It’s time to start writing and publishing here again. Straining to get a business off the ground while raising two young boys, it’s been hard to find the time, but there are challenges ahead that I’m going to need to work out how to deal with, and working through my thoughts in writing seems more likely than anything else to help. I also feel the need to do something useful to help turn this culture of ours around — or, if that isn’t possible, at least help others to navigate a way out — so it’s time to make time.
With my older son on the verge of turning five, kindergarten and all that follows it are suddenly looming near — a prospect that brings me no small amount of dread and apprehension.
In part, I’m concerned because of my own difficulties with public school education — difficulties that, in summary, cultivated in me such a strong dislike for formal education that I waited four years before going to college and repairing that relationship. (Thankfully, college is not high school by any stretch. Having found a passion for physics through self-motivated study on my own, I devoted my very best efforts, and graduated with high honors.)
It’s absolutely vital to me that I not allow my own children to needlessly suffer the same troubles. (Yes, some part of it was a character-building learning experience, but much of it was a completely unnecessary impediment to my progress.) Given that my oldest son has a highly curious, creative mind that asks and can understand the answers to advanced, insightful questions, I’m thinking similar personality + similar school system = similar result, and I dread the thought of that.
I’ve also become aware that schools, and in particular public schools, have not only limitations but complex agendas whose constituent parts can come into conflict with my child’s best interests. Some have social goals, to which they may at times subordinate their students’ individual interests and advancement. To have my child’s future or development sacrificed in this way is unacceptable to me, and it’s something I’m braced to be ready to fight tooth and nail against.
Indoctrination? I suppose I should be worried about that too, and I am, a little, but not so much in the near term. I made it though junior and senior high school without encountering anything overtly troubling (though I now realize I was offered only partial truth about some things). But I’m well aware that my experience may not have been the norm, and that things have also had ample time to “progress” in the past … *ahem* … few decades. (Following Glenn Reynolds’ “K-12 Implosion Update” series is certainly enough to make one worry about the state and sanity of present-day education.) I’m fine with my kids having honest exposure to a wide range of ideas and being free to choose for themselves what philosophies they adopt, so long as they acquire the skill of applying research, reason, and common sense to discern truth. I wouldn’t want it any other way. When things are slanted, however — whether by omission or otherwise — to comport with an ideological agenda that discards hard-won lessons about the meaning of liberty, the origins of tyranny, and all that we have to be genuinely grateful for … well, then we’ll have a problem.
Whatever the long-term problems might be, the immediate challenge is to figure out where the best (least bad?) schools for our sons are located, and move accordingly. Given that all the towns within a reasonable distance from my wife’s job (my work is portable, currently) exact a steep property tax to fund their public schools (with rates around 2% vs. California’s 1%, and house prices comparable to California’s, your annual property tax bill comes to around $12,000-16,000), we had better hope that the local public schools will be good enough for the time being. Else, we’re going to have to find a way to pull in enough additional income to pay private school tuition on top of the cost of the public schools we’ll be paying for but not using.
I imagine large numbers of parents fall into the strategy of relying on a public schools of necessity, while supplementing with outside programs to fill in the weak spots, and striving to cope on their own with the problems public schooling creates and undo any damage that gets done. I certainly don’t expect that I can leave my children’s education to any school system. — That seems like folly, no matter how good the schools. Rather, I expect to be deeply involved in my children’s learning, doing whatever it takes to make the time for it to be a priority. It’s a long road ahead, that I’m sure many of you reading this have probably traveled already. I welcome advice, and will be actively seeking out as much useful information as I can find in the months and years to come. I expect a long, hard climb, but nothing could be more worth the effort than helping my children find their bearings and get off to the best start possible to happy and fulfilling lives.