Had a conversation over Christmas with one of those family members who doesn't share my viewpoint on much of what I've written here. (See my disclaimer under 'About Me'.) This person is a veteran educator for whom I have great respect. But having been a member of the educational establishment for a few decades, it became evident to me that the paradigm wasn't going to shift for this person, that educational reform isn't going to happen because of the great numbers of teachers, parents, and community members who believe the following:
A school's first and most important job is to provide daycare for parents. It's the school's job to keep the kids occupied while their parents are at work.
Is there anything in this job description about education? No. But this job description will protect unions without requiring teachers to teach.
It is most definitely about bureaucracy, because it weaves a web of social services around the school that involves family, work for parents and teens, law enforcement, child protective services, health care for kids and their families, and welfare for kids and their families. NONE OF THESE HAVE MUCH TO DO WITH EDUCATION!
It is a job description that will continue to contribute to the breaking apart of kids from their parents, and will give parents less reason to stay committed to each other for the sake of the kids. After all, someone else is looking after the kids and their education.
This person and I have a nephew in common, who is now in his mid-twenties and earning his high school diploma through a community college program. He more or less dropped out of high school in his teens, worked for a local business, then spent three years in Japan on his own, working a few part-time jobs. He has wonderful insights into the workings of that culture.
High school didn't interest him enough to finish while in his teens, but the schools did accomplish their primary purpose of day care. He is skilled at many things, is marvelously articulate and philosophical, and was never angry about his educational experience. His current GPA is perfect, but his interests are still too broad to focus on a particular career, and he is still uncertain about what to choose next. He asks amazing rhetorical questions, can generate them at lightning speed, and yet can allow himself and folks around him the time to come to some conclusions. He would make a tremendous lecturer on almost any topic of his choosing.
I would hold him up as a poster child for my one educational reform: We'll give you twelve years, take it when you're ready. But the current paradigm of education says he's not ready for the world, that he should remain in their care until they can put their stamp of approval upon him.