Monday, April 11, 2011

Some good reasons to go to school

In response to my post, Some Good Reasons Not to Go to School some of the commentors came back with “some good reasons to go to school.”  To give the other side of the argument equal attention, I am posting them here.  With my thoughts embedded.  I look forward to getting more comments on this important conversation.  

Six Reasons to go to school (Jeff Branzburg)*
  1. Most parents need to work – some multiple jobs – to earn a living; homeschooling is not an option.
    • The Innovative Educator:  In home educating families, it is not unusual for parent(s) to work.
  2. Some home situations are untenable – child abuse, lack of food, etc.; school can provide a welcome respite, be a source of support, provide breakfast and lunch, etc.
  3. School can be a place where young people form connections beyond the family with adults who can guide and mentor them
    • The Innovative Educator: Many would argue that the world provides an even better platform then the school, where students are empowered to seek and make connections rather than be stuck all year with connections they have never asked for.  It is important to dispel the myth that home education means you are locked in the home.  For most it means you are free to explore the world with real connections, mentors, and jobs.  
  4. Learning does occur in school, as evidenced by many Nobel laureates who have been educated at and graduated schools
    • The Innovative Educator: I would argue that many of us who have accomplished much have done so despite, not because of, school.  Additionally, my hypothesis is that these said Nobel Laureates didn’t attend traditional public schools where rote memorization, worksheets, standardized tests and regurgitation rule the roost.  
  5. Many important subjects are taught in school, frequently by people with expertise in their fields
    • The Innovative Educator: What is important to you may not be important to me.  School managed to suck the love of learning even out of the subjects I enjoy.  The things I was told I would need to know one day, never materialized.  When I need to know something I learn it.  I do not think back 8, 10, 20 years to a boring class I took in high school.
  6. Spirituality in general is not emphasized
    • The Innovative Educator: Families for whom this is important sometimes have an issue with schools being rigid regarding the religious priorities for their children.  If this is important to a  family, this might be an issue. I am not suggesting the same accommodations for all.  I am suggesting that schools be more accommodating for those who request it.

