educating progressives

Homeschooling and unschooling among liberals and progressives. - Slate Magazine:
"Despite our conflicting perspectives, I agree with Taylor that school ought to be more engaging, more intellectually challenging, and less obsessed with testing. But government is the only institution with the power and scale to intervene in the massive undertaking of better educating American children, 90 percent of whom currently attend public schools. (And it’s worth remembering that schools provide not just education, but basic child care while parents are at work.) Lefty homeschoolers might be preaching sound social values to their children, but they aren’t practicing them. If progressives want to improve schools, we shouldn’t empty them out. We ought to flood them with our kids, and then debate vociferously what they ought to be doing."
This writer seems unfamiliar with alternative schooling, democracy and children's rights as well as basic homeschooling history. Why isn't there a more widely known progressive position on education?

The progressive vision America needs -
"Economic vision and economic realities do not arise out of thin air. Rather, they depend on the efforts of activists, thinkers and citizens to be articulated, developed, refined — and attempted. The current economic crisis caught progressives off guard. After decades of willfully absorbing conservative criticisms of the welfare state and defenses of free markets, progressives had let their own alternative values and vision atrophy. Until it remedies that failure, progressive politics will continue to fall short, despite particular electoral or policy victories. If progressives succeed in doing so in 2012, then the repercussions will last well beyond this one election." 
There is a progressive position on education.

The counter to right-wing calls to close the government schools is not "less testing" but a fully public system that is under citizen control providing learning services instead of semi-public factories attempting to manufacture human beings with a set of skills to specifications of corporations. Our current system uses police to ensure that parents send their children to school and that design mistake has created a system that does not allow input from its users.  Public schools in a democracy should not use police but should offer services and support in a democratic and humane way to families.  In many cases, this means an expansion of service. We were headed that way 30 years ago before neoliberalism came to the fore.

Humane education would not rely on grading and testing but on relationships. Young people can work toward career goals and credentials by building a portfolio as homeschooling families have done for years. A progressive position means providing a free path to a college education or rolling back requirements for a BA in government jobs since there is no free path available and we do not want to exclude citizens from their own government.

