Last summer, I read a couple of amazingly sobering books. One is Dumbing Down America and it talks about the public school system and how it is doing a disservice to our gifted students. I also read Dumbing Down our Kids to find out why children cannot add or write. But then I came across the second book: Dumbing Us Down.
I was floored with the richness of information. But most of all, I was amazed that these are transcripts from speeches given, like when being awarded Teacher of the Year. You have to read this book. Once you do, you will understand the richness and the author’s audacity in his rhetoric.
But you know what? This is a rhetoric that we all need to hear and that we all need to pay attention to. When I read the book, I realized just how badly I had failed my students. There are many lessons I learned in public school, but I had no ideas just how deep and how bad the decline of public schools is.
Sometimes, I feel overwhelmed with guilt over working under such a broken system. It was not a walk in the park for me, as a teacher, believe me. There are too many requirements and pressures imposed on us and that makes our teaching harder and harder.
Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play WillDumbing Down America: The War on Our Nation’s Brightest YoungDumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 10thTeach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling
In this post, I will tell you several ways that I have discovered that I failed my students while I was a public school teacher, why I left public schools altogether and why I homeschool my children instead of sending them to school. Don’t get me wrong, I have no ill feelings towards the schools themselves or the people in them.
I have experienced the broken system first-hand and that is why I stopped teaching in public schools. I will also offer encouragement for homeschool moms, because, even though homeschooling is the best decision for us, it is still pretty darn hard to do! Cheer up! We can do it!
Yes, as a public school teacher, I helped my students in their confusion. It wasn’t purposeful, of course, but I failed my students, nonetheless. See, as teachers, we get a list of topics to teach for each subject. We are not only required to teach those lessons, but to also teach to the test (to make sure they pass, even if they don’t understand). Children go from subject to subject, from topic to topic, all unrelated, and are expected to make sense of it all. Most importantly, they are expected to pass a test on all of it!
In homeschooling, we have the opportunity to connect topics, to dwell on lessons that aren’t understood and move on if the topics are mastered. We take our time. And we go at our own pace. We don’t have to teach to the test and we don’t feel the pressure to teach a bunch of unrelated topics. We use Classical education in our homeschool and in it, we make connections between topics and make more sense out of them. Read Dumbing Us Down and you’ll see what I mean.
In public schools, children were numbered. They were categorized by age, gender, intellectual ability and even by abilities/disabilities. Children were put in boxes and they were to remain that way. Teachers from previous years would talk to me about students, I guess to be sure they stayed in those categories/boxes.
Children are told what grade to be in, what classroom to go to, what teacher to have and what classes are taken and at what time. I am extremely organized, so this mindset merged well with me. But in the meantime, I failed my students for not looking at them outside the number, outside the box.
In our homeschool, my children have input on what classes work best for the morning and which work best for after lunch. They can have good days and not-so-good days (as do I), so we can move things around or take things off the table completely for the day. They aren’t numbers and aren’t made to stay in a specific grade because of their age.
We keep advancing and lend to having the freedom of following passions in subjects or topics that are attractive or relevant for them at the time. Our days are much more relaxed because we think outside the box.
And speaking of passions and interests, I must point out that this is another reason why I left the public schools for homeschooling once I had my own children. See, in public schools, we have to teach topics, regardless on whether students are ready for it or are interested. We teach to the test.
And sometimes, when we had some amazing lessons and students really got into it (like one about the Solar System comes to mind), the bell would ring and boom, class was over. Time to move on. Time to drop this awesome lesson and forget about it until the next time we have that subject again. Isn’t that heartbreaking?
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now that I have my littles at home and I see how passionate they can be about topics or subjects or specific activities, I can’t help it but struggle with guilt that my students didn’t have the opportunities that I now give my children. When they are really into multiplication, we go all into it. We research, we make projects, we incorporate other subjects into it, we make unit studies out of them and we even make up songs with facts from the lessons!
The problem with ending a lesson abruptly at the sound of a bell is that students will learn to not get attached to their studies, to not show as much interest and, in turn, they will become indifferent to the material. I was told by parents and other teachers that I was a good teacher. But now that I am teaching my children, I can see a stark difference in my approach and I wish I had been given the opportunity to teach my students this way.
In other words: TESTING. Yes, in public schools, it is all about results. It is all about grades. And the focus is not on students, but rather on “school performance.” Unless you are a public school teacher, you have no idea how much pressure we are under to teach to the test, to pass standardized tests and to perform, perform and perform some more.
We pay little to no attention to our students as human beings, but rather, they are seen as products we create. How good/acceptable our products are in schools reflect on the school itself, on the district and even the state. We know this for a fact.
But what about homeschools? Do we hold our children to the same kind of pressure and standard? No. We do not see their self-esteem as provisional, based on their performance. Why? Because we see the student as a whole, not as a product we create. We grow them, guide them, teach them to learn and help them become confident individual with self-respect, not just shove facts and knowledge in droves and expect them to retain it all.
This will only show them that their self-esteem is tied to their deeds and their test scores. Imagine being constantly judged at such a young age. many can’t and don’t handle the pressure well.
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at HomeClassical Education: The Movement Sweeping AmericaThe Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education YouThe Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric
These are hard lessons I learned in public school, but certainly molded me to be the homeschooling mom that I am today. Our homeschool is thriving and I couldn’t be happier to have learned those hard lessons early on. Reading Dumbing Us Down really opened my eyes to what was going on and how it wasn’t right by our students. I highly recommend this book, but be prepared to get your feathers ruffled a bit.
That said, I want to reiterate that this is not criticism on teachers. Most public school teachers work tirelessly to engage their students in learning and proper behavior. The problem I am talking about is the hidden curriculum in public schools. It is a broken education system. Something needs to change. Failing our students in these important ways isn’t acceptable.
And for you, stressed homeschool moms, please be encouraged! I know that this homeschooling thing is really, really hard. But keep at it! It is worth it! I would take my homeschooling life over teaching at any public school any day! I am telling you: you are doing better at home with those little one than you think. So relax and truly enjoy the privilege of having them at home. So many wish they could be homeschool moms, but they aren’t able to. We are truly blessed!
Thank you for visiting our The Hidden Curriculum in Public Schools & How I failed my Students post!
You might also like:
Dumbing Us Down Giveaway! ********CLOSED**********
2 (two) US Winners will receive 1 (one) copy of the book “Dumbing Us Down”
US residents only, must be 18 years old or older to enter.