My youngest son, who will be 17 in August, is disgusted with his peers. He vented forth at the weekend on his disappointment at his own generation. When he looks around at the vast majority of the kids his age he sees laziness, stupidity, lack of motivation, and a general bad attitude.
I reminded him that for many of them, the influence at home is largely responsible, bad parenting. I told him there's hope for them once they get out into the world and meet lots of different people, of all age groups and backgrounds, some of whom may be guiding lights for them.
But it shouldn't be this way at all. Look how much experience "we" (older people, who run the show) have of raising kids and educating them. Why are we getting it so wrong?
A friend who homeschools pointed this out to me:
"If schools in Ontario were like this, I wouldn't have a reason at all to homeschool."
Whatever your views on homeschooling are, one thing's certain, it shouldn't be necessary. It shouldn't be an option taken simply because the school system is failing. But frequently that is the reason parents turn to it.
I experimented with homeschooling by accident. When James was in Grade 4 we lost water supply to the barn in mid-winter. That meant I had to schlep endless buckets of water through the snow to our sheep, from the house. At the same time he had been having some issues at school which I thought I could address. So for a few months he stayed home, helped me with the water carrying, and using the material supplied by his teacher, I kept him on track with school work.
No. That's NOT what happened. We got through the school work for the entire semester in about 3 weeks. Initially we did a little each day, but it was ridiculous. There was so little to do it took no time at all. So we just went through it until we ran out. I expanded on it, adding my own material. By the time he returned to school he was so far ahead they wanted him to skip a grade. We decided against that, but it was very telling.
Why does it take SO LONG to teach kids the amount of material they get through? Some of it is disruption, classes are chaotic. Students do not sit quietly and pay attention. Some of them need more attention by the teacher than others. A large class would work fine if all kids were ready, able, and willing to learn, but the reality is that many are not, and this slows things down for everyone.
Obviously I'm not a person who believes homeschooling is automatically better or I would have done it permanently. However, I'm certainly very supportive of anyone who does. Yes, there is bad homeschooling. Oh yes. There is DREADFUL homeschooling. It's done for all the wrong reasons, and by parents who really aren't capable. But when it's done well it can be very good indeed.
So let's look at what education involves. The idea behind it is to prepare a child for adult life. There are many skills modern humans need above and beyond basic literacy and numeracy, and we send children in groups to learn all of this by one person, skilled at teaching. It works some of the time. Some kids respond very well to this system, and come out at the end of it ready to go, as it were. Some fail horribly because they need a completely different approach, and this was never recognized or addressed. The majority sort of muddle through, not quite reaching full potential. UGH.
The system semi-works. That's not good enough. Kids are falling through the cracks and instead of saying "WOAH, time to re-group, fix this!" less funding is being put into education instead of more. Ontario teachers are at loggerheads with the government. Funding in British schools is at an all-time low, with more cuts to come. Meanwhile in the US....oh I won't even go there.
When a generation is properly educated we all benefit. Crime rates are lower. It is absolutely a win-win.
The benefits of the academic skills are obvious, but there's more to it than that. When kids are compromised by bad homes, behavioural problems, learning problems, then schools can help with life skills. There is often the idea that this is not the responsibility of a school. That teachers "shouldn't" have to deal with all of that. Then who? If parents are not doing it, because they can't or won't, somebody has to. Yes, "we", the big we have to pay for this. Because if it isn't the school system doing it, then it'll end up being the social services or justice system. The rest of us end up paying anyway. Far cheaper and better if it begins early, in school.
This is not a question of whose responsibility it is, not really. We can argue until we are blue in the face that parents ought to do this or that. Well some of them DON'T. That's how it is. Shoot them if you like. Ultimately kids with problems become society's problem. The dumb, lazy ones are a burden. They create new problems, including distractions for the kids who can and want to do well. Apparently it costs too much to educate the problem kids separately/in smaller groups/properly/at all. But this is an investment in the future.
Does anyone care about the future?