Jorea Marple, the West Virginia State Superintendent of Schools, recently gave a speech in which she said homeschoolers need more oversight, better standards, better evidence of progress; homeschoolers have too much flexibility. She either doesn’t know homeschoolers very well, or she knows them too well. I’ll explain later.
Government can no better manage the education of homeschool students than they can manage the education of public school students. It makes no sense to give them more oversight or allow them to limit the academic flexibility of the one subset of the population that is actually being educated – those who are most separated from the public education system. It is because the government is so inept at managing public education, or their budgets, or any government service, that so many parents homeschool. Those parents recognize that government bureaucrats who know nothing about the individual needs of their children can only restrict the intellectual growth of a child through burdensome standards and oversight. Those same parents realize that for their children to get the most out of their education, they need as much flexibility as possible, because no child develops in neat linear paths according to government defined subject silos.
It doesn’t seem as though Ms. Marple is completely ignorant of the reality that an individualized education that is tailored to each child’s various intelligences is the most effective education, though one may question if she is fully cognizant of it. She said that the first priority in public education in West Virginia was “to personalize the learning opportunities for our children.” She seems to grasp that uniform instruction doesn’t produce the best results, so one would think that she’d understand that there is no more personalized education than that which is received at home where a parent is not trying to manage a classroom full of children.
Further, Ms. Marple said that the West Virginia public education system has three goals: to decide what it wants children to learn, how children should behave*, and what children need to achieve by the time they graduate from high school. This statement seems to counter her desire for a more personalized education experience for children; but not necessarily if we consider what her motive is. While deciding what children should learn (instead of allowing children to have some say in their education) and what children need to achieve by the time they graduate inhibit the ability for an individualized education, it can still be personalized according to the state.
Ms. Marple makes clear (see the previously referenced articles) that she believes that a more personalized education can be had if the government just had more money to spend on art, music, dance, drama, physical activity, and technology – lots of technology. By personalized it seems she does not mean individualized to the unique intelligences and learning styles of each child, but instead it means more subjects crammed into the school day and more testing and quicker assessment on predetermined learning objectives that the government expects all students to adhere to. In order to provide such a “personalized” education system, the government will need to confiscate more tax dollars to pay for the massive technology investments, the increased number of teachers to teach the various art, music, dance, drama, and physical education classes, as well as for her stated desire to increase salaries to “elevate the respect and admiration” for teachers. With all that new spending, the government will need more money to hire more administrators to manage the new teachers and larger budget.
The real goal of government agencies is not to solve the problems they were created to deal with, but self-preservation and growth. The more money the government is able to confiscate and spend, the more powerful they become. It seems that Ms. Marple’s desire for a more “personalized” education may very well be a desire to continue the growth of the public education tumor in West Virginia. The greatest threat to that growth would be a resounding argument against her proposed, massive investments in teachers and technology. Homeschooling provides that argument – as it produces vastly superior outcomes at tremendously lower costs to the taxpayer. While her words may lead one to believe that she is ignorant on the superiority of homeschooling, it may very well be that she knows too well the benefits of homeschooling. Her desire to control homeschoolers may be a power play to roll up them up into the public education infrastructure, masking or taking credit for their successes, thereby taking away the greatest threat to the growth of the empire she now reigns over.
* I will avoid analyzing the Orwellian desire of Ms. Marple to determine how children “should behave” in this post.