Advice from a pro

On the National Education Association site, Dave Arnold tells parents to leave education to the professionals.

There’s nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education.

. . . why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this — the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures — to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!

Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is “head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois.”

Parents, don’t try to clean up your own home. Leave it to the professionals!

Update: Natalie posts a sarcastic letter to Arnold and his clueless response. Dominick Cancilla writes:

You’re completely spot on about religion in schools, too. Parents should be fighting to get their schools more in line with proper religious beliefs instead of denying their child a real education. And you’re also right about the stupidity of retreating from a fight. Who ever won a battle by boycotting? Gandhi? Now there’s a man who didn’t spend enough time on the school yard!

Missing the sarcasm, Arnold replies with thanks for the “fantastic comments and compliments.”

I’m acquainted with a couple that have adopted two very cute and fairly inelleligent little boys, but they are turning them into social misfits by not allowing them to attend public school. The only friends they have are home schooled as well and social misfits also. They spend the great majority of their lives within the confines of their own home being home schooled so their lives won’t be corrupted by the evils of this world. Perhaps their lives won’t be corrupted, but it is primarily because these poor children aren’t being allowed to have a life.

When I was letters editor of the San Jose Mercury News, I learned that many readers will miss the most blatant sarcasm. A San Jose cop risked his life to save people taken hostage in a doughnut shop; a letter writer wrote that it just proves cops are lazy slobs who will do anything for a doughnut. I thought it was crystal clear that the letter writer was knocking people for knocking the police, but numerous readers wrote in to ask, “Is he joking?” They didn’t stop to think the answer was “yes.” I declared a sarcasm ban in the letters section.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Too much. I wonder if this was a prank? The home schooling site trashed by Arnold the Custodian has a link to a rebuttal.

  2. SuperSub says:

    Just some more elitest crap thrown out by the education intellectuals.

  3. I would hardly call the head custodian an “education intellectual”.

    Some home schoolers are a little scary – it would be difficult for anyone to know enough in all topics to cover them all at home (let’s face it – most primary school teachers can’t do it) – that’s why I love it when I see partnerships between district and homeschoolers – it makes the advantages of a traditional setting (access to art classes, science instruction, other “special” topics) available to more people while allowing parents to guide their children learn at home. The Loma Preita district in our area has a pretty good program and I’m sure there are others.

  4. WoodysWoundup says:

    I saw this and responded to it a few days ago. As I mention in a subsequent post: What public educators cannot control, they fear.

  5. This article’s a real head-scratcher. Other then that Dave the Custodian is saying things that have doctrinaire NEA members nodding in agreement, the article seems spectacularly counterproductive.

    A teacher might have some claim to the condescension the article fairly reeks of but a janitor?

    Other then getting an “amen” from the choir, what’s the benefit in getting almost everyone else who’d read this article riled up at Dave the Custodian’s presumptousness and the NEA for publishing his screed?

  6. I’m a nervous wreck!

  7. ragnarok says:

    Any chance, as Bart said in the first comment, that this is actually a prank? One might ask, why would the NEA go along with it, but I don’t think I want to go there…

  8. “No battle has ever been won by retreating!”

    Cannae.

  9. SuperSub says:

    Ivory… I generally use the term education intellectual for anyone who likes to talk about education policy and thinks they are an expert… which Dave seems to believe. Doesn’t mean they actually say anything important.

    The fact is yes, there are cases where home-schooling is better than typical school. A lot of schools simply provide books and worksheets (if that), and a dedicated parent can do the same or better.

  10. Richard Nieporent says:

    The NEA is planning to have groundskeeper Willie write a rebuttal to Dominick Cancilla’s letter.

  11. I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe.

    Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.

    I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the
    Tannhauser Gate.

    I’ve seen a credentialed, 6th grade teacher with
    nearly 20 years of experience complain that she
    couldn’t get her students, half-way through the
    school year, to understand what a reciprocal is.

    All those moments will be lost…
    in time…
    like tears in the rain.

