Wednesday, June 27, 2007

government school scabs

Have you been over at Sean the Blogonaut's blog? No? Well, you're missing out on a good discussion. Since you haven't been there, I'm bringing some of it over here. Ginny and I have been having a very congenial discussion about the benefits of government schools toughening one up socially. I am including here relevant highlights from the comment section on Sean's Blog.

Fiery Ewok: One of the benefits of homeschooling, no brats around to squash my son from exploring new ideas and ways of talking and behaving.

Ginny: Yep, definitely a plus, but the drawback can be that kids in public school as cruel as they can be, might be useful in the sense that the PS experience toughens one up a bit.

If you can learn to deal with the kids in school, you can pretty much learn to deal with anything life throws at you...yes public school kids are that horrible. I'm sure many of us have stories to tell...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not down on homeschooling, but I can see how even homeschooling has its pitfalls.

Fiery Ewok: I don't know about the toughening up aspect. Sometimes it just leaves scars that never heal and bruises that are always tender. The damage to your self-esteem can be debilitating and a lifelong struggle to reverse.

Inner toughness comes with self-confidence and the knowledge that you, as a person, are capable, intelligent, worthwhile human being no matter what others think of you. Especially the others who are in no position to know who you really are.

I'm not convinced government schools allowance of bullying, cliques, and peer pressure generate anything but scars in a person.

Ginny: Fiery said I don't know about the toughening up aspect. Sometimes it just leaves scars that never heal and bruises that are always tender. Perhaps you are right. I was picked on un-mercifully in middle school. It took a long time to get over some of the stuff I was put through. But all in all, I'd have to say it made me stronger.

I know that the opposite happens to some people. I'm sure there are plenty of horror stories of teens committing suicide and such because they were bullied constantly and saw no end in sight. Too often bullies go unchecked...

Fiery Ewok: That's just it Ginny. Who is to say what type of person we both would be without the scar tissue left behind by government schools?

If scar tissue is so wonderful, why don't we undergo routine disfigurement to get tougher skin.

Because people are beautiful the way they are and scars are ugly, painful reminders of a dreadful hurt.

Strength comes from the inside, not from abuse on the outside.

omg I'm turning into a Starbucks cup.


Poodles Rule said...

I think I must agree with Ginny a bit. To me scars are just as important as the gold stars. Both made me who I am, and I wouldn't give up either of them.

That being said, I think you can homeschool and still alow your children to get burned sometimes. Kids are assholes everywhere, not just in school. I think the concern lies in homeschooling that turns into isolation.

As a general rule I don't think it is a good idea to homeschool if your circulum is going to be bible based, and you only let your children experience life in a bubble of your church.

Letting them go play with the assholes helps build character, street smarts and yes, thick skin. I worry that kids who only hear all day that "everybody loves them no matter what" will lead to a generation of pussies.

Fiery Ewok said...

For those that approve of the toughening aspect of government schools-

Would you be willing to describe the scarring episodes that you feel taught you to be a stronger person?

What about them strengthened you?

Are there any toughening incidents that still cause you pain or self-doubt?

janice said...

I'm kinda with poodles on the last comment.

Hearing "you're wonderful" all the time gives a child the false sense of who they are and reality in general.
If they believe they're wonderful, how do they cope when they get fired or don't receive that promotion? How about rejection in general, how are they taught to cope with the real world (some times ugly) stuff out there?

Great topic BTW!
I'm jsut sayin'

Poodles Rule said...

Oh sure, I could write a book on the assholes I met in school. I could also write a book on the assholes I met out of school.

I wasn't particularly athletic. I was never picked until last for sports. It hurt my feelings sometimes, but I learned that sometimes you don't get picked, and how to move on from that feeling. When it comes to looking for a job and interviewing, that comes in handy to not quit and give up. There are so many more, I even learned how to take a fall and throw a punch from getting beat up sometimes.

I learned not to trust and who to trust, and how to tell the difference, because kids can be horribly manipulative.

And, I learned how to manipulate. That comes in handy in the corporate world too.

I also learned how to protect those who wouldn't or couldn't do it themselves. When I was in Junior high this one little prick was being mean to the girl in the class who was poor and not popular. When she got up to go to the bathroom he dropped a condom on her desk. I promptly walked over to her desk looked at it and told him "that can't possibly be yours, it's way too big."

He quickly removed it during the laughter of the other students around. She was the kind of girl who would carry her scars. I was the kind of girl who would make life miserable for the pricks.

