Posted by: chrisdavis | November 2, 2010

Response to Joyce’s question: “What do we do about it?”

Joyce. I have considered this question for years and here are some initial thoughts:

As we know, public school (as well as some governmental systems) was spawned from a 19th century philosophy of the nature of humanity which is now largely (though not completely) discredited. But, since mankind no longer has a cultural memory of things having once been done differently, we continue along a familiar path until enough people are willing to say “something is wrong here”.

I believe we are now in a time, historically, when men & women who are recognized in the field of education are beginning to say “we have a problem”.  Some, like Sir Ken Robinson, are actually willing to say “public education IS the problem”.

Unfortunately, we have to go through this process before we are willing to enter into an honest dialog to figure out what to DO about the problem. I wish the educational systems would simply ask old-time homeschoolers, because we are years ahead of them regarding these issues.

If we can agree that, for most families, public schooling is not going away, then we have to ask “if public education is the problem, can public education change to become the answer?” Personally, I don’t think so for the following reasons: 1) unwillingness/unawareness of parents to take responsibility for raising their own children which demands that governments do it for them; 2) financial constraints facing governments which demands ever greater efficiency; 3) the constant need to evaluate which demands conformity; and 4) national pride.

Ken Robinson speaks eloquently about individual creativity; yet, we cannot have it both ways: we want creativity (which requires that children be treated as the individuals they are) and we demand efficiency & conformity (which requires that children be treated generically). These seem to be mutually exclusive goals.

One discussion that must be entered into is “what is really NECESSARY for children to know/do by the time they are adults?” Almost daily I watch children being required to learn volumes of information that 1) everyone knows is irrelevant; 2) is considered of equal value with everything else being taught; 3) does not leave time for children to learn many of the skills that really ARE necessary; and 4) robs children of time they could be spending becoming skilled in the specific (read “individual”) gifting(s) God has already put within each person.

If anyone would like to add to this discussion, I welcome your thoughts.



  1. As a former Christian school teacher of high school math, lately all I want to do is publicly apologize to my former students. I truly believe that, although I was good at my job and I really cared for my students, I did them a disservice.

    Suffice it to say, my views on education have RADICALLY changed since having my own children, and especially in the last few years when I have been studying God’s Word about His plan for education. His plan bears little resemblance to most of what is considered “education” today. I am still working in out in my mind, but my “homeschool” sure looks different than it did even last year, let alone six years ago when we started.

    • Thanks for the comment, Justine

  2. How on earth did I miss this? BTW- Jay has dubbed a new phrase….The Davisonian Approach (in regards to homeschooling.)

    I’m sure you’re thrilled with that.

    This is fabulous as usual Chris and I’m going to post this link on my FB page. 🙂

  3. Last night’s local news featured a story profiling a new ruling by the Tennessee Department of Education. Now, not only must prospective teachers prove they know their own subject, they must also prove their ability to write alternative lessons plans showing how they will adjust their technique so students with various learning styles and abilities will learn the subject.

  4. Such good stuff, wonderful thoughts when you first hear them, much-needed reminders when you’re walking a unique homeschooling journey alone.

    I have a question… my son’s passion, besides God, is badminton and he wants to go pro, which isn’t a great way to make a living at best. he also loves to write and is gifted at teaching as well as enjoying gardening. he talks about becoming a badminton trainer or sports person. how do you prioritize when your child has multiple interests, many of which are not seemingly related? Do you encourage them to focus on one thing or to do multiple things? He’s 16.

    thanks, chris!

    • Cynth. Good questions! I know it seems that these different interests have no common thread to them; but, trust me, they do. What is common among them may not be evident at present as you are only looking at the obvious (what could badminton possibly have in common with gardening?!). I don’t know what they have in common, but there is something in your son’s spirit that ties together certain elements of each. Eventually he may end up doing something totally unrelated (but it will only SEEM unrelated)

      I would allow my sons to go in every direction they had an interest (and I did!). Some things will drop off as life forces your son to choose among various interests. After all, there is only so much time, money or availability of transportation. With each of my sons, I found that a passion for one thing was only preparing them for something else, but fulfilling the initial interest was necessary to get to what they finally landed on. One of my sons did keep the same interest from early childhood (from actor/performer/dancer to professional actor/performer/dancer); another moved into a related interest (from actor/performer/dancer into professional film production); while a third moved from rocket designer as a young teen to high-end web designer as an adult.

      I am intrigued with your situation and would appreciate your keeping me informed as to how things turn out.

      And, thanks for the question.


  5. My frustrations with the educational system are varied, but the biggest one is this: the system doesn’t want to change.

    Another big frustration: people refuse to admit the obvious. I can mention the absurdity of doctors having to learn literature interpretation and some people come back with a pat answer, “It is good to be well-rounded.” To me, this is an often repeated phrase that is given very little thought before saying it.

    Two of my biggest pet peeves as far as subjects go are higher math and literature studies.

    1. Many people do not use the higher math in their lives or their jobs. Maybe basic algebra is used, but some people have pointed out that many people could find a way to get an answer without ever having studied algebra formally. While we know this is true in a great number of cases, people will defend the teaching of calculus and trigonometry and college algebra in order to produce well rounded adults. I am not anti-math, in fact I like algebra. I also realize that there are many professions where higher math is used.

    2. The ability to read can be measured without reading classic literature. I can enjoy some classics, but I think a lot of young people have other things they could enjoy reading about (especially boys). Why is fiction so highly rated and non-fiction given a second place rating in many public school English classes?

    Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts.

    • Cindy. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I share much of what you have said. To me, algebra should not be taught as a math subject at all, but as a Thinking Skill because it introduces the mind to ways to solve problems no other discipline provides. And, since math is really the use of short cuts and “tricks” to solve real-world “word” problems, every time math is presented, it should be tied to the type of word problems it was invented to solve.

      Classical literature could be introduced so individuals know it exists; after that, it is up to that individual to decide if it is worthy of his/her time.

      I am not sure institutional education refuses to change. Rather, I believe it simply cannot.

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