April 10, 2005

The Great Crane Game

According to a new article from the Associated Press, found at CNN:

"Enrollment has been dropping steadily as timber jobs have dried up, and Oregon's budget cuts have left Myrtle Point facing a $675,000 gap for next year. Since Oregon bases its state school funding on enrollment, every home-schooled child Myrtle Point can woo means an extra $5,000 or so. An estimated 100 youngsters living in the district are home-schooled."

From grades 7 through 12 I learned at home. According to an Education Department Survey conducted in 2003 I was one of 1.1 million home-schoolers, nationwide. But this figure is misleading; for I never even bothered to tell the state of Illinois that I was home-schooling in the first place. Rather, my family set up a nice little "Private" school, had my records transferred home to our address, and I enrolled as the first (and only) student of "Redwall Learning Academy." Illinois, like many states, has no specific statute to govern home-schooling; instead home-schoolers have been granted the right to operate trouble free by various court rulings that categorize them as privately schooled. As home-schoolers in the state of Illinois are thus most often classified as enrolled in Private schools (as I was), The Education department's figures, which work out to around one home-schooled child in forty-five school-aged youngsters, rest more than likely far below the actual number of students currently not enrolled in Public, Private, or Charter schools.

For home-schoolers, used to flying under the radar for fear of harassment from the very people now attempting to court them back into the fold, this sort of stat dodging is all part of the game; like any counter-culture, the homeschooling movement takes its cues more from "what not to do" than from any set pattern or formula for success. It is this last point that school authorities have failed so consistently to understand. Take for instance the exhortations of Dal King, local school board member in Myrtle Point:

"Families who home school or choose to send their kids to other districts, we need your full support, not just what's convenient for you," King wrote. "While you may have good reasons, please do your part by enrolling your kids full-time in the district and don't just 'cherry-pick' music or sports."

Some simple allusions: Rowboats; sinking ships. Fire escapes; burning buildings. You don't jump back into the shit pile just because it asks you to. That seems like one hell of a big "what not to do" to me.

So if Dal King is allowed to be a bit naive when dealing with a movement he does not understand, then perhaps I am allowed to be a bit naive when I ask: why the fuck do our institutions exist if not to serve us? I've sunk enough cash into those jury-rigged crane games at Bennigan's to know that you don't get shit back from something inherently broken. "Learning Centers" are not less-school like by virtue of the fact that they are no longer called "schools," just as my "home-school" was not more-school like for being classified as "private." It's different clothing on the same ailing body, it's the crane game without any prizes. It is the state of "american public education." And it is an idea most home-schoolers gave up on long ago.

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