Tag Archives: public education

Open Letter to Educators

I was just forwarded this video by my boss, along with her daughters written response to it and the whole thing really got me thinking.

What’s funny is…I was JUST thinking about that exact thing the other day. I was thinking, is it ironic to anyone that I feel the way I do about institutionalized education and yet have multiple college degrees? It may seem a bit hypocritical, but it’s not and I can tell you why.

I do agree with everything he said. I see with my unschooled children how much more organic learning is than schools want to make it. How artificial and irrelevant much institutionalized learning is. How it teaches you to memorize and regurgitate facts, not to think for yourself, much less outside the box, not to actually learn or be engaged with your subject. How my favorite teaches and professors were those who engaged us, encouraged dissent, nurtured debate, fueled classroom discussions. Unfortunately, those were the minority.

So why then bother with the whole thing at all? Precisely because our society demands it. You may be self taught and actually know more than someone with a degree, but society confers respect and authority on the person with the degree. Because we see the degree as a measurement of your knowledge.

My ex husband is a chef, learned on the job, and his biggest pet peeve is the culinary school graduates who are clueless and mess up his kitchen! Yet, they go on to positions he can’t get considered for, though it was HE and not the culinary school that actually taught them how to cook in practice, in real life. I use to tell him to just go get the degree, no matter if he already knows more than the instructors, that “piece of paper” is a foot in the door. Sure, you may get your foot in the door then not be able to keep the job because despite your education, you don’t really have the skills, that is true. But even if you have the skills, you may never get to put them to use without that foot in the door.

That being said, perhaps Dan Brown is the next Bill Gates (a very famous and very rich college drop out) but for most of us, we need both the skills and the credentials.

So, back to why I feel institutional education is a joke and yet I have multiple college degrees and keep going back for more? Because  I am a biologist who knows that survival equals your ability to secure your  share of the available resources. For humans, this no longer means hunting or grazing territory, money is what secures our basic resources like food and shelter. Because I’m a sociologist (specifically a structuralist) who understands that that structures and institutions of our society are what we have to work with, even when we want to change them and in the society we have, a college degree, certifications and other forms of validation are what let us access the money. And because combining those two things with the fact that I’m also a realist tells me that despite all its failings, I still need institutional education to secure validation (in the form of a degree) so that I can access my share of the resources (in the form of a good job that provides a higher income to purchase food, shelter, clothing and the like). So, I plug away at getting my degrees while I home school to try and give my children a competitive advantage when they reach this stage because I AM teaching them to think, not memorize.

And while we’re on the subject, I will be teaching them the metric system because the entire rest of the world uses it and if they want to go into any medical or scientific field, even here, they will have to know it and our public schools do not teach it. It is so much harder to learn at 41 I’m here to tell you! (Even though it is more intuitive and easier than our system). Change comes from within and you have to start somewhere. I believe that the huge surge in families pulling their children out of the system is a step in that direction. Colleges are now actively recruiting homeschoolers precisely because of their ability to think outside the box. Private and charter schools all over the country are piloting curriculum that more closely resemble homeschooling than institutionalized schooling. The fact that this movement is gaining momentum can be seen in the backlash against it. In many states legislatures are trying to move backwards and outlaw homeschooling but it isn’t working. Families are taking back their children’s education. The revolution is afoot!