Joyce. I have considered this question for years and here are some initial thoughts:
As we know, public school (as well as some governmental systems) was spawned from a 19th century philosophy of the nature of humanity which is now largely (though not completely) discredited. But, since mankind no longer has a cultural memory of things having once been done differently, we continue along a familiar path until enough people are willing to say “something is wrong here”.
I believe we are now in a time, historically, when men & women who are recognized in the field of education are beginning to say “we have a problem”. Some, like Sir Ken Robinson, are actually willing to say “public education IS the problem”.
Unfortunately, we have to go through this process before we are willing to enter into an honest dialog to figure out what to DO about the problem. I wish the educational systems would simply ask old-time homeschoolers, because we are years ahead of them regarding these issues.
If we can agree that, for most families, public schooling is not going away, then we have to ask “if public education is the problem, can public education change to become the answer?” Personally, I don’t think so for the following reasons: 1) unwillingness/unawareness of parents to take responsibility for raising their own children which demands that governments do it for them; 2) financial constraints facing governments which demands ever greater efficiency; 3) the constant need to evaluate which demands conformity; and 4) national pride.
Ken Robinson speaks eloquently about individual creativity; yet, we cannot have it both ways: we want creativity (which requires that children be treated as the individuals they are) and we demand efficiency & conformity (which requires that children be treated generically). These seem to be mutually exclusive goals.
One discussion that must be entered into is “what is really NECESSARY for children to know/do by the time they are adults?” Almost daily I watch children being required to learn volumes of information that 1) everyone knows is irrelevant; 2) is considered of equal value with everything else being taught; 3) does not leave time for children to learn many of the skills that really ARE necessary; and 4) robs children of time they could be spending becoming skilled in the specific (read “individual”) gifting(s) God has already put within each person.
If anyone would like to add to this discussion, I welcome your thoughts.