While there really aren't 100% current and accurate statistics about homeschoolers, there are some generally accepted facts that lead to the presented in this infographic. What I am curious about is what would the percentages look like if public charter and online homeschool program enrollment were calculated in, as technically those students are learning at home, but are considered public school students. I am betting if we added those enrollments in, the numbers would be considerably higher.
We are not our grades, and our grades reflect very little of who we are or what we know. They are narrow in focus, they are weighted far too heavily in our culture, and they are often pointless. Really, does my SAT score define who I am? If so, shame on us...for it is a poor, poor yardstick to measure by.
And really, isn't measuring anyone kind of silly and useless anyway? What does it prove? Are we measuring the student? The educator? The school? The waters are so muddy it is almost impossible to say these days.
Many of you might have already seen this video clip, some of you may not have. It speaks to the value of a human being, and our worth being decided by a system that fails us so often. There is a lot to take in with this free verse, and you may find yourself watching it a second or third time.
Mike Rowe is a name you might be familiar with, but can't quite place. He is the guy who was the host of "Dirty Jobs", who crawled through piles of manure, cleaned out coal bins, inseminated animals, and tackled just about any "Dirty Job" you can think of during his tenure of this popular show. He was also at one time a host on the shopping channel, QVC.
As he worked side by side with some of America's silent heroes, Mike gained insight and respect for the jobs others were eschewing...those "Dirty Jobs" that make a country run well. He eventually put together a web site (Mike Rowe Works) to celebrate and encourage others to consider entering various trades. He also has put together yet another web site and blog titled "Profoundly Disconnected", where he says "Profoundly Disconnected is the next phase of Mike’s effort to reinvigorate the skilled trades with the mission of challenging the absurd belief that an expensive four-year education is the best path for everyone."
I love reading what Mike has to say, and he is speaking to the majority of young people, did you realize that? The majority of young people will not attend college, and because there is a lack of adequate preparation for them and this fixation on "college for everyone", they leave high school untrained, unskilled, and unready to face the world through no fault of their own. Their high school education was, in many ways, useless for them...and worse, they knew it all along but were powerless to do anything. Even more profound, they leave high school feeling as if they are failures, because they are not headed off to college, and they have been made to feel as if they will never succeed in life because of it.
Stumbling upon a short interview with Mike, which you can read here, I found myself wanting to shout out, Amen, Brother!". Here are just a couple of comments that I nodded my head as I read, but I urge you to read the entire short interview.:
“We’re lending money we don’t have, to kids who will never be able to pay it back, for jobs that no longer exist,”
“I’m not against a college education. I’m against debt,” he said. “That was the only four letter word in my family…”
What he’s against, Rowe added, is that we started promoting college “at the expense” of the vocational training that, in many cases, is what’s actually needed for the career.
“It’s not about, this is good or this is bad,” Rowe said. “It’s about, when did it make sense to say one size fits everybody? It never ever ever made sense to do that, and yet we’re still selling education the same way we sold it when you and I were in high school.”
I have found myself on the receiving end of rolled eyes and an arrogant comment or two about my own ignorance as I have tried to engage others in a conversation about the ridiculous high stakes focus college for everyone. Mike couldn't have put it better, we are promoting college at the expense of other very much needed coursework for kids. In fact, one might say we are sacrificing over 59% of our students with our constant push for college at all costs. As of 2012, 41% of Americans had a degree of some sort, that leaves 59% who were never truly taught to, whose ultimate fate was ignored, whose needs were pushed aside because we want to pretend that every child can...and should...go to college.
That is a hell of a sacrifice, and it causes one to wonder if that might not the cause, in part, of our high school drop out rate, which is almost 25%. By forcing every student to fit into a box that doesn't fit them, we are asking them to study information that they are well aware will have no bearing on their future. How many kids will really need a full scale Biology course, which has really been designed to prepare students for college even when it is not an AP course? Houston has figured out in a BIG way that teaching to the individual student and offering courses that apply to their lives produces a much lower drop out rate. I'll share an article in the next few days which backs this up.
Mike Rowe is shining his spotlight on a very real, very harmful gap in our educational system, and our entire country is suffering for it in higher unemployment rates, higher dropout rates, and much more. No one is saying to give up promoting college, as we will always have a need for doctors, lawyers (OK, we could probably use fewer of them!), psychologists, etc. But as Mike states, there are over three million jobs out there that companies are struggling to fill because of the dearth of trained trades people. Why is unemployment so high? Because we have failed to recognize that there is a need to promote vocational training right alongside college.
