The Guardian reports:

Primary school testing and targets are to be streamlined to make exams for seven-year-olds less formal and part of a wider teacher-led assessment.

Meanwhile, on PEI, changes to home-school regulations which seem to make a lot of sense.


Alan's picture
Alan on May 20, 2003 - 19:07 Permalink

Why would removeal of one of the safeguards against this happening again be an intellegent move?

Dave Moses's picture
Dave Moses on May 20, 2003 - 19:12 Permalink

really you think so? i think there’s something to be said for having a mandatory cirriculum… or a least an approval process for “alternative” cirriculae. it’s not that i think the present school system is teaching us to be much more than good workers and consumers… but i trust less the objectivity of parent who “know what’s best” for his or her child… i don’t know i might have just talked myself out of my objections… i don’t trust either system.

Dave Moses's picture
Dave Moses on May 20, 2003 - 19:13 Permalink

my “really think so” is obviously in response to peter’s original post and not alan who supported my fears with a handy example link

Alan's picture
Alan on May 20, 2003 - 19:22 Permalink

Dave, I wonder — in counterpoint to my link — if there is a fear of homeschooling that is a bit witch-huntery — and a fear which I have. I have never been sold on the idea as I invisage the products of home schoolnig as being the scapegoats of highschool playgrounds or corporate ladders.

Perhaps, though, getting rid of inspection and curriculum are the steps that do go too far. If there is value and autonomy in homeschooling that should be supported. If there is creationism and clique-ism, drive it out. Often children need protecting from the wacky ideas of their parents.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 20, 2003 - 19:47 Permalink

Why isn’t this the same as the following statements:

a. “We’re really taking the jurisdiction away from the minister of justice’s responsibility for young offenders and putting it where it rightly and putting it where it rightly belongs — right in the parents hands”

b. “We’re really taking the jurisdiction away from the minister of health’s responsibility for bipolar disorder and putting it where it rightly and putting it where it rightly belongs — right in the parents hands”

Justin's picture
Justin on May 20, 2003 - 21:48 Permalink

Home schooling and standardized testing may be a good go-together. Home schooling is a good idea, but it would make me happy if I knew it was gauged by standardized testing.
Home schooling might’ve been perfect for someone like me, but what parent has the patience, eh?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 21, 2003 - 00:23 Permalink

No doubt there are parents who will homeschool poorly, either because they are bad teachers, because they teach anti-social or close-minded behaviours, or simply because they are stupid. But in my mind this isn’t any less serious a problem than leaving the education of most of our children to poorly trained boring strangers. And when Government stays more out of the process of home schooling, at least this affords me the opportunity to exercise additional freedom, should I choose to. Frankly, I think mandatory schooling is wrong, and, at the very least, isn’t of benefit to everyone.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 21, 2003 - 00:39 Permalink

Sounds like someone had a lot of detention.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 00:51 Permalink

Frankly, I think mandatory schooling is wrong, and, at the very least, isn’t of benefit to everyone.” How would society work with this principle being in place? Dicken’s England? The slums of South America?

Why would a parent unskilled in schooling be better than, say, the next nearest stranger two roads over? I prefer to live in a work where misguided libertarianism is kept in check. I have to drive on roads with other people, drink water from systems run by other people, eat food handled by other people, watch fireworks set off by other people.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 21, 2003 - 00:56 Permalink

Your statement suggests that left in an “formally untrained” state we would devolve into barbarians. I’m not suggesting that we, as a society, shouldn’t value and promote education, learning, curiousity, and so on; I simply don’t believe that encasing children from first blush of intelligence until the end of puberty in brick prisons is necessarily the best way of doing so. Or even that it’s humane.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 01:05 Permalink

You are part Illichian, then, in the way of his book Deschooling Society but have not explained what the system would look like. Examples where it is done have been tragic — not hoi barbaroi but exploitive — but I would be interested in how you would suggest relative merit, achievement and particular capabilties would be better met in an informal process.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 21, 2003 - 15:34 Permalink

Throughout all of our history save the last 100 years children have learned what they need at home or directly in the community. School is an artifact of the industrial age designed to separate out the workers and the managers. Changing such a system is very challenging. Allowing a parallel system to emerge may be the only way

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 15:39 Permalink

There is a basic rule in cooking. Do not pick up a hot pot unless you have identified where to put it down. Experimenting with children is not wise. Given the lack of privately available resources on PEI, why would that be the best place to start the experimentation?

Justin's picture
Justin on May 21, 2003 - 16:52 Permalink

I thought school was the experiment: to have a place to send the kids to keep them out of the way.

