How Children Can Survive Bad Schools (Part 1 of 2)

A visitor asks how she can help her children to keep developing their rational minds, to be objective and to develop a correct hierarchy of knowledge, in spite of government-run schools that teach the exact opposite.

She says her kids are intelligent and can see through the irrational methods and ideas they are taught. She worries that this conflict can lead to unnecessary stress. She can’t afford private education, and is not in a position to home school.

If her children can see through the irrational methods and ideas they are being taught, they are already safe. This is proof that whatever she is doing is, in fact, working. The problem with most government-run schools is that, (1) they are mediocre because they are unaccountable to parents and students, and, (2) they teach stupid ideas such as ‘Barack is Great’ or the urban religion of environmentalism.

The good news (if there is any good news) is that the very fact that these schools are mediocre makes it doubtful that they can effectively advance the ridiculous ideas they’re teaching. Children are not stupid. If schools are not giving them anything of value, they’ll sense it. This will lower the school’s credibility in their eyes. Many kids hate or resent school because it’s obvious that schools aren’t doing their job. If kids are not being properly taught to read, add, multiply or (most of all) think, then they won’t respect the same school that tries to sell them on environmentalism or any other irrational idea such as religious fundamentalism, Obama-ism or whatever.

Many private schools, even ones that teach mistaken ideas such as religious fundamentalism, enjoy the edge over government-run schools. Why? Because at least, as (kind of) free-market entities, they answer to parents and students. This is incentive for many of them to do an excellent job of teaching reading, writing, and even thinking, even in spite of their attempts to advance erroneous beliefs. Also, not everything taught in the context of religion is wrong. Some religious ideas emphasize the notions of integrity, honesty and even rationality. Though they are, unfortunately, undercut by an emphasis on supernaturalism, there are at least some good ideas for children to learn.

Public schools offer none of this. They’re not accountable to parents or students. They’re only accountable to politicians and the bureaucrats who run the federal education establishment. And nearly all of them have stupid, wrong ideas about virtually everything. Public schools cannot begin to earn the respect of students, while private schools (even religious ones) at least have a fighting chance.

Government-run schools are really in a lose-lose position. The better job they do at teaching the skills of reading, writing and thinking, the harder time they will have imposing irrational (yet politically correct) dogma on these well-trained children. The worse job they do at teaching the skills of reading, writing and thinking, the harder it will be to persuade kids of anything, especially if they’re thoughtful and feel no respect for their mediocre teachers.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s, very religious Catholic schools attempted to indoctrinate school children with all kinds of wild ideas. I remember, for example, being taught in a Catholic school (as late as the 1960s) that if you removed the Holy Communion host from your mouth at Mass, you would literally see the blood of Jesus Christ. I didn’t believe this as a child, and I know of nobody (even committed Catholics) who actually believe this as adults. Although old fashioned Catholic schools often did a good job teaching children how to read and write, they failed miserably at producing adults who grew up all that committed to their religious dogma. How many products of Catholic schools in the 1950s go to Mass every Sunday today?

The same will probably prove true with public school children being told all kinds of falsehoods about the environment, government-run medicine and everything else. ‘Barack is Great’ will probably be an even tougher sell than the religious ideology of days long gone.

The most important thing for a parent to remember is to teach his or her child to think. The woman who wrote me this note elaborated on how she teaches her child to think in all kinds of ways. She discusses moral or other kinds of dilemmas in everyday life. She encourages conversation about books that her kids are reading. She engages them in discussion about what’s online or in the newspaper. She talks about events that happen locally and in the world at large, in terms her children can understand. Day by day, she raises her child to the level of a committed thinker. She doesn’t sit by and whine about the computers, television and even the lousy schools. She gets the job done herself. Home schooling is not necessary. If her child actually learns to think at school, all the better. If the school is mediocre or worse, she can provide the rational antidote simply by helping her children to think rationally and confidently, day in and day out.

Concluded in tomorrow’s column.