Education has been a fairly passive issue throughout this election cycle. It's barely made a ripple in any candidate's pond, Democrat or Republican, and gets only token attention paid to it by the press. McCain's own website (http://www.johnmccain.com) has an "Issues" section, as you would expect, and the section for education seems to be a sort of "No Child Left Behind is working, so let's not rock the boat" blandness. Fine; I'm no fan of NCLB, but I can live with it since it doesn't really affect my kids anyway.
A few short paragraphs down the page I found this statement:
The deplorable status of preparation for our children, particularly in comparison with the rest of the industrialized world, does not allow us the luxury of eliminating options in our educational repertoire. John McCain will fight for the ability of all students to have access to all schools of demonstrated excellence, including their own homes.Now, on first blush, this appears to be supportive of homeschooling. Indeed, the only other reference I can find on topic is from an interview McCain gave in December where he mentioned that charters, homeschooling and vouchers are "keys to success." Not terribly sure just what he meant by that, but it sounds supportive.
Then I re-read that paragraph on McCain's website one more time, because it really was the only reference to homeschooling I could find that was anything approaching an authoritative statement from the candidate. Then it hit me: "demonstrated excellence."
Now, given the bland nature of the entire education statement, I'd like to believe this was merely staffed out to some communications wank who in turn churned out this bit of pablum. It's phrased in such a way as to be easily digestible for most readers. Great; no changes to NCLB. I guess I can vote for him. McCain's entire senate career has, I believe, avoided any more than token contact with education as an issue, so it's safe to say that he probably doesn't have terribly strong views on the subject beyond the motherhood-and-apple-pie statements about our need for an educated populace.
But that phrase... I dunno.
"Demonstrated excellence" is something I expect from our public schools. Public schools are funded by taxpayer monies. Even though I homeschool, as I've mentioned numerous times before, I still support public education as a taxpayer. It's both my duty and my privilege to do so. The reasons why I homeschool also have been documented (albeit in fragmentary form) throughout this blog. It's no secret that while I feel honor-bound to support public education, I do not trust it. It's really as simple as that. I cannot rest assured that my daughters will either receive the full benefits of highly skilled and trained teachers, or that their safety is guaranteed when I send them to a public school. Anecdotal evidence gets worse by the day. My wife left that profession under a cloud of confusion and resentment; confusion over the state of education, particularly in California, and resentment that her once-noble profession has turned into a circus of new-wave teaching methods that manage to completely obfuscate perfectly simple educational principles. That, and an unhealthy dose of arrogant administrators, pompous parents who abdicate the care and raising of their kids to the schools, and kids who have been raised to flaunt their disdain for authority figures of any kind, but particularly their teachers. I do NOT want my daughters being subjected to this nonsense. So, yes, I think it fair to say that public schools need to demonstrate whatever "excellence" they may possess.
But not my little homeschool. In fact, in what may sound to some like the views of separatist, the United States government is not welcome in the hallowed halls of our small academy. Nor, for that matter, is the Great State of California. The county of Orange should not bother knocking on our door, and the City of Anaheim can keep their noses out of our business as well. I'm sure they're all wonderful people, but if their intent is to dictate to my family in any way, shape or form as to how we may or may not teach our children, then they're not getting their foot in my front door.
Now, that may sound a little testy. Granted. It's also extreme in the sense that such an invasion is not likely ever to happen. We're not some fringe-of-reality family who homeschool in order to hide some institutionalized form of abuse. We are a loving family who enjoy the experience of helping young minds to stretch and grow. We have a wonderful teacher-to-student ratio of 1:2 (1:3 if Daddy gets involved... Mommy still has me to raise!). We go on field trips at the drop of a hat. We recite the Pledge of Allegiance ("under God"). We have a support group that we see once a week and where the girls have made some wonderful friends. We attend church regularly. We live, work, and shop in the same community with all of the public school kids and their families. They get my tax money, and I never ask for any in return. I'm not interested in vouchers; save that money for the kids who need it. I simply want to be left alone to teach my children as I see fit.
Which is why that statement about "demonstrated excellence" is troublesome. I have sent McCain's campaign an email asking for enlargement and explanation. We'll see if I get a response. If it turns out that McCain's views are as bland and passive as the rest of his educational codice, then I have nothing to worry about. But if the senator believes that homeschoolers will, somehow, be accountable to anyone other than themselves, then he's in for the fight of his life.
We will see to that.
Your move, Senator.