A Response To Yet Another Teacher

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

The following is in two parts. We received a response from a teacher named Beth to an article that Cindy, a homeschool mom, wrote. In Cindy’s article, she stated that teachers have a tendency to claim that parents are not qualified to teach their children. Belief in this patent nonsense is inculcated amongst gullible parents and a misinformed public in an attempt to end homeschooling. After all – teachers and schools are paid by headcount. The more students they have, the more money, and this is true in both public and private schools. The one threat to the multi-billion dollar school boondoggle – homeschooling. So, from the teacher’s perspective it simply must be stopped, and no one works harder at stopping homeschooling than teachers unions. Anyway, first we have Beth’s response to Cindy’s stated displeasure with teachers and schools. I then respond to Beth. Please read both parts through to get a perspective on what’s happening here.

(The following is from Beth, the teacher, in response to Cindy.)

Cindy, I am reluctant to publish anything because I found myself very put off by your attitudes with teachers and your feeling that we should not spend more money on them or on education. While throwing money at a system is not a blanket solution I have to say that I disagree with you on this point. On this point, I would divert money from all the standardized testing (something almost all students and teachers hate because it is used badly and takes time from actual teaching) to the classroom and then see where we end up in the budget.

99% of the teachers that I know, including myself while I was in the system, did their very best with very little. For example, when I moved into my science classroom this year I had a worn out demonstration table, some used goggles, four triple beam balances (for use by up to 30 students), a teacher computer, 3 student computers, desks, access to books and that was it. I purchased all the things that I used to teach the chemistry portion and many of the things that I used to teach the physics portion of my class out of my own pocket. I could have had the department order things but that can frequently take far too long.

As to hours, I put in on average about 55 hours a week. I was paid for 40. Most of my co-workers put in far more but I drew a line on how many hours I was willing to work out of my own time. In my district I am paid a decent wage, enough to live on as long as I was not extravagant. In many districts the starting wages in my state are 25 to 30k/year which isn’t that much at all for the time and the effort most teachers put in. It is also not enough for most teachers to live on, even in the poorer towns.

Now, with all that said, as a teacher I fully support your right to home school. I also agree with the commenter who said that schools were primarily geared to making good general workers. I have held that opinion for most of my life, even when I was a student in the public schools myself. That philosophy has its strengths and its flaws. (We need good general workers, by the way, and some of my students (lower socioeconomic) start thriving when they are old enough to get a job.)

As a teacher, I would say that ALL parents have the responsibility to home school their children. Parents should be home schooling their children in the art of reading, basic number skills, colors, rules of polite society, the habits needed to study and learn something new on your own, problem solving skills, their native language (if they have one), skills like carpentry or art (if the parents have such skills), to name just a few. These are things that I, as a teacher, have limited ability to support in my classroom. Many are things that should happen before the child enters the school system, and continue afterward, so that the students have foundations on which to build their further learning. Learning that should continue, I hope, their whole life.

If students came to my class with basic problem solving skills (they mostly don’t) and basic habits to go home and review content presented in school that day even if they are not assigned homework (they mostly don’t) then these same students would get the most that they were able to get out my lessons.

In closing, I want to say that I do not think that these two methods of formal education (home and public school) have to be at odds with each other. There is never a one size fits all solution. Public schools do need more money because some kids will do better there than at home. Public schools also need the support of the entire community (including home schoolers) seeking to find the best ways to help public school students learn to think and to make their way in the world. The reverse is also true. Public education could support home schoolers as well.

(My response to Beth)

Well, Beth’s is at least a considered response, unlike a few others we’ve seen, and so it deserves a considered counter.

