Why My Kid Deserves More Than A Public School Education
Let me begin by saying that I have a heart for education. I love learning, teaching and teachers. Most teachers are wonderful people that go above and beyond when the situation calls for it and expect very little, if anything, in return. Teachers, public school teachers especially, truly deserve the world, and most of them get it via connecting with students and finding fulfillment through teaching.
I went to school to become a teacher. I loved school as a kid. I loved school because I was good at it; however, don’t confuse being good at school with being smart. While I am no dummy, I am certainly not exceptionally gifted or talented (just don’t tell my husband), and I am at least smart enough to know this. School and I clicked because I figured out how to do it; some people call this the hidden curriculum. Throughout the years I learned that you don’t always have to try your best, you don’t have to read everything your assigned and you can even cheat because at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is the grade. My grade of choice was an A, but a B would do in math or science because I was not good at those subjects; not to mention those subjects were meant for boys <insert sarcasm>. Yes, this is what I really learned in school. I learned that you can fake it and still make it. Don’t get me wrong. I love, love, love to learn, but I love, love, love to learn things that I find interesting. And a lot of what is in school is not very interesting.
Schools today are kind of sad. They employ a model of learning that, if illustrated, would look like a teacher pouring facts from a pot into a funnel connected to a child’s head. The goal is to get as much in as fast as possible. You have to get all of that information in really fast because that child is going to have a bazillion tests to take throughout the year; standardized tests that offer only a snapshot of what a child knew on one particular day, under particular circumstances. You would never in a million years hire a person by having them complete a standardized test. Why? Because it would tell you zilch about them. Anything that you can guess at doesn’t accurately measure intelligence. Despite the inherent flaws of standardized tests, which every teacher and administrator with half a brain knows about, they are still given to students. Why? Because they are cheap to produce and easy to administer. Not to mention that the completion of these test help determine the funding of a school.
Funds. That’s another problem. There aren’t enough to go around, at least not in my state. That is why students have poor, cheap materials, outdated texts (which is worthy of another blog all together) and stressed out teachers. It is stressful to teach without having enough materials; not to mention poor materials. Can you imagine what it would be like for a surgeon to have to operate with materials equivalent to those given to teachers? I know; a teacher is not like a surgeon. But you expect a teacher to teach a surgeon, don’t you?
Suppose a child has the potential to be a surgeon. In my state, that child would quite possibly not be exposed to science materials until the 4th grade, and when he was, he would be taught the science that is on the statewide proficiency exam. I don’t know if biology is on it. He would also be taught in a room that averaged around thirty kids. And he is probably going to have outdated materials, which he might have to share. There probably won’t be enough money in the classroom budget to buy equipment or supplies for science projects. And there probably isn’t any money in the school budget to afford a fieldtrip. So instead, he will probably learn by looking at some outdated pictures in a book or a film that was created in the 80’s. If he is lucky and has a teacher that had some time on her hands, he might get to watch a PowerPoint presentation, but that is only if his teacher can reserve the projector and has her own laptop. You put all of these conditions together, and it makes for a very uninspiring look at school. In fact, it was for these very reasons that I disliked science. We never got to do anything.
But here is the problem. You want your kids to love to learn and learn by doing because that is real learning. I have taken hundreds of classes and have been is school for close to twenty years and there is so much that I didn’t really learn. I got A’s in the classes, but not because I learned. I got A’s because I learned to play the game, and I got rewarded for playing the game. I was nice, quiet and all my teachers liked me. If I forgot an assignment, no big deal, I was teacher’s pet. Rarely did I go above and beyond what I was asked for because I could get A’s by just being average. And the thing is, I don’t want that for my kid.
I don’t want my kids to learn what I learned at school. I want my kids to have more.
(Image via Wikipedia)
On October 5, 2011, Steve Jobs died. Steve Jobs, one of the founders of the sensation that is Apple, was arguably a genius. By the age of 25 he had created a computer in his parents’ garage, and he made millions. He later went on to change the way the world communicated, lived and connected with technology. He did all of this after dropping out of college. Maybe Steve Jobs was tired of learning the way most kids learn today. Side note: Don’t think that learning in college is all that different than it is in a regular public school. While Steve Jobs is clearly an inspiration, I have to tell you that I think his parents are the real heroes.
(Image via Wikipedia)
How many parents do you know that would let their kid tinker in their garage with a buddy after dropping out of college to make something as abstract as a computer? Mine wouldn’t. Mine would have told me to get a job, fend for myself and get realistic about life. And I wouldn’t knock them for doing so. A part of the American culture is getting your ass out of bed every day to go work and provide. You have to buy a house, buy a car, save money for retirement and save some money for a rainy day. Sure you can dream, but just don’t do it during working hours. And most of the American public is OK with this. Most of us are totally content with this way of life. Is it because we have learned mediocrity from our schooling at such an early age that we have grown to be content with it?
The irony is that we tell our kids that they can be anything and that they dream big, but most of us at adults do the exact opposite. We dream with caution. We don’t take the risk because we can’t bear to fail. And most of us have never failed, but then again, most of us have never really taken big risks.
My oldest son is supposed to start kindergarten next year. I don’t want my son to go to school the way I did. I don’t want him to sit in a classroom with 29 other children aching for attention and fighting boredom. I want him to learn by doing. I want him to learn by tasting, smelling, listening, seeing and touching. I want him to work hard at something not because there is a grade, sticker or prize for doing it, but because he truly feels as though the process of the work is reward enough. I want him to dream something that hasn’t been imagined. And I even want him to fail. I want him to fail so that he is not afraid of it. Because once you experience real failure, once you buck the system and go off on your own, you realize that you never really failed. You realize that the failures are those that are afraid of failing.
Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech for Stanford University in 2005. In his speech, Jobs informed the crowd that although they were new and young now, eventually they would age and become old. He remarked that everybody dies and life progresses at a very quick pace. He then made the comment that life was far too short to live another person’s life. He was right. And it is my job as a parent to make sure that my kids know such to be true.
I don’t know what kindergarten will look like next year for my son. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great public schools, great teachers and great principals. I was very fortunate to have many great ones myself. The problems with my country’s schools, however, are not the faults of these people. Perhaps, my family will have to seek out a way to pay for private schooling or maybe we will go the home school route. I don’t know. But whatever choice my husband and I decide on, we will make it with the expectation that we don’t want to prepare our children for a job, but instead to be more like Jobs.
This is the video of Steve Jobs giving his commencement speech at Stanford University.