Two posts in one day, I must have too much time on my hands.
Tragically, our schools once again become a place not unlike a war zone, as another child decides that violence against those who disciplined him was somehow the perfect retribution. This afternoon, after suspending a student for driving his car on the school football field and track, a school administrator was killed and another seriously injured as the student calmly returned to the campus with his police detective father's weapon and proceeded to open fire.
All the security guards, metal detectors, locker searches and mandatory drug testing in the world will not change our schools. All it does is cause them to closely resemble jails, not institutions of academic excellence. Couple this with the relentless bullying of students who are deemed social outcasts for being different, and what you have is a broken system, one in which it seems virtually impossible for America's children to be safe, let alone educated decently.
What have we come to, as a society, when those in authority in our schools have to fear for their very lives if they discipline a student for vandalizing school property with their vehicles?
What have we come to, as a society, when our children are targeted and harassed at school mercilessly to the point that they are driven to suicide?
When are we going to see that mass education has become akin to prison camps?
Our children are dehumanized in every possible way. They are numbered, labeled, categorized, evaluated and marginalized. They have to ask permission to get a drink of water, permission to go to the bathroom, are herded into middle school and high school classes beginning at age 11 with teachers who teach upwards of 125 students a day and our children's names are often barely known let alone does any teacher truly know how our children learn or what their strengths and weaknesses are. Heck, why don't we just brand them like cattle, stick an ear tag in them, and have them belly up to the food trough?? Then we throw them in hallways and bathrooms where the strongest prey on the weakest, and wonder why they finally "break".
School campuses are no longer safe. Period. We need much smaller school communities, class sizes cut at least in half, and we need our children to feel like they are not just a number. Our kids need to attend schools that do not have environments resembling penal institutions. We need teachers who really know our kids and not just for 42 minutes each day...our kids need to be with teachers for years at a time so relationships of trust and understanding can be created. We need parents engaged and involved in the education of their children, parents who send their kids to school having been lovingly read to for several years and who attend school functions, and don't see the school as a free babysitting service. We need children to feel loved and supported, we need teachers to feel strengthened and backed up.
Oh, we need so much.
Is it any wonder that just today, ironically, the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) released a study showing that there are now over two million homeschooled students in the United States, a figure equal to 4% of all K-12 students? Want to know what that figure was just 30 years ago, prior to the beginnings off the onslaught of school campus violence? 20,000...a mere 20,000 used to homeschool and now that number has grown to 2,000,000. Doesn't that tell someone something? Shouldn't someone be paying attention to this?
You all know we are not typical homeschoolers. We are homeschooling due to extenuating circumstances and school violence was not our main reason for pulling our kids, nor are we homeschooling for religious reasons, which is why a large number of homeschoolers find themselves educating at home. We are sort of the oddballs, finding ourselves at an unexpected turning point last year and making the very difficult and overwhelmingly challenging decision to become home educators. Our kids didn't fit the norm, and we feared they would sink rather than swim. We also knew we had a long road ahead in terms of bonding as a family, and felt this might help better facilitate building those relationships.
But in the words of my wise son which I posted just a few days ago, Matthew said in response to missing public school: "I don't think I am meant to live that kind of life, Mommy. I'll never fit in since I don't care about sports, I don't even like football or basketball! And you know Kenny and Josh are like me that way too. I don't want to feel forced to do the things kids in school do or not fit in." Sad, but at 10 years old when he was pulled from public school he already felt he didn't fit in at all. I wonder now, if we were ever to return him to middle or high school, how much worse would those feelings of alienation be? And what about Kenny, shuttled along and shoved ahead no matter how far behind he fell, no matter how he didn't fit in maturity-wise with his 12 year old peers, no matter how he was teased for his speech or his cleft scars...what would he be like in a few more years? Would he be one beaten in the hall ways? Or would any of our children be the ones who finally had enough and turned to violence to resolve what the adults couldn't manage to handle?
Sure...it would never be my kid. We all think that. We all think our kids wouldn't be the ones with the "kick me" sign on the back of their jackets. We all think our kids wouldn't be the ones whose heads were shoved in the toilet in the bathrooms during lunch break. We also all think our kids would NEVER be capable of beating other children near to death, ridiculing them, or slaughtering them while in their desks minding their own businesses. Not our children, never our children.
But when you place them in an environment that breeds contempt...contempt for the humanity of the student as well as the teacher...you end up with results you never would imagine.
Folks, we need to rethink how we educate our kids, and we need to do it now. Our institutions do not work, they don't work academically, they don't work emotionally, they crush spirits....those of our young people and the adults charged with educating them. Sure, you have the cream of the crop who rise up and manage to not only survive but thrive...but what about the remaining 85% of the students? What about them?
I might be way off base, and I know it. This is more a "stream of consciousness" post than anything else. It is not a "My way is best...everyone needs to homeschool" sort of thought process going on here. The fact is, homeschooling IS hard and I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. Please don't interpret that as me saying "I am better than you because I homeschool". It is just an honest and frank statement acknowledging that it is hard...stinking hard, despite what so many say about it being easier than you think. So far, I haven't found that to be true and doubts assail daily, but I also see that for our odd little family, it is probably the best solution out of all the options available. We can't afford private school and public schools can't easily accommodate kids like ours coming from such unusual learning deficits, lacking in life experiences and being slipped into the system at older ages. I also think public ed can work and overall has done a good job of educating the masses to a remarkable degree, after all, Dominick and I are products of the public schools and though I know we could be better educated we also could be far worse off. We can read, write and calculate reasonably well and can function decently in the world around us.
Times have changed, however, and our system of education has not altered one whole heck of a lot over the course of the past 100 years. When we moved from the one room schoolhouse to huge institutions of education housing hundreds of students, all at relatively the same ages and stages of life, the very fabric of education changed, and not for the better. We need to rethink it all, we need to re-envision what our children need to succeed and blossom, and we need to be honest about what is not working. Then we need to be willing to fund it. Not an easy task, is it? But completely necessary.
I want all our children to be safe, and I don't feel that just because our kids are "out" for now we can thumb our noses and say "See? Y'all need to do what we did and your problems are solved!". I don't want kids beaten for being gay...or wearing glasses...or being Asian...or wearing uncool shoes. I don't want kids so angry and dejected that they feel the only solution is to kill themselves, or to kill others.
We need to do something. We need to do it now.
Or literally, more of our children will die.