Ron Paul: Abandon public schools

Ron Paul doesn’t call for reforming schools in his new book, The School Revolution. He wants parents to abandon state-run schools and teach their children at home — with the help of low-cost online courses. (His own courses cost $50.)

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“Teach” means “have your child read a lot of books and watch YouTube videos on his or her own,” writes Kevin Carey, who directs the education policy program at the New America Foundation, in the New Republic.

A fan of self-reliance, Paul believes students should learn on their own, starting in fourth to sixth grade, writes Carey. “If they need help, it’s best to ask other students. No teachers are required.”

“The parent who demands that his child be given special attention by a high school teacher is making a big mistake,” writes Paul.

Paul’s plan creates an “isolated learning experience focused exclusively on reading, writing, and debate, with no exposure to heterodox views,” writes Carey. “His program will shield students from the evils of liberalism and, worse, Keynesianism, and train them to argue their cause with facility and zeal.”

Fix schools by not fixing schools

Fix Schools by Not Fixing Schools advises Jay P. Greene. Instead of trying to reform traditional public schools, go around them.

We can expand access to other educational options, including charter schools, voucher schools, tax-credit schools. ESAs, digital schooling, home-schooling, and hybrid schools.  We can also expand access to enriching non-school activities, like museums, theaters, historical sites, summer camps, and after-school programs.  Reformers should concentrate their energy on all of these non-traditional-school efforts and stop trying so hard to fix traditional public schools.

Traditional public schools don’t want to be fixed, writes Greene.

The people who make their living off of those schools have reasons for wanting schools to be as they are and have enormous political resources to fend off efforts to fundamentally change things.  Trying to impose reforms like merit pay, centralized systems of teacher evaluation, new standards, new curriculum, new pedagogy, etc… on unwilling schools is largely a futile exercise.  They have the political resources to block, dilute, or co-opt these efforts in most instances.

“Second, attempting to impose reforms on traditional public schools requires a significant increase in centralized political control,” Greene writes.  When traditionalists subvert “most reforms through poor implementation,” the centralization remains.

 Centralized reforms that can be adopted and implemented have to be watered-down enough to gain broad support for passage and implementation, rendering them mostly impotent.

. . . even if by some miracle an effective and appropriate centralized reform with bite is adopted and properly implemented, there is no natural political constituency to preserve the integrity of that reform over time.

Traditional public schools don’t resist the creation of alternatives “with the same ferocity that they oppose reforms that directly effect their daily working life,” Greene writes. Creating alternatives doesn’t require centralization or pleasing everyone. Successful alternatives build their own constituency.

 

School is bad for kids

School is a prison that’s damaging our kids, argues Peter Gray on Salon. A psychology professor at Boston College, Gray is the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self Reliant, and Better Prepared for Life.

“Children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school,” Gray writes.

The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else.

Most students “lose their zest for learning” — especially in math and science — by middle or high school, he writes.

. . . people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful.

Children’s “amazing drive and capacity to learn” is turned off by coercive schooling, Gray argues. Our schools teach children “that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.”

When children direct their own learning, their “natural curiosity and zest for learning persist all the way through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood,” he writes.

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More homeschooling families are encouraging self-directed learning, he writes. Others are turning to “democratic” schools where children educate themselves, while having opportunities to socialize. For example, the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass. lets students, who range in age from 4 to about 18, do what they wish all day, as long as they don’t break school rules designed to keep peace and order.

Sippican Cottage agrees: Public schools are “reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school.”

When a California principal told students to drop to one knee before being dismissed, parents protested and the policy was abandoned. What some called “taking a knee,” others saw as kneeling before the principal.

Elite colleges ask more of homeschoolers

Are Elite Colleges and Universities Discriminating Against Homeschoolers? asks Paula Bolyard, a recently “retired” homeschooler, on PJ Lifestyle.
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Homeschooled student “enter college with significantly higher test scores than their public (and even private) school peers,” she writes. “They graduate from college at a higher rate­—66.7 percent compared to 57.5 percent—and earn higher grade point averages while in school, according to one study.”

