Modern Education Failed Us

A blog for stories, research, and activism for educational choices. One-size-fits-all mass education is harmful for many children. There are many educational models - homeschooling, secular private schools, one-room schoolhouse, charter schools, virtual schools, specialty schools, religious schools, and many more. All deserve respect and equal protection under the law. The government should not discriminate nor dominate! Centralized monopolistic public education should be a thing of the past.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Bullying in Middle School...

...May Lead to Increased Substance Abuse.

Over the past decade, parents, educators and policy makers have become increasingly concerned about verbal and physical harassment in schools and the subsequent effects of peer victimization on teens. A recent study by Julie C. Rusby and colleagues from the Oregon Research Institute, published in the November 2005 issue of the Journal of Early Adolescence by SAGE Publications, found significant associations between peer harassment of students in middle school and a variety of problem behaviors, such as alcohol abuse, once these students reach high school.

Read the whole article at

Friday, December 16, 2005

Federal Literacy Survey

One in 20 U.S. adults lack basic English skills
Federal literacy survey reveals ‘stark snapshot'

(click title above for link to article)

After reading the above article, my friend permitted me to post her response:

Since I've just finished reading the essays of another 2500 college-bound teens, this survey does not surprise me. There are certainly 5% of them that can't fully understand the language of the prompt they are responding to; for example, they will think "practical" means "requiring practice". They say things like, "History is everything that happens, in the past, present or future. So why would you not want history? If history wasn't relevant, nothing would happen." (That was the opening of an essay rated "competent.")

I read essays by college-bound 17-year-olds who believe there are still 10 million slaves in the American south today; who argue that we should not study history because that will make us repeat it; who use two punctuation marks in a page of writing (that one was just short of "competent").

I think you just can't teach kids basic literacy in large groups on a large group schedule. They either learn to read, write and cipher on their own (regardless of the quality of their school), or they are taught in one-on-one or small groups -- like you are doing at home with your family. And when families aren't responsible for teaching their own children, the adults have less reason to progress, too.

Now, many of the 5% at the bottom in that study are recent immigrants, many of whom will develop those skills in time. But the bottom 13% includes a whole lot of people who can't read a prescription bottle or bank deposit slip now and are not making any progress toward it, despite years in American public education. Schools failed them then, they are failing them now, and they are failing their children.

So. If the education system didn't get them when it had a 12-year claim on their time, it's not going to get them now; very few of the nonliterate will become literate with passing years, as the study shows.

--on a rant after reading in a serious essay that A.G. Bell invented the first telephone using two cans and a string

Milton Friedman

Milton Friedman, the Nobel Laureate and most reknowned economist of the 20th century, is also the philosophical Father of the School Choice movement. In 1955 - four decades before most Americans recognized the current crisis in education - Friedman realized that government financing of privately adminstered schools is consistent, equitable, and efficient. Friedman posited this combination would benefit students by making schools more flexible and would also benefit teachers by making teacher salaries responsive to market forces. Friedman was the first to propose the idea that tax dollars should follow the child - vouchers.

The Freidman Foundation's latest report on the status of school choice is at

Milton Freidman wrote an essay for the Wall Street Journal recently reflecting on the school choice movement and his role in it. Read it here.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Let a Thousand Choices Bloom

Great article! It is subtitled "Debating the Future of Education Reform"

The money quotes:

Any reform that directly attaches money to the backs of children and allows them to choose any school, without regard to residential restrictions, holds promise. The actual choice mechanism—tax credit, charter school, or voucher—is less important than a child’s having substantial purchasing power and an open system that allows many different types of schools to compete for the child’s funding.

One significant barrier to more school choice is the implicit acceptance of our archaic system of residential school assignment. Changing the cultural and institutional structures that reinforce school assignment is one crucial element for expanding the number of choices available to students and their families. -- Lisa Snell

The greatest barrier to reform is that, when it comes to education, Americans have lost sight of the distinction between means and ends. Our state-run school system is no longer recognized as just one possible tool for pursuing universal education; it has come to be misperceived as an ultimate goal in and of itself. The term “public education” has come to refer to both the institution of public schooling and the ideals that the institution is meant to advance. Many Americans can no longer even imagine a world in which education is delivered other than via a government monopoly. And criticisms of state schooling are often misconstrued or misrepresented as attacks on the idea of universal access to good schools. -- Andrew Coulson

Given the tenacity and power of those who have a powerful stake in the status quo, freedom advocates cannot afford to oppose anything that meaningfully expands parental choice. Tuition and scholarship tax credits entail the least government regulation, but vouchers are more concentrated and can drive systemic public school reform. Let a thousand school choice flowers bloom, and we can see which variety works best.

Ultimately, we need to redefine “public education,” focusing less on where education takes place and more on whether it takes place. A child learning at home in front of a computer or in a religious school is advancing the true goals of public education; a child trapped in a crime-infested public school with little prospect of learning is not.