School was always weird. I never was was expelled for skipping school but I gave it the old “Junior High Try”.

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on May 21, 2003 - 19:03 Permalink


Your vitriol seems just unreal. There are millions of stories of homeschooling (and yes even Illichian and Holt-ian unschooling) producing successful, interestesting and productive members of society. Just ask the registrars of Yale, Harvard and Princeton among other Ivy League universities why they actively recruit homeschooled kids.

School is an experiment whose rules change constantly. And that’s not a problem except that it only promotes and tries to improve one type of learning: generally silent, compliant “filling up of the cranium with facts” in a class with 30 other people who are all the same age as you are. That never happens in the world. No where else in life are we asked to learn and work in that way.

A kid can learn anything that is on a curriculum in a school. There is nothing that isn’t very hard to pick up if you passion, a good internet connection and the self-confidence to ask for help from your neighbourhood accountant when you get flumoxxed by statistics. What cannot be learned is the emotional dependance, the craving for approval and shots to self-esteem that school is actually designed to teach. That deep teaching is what creates fodder for the assembly lines and drone jobs that our society needs to fuel consumptive economics. It underpins what is known as the “meritocracy” where approval is power and covering your ass constitutes strategy.

I’m after something better for my kid. Here on Bowen Island on the other side of Canada we are actively homeschooling our kids in a community of other families. We are even supported by a school board who is paying for a person (he happens to be an elementary school vice-principal who homeschools his own kids) to help us organize stuff that our kids are interested in doing.

Evaluation is easy, and way more meaningful than “you got an A! You PASS!” We work with our kids all the time to have them understand HOW they learn and to perfect THAT skill. Once they get that, they can learn anything —  Without being taught anything.

So Alan, before you spare us a thought for the “tragedy” we are propagating, maybe come down off your high horse and do some research.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 19:25 Permalink

I am not against homeschooling. I am against deregulated homeschooling. You say:

We are even supported by a school board who is paying for a person (he happens to be an elementary school vice-principal who homeschools his own kids) to help us organize stuff that our kids are interested in doing.”

Have a look at what PEI is proposing as set out in the beginning of this thread. No curriculum, no approval process. “Teacher advisors who’ll be available if parents feel they need help.” What if they do not know?

I appreciate if you are happy with a system that includes you being great teachers to your kids. I am delighted you have support of a school board. The PEI proposal, by contrast, appears to allow in a libertarian model parents to be poor teachers. We’ll all pick up those peices in 15 to 25.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 21, 2003 - 19:29 Permalink

Hi Chris
Great to meet you at Peter’s place. Sea to shining Sea!
I also happen to agree with you completely

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 19:34 Permalink

So, again, how would you introduce this novel idea of deregulated homeschooling, Rob?

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 21, 2003 - 21:12 Permalink

I wrote this earlier today on why I don’t think existing school is god for us and needs reform. I will finish up with what might be a useful homeschool alternative.

I am now convinced that our approach to school is one of the most powerful blocks to a better society. If we deconstruct what we really learn at school it gives us this picture.

1. You are an empty vessel and I am the expert. It is my job to fill you. — Result, we stop taking responsibility for our own learning. It is very hard to rediscover later in life that you can and should be your own teacher.

2. Everything you need to learn is in a book or in my words. Actually experience is the best teacher not abstraction. We now medicate 30% of the kids in school because they cannot sit still and hear their “mother’s voice” drone on. Only 43% of places at university today are held by men! Most have been crushed and put off by a passive over-feminized system. So much for Girls being second class school citizens!

3. All knowledge comes in separate boxes. The bell rings and it is English. The bell rings and it is math. The real world is a connected system. More than anything this concept of separate subjects with no linking context is a tough meme to break.

4. Collaboration is bad. We are taught that you should share toys — bad idea — but not share work. Sharing work — the key to life and productive work — called cheating and is heavily punished.

5. We are so frightened of failure that we have taken all risk and challenge out of school. As a result we have taken out the value of achievement.”
What can emerge is a network of home school. Most of think that home school is just mum and dad and the kids. What is really happening is that networks of families are geeting together and creating network structures of learning experiecne and new assets for their kids.

My kids are grown up now. if I had childen now — God forbid — I would home school. I would seek to create an experienced based curriculum. For instance over the course of years we could study the night sky. In so doing not only do children learn about the sky itself — but math, myths, navigation greek and latin and so on. We could as a project do simple carpentry. In so doing have to read, do math, develop design and work skills and so on as we are doing right now at Holland college. We could visit Rome and have Rome as a long term project. We could study latin, Roman history, architecture this would inevitably btake us to greece and greek philosophy and then western and eastern philosphy and poetry. This would tyake us around and back to the night sky and geometry and then the history of math and its application in the world.

