Monday, April 6, 2009

'Maximum feasible non-cooperation'

My earlier post about Ray Moore and his book, Let My Children Go, got linked and commented upon by the Creative Minority Report.

You should go read that, if only for my response to a commenter -- a Christian who works as a public-school teacher in Texas -- in which I thumbnailed my philosophy of maximum feasible non-cooperation with the public school system.

My wife has homeschooled our children since 1997. Our oldest daughter attended one year of public-school kindergarten, then did two years in a Christian grade-school before we finally decided to homeschool. None of our other children has ever attended a public school, or ever will, if I can help it.

When our three oldest children got old enough for high school, they attended private Christian schools. Our oldest daughter graduated with honors at age 16, the youngest member of her class, and is now a sophomore in college. Our 16-year-old twin boys -- well, they're both good students, but they're more into working, playing guitar, breeding pythons, fixing cars, and girls. (My own plan is for the boys to matriculate at The University of Parris Island, home of the Fightin' Jarheads.)

But last night I was working late (got a deadline project) after I'd left that comment at Creative Minority, and needed to make a run to the convenience store. "Where you going, Dad?" said 16-year-old Bob, who was on the phone with his girlfriend. "Can I drive?"

So Bob drove me to the store, and as the price of that privilege -- the boy just got his learner's permit and loves to drive -- he had to listen to my lecture about the systemic flaws of the government education system, and how The Myth of the Good Public School perpetuates this flawed system:

"All learning is individual. . . . You can teach a group, but only the individual learns. . . . Therefore, the idea that a school is 'good' because the students on average score well on standard tests is fundamentally false."
Once you understand this, you realize what's wrong with The Myth of the Good Public School. The school is taking credit, as an institution, for the individual achievement of its students. The "good" school doesn't necessarily have better facilities or better teachers, it simply has more good students.

Well, what would happen if the "good" school had fewer good students? What if smart parents with smart kids decided that they were no longer going to let those tax-siphoning bureaucratic mediocrities at the local public school take credit for their child's achievement?

What if the good kids in that district were all home-schooled, or attended private schools? The aggegate average test scores at the local public school would decline, The Myth of the Good Public School would be exposed as a lie and, if such a movement began to snowball into a national phenomenon, the entire evil soul-destroying system of government education would collapse under the weight of its own transparent bogusness.

Maximum feasible non-cooperation. Think about that: "Going Galt" as a parent.

BTW, my son is an excellent driver. Nature or nuture? I started teaching my kids to drive when they were 12. Both of my brothers are truck drivers and, of course, that hillbilly NASCAR gene runs deep. One thing for sure, my boy didn't learn to drive because he was taught in any school. Except maybe Old School.


UPDATE: In the comments, "Anonymous" (whose name is apparently Philip) links to his own blog post in which he accuses me of "knuckleheadedness . . . ignorant, naïve, paranoid, and delusional." And his argument is based on . . what? His own memories of his own public school days.

Well, since Anonymous Philip wants to get all into the anecdotal ad hominem -- accusing me of being motivated by a resentment of "wedgies"! -- perhaps he should be reminded that two can play that game. Which of us is more qualified to speak with authority on the problems of American education?

Let me remind you that I spent the years 1987-91 covering prep sports -- dealing routinely with coaches who were also teachers, counselors and administrators -- as sports editor of the Calhoun (Ga.) Times. This was followed by a stint 1991-97 at the Rome (Ga.) News-Tribune where I was, among other things, editor of the weekly schools-and-youth section of the paper. So that's roughly a decade I spent covering schools.

Perhaps I should mention that, for a couple of semesters of college, I was actually an education major before changing my mind, but I did coursework in such subjects as developmental psychology and pedagogical methods. So there's that. My late Aunt Barbara was a high-school biology teacher in Georgia, recognized by the "STAR" program as one of the state's best in her field. And then, of course, I am the father of six children, the eldest now a dean's list college sophomore. Plus, I was for five years editor of the "Culture Etc." page of The Washington Times, where I frequently covered issues involving education.

Therefore I would not hesitate to assert that, in terms of experience, observation and general knowledge, my authority to address the problems of public education is many magnitudes greater than that of Anonymous Philip, who apparently has no children and hasn't deal with education since he was himself a student.

