Every time I see a group of parents at a school choice rally holding up their signs demanding options, I wonder this: What choices do they want?
What choices would I be thinking about if I were a parent marching with a sign?
Safe schools, of course. Schools that don’t tolerate bullying or disrespect. Schools where teachers view me, not themselves, as the ultimate authority in my child’s life. Schools that reinforce common courtesy and decency.
Obviously, I can’t ask for public schools that teach my religion, but maybe I can ask for ones that at least respect my child’s right to embrace it and openly and respectfully express views in relevant settings.
I personally would like a school that nourishes the spirit with music and the arts in non-controversial ways that respect my child’s innocence. I want my child to have a good chunk of time outdoors each day, breathing in fresh air, exploring, playing, studying nature, learning from the real world.
I want my child to follow his or her own reading interests and see where they take him. I want her to have intelligent and probing conversations with the people I entrust with her education – about the things she’s reading and studying.
I want my child to gain life skills – know his way around a kitchen, a garden, a grocery store, a workshop, the community. I want her to excel in communicating with others, in being both a good and active listener as well as a careful and honest speaker.
I want my child to know how to follow through on an interest – all the way to the end, no matter how long it takes. I want her to learn how to correct a mistake even if it takes 1000 tries. I want him to strive for mastery, not grades.
I’m just warming up, but already I see what the problem is. My choices are not really options in a school funded by the state. What I want can’t be measured in points, by percentages or tests. It can’t be standardized or split up into equal chunks to be learned at even intervals.
When I think of the end result of an education, I envision a human being who is broadly literate, insatiably curious, kind, confident, articulate, observant, wise, generous, savvy but not jaded, honest to a fault, and self-defining.
I don’t think that’s how most schools today view education outcomes. My choice must also be my doing. I may need help at times – but I’ll know what sort of help and seek it out in ways that benefit my child. I know what I must do is be the kind of person I want my child to grow up to be.
I choose freedom and I choose to support others who also want freedom for their children.