Saturday, July 07, 2007

Weekend: A discussion about education....

Someone left a comment on yesterday's post that really got me thinking.

Here's the comment: I dropped out when I was 15. That would have been a Bad Decision for most people, but for me it was absolutely the best thing I could have done. I can't even think about my school days anymore. If it's not PTSD, it's pretty close to it.

This makes such sense to me that I just had to write a bit more about it.

Many people, including my ex-husband, have such an inherent intelligence that they're quite capable of learning whatever they need to learn academically that there's no need to keep them forced into an environment that creates complete unhappiness.

When I look back on high school, not trying to be funny as I was yesterday, I see a mass social control movement. The majority of our experience had very little to do with academics. It had very little to do with learning. It was socialization. Cultural training.

In my own case, I think I would have needed some structure to keep me on track but the high school experience itself, I could have done without. There's no question in my mind that I would have done much better academically if I hadn't been surrounded by all the group dynamics.

Yet I thrived in college and did very well in all of my classes.

There are some people who simply don't do well in a structured environment. If anything, it completely stifles their desire to learn. Being one of them, I can't help but think there should be other alternatives, even beyond homeschooling. Home study? Self-study?

I'd just be curious to hear what others have to say.

If your child wanted to learn on his or her own, would you support that? Do you think it might have been the right choice for you? Please feel free to .. um.. say something! :)




slouching mom said...

I'm not sure... It wouldn't be my first choice, because I think there's something pretty important about having a kid in with other kids, as painful as it can be.

But if my child were chronically and desperately unhappy in school, I'd certainly consider alternatives.

Julie Pippert said...

I have had several friends remove their children (usually at about the tween age, actually) from school and I have watched those children thrive.

There are a variety of methods of learning in a variety of environments these days: Montesorri, charter schools, alternative schools, professional and skill based schools, unlearning, homeschooling, and duh a big one I used to drive past daily that is another funky style but can't think of the name. Call it sinus headache and no coffee.

Of course, access and money are two major components.

I'd send my daughter to a wonderful local alternative school. If I had a spare $20,000 lying around.

So, that's why public and homeschooling are the two most likely. Free.

And homeschooling gets a bad rap as isolating kids. Not so.

School is not the only place for socialization and sometime the lessons are more destructive than constructive. In that case, yes, I'd remove my child from a school.

On the other hand, I'd want to make sure it was right, and didn't carry a darker underlying meaning, such as quit and hide when the going gets tough.

I'm not sure I learned all that much in high school; not sure it sunk in TBH, but also not sure much of it was taught well.

I learned FAR more in college when I was (a) more willing and able, (b) knowledge was more accessible, (c) teachers were much higher caliber than I had ever experienced before.

So I agree: some people can do well.


Things in the US require not intelligence alone, but also a degree (or more). This is part of the going along to get along, but also I think that college was really valuable to me.

jen said...

it's a mixed bag, isn't it. i was not popular and suffered much social wounding as did so many of us, and yet without the structure i am not sure how much i would have forced myself to do.

if M wanted to do something alternative, i would listen. i would try and see it from her perspective and weigh the pros and cons. but i'll have to ultimately wait and see how she chooses to deal with things and then how in turn, i also need to deal with things. ambiguous, sure. but am not sure what else to do.

thailandchani said...

SM, I think you're right in one regard: We do have to know how to get along with other people.. but I really do question exactly how much forced interaction is valuable. At what point does it become destructive?


Julie, I agree. I have a friend who homeschooled and she has the most lovely, well-behaved and well-adjusted children I've ever met. They all went to college and have created lives for themselves that are satisfying and fulfilling.

She would tell you that the reason for that is that she was able to teach her children as individuals. They all had different learning styles, attention spans and so on.

Here's an example: her son could only sit still for a certain period of time, so rather than chastising him for inattention, she'd send him out to play basketball for half an hour or so. When he came back, he was ready to study again.

Money and class are always issues in this culture. That's why empowerment (as much as I hate that term) needs to be in place for parents and children alike.

(By the way, in the interest of being fair and balanced, Thailand is jumping the shark in this regard, too.)


