Monday, February 18, 2008

Homeschooling: My Perspective

My opinion of public education comes from 13+ years of experience as a student in the public education system (K-12). My experience with homeschooling only comes from meeting and seeing those who were products of homeschooling. It may be biased, but I believe my opinion to be an honest and accurate assessment.

I grew up in a very religious household. We attended church at least 3 times a week: Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. If there was a guest evangelist holding a revival at our church, we'd sometimes go every night of the week. And that doesn't include special get-togethers, fellowship dinners, etc...

My pre-school education was in that type of environment. Family and friends sharing their knowledge, educating with virtue and honesty as the basis. It was a civilized, structured life with freedom and grace as it's boundary. It was the real world, as it pertained to the people with whom my parents chose to associate, which is as real as the world gets.

When I was in 4th or 5th grade, a classmate and I joked about school being like prison. Reading the Code of Alabama Education now makes me realize how accurate our assessment was.

Honestly, I don't remember learning anything in school after 4th grade. Public school was not a breeding ground for ideas or for learning, but was, instead, a housing and programming facility for children and teens. Ideologies were forced down our throats. We were made to conform to the school society and cliques in which we hoped to be accepted. Original thoughts were repressed by both teachers and fellow students. The 'Physical Education' was like forced labor where the labor wasn't even going to produce anything constructive. A lot of kids just sat back and did nothing, anyway. Public school was like a day-time interment camp.

Public school was the most offensive, oppressive, and traumatic experience of my life. Not only were students forced to learn and be tested on things with which they disagreed, subjected to physical assaults, subjected to assaults on their beliefs, and subjected to behaviors that would not be considered civilized by third world standards, the educators had the nerve to tell us we should be THANKFUL for it! The only option was to gather into groups for survival's sake. Although, in these groups, some of the worst behavior occurred, it was still better than being ostracized by everyone.

A few of the kids lucky enough to gain entry into the upper cliques had it fairly easy. Others, like myself, had no choice but to continue trying, with hit and miss consistency, to gain entry into some little group of friends. I wound up making friends with a few religious kids in my school. Most kids were forced to join circles of friends with whom they would've never associated outside of school. There were also some kids that just hunkered down and tried to get out with decent grades and their sanity. They were very few and far between. I swapped between my small group of friends and being a loner.

When I became eligible for the work-release program in 11th grade, I jumped at the chance. I was able to leave school at 12:15 and go to work. I felt free for the first time in 12 years. The day I left the school for good, I threw my ID card, which I had been forced to wear since the riots 2 years previous, on the ground, stomped on it, and left it there to rot.

I've not been back there in over 15 years. I've only returned 3 times since graduation: once to get my diploma, once to take the ACT, and once with a friend who's friend's mother was a guidance councilor at the school. If I never go back again, it will be too soon.

In spite of all this, though, I feel I've become a fairly normal person. I might have a small amount of PTSD from the almost constant threat of physical violence, the shootings, the National Guard occupying my school, the public humiliations, etc... but I think I'm fairly well-balanced. My current knowledge base comes primarily from things I've learned on my own since leaving the public education system. I've obtained 4 years of college education, and I consider myself a somewhat intelligent person. Still, I can't help wondering what I could have become had I not been forced into the public school mold.

The homeschool grads I've met have all been extremely well-balanced, hard-working, intelligent people. They always seem to have their act together. They know more than most people, have great logical skills, and possess enormous vocabularies.

Perhaps my jealousy or my own personal shortcomings color my viewpoint, but I believe I would have been much better off had I been homeschooled. There were so many things I was curious about as a kid. Public school satisfied little, if ANY, of my curiosities. I feel like the last 8 years of my grade school education were completely wasted.

The kids who don't want to learn will very rarely be inspired to do so in a public school. The kids who want to learn are stifled and held back by public schools. With the advent of electronic communications and the educational opportunities that affords, I personally don't even see a need for public education, anymore. Parents who care for their children will see to it that their kids are educated. Parents who don't care about their children's education will, through their apathy, cause their children to be uneducated. That is true in all socio-economic strata, all ethnicities, and all other demographic groups, no matter what level of public education is provided.

I believe that if most people had been informed enough to know what was in the education laws, these codes wouldn't have been passed into law in the first place, due to mass protest. I recognize it's purpose and the benevolent characteristics of public education, but I don't think most people would have agreed to the level of power the government has in education. I do admit that many children who would have been denied education were able to get one through the early years of the public school system, but those days are gone.

Public education has outlived its usefulness. I believe it now does more harm than good. Yes, you can show examples of young people who have been brought up out of poverty and achieved greatness because they were allowed a public education. That's wonderful, but it isn't typical. There's no accounting of those disillusioned by the public school system who could have contributed greatly to society had they been allowed to follow their own pursuits and passions in their youth.