Monday, August 30, 2010

Keeping Government Out of Schools

Seen at Breakpoint:

Eric Buehrer, author of Keeping the Faith in Public Schools: How to help your children graduate with their faith and values intact, advises parents how to take a successful approach to talking to a teacher about a concern.

He points out that when it comes to addressing a concern in your school, you can either be a lamp or a blow torch. To be a lamp, Buehrer recommends what he calls the “Help Me Understand” approach.

First, start the conversation by using the phrase “Help me understand. . .” For example, if you are concerned about a particular reading assignment, you might start by saying, “Help me understand why you chose this book for the students to read.” . . .

The next step Buehrer recommends might, at first, sound unnecessary, but it’s important: Affirm, in general, what the teacher is trying to do. . .

Finally, if the teacher agrees with you, ask her advice about what might be a good alternative for the class. Of course, the teacher may ask you for your ideas, so be sure you’ve done your homework! Have some alternatives you can present her if she’s open.

Now, if the teacher doesn’t agree to change what the class will be learning, ask for an alternative assignment for your own child.

Kent comments:

This is very good advice for engaging in friendly negotiations about almost anything.  My question is:  Why should anyone have to use it in regard to schooling?

If Food Mart (I’m making up names here) sells the kind of milk you want, and Food Place does not, do you hone your persuasive skills to try to convince Food Place to carry the milk you want to buy?  Probably not.  Instead, you just take your business down to Food Mart.  No need to debate or dispute anything.  No need to convince anyone.  And you get the milk you want.

As a matter of fact, if enough people do this, Food Mart will probably get the message.  It is likely that they will start to sell your favorite kind of milk.

None of this scenario surprises us very much, except when it comes to schools.  While there are a few private providers of schooling, governments attempt to dictate the content of many of these, and governments force everyone to pay for the government brand of schooling.  We should ask ourselves:  Why?

Even if you think the government should help those who cannot afford schooling buy it, there is no reason for the government to own any provider of schooling.  When the government wants to help people buy food, the government does not start government-owned farms and grocery stores.  Instead, the government gives people credit cards that can be used to buy food at private stores.

This means that even the poor people to whom the government gives food can buy the particular kind of food they want.  We think that is a good thing for food.  Why would it not be a good thing for schooling?

There is an answer to this, which I will not explore in detail here.  In essence, governments do not want simply to provide schooling for children.  Governments want to determine what children will think, do, and be.  It is long past time to take this sensitive task completely out of the hands of governments, and return it to parents, where it belongs.

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