An Educational Conversation

In my previous Carnival of Homeschooling post — Education Today? — I asked readers for their feedback on a variety of statements and questions about why and how we educate children in our schools. The comments I received were more intelligent, insightful, impassioned, and personal than I ever could have hoped for them to be.

In answer to my question Does math not run in your family? Dee wrote, Math does run in my family and not in my husband’s. Dawn wrote, Math is not something that’s genetically predetermined. And Tracy gave us all something to think about with her comment: How do you distinguish between people who aren’t meant for math and people who were taught in such a way that they . . . can’t do math?

With regard to the testing and homework that goes on in schools, Renee, a public school teacher and parent, wrote: Many, many teachers oppose the push to teach every child the same thing at the same time to the same degree . . . to meet the mandates of No Child Left Behind. Cherish wrote: I hate the homework and the testing. And Dee asked, If a student needs to come home and do four hours of study, isn’t that called “Home School?” Finally, Dawn reminded us, with a big smile, that in her family’s version of homeschooling, We don’t test or do homework.

My question about whether everyone in today’s society really needs a four-year college degree drew answers that impressed me for their out-of-the-box quality. But then, as Dee wrote, We don’t need to think out of the box — we need to GET out of the box. Then burn the thing.

Comments on four-year degrees:

  • Tracy: I don’t think that everyone now needs a four-year college degree. She does, however, see an advantage in being educated to the level at which you could attain one, if you so desired.
  • Dee: Certainly, educate all children — to their ability AND desire. Dee also notes that she enjoyed getting her four-year college degree but acknowledges that her degree-less sister makes a lot more money than she does.
  • Dawn: I think that college is generally an industry now. Its product is a degree, and it’s salespeople are people like the PEO [Prominent Education Official whose speech began this entire discussion]. Dawn, I agree with you wholeheartedly.
  • Cherish: I don’t feel all children are bound for college, and I think setting that goal does a lot to harm the self-image of those who can’t or don’t want to go that route.

I say “Brava!” to all of these women willing to buck the cultural trend that sends so many seventeen-year-olds out on weekend college visits with parents who may never have even asked them what they would truly like to do after high school.

Now we come to the most important question: Where do we go from here? It prompted many deeply felt responses:

  • Tracy noted that some schools do use pre-testing, small groups, and regular re-evaluation of students — all methods that allow for more individualized instruction.
  • Renee felt that parents and teachers could make students’ school experiences more individualized, especially if we are willing to give up artificial limits such as grade levels.
  • Dee mentioned having school all year round and changing teacher certification laws.
  • Dawn, a homeschooler, wrote, I think we should focus on building our own models for our kids and being open about it when people ask about it.
  • Mary believes that What the schools are underestimating in their students is that spirit, not just scores, will determine a student’s/person’s path in life.
  • Sally left her job as a public school teacher and is now an unschooler because of her overall dissatisfaction with the whole ”testing is the main goal’ mentality and the treatment of certain children if they couldn’t or refused to bend to the public school ideal.
  • And finally, Cherish wrote: I can’t sit in a desk all day . . . how the heck can they expect young kids to do the same?!

If you’re still with me, I’d like to address my suitcase analogy from the “Education Today?” post. Here’s how I think it should be instead:

Suitcase on a BikeEvery child — every person — is a suitcase, and only you can determine what gets packed and what gets pitched. There is no specific time at which the suitcase (i.e, the person) must contain any specific items, and there are no items that should not be packed! You open and close your suitcase (yourself) according to your own desire and your own schedule. The only thing parents and teachers can do for you is show you how the lock works, make you aware of what’s packable (i.e., the entire world), and wish you a good trip!

Thanks for reading.

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5 Responses so far »

  1. 2

    […] Update: And hear from you I did! For a follow-up to this post, click here. […]

  2. 3

    […] Susan Gaissert of The Expanding Life brings together the intelligent comments of many educators in An Educational Conversation. At Build a School, Jeff presents his ideas about teachable moments in There Is Nothing New Under […]

  3. 4

    […] Susan Gaissert of The Expanding Life brings together the intelligent comments of many educators in An Educational Conversation. At Build a School, Jeff presents his ideas about teachable moments in There Is Nothing New Under […]

  4. 5

    leroy said,

    can we use your pic of suitcase on the bike ? it is for a school project


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