Close the Schools in 5 years, Part V –Private Schools and How They Fit In

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011

Who would see a windfall from the closure of public schools? One of the biggest winners would certainly be private schools, at least for a while. The closure of 20,000 public schools per year throughout the United States, continuing over a five year period, would encourage families that simply refused to homeschool in any form to find a private sector alternative to public schooling. Private schools that are currently in business will need to prepare to expand to some extent. As many teachers will be seeking employment, again, the best and brightest of them might well find a home in a private school. We’ll focus on the private school alternative now, and what it would represent in this plan.

Education provided by private schooling is very often no better (and can even be worse) that in public schools. Currently, private schools generally “hire” parents of attending children to teach, and often the “teacher’s” pay is the tuition for their child to attend. I worked in such private schools for over seven years, and saw this as a constant. This meant that most of the “teachers” in a private school were not teachers at all. They had no experience teaching. They had no passion for teaching. They were often good moms and dads, making sure that their children did not have to go through the dangerous hell of public schooling, for which I can only commend them – being as I was one, myself.

But the door would be wide open, given the sudden availability of hundreds of thousands of “trained teachers’ each year of the plan, for private schools to up their game. They would be the “schooling” alternative for a while, perhaps quite a while. By the end of this plan, private schools would be the only schools left open. Such private schools would take many shapes and sizes.

One would hope that these private schools would never fall into the traps that ensnared public schools. We would hope that they would refuse any sort of “standards” imposed by government. We would hope that each private school would develop out of a love of children, and would refuse the use of the tools and methods that control education today. We would hope that families attending would insist that each child be encouraged and even assisted in the pursuit of his own interests, even at the expense of “standard and required studies”. Perhaps the best private schools would serve as expanded homeschool groups of a sort, eschewing grades, tests, assigning grade levels, and all the rest of that destructive clap-trap.

We would also hope that such schools would open their doors to trained and great teachers, as they expand to accommodate a rapidly expanding public. Now, for a hard question. How would a private school be able to choose the few good teachers out of the miasma of bad teachers that the school districts will be bleeding? Letters of recommendation from corrupt administrators and school districts would be less than worthless. A degree in education would only prove that you had before you a person steeped in the failed methodology and system that we’re working hard to escape. The “higher” the degree, the more likely it would be that the teacher was pretty worthless. A “Masters” in education, all by itself and without some sort of supporting documentation to prove we have a good teacher, should be seen as the last nail in the coffin of employability for such teachers.

How to select? They will all have degrees! A degree is the requirement for employment for a public school teacher. Some teachers transcended their disastrous training, most did not. How to select?

There is a way that shrinking school districts could offer to assist the teachers they are releasing, and education in America. (I doubt they could be prevailed upon to do this, but I’ll take a shot at it.) They could, via their institutional “reach” into the community of local students, request that families who see fit write specific teachers recommendations. This could not in any way be enforced or mandatory! It could not be done while students still sat in that teacher’s classroom as students! The temptation for coercion would be too great. But once dismissed from a closed school, families could be contacted by the few remaining administrators, as described in an earlier article. Part of the administrator’s job could be to assist in placing fired teachers, and here is a way that could be done.

A letter of recommendation would have to come from a local family of a student who actually attended that teacher’s class. It would have to contain specific observations regarding how the teacher serviced and truly supported students. Contact information would be required so that the letter could be verified. Perhaps the letter of recommendation could take the shape of a form filled out by pare4nts or students, to minimize the amount of work or “creativity” required and make it a bit easier for those who wish to recommend a teacher. The letter could be mimeographed! Teachers used to love to use the mimeo machine! (Kidding, just kidding.)

The assumption to be made is that a family without any coercion that writes a letter must have been truly impressed by that teacher. A teacher who had even a few such letters would probably be a catch for most poorly-staffed private schools. A teacher with a folder of such letters, say ten or more, would be a God-send. And students would be encouraged to write their own letters of recommendation, outside of those authored by parents. These might even be given priority by wise public school administrators. (Given the miserable results currently provided by most private schools, scarcely an improvement on public schools, I’m not sure how many of their administrators are “wise”. I guess we’ll find out. The good thing about private schools is that they must compete to stay in business. They are not subsidized by government, like public schools. So an unwise administrator should rapidly and deservedly kill a bad private school. This is the free market system at work.)

