Stupid in America: A Reader's Comment
Hey fellas, like your blog.
I'm just starting my student teaching semester in a poor Puerto Rican neighborhood in Philadelphia. Being in an education program I've heard and read a lot about how bad American schools are. E.D. Hirsch has a great book called "The Schools We Need and Why We Don't Have Them" that does well in talking comparisons. But theres a couple things missing in these conversations. One is simply that America has the best Universities in the world. It just does. I've had foreign professors, lived in England and Italy and can attest to this. You don't know what a lazy student is until you've gone to an italian university (I'm not saying thats always bad--within that culture theres more to say). You have to talk about how good American universities are in the world.
Second, the problem is deeper than comparative test scores. Those kinds of results don't open us to be able to make a broader criticism of US schools. America has a lot of schools like mine that have poor immigrants that need more than the higher standards and threats of take-over and shake up of no child left behind. We need to define success more widely than test scores. A lot of the sixteen year olds read like nine year olds. There are different causes--the student's choice to not read, abusive parents/living on their own, a community that doesn't value education. This simply means that to be successful is to take a lot of work with each particular student and be patient with their lack of desire to work in certain cases. Christianity is in many ways a religion of valuing lost causes (Jesus came while we were still sinners) and so even if I'm not successful in helping the 11th graders get out of the bottom percentile of national scores, I'll still plug on with the learning because I know that teaching is about serving them personally.
I realize that you are trying to help, and we must never lower standards. But discussions like this tend to be simplistic and will fall on deaf ears of the teachers because they've heard it before, often from people who don't know what its like to do what they do, and it sounds condemning.
I feel okay saying this to you guys because you are very thoughtful and don't like to sit on the sidelines. You advocate homeschooling which I like, but I think that there is more you could do and say to help public schools.
Thanks for a great blog,
Thank you very much for your willingness to share your thoughts. Brett and I appreciate input from those who are more experienced in the areas we address — we readily admit our youth and inexperience.
I am also glad for a chance to more clearly explain our position — both to our many readers who homeschool, and to those outside the homeschool community. Although the 20/20 report focused on the academic side of public schools, that is only part of the trouble.
Our intention has never been to disparage the admirable work of many teachers in the public schools. Rather our trouble is with what we view as a broken system. A system that, generally speaking, does not breed godly character or competence. Even America's most prestigious schools and universities, though they may excel the area of academics, remain spiritually and morally bankrupt. As Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, "[E]ducation which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society…. We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education."
It is true that there are innumerable factors that play into the low comparative test scores. Certainly test results are not the final measure of success in education. However, the fact that American youth fare so poorly when compared to their international and home-schooled counterparts seems to confirm that the American public school system is not the ideal environment for true education. Biblically speaking, we believe that the God-ordained environment for education falls within the sphere of the family, not of the state.
With that said, we recognize that the structure of many families within our society — not to mention the structure of society itself — is not one that lends itself to the adequate performance of this responsibility. Some families are abusive or virtually non-existent. In many others parents are forced to work long hours to provide for their family, rendering home education and oversight grossly impractical.
Regardless of the circumstances, the primary concern is never for the "salvation" that comes from home-based education, but rather for the salvation that comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That is the message and end goal of The Rebelution. Unfortunately, because a majority of our readers are Christian homeschoolers, that message is at times assumed, rather than proclaimed.
The reason this blog exists is because Brett and I firmly believe that a worldview rooted in a changed heart and the truth of God's Word is the only real solution to many of the problems that plague young people today. Rebelutionaries are young people who embrace a biblical view of their teen years.
Our motto "do hard things" reflects our understanding that a rebelutionary mindset will result in enthusiastic, diligent, hard-working teens who not only apply themselves to the development of godly character and competence, but also surround themselves with companions who share their delight. This applies to all young people, whether in public, private, or home school, because Jesus — our Savior, source of strength, and Commander in Chief — is Lord over all.
Thank you again for your feedback. May God bless you and your work!
Soli Deo Gloria, Alex Jordan Harris