Craig’s Blog: Schools are time wasters

Schools are time wasters

When I talk to people about home education, you simply cannot help but compare and contrast with the alternate product, the one most people think to use first: the state schools. One point I make is that they are horrible wasters of time.

I said for years that you could accomplish in 2 hours of focussed work at home what would take you 2 weeks to accomplish at school. Now, I have been known to resort to hyperbole on occasion. And so I would wonder, now and again, whether I was perhaps exaggerating a bit when I said this. Could I actually make a good case to support this accusation?

Please understand that I did not make this particular claim in a vacuum: I had good reasons. First off, you just know that one can do so much more in a one-on-one situation (like home education) than in a group scenario (like the classroom). Second, we fostered children for many years and heard all kinds of stories about what goes on within those hallowed halls of learning. And don’t forget, I spent 17 years of my life in state-subsidised classrooms, from Kindergarten through to gaining a BA degree. I know very well what goes on.

One of the best stories ever was the mum I met here in Palmerston North when I was a door to door salesman. She considered herself a dummy: she had to leave school at age 14 and never did any good anyway. Well, when her 10-year-old daughter got glandular fever or some such thing that forced her to stay at home for three months, the mum had no idea how her daughter would keep up. Sure, the school gave her some text books and said they’d more or less cover this and that, but the girl was ill and the mum was a “dummy.” Hoping for the best, they did a little bit in the text books each day, not much as the girl was ill. So when she went back to school after three months, the mum discovered she was a full month ahead of the rest of her class! Not surprisingly the mum, a big burly woman with a loud voice, demanded of the teacher what on earth they do each day in the classroom. She did not receive a satisfactory answer, but nothing changed either.

Anyway, when our daughter Charmagne was about 15, I asked if she’d like to spend a couple days at a school, just to see what it was like. She was horrified! But I mentioned it would be like a field trip, that she’d need to go with a friend and just tag along from class to class, and all with the permission of the school authorities, of course. No, she was not going to be enrolled! So she relaxed and saw the fun side of it. She got all the permissions and organised to meet with friends as they got off the bus as it arrived at the school, a once-private Protestant church school that had now integrated. While waiting for her friends, she, her siblings and I looked at the moon still in the sky, and I told them a bit about earth rotations, moon phases and the like. Then the bus came, her friends appeared and we waved goodbye.

At 3:15 that after noon when I picked her up, she just let out a weary sigh. “Dad,” she said, “I used to think you were exaggerating when you said one could accomplish in 2 hours at home what would take 2 weeks to do at school. But now I think you have been understating the case! I learned more in those few minutes talking about the moon this morning than I learned in all of the rest of the day. I just didn’t believe it was possible to waste so much time in a single day. But I do now.”

I rest my case.

4 thoughts on “Craig’s Blog: Schools are time wasters

  1. Hmm, When well over 90% of the first world population go to school and have for over 100 yrs or so, I can’t see how anything you say makes long term sense.
    The bulk of our world is made up of a skilled and unskilled work force, this has been supplied from the schools that you say don’t teach anything. Well for better or worse something must go in and stay in or I wouldn’t be able to type this post and your dentist wouldn’t be able to work on your teeth, or the chick packing your groceries wouldn’t be able to process your food order.
    Gross over generalisations don’t help, and because you are already talking to a converted audience then I imagine what you are saying will be meet with a “here,here”.
    Schools are in desperate need of changing with the 21st century and this is starting to happen, but to say you learn nothing, perhaps you should rephrase it to come more inline with the truth, eg: schools can be good and bad places, they produce the bulk of our workforce, our leaders, our criminals and everything in between, they are under funded, and will always exist for better or worse as alot of people, especially the rich who thrive in them the most, see them as a way to a better life, so do third world countries, ever heard of the struggling mexican doing 3 jobs so his kids can go to college etc, many minority groups value education and the system.
    Home education is a viable and effective option for some families, and it is not always effective either, as it is up to the parents and children to make the effort to foster a love of learning, something as teacher and home educator I see absent in some home school families in my area.
    To school or home school, christian, non-christian, there is still no guarantee for a child to reach their potential happiness, and work and financial satisfaction.
    Home schooling is not the best way, only another way that an education can be got.
    Get of the horse and acknowledge their is more than one path to a destination

  2. Gidday Alice,

    Your comments are interesting, but they were obviously not written in response to my article. You accuse at one point like this: “but to say you learn nothing, perhaps you should rephrase it to come more inline with the truth.” Alice, I never said anywhere in the article that school inmates learn nothing. I told a couple of stories that illustrated that they learn a lot less than they could.

    Schooling is one thing; getting an education is something entirely different. You wrote as if they were the same, a bit of an overstatement. But you really outdid yourself with the last statement about there being more than one path to a destination. Please: there are hardly two home educators to be found who have the same two destinations in mind; and the state schooling institutions have in mind a destination to which I will never submit my children, unless it be over my dead body.

