Friday, May 8, 2015

Parents: Stop Conforming!

Last year I wrote a blog about why I choose to homeschool. It was picked up by a national homeschool group and has now been seen by thousands of people across the country. Why? Because of my outstanding ability to create readable prose? No, not particularly. The theme struck a cord. 

Parents who are plugged into the lives of their kids are getting fed up. They're fed up of dropping their kids off at school in the morning and picking them up in the evening only to find they're not being taught what they should, they way they should, or as much as they should. 

Like most parents, once our oldest son came home from the hospital, I bought into the whole routine; public preK through 12th grade, then off to college. We bought a house in the best neighborhood we could so as to get the best public school we could (of course, we also bought into the notion that better neighborhoods had better performing schools), I'd drop the kids off at school at 8:30 am, pick them up at 3:00 pm and go about arranging my day during the hours they were there. 

Honestly, I spent hours and hours on the computer writing about the problems with public education for ROPE during the time my kids were in public school. In fact, I'm not sure how long it would have been - if ever - before I brought my kids home for school if my oldest son hadn't asked me in no uncertain terms to homeschool him!

In the end, it wasn't just my son's query that ended our time in state run education. My frustrations over a number of situations mounted and included
  • a very unsuccessful attempt to get our principal to adopt Saxon math over Common Core math, 
  • interacting with other parents through PTA and finding their concerns were not necessarily for the education of their children, but endless fundraising efforts for a gymnasium and more computers that made it appear they were getting a better education, and 
  • a horrible, unproductive and frustrating first grade Common Core Math year with my youngest son, 
I realized public education and I didn't have the same notion about what was educationally best for my kids and I pulled the last two out to school at home with their brother. 

My grandfather was born on the family farm at the turn of the last century in a clapboard house without electricity or running water. He died at 98, having witnessed a technology arc that spanned from the oil lamp to the internet. Once, Americans were people of great autonomy whose hard work generated accomplishments the kind of which my grandfather could never have dreamed. Such vast accomplishments were they in fact, that they themselves created a double-edged societal sword. From the turn of the last century forward, little by little, technology made life easier, healthier and safer. Little by little, Americans embraced that ease. The easier life became, the harder - and more unpopular - autonomy became, because it was hard work. Little by little, Americans gave more and more of their autonomy - their authority - to their government to accomplish certain functions on their behalf so they didn't have to spend the personal energy to do it for themselves. Little by little, the government took on more and more authority until it began, like Skynet, to create its own functions. 

Enter the federal government and the Department of Education. 

Please understand, I woke up to the abuses of my government before I ever began to scrutinize public schools, and once I did, I realized I'd been completely blind to what the Constitution said and how our Republican form of government should work. Consequently, I'm going to stop and explain these facts as simply as I can with bullet points in order to have a base upon which to finish the discussion:
  • the Founders of this country prized the concept of INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY among any other
  • they created our government to be a Constitutional Republic (NOT a Democracy) - Constitutional relating to the supreme law of the country, the Constitution, and Republic (as in Rome) because the full power of the country was vested in the PEOPLE who chose (voted for) fellow citizens to represent them in government in order to PROTECT INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY. 
  • the American Republic is a 3 branch system where citizen legislators craft law to PROTECT THE INDIVIDUAL LIBERTIES of the citizens they represent (legislative branch), the executive branch (president) ENFORCES these laws and the judicial branch (Supreme and lower courts) determine the Constitutionality of the laws made by the legislative branch.
  • the central government was to be very small and only be responsible for the enumerated powers - states were responsible for the rest - consequently, in the Constitutional Republic, the STATES had EVERY OTHER POWER unto themselves.
So, who has the power? THE INDIVIDUAL. Outside of that where does the power reside? THE STATE. Beyond that, where is the power for only those functions given it by the Constitution? THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. 

The federal Department of Education is a non-Constitutional entity created by Jimmy Carter in 1979. Until that date, states - as they should have been - solely controlled the education of their citizens (though federal education mandates existed prior, there were very few). Today, the IRS takes money from the pockets of state citizens and sends it to Washington, D.C. where a chunk is used to fund the DOE. Once the DOE has the money of citizens in its income column, it then sends money (funding) back out to the states IF the states agree to do certain things to get it. 

Where did the money go? THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. Who gets the money back (with strings)? THE STATE. To whom is the supposed benefit of this circuit? THE INDIVIDUAL. Is this not completely backward to the way the process should work in actuality?

For years now, ROPE has received emails such as the one below:
Dear Jenni,I'm writing to ask you a question about opting out my son from EOI this year. He is a freshman & should be taking Algebra I & Biology EOI. I know by opting him out he won't get a diploma from the school but wanted to ask you if after his 4yrs we can get his transcript for college. I'm waiting for a call from his High School about this but wanted to see if you had more insight on the matter.Thank you very much,
Why? Because more parents than ever are waking up to find that, while a portion of their income goes to pay for their children to be educated in public schools, these same schools have usurped their parental authority in favor of bureaucratic regulations that benefit the schools more than the individual student and they want it stopped. 

Yes, the state has the power to enact laws applying to public school through the legislature, however much of today's state laws are written to further federal law written to provide an unconstitutional DOE more power, further diminishing the autonomy of the parent. This is what Common Core was all about. I've written about this for years.

Today I posted on the ROPE Facebook page about the awful CDC questionnaire handed out to students in middle and high school without consent of parents that no child should be taking without specific parental consent. In addition, I wrote a blog last year about other issues surrounding the privacy of children in public schools that included this survey as well as information on a number of websites and programs being used in public schools about which parents should be aware. Yes, it can be hard to find out exactly what is happening in the classrom, but that is your charge as a parent in order to best guide your child. YOU - and by extension YOUR CHILD - are THE individual/s for whom the government works - including government education - works.

Fortunately, there are parents awaking to this situation who are also taking steps to reclaim the education of their children. As an example, there are vast testing 'opt out' movements all across the nation as parents become aware of how their children will be forevermore educationally pigeonholed by test results and how the tests themselves can accumulate personal data about students that is not secure. Home schooling is also on the rise in Oklahoma and across the country because of federally mandated testing and data collection to which schools, districts and the state continue to bow over their responsibilities to the individual.

Please, take the time necessary to be as informed and aware as possible about everything happening at your child's school. Don't be afraid to question and do so when you feel you need. Government was intended to be "of the people, by the people, for the people", not "of the state, by the state, for the state". Every Oklahoman who owns property pays for the education of Oklahoma children in state schools and every parent with a child in a state run school has the obligation and right to not only use the system, but question it as well.

Caveats #1: I realize that not every parent can or desires to stay home. I also know there are parents who feel there is no choice but for both parents to work. Yes, sometimes this is necessity, but sometimes just lifestyle downsizing can create enough 'income' for one parent to stay home if that goal is desired. I urge parents to review their work situation and be creative about finding ways to be home with your kids if at all possible.

Caveat #2: There are MANY GREAT teachers out there. Teachers are getting the screws put to them as badly as parents. Please do not hear me say that teachers are creating the problems found in public schools today. Yes, there are some bad teachers, but there are many, many great ones too! We just need teachers like Nikki Jones of Tulsa Public Schools, willing to stand for the needs of her students OVER the desires of the education establishment.