Again, the letters of recommendation would be from people without vested interest, including an interest in perpetuating the current methods of education. No administrators need personally draft a letter – no private school would be interested. A private school will find a teacher with many recommendations a plus for a fiscal reason – such teachers with a following may well bring new students into the school.

Hiring an improved teaching staff would only be one of the changes we would hope to see in our private schools. We would also hope that they would develop student-centric educational approaches, very much an extension of the sort of homeschooling I advocate. We would hope that they would throw aside testing and grading. We should insist that no class be larger than ten students, not in a private school that one pays tuition for. We would expect the assignment of students to classrooms to be guided by the student’s interests rather than the student’s age or general academic achievement (or lack thereof). A classroom of ten students all interested in science, regardless of the various student’s ages or academic profile and guided by a teacher with a science background, would become a “hotbed” of scientific inquiry and learning. Imagine that teacher’s sheer joy! Work would become a challenge, a pleasure, a reward for being a teacher! There’s a change!

A room filled similarly with students who want to write and a teacher who knew something about writing would be similarly spectacular. What a great school paper or yearbook will come out of that classroom! How many writers will be encouraged?

Extend the concept out to any discipline or skill set you like. Everything from auto mechanics to chess, math to history. It will work. This is built around the “club” format I describe in my course on homeschooling groups. The age range in such a classroom might go from eight to eighteen. We may find that rare eight year old who is brilliant, and who challenges all the older students to keep up in that area of expertise that have agreed to be interested in. This system encourages genius in a way schools using classrooms arbitrarily built around the age of students never have or could.

Private schools are going to grow like crazy, once the public schools start to close. They will swell up with students who need or want more “structure” than a small homeschool group might provide, though I personally think that almost any student will thrive in a small homeschool group, given some exposure. In experiencing some rapid growth, most private schools will find that their campuses are too small to accommodate. This will be another area where closed public schools can be used. I have seen over the past twenty years at least two large public school facilities that had been closed, and taken over by (in each case multiple private schools as a sort of consortium sharing rent and other expenses. The city made some money back on these useless facilities, and an alternative form of education was provided the neighborhood, with room to expand. This worked well in both cases, and for many years.

In the end, I think private schools as they are currently configured are a mixed bag, leaning towards useless. They generally act as an extension to public schooling, using the same tools and meeting the same destructive requirements. Though private schools have a better record than public schools for safety, and other key issues, they are not substantively different from public schools as a rule, as they are obligated to follow the same rules.

A friend of mine who is an extraordinary teacher ran a very successful, small private school in Southern California. She did so for years, and her approach (one I struggled to understand at first) is very much the one I now promote, with variations. At one point, she decided to move her school to Texas, and I understand that she met with the head of the local school board in the district in Texas where she wanted to open her private school. My friend asked the representative what restrictions or requirements would apply in their district, to her intended private school. The representative of the state looked at her strangely and asked “what part of PRIVATE school do you not understand”, and made it clear that in their district, they in no way intrude on the privacy of a private school.

Oh, if only this was the rule everywhere! In this one way, Texas should be praised. (The same school boards in Texas are rewriting history books for schools, to force it to conform to a reactionary conservative agenda, so they are as useless and destructive when they get involved in education as the rest of the public school industry.)

Private schools will expand, come the closing of public schools. They will acquire many new students, and an opportunity to be of real value. How each private school would handle this opportunity would determine the relative value of that school in a country we would hope would at last be determined to get education right. Private schools could fill a huge niche in the developing system of universal private schooling, to be predominated by homeschooling and small, homeschool groups, providing a more institutional option for those requiring it. But they will be of use only in so far as they can discard “business as usual”, and flexibly service individual students.

Next article – how the private sector can seriously help to make this happen.
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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!

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9 comments on “Close the Schools in 5 years, Part V –Private Schools and How They Fit In”

  1. I agree with much of your article. We took our kids out of private school and homeschooled for 10 years. Then, we put my youngest into that same private school after several changes had been made. This included hiring teachers who had Christian liberal arts background. One of my son’s teachers had a doctorate from University of Edinburgh. Another inspired my son to love history & literature. Something I did quite well with my dtrs, but not with my son. I certainly don’t think private schools are the answer to everything, but there are a few good ones out there. I still wholeheartedly encourage homeschooling, but I believe you should look at each child, each year to make the best education decision at that time.

