|by Ryan M (Flickr) under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license|
I’ve been in the depths of back-to-school preparation on multiple fronts, and I’m continually astonished that people still bring up the old “socialization” thing with respect to homeschooling. So let’s be blunt: Homeschoolers do not socialize the way school kids do.
It’s a spectrum, of course. There are many school families that don’t get sucked into the assembly-line socialization rut, and thus teach their kids to cultivate a mature social life long before graduation. There are likewise homeschooling parents who cling so happily to their middle school social skills that they pass them on to the second and third generation. [...]
This week my daughter leaves home for the freshman Red Zone. While I will be there for her in so many ways, I will not be able to scan the environment continually, watching for predators. My absence will be one factor that places her at risk for sexual assault. Another will be the impulse, refined through millennia by evolutionary pressures, to find a new attachment figure.
And wealthier schools, often exploiting the public system by adding funds to their own public-private school, also learn that the soft authoritarianism and grading/sorting that does not deeply affect their lives making it seem a valid way to manage society. The impact of mass socialization in the factory system on those who fare well is less talked about but perhaps even more important.
Young adults still need attachment figures and the hand-off to college the author discusses really works best for wealthier parents who can use colleges as marriage sorting institutions as well as credential programs. When even the well-tended campuses of liberal arts schools are struggling, you can imagine how tough it is for those in local community colleges or state universities. Recognizing the necessity of strong social relationships that are not only intergenerational and striving to conserve the family relationships that children already have will have to become a conscious focus of schooling because that's how human beings are built. We can easily extend schooling but we can't easily change our inborn natures. This isn't a limit of money or political will power or organization: schools are up against the limits of human nature itself.
A Learning Services Model Would Support Families
- allowing families to choose courses and paths within their neighborhood schools
- networking kids across district lines to open up segregated social spaces even as families and kids remain in control of their social lives by having course and activity choice
- Knowing that supporting families' social strength helps kids, too
- allowing families to create courses and help build out more services
- allowing schools to provide so-called non-educational services like: bikes and classes, gardens, play areas, parent support meeting spaces, cooking classes, music lessons, martial arts, chess, etc.
- ensuring schools are community centers providing space for friendships and activities for families whose homes cannot easily accommodate these
This means the factory model can and must change to a learning services model. In fact, there is no other way to go in a nation-state as large as the US. Stealth standards, tied to corporate curriculum, and foisted on all 50 states will not replicate Finland, as the entire structure is not only imposed from without but lacks the deep connections and coherence that national systems in smaller nation-states achieve. Test-based accountability is an attempt at enforcement that wants to to make change across the entire nation (since it is illegal to have a national curriculum). But this effort also makes the Federal role not only a very negative one, chief enforcer, again unlike Finland, but because it is not deeply rooted within states, it is also a structure dangerously authoritarian in nature. We need to have change that is feasible and a model that allows states and communities to move forward and help build on it.
"The ability to build communities of people committed to lead change within their environments is the shift of focus from reaction to response." Kenneth Chomba, TatuaThere is no other way to change mass schools except to move toward a learning service model. The very fact that the high school degree is widely acknowledged to be worthless only proves how zombie-like the factory model is in reality. A learning services model supports families and brings them into the fold by allowing them deep choices as well as access. Accountability has to come from below as it cannot be imposed from above in a nation-state the size of the US without winding up in an authoritarian nightmare (and a major asset grab by corporate players).
No, the answer isn't school boards, but the actual users of the system itself: families. Families need to have some power in a system that has completely shut them out through compulsory attendance laws and the insularity they created. Parents and families tend to care about their kids and if they were deeply involved, we would have the best shot at accountable systems that are responsive to the people in them.
It is important to note that it is a false choice: local control versus national control. We need families with real power and we need systems that allow local schools to network across wider areas in new ways. This would build neighborhoods and lessen segregation while allowing individuals to build social networks that make their lives and neighborhoods better. We need a healthy relationship between local schools, districts and states as well as on the national level. And that will start with a healthy relationship with families.