July 27, 2005

GRAB A BUCKET AND MOP (via Luciferous):

Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs: Schools With Good Teachers Are Best-Suited to Shape Young Minds (Dave Arnold, NEA.org)

There's nothing like having the right person with the right experience, skills and tools to accomplish a specific task. Certain jobs are best left to the pros, such as, formal education.

There are few homeowners who can tackle every aspect of home repair. A few of us might know carpentry, plumbing and, let’s say, cementing. Others may know about electrical work, tiling and roofing. But hardly anyone can do it all.

Same goes for cars. Not many people have the skills and knowledge to perform all repairs on the family car. Even if they do, they probably don’t own the proper tools. Heck, some people have their hands full just knowing how to drive.

So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children? You would think that they might leave this -- the shaping of their children’s minds, careers, and futures -- to trained professionals. That is, to those who have worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years! Teachers!

(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is head custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in Southern Illinois.)

Does he think we can't clean our own homes either?

Posted by Orrin Judd at July 27, 2005 10:33 PM

OJ: are you home schooling the kids?

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at July 27, 2005 10:56 PM

Getting lectured about education by the janitor.

If teachers "know enough about every academic subject", after having "worked steadily at their profession for 10, 20, 30 years", then why are they so afraid to take annual certification exams ?

Should be a lead-pipe cinch for these paragons of pedagogy.

The truth is that most teaching positions call for, at best, semi-skilled workers, and experience in the field beats college training by a country mile.

Not all children, nor all parents, are cut out for home-schooling, but for reasons that have nothing to do with the supposed ignorance of the parents.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at July 28, 2005 12:38 AM

Why would anyone trust the "shaping of their children's minds" to people they do not know and if the did know them would most likely disagree with their values?

Posted by: tgn at July 28, 2005 12:47 AM

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects." -- Robert Heinlein

In other words, people should be capable of educating their own children, otherwise how did our civilisation arise and why isn't it doomed?

Posted by: jd watson at July 28, 2005 5:56 AM

It's not Arnold himself, but the fact that the NEA thought this was worth posting on their website.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at July 28, 2005 7:34 AM

Lots of my friends home school their kids. They get all their work done in three, maybe four hours. They have time for several hours of music practice and some attend Mass every day. And most of them are years ahead of other kids their age in most indicators. One 10 year old girl read 10 draft chapters of a book of mine in 15 minutes the other day with full comprehension -- and her native language is French!

Of course, they don't watch T.V., either. Maybe that is a factor.

Posted by: Randall Voth at July 28, 2005 8:47 AM

Thought the crew here would find this piece tasty. The morbid cult of professionalism is deeply embedded in our land. We think it normal to have the state license barbers, after all. Home schooling is therefore a scandal, not to mention a threat to a rent-seeking economic faction, hence the diatribe. BTW OJ, be careful about your postscript, if the SEIU, "Justice for janitors", guys tumble on it homemaking will be "professionalized."

Posted by: Luciferous at July 28, 2005 9:11 AM

I don't know about Illinois. But the best job in a NYC public school is 'Head Custodian.' They are more highly paid than principals, do less work, and have less supervision. There isn't a head custodian in NYC who doesn't have a landscaping and snow removal business on the side using Board of Ed equipment to keep his costs down and who doesn't have a spouse and at least one kid on the payroll in a similar no show position. NYC Head Custodians also have their own drunk farm in Upstate New York, when they need to go dry out.

If they have a similar gravy train in Illinois, no wonder Mr. Arnold is so exorcised. I'd be grasping at every straw on the planet if I could to keep that sinecure.

I won't bother discussing the low level of actual knowledge that most high school subjects demand, or that most high school teachers have. Oftimes, I'm asked by friends and acquaintances to help their teenage kids with their math homework, and I find that the stuff that their teachers have failed to explain over days, I can explain in an understandable fashion in about 5 minutes. That's not because I'm so brilliant or such a great pedagogue, but because I use it every day in real life situations. But then, since I have no teaching credits, I can't get certified (or as they say in education circles 'certificated' I kid you not) I can't be permitted to teach in a public school.

Also, whenever I think of homeschooling, I always wonder what a pleasure it must be to learn something new alongside your kids. You both get to enjoy the discovery together. And you also get to share the struggle that some learning entails. If I homeschooled, one thing I would absolutely do, is try to learn Ancient Greek alongside my kids.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 9:21 AM

bart -- several of the kids I know are learning Latin.

Posted by: Randall Voth at July 28, 2005 9:27 AM

So, why would some parents assume they know enough about every academic subject to home-school their children?

Because they have at least a high school education. So they already know the material that is being taught. We've been sold a bill of goods by the teaching "profession" that teaching is a specialized skill requiring a degree in education. All that is needed is content knowledge of the subject to be taught. Good teaching is just good communication between the teacher and student. It helps if you have a vested interest in the success of the student. A parent who goes through the trouble to home school their child already shows a level of commitment that will make them successful. Those who don't have that level of commitment will gladly hand off the responsibility to a public school.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 28, 2005 11:20 AM


The two problems I have with homeschooling are that some parents may not have their children's best interests at heart and that some may in fact be incompetent to teach them. There are people out there who may simply want to use their kids as slave labor, and there are some who might feel that since the times tables aren't in the Bible, there is no need to learn them.

However, both of those issues are addressed by requiring the kids to take some nationally recognized standardized exam as of some specified date in the year. It would be a simple matter for some Christian education group to get approval for its standardized tests if some parents were concerned about ideological bias. An accrediting agency would not want to run afoul of state legislatures in overwhelmingly GOP states. Similarly, it is my understanding that Catholic schools use their own standardized tests.


The withering away of the teaching of Latin is one of the hallmarks of our declining civilization. Try finding a public high school or a private one for that matter in the US that offers it.

Posted by: bart at July 28, 2005 1:41 PM

I'm not sure about other states, but in Minnesota home schooled children are required to demonstrate proficiency in core subjects via standardized tests. Parents also have to submit an education plan and have it approved. With such a requirement it would be easier for the lazy or incompetent parent to turn his kids over to the public school.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at July 28, 2005 3:32 PM

Heh. Growing up, we did all our own home repair, all our own car repair, and my brother and I just happened to be homeschooled through elementary school. Go figure.

Posted by: Timothy at July 28, 2005 5:26 PM