Ten Reasons to go to school (Anonymous)
The Innovative Educator: I almost feel like a home educator/unschooler wrote this as the reasons below are misinformed and some misconceptions are in need of being dispelled.  
  1. Your child will become socially literate. (I can't tell you how many homeschooled kids I know who can't hack it socially because they were homeschooled.)
    • The Innovative Educator: This is one of the most prevalent myths about home educated students.  It’s as if people think they are locked in a basement away from interaction with others.  They are not.  They are with others of all ages drawn together by interests, passions, love of learning etc.  I am wondering how “anonymous” has found his/herself among so many homeschooled.  My guess is it is a result of perhaps the remote environment in which she lives rather than how the children were raised.
  2. Your child will learn how to deal with people who are different from them. I went to a school where racism and homophobia were prevalent, and I most certainly didn't turn out that way. You have to trust that your kids will take the lessons you've taught them out into the world.
    • The Innovative Educator: This sounds like an oxymoron. In one breath you explain that racism and homophobia are prevalent in school and the next you say you didn’t turn out that way. Regardless, home educated students learn in the world face to face and online.  As opposed to school where you are grouped by date of manufacture by design and clique by choice, you are exposed to those who are different.   If you truly believe that schools consist of those who are different than you, I suggest you read Jonathan Kozal’s Still Separate, Still Unequal: America’s Educational Apartheid.  I see it every day in New York City public schools.  For the most part you find schools segregated by race and class.
  3. Your child learn to respect and understand other people and cultures. It's not a bad thing to learn that everyone else isn't like your family.
    • The Innovative Educator: I’m not sure why you think home educated students who learn in the world and through life would think that.  They don’t.  Unfortunately, students in traditional schools don’t have as many opportunities for this lesson to become a reality as they are mainly surround by those of the same age, race, and as they move into high school same track i.e. AP, honors, regular, remedial.  
  4. Your child will develop a life away from you. I have a great relationship with my Mom, but she has her business and I have mine. You shouldn't raise your kid to be dependent on you. It breeds resentment.
    • The Innovative Educator: I’ve connected with hundreds of home educated students and parents and I haven’t met any who are raising their child to be dependent on them.  To the contrary, they raise their children to be learning independent and indeed extremely entrepreneurial.  
  5. Drugs, violence, rape, sexism, racism, hate crimes, homophobia, religious persecution, depression, and anxiety are EVERYWHERE. It doesn't do your kid any good to ignore them. Learning what all those things are, and what they look like is invaluable- you also learn how to avoid and deal with them.
    • The Innovative Educator: Wait, are you saying that kids should go to school to be exposed to that????  
  6. What, exactly, qualifies as an important subject to learn? Most kids aren't exposed to art or music until they get to school.
    • The Innovative Educator: Really?  I’m not sure where you get this idea, but from what I know and have read, art and music are usually activities pursued outside of school.  
    • In answer to your question, “What qualifies as an important subject to learn?” That’s easy. Expose the child to wonderful things then ask him or her.  
  7. I'm sorry, but a certain amount of creativity does go into academics and study. In fact, the majority of learning isn't really built off of pure intelligence, it's built off of an individuals ability to adapt to learn the material.
    • The Innovative Educator: The majority of learning happens when someone chooses to know something.  I did not learn the way we were taught in school.  I was great at reading. Memorizing. Regurgitation.  This got me good grades, but I the material I took in and spewed back out on the paper never materialized to learning for me. Other students and adults I've discussed this with agree.
  8. Your kid will connect with other kids who share the same interests, from similar backgrounds.
    • The Innovative Educator: Really?  I don’t know many schooled folks who have the opportunity to even explore their own interests much less connect with those who share them.  Half the year is generally taken with test prep these days and the other half is learning predetermined subjects with predetermined teachers with predetermined assignments.  Finding passionate kids ain’t so easy.  
  9. Your kid might become involved in athletics, which encourage personal growth, hard work both in the classroom and on the field, and gee, develop, some kind of passion.
    • The Innovative Educator: Wait?  I feel like this is a lay up.  Home educated kids are able to spend time in deep exploration of athletics and physical activity.  In fact many top athletes leave school so they can deeply pursue their love of the sport...or other passion.  Children in home educating families have a wealth of time to explore the physical activities they love with others who share their interest rather than for an hour on certain days doing the thing they may hate because it happens to be on the schedule for that time of year in the physical ed program.
  10. Passion is acquired through deep focus. It's not something that KIDS need to learn. They should explore, and have fun. Teenagers and young adults should find a specific focus to work towards. You shouldn't convince your kids that there's something really great out there for them that they're meant to do. That's a big fat trap that leads to a "the grass is always greener" mentality where a person doesn't develop a specific focus because they believe there's something better. It's a recipe for misery and a really simplistic viewpoint of a world that's much more complex.
    • The Innovative Educator: Here is where I’m sold this is really a home educating parent trying to make the case against school under the guise of a schooling parent.  We know school is a place where students have little time to focus on their passions.  Instead they’re driven to move by bells that ring all day long and move assembly-line fashion to the next room with no time given for solitude or deep thought.  
    • The Innovative Educator: You shouldn’t convince you’re kids there’s something great meant for them in the world???  Are you kidding?  I hope that isn't the outlook most parents have.  I certainly disagree.  Every person is meant for something great. 
*Note from Jeff Branzburg: My point in this comment is not to say that all should go to school; rather it is to point out the fallacy of some absolute statements such as "Learning does not occur in schools." There is no one right answer for all people; people are all different, and just as re recognize the existence of varying learning styles, various teaching and schooling styles are needed to support these learning styles.


  1. Lisa,
    Great job! You hit the points right on the head and I was glad to read them in your text the minute I thought them. The second bit "10 Reasons to go to school"... I've seen those arguments before and what saddens me is that there are *still* so many people walking around under this stupidity spell where they actually believe that drivel... no doubt they were schooled. :)

    If I were to reiterate a couple of points you make here, just because I feel they deserve repeating... they would be:

    School is not a babysitter
    School does not provide a healthy social environment
    School does not provide diversity in subject matter - as it is all canned material
    School does not provide cultural exposure
    many times home ed's are criticized on this, that they are around other home eds all the time. Firstly this is simply not true, and secondly let us not forget that schooled kids are around *only* schooled kids all the time.. and usually of similar social 'class' depending on the neighborhood. So.. all I can say to that argument is "duh".
    Folks who do well and are intellectual visionaries do well despite schooling. They are survivors, not products.
    Intelligence is not based on the ability to regurgitate trivia and it's important that we realize that.

