Monday, August 5, 2013

The hidden, unspeakable secret mission of our schools

Most public discourse about American education involves schooling’s technical issues: test scores, graduation rates, teacher preparation, finance, security, discipline, disability services. But this is a shadow dialogue, a Trojan Horse.

Schools are really about their social mission. The education talk does not tell enough of the story. Parents want social outcomes from education: A happy child like all the other kids at fourth grade. Ready for high school at ninth grade. Ready for independence at twelfth grade. An economic future at college graduation.

Parents want the whole kid to get there, not just his brain, and they want their children to have a certain range of social experiences as the brain work happens. Safety. Discipline. Dress code. Individual attention. Reasonable class sizes. Support for personal learning styles. A sense of caring and community. Moral content.

The education stuff matters, but these issues operate under the hood of a vehicle that delivers holistic outcomes. Once education is stripped down to test prep, it is up to the programming at the fringes of the school to deliver the holistic content. That’s why the YMCA or the Boys and Girls Club runs after school programming. These groups have the flexibility to deliver mentoring, social support, recreation and family

Even after school, a certain type of political correctness prevails. At your afterschool program, is homework help and math club privileged over dance and swimming?


In 2005, when Columbus Public Schools wanted to know why parents switched from public school to charter schools, parents usually offered multiple reasons. Researchers analyzed 800 verbatim comments compiled in over 100 hours of parent interviews. Reasons cited by parents include:
  • Discipline, safety and dress – mentioned by 42 percent of parents
  • Individual attention – mentioned by 42 percent of parents
  • Academic/mental health/ learning disability / physical needs – mentioned by 39 percent of parents
  • Quality of education in general – mentioned by 30 percent of parents
  • Communication –mentioned by 9 percent of parents
In addition, in most cases, guardians report that charter schools are exceeding their expectations in areas where Columbus Public Schools were a source of concern. This included “social fit” where 91 percent of charter school parents felt that their expectations were met or exceeded.

KidsOhio. (2005). Why do parents in Columbus choose charter schools? Downloaded 8/5/13 from

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