Monday, September 28, 2009

Education: Two Views

President Obama has announced he believes children in the United States should be in school more hours per day, more weeks per year.

This, you see, is because "the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom."

What a bunch of malarkey. What "challenges" are any different than they've ever been in the last hundred years? Over the decades there have always been changes in technology, world relations, and so on. Why is this new century somehow special? Students have always needed to have a good, solid education. Period.

But as for the idea that a good, solid education requires more time sitting in a classroom, I couldn't disagree more. Children need to be taught solid, substantive subjects by effective teachers -- but they don't need more time cooped up in a classroom, robbing them of time to be creative and inventive, to pursue their interests, to read for pleasure, and to get lots of physical exercise. Children also need plenty of time with their families.

So much classroom time is spent on "classroom management" and "discipline," not education. One of the miracles of homeschooling is how little time it actually takes to produce outstanding results, because the parent is teaching each child one-on-one and not struggling to motivate and teach an entire classroom of disparate abilities and languages. I have a strong suspicion that more hours and days in a classroom would produce diminishing returns, for many reasons.

Today at Salon Andrew O'Hehir writes about his family's experiences as new homeschoolers.

One of his points I strongly agree with: "We have rejected the mainstream consensus that since education is a good thing, more of it -- more formal, more 'academic,' reaching ever deeper into early childhood and filling up more of the day and more of the year -- is better for society and better for all children. This is almost an article of faith in contemporary America, but it's also one that's debatable at best and remains largely unsupported by research data."


Blogger Irene said...

Boy, I couldn't agree with you more. I saw this article on Yahoo News this morning and was like "oh, brother". My husband also pointed, especially here in California, who's going to pay the salaries for the teacher's, staff, etc. when they are working more hours? We wasted a lot of classroom time last year just trying to keep 2 boys from completely disrupting our class all the time and we only had 17 students. This year we have 22 and we are getting twice as much done because they are for the most part better behaved children.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

It must be so frustrating for you when you've got a couple kids holding up the progress of the entire class... Unfortunately that's such a common scenario in the classroom environment. I could go on and on about things like that from the perspective of a parent who over the last decade has had kids in public, private, and home school, and I'm sure you've got lots more stories to tell from your experiences too!

Best wishes,

11:31 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

Oh poo, nothing has changed. It's just now both parents work and/or need time to hit the sales, either way, free babysitting is a winner. And the state wants to get 'em while they're young, so it's a win-win for everyone involved.

Except the children.

9:18 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I completely agree, Dana.

Always good to hear from you --

Best wishes,

9:47 PM  

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