    Great post Lisa!

  2. This confronts the home education "socialization" issue:

  3. All of the above arguments against going to school might be valid and need to be addressed. But homeschooling is not for everyone. It's just not. I don't like the idea of trying to convince people to homeschool. Having a bunch of people start keeping their kids home because they have been guilted into it would not be good for anyone.

    I do think it is important to try to convince people that school is very far from ideal, but that there are ways to fix it. There are ways to fix the system for the people who will never choose to allow their kids to stay home. It is good for people to know they have options, and to open their eyes to the problems with the education system, but schools are not going anywhere. So let's keep talking about how to make them better for the kids who are in them.

  4. This post seems pretty mean spirited, which is unfortunate.

  5. @Vickie,
    I agree with you. I think there are several options that work for different folks. What I am attempting to bring light to is that many of the things we think we "need" school for, can be acquired through other means as well.

    Thanks for your feedback.

    I'm not clear who/what you think is mean spirited.

  6. While I agree with most of what you've said above, I have to agree with Vickie that you're coming down kind of hard on the "homeschooling is the best schooling" side of things. It can work for a lot of people, and a lot of people who think it CAN'T work for them CAN make it work. But I don't think it's ever going to be the solution for everyone or even the majority of people. Even John Holt never thought homeschooling would catch on with even a large *minority* of the population.

    To me, the biggest reason for this is the work thing. Yes, homeschooling parents can and often do work. Yes, teenagers can stay home with minimal adult supervision. But there are a lot of jobs that aren't flexible enough to allow parents to be home even part-time with young children and a lot of parents who aren't able or willing to change jobs in order to make that possible. What about the many people who work retail? Some smaller or more enlightened retail environments might allow parents to choose their hours strategically or bring kids in on some days, but try that at Target. Our society is, unfortunately, set up so that the "babysitting" aspect of school is important for a lot of people.

    My hope is that non-coercive schools like Sudbury schools will someday take off enough that more people have access to them. Much as I love homeschooling, I think they are a better society-wide solution.

  7. @Elizabeth Lund,
    First, I too agree with Vicky as per my previous comment. As per this post, I don’t see where I’m coming down hard on "homeschooling is the best schooling." Instead, what I see is that I’m dispelling myths that some believe about the realities of school. If there is something in particular you can point to that is coming down hard, rather than dispelling a myth, I’d appreciate your thinking on where this occurred so I can take a look and re-evaluate.

    To your point, about schools that provide alternative learning options, that is something I advocate for often both here and in the other outlets for whom I write. I think home education is great for the families that choose that option and I believe there are those for whom it would not be the best choice. For them, I think schools (or as I like to think of them, “learning centers”) where learning is driven by passion and tied to the real world, make a lot of sense. My problem lies in a traditional system of school which provides students with little freedom over their learning and little opportunity to discover, explore, pursue and develop that about which they are passionate or which is relevant to real life needs/careers.

