Tim Tebow, a homeschooler and Heisman Trophy winner has me thinking.
Several states are considering adapting laws to make extra -curricular activities more available to homeschooled students, as a result of his tremendous success. I suppose high school coaches are scratching their heads and wondering what gem they might be missing out on. This is a good start but it begs for more consideration. It creates questions about freedom and choice in education. Homeschoolers' taxes fund these programs, why are they shut out? It seems to me this availability is really a no-brainer. Why shut out someone who funds the program?
Control. There is no other reason. They don't have control over the child's education, and therefore they have no ability to influence the child and so they shut that child out of the elements the family wants to utilize. The belief that the government must have complete and utter control over the shaping of young minds is a matter of fact and a scary reality if you asked me. I don't believe that is in anyway an American way of thinking. I think government education should be offered, not required. I think it should be offered to those who cannot or will not pay for private education, either in their own home or in a private institution. I think we should be able to pick and choose what it offers, ala carte.
As I think back over history, parents tutored their own children. Fathers mentored them in their trade and mothers taught their daughters. Families sought out apprenticeships and tutors to educate their children when they felt it necessary. These families did not seek out or desire a public education. Public education was meant to educate the very poor. The children of the poorest whose own parents lacked education and who could not on their own provide it and offer the gift of knowledge to their children. This is a noble endeavor and one I could support if it were based in freedom, choice and if parents were ultimately in control.
Public education was also established by wealthy industrialists to create and prepare the young for the factory jobs they hoped to move into and in which they were desperately needed during the industrial revolution. There are many remnants of this preparation still lingering in education today. The bell, move start, stop eat and take a break by the bell/whistle. The lines, stand in this line. Changing classes, in a conveyor belt approach to filling the bucket of the mind. You have your scoop of history file down the hall to get your scoop of math for the day. Keep moving, move quietly and swiftly...sends chills down my spine.
But what happened next was the real problem. Social engineers, activists, people with plans to reshape the culture realized they had enormous power. They had control over the future. Generations of children would sit in the classroom for hours, literally all day, and their minds were eager, open and fertile. They infiltrated the school system and set about their work.
Every idea they planted was not in itself a bad idea. The problem isn't whether or not the idea is good or bad, but whether or not the government should be in a position to plant it.
Over the years merely making an education available to the populous changed to compulsory attendance laws. We see this still in evolution. In my generation alone, Kindergarten went from not required, to required half days to required full days. Preschool, was not even a word when I was a child, now our government leaders cry for free preschool, called Head Start, (yeah right) for every child, as if this is a gift, and not a further encroaching on our freedom. We can see by simply observing history that what they first make as an offer will eventually become mandatory. Sound crazy to you? There was a time when the idea the government would force you to send your child to their school at all was inconceivable. Today you must send your child or you will be fined, possibly even incarcerated, and your children will be taken away from you if you do not comply. It doesn't matter if your school is failing your child. It doesn't matter if your child is not safe in that school, it doesn't matter if the ceiling is caving in, your child is being bullied, your child has personal issues, mental or physical...they want your child.
Keep in mind this is a gift (of course one you pay for with your tax dollars). Doesn't it sound like a gift to you?
Now while they have your child they will decide what your child should be exposed to and taught. You aren't choosing. They create the same education for every child. One size fits all. We know that every child learns differently, comes from different backgrounds, and homes. We know that kids have different religious & spiritual backgrounds and we certainly know that kids have different interests, passions, desires, strengths and weaknesses. Sorry folks check all that at the door, because they do not care.
Now, I realize I'm coming down harshly. I can actually understand why the current system looks the way it does to a small degree. For one, it's simpler. How do you educate every child when he or she is in a class of 30? I get that. It's a little like a buffet. In an effort to offer everything you lose quality. Buffet food is packed with preservatives, sodium, and fillers, and it's generally not very healthy but it's easy. If you have to feed a large group, it works. Of course it also encourages over indulgence, and provides few really good options but it will get people fed at least in the broadest sense.
So what is the solution? It will take some doing. Parents have become so accustomed to handing over the responsibility for the child's education to the government that many would work themselves into hysterics if they had to once again assume the lead in their child's life. This is indeed what has to happen.
I think we need small charter schools. Schools should be run at the state and local level and the federal government should cease to be involved. DC has no idea what the educational needs of kids in Laconia, Indiana, or Scotland, Texas are so how could they possibly meet them? They don't know what the socio-economic make up of the area is and so how can they tailor a program for these kids? They can't.
Ditch the desks lined neatly in rows. Offer families lots of options. Have programs where they can choose to work at home, and take some classes in a group settings or online programs, work- study and apprenticeship programs. Trim off all the waste that pervades education and teachers will earn higher salaries based on competition, and performance (trademarks of a free market economy, I might add).
Give parents the money, and let them spend it in the education market. Call it vouchers or rebates but give the parents the choice and the power. If they are willing and able to educate their children they should receive the same vouchers or rebates that those who choose to use the system receive and the government should keep their noses out of their homes. Restore choice, give parents the power to decide how their child should be educated. For those who do not want the responsibility let them give it to their superintendent.
Have an open door policy where the state returns to the mindset of offering and assisting parents in their child's education. The state has no right to withhold educational services that homeschoolers (like everyone else) funds with their tax dollars. Extra curricular activities, classes should be available a spirit of cooperation and respect should emerge. Then, homeschoolers will have open access to extra curricular activities and perhaps we will see more Tim Tebows, but more importantly perhaps instead of an educational money pit that fails most children, we will have an American educational system with freedom, choice, competition and innovation as it's hallmarks.