How should one refer to children? As “resources”? Or as “humans,” who are distinct from both diamonds and siamangs?
In one of my recent articles, I referred to a piece by academics Acker, Gray, Jalali, and Pascal in which they acted as if U.S. case law were God. Another issue arises in their article that is commonly found in writings, both academic and lay. The basic thesis is that children and young adults, pre-school through college, are resources to be measured, analyzed, tended, and managed by the government and State-run school systems.
The US federal government puts it this way, for example:
Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields have become increasingly central to U.S. economic competitiveness and growth. Long-term strategies to maintain and increase living standards and promote opportunity will require coordinated efforts among public, private, and not-for-profit entities to promote innovation and to prepare an adequate supply of qualified workers for employment in STEM fields. American pre-eminence in STEM will not be secured or extended without concerted effort and investment. Trends in K-12 and higher education science and math preparation, coupled with demographic and labor supply trends, point to a serious challenge: our nation needs to increase the supply and quality of “knowledge workers” whose specialized skills enable them to work productively within the STEM industries and occupations.
Furthermore, those in Washington, DC are focused on not risking the possibility that things regarding children’s education might get out of their control. Consider the following:
The U.S. Department of Labor invests about $14 billion a year in the nation’s workforce system and in increasing the skills and education of our current workforce. In addition, the Department of Labor has begun investing regionally in ways that overcome typical fragmentation in planning and action among industry, government, non-governmental organizations, and education and training institutions.
Someone (or some people) somewhere has his eye, bank account, personal power supply, and nation-building aims focused on every parent’s child.
But widely-quoted technical reports by big agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration might appear to be aimed at public/State-school children and the reports might seem far away to the typical parent, grandparent, pastor, or baseball coach in Anytown, U.S.A. Note, however, that those who like to do central planning or to control all children, not just their own, are also thinking about privately homeschooled children:
This ["universal substantial regulation if not ...outright prohibition" of homeschooling that the authors, Acker et al., recommend] seems unlikely in the current political climate despite the attention being given to education as a national resource and to the necessity to provide a larger, more diverse, and better-trained STEM workforce if America’s global position is not to decline.
That is to say, all children – whether in State schools, private institutional schools, or private homeschooling – should be considered “resources” to be planned and managed by academics who would be philosopher-kings and the most centralized government possible. One nationalist approach would say that whatever increases the power of a nation-state and the material standard of living in a nation is what is best overall; further, government officials (with some advisement from others such as university professors) are the best suited to determine what is best for the nation.
Under this view and in its crassest form, young samples of Homo sapiens , whether 3 years old, 13 years old, or 21 years old, whether male or female, are nothing more or less than coal, oil, platinum, or wood fiber to be counted, planned, and processed by those in positions of authority and power.
This theme was present in President Obama’s 2009 speech to Congress. He lamented the high school dropout rate in America and then said:
This is a prescription for economic decline, because we know the countries that out-teach us today will out-compete us tomorrow.
The implication is that education or schooling is for the purpose of nation building and what some group of thinkers or policymakers decide is good for children and young people.
Is this, however, consistent with the perspective of the majority of parents – or youth – who choose home-based education rather than institutional State-run schooling? Hardly. Why do parents choose homeschooling? The most common reasons follow:
– To customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child. Parents in one family do not think of all their 3, 5, or 9 children as a homogenous train car full of coal, nor do they think of the 55 million or so schoolchildren in America that way.
– To accomplish more academically than in schools. Education is not for trying to push X or Y percent of 3- to 18-year-olds into various branches of the “P-12 education pipeline” to fit the planners’ plan.
– To use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools. One style of teaching does not fit all students, nor all teachers.
– To enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings. This has nothing to do with treating children as if they were coal or wood fiber.
– To provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults.
– To provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
– To teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth. This is where the philosophy of most homeschool parents clearly diverges – very widely – from that of most would-be philosopher-kings, State-university academics, and government central planners. Parents know that they are teaching and training a soul, not exploring, dynamiting, and burning lumps of coal.
Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
National Home Education Research Institute
P.S. Please feel free to send us your questions about homeschooling and we will try to answer them in upcoming messages.
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 Ray, Brian D. (2012, April 24). Retrieved June 19, 2012 from http://archive.aweber.com/nheri2010-1/Lqul.
 Ambruso Acker, Kathleen; Gray, Mary W.; Jalali, Behzad; & Pascal, Matthew. (2012, April). Mathematics and home schooling. Notices of the AMS [American Mathematical Society], 59 (4), 513-521. Retrieved April 24, 2012 from http://www.ams.org/notices/201204/rtx120400513p.pdf.
 United States Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. (2007, April). The STEM Workforce Challenge: the Role of the Public Workforce System in a National Solution for a Competitive Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce , page 1. Retrieved June 19, 2012 from http://www.doleta.gov/youth_services/pdf/STEM_Report_4%2007.pdf.
 Same as preceding endnote.
 Acker et al. (see above), p. 520.
 President Obama’s Address to Congress, February 24, 2009. Retrieved June 19, 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/24/us/politics/24obama-text.html?pagewanted=all.
 Lee, Jaekyung. (2012, March). College for all: Gaps between desirable and actual P-12 math achievement trajectories for college readiness. Educational Researcher, 41(2), 43-55, page 43.