With philosphy and math comes its relation, music

We would use conversation,experience and discovery as the key learning devices. Much of the work would be self directed after being “set” as projects. The kids would mainly work in teams. We would bring in outside experts to demonstrate stuff that we don’t know — how to use a telescope and find things in the night sky.

We would encourage story telling, art, music and dance as key components. We would start adventure early finding ever greater challenges for the kids. Who knows, canoing, climbing — what ever appeals but there would be some risk and therefore accomplishment involved

Language training would begin at 2 probably with a long vacation in France or Spain. We would try and get a Feench or Spanish speaking student in exchange who would be asked to foillow this up with only speaking the language.

The best I can do Alan in a few moments before dinner

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 21:28 Permalink

Before I even read this, Rob, thanks for taking the time to put it down.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 21, 2003 - 21:46 Permalink

What you have described is what I received outside fo school and provide — I hope — to my children outside of school hours and years. It is vital and important. It is what good parents do.

I cannot, however, provide a vaction to every location where they might want to learn the language nor can our population en masse do the same. I cannot provide math, general science or world religions beyond a level that would embarrass a teacher of 1930. My neighbours would not do better, especially given the need to work. Only those who can afford not to work can play this role. I would also need specialists to provide learning in areas where I am weak. I am aware enough of my limitations. I am aware that other parents might not be so aware or might prefer the comfort of an ideology or religion to that awareness of the need of a specialist.

How could their children qualify for a job as a doctor or an engineer if they find at the end of the schooling, due to the lack of standardized supervision, that something has gone drastically wrong. How is that fair to that child? I am still troubled by PEI’s proposed deregulation as reported — not homeschooling, deregulated homeschooling.

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on May 21, 2003 - 23:12 Permalink

Here’s the thing Alan:

In BC we already have deregulated homeschooling, and we are totally happy to do that. Turns out that we live amongst a creative and interesting community that is organizing more than that and a school board is interested. They aren’t dictating curricula, standards or supervision. The are interested in other approaches to how kids learn.

In BC the only way to get a highschool certificate is to do the standard Grades 11 and 12 curriculum either at a school or through distance education. Anything up to that, no one cares about, technically. I know a kid here that has unschooled his whole life and has no decided to do Grade 11 and 12 just to get the paper. It’s easy he says. In fact many adults I work with can upgrade their education in less than a year of night school courses. If that’s all you need to do to be officially sanctioned by the province, then what are we wasting the other 18 years of our kids lives on?

But anyway…

Choice to me is important. If you chose to send your kids to school for whatever reason, that’s fine by me. I choose not to (I still pay school taxes by the way). I happen to think that learning happens in a non-specialized way, and in fact the great thinkers in many fields were NOT in fact specialists, but rather they brought thinking and experience from many different disciplines to bear on their own narrow field. Stovepiping learning into predetermined “subjects” does not reflect the way knowledge in and of the world works. Math and poetry and biology are not seperate in the world. They are only seperate in school.

Also, it shouild be clear by now that I’m not a “teacher.” I have a fundamental belief that humans can learn everything but have a hard time being taught anything. Great learning is not the result of a great teacher. It is the result of a passionate learner who has the resources and challenge available to her to learn. That is true, I believe, whether we are talking about school, the corporate world or the in an unschooling environment. I am therefore, not my children’s teacher…I am a facilitator of their learning. I help them find the things they need to explore and learn about the things they care about. That includes finding experts and specialists to teach them about things I no nothing about. It also includes talking to them all the time about how they learn so that they understand how they do that.

Last week my daughter went for a walk with a naturalist Sue Ellen Fast, who has a nationally syndicated TV show. They explored the intertidal marine habitats of our island together for a day and came back with more stories and knowledge about more species of plants and animals that I am likely to see in a year. My daughter converted all of that learning into things that look like biology, math, art, english, history and geology assignments. SHe hasn’t stopped talking about gunnels for days.

Your last paragraph “How could their children qualify for a job as a doctor or an engineer if they find at the end of the schooling, due to the lack of standardized supervision, that something has gone drastically wrong. How is that fair to that child?” places the emphasis on the wrong place I believe. What happens if, under standardized supervision, a child’s passion for creative software engineering is supressed because they have to get passing history grades? As Peter says, I’m not even sure it’s humane to stifle creativity and passion like that. But whatever…

Not everyone becomes a doctor or an engineer as a result of schooling either. Lots of kids spend the first 22 years of their life in school, excel at it, get a peek at the real world, and run for cover in PhDs or post-docs.