    Oh, except for that part about the 6th grade
    teacher. You see, I’ve also seen brand-new
    quality credentialed 6th grade teachers in
    their first year; one who at the end of the
    year had only got up to teaching her students
    how to add and multiply with negative numbers.
    ALL OF THEM FAILED their final exam
    which tested this concept EXCLUSIVELY.

    And another 6th grade, fully credentialed teacher
    using a very un-mathematical device to get his
    students to learn the order of operations,
    something called PEMDAS:

    Please
    Excuse
    My
    Dear
    Aunt
    Sally

    So, in 20 years, I expect others will
    be able to witness some of the incredible
    things I have seen…

    sniff.

  12. esunola says:

    Dave needs to get out more. If you visit the Illinois schools accountability site hosted by NIU and look up Brownstown Elementary, you will find they are a PK-6 school with 240 students, and 100% of the students are white. Here’s the link:
    http://iirc.niu.edu/scripts/school.asp?schoolID=0302620102001&test=all
    According to the NCES website, they have a student -teacher ratio of 12.9.

    The entire school system only has 453 students in three schools, again 100% white with 28% low income.

    Yeah, that’s the typical public school system in America. No wonder Dave has such unique insight. These kids are halfway to home schooling as it is.

  13. nailsagainsttheboard says:

    Does anyone really expect the NEA count among its fans a readership who are intellectual beacons? Dimwits, maybe. I would just say to Mr. Arnold…quit your day job and leave the head custodian jobs to the professionals. Judging from the clarity of your mind, I’d say you probably leave many messy classrooms as well.

  14. If the professional teachers and educators can provide one or two full-time teachers for each child, in a friendly non-threatening individual and small group environment, with low-cost materials and supplies, and personalize such instruction to fit the needs of each student – then they are ready to challenge homeschoolers.

  15. ragnarok says:

    According to the NEA website, Dave Arnold is a published poet, and was actually named NEA ESP (Educators Support Professionals) Poet Laureate in 2001. Looked at a couple of his efforts (Google), but didn’t have the heart to post them here.

    I don’t think the reigning poets have much to fear.

  16. I hate the “qualified professional” statements by these morons. I had a public school education. Two of my much younger brothers were home schooled. My mom has a B.S. in geography and a M.S. in cartography. She knows more about the subject of geography than every teacher I had in school combined. She is not very good at math. It was always one of her weaknesses. She will be the first to admit it, but one of the other moms in her home school group was an aerospace engineer for NASA before she quite her job to stay at home and raise her children. I bet she knows more about math, chemistry, and physics than most of my public school teachers did. Well not physics, I would gladly argue that I had one of the best physics teachers in the country. There are other moms and dads that are in the same home school group that have degrees in various fields. They get together and teach different subject. That has got to be a better education than I received. The only advantage of public schools is social interaction. If the home school group gets together a lot or if the kids have a strong youth group at church then they will get all of the social skills they will need in life. To all of the home schoolers out there I say good luck and keep up the good work. Public schools are a disaster and you are doing your children a great service.

  17. Are you seriously going to argue though that all homeschoolers are better than all teachers? I have no problem with homeschooling per se but I do reject the idea that it should not be regulated at all. If you sign up to educate your own kids, you better be able to do it as well as the professional educators.

    Homeschooled kids should have to take the same tests and meet the same standards other children meet. If homeschool kids can’t keep up, they should be thrown back in the pile with everyone else or given other alternatives. Demanding choice for students in public schools and then denying it to homeschooled students is hypocritical and unfair. Assuming that every parent that wants to homeschool is qualified to teach their own kids is naive.

  18. ragnarok says:

    Ivory said:

    “If homeschool kids can’t keep up, they should be thrown back in the pile with everyone else or given other alternatives.”

    Other alternatives, that’s the kicker. Doesn’t make any sense to take a failing home-schooler and toss him into a failing public school. Implicitly, vouchers.

