Sunday, December 17, 2006

No Need to "Manufacture a Crisis"

In this morning's paper, I read an editorial about a book titled, "The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, and the Attack on America's Public Schools." The columnist had interviewed the authors of the book, and the gist of the article was how today's public schools are stronger than ever. The article went on to extol the virtues of today's public schools, especially some of the wealthy suburban districts (like ours) as being the best public schools in all the world. It was an interesting article, a bright spot amid the usual articles which outline the problems in schools today and leave me feeling overwhelmed on behalf of those who are in positions to bring about change.

But the article today made me reiterate a thought to myself: We homeschool, not because of what the public schools aren't, but because of what homeschooling is.

I came to the above conclusion a few years ago when we built our current house. We were moving from one city to another, and thus changing school districts (though I was homeschooling at the time, which I have all along). We had lived in the city where I grew up and attended public schools, and where I had taught in the public school system before I started staying home with the kids. When I told people of our plans to build a house in a neighboring city/district, several people commented, "Oh, then you won't have to homeschool anymore." I realized then that it had been perceived (even though I had certainly never stated it) that we were homeschooling as an answer to an undesirable public school situation. That wasn't the case at all, in fact. (Besides the fact that I don't consider our current school district to be qualitatively "better" than our former one, but that's another post altogether!)

Of course, there is no shortage of information available to homeschoolers giving ample evidence that public schools are failing our children and that they are a humanistic, godless environment from which we should shelter our Christian children. I never really bought into the most radical of those points of view, because as I stated above, I had been a public school teacher myself. During my time as a teacher I would divide my class list into five groups, and pray for a group of children by name during my quiet times at home each morning. I would get there early and pray over the desks of certain children who I knew were going through rough situations at home or were having particular difficulties at school. During "D.E.A.R." (Drop Everything And Read) time, I would sit at my desk and quietly read my Bible or devotional book. God was very present in my classroom, and I devoted myself to academic excellence. And I wasn't alone! I know there are many, many Christian teachers who do all of that and more in thousands of public schools across America.

So, my thought today is, do we as homeschoolers need the public schools to be failing in order to be firm in our decisions to homeschool? I hope not. The vast majority of this nation's schoolchildren attend public schools. It would benefit all of us for our public schools to be the best in history, as the above book purports. But, that need not affect our family's decision to homeschool. What homeschooling is to us far outweighs what the public schools aren't. But, more than that, it far outweighs even what the public schools are. That's what makes it the best choice for our particular family.

That the current state of our country's public schools is the best in history and in all of the world is certainly debatable (just scroll down to the book's reviews on Amazon). But, for us, that's not at the heart of our decision whether or not to utilize them. I think it speaks more highly of homeschooling as an educational choice for the public schools to be strong and for people to choose to homeschool anyway. For what homeschooling is.

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