Bottom line: I made a big decision to homeschool my kids. I don’t take those decisions lightly, based on some flimsy ideology or flakey half-baked new age notion that I have to “stick it to the man.” Very few parents who unschool do take this decision lightly.

The fact is it’s a bit disingenous to write it all off and say instead that kids need one type of learning enviornment, one type of curriculum and one type of supervision to do well. People are just more different than that.

Sorry for typos and spelling mistakes…I’m in a hurry and have no time to check. Call it a product of bad schooling…

Alan's picture
Alan on May 22, 2003 - 01:15 Permalink

No prob on the spelling — I studied English lit exclusively before 1800 and do find standardization a bore, especially in an informal discussion. And thank you for the time talken in setting out what you understand.

I was hoping to dig a bit and find out if the qualification requirement in BC was in PEI law. Under s. 140 of the Schools Act as it now reads, the Minister may intervene in a homeschooling situation where a student is not achiving acceptable educational progress. Section 139 requires an Ministerial authorization for a child to be home schooled. If these provisions were to be removed, persons who were doing a poor job could not be barred or removed as educators to their children. It is not the good cases that pose a problem, it is the bad cases, as we saw with the Fredericton PEI based cult. How would the government intervene if they do not reserve themselves the power?

Unless I am wrong — and Peter will tell us — sadly for those who like the internet, the regulations [where the meat of the law sits in this case] does not appear to be on line in PEI. To get into the specific proposals in PEI require looking at the actual words of the proposed law.

I would, then, note a couple of things in general:

1. While a great many very smart folk did not receive specialized education, there is no guarantee that the children recieving homeschooling are of that natural ability which most very smart folk have by luck. Conversely, my brother, for example, was publically schooled until 15 when he entered university with a full scholarship. I have three degrees and, like my brother, have had an enjoyable and socially useful career based on my formal education. He hated school like I did — school does suck when you are 15 as life in large part sucks when you are 15. The thought of our parents homeschooling us 25 years ago brings shivers.

2. It is a right of choice that is exercised by those with means to exercise the right. The province is not apparently providing an income to a parent to homeschool, for instance, who must work to pay for the other necessities of the child’s life.

3. Homeschooling is not an answer to school for society as it would be impossible for it to be exercised by anything other than a monority of the population. That large a percentage of the workforce could not be concerted to the one-on-one or one-on-five education of the young.

These points are really secondary to my main idea — state schooling is nothing less than a blessing to us all, like state health and state justice, fought long and hard for a few generations back, which can not be disposed of without serious ramifications.

The first to suffer from a state abandoning its supervisory role are children who are not supported, as yours are, by committed parents but the stupid but idealistic such as in the PEI group who used the children as display pieces for their infatuation with their own ability to discipline. You do not have laws and regulation to provide for those who can provide for themselves. You have them to protect those who can’t. A libertarian doesn’t care. I am not a libertarian.

Ken's picture
Ken on May 22, 2003 - 02:18 Permalink

Poorly trained boring strangers work well up to grade six. By grade seven I noticed some grotesque dorks teaching who I did not want to be like. Buzzers & bells interrupting the slow drip of knowledge being administered to students — some thirsty for it, some asleep. Whatever it was I despised seeing it one bit at a time and would usually just read ahead, then zone out. School taught me how to feign interest while performing mental escapes of Mittian proportions.

Justin's picture
Justin on May 22, 2003 - 03:54 Permalink

The province might be able to step in if home-schooling is not working, but if the school act was intelligently thought through, I’d expect a similar wording in the act for the converse safeguard.

When the school system fails to teach a person, the school system should be held accountable as well.

Not that it should be punished, but should be responsible for addressing a potential problem… many factors lead to poor performance in school, i.e. boredom, bullying, hormones, hearing/sight etc. As soon as it looks like learning is unnecessarily retarded, something should be done. Parents, counsellors, psychologists, or other students could/should be brought in, but not the teachers. They’ve their hands full.

And that’s all I got to say about that” — Forrest Gump

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 22, 2003 - 12:47 Permalink

How do we identify is somewhat has been “taught wrong?” If I can rebuild the engine of a Boeing 737, but I can’t disect a frog, has my education failed? Ultimately I think we have to shift from a system where evaluation is external — tests, exams, grades, rankings — to a system where evaluation is internal — “am I, the learner, satisfied with what I know?”

Alan's picture
Alan on May 22, 2003 - 13:52 Permalink

I think your rhetorical question exposes a level of either libertarianism or humanitarisnism that is unsustainable in this context. It reminds me of the response of Dr. Johnson to someone who challenged his proof of reality. Dr. J. invited the questioner to go kick a rock and see how his foot felt. Quite real.