Princeton seems to get it, she writes. Applicants who can’t supply a traditional transcript can submit an outline of the homeschool curriculum.

Yale wants to make sure homeschooled kids are not socially awkward:

We look for evidence of social maturity from all our applicants and especially from home-schooled students. Your personal statement, interests and activities, and letters of recommendation should speak to your ability to integrate well with other students and tell us about your non-academic interests.

But elsewhere Yale says “academic strength” is the “first consideration” with “motivation, curiosity, energy, leadership ability, and distinctive talents” in second place.

“We’re going to want to know what the reason for homeschooling is,” a Dartmouth admissions official told Lindsay Cross at the Mommyish blog.

“Was the student busy with another demanding pursuit, like playing music? Were they traveling with their family? Was there a lack of resources in their area? Somewhere in the application, they’re going to need to explain.”

Private school students aren’t asked to explain why they didn’t attend public school, Bolyard points out.

Some elite colleges ask homeschooled students to submit additional SAT II test scores. That strikes me as reasonable. A straight-A student who’s been graded by Mom will need objective evidence of achievement.

But what about a teacher’s recommendation when Mom is the teacher?

In addition to a “not-so-subtle interrogation about the family’s choice to opt out of public education,” Brown also asks for “letters of recommendation from instructors who have taught you in a traditional classroom setting and who can speak to your abilities and potential in an objective way.”

Brown “would prefer not to receive letters of recommendation from your parents, immediate relatives, or from academic tutors in the paid employ of your family,” unless the applicant has no classroom instructors to ask.

Common Core standards? What’s that?

Sixty-two percent of Americans haven’t heard of the new Common Core standards adopted in 45 states and the District of Columbia, according to the new Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup Poll. Of those who recognized the term, “most had major misconceptions about the standards and believed that they will have no effect or will make American students less competitive with their peers across the world,” reports the Washington Post.

As in previous polls, most gave the nation’s public schools a C grade,while rating their local school as an A or B.

Nearly 70 percent of Americans favor charter schools, up from less than 40 percent 11 years ago. However, support for vouchers hit an all-time low.

People were sharply split on closing underenrolled neighborhood schools to save money, a strategy that has made headlines recently in cities including Washington, Chicago and Philadelphia. Half of all respondents opposed such a policy; opposition was higher among those who were not white.

As lawmakers struggle to reach a compromise on comprehensive immigration reform, more than half of the poll’s respondents — 55 percent — said they opposed providing free public education to children of people who are in the country illegally.

The majority of those polled believe that testing hasn’t improved public school performance; nearly 60 percent opposed using test scores to evaluate teachers.

That contradicts a new poll for the Joyce Foundation by Associated Press and NORC, which found that 60 percent of parents support using standardized test scores to evaluate teachers. The AP-NORC poll also found that most parents think standardized tests are an effective measure of their children’s performance and school quality, reports the Post.

Support for homeschooling is strong: Most say homeschooled students should be allowed to attend public school part-time and participate in athletics.

Cheating is a valuable workplace skill

Homeschool your kids so they learn to cheat, writes Penelope Trunk on her homeschooling blog. What schools call cheating — getting the right answer from others — is “effective workplace behavior” and a valuable skill, she argues.

Some 85 percent of students admit to cheating, Trunk writes.

. . . Stuyvesant, a New York City magnet school that’s harder to get into than Harvard, had an incredibly organized cheating system that rivals best practices for productivity types in Fortune 500 organizations.

. . . What made Stuyvesant’s cheating system so effective was that everybody had a certain topic that they would be expert on, and everyone else knew how to get the answers from that person.

That’s a great workplace skill, and you do kids a disservice by training them to think that it’s improper behavior.

Compared to their elders, Generation Y is “incredibly productive because they’re great collaborators.”

