Can Parents Stay Home, With Kids in School?

29 12 2010

One of my administrative responsibilities for the large southern school system I served in the 80s (as a paid professional, not as a volunteer!) was “parent and community involvement.” I supervised a fulltime coordinator with a small office staff helping 40 schools and centers with volunteer issues.

But is it volunteering when it’s systematically coerced or even mandatory?

As local and state economies continue to struggle, budget cuts to rich and poor school systems are increasing the reliance on unpaid parent help. . .

Many parents are happy to volunteer uncoerced, and most everyone recognizes the worthiness of the cause. But the heightened need and expectations are coming at a time when many parents have less and less time to give.

America’s public school systems are funded by all taxpayers just as America’s military and justice systems are funded by all, regardless of individual use or personal involvement. And the collective’s claim on individual citizens isn’t limited to our money. The dormant military draft remains the law; registration still is required, and it still could reactivate its public claim to your literal life. Jury duty is not voluntary now; under force of legal penalty, you come when called and stay until dismissed, for involuntary hours, days, months or — if it turns into an OJ Simpson trial — even years of your real life, away from your real life.

The public schools certainly do tax us, heavily compared to other public “goods” imo, but our law so far hasn’t empowered schools to draft parents (much less the general citizenry) into direct service, too. School donations and personal volunteering have actually been “voluntary.”

Maybe not for long.





Homeschool Dad Sam Sending Sons to School

22 12 2010

Nance and Lynn, Meg and Beta are homeschooler moms who also sort of parent schooled kids. And sooner or later many of us get far enough along in homeschooling to see kids off to college and university (yep, sorry, schools!) and to see that not as giving up identity but the opposite, and such a GOOD thing.

So Sam will have a lot to talk about with all sorts of Thinking Parents, going forward after the holidays. Meanwhile in his signature introspective style, here is how he sees it:

A huge part of my desire to continue homeschooling, I have to admit, is that I’ve allowed homeschooler to define my identity to such an extent. . .It’s like that whole homeschooler thing. I don’t really think that I’m losing the identity or becoming not a homeschooler, I’m becoming more, maybe?

I admire Sam, more and more. Like a homeschool-to-school parent I wrote about here in town, he’s thinking about some school for himself along with his children.

The first time I encountered Sam, he struck me as a young dad who still had a lot to learn about parenting and homeschooling as identity, vastly richer and messier than clear, tidy fundamentalist labels can define and delimit:

Last night an unschooling dad . . .finally sniffed at me and Nance, said even his eight-year-old son understands how calling something by a different name doesn’t make it so.

This dad, let’s call him Sam — because he says that is his name, although it might be an online alias, and I once knew a schnauzer named Sam, but hey, it’s not my business to research and relabel this fellow homeschooler, or worry about whether the name he chooses to use in this context is confusing, disingenuous, or possibly outside the LAW as documented on his official government birth certificate — DadSam says Nance and I are clearly wrong, and he figures we know we’re wrong but won’t admit it and he’s done listening or thinking. . .

. . .who has more to fear here, the definers or the defined?

Now DadSam has learned so much about labels that he can leave them behind and as he says it himself with the wisdom of well-earned education — not mere schooling! — he isn’t losing his individual identity. He’s becoming more, maybe.

Here’s how I had described for Sam, what our son was learning at home, whatever anyone wanted to label it:

He already grasps at some level that learning about the world and negotiating it through relationships with all its inhabitants, no matter how you do it or what you call it, doesn’t mean being TOLD WHAT IS RIGHT.

It means thinking and feeling for yourself, and the words you eventually choose to express it all must be yours and yours alone. Don’t let anyone tell you different, son, no matter what they call themselves or you or your education, your work, play, politics, parents or future children.

Vaya con Pasta. Go with the FSM, Sam and sons. It really is about home, not school, and we’re all traveling companions on the roads home that count.





Latest Tea Party Target: Methodists?

21 12 2010

Superman won’t like this, and neither would Little JJ’s grandmother!
Read the rest of this entry »





Ideas of 2010: Happy Thinking!

17 12 2010

Better than shopping or Christmas punch for holiday stimulation. . .

Think of fashion constrained by public dress codes for example, as Snook often does over t-shirts, kilts and serious hats.

This collection offers all sorts of ideas to unwrap, everything from the Armored T-Shirt and the Bra Gas Mask to End-of-Men Fashion and the Raw Meat Dress. (Oh, not to give, um, short shrift? — to the Small-Enough Youth Condom and Performance-Enhancing Basketball Shoes!)

For the 10th consecutive December, the magazine has chosen to look back on the past year through a distinctive prism: ideas.