As an activist who left the system, I now see school reform as building on the knowledge gained by many of us outside of mass coerced schooling.
  • Homeschooling was started by progressive education activists though this article shows that after 30 years of neoliberalism, few know much about progressive homeschool activists like John Holt or John Gatto, and the many voices of the historically strong alternative education movement. Activist progressives have been on the ground in homeschooling since the 1970s.
  • Progressives raised within the school system may not be able to imagine new ways forward if they do not get involved in some sort of progressive education change movement. 
  • The public schools are not controlled by the public in any meaningful way nor do they provide a strong support for working-class families. The use of police on families is rampant and the entire system relies on coercion. The schools have never built the habit of working with the users of the system. 
  • Change that does not address this fundamental misallocation of power will never work. Schools cannot be in charge of education: families and kids must be the ones making choices. Schools can only provide a service.
  • Education won't fix income inequality and the schools themselves ensure that power flows upward away from people and communities.
  • The public schools have a long history of corporate ties to questionable programs and we have yet to free our schools from anti-democratic and coercive control. 
  • It has been critically important to build a group of people outside the education system in order to affect real change by having people with real experience that can actually counter the pervasive influence of mass schooling in our own lives. 
  • In order to step outside the system, homeschoolers have changed compulsory attendance laws in most of the 50 states. This has grown a large base of citizens who understand the disenfranchisement of families is at the core of a progressive position on education. The family in the US often lacks healthcare, time off, and a living wage. 
  • It is not that families should replace schools but that families should be the involved in deep ways that compulsory attendance laws made impossible. Schools have grown without learning the skills of deep democracy. Schools have not evolved into democratic and citizen-based institutions as public libraries have done because of the guaranteed income stream generated for administration and increasingly corporations. This private sector coalition prevents grassroots change because the grassroots have no voice at all. 
  • Wealthy families may want schooling to be privatized but the majority of families in schools would want services even if they could choose not to have any. I think the majority would want flexible services but they have never been given this choice.
  • If schools could become learning service providers, whole communities could change. Instead of working against mass socialization pressures, schools as learning centers could help provide more positive social encounters while minimizing the negative.
  • Families with choice can begin altering their social experiences, ensuring that kids avoid stress and stay healthy as well as fundamentally changing the social experience within schools. The social experience within schools is one of the most negative parts of the whole system: from acculturation to authoritarian practices to peer-dependency as many communities and families have changed their way of life from 100 years ago. Using a user-driven model of providing services will allow kids and families to control this social process and transform it at the grassroots level.
  • The current structure of mass coerced schooling has created a guaranteed income stream in a system that has no mechanism for accountability and so all change is about capturing that income stream. Only by changing this fundamental structure can real change be done.
  • An equitably-funded, fully public system would focus on providing all families with learning resources that families could choose and use as they need since citizens in a democracy have no need of militaristic system of education. Working families should have as many services as they want and all families should be allowed to tailor their schedules, courses, and activities as they see fit.
  • The factory model that manufactures credentials is a relic: we can provide learning services and allow children and parents to work toward credentials they choose. 
  • Schools do not do a good job of providing daycare for working families which are often single-parent. Most working families struggle to find ways to coordinate the transportation and activities needed for kids in a system that doesn't allow parents to request services like extended classes or activities. 
  • Schools do not provide early childhood services nor do they even track data about what the people in their districts want or need. School schedules are not correlated with work schedules nor do working parents have choices in scheduling or access to transportation services.  All of this is considered outside the factory model that does not require schools to listen and serve their district. 
  • Food services are repellent and kids often have scant time to eat or they are not allowed to talk.
  • Schools do not provide meaningful counseling for college and careers and these services should be exponentially expanded to include credential and job training resource nights for families to understand the choices out there. Also, in school mediation and counseling services to facilitate usage should be large since schools should be people-centric organizations. 
  • Schools charge escalating fees that are a growing and real burden to the working class. These fees along with district manipulation of funding show the disintegration of the system and only by understanding how compulsory attendance has tied funding to the child can we move toward a system that is fairly funded and provides resources that allow working and lower class families the same dignity of choice and control over their children that upper-class families have now.
  • Schools bully and threaten parents with increasing truancy fines. Schools do not allow much sick time and many kids return to class when still ill. This is because of funding tied to attendance and the lack of childcare services. 
  • Parents are required to provide extensive homework time instead of having family time, a practice that impacts poorer families harder than many others, and another way schools override families and their needs. Families that need more classes and more activities cannot get them, however, as they are supposed to substitute for that themselves. Plenty of working-class families would choose extended services if they were given any choices.
  • Community colleges and large numbers of state colleges cannot graduate students at a rate of 90% or more but still increase tuition and increasingly, cater to out-of-state and foreign students who can pay more. Schools survive on the money that families spend for remediation services for kids whom the schools themselves have caused to need remediation.
  • Putting your kids in public schools in order to work does help some families get a second income and depending on the school journey, may also benefit the kids, but it does not make anyone a progressive.
  • Income disparities in my local high school ensure that the more affluent kids pack into IB and AP programs which kids must test into. Often these families could afford to pay for private schooling (though some would feel as strapped as the working class does in public schools) but they maintain they are progressive in attending public schools. 
  • Those who benefit from high test scores or stronger local funding, also benefit from a system that oppresses others with those same tools: testing, sorting, and funding. 
  • The intense peer-orientation of mass schooling harms poor families the most, creating kids with less strong family ties. Families with more resources can handle that easier but all mass schooling for extended periods is running into this problem.
  • Democratic values are non-existent in our schools since compulsory attendance laws ensure that families comply by using police, a common tactic in less well-off schools. This use of policing and coercion affect even well-off kids in nice schools who become more accepting of authoritarian methods.
  • Just as copyright and patent laws were originally about ensuring a strong public domain after a brief period of compensation for a creator, so schools were originally had a brief period of required attendance and the strong provision of resources for the public good. The strong provision for the common good means viewing schools as places that could have strong social and community impact if they were run as a social services that treated families with dignity.
  • The school-to-prison pipeline has been well documented and the role of mass coerced schooling in creating the institutional mindset is underrated. Schools are a part of this mass system that does not adjust or listen to the needs and concerns of kids or young people and their families. 
  • Those who maintain that we must compete to win support an education-industrial complex that grows the institution itself instead of happy families, communities and sustainable work. Just as the military-industrial complex has managed to generate war after war, so the educational-industrial complex generates credentials and programs, from the remediation windfall to stackable credentials to the textbooks Pearson provides to schools as well as prisons. But education, kids, relationships and communities are diminished: they are required to be part of guaranteed income stream that has no voice. 
  • The public schools and public universities that were once provided for the working class are now too expensive for the working class. Growing numbers of citizens cannot work in our millionaires-only government since the required BA is now unaffordable to the majority of working people. When the high school degree began to be required, a free and public path was provided. Not for the BA: it may be required for most government jobs but there is no free and public route.
  • The so-called public system allows funding for schools is a hybrid system, part local money allowed to piggyback on public money to create upscale districts that use their police to prevent the theft of education while expanding the use of police in school districts where funding has been cut.
  • Corporate money seeds charters which, along with vouchers, provide few citizens real choice or involvement. The case of Kelley Williams-Bolar provides a horrifying example of a so-called public system that is in fact acting more like an adjunct to a growing prison system. Williams-Bolar shows the limits of the current funding model.
There really is a progressive position on education but, like organic farming twenty years ago, many cannot believe you can grow smart children and happy workers without coercion, sorting, grading, testing, and punishment. But families of all sorts have done this and we can do this in our communities, too.

And we are not all rich.

Oh, that’s rich. « The Bitter Homeschooler:
"Regardless of what else you think of homeschoolers, please keep in mind that we’re not any more likely to be rich than any other group. We just don’t mind being broke for a good cause. "
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