Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Education Round-Up

My daughter started back in school today (a swaggering 8th grader), so education is on my mind.

Religious school vouchers ruled unconstitutional (hurray!).

I'm very opposed to homeschooling because democracy in a multi-cultural country like ours requires a tolerance for diversity and what better way to learn that than in public schools. I believe public schools are the backbone of democracy. Are there problems in public schools? Yes, mostly related to political crap: not enough money and too much reliance on testing.

Socialization is a key component of public school and homeschooled kids don't get that. Quoting from the article linked above: "'Unless we are prepared to keep our children in bubbles their entire lives, we have to give them an opportunity to have some exposure to real-world problems so they can develop coping strategies,' says Ted Feinberg, assistant executive director of the National Association of School Psychologists. Feinberg argues that as cultural understanding becomes more valued, social interaction and exposure to different people and ways of viewing the world are necessary components of education. 'It's one thing to read about it," he says. "Much of what we learn in life is a matter of interaction. I just wonder how that takes place in a home school environment.'"

The reality is most homeschoolers are doing so for religious and/or racial reasons. As the article notes: "The most commonly cited studies of home-schoolers have found the majority of the population to be a homogenous group of white, middle class Christian families..."

I also dislike charter schools. They do little but syphon off funds that could be used to improve public schools. The first government study of charter schools shows that kids in charter schools do substantially worse in all categories than kids in public schools. From the NY Times article linked in this paragraph: "The data shows fourth graders attending charter schools performing about half a year behind students in other public schools in both reading and math. Put another way, only 25 percent of the fourth graders attending charters were proficient in reading and math, against 30 percent who were proficient in reading, and 32 percent in math, at traditional public schools."

The public schools need help, but charter schools and homeschooling are not the answer. More federal funding, an ending to the local funding of school based on property taxes and less government interference in schools (i.e. testing) are what's needed.