July 29, 2009

Education and Freedom

Ben has been asking me for a while to write a post on education. I have been hesitant, mostly because I am not confident in my writing skills or in my ability to convey my thoughts, but since it has been a while since Ben has written a post I feel my attempt is better than nothing. As most of you know Ben has many "soapboxes" which he loves to write about. He enjoys the challenge of refining his thoughts and arguments against all of you. There is one thing that he has yet to write about, even though he has strong opinions on the matter--that is educating children. He has left this task to me for many reasons. I will give a little background for those of you who do not know us. Ben and I have been married for over 3 years. I teach fourth grade at a public elementary school close to our house. My mom and sister are both public school teachers. I am actually a 4th generation teacher. It is in my blood and something that I love, but times have been changing.
There was a comment on a previous post about how I work for the public school system and that it is not in-line with the principles that we profess. There is definitely a contradiction there that I would love to address outside of this forum, but I would like to take the time in this post to discuss what I believe to be the role of education and some of the problems that I have seen today.
Since marrying Ben I have had to rethink the purpose of education and the people who are responsible for it. I have come to realize that the most important factor in a child's education is the parents. This is contrary to what my professors in college taught and to what the policies of my school district have tried to drill into my head. The argument that I have heard against this thinking is that if we (teachers) are not the most important factor in education then we will not be able to succeed. I argue against this idea. The parents are the ones responsible for their children's education. They are the ones who hire me because they feel I can meet their child's needs. At least I feel this is the best way to focus on a child's education.
The family's role in education is recognized, studied and counterfeited. I was recently reading the want ads for teachers. There was a posting from a school in the east for a teacher/house parent. This combination intrigued me, so I looked into it further. This school was a type of boarding school--pre-K-12 grades. It was for low income students who would not be able to afford a normal private school. It had nice accommodations, great testimonials, and lots of resources. I was still puzzled about this house-parent thing, so I continued to research. I then found something that scared me. Instead of the normal dorms that you would find at a boarding school, there were houses. 10-13 children would live in a house with a teacher and the teacher's spouse. They would be in family units and taught family values, such as responsibility, kindness, and hard work. The parents could have contact with their children by phone, e-mail, and occasional visits. The family was replaced. Where would morals be taught? Who would guide in spiritual decisions? What about the emotional stability that comes from a loving parent?
This school did what a lot of educators and parents have been asking for: it took the most important variable out of the equation and replaced it with something that can be controlled. If it is true that education would be best if the teachers, the ones who are trained, were completely in-charge, then we should expect to see these types of schools having succes. I predict the opposite. I predict these schools will fail fundamentally, because they are not based on true principles.
One of these principles is responsibility. Responsibility is inherent in freedom. When you make a choice, you are accepting the consequences of that choice. If the choice is good, you are free to receive the benefits of your choice. If the choice is bad, you must also accept its consequences. A person cannot be free if he or she is unwilling to accept or prevented from receiving the consequences of a choice.
I see this in education. Many parents expect me to “fix” their children. They send their children to me, “a trained agent of the state” to be the specialist. If a child can’t memorize her math facts or can’t read fluently, it is my fault and my responsibility to fix it. At least, that is the mentality of many parents and educators in the public school system. This mentality is facilitated by the public school system as parents are given incentives to NOT be personally involved in their children's education. Parents do not know what their children are learning, how their children learn, the social interactions of their children from day to day, or the morals that are being taught their children by the state. They are instead encouraged to raise money for the PTA, cut out pictures, and make sure their child reads for 20 minutes everyday. These are the duties of an "involved" parent who, according to some, are truly watching out for the best interest of their children. We can thank the benevolent state for providing such important guidelines, or else parents wouldn't know how to raise their children. (that last sentence was Ben's thought)
I saw something else that appalled me this summer that will further illustrate my point. Our school provided free breakfast and lunch to any child under 18 that walked through the door. I saw many mothers drive to the school and walk in with their children to watch them eat the government-provided food. The parents gave up the responsibility to feed their children to the government. Whose children does that make those kids?


Taylor & Stephanie Cane said...

Well put. Have you seen the Obama commercial teaching fathers how to be better fathers? And all the "moral" TV commercials teaching kids that they don't have to fit in with others and not to do drugs and that parents need to talk to their children? It's the same thing! Government is now teaching us instead of religion and parents.
Secularism thrives on bigger government because that's its platform. It all kind of makes me want to puke really.

BEN said...

Some alarming things are happening, but it shouldn't be too surprising. The framework for this sort of socialization of the nation starting with the youth has been in place for a long time. When all the pieces are in place, it doesn't take many strides to finish the work. We have slept on the job for so many years. We should have been more vigilant. Now, things are worse. It will all work out in the end, because freedom is the only thing that actually works in the long run. Still, we are going to go through more pain than was necessary.

Rachel said...

Very well said, Ashley, and interesting points. One could go on forever discussing all the applications we see nowadays to the principles of coerced righteousness. In fact, the discussion has been going on since BEFORE the dawn of time, and will continue until well after time ceases to hold mortals in this sphere. Call it communism, socialism, secularism, statism, facism, or whatever else, it is, and always will be, against our nature to live under it. And now, besides giving ourselves away to its evils, we send our children to its boarding schools. Oh, the wrath and damnation that comes to so many in such perilous times.

S. Logan said...

Excellent, Ashley. Well done, and good points.

It is interesting to see actual consequences of ideas put to use. Although latter-day prophets have warned that socialized systems would destroy the individual's desire for families, it is still amazing to see that a failing society's answer to its own caused problem is to mimic the natural order of existence that it so adamantly rejected. Form over substance; practicality over principle; outcome over consequence. We have become a people that believes the facade and arbitrary creation of man can overcome the bounds set by our Creator -- thus somehow becoming gods ourselves, by overcoming the eternal decrease and established consequences of the divine.

In its attempt to mimic in facade and overcome the revealed order of the divine, it is no wonder socialized systems are fundamentally doomed to fail.

~LiSsA~ said...

Good points. Thanks for bringing them into words since I would be even worse at expressing them than you think you are (which you aren't by the way:) I completely agree with you, as did my parents. This is the reason my parents were involved in our education at every turn, and by involved I mean REALLY involved. Our teachers only re-inforced what we were taught at home, as it should be! I hope to be able to do the same with our children...

Ashley said...

Lissa, I was very surprised when Ben told me that he didn't really remember learning anything at school. I thought it was just his memory. Now that I have gotten to know you family better I realize that it is true. Ben really learned more at home than from school. I think that is a great lesson to parents, they need to be the main instrument of instruction and not the teachers.