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More Schooling Is Not the Solution

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The state of education in America is pretty appalling. Our high school graduation rate hovers around 70%.  Out of 34 OECD countries, we rank 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in mathematics. One third of all college students are unprepared for introductory-level college courses and need to take at least one remedial class. Meanwhile, half of the students who go to college fail to graduate.

Many public school advocates (especially teachers unions and the politicians they control) argue that our problems could be solved if only we spent more on education.  However, that argument doesn’t hold water as we spend the second most per student on education in the world.  If money were the solution we’d be the envy of the world. On the other hand, free market advocates believe the district school monopoly system prevents innovation and progress in public education by inhibiting competition.  Unfortunately, those free market advocates don’t have the political clout of the teachers unions and other special interests that are quick to attack various school choice initiatives, whether they be public charters, voucher programs, or increased freedom for homeschool families.

Another potential solution that gets a lot of attention is the idea of more schooling.  President Obama has proposed both longer school days and shorter summer vacations as ways to improve educational outcomes for our children. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan has gone even further, making a case for 12-hour school days and year round schooling.  The average school year in America is about 180 days long, shorter than the school years of most of the nations that outperform the US (Sweden is on the low end with only 170 school days per year).  Even though American students spend fewer days per year in school, they actually spend more cumulative hours in school per year than do students in many countries that outperform the US including Finland and South Korea, which between them garnered two of the top three spots in each category- reading, science and mathematics.  While the argument for increased schooling sounds like a good remedy on its face, the problems of the public education system clearly run deeper than class time alone.

For most families, homeschooling is the superior education option.  Homeschooling allows children to escape the many negative aspects of public schooling such as bullying, factory style mass instruction, special interest driven curriculum, and teaching to the test.  Homeschooling is superior when it comes to class time as well. According to Chris Borgmeier and Amanda Sanford of Portland State University, public school students are only learning ~32% of the time they are in school (“Academic Learning Time”), or slightly more than 2 hours a day on average. Since homeschooled students aren’t expected to switch their learning off and on when they walk through the doors of a large concrete building, or at the ring of a bell, they are able to enjoy a deeper and broader educational experience than their public school peers. Homeschool students don’t turn it off on the weekends or over the summer, either.  To homeschoolers, every minute of the day is learning.  Hopefully, President Obama is aware of this and is pleased that these children get far more learning accomplished during the year than their public school peers.  Hopefully Secretary Duncan appreciates that homeschooled children aren’t limited to only 12-hours of learning a day.

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