Why do we teach our kids what we teach them (with regard to public or private school curriculum, or even homeschooling currciculum, or the university model curriculum - no form of education escapes my questioning)?
And more school questions:
What do we (my husband and I) value? In other words, what do we want to pass on to our kids? (In other words, is it important to us that they can compete in the world they live in and become successful? If so, what does 'compete' or 'successful' look like? If that's not important, what is? What do they need to know - and I am talking head knowledge here - as well as what do they need to experience? And, what's the best way to give that to them?)
Do I/we believe that it the parents' primary responsibility to educate? And what does educate mean? Do we view it traditionally - as in 'schooling' - or do we include things like 'raise up', 'instill values', 'model' in our understanding of education? Is it more important that they receive the latter than it is for them to receive head knowledge? Would the process of receiving knowledge in a more traditional setting lead to the same outcome of experiencing and growing in a less traditional way?
How do we form character in our kids that will keep them building their lives on God, with God, and for God, for the rest of their days?
Is preserving our children's innocence a goal? If so, why? And for how long? (I was taught that I needed to toughen up so that I would be able to deal with the big, bad world. That was valuable - staying innocent and kind was not. Well, kindness was okay, even expected, as long as I was tough, in control, never let anyone gain power over me. Kindness was a means to an end and a social norm, not the end goal in and of itself, and it certainly had nothing to do with my true heart towards people or the world, much less what Christ would expect of me.)
Most of the time when I ask my friends the first question - including my many friends that have graduate-level degrees in education - I get blank stares. Not because they are uninformed or uneducated, but because they've either never questioned why we teach what we teach (being able to teach is what mattered to them because they are passionate about helping kids, God bless them), or because they've gone over this argument so many times that it makes them tired to think of doing it again.
Then there's always the last reason: they're so saddened and disheartened by the state of schools today that it's overwhelming to think/talk about. Have you ever noticed how many times you overhear teachers talking about the problems with public schools?
This past weekend, while listening in on one of those types of conversations, I asked a public school elementary teacher: what would you say to someone to convince them to send their child to a public school? I feel like people always demand a justification if you want to take your kids out of the mainstream system, so I thought I would turn the argument on its head.
The response? Unfortunately, there was some defensiveness and then this: "your problem is you're lumping all schools together." First off, I didn't know I had a problem. I was honestly asking a question to become better informed about any good that happens in public schools. Since I don't have kids at school ages yet, I feel like I don't have good information. I thought this was an opportunity to go to the source. Secondly, I truly wasn't and don't lump all schools together. I can simply look back on my own experience in school to know that it really and truly all depends. Sometimes, it's the luck of the draw. So then I ask myself: do I want to gamble with my kids?
This person continued: "You have to look at the school and then the teacher." I get this response a lot. The funny thing? This response does not come close to digging deep to my core questions: is a parent better suited at teaching a child than a teacher? Does the current school environment - for whatever reason - lack the ability to give our kids the best, or even, good learning experiences? How should we teach our kids - lecture format, experiential knowledge, field-based studies, etc? We all seem to agree that babies, toddlers, and preschoolers learn best by doing. Does that change as we get older? Aren't we all, fundamentally, created to be explorers?
I'm not sure where I fall on this spectrum yet. I want to learn more so that I can make an informed decision for my kids. A lot of folks - and perhaps some of you - say: "you have to make the best decision for your kid, and that decision might change over time." If that's you, then please don't take offense at this: I don't know if I agree with that. When I say "I don't know", I really mean I don't know. I'm still developing my philosophy. Right now, I'm leaning towards the following as guiding principles:
- A theology of preserving innocence. As parents, I think one of our jobs is to allow our children to be children, and to let them grow up slowly (part or our covering, protective role). Again, I'm not sure why I think this - which makes me feel shaky. I need to understand scripturally if this is sound or if I'm just longing for a utopian-like childhood for my kids that I never had. I have a feeling there is a sound, scriptural reasoning behind this - that it is actually crucial to maintain innocence (just think of how Jesus tells us we must enter the Kingdom...innocently, like a child), but I'm still working it all out.
- A theology of developing children. Again, I say I think because I'm really not sure yet...I think that it is God's plan for children to be raised - first - by nuclear families, and then by the extended family and the greater community in ever-widening circles of influence. If this is so, then I'm not sure why I would turn over influence to someone who is not within my child's natural circle of influence - a circle that will stay with him or her for a lifetime. And then there's the time component: even if I think public school - theologically - is fine, how do I find the time to be the primary influence on my child if he/she is gone from me forty+ hours/week? Again, I have no experience here yet, so I simply don't know.
With regard to education, I'll leave you with this. I heard a very interesting piece from Human Media over the weekend about the fact that our founding fathers believed that democracy would fail without an informed, engaged citizenry. (They also believed that to become engaged you must first be informed.) When we were founded as a nation we had no mandate for public education - that didn't come nationally until 1918.
So, my 4th of July question is this: If we assume that part of the reason we have compulsory public education in our country is to maintain democracy, then is our current public education system serving that goal? Do we have an informed, engaged citizenry? Could other forms of education meet that goal in a more effective manner?
I'm going to save the food questions for another day. I've already rambled on for too long. Suffice it to say, my brain is full of questions, and this weekend I realized a common theme:
I am in a process of examining fundamental assummptions.
This is exciting for me. Are there some assumptions you need to examine or question? Are you already doing it? I'd love to hear about it! I find that it's really awesome to see what God will show us when we don't get so set in our ways that we aren't willing to examine and reexamine - our motives, our methods, and goals.
Linking up with Jen at Soli Deo Gloria this fine Monday evening. Be sure to stop by her site!
One last thing, I promise! I am going to start a 7-part series on Wednesday called 7 Steps to a Healthier Pantry. Please be sure to come back for it and tell all your friends!