"Well, I turned out OK" is not a persuasive argument, Philip. In a nation where 90 percent of children attend public schools, the average adult alumnus of public schools is average, eh? This doesn't prove anything about the system itself and, if anything, is an argument against any proposed reform. Hey, y'all, Philip attended public school and he's hunky-dory, so let's keep doing more of the same!

One of the problems with arguing against a pervasive and persistent evil like government schools is that very few people have any experience of doing thing any other way. Sic semper hoc -- 'Twas ever thus -- and therefore the possibility of alternatives is dismissed peremptorily, and nothing else is ever attempted.

We encounter the same sort of resistance to, inter alia, Social Security reform. If the Republican Party had managed a sweep of Congress in the 1938 mid-term elections, then followed up by winning the White House in 1940, it is possible that they might have repealed what was then a novel experimental program. But more than seven decades after it was created, Social Security has entrenched itself, no one can even remember how Americans cared for their elderly prior to 1937, and as soon as anyone says "reform," you've got the AARP and the Democrats ginning up nightmare scenarios of Granny starving to death under a bridge.

Unlike Social Security, however, parents can opt their children out of public education and -- contrary to what Philip claims -- it really doesn't have to be that expensive. The main expense for homeschooling is that one parent (usually the mom) has to forego full-time employment outside the home in order to teach the kids. This is a sacrifice for most couples, but not usually the financial disaster some might imagine. (The two-career household is another one of those things that has entrenched itself so deeply in American life that people have trouble imagining alternatives.)

Homeschooling is a radical alternative, and it tends to have a revolutionary impact on your worldview. Once you realize that your kids can actually learn more at the dining room table with Mom as their teacher than they can learn in a big school under the certified tutelage of professional educators, you cease to be intimidated (as most Americans unfortunately are) by the supposedly superior wisdom of "experts." It is a very empowering experience.

My kids are growing up confident, cheerful and independent. Perhaps they don't have all the advantages that a two-career household could provide with the assistance of a taxpayer-funded education. But I wouldn't trade my six kids for six dozen Philips, whose message is, "Don't try anything different! Don't fight the system! You can't win!"

Can't never could.


  1. From "over there":
    The system, by its very nature, undermines parental authority, is unresponsive to the real needs of students, and is oriented toward replicating in children the conformist mentality of bureaucratic mediocrity that pervades the administration and faculty.

    Kinda ironic. I don't believe that is what John Dewey intended.

    A bit off topic, but I came across this from a local homeschooler:

    The worst part is yet to come.... one of the female characters, a middle aged lady kept messing up on her lines. Not a big deal. She handled it well and had good come backs...or so I thought. She mixed up her verbs...something like replacing were with was or vice-versa. It sounded really slang...haven't we all done this and caught ourselves? Well, I have.
    So, she turns to the audience and shouts, "GEEZE, I'M TALKING LIKE ONE OF THEM HOMESCHOOLERS!".... and then the audience clapped, roared and cheered. Including my in-laws. All of them. They all leaned over looking at ME! Tommie's jaw dropped. My eyes were wide open like coffee cup saucers! Then, if that wasn't enough...she had to say it AGAIN.... "I'm talking like a HOMESCHOOLER!"...AGAIN, the audience loved it. She then turned to the audience and shouted proud and loud..."Did I tell you I am a public school educator? And our school district is the best around???"


  2. I had not paid much attention to liberal ideology and its spawn, the public school system, until Obama came along. Now that I better understand the liberal mindset, and see that public schools are nothing more than vehicles for indoctrination into the liberal mindset, there is no way I'm letting my kid go to a public school in America. So in a strange way, I'm saying "Thanks, Obama!"


    A response to your "Public School Derangement Syndrome," Mac.

  4. I am a public school teacher, and frankly the public education system is flawed. Unfortunately, without it, millions of children would go completely uneducated. Very few parents are willing to make the effort to school their children at home.

    I personally long for a Socratic form of education, but alas it is economically impossible.

  5. I personally long for a Socratic form of education, but alas it is economically impossible.

    No it's not. The problem is that the teacher unions, homosexuals, multiculturalists, pan[insert ethnicity], and other radicals that dominate public "education," primarily in the form of colleges of education at state universities, can successfully label Western thinkers such as Adler as racists and keep his ideas from being studied. Want to know the only way to fail an education class? Don't hate yourself for being white, male, heterosexual or Christian.

    Former "teacher."