  8. This is Anonymous from list two. For your info: I am a Biology major from a tiny liberal arts college, from an even smaller rural school. I live in one of the poorest states in the country, it's a flyover state, with a large Native population. Since you've gotten me pegged so well, I'm sure you'll figure out what state I live in. (Bonus points if you can guess my tribe. HINT: it's not any tribe that resides in my state.) I deeply love school, and academics. I hold the belief that schooling is only as good as what you do with it. If you think modern school is just the regurgitation of facts, it may be because you choose to see it as so. Certain professions, (such as medical, engineering, and psychology) require you to know your field thoroughly. If you're following your curriculum correctly, you should know that your regurgitation is to memorize basic concepts that build on themselves. It's up to you to develop interest, fascination and love for those subjects. (Yes, I believe you too can love Organic Chemistry if only you took the time!) I still stand by my point about violence, sexism, etc. I'm half-Native American and half white. If I had been homeschooled, I would have faced racial prejudice within pockets of my own family anyway. It is not the question of if your kid is exposed to these things, it's how your kid reacts. It's like you don't trust that your kid, or your own parenting when you say those things. I learned from all those awful things I saw, and I'm a much more accepting person for it. Yes, I had my fair share of awful teachers, but I also came into contact with some great teachers who are mentored me, and whom I really trust. I also came across a fantastic math professor who basically undid all the damage from high school, and I'm now confident in my ability to learn math. There are a few points I'll level with you on- many students go into school with the impression that the school's supposed to do everything for them. That's totally wrong, and schools do not put any effort into teaching different methods of learning, or independent study. Universities are no good for the arts- learning technique, and history, yes, but they're institutions that encourage homogeneity. Finally, why do we all have to be destined for something great? Many people would call Jackson Pollock a great artist. (I think he's kind of sexist, personally.) He was, however, deeply unhappy. Why should we aspire to be great? I think we should aspire to happiness. It really bugs me because I'd say that learning as a whole is oh, I don't know, a passion of mine, and here's a whole blog that tells me not to pursue it. I tell you, this whole youth thing is overrated- not only are people deciding what's best for me without my consent, but now there are people telling me I'm doing it wrong.

    Also @ Laurette Lynn: Thanks for judging me with no inkling of who I am within a forum that encourages discussion. I disagree with you, but that doesn't make me stupid. Another reason I dislike homeschooled kids and their parents- they're usually very condescending and superior. You're not really convincing me here.

  9. @Anonymous, what exactly is your point?

  10. @anonymous, I didn’t indicate I had you pegged. Instead I responded to your ideas. You believe schooling is only as good as what you do with it and that some choose to see it as a regurgitation of facts. To me that’s what read the chapter, answer the questions, take the test was. I would have much rather been doing, instead of reading about things written in a dry textbook. There was not an opportunity to “choose” in school. It is like sitting through a dozen years of classes you never signed up for taught by people you never asked to teach you. While you are lucky to have had some mentors, that should not be something that happens by luck. Students should be empowered to seek out and learn from mentors. This is rarely a part of school. You indicate that I can love organic chemistry. Perhaps, but I want to choose what I love and what I don’t like. I don’t want someone else making that decision for me. Sure, it can be suggested, but I want a choice not only in what I learn, but how I learn it.

    I think you make a weak case in regards to the fact that children should go to school to be exposed to violence, rape, and sexism. I can prepare children to address those situations as they come up in life, but that, to me, is not a reason to send a child to school.

    You share that you happened to have a great math professor that undid all your high school damage? What about those kids who don’t have a great math professor and were damaged because they do not think in such ways? Have you seen the movie Race to the Top? It is dedicated to a 13-year-old girl whose spirit and esteem was so shot down by her Algebra teacher, she committed suicide. Another student dropped out after her math teacher told her she just wasn’t smart enough and he couldn’t help her. Other students were taking anti-depressants and hospitalized for stomach pains. When I wrote about this, I had many parents confiding in me that their children had encountered the same anguish. Personally I have written about my struggles with math class in school. I learned nothing, yet I’ve succeeded and know how to think logically and solve math that I need to.

    We have to all be destined for something great because that is our right as human beings. Each person defines greatness for themselves, and I believe everyone has the ability to achieve greatness. I would never want to be the person who couldn’t see the greatness in others, but I understand that for many students they’ve had this ideal beaten out of them with grades that tell them otherwise.

  11. I'll be honest, I don't really have a point (except that I went through public school and it didn't traumatize me) other than to mix the comments up. (I'm sorry, I don't like it when everyone goes, "I agree!") I'd like to point out though, it's bad to deal in absolutes. It doesn't make you any better than the public school system you seek to reform. Also- lots of academic pressure doesn't just come from the school: it comes from parents who over-schedule their kids in the quest for them to be great. I think lots of blame is being placed on the schools (it's not unjustified), but the parents shoulder responsibility too. I follow a romantic scholar approach to study: do less, do it better. I try to take the time to become fully enveloped in my subjects, and to develop hard focus. I also simply don't worry about my GPA. The only time I do it to check it for scholarship applications. Working right is way more important that finding the right work. Just because you love something does not mean you're going to be good at it. That's just a hard truth of life. If your teach kids to search for their life's work, it's going to make them miserable. If we become convinced that we have to find work we love, the more we'll hate it because we don't love every minute of it. There's an importance of developing ability and craftsmanship that develops into passion. Passion's much larger than you describe it and greatness, in my opinion, is a huge trap for unhappiness.

