I think most people would agree that it’s important to have good schools for our kids. We want kids to be proficient at the basics, like math and reading, and to learn important skills that will help them be successful in college, the workforce, and life in general as adults.
It’s also well known to most people that American students are routinely outperformed by students from a myriad of other countries. Our lower elementary students still compare well, with our kids falling farther and farther behind every year.
It seems like more years of school actually makes our students dumber.
Private school and homeschool students, however, routinely outperform their public school counterparts.
Charter schools are hit and miss. Teachers unions hate them, simply because those schools are largely outside their control. We can’t really make sweeping judgements about the quality of charter schools, though, because each is unique, which is sort of the point. Charter schools become charter schools because the community wants something different from what they’re getting in the public schools. I don’t have any actual experience with charter schools, however, so I’m going to leave my discussion of them there.
The private school I work at is a very good school. The education children receive is much broader than what is taught in public schools, with regular lessons in science, geography (history for third grade and up), music, art, logic, and speech. It is also much more in depth and faster paced. My students can diagram complex sentences, analyze literature, and do long division without remainders by the end of 2nd grade. They easily outperform public school students an entire grade level or two above them.
Now, my school is not for everyone. Some kids have a really hard time keeping up. But even those students benefit from having a rigorous curriculum. They still learn more of math, grammar, literature, and numerous other subjects than kids in public school. Even kids getting grades of only 70% are learning and mastering a greater number and more sophisticated concepts.
Homeschooling parents have the advantage of giving their kids learning tailored to their needs and learning styles. They can learn at their own pace, receive individual attention, focus on areas of their own particular interests, and learn in authentic ways (meaning real-world connections).
Politicians are very fond of coming up with new plans for reforming education. Rhetoric about improving the lives of children is sure to get votes. Any plan from a politician, however, is one-size-fits-all, which simply won’t fit most children.
Public schools and public school teachers are making fewer and fewer choices about what they teach, how they teach, when they teach, and how they spend their money. All of this results in fewer children getting what they really need.
My solution for “fixing” education is quite simple: more choice for parents. If parents have a greater number of viable education options, they can choose what is best for their children. Giving parents more choice can happen in a number of ways: more charter schools, privatization, vouchers, or simply giving communities greater autonomy over their own schools. I’m sure there are other creative solutions that I haven’t thought of – the key is letting people make their own decisions about what they think is best for their children and their students.
Some people disagree, on the basis that some parents are too uninvolved, busy, or uneducated to make a good decision for their children. So the government should make everyone’s decisions for them? That is patently ridiculous. One person’s inability to make good decisions does not justify the government taking away that freedom from everyone else.
I would not be able to make a good choice on my own of what car to buy. Does that mean the government should decide for me? Of course not! I should seek advice from someone trustworthy and knowledgeable. If I fail to do that, I will suffer the consequences of buying a bad car.
Similarly, parents who fail to secure a good education for their child will have an inferior education. As regrettable as that is, many other parents will be able to get good educations for their children that would otherwise be unavailable to them. Besides, if enough parents leave a particular school because it is not providing a good education, that school will actually have an incentive to improve.
All right, so my solution actually requires quite a lot for implementation, which I didn’t actually go into. But improving public schools in a top-down approach does not work. That has been proven numerous times. So why don’t we try what does work? Private schooling and homeschooling needs to be more available to parents, so they can provide the best education possible for their children.
What do you think is the best approach to improving education? Share your thoughts in the comments below!