“According to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education, an increasing number of American parents are choosing to have their children raised at school rather than at home,” The Onion “reports” today.
“School-homing,” as the satirical source dubs the fictional trend, would be a witty April Fool’s fib if it didn’t sound so much like the liberal education ideas we’ve heard in the last few decades.
The Clinton administration, for example, popularized the idea of “one-stop shopping” for social services at public schools. They also heavily promoted school-based clinics, which offer services including reproductive health counseling and contraceptives to minors.
The Obama administration is following suit. The new health care law massively increases funding for school-based clinics–$250 million over the next five years. Meanwhile, Secretary Duncan described his “Department’s cradle-to-career education strategy” in testimony before the House Budget Committee last month.
He went on to explain that the Obama administration’s Department of Education budget request includes:
$210 million to fund school reform and comprehensive social services for children in distressed communities from birth through college and career. A restructured Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students program would provide $410 million to – for the first time – systematically measure school climates, which we know can affect student learning.
“School-homing” doesn’t sound far from the mark.
At the classroom level, such policies put demands on teachers that they can’t fulfill. Most teachers and administrators will readily admit they can’t make up for the fundamental role of the family and don’t want to.
At the same time, it’s frustrating for teachers if some parents don’t engage adequately in their children’s education because of challenges in their own personal lives. But the answer isn’t to push more government interventions into family life via public schools. It’s to start restraining government to its constitutional role, limiting public schools to their basic educational purpose, looking to civil society to restore family and community life, and empowering parents with real authority over and resources to direct their children’s education and upbringing.
As Virginia Walden Ford, who’s organized thousands of parents in the District of Columbia on behalf of school choice, will attest, the difference that decision-making authority can make is powerful. She’s seen adults’ and families’ lives transformed as a result.
On the other hand, if policies encourage “school-homing,” they’ll reap what they sow, sadly. As The Onion sardonically concludes, “increasingly overburdened public schools have recently led to a steady upswing in the number of students being prison-homed.”
If we believe the slogan that parents are a child’s first and most important teachers, then we need education policies that testify to its truth.