What should be the strategic goal that we want to achieve in educating our youth? Try this one on: The best pre K-12 education with the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. And those dollars should go equally and freely to homeschooling as well as traditional public schools, charter schools and private schools. That’s what Revolution 2.0™ desires. What do you want?
Today’s Key Point: Home schools, charter and private schools, all make public schools stronger.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
My eldest son, when I was talking to him about how many of us have by necessity joined the homeschooling crowd, said that he was very recently admonished for having used the term “homeschooling.” The person correcting him said that since not everyone has a home, the proper term is “online education.” Forgetting the obvious, that if you don’t have a home it is unlikely that you can get online, homeschooling is a very appropriate term: it is schooling that is done at home. And by definition it is the option with the most parental input of the four schooling choices.
Parental involvement in a child’s education is critical; there is no substitute for it. And parental involvement is much misunderstood and sadly underestimated as an influencer in a student’s educational–and life–success or failure. Parents must be involved not only in checking homework and going to teacher conferences, but in the selection of how taxpayer dollars are allocated to their children’s education in the first place.
Repeating Today’s Key Point: Home schools, charter and private schools, all make public schools stronger.
“The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.” Keewations (Inuit) proverb.
One of the signature environmental books of the 70’s was “Never Cry Wolf” by Farley Mowat (how’s that for a name?). A wonderful book with many intriguing, fun, and memorable anecdotes, with the core message being that wolves had been getting a bad rap. Until the publication of Mowat’s book, wolves were broadly seen as dangerous predators, with few–if any–redeeming characteristics, ignoring that they were a necessary part of the overall ecosystem. In his view-changing book, Mr. Mowat provides convincing proof that wolf packs make the caribou herds stronger. A truth that the Inuit had known for generations.
How could that be? Don’t wolves prey on caribou? Indeed they do, but Mowat proved that the wolves attacked and killed only the weak, diseased and injured caribou, leaving only the strong. In addition to examining what the wolves had eaten, he observed that even the healthiest wolf had a near impossible time felling a healthy caribou. This limitation caused the wolf to make the herds stronger by eliminating the weak. The weak were no longer available to reproduce and compete for scarce food, leaving the strong to eat and reproduce.
So, how do wolves and caribou relate to public schools?
In the same way, charter schools, home schools and private schools make public schools stronger. No sane parent would choose a charter school or take advantage of a private or homeschool voucher if the local school was strong, and producing good results for its students. They would opt out only from weak schools. And unlike the caribou, weak schools get a second chance. If parents start opting for other choices in significant numbers, the troubled school, public, private or otherwise, has time to improve and strengthen. Unlike a dead caribou. And if the school cannot or will not improve sufficiently, it will close and improve the overall quality of the herd. If this happens repeatedly and over time, there might be fewer public schools. But the remaining will be stronger. Even more importantly, the “herd”, public schools, private, home and charters, all serving the students, parents and the community, will be stronger.
Vouchers are another type of helpful wolf. Charters provide one type of strengthening competition; vouchers for private and home schools another. Vouchers make public schools stronger in a similar, but importantly different way. Charter schools require exactly that, a charter from public school authorities (or other public agencies) to start and to continue operating. Schools where a parent could take a voucher already have the right to operate, and can operate with far less oversight than charters. Vouchers could be used in a broad variety of schools, likely more schools, online, brick and mortar and home, with more types of choices than local charters. Obviously this further expands the choices available to parents and students. And more competition to make the herd stronger.
Speaking of variety, I would support the use of vouchers for faith-based schools. My stand is that faith-based schools, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc., are no more a violation of the separation of church and state than what is happening in many public schools today; espousing secular progressivism, humanism and/or deism. Or even atheism, which is often proselytized with an enthusiasm and passion which would be the envy of many a believer. Students presenting vouchers to a faith-based school would be allowed to opt out of any religious classes. Simple. Now tell me how students in public schools opt out of classes where the teacher’s biases are not listed in the syllabus?
Home schools should be equally funded, with the same dollars per student as public, charter and private schools. The money follows the student, not the school or the teachers unions. The money follows the student. And the parents make the decisions. Not school boards, or unions or any level of bureaucracy. Parents should be encouraged to seek the advice of experts, but it is their call. How could it be any other way?
How could it not be true that all of us, parents or not, want the best possible pre K-12 education with the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, for all of the children in our country? Parental choice and school competition are the keys. Car manufacturers make better cars because they know that we have many choices, so they had better be competitive or they know they will die. It works that way all over our economy, including electronics, food, clothing, housing, entertainment–compete with a better product or service or crash.
Don’t we owe at least as much in the way of choice and excellence to our children as we do to people who buy smartphones?
Parting thought: The separation of church and state is much in the news. What about the separation of school and state? Taxpayers would continue to fund pre K-12 education, but the state would greatly relax its controlling grip.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.