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April 8, 2020

Pandemic Offers Chance to Revolutionize Education

Millions of families are now homeschooling, which provides an opportunity.

If there is one potential silver lining in the long, dark cloud that is the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be that many parents are finally taking a closer look at their children’s education. As one state after another canceled on-site teaching at public schools and went to digital/online learning, it has given parents, quarantined at home with their children, an opportunity to see not only how, but what, their children are being taught.

And in a growing number of cases, parents are turning to homeschooling, realizing that they are far more invested in the outcome of their children’s education than are education bureaucrats. Homeschooling could revolutionize education in America.

Today’s public school system is an anachronism of a bygone era. It was created in a time when industrial barons sought to lure uneducated children and adults from their farms, giving them just enough instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic to work effectively in a factory. In 1902, industrialist John D. Rockefeller created the General Education Board, which provided major funding for an effort to create a system of nationwide, government-run, mandatory schooling.

Revealing the prevailing paternalistic view, Board Chairman Frederick T. Gates declared, “In our dream we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand. The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk. We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science. We are not to raise up among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters.”

Prior to the creation of the public school system, Americans were generally educated at home or in religious schools. In Massachusetts, the first state to pass compulsory-schooling laws, the literacy rate was 98% in 1850. Yet in 1980, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office released a report showing that the literacy rate had dropped to 91%.

Last year, two-thirds of America’s school children did not meet the reading proficiency standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and eighth-grade reading proficiency had actually declined from the previous year in more than half the states. In Baltimore, fully one-third of all public schools had not one single student proficient in math, and six more schools had only 1% proficiency. This is a crisis.

In 1999, roughly 850,000 American schoolchildren were homeschooled, but by 2016 that number doubled to 1.7 million. Today, this global pandemic has forced us to find alternatives to the traditional brick-and-mortar, public-school format. Children there are like products in a factory assembling line, grouped in batches by age, force-fed the same information in the same way at the same time, and the monotony is broken only by the ringing of a bell, at which time instruction in one subject stops and the obedient children dutifully arise and move to their next station.

Even the most dedicated and innovative teachers (and there are many) find themselves fighting a losing battle against a system that discourages independent critical thinking and innovative teaching methods (remember the disaster of Common Core?). It mandates a one-size-fits-all approach, forgetting that children come in a glorious variety of backgrounds, capacities, and interests. Public “education” is meant to suppress those differences and enforce conformity.

Even worse for many parents is the realization that their children are being taught socialist and “social justice” dogma that is hostile to their own values and beliefs.

One parent writes of the shock they experienced when their child asked for help with an assignment. She discovered that her child was being taught that gender is a “social construct” rather than a biological reality. This was followed by “leading questions asking students to regurgitate gender theory.” The next day her child was immersed in “critical race theory” that “assumes institutional racism and oppression pervade every corner of society and necessitate the redistribution of resources based on ‘oppressed’ status.”

This type of “learning” is destructive to a child’s spirit and potential, teaching some that racism and sexism will keep them from succeeding no matter how hard they work, and teaching others that they are hateful oppressors by birth.

The bright side is that this global pandemic has presented a wonderful opportunity for parents to take control of their children’s education. Parents can seek out and take advantage of resources and schooling options that provide creative, innovative ways of helping our children learn in the ways that they learn best, and in the subjects that most interest them.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.

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