Let’s start with Beth’s displeasure that Cindy does not wish teachers and schools to receive more money. As I’ve stated in many articles and places, the current educational system has clearly and utterly failed our children, our families, and our nation. The dropout rate is astonishingly high, and not just from public schools, but private schools as well. Those graduating are increasingly less capable. Real and functional literacy is in a sensational decline. Today, though the number of jobs nationally appears to be improving, many of those jobs require almost no education, at least in part a response to the failure of education in our country, and a truly dark omen of where we’re headed. When polled recently (and through several polls), students stated en masse that they felt they had less opportunity and a darker future than their parents, and this was the first time such a result was ever arrived at.

You all have families to care for, and many of you have businesses. When you try something for your family, or your business, and it fails,fails grandly, fails repeatedly – do you continue to toss good money after bad? Or do you cut your losses? If you had an employee who continued to insist (LOUDLY, as do teachers unions and their hacks in Washington) that he is valuable to you – even as he was destroying everything he touched in your business – would you give him a raise? Or after a decent trial period, and once it had become clear that the results you were seeing from this employee were going to remain disastrous, would you fire the man? And let’s be real, here – teachers and our current educational system are not going to improve or “fix themselves”. They’ve had a trial of nearly 150 years! The results they get are devolving with every generation. And though there are some good-willed teachers, as Beth may well be, they cannot (or will not) change the system in ways that make it work for students. It’s been tried and tried and tried by tens of thousands of people. Schools simply do not and cannot work well because of what they are – mass-produced education, depersonalized and unitized.

What the teachers unions DO do, however, is make sure the system works for teachers. Teachers are easily amongst the highest paid of all professionals, and Beth is either lying, or gruesomely underpaid for a teacher. The national figures have been published, are easily available, and are far, far higher than she indicates. Teachers already receive benefits and retirement that most people would simply not believe if they really studied the numbers, they are completely over the top and out of touch with modern need and circumstances. Sorry, Beth, either you’re a terrible businesswoman who is being cheated out of the normal pay teachers get, or you’re a private school teacher, or you’re just not telling the truth.

I like Beth’s idea of ending standardized testing, of course, and have also written about that many times. But hand in hand with its demise, I’d end mandatory schooling. Schools are not a foregone conclusion, folks, and society did very well without them for a very, very long time. The magnificent list of brilliant and accomplished men and women who never “availed themselves” of school speaks for itself, another issue I’ve discussed here. Nope, we don’t need or want standardized tests, as there are no ‘standard” children, the people supposedly served by such tests. But we also do not need or want “standardized schools”, Beth, using the same old same old, to the same old miserable results. I’m afraid, Beth, that along with the standardized tests that you claim teachers hate, and that many educators sadly use all too well to hamstring and degrade students, I and many others are ready to throw out those schools and teachers you would super-fund, as well.

Then I’m afraid that Beth reveals her true colors, and they smack of a teacher’s superciliousness. She is willing to tolerate homeschooling, the system that has survived for thousands of years with great success, the system that provides students with far better test scores today in those standardized tests than do public schools. That’s big of her, isn’t it? However, she lets us know exactly what responsibilities homeschooling parents should have. They include the teaching of specific and very limited subjects which her “classroom” is not set up to support. Why, she’d even allow us parents to teach art, “if we had the skill”.

Listen, folks, trained teachers in the system need degrees in only one thing, education. They know how to “educate” within the failed system, using the failed system’s tools. They know and are carefully trained to fail themselves and their students, and to rationalize their disastrous results away in such diatribes as Beth’s. What teachers with degrees do NOT know or have an education in are such subjects as, well, history, science, and, well, every subject they are supposedly more qualified to teach than homeschoolers are, according to Beth and her kind. In fact, they rarely have a background of any sufficiency in the subjects they are assigned to teach! But they are the “experts”? Beth lowers herself from her nosebleed-high perch to instruct us dull-witted homeschoolers on exactly which subjects we are fitted to share with our own kids – while she and her “poorly paid” buddies continue to mishandle and destroy and mangle the subjects that are most important for our children’s survival. Tests prove this is so, Beth – you teachers don’t know the subjects you teach. And you know, if you are honest, that many teachers look over the text book for subjects they teach they have supposedly mastered one chapter ahead of their students. I saw many teachers doing exactly that. Why? Because those teachers did NOT know the subjects they were somewhat arbitrarily assigned to teach.