When we figure that out as a nation, we will all be better off for it.
I have had some terrific suggestions for expanding our curriculum lists with new, probably unheard of options, and will begin working on those in the next few days...sometime in between running between volleyball practice, choir practice, church meetings, and volleyball tournaments! I want to thank those who have emailed or commented, and I have two articles I want to blog about in the next few days as well. I think you will find them interesting!
In the meantime, I want to take a moment to think about the latest school shooting in Nevada. A 12 year old boy walks into his school, and guns down a courageous teacher, wounds two others, and turns the gun on himself.
12 years old. Seriously? What next? 10 years old? 8 years old?
What is it that is causing our children such pain that their only solution is a lethal weapon? What are we to do to pinpoint the cause, and turn this around? Do you realize that this is such a common occurrence that we seldom give it more than a passing thought after hearing about yet another school shooting?
As of December 2012 there had been 31 school shootings in America since the Columbine shootings in 1999, that does not include the multiple incidents in 2013. Contrast that with only 14 in all the rest of the countries combined, and we have something akin to an epidemic of violence almost unheard of in any other part of the world.
What are we doing wrong? What is culturally out of whack that causes this to keep happening? What is it about our school environment that creates an atmosphere filled with such heaviness and frustration that a young person resigns themselves to almost certain death, and wishes to reign terror upon their classmates?
We must find answers. We can not fully blame teachers, principles, etc., and sure it could be that the idea has been planted, so history will continue to repeat itself. But is there something inherently wrong with our system, that these actions continue to find their way to our evening news shows?
Most of us do not homeschool our children because the slim possibility of such violence exists, but every parent in America hugs their child a little closer on a night such as this, and we recognize that we have at least one thing less to worry about come morning. But what about everyone else's child?
One thing our blog will not participate in is school bashing. We all benefit from a strong, free public education system, and we all also benefit from educational choice, which allows us to meet the needs of all our nation's children, those who "fit" and those who don't, those who benefit from brick and mortar schools, and those who take a different route. We all need to find ways to keep our children safe...not just the ones that reside with us and attend school at the relatively safe kitchen table each morning, but the children of our friends and neighbors who walk 5 blocks to attend the local neighborhood school, where there is increasing risk. How can we keep all our children safe?
It is a question that has been asked over and over again, and the answer appears to be elusive. For all our sake's, we had better never give up asking that question until we have a resolution.
At Blue Collar Homeschool, we embrace new ideas, and we love hearing about folks who speak about practical education. While we may not always agree with everything someone espouses, we try to remain open to new ways of thinking about age old problems.
Somewhere along the line, early in our homeschool journey, I stumbled upon a blog written by Marty Nemko. If you are not familiar with him, you should be, as he is a very interesting character with opinions that make you say, "Hmmm..." I don't know about you, but I always like that in a person. Marty is an author, radio host, speaker and columnist whose work has been featured everywhere you can possibly imagine, from the LA Times to NPR to the Wall Street Journal. He holds a PhD in Education from UC Berkeley, and has been a consultant to 15 college presidents. In other words, the man knows his stuff. He is incredibly innovative in his thinking, and in addition to authoring numerous articles and books on education, he is a highly regarded career coach who also works with men's issues, politics, and much more. Reading the other posts on his web site would provide you with hours of entertaining, thought provoking reading. Reading his posts on education will cause you to perhaps let go of old ideas and think seriously about what education ought to look like. From someone as notable as Marty, these opinions take on a new sheen, rather than appearing to be mere radical fodder designed only to get folks riled up.
Here...check out Marty's article over at his blog titled "Reinventing the High School Curriculum"...then come on back to share your thoughts.
So....what do you think? Is it that hard to imagine a high school curriculum that doesn't include the requisite 4x4...four Math, four English, four Science, and four History? When I read Marty's blog post, I cheered. Finally, someone who sees that this "college at all costs" approach is soul killing, unnecessary, and is forcing kids to cram and test, cram and test, cram and test on topics they will likely never use...unless it is solely for another college course, and then promptly forget it. Now, remember, we are NOT against a college education. On the contrary, we are absolutely FOR a college education for those who desire it, for those whose career goals require it, and for those for whom it is appropriate. But somewhere along the line, we got off course, and we made the assumption and then force fed the notion that EVERY child ought to have a college education. Sadly, this focus has left hundreds of thousands of young people directionless, without assistance as they move out into the world. Worse, it makes them feel worthless, all because one particular path does not suit them.
