Friday, August 22, 2008

Anyone can teach, therefore Education is Broken

Well, at least he can multiply ...

Thomas Sowell has decided that everyone can teach:
When amateurs outperform professionals, there is something wrong with that profession.

If ordinary people, with no medical training, could perform surgery in their kitchens with steak knives, and get results that were better than those of surgeons in hospital operating rooms, the whole medical profession would be discredited.

Yet it is common for ordinary parents, with no training in education, to homeschool their children and consistently produce better academic results than those of children educated by teachers with Master’s degrees and in schools spending upwards of $10,000 a year per student — which is to say, more than a million dollars to educate ten kids from K through 12.
Sowell's use of a few particular people's success to claim that education is flawed misses the point that those people who succeed at homeschooling are probably the ONLY people who could have succeeded. The educational system isn't flawed because a relatively small portion of the population is different. Homeschool parents who succeed are not "ordinary people" but rather quite extraordinary.

It's necessary to point out that not every family has the
1) time available & monetary ability (one spouse not working)
2) the wide-ranging intellectual interests that go into education
3) the ability to teach.
4) the inclination to spend the time and money necessary.
5) the knowledge.

I heartily support homeschooling. If parents have the initiative and desire to jump through all of the state hoops and can play the legal game enough to satisfy the educrats, then I feel their kid's education will go well enough that I can say "They're your kids, do what you will." Whatever the reason, the choice to homeschool is big enough that the sample is limited to those who will probably succeed, rendering Sowell's argument silly. It doesn't even seem to matter how tough that first step is.

That first step, in my state at least, is a low one. There's a long history of rural homeschoolers here. They tend to rejoin the public schools for high school because of the specialized subjects and for athletics (Homeschoolers are allowed to play but it is easier if kiddo is right there.) Many of these have come into my class behind in their math skills, and desperately wrong about many things, but overall the old saying about teaching and teachers still holds true whether it's Mom, a tutor, or a middle-school teacher.

"Bad teaching has less of an effect on students than we fear; good teaching has less of an effect than we should wish." Wish I could remember who said it.

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