Mark Franke: Alternatives to the educational train sinking

It seems like all the news about our schools is bad, really bad. One can understand why parents are alarmed that their children are being indoctrinated with critical race theory and trans-anything by irresponsible educators.

It’s not just about opposing these school abominations; it is also a realization that it is done in the dark of night, so to speak, in the hope that the parents are sleeping. No wonder parents are demanding answers at local school board meetings by freely exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government. Domestic terrorism, indeed.

The contempt with which too many prominent educational elites view parents is contrary to our American creed as a self-governing people. It’s no wonder parents vote with their feet when school choice is available.

Private and parochial schools have historically served as an alternative to public schools. This often has a religious motive, the desire to raise one’s children in the faith while providing proper civic education. In my hometown of Fort Wayne, there was once a close working relationship between the public, Roman Catholic, and Lutheran school systems. Respect and cooperation were the operating principle. For example, my small Lutheran elementary school didn’t have a gymnasium, so we were allowed to use the one at the nearby public school.

Columnist and film producer Dinesh D’Souza, one of that foundation’s first assistant researchers, spent a week in Fort Wayne at the time researching an article commissioned for that journal titled, “Fort Wayne: The Last System recoverable public school”. One of his arguments was that cooperation between public and private school systems had improved both. Again, this is a feature that has been lost.

My sense of things now is that the respect between the two is gone and any cooperation that still exists is due to federal funding regulations for things like special education. Indiana’s attendance-based funding for public schools, compounded by an effective voucher program, certainly poisoned what was left of that relationship. It’s all about the Benjamins.

The homeschooling movement continues to grow in popularity. I haven’t found a way to determine how many Hoosier children are home-schooled, but the number of those who withdraw from their local public schools each year attracts the attention of local superintendents. student holidays; state dollars go out the door.

Throw charter schools on the burn pile and combustion occurs. It doesn’t matter that charter schools are public schools, because tuition support follows the child, hitting public school balance sheets where it hurts most.

Another educational alternative that is gaining traction these days is the classic model.

I suspect most people equate the classical model with their children learning the Latin language. For classical purists, Latin is the basis of the program. Although most consider it a dead language, its descendants are alive and well in our vocabulary and grammatical structures.

These purists, however, exaggerate their case by attributing far too much to Latin, at least in my opinion. Of course, Latin contributed more vocabulary to modern English than German, especially when Norman French words are counted as Latin derivatives, but this does not reflect our daily usage. Some linguists claim that 70% of commonly used English words are Anglo-Saxon. English is classified as a Germanic language and not a Romance one.

Once past the Latin lightning rod, there’s a lot to love about what the classics try to do. Theoretically based on the medieval trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric, this approach uses many proven methodologies to capitalize on a child’s natural abilities to learn at given developmental stages.

Teaching at the grammar stage, from age 12, relies heavily on the assimilation of facts – multiplication tables, memorized lists, dates, etc. in the 1950s. We memorized and recited daily. I can still recite the list of American presidents, English kings and books of the Bible. I would be able to do the same with a map of the world, identifying nations and capitals, except there are now nearly 200 compared to only 100 at school.

Once past the grammar stage, the child moves on to the logic stage in which he puts these facts together and draws conclusions. Finally, the rhetoric stage trains the older child to make effective arguments to inform and persuade.

It seems like a good model to follow, but there are criticisms of classical education. The one I hear most often is that it doesn’t emphasize science. This causes some parents to hesitate if their children go into technical or scientific careers.

Still, there’s a lot to love about the classic approach, but you don’t have to worship its altar to reap the best of its theory. It is largely a return to traditional education, both in philosophy and methodology. It can be an effective alternative to the increasingly woke public schools.

Classic defenders just need to talk less Latin if they want parents to listen to the rest of their spiel. Overselling can be just as ineffective as underselling.

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