Education and Home Schooling

Educational standards have been slipping since I left school in 1960. In the 1960s, ‘educationalists’ introduced soft maths with cuisinere rods. It was to do with the new idea of eradicating rote learning and sounded good. It was also supposed to usher in a new time of teaching students to think for themselves and sounded good. There were other ‘soft’ educational measures that were adopted in the 60s. I was so glad I had been educated prior to these new methods.

I started teaching in 1972 and found that curricula had been dumbed down from the curricula under which I had been instructed. English language skills had deteriorated and letting the kiddies express themselves regardless of language skills took precedence. Discipline started to nose dive and continued to do so. Teachers were hamstrung and became stressed enough that their shelf life was less than 7 years before a nervous breakdown. Suicide among the teaching profession hit Number 1 in the suicide stakes (above that of psychiatrists) and teachers’ divorce rates skyrocketed.

It seems to me that this trend has continued. Home schooling became part of this trend. A lot of home schooling – the US has the highest home schooling statistics in the world – has to do with fundamental Christianity. Of course, the evolution segment in science classes then becomes embroiled in a religious divide. Fundamentalists and creationists have a faith-based set of beliefs that are just not acceptable in the wider community and within standardised curricula. This, of course, is why the US courts have always come down in favour of teaching science and not creationism (which is not science). The US needs to at least try to keep its educational standards as high as possible. It is slipping internationally and can’t afford much more of a slide.

The reason that state school curricula were set in place was to ensure a standard of education that allowed entrance to higher education institutions based on standard minimum educational requirements. Industry knew what to expect from graduates and trades people and were able to hire employees on that basis.

The trouble as I see it with home schooling is that the standard requirements as tested by the examination and grading systems of the state are not being maintained. Now, I can understand (given that standards have been slipping for 50 years) that some parents want more for their children. If such parents can demonstrate a superior level of education and an ability to impart information and learning skills to their children, then they could apply to educational standard authorities to home school their children using the curriculum laid down for a standard education. Their children would undergo state school grading examinations to ensure the educational standards of the wider community were being met within the home schooling system.

But, and it is a big but, these home schooled children are not required to sit state set examinations. In some countries they are, but my understanding is that in the US they aren’t. So, imagine a home schooled student applying for entrance to a university to study for a Bachelor’s degree.

“Show me your school leaving grades and certificate of completion, son.”

“Sorry sir, I am home schooled and I haven’t got that sort of paperwork.”

“Sorry, son. This institution can’t accept undergraduates unless they have attained the standard on which we rely to enable your understanding of the material presented to you here. That means grades and the completion of a state education. We have an entrance exam that you can apply to sit and will have to pass before we can consider accepting you here.”

I don’t know how many times such a scenario would be played out. What a way to hamper your child in his/her pursuits. One thing that home schooling can’t supply is the daily contact between peers. Socialisation is not adequately served in such a situation. The end product is not socialised within normal parameters. All societies allow peer socialisation until adulthood/initiation.

Even in outlying areas where education is conducted via radio, a standard curriculum is taught and, depending on the country, term or annual residential schools are held for students to meet their instructors on campus and they mingle with their peers.

I have also noticed a tendency for people to impress on children just how ‘special’ each child is. This incessant ‘unique specialness’ that is drummed into the individual child without the levelling process of normal peer socialisation supplied in the school play yard cannot help but produce some adolescents who are ill-equipped to deal with the real world.

Countries that disallow home schooling include Germany, Spain, Brazil, Greece, Netherlands and China. I think we will see the poor results on the society as a whole as a result of the fractured methods of schooling that are appearing in the US. The country is ranked on the science scale at 22 out of 35 OECD countries and 18 out of 36 on general secondary education standards. This was in 2008.

However, the Wiki article on Homeschooling cites the educational achievement of home schooling parents as higher than within the normal population. In a 2001 study, Dr. Clive Belfield states that the average homeschooling parent is a woman with a college degree. I wonder what happened between that 2001 study and the fundamentalists that appear to populate the home schooling front now. The Wiki article just isn’t current enough to encompass the growth in the number of fundamentalists insisting on creationism and, of course, the greatly enhanced public face of atheism in the community.

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