I knew it was only a matter of time before this question came up. And this question is unlikely to go away.
I don’t have a dog directly in this fight. First of all, I’m not a parent. Homeschooling, moreover, wasn’t really a thing during my youth in the 1970s and 1980s. I attended a mix of both public and parochial schools (though mostly the latter). I have generally fond memories of my teachers and classmates. All in all, it was a good experience for me.
But I completed my K~12 education between 1973 and 1986. So my experiences are obviously dated, aren’t they?
At present, there is widespread dissatisfaction with the American system of public education. This comes both from within and from without.
Teachers—based on what I see in my Facebook feed, and in the news—are dissatisfied with their lot in life. They generally don’t believe they’re being paid enough. (Teacher pay varies greatly by state, and then by location within each state.) They complain about unsupportive parents, unruly children, and administrative morass.
Most parents don’t seem happy with what they’re getting, either. Otherwise, there wouldn’t already be a movement toward homeschooling, which has thrived and expanded since the late 1990s.
Taxpayers, meanwhile, are hesitant to pour more money into a system that they see as dysfunctional, bureaucratic, and wasteful. (Also, in much of the country, the public school system is now ideologically skewed toward various leftwing hobbyhorses.)
And now the coronavirus pandemic has made teaching and the public school system much, much more unworkable. Schools in most of the country have been closed for the rest of the academic year—possibly the rest of the calendar year.
Therefore, this might be the time to rethink the current system.
Public education as we now know it in America developed between the 1870s and the 1930s. It was roughly between 1920 and 1939 that the “industrial model” of mass public education in large facilities replaced the one-room schoolhouse of yore. (My grandfather, who was born in 1921, attended a one-room schoolhouse for grades 1 through 8, and a modern high school after that.)
Might this not be a convenient (and perhaps a necessary?) juncture to rethink a century-old system that doesn’t work well for teachers, parents, children, or taxpayers?
Coronavirus might make the decision for us.