Like I said all of that can be learned in outside interactions too, I know school isn't the only place for that lessons.

Some of my hardest lessons were learned outside the classroom. One time, one of my mom's boyfriends hit her. She pushed him through a glass door. I learned never to take abuse from a man with that one.

I learned that there are good people in the world, and bad people in the world and you can't avoid either of them forever.

I would concede that as long as kids are getting exposure besides home and church then homeschooling can be a great benefit. No matter where kids learn, parental involvement is crucial. Public schooling has gotten so bad because parents quit being involved in education and discpline, they want teachers to do it all.

I was never afraid of what would happen if I got called to the principals office, I was affaid of what would happen when I got home. My mom never once uttered "no, not my kid."

Fiery Ewok said...

Who tells kids that everyone loves them no matter what?

If anything the government school policy of promoting self-esteem based on nothing but that a person SHOULD feel good about themselves is harmful.

Why are schools removing the Honor Roll to recognize top performing students?

Why are schools eliminating the grading system and replacing it with meaningless adjectives?

Why are intelligent students held back to the performance level of the slowest kids in class?

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

Man do I wish I could find my homeschooling paper - damn it.

I think if you can and want to home school go for it. If done right the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

I don't know that school adequately prepares the student for the outside world. There ain't too many places where you work with people all your age.

If you are homeschooling you need to expose your kids to a variety of situations - involve them in activities outside of the house. Let them scrap with the neighbourhood kids, let them help at volunteer organisations etc.

Christian Homeschooling I fear comes off largely as indoctrination, isolation.

Homechooling should really just be that schooling at home, that allows for flexibility in the childs learning.

I would prefer staged toughening rather than the sink or swim toughnening of public school.

Fiery Ewok said...

Well Sean, the world (me)is going to think you are a tease if you don't make an effort and find that paper. That's at least twice now that you have hinted about it.

Go out in the garage, pull down that old dry dusty box of college papers and hunt it down. :-D

Poodles Rule said...

Fiery and Sean I agree with both your posts. Schools are doing a horrible disservice to kids by taking away grades and honor rolls (being on the honor roll got me beat up a few times too).

I also agree with Sean that homeschooling can be a benefit if it is schooling at home. I just worry about the social isolation of religious home schooling and indoctrination.

I dunno, I also think kids should just be beaten once a week, "just cause". It's probably a good thing I don't have any ;P

Poodles Rule said...

BTW Reg... I was kidding about that last part. Just in case you didn't get it.

Fiery Ewok said...

Reg? Reg is here? Whaddya mean Reg is here. I thought he left my blog for ever. Packed up and went home.

Russ said...

Personally, I think the social benefit argument for public school education is quite oversold. While I recognize the need for social skills development - cooperate with your chosen in-group; compete with all others as the out-group; eat or be eaten; red in tooth and claw(in kindergarten anyway) - my feeling is that the truly poor academic achievement levels by public school students throughout the US completely invalidates the social benefit argument. I'm not discounting the importance of "getting along," "working together" or "being a team player," but far too frequently we embrace a norm of socially-adept and intellectually-inept graduates.

Currently, I'm being assailed in this discussion from all sides. I have friends and relatives who are public school teachers and administrators, my wife is a school board member in a district with a 200 million dollar annual budget, and her uncle is a board member at a smaller district. Many of these people wish achievement levels were much higher, but they can't make it happen; I'm convinced no one knows how to make it happen. Things are in fact getting worse in many instances. There is a frightful willingness to hold out poor student performance as acceptable.

In the district where my wife is on the board, a one percent improvement in standardized test scores - from 33 percent passing to 34 percent passing - is sadly viewed as a victory. Thinking a bit harder about that one: two-thirds failure is seen as a praiseworthy triumph. In her uncle's district the numbers are more dire still. Somehow something has gone tragically, horribly, agonizingly wrong in the social perception of what it means to be educated. Something has gone terribly wrong with what educated educators accept as success for themselves and for their students.

I hear the social benefit of public schools hailed as a real hallmark, but then I watch public-school-educated people at graduations, band concerts, nightclubs, checkout lines, discussion groups, daycares, theatres, restaurants, sporting events, fund-raisers, at parent-teacher conferences, and at various social gatherings, and I have to wonder why it is that those much-touted social skills oftentimes appear to be completely absent. I'm not suggesting that homeschool parents are better behaved; it's just that the public schools don't appear to provide a breeding grounds for social development that is in any way better than its alternatives. I'm of the mind that persons who think that having 34 percent of their students achieve passing scores on standardized tests is laudable, probably have similarly stultified social expectations.

