Arne Duncan

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at NBC Education Summit, image

I received a fair amount of feedback in person to last week’s article.  Those conversations brought up some more thoughts, or should I say rants.  I was remiss in that I didn’t discuss the Department of Education and home schooling.

Most American’s believe that the Department of Education predates Christopher Columbus, but I know that you, well-read people, know that Jimmy Carter signed the Department into creation in 1979.  Prior to that education was a state controlled entity.  I don’t think that the states were doing too bad.  We had won World War One, World War Two, the Space Race, and were holding our own in the Cold War, all with state managed education.

As of 2007 the Department of Ed. had 5,000 employees, with a budget in 2009 of  $32 Billion( est. 2010 $56 Billion & est. 2011 $71 Billion)  With American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funding of $102 Billion in 2009 (est. 2010 $51 Billion & est. 2011 $23 Billion).  It gets better.  With all of this money dumped into this bureaucratic cesspool the U.S. students are pretty far back in an international comparison and losing ground.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2003 & 2006 showed that the U.S. math scores remained unchanged, but some other countries improved and past us up.  Of the 57 countries tested the United States was rated 24th in math.  Additionally, we were ranked 17th in science.  Let’s hear it for the fine job being done by the Department of Education!

One of my conversations was with a former home-schooling parent turned public school educator.  We agreed that home schooling is not the solution, but I like what said”…but I thank God we live in a country where we have the freedom to home school if we choose.”  My issue with home schooling is that almost no one is versatile enough to teach the array of subjects required at all levels Kindergarten through 12th grade.  If I taught my kids, they would get a lot of History, Science, and Math. However, their training in English, Art, Foreign Languages, and music would be a joke.    

My sister-in-law used to home school, as did many members of her Church.  They started meeting one afternoon a week in the gym of the church so the children could play some sports.  Then she, being very musically talented, started teaching a music class.  Eventually each parent was teaching classes in the subjects for which they were best suited.  I believe that they call that a school!

The other problem I see with home schooling is that the children don’t get the “social skills” experiences sitting at home.  I know there is some good and some bad with the “social environment” that is any school.  But, hey welcome to the real world.  How long would you want to isolate / insulate your kids from the world? 

My Father’s church was strongly endorsing its’ parishioners to take their kids out of the public schools and home school.  After listening to this for a while he made a motion that the Church close the Sunday School.  The stunned meeting went silent.  Then Dad explained “Well if you think that you can all teach your kids Trigonometry and Calculus, you can certainly teach your own kids the Bible!”  They was very little future talk of home schooling, at least around my Father.