I have sent my children to Catholic schools and public schools. Right now, the children who live with me are homeschooled. At some time in the future there might be institutional school again. Who knows. At this moment, there is Roadschooling.
What I don’t understand – at all – is the rather mindless celebration of government-designed institutional schooling as the be all and end all. As the definition of education. I don’t get it, especially when it emanates from those leaning left, who, you would think, would be all anti-institutional and suspect of authority and all. Guess not. Huh.
Plus, who believes that? Who thinks that? Anyone? Even a public school teacher? No. We all know that school (can) serve a function, but is not the definition of “education.”
My 7th grader (or so – I should say, 12-year old) is reading To Kill a Mockingbird. I was amused by Lee’s skeptical take on institutional schooling. Funny how you find skeptical takes on institutional schooling in all kinds of places.
Miss Caroline began the day by reading us a story about cats. The cats had long
conversations with one another, they wore cunning little clothes and lived in a
warm house beneath a kitchen stove. By the time Mrs. Cat called the drugstore for
an order of chocolate malted mice the class was wriggling like a bucketful of
catawba worms. Miss Caroline seemed unaware that the ragged, denim-shirted
and floursack-skirted first grade, most of whom had chopped cotton and fed hogs
from the time they were able to walk, were immune to imaginative literature.
Miss Caroline came to the end of the story and said, “Oh, my, wasn’t that nice?”
Then she went to the blackboard and printed the alphabet in enormous square
capitals, turned to the class and asked, “Does anybody know what these are?”
Everybody did; most of the first grade had failed it last year.
I suppose she chose me because she knew my name; as I read the alphabet a faint
line appeared between her eyebrows, and after making me read most of My First
Reader and the stock-market quotations from The Mobile Register aloud, she
discovered that I was literate and looked at me with more than faint distaste. Miss
Caroline told me to tell my father not to teach me any more, it would interfere
with my reading.
“Teach me?” I said in surprise. “He hasn’t taught me anything, Miss Caroline.
Atticus ain’t got time to teach me anything,” I added, when Miss Caroline smiled
and shook her head. “Why, he’s so tired at night he just sits in the livingroom and
“If he didn’t teach you, who did?” Miss Caroline asked good-naturedly.
“Somebody did. You weren’t born reading The Mobile Register.”
“Jem says I was. He read in a book where I was a Bullfinch instead of a Finch.
Jem says my name’s really Jean Louise Bullfinch, that I got swapped when I wasborn and I’m really a-”
Miss Caroline apparently thought I was lying. “Let’s not let our imaginations run
away with us, dear,” she said. “Now you tell your father not to teach you any
more. It’s best to begin reading with a fresh mind. You tell him I’ll take over from
here and try to undo the damage-”
“Your father does not know how to teach. You can have a seat now.”