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    Good Public Schools

    August 31, 2007 by Brandy Vencel

    There are still good public schools out there, you know,” she said, looking at me pointedly. I found this statement interesting because I hadn’t said there weren’t. In fact, I only admitted to the fact that we were homeschooling after she had asked me if we were homeschooling. I was trying to be very cautious because I knew her kids attended public schools, and I didn’t want to accidently offend her.

    Homeschooling moms reading this will know what I mean. Merely stating that one homeschools can be perceived as a passing of judgment and offend the person with whom one is conversing. Depending on the hearer, homeschooling can be considered a judgment of them personally, or a judgment upon the school.

    The way I see it, there are good public schools. If education is only an encyclopedia to be memorized, a list of skills with little boxes next to each one that can be checked, a public school can accomplish this and give Mom time to clean the house in peace.

    Everything hinges on how one defines education. We still have our definition in flux. We are fairly New At This. However, I will say that the primary reason we homeschool is that we believe education is a form of discipleship, and we believe the Shema makes it clear that discipleship ideally takes place within the family under the authority of the father.

    Because we believe this about education, then we believe education as we see it cannot take place in an institution, and it most especially cannot take place in a government school.

    But government schools are accomplishing their own ends. They, in true assembly-line style, churn out children prepared to function in this world. They prepare an average citizen for average citizenship. In his excellent essay Against School, John Taylor Gatto quotes H.L. Menken, who wrote in 1924 that the aim of public education is the aim of public education is not

    to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence. … Nothing could be further from the truth. The aim … is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States… and that is its aim everywhere else. (emphasis mine)

    Gatto goes on to discuss Alexander Inglis’s 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education which discusses purposes of government education that have much more to do with encouraging conformity and respect for a ruling elite than it does reading, writing and arithmetic.

    Even if one chooses not to believe that there is a vast, socialized conspiracy to dumb down the general populace, one can still admit that the educational goals of a government school differ from a private school, the goals of which differ from a religious school, the goals of which differ from home education.

    I am losing my vision for this post, so I will leave off with a quote from the essay Why Nerds are Unpopular by Paul Graham:

    Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done. And I have no problem with this: in a specialized industrial society, it would be a disaster to have kids running around loose.

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