A person has been taught wrong when they achieve adulthood with more than the average level of density. Stupidity is often a product of a process of learning that has failed the student. That should be the thing that is fixed not dumping a school system without something in place — a something that no one here has come anywhere near describing as an aspect of the community as a whole.

Just to be clear, the children of Fredericton PEI who walked around like zombies as unpaid child workers under threat of beating in a restarant (in breach of law in most places but not apparently in PEI) were “taught wrong.” Under the new regulations that could apparently go on for years without an inspector to stop it.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 22, 2003 - 13:54 Permalink

Wow what a great series of posts!

Wayne's picture
Wayne on May 22, 2003 - 13:58 Permalink

Alan, when you were studing english lit. before 1800, did you find any time for a few holes? What were those “mashies” like out of the rough? And, tell us about the feather balls…did you make your own?

Wayne's picture
Wayne on May 22, 2003 - 14:03 Permalink

Wow…ask any teenager if he is satisfied with what he knows, he will inarguably (that word again) say “yes, of course, what more could there be to know…I can rap ‘Slim Shady’ with my eyes closed, and already know what tattoo I am putting on my eyelid and split tongue.” And he’ll tell you that you are too old to know it all, to boot!

Alan's picture
Alan on May 22, 2003 - 14:04 Permalink

That’s the secret to my success, Wayne — I am 274 years old.

Ken's picture
Ken on May 22, 2003 - 14:11 Permalink

Since Summerside almost lost it’s Public Library this winter this is probably too much to expect, but wouldn’t this be the natural location of home-school resources and support?
A question: if I home school my child how do universities treat their applications, do I issue a graduation diploma, freshly printed on my BubbleJet printer?

Ken's picture
Ken on May 22, 2003 - 14:14 Permalink

Or, could my child enter university early if they were ready?

Ken's picture
Ken on May 22, 2003 - 17:55 Permalink

This island needs a Provincial Muse.

Also, I was thinking, this being PEI wouldn’t a home school kid spend a lot of time being quizzed by relatives et al, since they would want to see if the kid was alright.

The School Board should restest adults every ten years to see how much they recall from high school. Post a letter grade in the phone book, next to your name. Because people shouldn’t be given credit for having high school knowledge if they’ve forgotten it all!

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on May 23, 2003 - 09:26 Permalink

Forgive me if this seems presumptuous Ken, but doesn’t EVERY kid in PEI get quizzed by the relatives to see if he’s all right? I know that happens on OUR island. Seems to have more to do with the adults checking THEIR sanity I think… ;-)

And now a final reply to Alan…in deference to his 274 years of experience:

You write: “A person has been taught wrong when they achieve adulthood with more than the average level of density. Stupidity is often a product of a process of learning that has failed the student. “

What on earth are you saying here? What is an average level of density? Are we now casting children into ponds to see if they float?

The other day I beat a friend of mine, an airline pilot with 10 years experience, at Trivial Pursuit. He was woefully useless on every topic except geography and sports and leisure (and in SL he excelled mostly in the questions about cocktails). His shortcomings in History and Arts were especially interesting, prompting me to ask him how he managed to make it through high school knowing so little in these fields. He replied that he was too busy learning how to fly. It consumed all of his time as a kid. He spent time at airports, in planes, in air cadets. He can’t remember ever reading a single poem in his life. By many, many standards he is stupid.

But he is a good airline pilot and a brilliant navigator and he can fly 767s for crying out loud. He can tell you everything there is to know about how to fly one (and he did tell me almost everything he knew after September 11, 2001). Not stupid. Below average high school student, good flight school student and great pilot. Just not interested in English.

And trust me Alan, despite the fact that you are 274, I don’t think he would ever call your inability to land a 767 in fog “stupid.”

I still maintain that one can only be taught what one wants to learn. School is neither ideal nor unique in being able to deliver a learning experience. It certainly delivers a learning experience to some. But many other kids just don’t learn in that environment. Many adults would be hard pressed to do so too. Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of learning styles knows that schools only address a narrow band of abilities. Most schools are constraine dby the fact that 30 kids on one room for six hours is not a learning envirnoment…it’s a discipline problem. Most teachers, completing a one year B Ed. don’t learn about learning…they learn about policing and management of large groups of children. I think, given these circumstances, and the resources they have, teachers do an amazing job. But we can niehter credit them with success or pin blame upon them for the abilities of their students. Kids will learn what they want, when they want. If we can be there to help them when they are ready, they are lucky. Usually we cannot, and the bell rings, or the day ends, and the project sits barely started as their lives get hearded around.