    Most of us hold to the demonstrably false belief that the schools are there to teach children the 3 Rs: Reading, Writing and Arithmetic. Not so. The latest national curriculum statement talks of “Values”, “Key Competencies” and “Learning Areas”. Reading and Writing are not listed in any of these three lists. For the past twenty years, ever since Dr Lockwood Smith was Minister of Education, the Min of Ed documents have been less concerned with imparting knowledge of academic subjects but very much concerned with imparting “attitudes” and “values”. This latest Curriculum Statement has finally placed Values ON THE SAME LEVEL of importance as Learning Areas (things like English, Maths, Science) and AHEAD of Learning Areas in order of presentation. And these official Values, to be inculcated in compulsory classrooms, include stuff like “Diversity” and “Ecological sustainability.” Give me a break! This is obvious proof that certain special interest groups were very prominent at the table.

    The inmates at public schools do learn stuff, yes, Alice, for sure: it’s just that I don’t want my children learning that stuff.

  3. When you refer to children as inmates there is a strong sense of superiority coming from you.
    I hardly think the top scholars at Christ college or any other well to do school that is going to feed its students in to our universities to be our doctors, vets etc would agree. Schools are giving more that a luke warm deal, and you can learn just as much in them as with a home education, you are focused on the stats that talk about failures and govt statements to be manipulated by media and people in the hate camp like you.
    I will repeat again most of our work force is made up of people (who you speak down about) who did get a useable education in these places. I will also repeat again, I regularly see home school parents not doing a very good job of giving their charges an education either, yes the theory is you can learn quicker 1-1 as apposed to a group 0f 30 but the homeschoolers I come into contact with regularly have no idea what they are doing, offering a diet of american biblical curricular and controled field trips that only have one view, and the kids come across as ferral and not to bright. (I have been home eding for 5 yrs in a large city). Alot of energy is spent on these mainly women trying to make their world insular for christians and unwelcoming to secular minorities. Some are so bend on creating a mono culture and an inward way of eductional thinking.
    Do you look down at everyone who had a school education or are currently having one. How do you then operate in the world as there is so few home educators in this country the only way you can say these things is to a converted audience as I said earlier. I disagree with you saying no two home eders paths are alike, what I see is most home eders being christian and all going along the same path of “ours is best”.
    You don’t want your kids apart of it, thats fine but you shouldn’t be putting others down for making the choice to be part of education in schools.
    It is your beliefs, values & morals that have lead you to home school first and foremost before the 3 RS too. The language you use is not even part of my world. In my view I posted and stated, yet you use such words as “I accused”.
    It is a bigger problem and not just up to schools to shape our future, there is plenty wrong with our selfish and prejudice society.
    Parents don’t parent well anymore and family units have been eroding for decades, yet home ed is still not the choice for most, for loads of reasons as you know, one being financial, and some are very happy with schools and so on.
    It is only the white middle christian class that I have been exposed to for over 90% of my home ed journey, yet many christians I know love schools, choose schools and their children are happy and thriving, perhaps one of them will have to deal with you in your old age as a specialist in his/her field, personally you are not someone I would want to have to be near as I can feel the negative vibes through your words on my computer.
    Oh and while our kids in schools who are our future are busy trying to learn about how to safe the planet I supose you and your lot us sitting back in comfort without a greeny care in the world secure in the fact that God won’t pull the plug and save it at the last minute.

  4. Gidday Alice,

    I guess we’re both prone to over-generalisations and shooting from the lip. You say I’m in the hate camp. That’s not very nice, and I object to that. In addition, it is not so. I recognise there are marvellous people in the school system slogging their guts out for students, missionaries in a very hostile environment. Good on them! I have also fielded phone calls for 20 years from parents who have suffered abuse and scorn from other teachers who laugh at the idea that parents can home educate, whose children have suffered the most outrageous abuse from other students and also from teachers and principals.

    NZ may be full of workers and professionals who came through the state schooling system: but to assume that what we see today is to be regarded as the benchmark or as normal and OK is, in my opinion, a mistake. Socially and morally NZ is in a mess, and I submit that the state schooling system is a major contributor to the malaise, both because of it’s stated secular curriculum ideals and because of the atomising and dumbing down effect it has had on family life.

    And making gross generalisations about home educators being dumb and incompetent is…well, it’s making gross generalisations, something you indicated you didn’t like about my writing.

    When you are forced by law to go somewhere for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 9 months a year for 10 years…that is sufficiently close to prisons for me to use the word “inmate.” Please tell me, what on earth is natural or good about that? Do people really “choose” to send their children to schools or do they even know that alternatives exist? I’ve seen the parents toasting and congratulating each other in the school parking lot that school holidays are over and they can dump the kids off at school again. Dr John Clark, Professor of Education here at Massey U says the number one reason we have schools in NZ is as baby sitting services. This culture is so thoroughly anti-children, the evidence hardly registers any more.

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