Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Someone Help Me. Is This Dead? Did I Miss A Memo?

Throw me a bone, willya? I don’t want to worry about this any more if it’s as dead as a Pharoah. Is the education of children in any meaningful way in a public facility gone forever? Because if it is, and here I am in my foolishness, still trying to cooperate in the wreckage of the process by encouraging my children to give it their all, I’m feeling pretty stupid here. If it’s over, please tell me. I’m beginning to feel like a guy attending a stranger’s wedding, wondering why everyone is laughing at me for asking the girl in the white dress for a date.

If you are of a traditional mind, the school presents a problem now. My bones direct me to tell my son:

My boy, you are going to school. You must do your best, cooperate fully, and respect the authority of the the teacher.

That worked great, until it dawned on me that the majority of his teachers were raving maniacs. And I can’t build the edifice of a properly educated child by telling him to listen closely to the teacher, except when they’re talking ragtime; oh, and by the way, they might always be full of it, or just most of the time — you decide.

I won’t bore you with the details of why his teachers appear to have been eating the paste since they were wee. Suffice it to say, they appear to have identified the public school system as a convenient host, buried themselves in its flesh like a unionized tick, and used the tiny but important high ground they have seized to rain a sort of off-topic propaganda on people too young to protest much about it. They are like abrasive monomaniac blog commenters, only they can give your kids an F.

There is a growing minority of persons that have decided to remove their kids from the public schools altogether, and teach them at home. I can’t fault them, but I can’t support them either. Unilateral disarmament is not peace. And you may very well be teaching your children the correct cranky worldview to have, but it will remain a cranky worldview nonetheless, because you are the only people in it. Take it from an auto-didact: people are fascinated with what you know, and horrified at what you don’t. It’s a long row to hoe. And I must admit that I am reminded of people who brew their own sparkling cider from wormy apples they grow in their yard, who always want to give you some when you visit, and other such “improvements” on readily available goods. They press the recycled Grolsch bottle with the suspicious looking cracks in the rubber stopper in your hands when you leave. You know, grass still won’t grow where I dumped that stuff out when I got home three years ago.

Anyway, the picture is 25 years older than I am. I’m not nostalgic for anything. I simply recognize something there that is not present any more. These children’s parents are no doubt far from rich, but their children are respectable. The surroundings are anything but elaborate, but there is order and seriousness. There are numbers and letters on the board, not inane opinions founded on the rock of hiding inside a school building your whole life long. There is an unashamed token of the United States as a profoundly important reality and ideal being displayed front and center. There is a teacher trying her best to bang something useful into those lovely little knotheads.

If it’s over, please tell me. I’ll feel foolish if I keep on like this.

18 Responses

  1. My grandmother went to teachers college and spent decades turning out responsible, educated citizens. To teach nowadays you have to go through a master’s program where they stuff your head with straw and slogans. It’s a wonder that any sane ones come out, but I’m privileged to know a few. They’re definitely swimming upstream.

    Many folks take their kids out of public school not to force a cramped worldview on them, but to give their kids the enlarged worldview which has been ignored, forgotten, or banned. There are a number of good home school curricula which recreate the education kids used to get.

    And I love the knickers and argyle socks on the boy in the back right.

  2. It’s dead all right. Has been for a couple of decades. Read The Graves of Academe for a good explanation as to why.

    We didn’t unilaterally disarm – we joined the other camp and after some disappointing years in public schools (including in “accelerated programs”) we have put our kids in parochial school. Luckily our church pays the lion’s share, or otherwise we could not afford it.


    A fellow auto-didact

  3. I have a friend with a 7 year old daughter in Catholic school. They spent a week last year learning about Kwaanza. Granted, he’s in Long Island, but he’s trying to figure out the difference between that and public school. And the tuition ain’t cheap.

  4. I believe any kid can get an education almost anywhere as long as the parent[s] are actively involved. The boys will gain knowledge in many ways, but they will gain their values from you. Respect for authority is a good value. But discerning whether your kids’ authorities deserve respect is completely your call. I agree with Jim that homeschooling is not unilateral disarmament. It’s Special Forces training.

  5. I suspect that if I saw the home school curriculum of say, the Adams, I’d like it much more than what’s going on in the public school down the street. Perhaps my only point is: I bet the vast majority of people where you live would prefer it too. Why isn’t it happening?

  6. It’s not unilateral disarmament, it’s the undergroud. Or the Special Forces, as Ruth Anne Adams said–I like that. But at any rate I’m not sure I have the chops to do it. So–

    “Why isn’t it happening?”

    NEA monopoly on a government monopoly. That simple.

  7. Well, Sippican, take a look. I believe Jack London’s work is in the 4th grade.

    I’m excited just to be able to have an excuse to read all the great books with my children.

  8. Unfortunately, it is over. We decided to sen our kids to catholic schools after reviwing the curriculum, performance, and test scores of local schools in oour upper middle class to upper class town.

    We have some of the best public schools in our state, and they’re still in the bottom 10% of performance for the catholic schools of the local diocese.

    Most importantly, no self esteem is everything, elementary school is the right time to indoctrinate, politically correct, non-science, gender neutral math, multicultural studies instead of history crap.

    You know what, respect, and self esteem are earned, not given. Any attempt to “give” them to students is not only ineffective, but in fact erodes both.

  9. For mine it was public school K-8, then catholic High School. We had an advantage, though. My teacher-wife was a home mom those years and volunteered at the school so much that she knew the place too well. She would “play by the rules” but made certain that she respected and could get along with teachers that our kids were placed with. Very complex process, but possible if you are engaged and in the know.

