Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.
~ GK Chesterton

Saturday, November 16, 2013

If you like your curriculum . . .

“If you like your curriculum, you can keep your curriculum.”

I saw that witty saying online, obviously a jab at the Obamacare fiasco.  It illustrates beautifully the dangerous road we travel with the coming of Common Core.  I think that this is the original source of the quote, as I do not want to deny the one who coined the phrase.

I’m not a fan of the Common Core. There should be universal alarm at the fact that, amongst those who worked to develop the Common Core Curriculum, only the bureaucrats have signed off on it; the mathematician and the language arts professionals on the panels don’t like it.  It’s my guess that the lure of federal dollars attached to the adopting of the CC outweighs common sense for school administrators, public schools and private schools alike.

I am a home educator.  While I could write in criticism of modern schooling practices, I am not anti-school.  I home educate for pro-active reasons, not to shield my children from whatever goes on in the schools.

I have firm ideas about what an education should be, but I’ve never been able to say it in a few short words.  A few weeks back, I read a good post by Amy Welborn (I’m a fan of her blog and her books!) in which she summed up very well what I believe the best education should attempt:

So, yes, that’s what I wanted.  A way that’s sort of Classical – Montessori- Charlotte Mason – Catholic – Unschooly Roamschool.   There’s no such school around here, not even close, not even half of that.   So although  I really didn’t want to, I took a look at life, saw the space that was there, and sighed.  If that’s what I wanted, if that’s what I knew was the right thing, I guessed I’d just have to start one.


Yeah!  What she said! Classical – Montessori – Charlotte Mason – Catholic – Unschooly Roamschool. Perfect! That’s me, except that part about “I really didn’t want to,” as I enjoy doing what I’m doing and have always wanted to home educate, and even wanted to be home educated, although not many were doing it when I was a kid.

I believe in a fairly rigorous academic framework, with lots of unstructured time to explore personal interests that might be an extension of what we are studying at the time, or might be something entirely different.  This is what I wish for all children. That’s why I’m not anti-school: I’d start up my own school, if I had unlimited capital.  [And I believe that I’d earn more societal respect for my efforts if I were doing for other people’s children what I do for my own. It reminds me of GK Chesterton, “How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about the universe?"]

I think government involvement in the education process has gotten a lot of things wrong, under the administrations both political parties. There’s a push to have everyone receive a college degree, which is only de-valuing the effect of such an endeavor, if everyone is doing it. At the same time, overall standards seem to be sliding.

In my education utopia, future auto mechanics should be introduced to Shakespeare and future ballet dancers should do some math.  Those with dreams of being a CPA should learn home economics and future engineers should be exposed to Jane Austen.

However, I don’t believe that the college-bound should have their academic preparation dumbed down with informational texts replacing classical literature or with math instruction that includes credit for partially correct answers. At the same time, I do not see the point of those who are not mathematically- or scientifically-inclined being forced into taking four years of high school math, as many places around the nation now require.  Do dance majors, German language majors, or poli sci majors really need calculus?

Does this seem I am contradicting myself? So which is it: do you want high standards or do you want a less-rigorous curriculum for those who cannot handle the tough stuff?  Well, I don’t want a one-size-fits-all education.  I don’t want the highly diversified population of the US compared with populations of a more culturally homogenous nature, as teaching and learning work differently based on those factors. I don’t want the bureaucrats, lobbyists, and special interest groups in Washington, DC deciding the curriculum that is used by children in yet another round of non-funded federal mandates.  I don’t want a curriculum that is financed or inspired by Bill Gates.  Stick to computer engineering, Bill, and lay off the social engineering!

Bottom line: haven’t we learned anything from the mess that politicians have been making of this country?  Both Democrat and Republican!  Look at the lies we’ve been told about the ability to have choice over our health care decisions.  Kind of ironic that so many school districts/systems are adhering to federal guidelines . . . while simultaneously assuring everyone that they’ve only agreeing to standards, not adopting curriculum (yet?).  Given the way that politicians play the low-information, sound bite society we live in, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear some Department of Education or National Education Association spokesman state boldly: if you like your curriculum, you can keep your curriculum.  Thanks, but we are doing just fine without your help, as it happens!

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