Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Rant on the Government and Education- Enjoy!

I was going to post this on Facebook, but I have so much to say about it that I decided to put it here instead. Our President suggests that American children should spend more time in school because kids in other countries do and they're outscoring American kids on math and science tests. I have several problems with this.

For one thing, this is just another effort to make testing more important than it should be. We push and push for higher and higher test scores, completely ignoring the fact that some people simply do not test well, regardless of their knowledge of the subject. Besides that, there is a lot more to learning and knowledge than test performance. To focus so much on test scores is to take a very myopic view indeed.

Not everyone is talented in the same areas; while some people have strengths in science and math, other people have strengths in other areas- language, art, vocational skills, and so on. And that's okay! That's the way it should be. Making the school day longer and pushing even harder for high test scores in a few particular areas risks alienating even further those kids who are talented in areas other than the "chosen" ones. Want a surefire way to make kids even more likely to drop out or hate school? This is a good option, then! A love for learning and an environment that encourages success in areas of skill- these are so important, but we are shoving them aside in pursuit of higher test scores.

Testing aside, I have a serious issue with the logic here. "Everyone else does it, so we should too." I thought we wanted to discourage kids from doing things just because everyone else does. I'm not okay with the lessons being taught here: Test performance is more important than a love for learning, outperforming others is something we must strive for, and we should do what everyone else is doing. Wow, that's actually the exact opposite of what I try to teach my kids! I want my kids to love learning, do the best they can, pursue their areas of interest and talent, and stay true to themselves without worrying what other people are doing or how they compare to them.

And for that matter, even this article states that while kids in other countries do go to school more days out of the year, they actually spend less time in the classroom than American kids do:

"While it is true that kids in many other countries have more school days, it's not true they all spend more time in school.

Kids in the U.S. spend more hours in school (1,146 instructional hours per year) than do kids in the Asian countries that persistently outscore the U.S. on math and science tests — Singapore (903), Taiwan (1,050), Japan (1,005) and Hong Kong (1,013). That is despite the fact that Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong have longer school years (190 to 201 days) than does the U.S. (180 days)."

Their days are shorter, not longer. So if we must continue to push test scores above everything else, let's consider that the students who are outscoring ours actually spend less hours in school each day.

I am starting to feel very frustrated with how much control the government wants to have over children and families- and how much control so many families are willing to give them! Whose children are they, anyway? After struggling mightily with the decision, I chose to let my oldest go to public school rather than homeschooling. There were personal reasons for that decision, and I am very, very supportive of homeschooling. I still consider it an option, especially if changes like this are made. I already think the school day is too long for our public-schooled kids- seven hours a day. That's just one hour per day short of a full-time job! Did you know that homeschooling families can easily accomplish the same amount of education in half the time each day? I wonder how long it will be before they take that option away (despite the fact that, on average, homeschooled kids score higher on those oh-so-important tests than public school kids)?

Our nation absolutely needs some education reform- but this is not it. This isn't even close.

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