In my circle, these issues remain festering open wounds which I feel morosely secure in saying will not heal in my lifetime; like metastasized cancer it now degrades or destroys much of what it touches. Toddlers bring great enthusiasm to school on that first day, but by third grade school is drill and drudgery and by fifth grade many students read assigned work only; for boys, reading stops even earlier. These assessments come from academic research sources(National Association of School Boards); this is not my personal speculation. Children have natural curiosity, love of learning, and acquisitiveness, but the system has geared itself to stamping them out. This is a disgrace. I once saw insane defined like so: continually repeating the same action while expecting a different outcome. Public schools sure seem to fit this version of insane.

Fiery Ewok, this is my first post on your site. I'm sorry for the length, but I'm truly passionate about this subject. I could run on for thousands of pages considering the hundreds of facets to the debacle that is US public education. What started as a process for turning out a populace of enlightenment thinkers, turned into a scheme for supplying rust belt factory workers, and has now become the means for creating a massive pool of largely uneducated service sector employees - Wal-Mart, fast food, custodians and the like - content with their public school-honed social skills, but little intellect, to watch the jobs that would provide them a middle class income go to China or India. It's an itch I could scratch forever.

Gotta go. Gotta purge my browsing history. If my wife follows this link, it's the tent in the yard for me.

Fiery Ewok said...

Russ- thank you for posting on my blog and a very warm welcome as well!

I am familiar with your writing from P-Momma's blog. And you are most welcome to post as much and as often as you wish. No condemnation!!!!

That said, I sure hope you are warm and snug in your own bed and not shivering out in the yard.

Thank you for stopping by, I hope to see you again sometime!

Lord Leto said...


I also have never before posted at this blog. But I felt compelled to after reading your excellent post.

I agree whole-heartedly with your comments on government schools.

I just want to respond to one little thing I noticed in your post: "Many of these people wish achievement levels were much higher, but they can't make it happen; I'm convinced no one knows how to make it happen."

The way to make it happen is to throw out the bad philosophy of John Dewey that has not worked for decades and switch to a rational and logical philosophy of education like the one put forth by Leonard Peikoff in his lectures on education.

We need to shut down the current education schools. They have failed. We need to require prospective teachers to master the subject they plan to teach. Perhaps have a "super major" of 40-50 credit hours, require them to maintain a minimum 3.0 Grade Point Average overall, and pass with distinction a written exam in their majors.

Then at least we would have teachers that actually know something about what they are teaching the kids.

Thank you Fiery Ewok for providing the forum for this discussion. You have an excellent blog.

Poodles Rule said...

*Wildly looks around paranoid* I bet he is still lurking. I thought he packed up and left me too, but well nope.

Poodles Rule said...

Russ is a god... oh wait, never mind.

Public schooling does need to be fixed. I just fear too many parents don't want to put the time and money into making it better.

Russ said...

Lord Leto,

You said, "I just want to respond to one little thing I noticed in your post: 'Many of these people wish achievement levels were much higher, but they can't make it happen; I'm convinced no one knows how to make it happen.'"

Thank you for pinpointing that sentence. As I wrote it I intended to add a qualifier, but while in my mind I wrestled with "I'm convinced no one currently part of the system knows how to make it happen," versus "I'm convinced no one knows how to make it happen short of a complete dismantling," the schnapps in my mind lulled me into forgetting to make the edit. I gotta stop hitting the sauce when I comment if I ever hope to be understood.

Thanks also for the Peikoff link. It looks like interesting material. One of the discussion groups I participate in is an objectivist's club.

From my perspective, Lord Leto, I don't hold Dewey's philosophy culpable in any significant way for the demise of US public education over the last six decades or so. I do think teacher preparation plays a part in school ineffectiveness, but I really don't think it has to do with the teacher's discipline-specific content mastery. Frankly, I don't think schools would be any more effective in the current system if all teachers were summa cum laude PhD's in the areas they teach. In fact, because pursuing a PhD suggests one relishes the discipline itself, but not necessarily the teaching of it, teacher ennui might actually reduce their effectiveness.

