Saturday, September 14, 2019

We must constantly rethink our schools

Maybe I'm lucky because both of my daughters are "into school." They talk about things they do there, get all A's and hardly complain about their meaningless homework. But what if that weren't the case? Then what?

For so many kids, school as we have it does not work. They may have special needs that aren't met. They may not want to comply with the constant rules. They may be too advanced to get any real education from school. Then what?

In Susan Wise Bauer's book Rethinking School (2018), she questions many practices in our schools, provides reasonable arguments and, ultimately, promotes homeschooling as a viable option.

I agree with so much of her arguments, and I believe homeschooling is an option in certain cases. But for my kids, I am not a proponent of homeschooling because I do not have a social circle in which they would be able to socialize and develop social skills that I see necessary in life. I also believe going to school promotes diversity, and that's hugely important.

If we believe that school is solely for book education, which I believe it isn't, then homeschooling is an option. Really? Well, someone once asked me why I'm against homeschooling, and my answer was this: "You got to meet people from different walks of life. You got to understand them. You also got to learn to deal with a**holes. You will encounter a lot of those in life."
I do not mean to diminish Bauer's book or even her reasoning for homeschooling. But I just felt as a public-school proponent, I was inclined to explain my homeschooling stance.

Public schools often have a one-size-fits-all approach, and why is this? I know that the model, curriculum and activities are outdated, and I believe students and parents need to understand this. Bauer does an excellent job at pointing this out.

Students and parents have the right to opt out of high-stakes testing, and they need to understand this. Why do we give our students so many meaningless high-stakes tests? In my world, at least the California Department of Education has released a dashboard of eight components of successful schools and made testing count 1/8th of what makes a good school.

But even with the state explaining how testing should be valued more properly, schools and educators are just so used to the testing, they still overvalue this mania of testing. So the big takeaway from Bauer's book is to question, question, question and don't accept the unacceptable. Schools and parents are a partnership; it's not one versus the other.

Yes, it's true that schools are mightily outdated in many regards, but good educators know that if they ran across a parent like Susan Wise Bauer, then it should foster an excellent relationship of someone who is brilliant at understanding education and caring about their kid's education.

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