Jen, that sounds like the most logical way to do it. Again, it's treating her as an individual, looking at her thoughts, her inherent traits.. and then coming up with a choice that will work for her.

Pain is just unnecessary sometimes, regardless of the admonition to "toughen up" .. I can't see forcing it. Yeah.. maybe we'll end up with a society of soft-hearted, tender and gentle people.

Would that be so bad? :)




Anonymous said...

I lost credit in most of my classes because of poor attendance in 10th and 11th grade. I could not tolerate the structure or the social situations and I lost myself in a bottle or a bag. In senior year, I got my act together and could have graduated that December, just one extra semester, but when I appealed the loss of credit in one class (due to tardiness) and didn't get it back, I dropped out and took my GED. I felt that, given my history, the fact that I actually attended and was passing my classes that semester, they could have reinstated credit in that one class - I mean, lateness versus never showing up because I was out drinking and taking drugs? Give a kid a break.

I worked for a year, then attended Community College for a year to earn the credits needed to transfer to University. My GPA in college was 3.8.

If my child had a problem in school, I would definitely consider home schooling or an alternate school. The small classroom size is one of the main reasons we pay to send Fiona to Catholic school.

Emily said...

OK -- I am of two minds. As a former high school teacher, I think there is a great deal of classroom learning that goes on through the classroom dynamics. Group work, projects, discussion. I hated much of the social element of high school, but I think I learned a lot about how to play the social game.

However, I had a student who killed himself to avoid school. He was a school phobic.

I think I would hope my kid would stick it out in school, but I would also not want to push him over the edge.

thailandchani said...

De, I'm not sure how to say this except that your GPA in college just proves my point.. that high school is destructive for some people. The fact that they wouldn't return the class credit for "tardiness", rather than look at the overall picture of who you are and your specific needs is even more powerful ammunition.

You should have been supported rather than punished.

For some people, a GED is really the best bet. I wish they'd had it when I was in school. I would have gone that route, too.


Emily, that's the scary part. When people stop listening to kids, not taking them seriously, the exactly results you mentioned can occur. That poor kid! I'm curious... did he put out a lot of warning signals before finally doing it?

"The social game".. well, I could rant about that, but I'll hold back. :)




Anonymous said...

I wrote a little bit more about my experiences over on my blog. It was such a miserable time in my life that I couldn't force myself to dredge up many specifics.

It's not the best post I've ever written, but it does expand a bit on the comment I left yesterday.

Catherine said...

I so agree with this, and my experience was quite like yours I think. Yet...isn't that socialization important too? Or, if not, we need to learn social intelligence somewhere, and if not at school then elsewhere. That's the riddle I just cannot solve. Any ideas?

I think the self study goes beyond high school. When I got my MA I thought to myself - "Wow - I'm not doing anymore reading/writting/learning than I do on my own; the only difference is that I'm paying a lot of money, and getting a degree." So...does that mean that the degree really symbolizes the money, not the learning?

Take now for example, and my self-study of world religions. I'm reading primary and secondary sources, visiting actual places of worship, interacting with actual devotees - I'm so aware that when its all done, I'll easily have an MA worth of understanding. Yet, no would will "credit" me, so the knowledge won't open any door for me.


painted maypole said...

I struggled through parts of HS, to be sure, and wished so badly that I could graduate early (I was smarter than half those kids heading off to college, even if I was younger. Why did i have to wait?) but I'm glad I stuck it out. I learned a lot of social stuff in HS that I needed to learn. But if my daughter needs to explore alternatives, I would be willing to check it out, because there are certainly different things that work for different people.

Laurie said...

I had fun in high school, but I have to say I learned a lot more in college. My son didn't have the best high school experience, but he graduated top of his class, so I guess there were positive aspects to it. If he had wanted to be home schooled, I would have been supportive of it, but he chose to stick it out. It wasn't that much fun being a gay teenager in a town of 1,000 but he handled it.

meno said...

I have offered to let Em drop out of HS and go to a local commumity college to get her GED. She doesn't really want to do that, but i think she likes knowing that it would be okay with me if she did.

flutter said...

