Russell and Duenes

Four Reasons to Send Your Kids to Public Schools

with 2 comments

mariosavioI received a thoughtful reply to my previous post on motivations for attending public schools, so I thought I’d address his well-made points here.

1. You are already paying for public schools, so why pay for public schools and then pay to send your kids to private schools on top of that?

This is my argument for getting government out of the education business altogether. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had the right idea when it said that “religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.” ‘Encouraged’ being the operative word. What all levels of government should do is get out of the business of providing education, give us all the tax money back, and allow education to flourish through private means. It sounds radical, but I would argue that it only sounds that way because we have been thoroughly inundated by the tropes of the public school agenda. Privatization would allow all sorts of capital to flow to education, without the heavy-handed ‘one-size-fits-all’ curriculum and top-heavy bureaucrats that govern government schools.

2. Public schools are fine because “education is what you make of it.”

To some degree this is true, particularly as the student climbs higher in education. But I do not believe this is true overall. God is quite specific about the need for good things to be going into our hearts and minds, not a continual barrage of curriculum that official denies God and Christ any place in any area of learning. What kids “make of it” in public schools is that Jesus has nothing to do with anything that is properly called “knowledge.” They imbibe, from 12 years of officially excluding God, that Jesus is a nice friend, if that, for weekends and calling on in a pinch, but He most certainly does not know everything there is to know about calculus, physics, string theory, geography, history, literature and everything else. That is, he is not the smartest person who ever lived. What students make of their secular education is that Jesus is mostly irrelevant to the things that matter most in life. They also make of their education a rather utilitarian view of education and the life of the mind. This does not mean that every Christian kid from a Christian home who went through public schools came out an unbeliever. I didn’t, and I went to public schools all the way through college. But that’s no argument for it. Some people go to war and don’t get killed. But that’s no argument for going to war. If “education is what you make of it,” this would be a splendid argument for home-schooling. That is, teach your kids the basics of reading and math, and then let them “go make of it what they will.” But I suspect this is not what you mean.

3. With the proper motivation, kids will do just fine in the public schools.

I don’t doubt it, but what you did on a micro-level by offering your pupils soda pop is not really possible on the macro level. Plus, there are plenty of teachers who try various short-term rewards to motivate kids, with little long-term success. I would argue that this is because education, by its nature, requires a motivation of the type that satisfies the sum total of our being. That is, it must accord with the truth of the gospel in Jesus Christ to properly motivate people. Sure, some, motivated by ambition, will do well, but their education will be truncated. Others will be motivated by spiritual truth, even though they do not consciously affirm it. The image of God in us will not be ultimately tamped down. Yet I believe the reason so many kids are utterly bored with school and see it as a time-waster is because, to a significant degree, that’s largely what it is. The public schools try to motivate people with utilitarian notions of “getting a good job” or “succeeding in life.” But these things all lack definition and texture, and the public schools are ill-equipped to provide any definitions because that would require the schools to talk about better or worse ways to live that have to do with the kind of beings we are, namely, spiritual beings who, as Mario Savio so powerfully stated on the steps of UC Berkeley, “don’t mean to be—have any process upon us. Don’t mean to be made into any product. Don’t mean… Don’t mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We’re human beings!” But the government schools don’t know what it means to be a human being, and even if they did, they couldn’t tell their students. The Supreme Court says so.

4. Homeschooling is not optimal because most people are not educationally or pedagogically equipped to teach their own children, and the co-op option does not provide the breadth of teachers with expertise that is needed to teach one’s children.

I think there are a number of problems here, on the historical, practical and educational level. First, the historical problem. Education has been carried on quite nicely without government-administered schooling for most of humanity’s history. One of the failings of public education is that public school students are not taught much of anything about the history of education itself. They cannot imagine anything really different than the system we’ve got now, and unfortunately, they still cannot imagine it upon reaching adulthood. We have been seduced into thinking that all of our technological gadgetry has made us somehow smarter. Yet our online libraries are full but our minds are empty. One of the best kept secrets out there is how little time children actually need from instructors before they can begin teaching themselves.

A second problem is practical. We don’t really have a good idea of what homeschooling has been and is now. It has reached quite a level of sophistication, with a lot more “co-oping” going on, if you will, than the average person outside of it thinks. Further, tutors really can provide a lot of specialized attention where that is needed. You provided this yourself. Why not think that it could be done on a much wider scale? It was historically. Further, how is it better for a kid to be sitting in a classroom with 35 other kids, so that he or she is not getting any individualized attention, than to be one who could be getting attention from a tutor like yourself, or another college student who would be happy to work with my kid in trigonometry twice a week for 12-15 bucks an hour?

Finally, you yourself say that most adults cannot perform on anything higher than an 8th grade level. Yet most of these low-performers are products of public schools, like you and me. So I don’t see how this is an advertisement for more of the same. We can hardly do worse than the public schools are currently doing, particularly among the poor. The fact is, most parents can do all of the basic teaching their children will ever need, and they can do it very well, if it is their aim to do it. It takes work and it’s exhausting, and it cannot be done in isolation. It is not perfect. No education is. I’ve seen people I consider “the best” have to give up on it. Indeed, I’m not a “died in the wool, homeschool only” advocate. I do think that children need to get input from other sources than their parents, and they do need exposure to those who are relative experts in certain fields, particularly as their minds expand. But there are far better ways of addressing this than public schooling, which ways I should like to develop, but space does not permit in this post.

Much more could be said, but we’ll leave it at this for now.


Written by Michael Duenes

June 10, 2013 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Duenes, Education

2 Responses

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  1. The picture of Mario Savio (I couldn’t help but think Mario Soto) looks like Abbie Hoffman or a young Cosmo Kramer.

    russell and duenes

    June 10, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    • That’s true!


      russell and duenes

      June 11, 2013 at 10:42 am

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