    Finally, not everyone who goes through traditional school is a raging, homicidal, sexist, racist, junkie. Quit generalizing so much.

  12. Anonymous,

    Let me assure you that as the author of this blog and a person in touch with those of my readers who have identified themselves, we are not known for "agreeing." We are known for sharing what we think is in the best interest of children and those who support their learning.

    You point out it is bad to deal in absolutes. I absolutely agree but I don't see where I've done that. Please clarify.

    You don't like absolutes. I don't like generalities. You state I've placed unjustified blame on schools. Where specifically have I done that?

    I agree about pressure coming from the parents. This wasn't a part of this post and it becomes confusing when focusing on several different topics, but this is something I talk and write about often.

    You go on and state additional issues that seem disconnected from that topic at hand. To address some of them. You suggest loving something doesn't mean you'll be good at it. Yes. I agree, but I don't see where that statement fits in. If you love it and it makes you happy, it's okay if you're not good at it. I ski, snowboard, and play volleyball. I don't do so professionally but I have a great time and it's a great workout. I'm not that good at these things, but I've had the opportunity to earn money in all of these things via coaching, teaching, organizing tournaments and events etc.

    As far as what to teach, I agree with Oprah. Do what you love and happiness will follow. Also to clarify, I didn't say teach kids to search for their "life's work." Instead I suggest that we help students find that which makes them happy and ideally makes the world a bit better.

    You say If we become convinced that we have to find work we love, the more we'll hate it because we don't love every minute of it. Not true. I know many of those commenting here do what we love and we love it. We understand that it isn't always easy, but it's worth it. I recommend you read Sir Ken Robinson's "The Element" for some more insight on the topic.

    You say passion is larger than I describe. I don't believe I've necessarily described it at all. I have only suggested that when it comes to learning it should be a part of the process.

    Your last statement frankly is bizarre. You state that not everyone who goes through traditional school is a raging, homicidal, sexist, racist, junkie and you suggest that I quit generalizing. It was you, not I, who used such terms. Those are not now, and have never been, words I associated with those who have been products of schooling.

  13. @Anonymous, "I will be honest, I don't really have a point (except that I went through public school and it didn't traumatize me.)"

    I am happy for you though I don't know what you mean by traumatizing. Since no one has said anything about being "traumatized" here. Regardless, congrats.

    However, schooling is a deeply complex issue with infinite impact that exists beyond your personal experience. I suggest you read the works of retired teacher John Taylor Gatto ( as a start ) so you can come to a somewhat healthy understanding of the history and purpose of compulsory schooling. While you are at, also look into the drug pushing that occurs in schools, not by "drug dealers" in street corners but by Pharmaceutical companies working in cahoots with school administrators and school psychologists. Look up author and counselor, Laurie A. Couture. Again, as a start.

    I urge to be curious rather than offended, and look into educating yourself in these topics. Hopefully the more you investigate and learn as you follow your thirst for knowledge, you will be better informed in forming your opinions.

    Step out of the box a little and really look into the history of Compulsory Schooling. After all, you are advocating for it.

  14. @Desiree You wrote:

    "I urge to be curious rather than offended, and look into educating yourself in these topics. Hopefully the more you investigate and learn as you follow your thirst for knowledge, you will be better informed in forming your opinions."

    Exactly. Therein lies the paradox and Achilles heal - the inherent inability to look beyond the tip of ones own nose, a vehement focus on defending insecurities, and an ineptitude at self-learning. In any event I appreciate your determination to make the points you make and am glad to see your words in this thread. I am hopeful that some of your sentiments will resonate.

    @Vickie you wrote: "Having a bunch of people start keeping their kids home because they have been guilted into it would not be good for anyone."