If we were starting today a system of public education from scratch, with all of the technological innovations at our disposal, would it look anything like the ossified, hidebound, bricks-and-mortar, command-and-control, homo-genous, bureaucratic, bloated, inefficient, special-interest-dominated monopoly that represents the biggest socialist system west of China and south of the U.S. Postal System? Of course not. We would create a system that is tailored to the individual needs of every child.

Government should be a funder rather than a monopoly provider of education; local school boards should be providers of educational services, not ideological politburos; and public school principals, teachers, and parents should all have greater autonomy.

The greatest institutional obstacles to systemic education reform are teachers unions, school boards and administrators, and schools of education. Good teachers have nothing to fear from competition—indeed, they obtain more power over their classrooms and sometimes even higher pay. -- Clint Bolick

The people who support the status quo are much more politically powerful at this point than people who are supporting reforms such as parental choice. It’s the teachers unions, of course, but also the administrator organizations, school board associations, and in many instances schools of education. That’s not to say no one in these sectors wants children to succeed; the vast majority probably do. The question is whether they’re willing to have structures, processes, and power arrangements that will allow that to happen. -- Howard Fuller

Anything that brings more choice to parents, especially poor parents, is likely to create a constituency for choice. Once you’ve got a constituency, you’ve got more political power and more ability to resist any kind of step backward.

Political power is the obstacle. There are reformers who are concerned about what’s best for kids, but the vested interests that arise are more concerned with protecting the status quo; that’s their livelihood. The unions in particular are extremely powerful and want to prevent any kind of threatening changes. And I don’t know that there’s an answer to that other than to amass power on the choice side. -- Terry M. Moe

Ultimately, the case against public schooling is a moral one. Under what moral authority does the state take control over the educational decisions of the family? Under what moral authority does the state take one person’s money in order to fund the educational expenses of other people’s children, either to attend public school or, with a government welfare voucher, to attend a private school?

The biggest hurdle we face in achieving full educational choice is a lack of confidence in the free market when it comes to education. -- Jacob G. Hornberger

Getting the government out of schooling may be optimal, but there is little chance of implementing that without a long intermediate stage where the government stops providing school through government-owned facilities staffed by government employees, but still subsidizes K–12 schooling through vouchers or tax credits. That subsidy-only stage—ending the present discrimination against private school users—is absolutely necessary to fully harness market forces, and it’s the most promising politically.

The largest obstacle is inertia reinforced by economic illiteracy. The differences between political and market accountability are poorly understood, and the present system’s failure to teach basic economic principles helps it survive withering criticism. -- John Merrifield

There are two major barriers. One is the swarm of adult vested interests that benefit from the current arrangements and feel threatened by any serious change. They all have lobbyists; kids and parents don’t. The other, alas, is the vast population of complacent Americans, especially middle-class suburbanites, who have already exercised school choice of one sort or another and who now believe that their own kids’ schools are doing well enough. Usually they aren’t. -- Chester E. Finn, Jr.

When it comes to education most people somehow believe that the rules should be different. We shouldn’t allow choice, they argue, because people might make bad choices. Schools don’t need competition to perform better, they argue, they just need better resources. And assessing performance to compensate educators is fraught with error, they fear. Besides, teachers don’t do it for the money; they do it because they love children.

These arguments for education being exceptional do not stand up to scrutiny. The government does not assign people to doctors, even though it is possible that people may choose poorly—and health care is an area where the cost of failure can be catastrophic. And while we understand that almost everyone who works with kids, from doctors to babysitters, loves children, we also recognize that financial rewards for excellent performance inspire better service. -- Jay P. Greene

Compulsory attendance laws absolutely have to be changed. It’s so difficult to actually educate oneself under these prison regulations. We had a time without compulsory attendance in American history, and we did quite well with a variety of schoolings. Then waves of immigration caused a revulsion effect among nativist Americans, and the idea of locking up the children of immigrants away from their parents and traditions and cultures seemed very appealing and “Americanizing.” (Of course, that’s a meaningless term. Given the meaning of this country, that would be un-Americanizing them.) -- John Taylor Gatto

Read it all at

Friday, December 09, 2005

Quote of the Day

"A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aristocracy, or the majority of the existing generation in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by a natural tendency to one over the body."

--- John Stuart Mill, On Liberty.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Coercion vs. Choice

Coerced association will lead to a process by which the most vicious values of a culture assimilate all others. That must be emphasized when dealing with those who, while perhaps not opposing public education, do oppose the values that will inevitably come out on top.

A person may refuse to understand that the principle of coercion alone is a pernicious thing, but when they realize that coercion works to the exclusive end of destroying their values, they’ll become far less tolerant of it. That is what opponents of public education must emphasize.

So wrote Rudy Takala, a very perceptive, very articulate, homeschooled, 16 year old - and nationally published - commentator on politics and policy in his article A Brief Guide to Reforming Education.