  2. An awful lot of hyperbole there, my friend. Where’s the evidence (besides your anecdotal evidence) that “most” private schools are as big of failures as public schools? Where are the numbers to back up these claims?

    I went to private school. My children go to private school. Never have they “hired parents” as teachers. Never have they taught the same curriculum as the public schools (which are abject failures) and never have they taught with the same methods or hired the same subpar teachers.

    Unlike you, I do not claim that my experience is everyone’s experience, but in your fervor to mainstream homeschooling, your inflammatory language and unsupported claims don’t win many people to your side.

    I also find it very interesting that you deride these mythical “parent teachers” that private schools are supposedly overrun with, but then you claim those very same parents should be teaching their kids at home? What has a venue change to do with their ability to teach?

    I believe homeschool has value and I know that private school does based on my experience. I think we can all agree that public school is a disaster. But until you provide actual evidence to support your overblown claim that homeschool is the only reasonable option, it’s impossible to take you seriously.

  3. Okay, Stevie, first I taught in private schools for 14 years. We’re way past “anecdotal”, I have a VAST amount of experience teaching in that situation, and even being on the board in two such schools over the years. The teachers in such schools are almost universally inexperienced as teachers, and since the private school must most often adhere to state and fed standards, they are forced to use the same tools (testing, grading, grade levels) as public schools – without even the (questionable) benefit of “training” to use them. I knew personally at least 100 private school teachers over the years, and they nearly all fell into the above-described category. This is EXPERIENTIAL, not anecdotal, at base. I’ve taught for 40 years in every situation imaginable, from university level, for public schools, private schools, in private workshops, and as a homeschooler. I’ve operated private schools. When I speak about education, it is informed and experiential at based. You admit your viewpoint is not. So be it.

    ANYONE who uses those “educational tools” will fail. This is true in public schools, private schools…and at home, as homeschoolers. The tools don’t work. But homeschoolers have the option of moving away from those tools, whereas teachers in public and private schools very rarely do. Parents, unaware of the results created by these tools and their use, EXPECT them to be used by private schools. Administrators – almost always parents, often (in my EXPERIENCE) with a limited education background but a lot of willingness, are forced to use “the expected” tools, and so they insist that their teachers use them.

    Those “same mythical parents” can take their kids home and throw away the methods that have destroyed generations of children. The condition of our nation today is an undeniable reflection of the abysmal failure of education “business as usual”. Or perhaps you’re one of those rare, blind people who think that everything is fine?

    We do not need your approval re homeschooling, thanks, Stevie. The millions of families that homeschool are all too aware of its value, and the rest of the world is starting to understand. I do not need you to take me seriously. After all, you think that schooling works, so in this forum, it’s far more likely that not many here will take you very seriously. We know that schooling dose not work, and has not worked (if it ever did) for a very long time. We’re glad that “you believe homeschool has value”. There may be some hope for you, yet.

  4. Ok, so I see the value in homeschooling. I TRULY do. Can you, though, give any argument FOR staying in a highly awarded, highly ranked public school? I’m not issuing a challenge at all. I’m just wondering if you are completely anti-SCHOOL, or if you are anti education as it is right now in the US. I’m always playing devil’s advocate, and I always want to look at all sides of an argument. Keep in mind that I’ve already read the comments/blog above. I just tend to think that the best arguers/debaters will see both sides within reason, even if the still end up with the same decision. Thanks for making me think about this! I’m glad I found this resource!

  5. Hi Jenny,

    Glad you’re thinking about it all. I do not mean to minimize or negate your well-intended question, but I’m not interested in making “the other side’s” argument for them, as you are requesting. They already make their argument in nearly every form of media, every day. They have the support and power of the government behind them. They are heavily funded, to the tune of over $550 billion a year in the U.S. alone. They are immune to law, above it, as teachers who abuse children often discover to their great pleasure. (Many articles here about this point, and many proofs.) They have “held the floor” in this discussion now, for many decades. The “other side” has entirely had its way with it’s “argument” that public schools and teachers are valuable. No where near enough people question the ridiculous, easily disproved and vastly destructive myth that teachers and their paid associates have invented and inculcated about their worth to society. That’s the value of access to huge amounts of money, and to generations of promo and indoctrination.

    So there won’t be any “debate” here. What I am willing to do is respond to some questions that I think merit response. This is not a forum for public educators to further air their noxious lies, and I don’t want anyone to start thinking that it is.