    This doesn't make any sense. Your statements carry an angry tone and therefore lack critical judgment.

    Et all, the defenses of the system posts here are emotionally charged and come from a blatantly defensive position. This eliminates the usefulness of the discussion and prevents any of the participants from arriving at a solution to the obvious problem with the school system.

    We are all entitled to our own opinions, but no one is entitled to their own facts. If we could accept each others opinions for what they are and then focus on discussing the facts, then perhaps we can find ourselves engaged in a useful discussion. However, it appears we have arrived at an em-pass and so I respectfully bow out so as to pursue projects that carry a greater potential to discover an actual solution.

    On that note, I look forward to discuss more with you on the upcoming show as well as privately, Lisa, as it is clear to me that you genuinely seek to find a rational solution and realize that it's not about you, it's not personal, and is about the future of our nation and world. Thank you for your work.

  15. @Laurette Lynn, I know you said you are bowing out of the conversation, so I don't know if you will read this, but I would like to respond to you.

    My statement above was not out of anger. I was responding to the tone of your comment, and especially this line "there are *still* so many people walking around under this stupidity spell where they actually believe that drivel... no doubt they were schooled."

    I believe that calling people who believe in schools "under a stupidity spell" (read: stupid) shows a lack of compassion at best. I like to try to talk about facts and leave my emotions out of the discussions about school and education. Especially on a site where teachers and students regularly visit.

    And I stand by my statement that homeschooling is not a large-scale solution to the problems in education. I do think that those of us who are outside the system have good ideas to offer if we can work together. But I think people stop listening when they are talked down to.

  16. People need to seriously stop making the choice of getting offended. There is no polite way to say, "The schooling system in this country is a farce and the last thing that the Department of Education has an interest in, is children's learning."

    I "could" find a way to say all of that in a sociable acceptable away so that it doesn't "offend" people. But I am not responsible for someone's insecurity and sensitivities. If only professional educators, parents and students would spend more time educating themselves and investigating the roots of Public Education and less time getting offended, there would be SOME genuine attempt at progress. May I remind people that no one here during this entire post has claimed that everyone should be homeschooled. Again, people... criticism of Schooling is not an attack on YOU, but rather something that YOU yourself should be doing, really look into the system, look in the roots, the history, it's purpose... and THEN form an opinion. Or you could just get offended because you don't like what you hear. That seems really productive.

  17. Desiree, I understand people getting offended. Especially parents who think they’re doing what is best for their kids. For instance, my mom does not understand why I am resentful of my schooling. She did what she thought was best. She had no other input. Even if she had input, she is defensive. Many people are...including me :-p Telling my mom she screwed up puts her on the defense. Also, there are some folks who REALLY, TRULY, LOVED school. Somehow that worked for them. It didn’t work for me, but I find...maybe 20% of the folks I speak to seemed to LOVE school. And, as I’ve shared before there are also folks that loved/craved religious school too. Crazy to me, but tis true.

    You have had a solid foundation in home education since you were a child. For those who had a different upbringing, your truths are not so obvious. Many of us, including me, are just trying to catch up.

    To me the idea of providing a lot of information, opportunity for conversation, then and helping others decide what is best makes sense. Personally, my parents often tried to protect me from making the mistakes they made. I remember always screaming, “I want to make my own mistakes!!!!” I understand that not every kid is this way. Some will take parental advice at face value. I was not one of them. If you told me, “No,” I needed to experience why it was no. What I learned is that what my parents thought was right and best was often different than what I felt was right or best. I am not happy they tried to prevent me from doing/experiencing things. Ever since I can remember I wanted choice. I should also point out the that 80% of child maltreatment comes from parents. So, perhaps a child is choosing school to get away from them.

    As far as the Dept of Ed and children learning, I understand what you are saying. However, I know many teachers and principals truly do want to do what is best for kids. I agree what they’re doing often is not in the best interest of children, but for many, this is all they know.. I believe that enlightening educators through speaking or writing like I do here makes sense. They are after all the ones in charge of the majority of kids during the day so it seems helping them shift to a passion-driven model of learning would be powerful.