  19. And it makes it difficult to compare. If you’re homeschooling a particular child, and that child “fails” whatever assessment test given… well, what does it mean when the 40% of the kids at the local public school also fail that test? Does that mean the homeschooling parent is better or worse than the public school? Do the 40% in the public school who failed get taken out of public school because of the failure of that system?

    If it goes one way (kids taken out of homeschooling because they’re not keeping up), it also has to go the other (kids taken out of public school because they’re not keeping up.) If people want to make that argument, I’d love to hear their proposals. It’s just that most of the anti-homeschool people I’ve met are also anti-vouchers and anti-charter schools. Perhaps they were taught logic by someone other than a trained professional… that must be their problem.

  20. By the way, in all the cases, the choice is supposed to be extended to =parents=, not the children. Parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children (while they’re minors, not when they’re adults, though some parents take care of that, too).

    If parents “choose” public school for their children, and the kids hate it, the kids can’t do anything about it (they can try to argue against it, but that’s about it). So don’t worry about the kids who have homeschooling imposed on them — there are kids who have public school imposed on them by their parents, too.

  21. Ivory wrote:

    Are you seriously going to argue though that all homeschoolers are better than all teachers?

    Strawman alert! Strawman alert! Please try not to panic and move in an orderly fashion toward the exits.

    Come on Ivory. All homeschooling parents don’t have to be better then all teachers in order to justify homeschooling. In fact, all homeschoolers could be worse teachers then the pros and homeschooling would still be justified and produce better results then the current system.

    The underlying issue isn’t who’ll produce better educational results but who ought to be in charge of overall decisions-making. Your position that homeschoolers have to be regulated implies that they ought not to be the final decision-makers. That’s the current situation in public education and I feel that’s a good deal of the reason public education is in trouble – the assumption that parents aren’t the proper decision-makers and that paid professionals are.

  22. Well said allen.

  23. Matthew Tabor says:

    I’d be pleased if there was a sarcasm ban for comments. It’s why I’ve stopped reading/posting, for the most part. I don’t have a problem understanding or handling sarcasm, most of the readership is just quite awful at it and use the device as a crutch for argument. It gets old very, very quickly.

  24. All homeschooling parents don’t have to be better then all teachers in order to justify homeschooling.

    No – but the attitude in this string seems to be that all trained teachers (“education intellectuals” whatever) are bad and I know for a fact that is not true. Some are quite good – better than some of the parents I know who homeschool in that the teachers have expertise and talent the parents lack.

    Your position that homeschoolers have to be regulated implies that they ought not to be the final decision-makers.

    Parents are the final decision makers in most cases – let’s face it – they can always walk with their feet (move), get interdistrict transfers, save/earn the money for private school and homeschool if it pleases them. But if they choose to withdraw from formal education, they need to leave the rest of us with some assurance that their kids won’t end up a burden to the system because of the low quality education the kids received.

    The underlying issue isn’t who’ll produce better educational results

    Yes it is – results are all. The argument has been made over and over that the public school system is bad and that is evidenced both in by low or unacceptable test scores and by the myriad of administrative stupidities highlighted in this blog. Better results on tests achieved by students with TFA teachers and those in charter schools are held up as evidence that alternatives to the public system are necessary. Homeschooled children, charter school kids, and public school kids should be compared and held accountable based on the same standards. Otherwise you have no means to prove that you (the charter school, private school, homeschool) are any better than the public system – and these tests might show that you are worse.

    If you’re homeschooling a particular child, and that child “fails” whatever assessment test given… well, what does it mean

    It means that you, like the public school, are ineffective for your child and you need to improve. For an individual with special needs, this that might mean they are assessed in terms of improvement based on a customized learning plan. But normal average kids should make normal average progress in a given year.

    Why be afraid of these tests when you are so sure you are doing a better job? Also, why would you want to homeschool when it can be empirically shown that you are not effective? I would think a consciencious parent would do anything to make sure they gave their kids the best education possible – even if it meant that they (the parent) were not their child’s teacher. Is this about education or control?

