Archive for Saturday, November 29, 2008

Freedom of educational choice

November 29, 2008


President-elect Obama is open to new ideas — asking for them, in fact. Here’s one I think we can all agree on: freedom of choice in education. American parents choose where and how their children will be educated. When I protect their freedom to do so, I protect my own, whether I agree with them, or not. Our exercise of freedom in education weaves a rich, democratic tapestry of individualism and individuality.

By democratic, I mean the energetic, egalitarian, outside-the-box way Americans think about educational choice and accommodate educational diversity. Our magnet schools, free schools, private classical schools, religious, Montessori, and Waldorf schools, craft and career schools, pre-professional schools, and government-sponsored public schools offer a wide spectrum of choice even for children whose parents are not wealthy.

There’s one more choice available here which, though not as widely known, has broad support across every religious, political, socio-economic, racial, class and ethnic boundary. Independent, or “home,” education has the longest history of all our array of options and is thriving (over 200,000 families now!) in a pluralistic, cross-cultural, inter-denominational way, all over the U.S.

Parents choose a mode of education that fits their child’s emotional maturity, intellectual style, learning modality, interests, ambitions, strengths and weaknesses. They take into account their own desires to teach, to learn, to travel, to work, to build relationships, and to interact with the community. The family’s beliefs, heritage, resources and traditions all are brought to bear on the education decisions parents make. Even the family’s “season of life” (Is there a brand new sibling on the way? Will Grandma live with us now? Can Dad take a sabbatical next year? Is the nest almost empty?) is a consideration.

It’s no wonder we expect a wide range of educational designs to be available to us as we each make the best choice we can for our children, for ourselves, for our own family. A nation of people who want to design their own Web sites, tennis shoes, radio stations and beers won’t be content with a narrow range of choices for such a substantial expense of time and energy.

I think we can all agree that one thing making this country great is this commitment to resist having our freedom of choice reduced to a quick multiple choice test — as though every child could possibly fit into, or benefit by, the same program. We are, more and more, consumers of educational products tailored to our particular needs, tastes, and quirks. A factory that can turn out citizens does not exist, but the mix and unity of free human beings watching out for and respecting each other’s freedom goes a long way to making us all better citizens, and better neighbors.

Speaking of neighbors, none of us — even independent educators — is self-sufficient. Thank you, public and private school teachers! Thank you, home school cooperative leaders and field-trip coordinators! Thank you to online tutorial and correspondence studies providers! Thanks to the mentors who come alongside, the experts who share their wealth of knowledge, and the unpaid fellow citizens who contribute content to the cyberspace learning environment! Thank you museum docents, business owners, grandparents, artists, musicians, zookeepers, medical professionals and journalists, who also teach our children!

I am grateful every day for my freedom to educate my children my way. I respect the different choices others make (Surely, they will choose better for their own kids than I could.) and willingly pay taxes to make sure the public system stays strong. I want you to help me encourage our leaders to protect and promote — even to enlarge the creative scope of — independent education, the American way. Everyone is served by freedom of choice in education, so please support it whenever and however you can.

— Charlotte Ostermann is a writer and home-school mom who lives in rural Lawrence.


storm 9 years, 6 months ago

Nice letter. Sounds like you are teaching well but we don't know about the others.... Contingent upon the parents, there could be a whole crop of intolerant citizens being raised with this statement from independent education, "They take into account their own desires to teach, to learn, to travel, to work, to build relationships, and to interact with the community. The family’s beliefs, heritage, resources and traditions all are brought to bear on the education decisions parents make." For example, a family may tell their student, all people with blue eyes are evil. If the student attended a school where there were blue-eyed people and they were not evil in day-to-day experiences, then the student would come to a different conclusion than what their parents told them in their homeschool. Going to a bricks and morter school has more potential for building responsible citizens than independent education.

storm 9 years, 6 months ago

Yes, the facts speak for themselves. We are surrounded by responsible people who are tolerant because they attended a school. The potential for intolerance appears to go unchecked more so in an independent school environment than in a public school - something the founding fathers would not want, since they themselves were treated so badly in their country of origin.

Tom McCune 9 years, 6 months ago

Funny how often "my freedom" gets conflated with "your duty to pay for my freedom." Do we not have freedom of educational choice now? Of course we do. However, that does not mean that public funds should be used to fund religious schools. This is exactly what happened with the madrassas in Pakistan and other places. Well meaning US and other western sources provided foreign aid to set up schools in impoverished areas. What could possibly be wrong with that? What was wrong was that there was no control over the curriculum. They became indoctrination centers for radical Islam which provide little in the way of true education. We should tolerate no Islamic madrassas, no Catholic madrassas, no Pentecostal madrassas, and no Mormon madrassas supported by public funds.