Beth, I taught for the Los Angeles Unified School District (High School), and for numerous colleges, so perhaps you can get away with some of this sort of misinformation and dictatorial hogwash with gullible parents who don’t know better and have not seen through the very thin veneer of respectability that teachers and schools have loudly insisted is theirs. But on this blog, that simply won’t play. We have your number, Beth. You may see yourself as a diligent teacher working within a flawed system. What you actually are is a rather dishonest person shilling over the Internet to maintain your cushy job, one I seriously doubt you spend 55 hours at per week. When I taught, I saw dozens and dozens of teachers who never cared for their jobs, left the school as early as possible, and who clearly placed their own comfort and desires far above and beyond the needs of students. And Beth, as I imagine you know deep inside, this describes easily the majority of public school teachers. These are privileged people who often work 9 months a year and receive well in excess of $45,000 for those nine months, considerably more than many of the working people reading this article, people who DO work extra hours, and get very rare vacations. The teachers I saw were almost uniformly self-involved, self-righteous, were themselves under-educated, overpaid and nearly useless. And there we have a fair description of most teachers today, I’m afraid.

I would agree with Beth on one important point. There are a few children who clearly do better in a school environment than in homeschool. Homeschooling is not for everyone. I think we could make do with perhaps one school out of the current ten, which would seriously unburden the system, and sadly place many overpaid teachers in the unemployment lines – the very lines they have so carefully and successfully educated their students to stand in. After all, Beth, our current national financial and business woes didn’t show up from nowhere – they are a result of a ruined national education system. Your system. I think teachers should be invited to join in the fruits of their labor. In the meantime, for that rare child who thrives in the current system, invariably a self-motivated child as the system has no time for him, a few schools should be left open, and they should be rigorously improved and held to actual standards, result-oriented standards.

That said, homeschooling is a far better, freer and more productive option for the vast majority of children than is institutionalized education. Test scores bare me out. Children are FAR safer at home and in small homeschool groups than they will ever be in our all-too dangerous schools. The statistics on this are undeniable. For safety, education, for the development of self-esteem, the vast majority of children do far, far better in a homeschooling environment.

When a teacher like Beth deigns to instruct homeschoolers about teacher pay, and the limits of what parents are “qualified to teach” – we should all recognize the effort for what it is – an attempt to save teacher pay, teacher jobs, and schools from the fate they have truly earned – the pink slip.

At the end of her piece, Beth states as an afterthought that public schools could support homeschoolers, too. That’s swell, given that homeschool families pay taxes into the system that pays for public education. The largest line item in our nation’s national governmental budget is education, I believe. But homeschoolers who pay in get nothing out of it. I do think that public school facilities, paid for with homeschooling tax dollars, should be made easily available to homeschoolers. We want your theaters, they’re very nice. We want to use your beautiful athletic facilities! How about your computer labs? And so on. Yes, by all means, share with us what we have paid for. Or better yet, close your doors and stop stealing money under false pretenses. We can use that tax money for something useful, like educating our children at home.

As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

8 comments on “A Response To Yet Another Teacher”

  1. The bureaucrats who dictate what goes into the public school textbooks really are the ones that shape our country, not the teachers who are trying to do their jobs by teaching the stupid books that they’re commanded to teach. (I’m a homeschool mom, by the way.) In the school where I used to teach, I was forced to teach to standardized testing every day. It puts you in shackles. What I’m saying is, fire all the bureaucrats. They get paid WAY more than teachers, and NONE of them are necessary. I just feel like you’ve villified teachers, when most of the teachers I knew were sweethearts who were doing the best they could in a stupid, failing system that needs an overhaul. Don’t attack the teachers. Attack the idiotic bureaucratic system that dictates what the teachers can and cannot do.