My six year old daughter is teaching herself to read and write, do math, investigate phenomena by designing scientific methods (which sometimes includes kicking rocks…no substitute for expereince!). This is not at all unusual for a six year old. She is working with mentors of her choosing, some as young as the 12 year old who is teaching her about Karate and the discipline of using force, and some as old as the 72 year old neighbour who invited her to help him design and build a fence. That used a lot of math, art and physical skill to do that.

We have chosen to support her in this journey, and have made a number of choices which have affected our ability to do other things in our lives, but we made the choice willingly. We are not members of a cult (and if I cared I might resent you lumping us together with a sect of abusive nutcases … I mean did this cult live in a house too? What does that say about house dwellers? Hadn’t we all better move to condos then?).

We are simply trying to offer our child the best possible set of learning choices for her. She plays with school kids and many of our friends send their kids to school. I bear no ill-will toward them, in fact I don’t even see what business it is of mine how they choose to educate their kids. I willingly pay my school taxes because I believe that it is right that the state should provide schooling to those who need it. I am not a libertarian, and I’m not even sure I know what good confirming or denying my status as a humanist would do. I am not a whacked out psycho or a new age hippy freak. I’m a professional consultant with a house and a car and an Irish flute that I play in the evenings.

Hopefully I’ve managed to shed ligt on this topic a little. I simply want you to know that homeschooling is a common practice done by normal people. It is no more or less of a threat than people choosing to take buses instead of driving cars. My choices say nothing about you, your parenting style or your kids. It implies nothing special about me either.

My kid is turning out fine. She will be a good contributing member of society. She watches very little TV and eats brocolli everyday. She doesn’t brush her teeth in the morning and she’s sometimes rude to little kids and she squirms a lot during concerts, but these minor failings only serve to endow her with character and personality. If she chooses to go to school when she’s a little older we will support her in that decision and talk about her options and let her know that we love her. So far, she likes things the way they are. She has never once said the words “I’m bored.”

And maybe in the end, THAT is the final test.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 23, 2003 - 12:01 Permalink

Are you going to post this on one of your sites — hope that you doRob

Alan's picture
Alan on May 23, 2003 - 12:24 Permalink

Good postings all. Just to reiterate my points incase some of you missed them some how. Homeschooling good. Unregulated homeschooling bad. PEI apparelty dropping much of its current regulation despite lack of private resources and issues of afety of isolated children. BC regulates through requiring certification in the public system via grades 11 and 12. People can be stupid. People can be ill taught and suffer because of it. Chris’s child doing fine. No reference to how either broad based homeschooling for more than a lucky few or deconstruction of public schools could work in real world.

Justin's picture
Justin on May 24, 2003 - 03:19 Permalink

Stupidity is often a product of a process of learning that has failed the student”.

I don’t like the way that is worded. Swap in “ignorance” or “uneducated” for “stupidity”… but I know what you mean. Point taken and agreed with.

Stupid is as stupid does” — Gump again.

Education has NO bearing on genious, ergo lack thereof.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 24, 2003 - 15:21 Permalink

Fair enough. I get a tooth ache from too much delicacy of language but you are still achnowledging the continued existence of stupidity in the world.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on May 24, 2003 - 21:59 Permalink

Stupidity and intelligence are either perceptions or state of mind, based on (among other things) an ability to cook, embed SQL or properly explain the infield-fly rule. Will the type of home schooling offered by a chemical engineer be the same as that of someone who played shortstop for the Toledo Mudhens? Is this good for the future generation to have such serious decisions based on our bias? However,I have heard the most outrageous statements from what is considered “good schoolin’ ”.

In the eyes of the beholder, I guess!

Blair's picture
Blair on June 4, 2003 - 19:13 Permalink

As a former student and retired teacher, I want to comment on the polylogue (new word) between the Alan and Chris about home schooling versus … er … schoolschooling. I agree with Alan when he argues that PEI is making a mistake in not putting in place some protection for the child that will be educated in his parents’ “school.”

First, as a youth, I educated at Queen Square School, and then Birchwood and then St. Dunstan’s; but at the same time I was also being home schooled by a fanatically religious Irish Catholic mother, who drilled into my head the nonsence that that the world was created in seven days; that if I sinned I would spend eternity burning in hell; that all non-Catholics were evil; that debate was verboten outside the parameters of religious dogma. Can you imagine what kind of insanity home schooling would have been in that house, by this well-meaning woman, a dutiful mother in all other aspects? There are 1000s of home on PEI with equally ignorant parents.

