Rethinking home schooling?

March 1, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More

Andrew O’Hehir sees the benefits of home schooling, but is highly critical of Rick Santorum’s proposed “solution” to the problem with deficient public schools:

As a home-schooling parent on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Santorum, I’ve observed his emergence — and, to a lesser extent, that of Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow — with a certain queasy fascination. It’s difficult to imagine a hypothetical universe where I’d ever vote for Santorum for anything, but sometimes his rhetoric on home-schooling strikes one of those weird political nerves where the quasi-libertarian right and the quasi-anarchist left hold similar views. In a recent Ohio speech, for instance, Santorum described the predominant model of public education as an artifact of the Industrial Revolution that has become ill-suited to a post-industrial age: “People came off the farms where they did home-school or had a little neighborhood school, and into these big factories … called public schools.”

That’s a crude but historically accurate summary, and many of the home-schoolers I know in New York City and other non-heartland locations would agree that that legacy — standardized education aimed at creating a standardized workforce — is problematic.

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Category: Education

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (3)

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  1. Jim Razinha says:

    As a home-schooling parent also on the opposite end of the political spectrum from Santorum, he scares the hell out of me. It’s extremists like him painting a very wrong picture of a good thing, creating discomfort for those of us who don’t home educate for religious reasons.

    I have many reasons why I don’t want my children in the public (or private) system, but my options are not open to many. I also agree that standardized education for a standardized workforce is problematic – and completely behind the times (I suggest Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum’s That Used to Be Us – they get a lot of it right when looking at the problems with the American education system.) We can’t compete in the world by turning out drones.

  2. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Anyone who started elementary school in the mid 60’s will probably remember how everything was described as a “Factory”. The education system was described as a “learning factory” that took in the raw materials of young un educated tykes and after 12 years output intelligent educated adults ready for work in the factories.

    Army boot camp was described as a factory which took in scruffy undisciplined young men and output disciplined, obedient, strong soldiers.

    In these descriptions and others like them the “factory” may not be a factory at all. It is a “black box” with an input, an output and some transformative property that converts the input into the output.

    I suspect the original metaphor used the factory as a familiar black box, literally a building where some transformation occurred, to represent the school building, but the idea was taken literally by many who, failing to grasp the basic concept as children, became determined to impose all the characteristics of industrial production on educational systems as adults. Small one and two room school house were replaced with school systems built around the idea of grouping children by age into classes and pushing quality control in the form of standardized testing. Eventually the schools took on an assembly line approach to education with students in the same class (batch) moving between specialized classrooms (stations) and teachers specializing in their topics.

    What was lost?
    A lot.
    The process not only penalized the student needing the most help, abd it also penalizes the most apt students. In academic terms this means that the system best serves the most average students. Another loss is the concept of community. Under the older system, the student population would be somewhat self policing, as more sensible and mature kids would protect the younger kid and to an extent act as mentors. The strict age segregation in factory schooling. The factory system is fertile ground for antisocial behavior.

    Home schooling fails to address the social issue. It also fails on academic issues.

    Small communities in the early 60’s often had small local schools, often with 2 or three teachers per classroom,

  3. Jim Razinha says:

    Wow (the coincidental spam word), Niklaus! I usually agree with most of your comments, but that next to last sentence is SO off the mark that I’m still stunned. I disagree that homeschooling – with the qualifier as we do it – fails to address the social issue. It more than addresses the social issue – our sons are extremely comfortable with other children and adults and made the transition to an adult world far more easily than my experience coming ut of high school (one must admit that the high school social experience is nothing like real life.) And it more than addresses the academic issues. I’m not sure where you are coming from in that sweeping generalization. Most universities would agree that a larger percentage of homeschooled students fair better than their system educated peers.

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