Robert Marble 9 years, 6 months ago

Speaking of intolerance- there sure seems to be plenty of that directed towards those who choose to home school. Rather hypocritical, isn't it?

LeslieJeanne 9 years, 6 months ago

Michele and Barrack Obama chose a Quaker school for their girls. The public schools today are not places you would go to unless you absulutely had to.A lot of parents cannot home school because of various reasons, single mom who has to work, lack of knowledge of the subjects taught, impatience with children.The application directors of Harvard, Yale and Stanford have all stated that they like having applications from home schooled students as they know these people will be more study oriented and more ready for college.

Robert Marble 9 years, 6 months ago

liberals can usually be counted on to disdain most things that involve freedom of choice. This topic is a prime example.

joyeoman 9 years, 6 months ago

It doesn't sound to me like the author advocates anyone paying for private education...and the private/homeschoolers are all still helping pay for public education...Storm worries that parents will pass on intolerance to their kids if they actually have any characteristics or values or preferences, but we can't really make everyone some sort of plain vanilla composite Citizen with no quirks, can we? Storm seems to think that some parents might do a 'good job', but since others might not, we should be suspicious of the whole parent-choice thing....but what about the teacher, or school that doesn't do what I thnk is a 'good job' I get to insist upon all those kids in that school getting the option of independent education?

Corey Williams 9 years, 6 months ago

RobertMarble (Anonymous) says…"liberals can usually be counted on to disdain most things that involve freedom of choice. This topic is a prime example."Abortion being another?

Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

Homeschoolers do not ask for government funding for it is best to leave it that way. However we still support public education with taxes. Lawrence,Kansas is a great location for homeschoolers.Not all families on the planet should be homeschoolers for a variety of reasons.There are many curriculum choices for home schoolers available as we speak. There are also tons of other sources to supplement curriculum learning such as: the Louisville Slugger factory,Crayola Factory,Waxmans Candle,cliff dwellings in the New Mexico mountains, Hutchinson Comosphere,Hutchinson Salt Mine Museum,Lawrence Arts Center, Lawrence Library,local fire stations, Franklin Institute Science Museum,Tall Grass Prairie,Baltimore Aquarium,Cincinnati Aquarium,World Cup Bike Competition at Mount Snow,Vermont...Denver Mint,Kansas City Toy Museum,Underground Train Museum in Cincinnati,Cincinnati Zoo,Philadelphia Zoo,Tulsa Zoo Living Museum,Kansas City Zoo,fossil hunting along Kansas highways,Colorado Red Rocks,local Vermont Cheese factory.... yes a vast menu of field trips are out there somewhere. Every trip becomes an exciting classroom. Every state in the union has something of interest.KU Natural History Museum set up a program for a group of homeschoolers that became an extraordinary resource. USD 497 has some history of working with homeschoolerslong before the virtual school came about....very congenial to work with. Our daughter chose her last two years to be the LHS art program which produced excellent results and a scholarship which allowed her to become a graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute. Our son will graduate KU.

Robert Marble 9 years, 6 months ago

I see manci's specialty isn't reading comprehension. Did you not see the word "usually" rather than "always" in that sentence? Apparently not.With that being said, I certainly agree w/the libs on the abortion issue. I see no benefit to encouraging unwanted births. People who lack the intellectual ability to utilize contraceptives will most likely also lack the brains to raise children properly. And I'd say it's a safe bet that many of those unwanted births by irresponsible people would be at the expense of taxpayers such as myself. I should not have my pocket picked in order to shoulder the burden for that class of people who refuse live within their means. If the anti abortion ya-hoos want to protest a medical procedure, let them protest doctors who perform breast reductions. That is truely a crime against nature & makes the world a less aesthetically appealing place. (and for those who will be wetting their beds over that last comment- it's actually a joke. Sad that so many posters on this board would need that explained).

gl0ck0wn3r 9 years, 6 months ago

"Richard Heckler (Anonymous) says… Homeschoolers do not ask for government funding for it is best to leave it that way. However we still support public education with taxes. Lawrence,Kansas is a great location for homeschoolers."It is amusing to read post after post in which you cannot punctuate or string together sentences properly and yet you homeschool your child. What is sad, however, is that you insert yourself into public school debates - such as the current athletic facilities debate - despite the fact that your child does not attend public schools and will never use those facilities. Sad.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 6 months ago

"What is sad, however, is that you insert yourself into public school debates - such as the current athletic facilities debate - despite the fact that your child does not attend public schools and will never use those facilities."Two of our older did in fact attend LHS. Our son was active in sports.... basketball and track.Tax dollar projects make all tax dollar issues our business. Homeschoolers produce good students and carry high GPA's ...

joyeoman 9 years, 6 months ago

This editorial really wasn't a comment on how good or bad the public schools are, but on the fact that freedom of choice in this decision is worth protecting....also, that independent education is supported by people of various religious and political stripes....we have to protect the freedom even if some people may abuse it, just as we protect freedom of speech, though some abuse anyone here arguing against this? It seems extraneous to start a debate about whether being pro-abortion makes you a better, or worse, least on this thread!