I also know of parents who kept children home from schgool to force them to work on farms and businesses. This, too, is home schooling, is it not? Pitching shit in a barn when other children were discussing the social criticisms implied in a Dickens novel or alalyzing the fickleness of the mob in “Julius Caesar.”

I also resent the implication that schools are boring, and that children are not inspired to learn in them. Children love being with people their own age, and they love being challenged by a good teacher. In my grade ten English class, I worked on the skills of good communication: logic, an ethical position, rhetoric and grammar. I never once told them what to think. That was their business. But I made them defend their thinking. I taught them the fallacies of logic, and held them accountable.We were interested only (not only interested) in the truth. And the truth was not always found at home. In my class there was a freedom to think about their world, to write about it, top write about what writers thought of it.

Finally, there is the issue of expertise. I taught English, but was weak in the sciences and maths. So, I was proud when my daughter master calculus in high school under the tutelage of a magnificent teacher. I was proud when she master chemistry under the guidance of a gifted teacher. Prouder when she drew on these skills to earn a degree in science and then pharmacy, and then get doctorate, and then her fellowship. I would have been worse than my poor ignorant beautiful mother had I chose to home school her. Where would she have been had I kept her cloistered at home — playing Trivial Pursuit? Gazing at the stars?

I am a supporter of public education, even though it is in a state of disarray. Someone earlier said that schools have been “feminized.” I agree. Soft, lovey-dovey, unaccountable places; a student- centered approach, a result of American inner city self-esteem building crap — has led to a medicated male student population and illiteracy. That said, the pendulum is swinging back. The duty of the teacher is becoming threefold: to make the poor literate so they can identify the forces (business and politicians) that exploit them; to make ladies and gentlemen of them; to make them logical, so they can take on their parents and their dated thinking and prejudices around the supper table.

Alan's picture
Alan on June 4, 2003 - 19:52 Permalink

Very good:

The duty of the teacher is becoming threefold: to make the poor literate so they can identify the forces (business and politicians) that exploit them; to make ladies and gentlemen of them; to make them logical, so they can take on their parents and their dated thinking and prejudices around the supper table.
Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on June 4, 2003 - 20:03 Permalink

Blair, your comments hit home on several levels.

I know (but didn’t explicity state) that all of my comments about the evils of school are based entirely from a position where I am the centre of the universe. I have literate, insightful, open, well-spoken parents. Merely being in the same room as them taught me 75% of what I need to know about the world. Should I have been born with close-minded, restrictive, dogmatic parents, I would probably have seen school as an oasis rather than a prison.

I may have overstated, for emphasis, my description of teachers and/or schools as being boring. Clearly you demonstrate that it is possible for teachers to not be boring. And I admit to having been inspired by perhaps even more than my fair share of excellent teachers. My problem has never really been with the execution of school, but rather the premise, which is based on mandatory confinement. I found that aspect of school extremely confining; it stood in my way, and turned me against a system that, were it to somehow have been structured differently, might have better engaged me. I believe in freedom, and can’t entirely grasp the notion of the kind of freedom in a box that school represents.

Alan's picture
Alan on June 4, 2003 - 20:12 Permalink

I don’t really disagree with you on that, Peter. I worked in a carpet factory in Truro for about a week during an undergrad summer and was struck by how the system of the factory matched the system of CEC, my highschool: bells, cinderblock walls, clocks and needing permission to take a leak. I received a doctor’s letter to the principal in the last few months of grade 12 to allow me to walk out of class when I wanted to — I would have gone (more deeply) bonkers without it. Good doctor. For many, however — and quite sadly — even those obstructions are better than any other practical option on a community-wide level.

Wayne's picture
Wayne on June 4, 2003 - 22:06 Permalink

Freedom also means responsibility…so I feel I do disagree.

Thank god our right to freedom doesn’t include pulling fire alarm levers, shooting paint guns down Queen Street, and many other outrageous acts that can be clouded by our freedom to do and say what we want. There are many that need to be protected from themselves and many from whom we need to be protected from. Therefore, some “freedoms” in society need to be removed. However, our youth, in their wisdom, argue that every time they don’t get their way, it is “unfair”….even getting up and going to school or doing homework. Are they really able to be the judges of what it is they need in an education? Maybe…maybe they deserve to make responsible decisions about some of it, but not be in charge…certainly not!
While my parents, at the time, seemed, to have a different view on everything, and seemed to want me to do everything I did not want to do (like cutting grass,etc) I thank God now for their wisdom and having done what now I see as a great job.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on June 5, 2003 - 01:26 Permalink

I find this series of posting still the most vibrant in Pete’s world.