Our digest of short entries refracts the light beam of human inspiration, breaking it up into its constituent colors — innovations and insights from a spectrum of fields, including economics, biology, engineering, medicine, literature, sports, music and, of course, raw-meat clothing.

Happy thinking!

Maybe the expressive antics themselves are enough to ponder without delving into what ideas they represent, a thought suggested by the magazine quoting Andy Warhol.

Or maybe these ideas are best contemplated not individually but as one panoramic whole, power of story like A Christmas Carol forcing us to face how we got here, where we are and where we’re heading, unless we somehow wake up sufficiently to change our future and fast?

And just where is that, would the piece have us think? Read the rest of this entry »





JJ is Christmas Present, Young Son is Fezziwig!

14 12 2010

Someone (write Lynn if you’re cross!) was silly enough to demand pictures of Scrooge:the Musical, so . . .





What’s in the Label “No Labels” for America?

13 12 2010

Americans want political leaders to reach across the political aisle to get things done. Forty-seven percent said it is more important to compromise to get things done than to stick to their beliefs . . .
In several states the number of people registered as independents tops those affiliated with either political party. . .

No question that moving forward beyond pitched partisan warfare would be a good thing:

We have a dangerous dearth of credibility in the United States these days, and when no one has the confidence of a majority of Americans, there is fertile ground for con artists and demagogues.
And now, arguably the most serious challenge facing our country is figuring out how to have those discussions.

Yes, many scholarly calls to rise above partisan poisoning of the civic well have come to naught, and yes, JJ herself loved and lost with Sam Waterston’s post-partisan Unity08:

Who really believes either political aristocracy would run the government well for OUR benefit, rather than their own, then? If government runs the mechanisms that help US run IT — from voting machinery to schooling machinery — who’s the servant, who’s getting served, and who’s just getting served UP?

And yes, she has a great cautionary tale to tell, remind her later, about the recent unpleasantness between rival parties that destroyed the self-governing union of Real-Bearded Santas!

Nevertheless she won’t AUTOMATICALLY assume this new similar-sounding effort launching today will similarly fail: Read the rest of this entry »





Does Michelle RHEE-ly Put Students First?

10 12 2010

Michelle Malkin’s Siamese twin Michelle Rhee (can’t separate them looking or listening) is being interviewed on my small screen this morning, called a “hero” and a “revolutionary” by conservative non-educator white guys on Morning Joe’s set, for what she’s supposedly doing as the real deal children’s advocate, the only one “fighting” for students against their bad old public schools.

She defends her Wicked Witch of the East treatment of DC parents and schoolfolk (see Time article quotes below) saying the one thing she regrets is seeming so mean and angry and imperious.

She claims she wasn’t all that angry, not all the time at everyone at least, and SHE’s the one on the kids’ side against everyone else in education and in their communities, so she will continue mocking and undermining and firing and fighting for unilateral control — except she wants to sound less bitchy, and therefore more bankable, as she does it.

This belated image adjustment apparently is meant to befit and benefit her new personal-public-private Rule the Schools front, dubbed “Students First” because as I hear her, our nation’s students aren’t first in public policy priority so they’re not first competitively, but she can put them first in both senses if we let her run things:

December 08, 2010 posted by Michelle Rhee
International study finds U.S. students far behind those in other countries [read ASIAN students]

Shanghai is first; the U.S. is not. One reason I started Students First is because I know that we can only compete with China and other leading countries if we transform our schools. If we were to grade the academic performance of the world’s industrialized economies, Singapore, South Korea, and now Shanghai would get an A — the United States would get a C, at best, and in math we’d get an F.

But how exactly will she accomplish all this winning? Her education-school reform ideal sounds like little more than inflicting her own poorly-understood dramas and traumas from Korean and American schooling on us all:

Her parents immigrated from South Korea several years before she was born so that her father could study medicine at the University of Michigan.

. . .After Rhee finished sixth grade, her parents sent her to South Korea to live with an aunt and attend a Korean school, a harrowing experience for a child in a strange land with limited skills in its language. When she returned a year later, her parents sent her to a private school because they found the public schools lacking.

And she never explains, or even acknowledges the question of, how the chaotically individualized and nearly ungovernable USA, by emulating Asian schooling for homeogeneous Asian children in ancient Asian cultures, will magically out-Asian them and jump to first again. (What would true original Western education reform look like, hmmm? Radical unschooling?)

I wrote pretty kindly about Colin Powell and his wife, coming at school reform from their own subculture’s education power of story. I can’t and won’t do that with Rhee’s Read the rest of this entry »