  2. Hi Susan,

    Thanks for writing. We agree on most points. Yes, the textbook publishers and the bureaucrats are largely responsible, as you indicated. No, they are not necessary and in fact, they tend to be very destructive. Yes, the system is broken. Yes, standardized testing is RIDICULOUS and destructive for both the student and teacher. We’re on the same page on these points.

    However, I would point out that teachers are then accepting pay to continue, forward and often promote a system that is destructive for students. You clearly understand this – yet you were a teacher. I commend you for leaving that school, but many teachers stay and continue to forward this awful system. At what point do we say to teachers “you’re the problem, too. You’re right there in the classroom witnessing the havoc the public school create in the lives of families and students, yet you never stand up, you never refuse to issue those tests or teach to them…and you never turn down paychecks that you know are being given you for participating in this disaster?” Teachers are every bit as culpable as administrators and textbook publishers, and if anything, they are more guilty because they see the bad results arrived at every day and just keep playing along.

    Bless the teachers who abandon such a destructive and costly system, one destroying lives every day. But what about the teachers who stay? What about the teachers who, in fact, make the whole rotten system possible through their daily participation? I don’t have to vilify teachers – they’ve done that themselves.

  3. I have three degrees, an AA, a BS in Business, and a Master’s in Business (MBA). When I was laid off (thrice in 18 months) and lost my business (during the same period) I began to look into teaching, either in the local high school or at a local junior college.

    In order to teach at the high school I had to apply to a program called PACE which was designed for people who wanted to teach but did not have the required “education” degree. I would have had to take extra local classes on the graduate level in education. I just wanted to teach business-related classes, or some lower math, science or history, all of which I am pretty knowledgeable in. Without that exalted “education” credential, however, I was not going to be allowed anywhere near a classroom regardless of my education and experience.

    As for the junior college (a two-year college!) I couldn’t get on there, either, not even for BUS 101, because I didn’t have a PhD or a DBA. Schools are more concerned with people having degrees in “educating” with no regard for people who are degreed or experienced in the subjects they teach. Therefore people with degrees in biology, history, business, etc. are back of the line behind “professional” educators, and that is to the detriment of the kids in the system and the system itself.

  4. Hi Ken,

    I am truly sorry you had to go through all that. Clearly, at a time in our national history when more than ever children should be exposed to professionals and real experts in fields of interest, this is not the goal of institutional education. It’s a “closed shop”, a monopoly which is completely illegal per the laws on the books. And the oddest thing of all, their union supports and empowers the monopoly, though unions came into existence to END closed shops and to open the door to employment of “outsiders”! But schools and teacher unions have absolutely everything backwards today, I’m afraid. All the best of luck to you! Teach privately. Tutor in your areas of expertise. Start your own private school and specialize in your areas of experience. Your experience applied to education should be worth a great deal, and would be in another time and place. Perhaps it will again.

  5. Mari T. H. says:

    I understand that the public school system is riddled with problems but I also understand the need for them. From my own experience I grew up in a lower income area and both of my parents were from Cuba. My mother came young enough to take high school and graduate. My parents both were good students and they passed that on to my siblings and I. I was taught from the start both Spanish and English and before I ever entered school my parents read to me in both languages and I learned my letters, numbers colors, shapes and how to count money in both as well.

    I was extremely blessed that my parents cared enough to do that even though they both worked jobs in which they often clocked in more than 40hours because they were service jobs. While they could not homeschool me they taught me plent of things at home .

    I was also fortunate enough to have amazing teachers that truly cared. Being gifted I got a better education than my non-gifted peers. Plus my own natural curiousity and love of books only amplified that.

    Throughout all my years of school I came across students who’s parents didn’t care and worse teachers that didn’t care.

    I often see articles and hear people paying the blame game. It goes beyond poor teachers, parents that don’t care and standarized testing that most lawmakers who put them into place can not pass themselves.