I also dropped out, and whenever I say that it is always met with shock. But honestly, for me, it was the best thing I could have done. I did so after 18, got my GED and have furthered my education. But, highschool was, in short, the worst period in time, in my life.

Cecilieaux said...

I was up early morning yesterday and was the first commenter for once -- but my comment never got through. So here are my two centavos ...

1. "If your child wanted to learn on his or her own, would you support that?"

There were some folk in the 70s (remember A.S. Neill?) who said this was the way to go. My two boys, now just barely adults, never had to be told to study, although one used to forget to hand in the work!

However ...

2. "Do you think it might have been the right choice for you?"

Having gone to secondary schooling abroad, I never had even a single elective -- I dreamed of that! Yet I realize that I did get exposure to subjects such as chemistry and algebra, which I tried hard not to learn and would not have chosen on my own. It's amazing how often the bits I picked up then on these subjects turn out to be of some use for either understanding the world or simple things like computer programming.

One thing no one has mentioned is how absurdly deficient U.S. secondary schools generally are. This is one of the few advanced countries in which people will insist that Brazil is the capital of Argentina or (as seen on Jay Leno) not know from what country we declared independence. These are yawning gaps in which high school failed.


mitzh said...

Hmmm, I always believe that my daughter's happiness is what truly matters to me..

I would weigh all the positive and negative effects of her decision, but I know that in our child's life there will come a time that we need to step back and let them decide. But always let them know that you are there for guidance..

I dropped out during my 1st year in college, I wasn't really happy with my course. But there are moments that I feel, I wanted to go back to school but am waiting for the right time when I feel that I'm really gonna be into it...

Tabba said...

It's interesting you bring this up. Because for the past two years, I have been thinking about kids like Connor - and others out there - who are just wired differently, or just don't feel they fit into mainstream period. How they need a school or an environment where they can excell.
A form of alternative school, if you will.
The idea is merely a sappling of a thought. I have no real concrete ideas about it other than it should exist.

I think if Connor were old enough to tell me he wanted to try homeschooling or something alternative, I would certainly support it.
Education is important, yes.
But I certainly don't feel that it is imperative for my children to be manufactured into robots or Lindsay Lohans and Britney Spears.

Carla said...

I love these interesting topics. I agree, there are many ways of learning and classrooms are not always conducive to good learning environments. Needs of children are so diverse, so it's crazy for us to think that one method would work for everybody or that one person in a classroom that's overcrowded and underfunded could meet everyone's needs. I like the Montessori philosophy for teens...that at that age they are really looking for self identity and provide them with real life experiences in the world. Of course most Montessori schools unfortunately (at least around here) stop at the elementary level. On the home schooling front, I think the fact that so many parents are away of the importance of socialization that they go out of their way to create those sorts of opportunities for their children. As an educator, I have to say that I have seen good things in many methods and know that some children will thrive wherever they are, but also recognize that for some children, finding the right place for them that meets their needs at that time can make all the difference. My big beef with education in general is that I believe that we should be teaching children how to think for themselves and question rather than just regurgitating facts.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I dropped in and out of college numerous times because I couldn't stand having to study things that didn't interest me for the privilege of learning those that did.

Much of the structured curriculum bored me, and I didn't care enough about getting a degree at the time.

I was capable of intense study when captivated by a subject, but absolutely incapable of doing what bored me, even if it would have been easy.

My family considers me a waste of a high IQ, I think, but everyone is more than a number on the Stanford-Binet test.

I always encouraged my children to follow their dreams, and they all went to graduate school after college.

MsLittlePea said...

hmmm. This is something to think about. The social aspect of high school is a little distracting. I won't say it was a bad experience for me but it wasn't a good one either. I would've made better grades if not for all the social distractions. College was just as social but there was less pressure to drive a certain model car or wear the right clothes-by that time I guess I didn't care.

If my hypothetical kid(s) wanted to learn at home I would consider it. It depends on what is best for the individual. I learn more in small groups or with a little guidance just reading by myself. As far as math though, I need serious structured lessons....

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