Re: Homeschooling and SVS

Bruce L. Smith (bsmith@midway.uchicago.edu)
Tue, 19 Nov 1996 23:06:17 -0600

Now that I've been lurking about for a couple of weeks, I suppose it's time
for me to introduce myself and enter into the discussion. One part of me
wishes I could do this in a more organized manner, but on the other hand,
this _is_ a conversation, and as such, allows for a more informal approach.

=46irst things first. I have sometimes described myself as a 'recovering
high-school teacher.' I taught in various capacities in the public schools
of Columbia, Missouri for the past five years. I was an everyday
substitute for a year and a half, taught four different Social Studies
subjects (from basic level to AP) for three full-time years, and was the
assistant speech and debate coach at my high school. Without giving you an
unnecessarily lengthy biography, let me just say that this was a period of
intermittent joy and horribly painful disillusionment for me. I entered
the profession to have fun working and playing with ideas, helping people
learn, but found that I was allowed to do neither. Public high schools, in
my experience, have nothing to do with learning, and everything to do with
socialization (sit down, shut up, and shove these meaningless facts down
your throat -- I, the teacher/principal/superintendent, the all-powerful
dispenser of knowledge and standards, have spoken). I got out -- escaped,
really -- because I had to, and could; but I have not managed to leave it
utterly behind (nor would I want to) . I loved many of the students (a
number of whom I currently consider my friends), and I pitied even more. I
relished the opportunity to affect young people's lives -- indeed, I have
many of the fondest memories from my short career. But in the end I became
too tired of fighting a losing battle against _and within_ the system. It
was killing me, much as it continues to assault the students. I can't
leave it totally behind (see below).

And yet, as disenchanted with public education as I am, as much as I
believe it is fatally flawed, I also recognize the large number of heroic
people still fighting the good fight, against all odds, from within. And
so I have to take mild exception to a recent comment by Dale Reed:

>Dale replies: I agree with you. These "problems" are in rapid growth
>because the school districts get extra $$$ for learning disabled
>children. I don't want to get into what I think about the present
>establishment because I am trying to focus on a better future but lets
>just sum it up by saying: How would you react if you were forced to
>spend 5 hours a day with a person and 30 other children not of your own
>choosing doing what you do not want to do and seeing no reason for it?
>I think many of the children eventually conclude that the purpose of
>school is to keep the children out of the adult's hair and out of the
>job market as long as possible. As John Holt said, one of the purposes
>of school is to make the children as miserable as many adults are. I
>think you would invent mental illnesses and other attention gathering
>methods such as fist fights, drugs, promiscuous sex, ADD =85=85. Very sad=