Updated: May 16
The most dangerous thing we can do for our children is to lower our standards regarding their potential.
It's not about having expectations, but standards. Expectations are specific sets of beliefs that result from previous experience or preconceived biases, while standards refer to a particular level of quality achieved, a quality that is necessary for a sense of baseline education and mannerisms within said society.
It would be a utopian paradise if each child was encouraged to follow their dreams, and reach for the stars. This should be non-negotiable; every individual deserves to live a fulfilled and purposeful life, particularly within the working world. Imagine a society where each and every human being was responsible for something they actually enjoyed doing. How much more of a productive and genuinely content society we would have. There are some basic academic skills that are needed for this to happen. The suggestion has been made, and indeed, in the state of Oregon, legislation has been (privately) passed, that reading and writing are no longer required, in any format, to pass high school. You can find the link to that news article here, and, I'm sure, in many other places on the Internet. Speaking as both a formal and informal educator, this brings forward some serious shortcomings within the public system that need to be addressed, and quickly. The problem here is obvious, or so I would think. Society is changing, that is true. While progress is positive, change is not always for the better. The very basic skills of reading - including the skills of comprehension, fluency, vocabulary and literacy, to name a few - and writing - see more about The Six Key Traits of writing here - are necessary in order to develop critical thinking skills. If you take that away from the very fabric of education itself, what are you left with? Sure, there are other ways to learn about the world around you - after all, that's only part of what the skills of reading and writing teach you - but they do not require the same level of self-discipline, focus, or perseverance to develop or maintain. If we are not teaching our children to be strong, independent, and self-sufficient individuals ,then what, and who, are we teaching them to be?
Exactly the opposite. It is the results of that, long-term, that are catastrophic. No longer do we have individuals ready to create new inventions, filled with excitement about work they find meaningful, speaking their minds freely and literately, developing micro-societies with different ideas and thoughts, or conducting research and experiments to find better, healthier, and more efficient ways of learning, being, and doing.
How do we as a global society, and on an individual scale, go about fixing this? Do we try to fix this on a global scale, or do we simply do what we can, how we can, when we can? If you don't know your choices, how can you be expected to make an informed choice about what is best for your child?
Option #1 - Step Outside The System Entirely
Public school has only been around, in the modern form we know today, since the early 1800s. Children were educated (arguably on a better level) then.
If you wish to step outside the system entirely, the first step is to de-register your children from the school system itself. A practical task, but often overlooked. The process is not actually that complicated; regardless of where you live, the legislation is much the same. It is paperwork, and nothing more.
There are so many other alternative learning options: homeschooling and unschooling are the most common choices for parents wanting to take a more holistic, flexible, and balanced approach to their child's learning.
Option #2 - Catholic School
Perhaps homeschooling or unschooling is not for you. You want the best for your child, and to give them every opportunity for quality education, but you want to stay within the public learning system. Catholic school may be an option. Catholic schools are a great option for those who wish to provide their children with more structure and routine, and (ideally) instill a sense of respect for authority. Generally, Catholic schools must follow the same curriculum as public schools, but the class sizes are statistically smaller, and so the education is deemed to be "better" in some sense of the word. Another blog on that here. This will not solve the problem of a lack of standard for your child - Catholic schools will be operated the same way as a public school.
"Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world."
– Nelson Mandela
Option #3 - Private Schools
This is an option that, regardless of where you live, can be pricy. The exact dollar amount is dependent on far more than just the location of your dwelling. Dependent on where you live, how many children you have, and the prestige and reputation of the school itself, this can run your wallet into the hundreds of thousands. An option for the wealthy, but it is an option. Private schools, like Catholic schools, must follow the curriculum that has been set out by the governing education body. Also similar to Catholic schools, they statistically have smaller class sizes. There is one key difference here: private schools have more flexibility with the implementation of subjects, methodologies of teachings, and often develop more personal relationships with their students.
Option #4 - Charter Schools
Charter schools may be an option for parents looking for a less expensive alternative to private schools. Unlike Catholic schools, Charter schools do not have to follow the exact curriculum of the governing body, but like Catholic schools, Charter schools do have to produce the same results. In other words, students must know, and be able to demonstrate, the same retention of information. These Charter schools are publicly funded. This is the reason that they are responsible for the same results as public schools. Charter schools are a great option for those looking for a similar curriculum, but independent teaching practices. This will not be the best choice for a parent who is looking for a more holistic style of learning.
Option #5 - Insist On Playing A Role
If none of the above work for you, and if you think your child is best left in public school - for whatever reason, no judgment! - then you must absolutely insist on playing a role in your child's education. You've got to be involved in their education, if you want to remain aware of what is going on. It sounds simplistic, and it really is. Talk to your child's teachers. Get to know the administration. Find ways to be involved in school activities. Make friends with other parents, and not just with those in your child's class. Reach out online - social media is just one more way to connect with those who share your interest in involvement within the educational sphere.
Your Child's Education Is Your Responsibility
Personal accountability is huge, but when your child is young, you've got to help them get there. This isn't done by encouraging them not to read and write, and it's certainly not done by following rules and regulations that will only end up harming our children. How low do we set the bar? Why do we hold our kids to lower standards, and not higher? They're capable of so much more.
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