I was referred the other day to the story of Summerhill school in England — an alternative school founded by A S Neill. This school is structured on the basis that children have an innate sense of what they need.

There are some links on my weblog. But I would like to add a few quotes here from Neill whose belief is that our current model crushes children into conformity and prepares them for a robotic world of industrial work and obedience.

Neill feels that fear blocks development and learning. “Summerhill has shown the world that a school can abolish fear of teachers and deeper down fear of life”

There is no necessity for a gulf separating pupils from teachers…Teachers want to be little gods protected by dignity. They fear that if they act human, their authority will vanish and their classrooms will become bedlams. They fear to abolish fear”

Obviously, a school that makes active children sit at desks studying mostly useless subjects is a bad school. It is a good school only for those that believe in such a school for those uncreative citizens who want docile, uncreative children who will fit into a civilization whose standard of success is money”

When my wife and I began the school, we had one idea: to make the school fit the child — instead of making the child fit the school”

Whether a school has or has not a special method for teaching long division is of no significance, for long division is of no importance except to those who want to learn it, And the child who wants to learn it will learn it no matter how it is taught”

The function of a child is to live his own life — not the life that his anxious parents think he should have, nor a life according to the purpose of the educator who thinks that he knows best, All this interference and guidance on the part of adults only produces a generation of robots”

Blair Arsenault's picture
Blair Arsenault on June 5, 2003 - 12:58 Permalink

I recall reading Summerhill in the late ‘60’s or early 70’s and also seeing a film made on location in England; I was in a child development course at St. Dunstan’s. Paiget was the rage back then, and Dr. Spock was making his millions by encouraging parents to raise brats. And we all know the outcome of that fiasco. Dr. Spock’s own child committed suicide. Enough said.

But the whole concept of Summerhill is intriguing — the freedom of choice to learn and when to learn it. School as a mall, a buffet table with the child as a guest; the child as a cultish figure at the center of adult worship, his every wish granted in this Utopia. The children in the film struck me as in the film struck me as nasty, narcissistically narrow, spoiled and demanding. And I was barely out of my rebellious high school years myself!! I recall the image of one little Paul-McCartney-esque kid mocking a teacher’s crossed eyes for all the world to see. And I thought of Lord of the Flies and what happens when the bullies on the playground, or the bully in everyone’s psyche, begins to assert itself  — when all structure and authority are removed and the weak and shy are tormented, marginalized, and even killed.

I am playing the devil’s advocate here, and in that vein, regarding Rob’s citations from Meill, I’d like to test the logic and credulity. Take for example this citation:

There is no necessity for a gulf separating pupils from teachers…Teachers want to be little gods protected by dignity. They fear that if they act human, their authority will vanish and their classrooms will become bedlams. They fear to abolish fear.”

The fallacy written all over this one is gross generalization, when he lumps all teachers into “little gods,” all teachers being afraid of acting human. How can he be so illogical to assume all teachers are alike?

And this one:

The function of a child is to live his own life — not the life that his anxious parents think he should have, nor a life according to the purpose of the educator who thinks that he knows best, All this interference and guidance on the part of adults only produces a generation of robots”

His pejorative language in “anxious parents” is unfair. Why did he not say caring? Or concerned? And is it the right of a child to live his own life, apart from the community, from the order of good government institutions and democracy? Or is he advocating a kind of eduvational (and social)anarchy, every “child” for himself. Is it necessary for every child to re-invent the wheel rather than calling on the wisdom of his elders? And does the edicator think he knows best? A good educator does not know best; a good educator, however, equips a child with the skills and strategies and questions for the child to discover his own best. A generation of robots? The people who are searching fro a code to defeat sars visus were prodicts of regorous training, as were the architects who designed the instruments for space exploration. It is called the scientific method.

Finally, try substituting the word “adult” for child and “community or life” for educator in the above citation.

The function of an adult is to live his own life — not the life that his anxious community and family thinks he should, nor a life according to the purpose of the demands of life which knows best, All this interference and guidance on the part of his family and community only produces a generation of robots.”

Selfish, eh?

Alan's picture
Alan on June 5, 2003 - 13:55 Permalink

Not selfish…autonomous. People are not first employees, voters, civil servants, children or parents. They are themselves. We may have many and complex duties and obligations as part of the social contract but within our side of that contract we are still autonomous and in a democracy the greatest possible exercise of the autonomy of each is the affirmation of the democractic ideals of the community.

Blair's picture
Blair on June 5, 2003 - 19:16 Permalink

Well, now you have me thinking, Alan.