  25. ragnarok says:

    Ivory said:

    “…they need to leave the rest of us with some assurance that their kids won’t end up a burden to the system because of the low quality education the kids received.

    Hmm, applies equally well to the bad public schools, don’t you think? Agree with most of the rest of your post, although I think it’s inarguably true that parents are generally much more dedicated to their children’s best interests than a teacher.

    Also, to say that “Parents are the final decision makers in most cases – let’s face it – they can always walk with their feet (move), get interdistrict transfers, save/earn the money for private school” is only partially true. Could a poor parent (yeah, I should say financially-challenged, shouldn’t I?) from, say, East Palo Alto really move to Cupertino to take advantage of the better school system? Yes, I know about inter-district transfers, but you get the point, I think.

  26. Mike in Texas says:

    I’m am anti-voucher/anti-charter school but I am not anti-homeschooling. The real advantage in homeschooling is the one on one instruction the child receives all the time, something impossible in a public school setting. Some students NEED that kind of attention to be successful.

    I also believe if parents have strong religious beliefs they want to instill in their children they have the right to do so in a homeschooling environment.

  27. ragnarok says:

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    “I also believe if parents have strong religious beliefs they want to instill in their children they have the right to do so in a homeschooling environment.”

    And, playing the devil’s advocate, suppose the ‘strong religious beliefs’ are Muslim fundamentalist beliefs – would you still say so? If not, why not?

    The world ain’t quite as black and white as one might hope.

  28. Ivory wrote:

    No – but the attitude in this string seems to be that all trained teachers (“education intellectuals” whatever) are bad and I know for a fact that is not true.

    Scanning back through this thread, and drawing on memory for the other threads I’ve read and posted in, I’d say you’re wrong.

    There’s certainly a failure to accept that all teachers are competent and caring but that’s a ridiculous notion unless you also posit that teachers are a distinct specie – homo instructus. Or, unless you’ve accept the notion that there’s something else special about teachers which elevates teachers above the rest of the human race.

    If you’re a teacher I can see how that’d be an attractive notion but let me assure you that from the point of view of non-teachers that superiority may be wished for and imputed but isn’t exhibited any more often then the general run of humanity.

    Some are quite good –

    Well, of course. But, some really stink and in the public education system there’s precious little differentiation between the two. The critical difference between a lousy teacher and a lousy homeschooling parent is that the parent only hurts their own child. The lousy teacher may hurt classrooms full of kids for decades. The other important difference is that the tax-payer is forced to pay the salary of that lousy teacher.

    Yes it is – results are all.

    Uh, no. Results – educational results – are the result of other forces. Responsibility, accountability, funding.

    A good deal of what’s wrong with the public education system can be summed up in a single word – accountability. Where parental choice has free scope it’s at least credible that those parents, in the main, will opt for the best education they can manage for their children. In the current system the parents main, and least circumscribed choice, is where to live. After that, most choices are within the confines of a system which is effectively beyond parental control.

    Homeschooled children, charter school kids, and public school kids should be compared and held accountable based on the same standards.

    And your rationale would be?

    If the state isn’t funding the homeschooler, what’s the reason the state has too intrude? If you want everything to be equal then the state ought to be on the hook to demonstrate some compelling interest. There’s no money being spent so there isn’t an accountability issue.

    If you’re positing a state power to impose educational standards on homeschoolers then the same standard, enforced with the same penalties, ought to be in place to assure the public schools are meeting the same standard. You sure you want to go down this road?

    Also, why would you want to homeschool when it can be empirically shown that you are not effective?

    Oh, and where has that been shown? Empirically or otherwise.

    Mike in Texas wrote:

    The real advantage in homeschooling is the one on one instruction the child receives all the time, something impossible in a public school setting. Some students NEED that kind of attention to be successful.

    But most don’t so, according to your “smaller class sizes is better” philosophy, the kids who don’t need one-on-one will do better then they would in a class of 12 kids. Or 30 kids.

    Why should they be in those big classes when they don’t have to be?

  29. Mr. Davis says:

    No wonder my letter never got published.