    Later she joined a neighboring school system as a full-time teacher.

    I have a friend who has home-schooled a larger brood and very successfully. That is a calling as much as a choice.

    For all the criticism of MCAS, it has at least awakened the (numerous) local school administrators from their Lake Wobegone-like stupor regarding academic performance.

  10. It is troublesome to tell your child to listen to the teacher but not to believe what’s being said. Yet that’s the spot we’re in at times.

    Yet I’ve long gone by the notion that what was good never was. The picture is posed.

  11. Steve- Thanks for reading and commenting.

    I’m curious. What makes you say the picture is “posed”? It’s a classroom in West Virginia in about 1935. While they are not being secretly photographed, of course, it’s unlikely the subjects of the photo knew they were going to be photographed even a day in advance.

  12. Initially, I thought it was posed because of the rapt attention of the boys on the right of the picture. I agree with what you said in the post, but even good old one-room-school order didn’t instill that kind of posture. A camera in the room in the 30s meant kids posed by default. That’s my take, at least.

  13. The class is trying to make a good impression, so it is posing. Thank goodness the class cares to pose –otherwise it’d be out in the woods eating berries and grunting.

  14. Yes, they posed, and that was a good thing, because for most of them, it came from inside their own heads (the teacher will be proud, I will look like a good boy, I won’t get smacked) rather than externally forced by the teacher – though I imagine there was at least one of those, too.

    My four sons were in public, private Christian, Romanian, and home schools for varying amounts of time each. It has been a wild ride, 1982-2007, 13 different schools. Oh yes, my wife is an elementary school librarian as well. This topic is near to our life’s center.

    First, a word of comfort about the values being taught. Remember your own school years and how little your teacher’s values meant to you then. Children do not necessarily learn what schools teach them, and virtually everything can be counteracted if you keep yourself alert. I did at times have to counteract some things taught at the Christian schools as well, after all.

    Second, values acquisition is not linear. If your child has five different teachers, he does not acquire 20% of the values of each. Sometimes this can be a negative, as a particularly favored or influential teacher can lead your child off-course, but in general it means that you have only to worry about the generalized view being taught at a school, not every specific meathead.

    Third, it is indeed possible to teach the child to obey and respect authority but still evaluate what is being presented. It is very much like real life, bosses, friends, ministers, and governments, in fact. More work for you helping them to make that distinction, but quite doable.

    Fourth, your children will be intellectually stronger and will thank you if you allow them to try on different beliefs, particularly in highschool. You do not have to be passive in the face of this, but can raise questions that will bear out later.

    Also, if you’re funnier and more loving, you will win.

  15. Assistant Village Idiot is one of the all-time greatest internet handles.

    Thanks for reading and commenting. That was a very thoughtful response. My main cavil with the whole foolishness is that the nonsense my children’s teachers are spouting is crowding out everything worthwhile. They are wasting my children’s time, and by proxy, mine. And so we are all made into homeschoolers, at least if we wish our children to be able to read, write, add, multiply, spell, and know anything about history or logic. They never seem to get around to much of it in school.

    How your children are perceived in school is not just an abstraction to anyone who is poor. It’s the real reason the martinets want to end, or kill in the cradle, any standardized testing. They’ll be forced to acknowledge the intelligence of children who don’t pass in homework that simply fellates their own cranky worldview icons. And their favorite icon always seems to be themselves.

    Last year, I looked at a piece of homework my child was writing. It espoused the most puerile kind of neo-luddite trust-fund outlook about ecology. He almost wept when I asked him about it.
    “Please don’t make me change it. I know it’s wrong but she’ll flunk me if I don’t say it like that.”

    I didn’t almost weep. I did weep.

  16. We had some of those over the years. I used it as an adulthood lesson. “If you want to force the issue on this, I will back you 100%. I will argue for you, stand beside you while you argue, or advise you how to argue on your own. Or if this is not worth it to you, and you’d just as soon just give her what she wants and get on with your day, I’ll support that too. It’s your decision.” Hitting them with that much adulthood – making a decision and taking the consequences – before they are ready usually intimidates them a bit, and they will usually let things pass for quite awhile. Which is fine.

    Only about once per childhood did I have to go in and do the fighting. But with that background, they were all comfortable taking their own chances in gradually larger doses.

    Warning: I think it only worked with 3 out of the 4 boys. The book is still out on one, and this strategy may not have been the key for him.

  17. Kudos. I don’t know what homework was like a long time ago, but when I went to school, it was insanely useless often. Brainwashing kids into the silent sentinels with such a vapidity to appease hedonistic corporate masters, i.e., the powers that be.

    But I don’t know if education was always better. Most education in public high schools until Sputnik was designed to turn out good citizens, and most importantly, intelligent voters. This is a great ideal. But these ideals of American values were not always taught when they were claimed to have been taught. WWI era public schools were nearly fascistic, cranking servant classes of people to enter an unconstitutional draft, for the sake of Anglophilia. Teddy Roosevelt approximately said that “a man who loves two countries equally is tantamount to a man who equally loves his wife and mistress.” Yet the government at the time put ammunition on the Lusitania to help England and when it got hit, turned public schools into machines to make a servant class of soldiers. All for a country that burned down our capital. I think immoral and untruthful education has been used by our governments before, but the country has survived, and ultimately enlightened itself, through the sheer convictions of its people.

    Memories from Marion.

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