    Parents need to step up, teachers that don’t care and don’t teach need to be fired so the good and great teachers can shine and guide the kids that have no other option but public school.

    Home schooling needs to be discussed as a valid option for parents.

    By the time I got to high school I was no longer in gifted classes only; because my school did not offer more than one gifted subject. I was place in honors classes where some of my peers could not read but since they behaved they were taken out of regular classes thanks to over crowding. In my sophomore year my honors english teacher was trying to teach the class things I had learned in middle school. I wanted to leave school because I was utterly bored. My mother was a widow by then and could not home school because of time and because most of the subjects I needed to take were beyond her.

    There were no online classes and we couldn’t afford a tutor so I had to stay in school. There should be options when it comes to education. Now the school district I was in offers college course at the local college for students who are so advanced. Which essentially gives them a free year of college since high school does not have anything left to offer them. I personally would have jumped at the chance.

    There is no cure-all solution and in an area like the one I grew up in closing nine in ten schools would do a lot more harm than good. The education system needs to be completely overhauled and I personally think versatility will be the key. Giving parents and students information and options so every childs needs can be met so they may get the best education possible.

  6. Hi Mari,

    Yours is an interesting story! I commend you for your even-handed view of the problem. That said, the schools need to close, and not just for the reasons you mentioned. More than an overhaul is needed. Teachers who do not teach (and who in some cases actually abuse students) will not quit, and their union will protect them. 50%-plus drop out rates in large cities is not just a sign of a system needing repair. Crashing literacy rates in a country are not just a symptom of the failure of its educational system. Rampant unemployment, even among college grads, is not merely a “sign” that schools didn’t do their job. A failing economy, one that can’t compete well with other nations, is not just a bump in the road. I’m happy that when you went to school, you had good teachers. I was in high school in the early 70s, and at that time I had a few good teachers – and many terrible teachers – in a Los Angeles Public School rated very highly for academics. This is a very long-term problem.

    You’re right, there’s no one “cure-all”. And there should be options in education, right again. That’s why I’ve authored hundreds of articles, and two books on the subject. we need a multi-pronged approach. One part is the closing of all public schools, period, and the re-tasking of resources toward many form of private ed, including homeschooling as one possibility – but only one of many.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post!

  7. Very nice post and kudos for Beth “letting it all hang out”…except for how much she get’s paid. That figure she posted was really laughable! In my family alone, there are approximately 8 certified and working teachers and believe me….they ALL get PAID$$$$. So yeah, I agree with you, Beth was trying to be nice (I truly doubt she’s in the dark about how much money she can make after all those years in school) while facing the homeschool world, but to say the least, she did it wrong. Telling us (yeah, I’m a homeschooling parent) what we CAN teach while telling us what she CAN’T teach due low supplies, Really? We don’t want to talk about low supplies! At least she’s “given” something to work with! What do homeschooling families get? Lack, that’s what! We are the most creative teachers EVER! My certified teacher family members call ME for ideas and state that if homeschooling parents were paid, then they would QUIT to become a homeschooling tutor or something! There are way to many laws trying to be passed that infringe on parents rights and believe me, the public/private school teacher are worried about that too! Most of them have children or want children! Oh yes, they are starting to see the true colors of this system. It’s trying to bring everyone down, not just homeschooling families…..Sorry, I seem to have a rant gene LOL!

  8. Hi, Christy,

    You have the right to a rant where this subject is concerned. It is a highly “rantable” subject, worthy of many a rant. People do tend to shout and rant when lied to over and over again, and when provided no other recourse. What other response is available, short of violence, which no one wants to see! Teachers in public schools as a group and with some rare exceptions (very rare) are simply a disaster. So where they would get off telling ANYONE how to educate our children – given the spectacular and undeniable proofs of their failures – is a real mystery. Keep homeschooling!

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