Term Paper: Public School vs. Home Schooling

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[. . .] With recent advances in distance learning technology, more and more families are choosing to learn at home." (Internet Home School Website, 2003)

Internet offerings are vast, with everything from social societies that provide outreach and opinions with regards to home school concerns and solution to companies that provide whole home school curriculums that meet the standards in the state of origin or require little alteration to do so. (Home School World Website 2001) The internet site: http://www.home-school.com/is a leading magazine, Home School World production that can assist individuals in achieving home school goals and also help answer some of the lingering questions and fears associated with home schooling children. The available information for home school advocates clearly increases the odds that any home school decision will have a far greater opportunity for success than ever before.

Compulsory education offered many new problems which society; children and parents had not really faced before. Issues surrounding the standardized set of educational guidelines which, were are the driving force behind public compulsory education often leave parents and children and sometimes even educators challenged to determine the efficacy of programs and/or policies. In some cases parents chose to simply trust that the best interest of their children was at least at the heart of the system and continue to respond by supporting their children's attendance.

Another issue that arose based on the new cultural focus of education for all has to do with the education of morality, which from the beginning proved to be a strong point of contention between education systems and parents. In the early years of compulsory education can be found a line of thought that enables and even demands the public educator to teach and develop morality within the students they served. The famed turn of the century educator from Columbia University exemplifies the need in his 1909 work on the morality of education:

The business of the educator -- whether parent or teacher -- is to see to it that the greatest possible number of ideas acquired by children and youth are acquired in such a vital way that they become moving ideas, motive-forces in the guidance of conduct. This demand and this opportunity make the moral purpose universal and dominant in all instruction -- whatsoever the topic.

(Dewey, 1909, p. 2)

Even today this is still one of the main foundational arguments in favor of home schooling. Parents do not wish to allow strangers to educate their children on matters of morality and educators would rather have some influence on matters of morality because they plainly effect the social and academic achievements of students in and out of the school system. The prevailing school of thought is that public schools as a government institution shall remain neutral on issues of morality and offer only that which is absolutely necessary to the safety of students

Everyone agrees that moral educators properly aim at enabling individuals to live a good life, but the dominant school of thought about human well being is part of the political theory "that government must be neutral on what might be called the question of the good life... [P]olitical decisions must be, so far as possible, independent of any particular conception of the good life, or what gives value to life. Since the citizens of a society differ in their conceptions, the government does not treat them as equals if it prefers one conception to another." (Simpson, 1989, p. 39)

With regard to public educators there is a double-edged sword associated with moral education. The standard obligatory philosophy so aptly defined in the above citation, be it myth or reality offers a very restrictive set of guidelines from which public educators can draw legitimate and beneficial moral teachings. Public educators take criticism from both those in favor of public moral education and those who advocate for a complete and literal separation between morality and political institutions. On the one hand proponents for civil moral education regard the public education system as if it ignores or neglects necessary moral lessons.

The implication for public authorities is a certain disinterest in the aims of students. This neutrality is appropriate only in so far as we lack knowledge or simply disagree about the good. To be neutral is to be unaligned with any of the parties in a dispute, and to the extent that a consensus exists on important matters no violation of neutrality is involved in preferring one position over other conceivable ones. Where a community exists, students may be initiated into its culture -- inducting its customs and values -- and the very existence of public institutions of education rests upon some agreements of this kind. 3 It is important to know how wide they actually are and how wide they might become. (Simpson, 1989, p. 39-40)

In addition to the criticism leveled by proponents of moral education that the public system does not give enough regard to its role and opportunity as a moral guidance system. Opponents of public moral education, many of whom practice or at least advocate for home school options, regard the moral aspect of the public institution as to invasive and far reaching.

One very current and modern example of the heated issues regarding the education of morality is sex education. Sex education is a federally mandated curriculum. Yet, clearly there are many opponents to the compulsory teaching of birth control and family planning methods to children. With regards to early introduction of sex education many home school advocates would simply rather be the primary providers of this sort of information to their children, wishing to base the information they give on their own moral standards and belief sets. They feel that early introduction of information to children opens them up to experiences and activities that they are not ready for and that they should be allowed final input on the types and speed at which information is offered.

On the other hand advocates for safe sex education, though often acknowledging problems with the delivery of information also stand on both sides of the issue. The real statistically founded fear of innocence or ignorance of risk behavior as a key factor in children's untimely exposure to risk is often sited by educators and parents alike. (Patton, 1996, p. 35) Yet, on the other hand there is also real statistical validity to the idea that the exposure to safe sex teaching is an opening of the mind to engage in risky behavior because it is toted as 'safe' even though it is clearly not.

There is much evidence that both sides of the argument are very valid as exposing children to ideas that implant messages of acceptance upon behavioral activities they may not be ready to engage in can cause lasting social and psychological damage and yet not educating children on issues of how to make inevitable risky behavior safer also opens them up to real danger. In this situation there is a win-lose outcome for children, educators and parents. Parents choosing to educate their own children in a home setting often site reasons associated to these moral dilemmas as at least the starting point for which their decision to home educate was made.

Even in the early years of compulsory education other parents were challenging the system by either refusing to allow their children to attend, or simply not supporting their child into doing so, kind of a work slow down model rather than a strike. Parents simply did not see the value and so continued to make home responsibilities more pressing than school. Some of the parents within the later category chose to believe that they, themselves would provide the best education for their children, as the lives their children would be moving in to would be much like their own and therefore they could provide the best guidance about how their children could plan and develop to meet the demands of their proposed, static adult life.

Though a relatively modern example one might understand the kind of popular curriculum idea I speak of with this example, the turn of the century focus, in both the United States and abroad upon the natural sciences as the source of all attainable knowledge, often known as humanistic. (Graves 1914-page 255) The demonstration of a very hands-on approach with observation and experimentation being the main aspects of the curriculum drove the standards for education for some time and in any way reformed the traditional rote learning approach, which had been popular before.

Defining the era of change after the acceptance of the constitutional ideas of democratic preparation for all potential citizens, compulsory education was adopted as a mandate on both a federal and state level. "The Implied powers of the Bill of Rights give authority to states to require that all children be… [END OF PREVIEW]

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