Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Posts Tagged ‘public education’

Horace Mann & Compulsory Schooling

Friday, May 25th, 2012

I have continued to ponder why school for kids continues to be compulsory (with the requisite coercion) while most everything else we do in America (except perhaps pay taxes) is by our own choice and direction. In trying to get a handle on the answer to a fundamental societal question like that, I tend to start with looking at our history and the flow of events that have led us to our present situation.

Being a kid who grew up in the 1960s, I can’t help but recall The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show and its Peabody’s Improbable History segment featuring the dog historian Mr. Peabody. I imagine erudite canine saying to his “boy” Sherman, “Let’s set the Wayback machine to Massachusetts in the year 1830 when Horace Mann led the effort to launch the U.S. public school system!” Lacking access to a “Wayback” machine to see for myself, I have to rely on the books I’ve read on the seminal events of this period in American history and particularly the words and deeds of Mann, the most famous champion of this effort.

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Saturday Night Home School Fever

Saturday, April 28th, 2012

Confessing my own bias as a big supporter of unschooling, I read Dennis Danziger’s piece, “Home School Fever”, in the April 24 edition of the Huffington Post, and it seemed to push more buttons in me than I even knew I had! I recall that classic Saturday Night Live “Weekend Edition” bit where Jane Curtin and Dan Aykroyd do a “Point-Counterpoint”, and after Curtin dresses down Aykroyd in every possible way he grits his teeth and responds, “Jane, you ignorant slut!” Not sure if Danziger is playing the Curtin or the Aykroyd part in this encounter, but grrrr!

I know the Post has a wonderful contributor, Peter Gray, who is an eloquent homeschool/unschool advocate (and just had that great interview with unschooler Kate Fridkis published in Psychology Today). So if the Post is trying to provide “both sides” of the homeschooling issue, they sure picked an uniformed, unthoughtful spokesperson for conventional public “schooling”. My initial reaction is that it rises to the level of hate speech, but that may be my buttons talking.

So I’m trying to parse his bilious words while re-initializing this previously unrevealed array of triggers in my psyche that he so expertly managed to activate with a mere 514 word rant. Certainly for sheer “button per word” efficiency, Danziger must be up there with the best of show. (Take a deep breath Coop… exhale… once more… okay?… yes… good… let’s proceed.)

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The Myth of the Common School

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Little Red SchoolhouseThere are at least two misnomers out there today about the beginnings of the U.S. public school system…

1. That it was set up to to bring basic instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic to the children whose families did not have the means to hire tutors or send their children to private schools.

2. That it was set up on the factory model to train workers to work in the proliferating factories of the beginnings of industrialism in the first half of the 19th Century.

Though our public schools eventually adopted the “three R’s” and the factory model of timed classes, bells and such, those were later “innovations”.

The reality of the beginnings of U.S. public schools is quite different, and a fascinating book to read on this subject is The Myth of the Common School, written by Charles Leslie Glenn Jr. in the mid 1980s. The “Common school” being the original name given to the universal one-size-fits-all public schools envisioned and developed by Horace Mann and other education reformers of the early 19th Century.

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