How-to fixes for the morass that is US public education are a dime a dozen. It seems almost as if each and every EdD candidate is required to write a book on the subject. Lots of very book-smart people appear to be willing to put forth the latest and greatest analyses of these gnarly issues, then shelve their book and ride merrily off to a comfy salary immersed in the putrid quagmire. They claim to see the problems; they claim to know the solutions; but, instead of taking on the system and working toward making it more tangibly effective, they install themselves as another source of swamp gas; they graft themselves to the decaying hulk as contributors to the problem.

Lord Leto, here is my concise summary for the causes of our ongoing decades-old public school decline. For many decades, parents, students, the general public, government - wherein the word "leader" is often used as a euphemism for "worthless" - and industry, indeed the whole of society, has observed, commented on, and watched in awe as US public school academic performance has dwindled. They not only accepted this falloff in student output, as we can observe over the decades, they embraced it. When foreign students sounded shrill alarms to us by surpassing US student scores on international tests, our response - a stinking mix of incredulity, ignorance and self-imposed blindness - was to turn those alarms a deaf ear.

To me people's words say nothing about what in their hearts they truly value unless those words are coupled with action. Hackneyed as it is, to me, action does speak louder than words. This long-term societal inaction in the face of increasingly dismal academic achievement tells us something quite profound and disturbing about ourselves: as a society, we don't value education. We say we do, but they are empty words unaccompanied by action. Perhaps we wish we did, but wishing alone will never induce change. Regardless of the outcome produced we remain stalwartly unpanicked, and apparently unconcerned; we are, in fact, self-satisfactorily negligent. With this as my basis, I attribute the bulk of our educational woes to the observation that we as a society do not value education: people whether as individuals, communities, or societies do not neglect, but instead they act to preserve, those things they truly value.

Rick said...

Russ you said,
There is a frightful willingness to hold out poor student performance as acceptable.

This is the number 1 fallback in our public schools today.I do not wan to write all over again what I have commented on in another post here.I would like to direct yopu to my blog page where yesterday I put a detailed description of my granddaughters problem.Ewok already knows about this.

Lord Leto said...


I started to write a response to your response. Then it got longer. And longer.

So I decided to make it a post on my blog and just link to it here.

(It is a shameless plug for my new blog, I know, I know.)

Russ said...

Poodles Rule,

You said, "Russ is a god..."

If only that were the case. I can tell you this: if I was a god the world would be a much different place.

What would I do if I was a know, if I was capable of anything my heart desired at all? That's an interesting question.

It's almost impossible for me to coherently address the question. When I pose the question to myself - if you really truly could do anything at all...effortlessly your desires just become reality what would you do? - I think of the suffering of my fellow man; I think of how I might alleviate it; and, as a caring person I'm grief-stricken.

The Old Testament God wanted everyone to be afraid of him. I wouldn't want that shit. So, starting out, no fear of me. None. Not one iota of fear of that thing which is conceived as a loving father.

Here's how I guess I'd have it play out if I was a god who was conceived as a loving father who had created my children in my own image. First, I'd let those created-in-my-own-image children know that their finite existences, was a reflection of my own finite existence. They die; I die. What help and comfort I can be to them will be short-lived - a century or so, at most. Since I am like them and they don't know when they'll die, I don't know when I'll die either. For the time I had available to benefit my children, I would do what I could to still their fears. Meanwhile, as a loving father, I would give them what I could to make their lives more comfortable, enjoyable, and sustainable: I would give them knowledge.

Knowing I, like each of my children, was destined to die, I would do what I could to move them as far up the learning curve of the natural order of things as possible before my demise. I'd teach them germ theory, atomic theory, the big bang, quantum mechanics, and evolutionary theory. All the standards of modern science. I would share as much as possible, and then I would die.

Since all of my children had been created in my image, they would never harm each other in any way, so they would all live in peace.

It's completely wishful thinking, just like religion. But, sometimes, just occasionally, I willfully abandon myself to these flights of fancy: I imagine a world where not a single one of my fellow men suffers - no hunger, no thirst, no disease, no want, no ignorance, no hate. It's a comforting indulgence. It's a mild delusion. But, alas, it solves no problem; it alleviates no suffering.

Kazim said...

Hi. I wanted to reply to this thread, but my reply got so long that I decided to created my own blog entry. You can read it here: Thoughts on home schooling

Fiery Ewok said...

Hello Kazim and welcome! I definitely have been in the position where a comment turned into way more than I wanted to leave on someone else's blog.

I've read your post and will need to reread it again and give it some thought before I comment on your blog.

Thank you for letting me know of the change in venue! :-)