I recently learned that public school officials in my area sent a letter to parents of their students, asking for the names and addresses of any children they know who are not enrolled in public school. This is troubling, because the historical response of many school districts to home-schoolers is to sic social services and the police on us. Volunteers from our local home-school association checked into the matter, and were told by school officials that this information gathering is simply so they can better market their services to those of us who elect not to send our children to their facilities.
Because that’s the problem, you see: poor marketing. I recall, years ago when I lived near Detroit, being part of a focus group put together by an organization financed by the Big Three auto companies and their dealers. We were asked to assess the door features on various makes and models, including foreign cars. It had never occurred to me that door features vary greatly, but they really do. One of the American models was so poorly designed that it actually hurt your fingers to open the door. A fellow in our focus group opined that there was no difference between the American and foreign cars, that Americans were simply being deceived by clever marketing. “I don’t think,” I replied, “that a feature of automobiles ought to be pain.” He shook his head in disgust. I was deluded, you see, by fancy foreign car marketing. The Big Three just needed better advertisements.
But the thing is, most of us aren’t stupid. I’m no education theorist, but I’m not blind. The problem with our local schools isn’t poor marketing, it’s poor quality. They churn out students with poor communication skills, poor writing ability, little critical thinking competence, and virtually no grounding in math, science, logic, arts, literature, or history. If you doubt me, look at student test scores. Talk to anyone involved in college education about the quality of incoming freshmen. Talk to people who hire high-school students.
This should not be surprising, given that the education major requires one of the lowest GPA’s with which one can receive a college degree. If that’s offensive, consider what happens in those rare instances when public school teachers take the standardized tests with which their students are afflicted — considerable numbers of them fail. Even if public school teachers were grounded in actual disciplines, rather than the nebulous pseudo-discipline that is the education degree, public schools would still underperform because they operate with a one-size-fits-all, teach-to-the-lowest-common-denominator mentality. Compounding the problem is that the best teachers are not rewarded, while the deadwood keep their steady-paying gigs regardless of performance.
So thank you, local school officials, but no, we’ll be teaching our children ourselves, or contracting out the work to folks with demonstrated competence. My advice is that you be thankful that you get to keep the lion’s share of our property taxes, even when we don’t avail ourselves of your services. The last thing you want, if you think about it, is for all of us to start showing up at your school board meetings, demanding the quality we see delivered in our homes and private schools.
In other words, don’t poke the bear.