TheStig 9 years, 6 months ago

How can we indoctrinate our children into the religion of Global Warming and teach all Republicans and free markets are evil without over paying unionized propagandists in our public schools? We can't leave such important work to non-union labor. All the best parents look for the union label when they choose the education of their children and unless you are a part of the ruling elite in DC you should too.

Mixolydian 9 years, 6 months ago

Like most people here, I was reared through public school, and actually had a good experience. I've also taught in public middle and high school...but my kids go to a private school. That's the only comment I can make on this. Although they go to a Christian school, it's hardly a madrassas, that's just fear mongering. It puts out more National Merit and National Honor society students in a class of 25 than the local HS with a class of 600. Quality education comes down to committed teachers and involved parents, not money per student, location of the school or it's public or private status.

Robert Marble 9 years, 6 months ago

joy....please re-read the posting you're referring to with a greater degree of comprehension; the abortion discussion had zero to do with being a better or worse parent. It was a misguided comment made by manc, who failed to comprehend what he/she/it read as well. The reply was simply addressing it's ability to understand the written word. This does seem to be a frequent problem here. However, I do agree the point of the article is about freedom of choice, which should be preserved. Eliminating freedoms because they are abused by a small minority is ludicrous. Threats to 2nd Amendment freedoms are a prime example.

Robert Marble 9 years, 6 months ago

Freedom of choice for the educational benefit of people's children is highly important. Anyone wishing to curtail this would perhaps be more comfortable in say, North Korea or Cuba. Obviously they are uncomfortable living in a country which has such liberties. All I can say is don't let the door hit your a** on the way out, comrade.

storm 9 years, 6 months ago

Joyeomon - thanks for your post to bring others back to topic.

joyeoman 9 years, 6 months ago your 30 Nov post as you seemed to me you dealt with Manc's misreading of 'usually' as 'always', then went on to state your own real opinion before ending with a joke, footnoted for those who wouldn't otherwise get am now assuming that whole second paragraph was part of the joke, and anyway, still think it extraneous....let's back up to your opinon that the freedom of choice here is a good thing, and that liberals might be expected to sometimes contradict their own 'freedom of choice' platform by denying it in the sphere of education...(to wit: those who tolerate any 'choice' but homeschooling)...we agree on this...I wonder how coaltion can be built between liberals and conservatives who all want to have this it possible to make educational choice some sort of common ground in this country?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 9 years, 6 months ago

I'm all for choice, and I could even support vouchers. But that would have to come with a requirement that any school accepting vouchers would have to accept, with few restrictions, any student who wanted to attend, and provide scholarships to those who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford it. Any schools accepting vouchers would have to meet minimum academic standards.But that will never happen, because one of the prime motives of most voucher proponents is to destroy public education, not provide "educational opportunities and choice."

Isaac McPheeters 9 years, 6 months ago

As a student who first went to a private school, was then home schooled from 2nd grade to graduation, went on to study at KU and am currently studying at New College in Oxford, England, I like to think that I have enough information to form an opinion on this topic.Freedom of education allows for versatility to suit the needs of the student. The fact of the matter is that not all public schools give quality education. I know that some do. What this freedom allows is for parents to compensate for their children's situations. If they can afford a good private school, let them send their children there. If they feel that the flexibility of home schooling along with the quality they can offer will provide the best education, let them.Will there be bad situations that arise from home schooling? Yes. But there are bad situations that arise from public schools, and recent statistics speak for themselves. The question is, how do the majority of home schoolers perform? Compared to the results of the public school system, they're doing well. Therefore, lets not ban something because there are some negative exceptions to it.

joyeoman 9 years, 6 months ago

RE: Academic's hard to figure out where to draw the line with 'standards'...the phrase assumes there are objectively measurable goals everyone would agree on, but really there is no measure for things like, "Has the ability to study independently", or "Can relate to people of all ages", or "Has a sense of living as part of a family/community with mutual responsibilities and appreciation"...these are things worth caring about, but I don't expect someone to make a list and try to rate everyone who graduates on them....they are actually things that don't come from 'academic' education, but that do come from true 'education' maybe the point needs to be made that in schools, only academics really get measured while so much else that is valuable goes untested, and thus, perhaps, untaught....even if we pay, we can't necessarily regulate, or prove scientifically that our money has 'bought' something concrete...maybe if we got out of the business of trying to do that, and into the business of facilitating what people want to learn if left free to learn it, we'd do more good....just a thought...

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