Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Recently Harvard came out to speak against homeschooling. I suppose it shouldn’t really be a surprise; as far as being snobbish, Harvard more or less sets the standard.
Truth be told, I worked at Harvard as a post-doctoral research assistant. No, I didn’t take classes there, but they did pay me to do research for them.
I can tell you this. Just based on the bathroom stall graffiti, I don’t think the male students at Harvard have ever actually seen a woman naked.
A school with the reputation of Harvard has the freedom to pick and choose their students. Other institutions that are struggling for students are often faced with one of two choices from one year to the next; either accept a smaller incoming class, and thus less income, or lower their enrollment standards to increase their income from tuition and fees with weaker students. If they take in weaker students, then they have another difficult decision, that is whether or not to accept a higher failure rate or drop their quality.
It’s not a fun choice to make.
Grade inflation is a serious problem at both the secondary and higher education levels. This is often done to improve retention rate. If an institution has an unacceptably high failure rate, basically they make it easier to pass. This is grade inflation; the grades at a lower quality institution will be higher than they should be based on what is learned. The very real problem is there is no reporting or metric for such grade inflation. My high school was a public school but was also very high quality. Other high schools are not; while I might have gotten B’s and C’s at my high school, at another I might be getting A’s and B’s (or straight A’s) for the same or even lesser work. So how can you tell a 3.6 GPA from my high school, versus a 3.6 from our rival high school which was AWFUL! No, not really, but as an example.
This is the purpose of standardized exams. The SAT and ACT are designed to test preparedness and knowledge in various academic disciplines without influence from the school system in question. If I can talk real good American I’ll do awesome on that there test. Otherwise I won’t. The scores reflect actual ability and knowledge as opposed to GPA which has no baseline.
So when institutions start talking about how homeschooling is not as reliable or high quality as high school education, it’s rather surprising. First of all, I’m sure there’s also a difference between private and public schools, but to automatically assume homeschooling is worse than a high school is unfounded. The question should be how students do on the standardized national exams, not where they received their education. The reality is that there are brilliant people throughout our society, so to automatically discount any group of students is frankly unfounded.
There are distinct advantages to homeschooling, as I think many parents are beginning to learn thanks to the current crisis. First of all, homeschooling does include syllabi and performance standards. Parents that decide to undertake homeschooling don’t just pull their kids and let them play all day long; there are exams, guidelines, learning standards and more.
What’s more, with public schools overcrowding is a serious concern. In my graduating class, I had 850 fellow classmates. In my high school there were literally thousands of students. The benefit of such a large class is that there are far more opportunities than at smaller schools. Every club, every sport, every feature you can think of (including an Olympic sized pool) was available at my high school which is rather shocking for a public school. But, with such a large class, it’s also very easy to “slip through the cracks”. I was never athletic and always painfully shy and disappeared in the school. At a smaller school, a teacher might have noticed the social struggles I had, or that my grades were not where they should be.
With homeschooling, the teachers are the parents. This means that the investment of the “teachers” is much higher. The personalized teaching means that the teaching method can be tailored to best fit the learning style, and let’s face it, there are no excuses.
The best education always involves parents. Too often, students are shuffled off to school and parents all too often put too much of the burden on the schools without taking enough personal interest in their students’ education. I’ve often believed that if I ever did actually have children, I would send them to public school, but at the same time would take an active role in their education. In this way, I would know what they are learning, and can supplement their education as well.
As more parents find themselves in the position of teaching their children, I hope they are getting into a groove and beginning to enjoy it. Imagine how far we will advance if parents take a more active role in their children’s education as a result of this crisis.