I think he is on to something. Compulsory education has been the law of the land for over 100 years. It was intended to secure a universal education for all, thus assuring social justice and equality. An admirable goal, to be sure. And it has had measurable success despite the reluctance of critics to say so. I have been uncomfortable with those critics who argue that not all people have the same ability or desire to be educated and therefore imposed standards are more harmful than good. Some critics also argue that imposed schooling is contrary to true education, which they define as a critical mind and the internally motivated pursuit of knowledge. These arguments have some measure of truth in them, to be sure, but I am uncomfortable with them because if taken too far down this road of logic they have paved, it leads to social Darwinism and elitist thinking. No, I reject the idea that compulsory education is the problem. But I do accept the idea that coercive association and coercive modality is the problem. Modern education has failed us not because we require our children to be educated, but because we require them to be educated in a proscribed way with a proscribed peer group in a proscribed setting.

Plato warned that utopia, however attractive it may appear, will never work because of the degree of synthetic constraint on human nature it requires. This is where compulsory education has gone wrong. Modern education as it exists today constrains free peoples into the "approved" definition of education, complete with an "approved" method of attaining this education, an "approved" content of education, and an "approved" setting of education. This is not only contrary to the concept of freedom, but as Takala rightly points out, it is destructive of the positive value - education - it promotes.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Times have Changed

In the 1828 edition of Noah Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language, the definition for Education reads as this:

Education, n. (L. educatio) The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of the youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.

In the 1983 edition of Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary Unabridged Edition, the definition for Education reads as follows:

Education, n. (L. educatio, from educare, to educate)
1. the process of training and developing the knowledge, skill, mind, charatcter, etc. especially by formal schooling; teaching; training
2. knowledge, ability, etc thus developed,
3. (a) formal schooling;

The word education has gone through a metamorphosis in society today. In one century, the simple definition of the word has changed immensely. American society has devalued the importance of parents' roles and capability to "educate" their children and view the current model of education as the "only way" to educate a child. However, scores of people walk away from modern education every day. Private school enrollments are increasing every year, charter schools are popping up all over the country and homeschooling is becoming more and more a viable alternative to modern education. Why are people rejecting modern education so in the last 2 decades?

The following quote has been taken from 'Anyone Can Homeschool'.

Samuel Peavey, Ed. explained the situation this way when testifying before the Iowa State Board of Education on home education:

The renaissance of family-centered schooling is the natural outcome of a number of forces converging in a fateful era. Not the least of all these forces is the well-documented fact that both the American home and the American school have reached the lowest level of mediocrity in our history. The homeschool is a pointed effort to salvage and safeguard values that once under girded schools as well as homes. Home education is a rejection of the trend toward almost total institutionalization of child rearing. It is a reaction to a decline in scholarship and character in the classroom. It is a testimony of faith in the family -- a faith that is almost lost.

As a side note to this quote, specifically referring to total institutionalizing of child rearing, my 16 year old daughter is a junior in highschool. This last year she had braces on and I needed to sign her out of school periodically to go to the orthodontist. In order for her to "not" have an unexcused absence, I needed to obtain a doctor signed note "proving" she was actually in fact at the orthodontist's office. Although obtaining a note is easy, this requirement undermines my authority to parent my child and is totally offensive. A friend of mine recently lost her mother. She took her daughter out of school to attend her grandmother's funeral. The school marked it down as an "unexcused" absence and would not allow the child to attend the school dance the following evening. Again, this practice sends a clear message that we as parents are not capable of making appropriate decisions for our children without school approval and going against their "rules" will not go unpunished whether wrong or right. My husband and I planned a vacation last year to Florida. We had planned this vacation 2 years previously and knew the children would be out of school for Spring break. Unfortunately due to snow days, the district took the spring break away. If I took my children out of school that week despite the fact there was school, they would have received 0's on all missed work and would not be allowed to make up homework assignments. They would however, be allowed to make up tests but would receive a full grade below their actual score. We were able to reschedule our trip but that is not the point. Shortly thereafter my 16 year old went on a 4 day trip to Virginia with the highschool marching band. That was excused and she was able to make up homework and tests at her convenience with full scores being applied. So because the school approved the trip, the absence was then okay.

In recent years children have endured intrusive surveys from school officials on matters that should be taught from a parent. They have systematically been forced to answer questions on home life under the guise of anonymous surveys which should never take place. Parents have stood up against the Boards of Education all over the country (quite often in my state as it is on the news quite a bit) at the fact that their 7 and 8 year old children have been asked to answer questions on whether or not they have ever drank alcohol, done drugs and other such inappropriate questions.

Who is the "school system" (modern education) to decide that we, as parents, are not allowed to take our children out of school for whatever given reason? Why is it a "professional", such as a doctor, can approve my child's need to be out of school for a few hours, and I as a "parent" cannot? How is it the school deems it acceptable appropriate to ask children, sometimes extremely young, questions of an inappropriate nature?

Modern Education in American society today has forgotten the importance of the "family" and the importance of parental influence on a child.