By Jennifer L. Williams, Contributor, USDR.
I dislike public schools for many reasons. They capitulate to money quickly and with money come more regulations and rules. They are always seeking more money. So when the Obama administration offered “Race To The Top” money with all the typical federal strings attached, the school system my daughter attends jumped at it. They did the same thing with “No Child Left Behind”. They didn’t do because there was any REAL value in doing so – it was for the money that came with it. With the adoption of Common Core (don’t even get me started), there are new regulations and restrictions on my daughter’s time in school. She cannot miss more than 10 days per quarter.
Some goofnut administrator in a place far, far away decided for my daughter that she cannot miss 11 days or more of school. Really? Someone is infringing on opportunities for my daughter to explore the world with this silly requirement. Why? She might miss something “important” according to her father who teaches. “Important” is defined as something she needs to know to pass the end of course exams. These exams replace the OGT in Ohio. I dislike standardized testing for many reasons and believe it should be completely abolished. It says nothing about the true value of learning and only tells me that my daughter knows how to correctly fill in a bubble. It does not enhance learning or tell us know about the outcomes other than the scores and the schools are all about the scores. And then there’s the issue of the poor teachers being put out to come up with her assignments ahead of time so she can complete them on the road. But back to the issue of missed days.
I want to take my daughter on my annual spring trek to Alaska. It gives me a couple more weeks with her and we get to explore together. She’s a good traveler, if a tad willful at times, and we love road trips together. However, this means pulling her out of school for 10 days and up to 14 days if you count the weekends. Just think of all that learning that will go on that she will miss in late April after the exams! HEAVEN FORBID! While her father agrees that the experience is a great opportunity, he is also resistant to it. It is to the point that I’m willing to homeschool her. She’s going into middle school and I’m not terribly hip on some of the teachers. They simply are not good and they can’t be rooted out because of tenure, or continuing contract, as it is called. So I will have to supplement her educational process for the next three years anyway, as I have been doing. And a road trip with Mom up the Alaska Highway (something we have done when she was five) is the way to do it. She can do her home work in the car between stops at hiking trails and wildlife crossings. She will not miss anything for the experiences we will have along the way. Getting kids OUT of the classroom is a far more effective learning tool. Why study dinosaur fossils from a distance when I can take her to see them in Alberta? Just me…
So because some bureaucrat believes in the current educational system, which is broken and no longer functions other than by how much money is available for more asinine attempts to make it better, my daughter will not be allowed to be out of the classroom for more than 10 days. It is an arbitrary number that signifies nothing. While I understand that administrators do not want kids just missing school for no good reason, hence the cap on days, it is not as if she’s sleeping in and hanging at the house for two weeks. There is an educational bend to the trip. Just the travel alone is a good experience. But I will go out of my way to make sure she reads her history and geography of the area and comes back with a great report…and her math homework done. There should be exceptions to this arbitrary, draconian day limit. While she won’t be in the traditional classroom, she will still be learning more lessons in 10 days on the road than she would ever learn sitting inside of a building.
Jennifer Williams is adjunct faculty in American History at Ashland (OH) University and the American Public University System. She is also the teaching chef for the New Day Family Resource Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Her interests are photography and curling. She lives with her family in Norwalk, Ohio.