Marty's ideas are brilliant! Drop some of the high school Big Four course load and replace it with courses that will serve kids across the spectrum and give them life skills they can use in college, the trades, or any other setting. While you might disagree with the exact replacement courses he suggests, every day we all see young people who graduate high school and got an A in calculus...but can't do something as simple as make change accurately. We see graduates who took AP Statistics, yet can't explain how a bank makes money or how to stock market works.
Our high school students today are different critters than we have ever seen before, and if you think not, let's stroll back along memory lane and see how today's high school seniors were pushed to gain academic skills harder and faster than any previous generation. If you aren't beginning to read fluently by the end of 1st grade, there is something "wrong" with you. We are introducing math topics at earlier and earlier ages which are developmentally way beyond the ability of young brains to grasp. Is it really that important to say our kids have algebraic sense in 4th grade? Why not wait until...oh...let's say...8th grade to introduce and begin working on Algebra, so that other skills are solid and well cemented. Our desire to "teach across the curriculum" has created a sort of schizophrenic approach that leaves students scratching their heads, and never really focusing strongly on the specific topic they are learning about. Reading about magnets is NOT the same thing as working and experimenting with them!
We have yet to recognize that learning concepts is far easier when taught at a time when the brain is developmentally ready to tackle such skills. Are there exceptions? Always, but that is what they are...exceptions.
What if every high school cleared time in a student's schedule to offer courses in Consumer Math, General Business, and The Psychology of Relationships. How often would every student use Consumer Math in their daily lives versus...oh...let's say the ability to understand and explain DNA. How much more valuable would a student be in the working world to any employer if they had a basic understanding of how a business works, what management must be concerned with, profit and loss, etc. Isn't that going to be used by every single person who will ever be employed versus Trigonometry? And what sort of societal effects would we see if every high schooler learned key points about relationships, how to read body language, and how to maintain them and how to put appropriate boundaries in place. Might that not serve just about every learner in almost any situation, whether college bound or not?
Instead, we subject our kids to learning material that is often inane, obscure, and of little real life value. While some of this has always happened in our schools, and is necessary to some degree to expose students to a wide array of possibilities so they might find their area of interest, it has never before been at such an intense...and overly tested...degree. I love Marty's quote here:
"Lest you think I exaggerate, here’s an example of the state of New York’s objectives for all its students: “Students relate processes at the system level to the cellular level in order to explain dynamic equilibrium in multi-celled organisms.” Let’s cross the country. Here’s a sample item from the exam that every high school student in California will be required to pass: “What is the prime factored form for the lowest common denominator of 2/9 + 7/12.” That was an item rated as of average difficulty! Could you answer it? In your entire life have you ever needed to know this? Even if you’re a scientist, you probably will never need to know that."
We must begin to make our academics relevant to all, not just a select few.
As we begin to rethink education here at Blue Collar Homeschool, we are going to feature articles here on the blog that will challenge you, perturb you, and enlighten you. We are advocating for better education for "Everyman", and we are recognizing that may not necessarily mean academics that lead to great SAT's scores (Heck, we might never jump on that bandwagon at all!), nor does it mean that we are focused solely on the End Goal being a college education. Teaching your child real life skills in addition to strong basic academics does not mean you are not reaching high enough, as some might try to accuse you of doing, it means you are understanding that the word "educated" encompasses far more than testing well, or a college diploma.
In case you haven't yet noticed, a paradigm shift has started to occur in the world of education, and it is likely to bring about changes bigger than we might be able to imagine. Technology is helping us to re-imagine what school looks and acts like, homeschooling is growing by leaps and bounds, and hybrid charter schools are springing up all over the United States. Examining higher education will reveal college costs that have risen over 500% since the 1980's and many are unable to justify the enormous debt load students are left with after the graduate (IF they even graduate!). MOOC's (massive open online courses) are rapidly gaining in popularity, and other forms of online education are popping up all over, which is helping scholars, universities, school districts, and entrepreneurs to dream and ask the question, "If school could be different, what would I like it to be like?"
I daresay we are entering a period of greater change in the world of academia than any other period in history. I wonder, what are you noticing? What is different in your neck of the woods? What do YOU think will lead to bigger (and hopefully better!) changes?