Her parents lived off her welfare check. She had two changes of clothes, one lightweight sweater, one pair of canvas sneakers, one pencil and one notebook to last the school year. When she left home her posessions didn’t fill up an egg crate.

She was the valedictorian. That crappy school was all she had, but she made the most of it. I could never condone taking it away from students like her.