In the age of information, sharing information rules the day, and there’s no longer a place for a Lone Ranger at the office who works independently of everyone else. Today’s business world is too complicated and too networked for people to work so independently as to not be getting information from other people.

Teachers have been pushing collaborative work on projects and peer tutoring for many years now. Collaborative work on tests is another matter.

Does Trunk have a point?

Homeschoolers send 6 kids to college by 12

Homeschooling has worked well for Mona Lisa and Kip Harding. Six of their 10 children in the Alabama family started college by the age of 12;  the youngest four, all under 10, also plan to start college early.

“We’re just average folks,” says the mother, who trained as a nurse. Husband Kip, a helicopter pilot, didn’t complete college till he was 25 and serving in the military.

“We find out what their passions are, what they really like to study, and we accelerate them gradually,” she says.

Seth, 12, is studying medieval history at Faulkner University. Brother Keith, 14, is completing a music degree. Heath started at age 11. Now 17, he’s finishing his master’s in computer science. Sister Serennah, 22, will complete medical school in a few weeks and serve as a Navy doctor. Hannah is a spacecraft designer with master’s degrees in math and mechanical engineering. Rosannah became an architect at 18.

The family has an e-book on how to accelerate learning on their College by 12 site.

All your children belong to us

Is This the Creepiest Show Promo MSNBC Has Ever Run? asks Mike Riggs on Reason’s Hit & Run. Host Melissa Harris-Perry said:

We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.

So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.

Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s we start making better investments.

Hillary Clinton “made this same point more digestible for the public by ladling on warm-fuzzy sauce about a “village” raising a child,” writes Riggs.

Here’s your counterpoint, from 2011, on whether the U.S. is “investing” enough in education. Another half-trillion or so ought to turn things around, I think. No wonder Ron Paul’s getting into home-schooling.

Harris-Perry, a political science professor at Tulane, has a daughter. Or, I guess you could say that a female child with some of Harris-Perry’s genes belongs to the New Orleans collective.

No time for parents

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who paid for a nursery next to her office to care for her new baby, has told telecommuting employees to come back to the office.

Corporate America doesn’t respect parenting, writes Penelope Trunk, who commends Mayer’s “honesty about how people deal with work-life conflict.”

Because look: Marissa Mayer is the CEO, she gets to do whatever she wants. If it’s a bad recruiting policy then she will have to change it. But for now, what Mayer is saying is that she only wants to work with people who don’t have a personal life. She doesn’t have a conflict between work and home because she puts work first, and she wants to work with other people who do the same.

Trunk, a recent convert to homeschooling, blames schools for telling kids to work hard so they can get a “big job.” Homeschoolers can raise their kids to be good people and good parents.

I don’t follow the logic. Most homeschoolers — and school schoolers — want their kids to grow up to be good people with good jobs.

In Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg encourages women to make career success a priority. But not everyone wants to be a corporate honcho.

Emily Matcher’s Homeward Bound: Why Women Are Embracing the New Domesticity looks at why women (and a few men) are leaving corporate jobs for quilting, canning, cupcake baking — and raising children on the family goat farm. (My daughter is Matcher’s agent, so I have an advance copy.)

‘Boys learn by running around and fighting’

Boys stink at school but it doesn’t matter, writes Penelope Trunk, who’s homeschooling her sons.

Now research shows us that the gender discrepancy starts early because little girls learn by being focused and engaging with the teacher and little boys learn by running around and fighting.

. . .  it doesn’t matter. Because boys suck at school, and then they go to college and play video games and pick-up basketball and beer pong for four years and they leave their GPA off their resume and they race up the corporate ladder.

Because the corporate world favors compartmentalized thinking (as in “my kids are not in front of me so they do not exist”) and men have it and women don’t so kids mess up women’s careers. Women out earn men until there are kids. Then, for the rest of their adult life, men out earn women.

Forcing boys to “learn like girls” is pointless, Trunk writes. “I took my boys out of school – they turn cartwheels during school hours. And you should do the same for your sons, too.”

Of course, not everybody has that choice.