    What I am doing is trying to provide a view that most people never consider about education, an honest and well-considered view. It is a reaction to having been a teacher at every level for over 40 years now, having taught thousands of students, from having spoken to many hundreds of parents, students and teachers, and from an unwillingness to accept anything that does not work.

    Public education – and what’s more, to a large extent “schooling” – does not work. I HAVE “seen” “the other side” – and it looks pretty rotten through and through. “Schooling” (doing the things one does in a school) can’t work, as I’ve spelled out in many articles here. Such an “education” (and schooling should rarely be dignified by that word) is almost never “individual”. Yet education MUST be for and about the individual if it is to succeed. That one fact alone is a virtual guarantee of failure in a school that has adhered to today’s methods and standards. Further, the use of testing, student labeling, homework, grading, grade levels and the tools used by schools and teachers, has the clear result of demolishing individuality and stifling creativity (again, an argument easily supported by the numbers). These tools and methods considerably harm a student’s ability to think and to reason. What’s more, many children in schools live in daily, abject fear of abuse and bullying – not exactly what any sane parent should want for their child, is it? And please, folks, save me the embarrassing argument that a child should lead a wretched and brutal existence to prepare him/her for life, or to learn to “get along” with others. A parent’s first and most important job is the protection of their child, period. Education and the development of a sane and capable young adult can only happen successfully when the child knows that he/she is safe, loved, appreciated, and supported.

    Are there some public schools better than others? Sure, in that some schools may be statistically safer, or better funded, or something along those lines. Some rotten fruit is not entirely rotted yet. Are there public school teachers better than others? You bet! There are teachers who actually do know something about the subject they teach, and who have a calling to teach. These things happen, but they’re very rare. And ALL public schools and public school teachers use the same ruinous methodology I’ve described in dozens of articles, not just in the article above. It’s required, it’s “the standard.” Glad you read this article, by the way! Thanks! Read a few more. They will ask you to think some more, and the site will become a better resource for you. (Or not…)

    As to being a devil’s advocate, I welcome intelligent, interested questions that are not overwhelmingly biased toward schooling. But I think teacher union’s already have an enormously effective platform for their hideous lies, so I won’t be bothering to add to them. I do not believe there is a good side to public education, period. I want it ended and replaced with universal private education in many forms, from private schools working well outside the current methodology, to the traditional homeschool model, to small tutoring schools and private tutors, to (my preferred answer) small homeschool groups made up of several families.

    Thanks for writing!

  6. I guess I didn’t explain myself well enough. I didn’t mean to offend or steer you from your intended purpose! I was truly asking a question about your opinion. I suppose I’ll just have to read to find out.

  7. Hi again, Jenny. Actually, maybe I wasn’t clear? I answered your questions, but did not wish, in the process, to provide a pro-school argument when I don’t have one. The other side has had its very loud say for a very long time, and I have nothing good to say about them. That IS my answer, and you’ll find it stated in various ways throughout the posts here. Thanks again for writing!

  8. Private schools in Los Angeles are incredibly expensive and difficult to get in to. Most families can’t afford $25,000 – $30,000 in annual tuition. Most parents work and are not able to homeschool. What then do you suggest if the public schools are closed?

  9. Hi Cynthia,

    I taught in private schools in L.A. for over a decade, and know all about them. Most cost less than you describe, and most do not have waiting lists of any kind and actively recruit students to try and make their “bottom line”, though there are exceptions.

    But moving past that inaccuracy in your comment, what I suggest is that you read the many, many articles in this blog and also in Homeschool Hows & Whys, my other blog. What I obviously suggest is that people homeschool, and that the best and easiest way to do so is to form small homeschool groups consisting of 2-4 families sharing the “teaching” load and expense. The cost per year to homeschool is almost always less than $500 per student, and that can be afforded by most families ($500 per YEAR, not month). The time commitment required of parents can be spread out amongst the participating family’s adults and even their eldest children sometimes, which allows everyone to keep their jobs AND assist their kids. It’s far safer than school (ANY school, including private schools with entirely untrained teachers as a rule, and generally as much bullying and harassment as public schools).

    The fact that you ask “what do I suggest” suggests that you have not bothered to read just about anything here, including the article your commenting on. Please do so before bothering to comment.

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