I had rather sworn of taking time from a busy schedule to blog about what others blog about, but the article Tim Challies wrote this week with the provocative title Stop Slandering Public School Teachers, has had me thinking. Education is important to me, and I am a supporter of both homeschooling and public schooling, having had experience with both.
The article did bring out a needed exhortation not to slander public school teachers. I know many public school teachers, and I know where their hearts are. For many of my teacher friends, their days consist of butting their heads against the wall of being made to teach this or that, lack of resources, or the lack of one-on-one time with their students. I agree with the premise of the article. I do, however, believe that the slander mentioned in the article works both ways, and I think it's worth facing up to the reality that both sides frequently speak in ignorance. Homeschoolers are also the subject of comments that border on slander.
As we made our decision to homeschool, it was less about the teachers than it was about the kind of education we wanted for our kids. Trying to tailor an education system for the masses is a difficult thing. In any one classroom, you have the kids who will never struggle, and who can manage on their own in the face of a classroom that may have 30+ students. On the other end, there are those with serious struggles. These kids don't get ignored because their deficits may be quite serious. Teachers these days are often expected to work with special needs kids as well as kids who don't need the help. The ones who may fall through the cracks are the kids somewhere in between, the ones who just won't "get it" on their own, but who are doing well enough not to avoid being seen as really needy.
We wanted our kids to have an education that allowed them to either soar or hang back as needed. For us, it wasn't about the teachers. When our kids did go to public school, they had good and bad teachers. I'm thankful that in high school they each met one teacher whom they look back on now with fondness, and say that the teacher really made a difference. So much of the success of the school is the board and the principal in charge. For us, the teachers weren't an issue, although my son did have one teacher whom we believe should have never been allowed to work with teenagers. We weren't alone in that assessment.
Painting with broad brushes is never a good idea. When I first heard of homeschooling, I tended to do that. I made my ignorant comments. I said I would never homeschool as I rolled my eyes, and when I homeschooled, I said I'd never put them back in public school with a similar eye roll. But we are often put in a position where we must stop talking and listen.
I wish the debate didn't have to rage as it does. Why are we so prone to thinking that everyone has do live like we do? Why do we make non-essential life choices part and parcel with what defines the gospel? Is it because we really don't know what the gospel is? Or is is because we're threatened by people who don't live exactly as we do?
My children all have very different lives than I did at their age. I was married and with children by the time I was 25. My children are not making similar choices. Should I be threatened because they don't embrace every aspect of the life I lived? No. I think we should be a lot more charitable about those who live differently. I'm sure my comments will be considered by some as naïve and sound like a whiny "why can't we all just get along?" Sometimes, getting along is okay.