September 23, 2013

Common Core Arrest and Homeschooling

I'll admit to being a skeptic and a devil's advocate most of the time, but I've tried to generally avoid controversy and hot topics where this blog is concerned.

But when I saw this video of a dad being arrested for asking a question- albeit a question designed to spark a bit of rebellion- I finally lost the urge to avoid talking about Common Core.  Here's the thing.  I can't find much in the standards that I think is worth flipping out over.  At most, I see a slight uptick in the standards of some core areas and a complete lack of emphasis on other things that I think a well rounded education should include.  Some of it is ridiculous, but no more ridiculous that the Whole Language craze that swept public schools a decade ago.  It was a mistake, but we bounced back.  This is probably no different.  So have I seen anything worth flipping out over?  Not really.  Not until we arrest parents for demanding answers.  What on earth?


The fact that anyone would even consider arresting a parent for asking a heated question just makes me wonder how much more is at stake here for states than we've been allowed to realize.  That's my real concern.  If so much is at stake that someone voicing opposition to Common Core will be hauled away in cuffs and charged with a crime that could carry a serious sentence, something's wrong.  

Because I'm a skeptic, if that had not been caught on film, I would have said, "Oh, that's just a story spun by the anti-CC nut cases."  There are certainly some extremists in the Common Core debate and I've made it a point not to cast my lot in with any of them.  But when we start arresting parents, my lot is cast.

When I was in school to become a teacher, I had a professor who conducted several classes exclusively on how to keep these over involved parents from coming in the building.  His take was that we want to seem like we want parents involved because that's what is good for PR.  But when great parents become too involved, it only means trouble for the teacher.  These are his words, not mine.  Anyway, we learned all about how to make newsletters that would make parents feel informed enough that perhaps they wouldn't feel the need to come in and see how things are going, how to walk kids all the way to the car if we thought that they might complain to their parent about something that happened in school so that they would hear our view first, and other such methods of keeping awesome parents out of the building.  I thought this was pretty extreme, and honestly never encountered anything like this in the actual schools I taught in.

But this video brought back the anger that I felt sitting in a classroom, being trained to hold off well meaning and engaged parents.  Apparently this "community meeting" required questions to be submitted in writing so that the comfortable questions could be addressed and the rest ignored.  It was another case of trying to look like they want parents involved, while doing everything in their power to keep parents out of the game.  This man obviously cared about his kid's education, probably the kind who shows up every now and then to meet the teacher and see how his kids are doing.  The kind of parent all school claim they want more of.  So why was he charged with a crime for speaking up?

Even though I'm not solidly against any of the Common Core details, I'm solidly against criminalizing community involvement in education.  I'm solidly against anything that schools would implement which would result in legal action being taken against parents who disagree.

As a homeschooler and someone who has said no thank you to the public school system, this concerns me greatly and I see this as a foot in the door towards moving back to a system in which parents aren't sure what their legal rights are when it comes to education.  The right to homeschool was vague for a while, illegal in some states for a while, and then challenged completely in some instances.  Now our rights to homeschool are pretty clear.  If we allow parents to be arrested for simply speaking out against aspects of public education, what's next?

I would urge homeschoolers, regardless of how you feel about the content of Common Core, to speak out on behalf of parents' continued rights to be involved in educational choices for their children.  Show up to the meetings and calmly support those who have questions whether or not they are the same questions you have.  It appears that for the moment, we are engaged in a common struggle with public school parents, to hold on to the right to participate in our children's education to whatever degree we deem necessary.  

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