Oy Bay!

"My heart is in the east, and I in the uttermost west." — Yehudah Ha-Levi

We Don’t Need No Education

Posted by shanamaidel on July 27, 2008

The state of California has announced that they have been botching their numbers for the dropout rate from high school. The numbers are much higher than previous years. The travesty is level high: One quarter will not matriculate.

All of this may seem somewhat pointless on a Jewish blog, except for two points:

1) As a community, even if we choose not to send our children to public school, we are still responsible for our fellow human. To know that a quarter of last year’s potential graduating class is missing is disturbing, especially considering that taxes are levied to make sure that everyone who lives in the state is educated. To abdicate our responsibility to 25% of the state’s high school students is a shandah fur de goyim.

2) I’m not a betting woman, but if I were, I would assume that among those counted as dropped out, although not labeled in the report as such, are the now illegal homeschoolers. This matters in the Bay Area, where Jewish education options, especially intensive Jewish education, are severely limited, especially compared to areas like New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Homeschooling was an out of this precarious situation in the Bay area, but since it was declared illegal, parents in the bay area, particuarly with teenagers, are now left stranded if they want to provide their children with a quality Jewish and secular education (as they define it).

If you cannot educate in the public schools, would you let your kids “drop out,” so you could homeschool them? When I see these numbers, I wonder what my options will be for a rigorous, pluralistic, halachic (in the orthodox sense because I am), comprehensive Jewish education, and a comprehensive, broad, and rigorous secular education. As a comprehensive secular education means exposure to “the world out there,” which often is seen in a public school. Meanwhile, a comprehensive Jewish education is often one in an enclosed world, where a person is encased in tactile Jewish experiences and Jewish texts.

I feel for parents of sixteen year olds when I see these numbers. Education is something all encompassing, from a day a child is born, done out of love, to share where we all come from. Choosing a school, an educational path reflects past values.

And it seems the state of California is going to make a tough call for Jewish children in the Bay.


6 Responses to “We Don’t Need No Education”

  1. archangelinamerica said

    Interesting topic Shanamaidel (and welcome to the fold). Though I have not written much of anything recently, you have hit on one of my major nerves. As a young California teacher, I have witnessed many surprising things that would have shocked me as a student of the same age a mere 10 years ago.

    To be honest, though I find your general topic to be interesting and your hypothesis to be thoughtful, I doubt that the drop out rate is statistically affected by students leaving public school for home school. Not that I approve of the decision of the legislature to increase the requirements for parents to educate their own children. Given the abyssmal state of some of our public schools, I cannot imagine some parents providing a worse education. Furthermore, the “education” of teachers (if I can even call it that) has nothing to do with subject knowledge or the ability to teach it, but is limited to nonsense like classroom management, teaching students with different “learning styles” and dealing with difficult students and other similar situations. These problems are almost non existent in the family because there is no classroom, just the parent and the student. But I digress. Some of the problems with the graduation rate have had to do with a poor ability to track students who change districts or states or even countries. With some of the immigration issues that are mixed up with this, it is difficult to track this graduation rate. I doubt that it has suddenly become worse though. It has just been poorly reported in the past. However, there is one reason for a sudden increase in the drop out rate. The requirement to pass the exit exam sadly will likely cause a drop in graduation rates. And if you look at the exit exam, it is depressing to think that there are 12th graders who cannot answer even 50% of those questions. And it is even worse to think that some students with just 51% of those questions correct still graduate high school. As I have traveled through Europe this summer, I have learned about some of the other systems in place and it is interesting to see the differences. In Germany, students with just their arbitur (high school diploma) can get great full time employment because the diploma is considered to be a sign of a quality and complete education. I do not know that the American diploma is considered to be worth even the paper it is printed on. And many people I talk to here wonder why teachers should even have to liked at all. It is just expected that students will follow instruction. In America though, it is expected that students will not work if they do not have a good relationship with their teacher. Sorry to be so depressing, but I think about this stuff all the time.

  2. […] writer of this piece must be a real schmuck. Homeschooling’s not illegal in […]

  3. Ozboz said

    You need to update your homeschooling information. Homeschooling is not now, nor never has been, illegal in California.
    The court decision you cite was abandoned last February and reheard in June. The original case that led to the appeals court erroneous decision was recently dropped by the presiding juvenile court.

  4. Lynda said

    Well, it is a good thing that you’re not a betting woman because you loose money. You’ve somehow decided that the public school system not being able to track students is somehow related to homeschooling.

    A) Homeschooling isn’t illegal in California.
    B) Public schools don’t track “private” school students which is the option that homeschoolers use.
    C) One should always remember the ditty about *assume.” And, those who have no knowledge of how the dropout rate is counted shouldn’t play guessing games.

    Little lesson in dropout rates from a retired public school registrar. Students enter 9th grade. They are given an ID number and that number is tracked until graduation time. That number is removed from the data base under the following circumstances and is NOT counted toward the dropout rate of that school: transfer to another public school; transfer to a private school (that would be homeschooling, remember “B” above); moving out of the district; early graduation; transfer to a continuation school; death; aging out; emancipation with resulting court order of attendance no longer being mandatory; public school ISP; public school homestudy.

    The problem is data input and the numbers you quote are probably inaccurate as well. Very few schools have dedicated registrars that track students.

    Now, on to the other erronious comment. The legislature has not added any requirements to homeschooling. California, technically, doesn’t have any homeschoolers. They are private schoolers and there are no new private school rules.

  5. Archangelinamerica said

    I am guessing that Shanamaidel is referring to the ruling that required parents who homeschool to have a California Teaching Credential. It would be illegal for parents without the credential to homeschool their children. So although homeschooling is not illegal in general, it became a great deal more difficult to do. But I guess this decision may have been overturned. I have not been following the news over the last 3 months.

  6. Oyster said

    Looks like the loser Daryl over at home-schooling is censoring people’s comments. Here’s my response to his latest comment about me:

    Wow, what a case-&-point for the downside of home-schooling: lack of sensitivity to other’s points of view and those of different backgrounds. You think that just because you found some definition that you like online, that makes it okay to call someone a ‘schmuck’? There’s not even any citation for the source of that dictionary. Does home-schooling subscribe to the Dan Rather citation style-guide? ‘Yinglish’ is not Yiddish, and I’m not about to be lectured on Yiddish by the likes of you. ‘Schmuck’ is a Yiddish vulgarity, and if home-schooling promotes the reckless application of vulgarities to everyone that they disagree with, then keep it far away from my children.

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