This Quarantine Is Proving To Me Just How Terrible The Schools Truly Are

It’s only been about two weeks since the Clark County Schools closed here in the great Commonwealth of Kentucky, and I’m already prepared to never send my kids back—to either public or private school. I’ve been unfortunate/blessed to have been unemployed since January 22nd (have no fear, I’ve accepted a new job—more on that in another post), so I’ve spent nearly every second of every day with them at home since the quarantine went into effect.

Frankly, I’m disgusted.

I don’t blame the teachers or the schools for not being suitably prepared for this Chinese virus crisis—after all, who was? Certainly not our government, or our hospitals, or our corporations. No, what I blame them for is not being suitably prepared to do the jobs they do every single day at the charity of the tax and/or tuition payer.

My daughter, Regan, is in 3rd grade at a private school. My son, Kevin, is in 6th grade at a public school. Their teachers are sending assignments daily, via instructional packets or Google classroom. Both of the kids are able to complete all of the assignments that have been given to them in about 45-60 minutes per day. I’ve been sitting with them at the kitchen table every day, monitoring their work habits and checking their work when it’s done. They have yet to answer any questions or problems incorrectly. They both simply breeze through it. It’s obvious that they’re both incredibly bored with the work that’s been assigned to them and can do it with little to no thought or effort required.

So we’ve been working to find them additional educational opportunities. Regan takes an online art class everyday at noon, listens to some authors read their books at 2:00, and watches the Cincinnati Zoo’s Facebook Live at 3:00. A lot of her art has been quite excellent:

While he’d rather be playing Forza Horizon 4 or Pokemon, I’ve been working one on one with my son on his saxophone playing quite a bit, and we’ve seen ridiculous levels of improvement in just a few days.

As I said, he’s a 6th grader. That’s roughly an 8th or 9th grade level duet, and he had zero problems playing it down in one take after working on it for about 30 minutes. I’ve always been reluctant to force the saxophone on him, because I wanted any enthusiasm that he has or doesn’t have to come naturally. I always said that the day he asked me for help or lessons would be the day I’d give it to him. Turns out that was a huge mistake—he has plenty of enthusiasm, he just hasn’t been receiving any decent instruction. He knew one major scale. He now knows six major scales and six minor scales. He’ll know all twelve major scales before we’re through.

They’re getting much more physical activity, too. We do P90X3 workouts together, we set up a pickleball court in the driveway, and they play soccer in the front yard. They manage to do all of this AND their schoolwork every day.

The point here is that my kids are enjoying learning much more at home than they ever have at school, and they’re actually learning much, much more. I have no doubt that they will come out of this quarantine far better than if it had never happened.

So my main questions are:

  1. What the hell are these teachers doing every day? If they can complete all of their assignments in less than an hour, why is school seven hours long?
  2. Why is it obvious to me that the lessons and material are so far behind my kids’ level of ability, and yet their teachers, who work with them every day, are either oblivious or completely uninterested in challenging them further?
  3. If my daughter loves art this much and my son loves music this much, why haven’t their teachers noticed?
  4. Why does anybody think teachers are underpaid? It would appear that I can do their jobs significantly better than they can, and I am a college dropout who has been working in digital marketing for the last ten years.

But the real question is this—why am I not homeschooling them? It’s clear that I, or any adult with a modicum of intelligence, could design, development, implement, and measure a much better curriculum than what is mandated by the State. It’s equally clear that the main job of these teachers is not to educate, but to indoctrinate students with liberal dogma. Any social benefit that is received by attending public schools is easily achieved through team sports, dance classes, etc. And nearly every state, including Kentucky, allows homeschooled children to participate in the extracurricular activities offered by the public district, like band and school sports.

Here’s why—I simply can’t afford to do it. I don’t know many who can. I’d need to earn at least $250k a year for their mom to be able to stay home and teach them full-time and maintain the same or similar quality of life, and we don’t live lavishly. Rather far from it, I’m afraid.

But I truly believe that many of those who can afford it will make the decision to homeschool after all this is over. And maybe it’s more important to homeschool kids than to live in a McMansion, pay thousands for club soccer, or drive a Focus RS. I’ll have to figure that out.

But the longer they stay home, the more likely I am to do just that.

48 Replies to “This Quarantine Is Proving To Me Just How Terrible The Schools Truly Are”

  1. AvatarNoID

    I think you’ve lived too well for too long if you need $250k/yr to make it work. But that’s just, like, my opinion man.

    Give up all of your hobbies and interests, it’ll work out. It did for me, and all it really cost was my happiness and satisfaction with life.

    Reply
    • AvatarNoID

      As for your experience with the schools, keep in mind that by necessity they need to lump kids from both ends of the bell curve into one classroom, and they can only go as fast as the slowest student (at least the slowest one who’s actually trying, not the legitimate slackers who just don’t try.) I remember many days in public high school finishing worksheets/quizzes/exams ahead of my classmates. It’s the way it is, the larger the classroom the longer everything will take, unless you start testing IQ and sorting classrooms accordingly. I don’t even know what my IQ is, but based on my experience I’d guess it’s somewhere between +1 and +2 standard deviations

      As for homeschooling, we homeschooled our children for about 5 years, and our experience was much how it is today in quarantine, it was a rare day that everybody wasn’t done by noon. But once my wife went back to school for her bachelor’s degree she didn’t have the bandwidth to do it all, so we enrolled the kids in a small private school that happens to be nearly affordable. I say nearly because my wife now volunteers there doing lunch duty and substitute teaching to offset tuition, which once we had all four enrolled became a bit too much for my salary (a shade over $100k) to handle.

      Reply
  2. AvatarScout_Number_4

    Bark,
    My son is most of the way through his BSEE now, but when he was your kids’ ages we were in your situation. Our solution was a small private school through 8th grade, Catholic College Prep HS. Shop around, ask the tough questions, don’t ever forget you’re the customer.

    Reply
  3. Avatareverybodyhatesscott

    You probably have smart kids.
    Public schools are not designed for smart kids.

    You could afford it but you’d have to take a lifestyle hit. And both parents have to agree to that.

    Reply
    • AvatarDaniel J

      “Public schools are not designed for smart kids”

      Most maybe but not all. I completed 13 AP courses at my publicly funded high school. It really requires finding the right school system.

      Reply
  4. AvatarDanger Girl

    I wonder if this experience will help us realize the importance of the intact family unit and what a precious gift this time is for those of us who remain healthy throughout it. I am definitely the pot here as I have committed greats sins where family is concerned. However, this “new normal” (an inane term – my apologies) brings to light how awfully important parents are to our children. It is glaringly obvious during this forced slow down and reassessment of priorities that if we put first things first and keep them there, we stand to gain a great deal as a society when we re-emerge. Unfortunately, we have short memories.

    Reply
    • AvatarGreg Hamilton

      Danger Girl,
      How marvelous that you actually exist. I thought you were a figment of our host’s imagination! Nice post. Please post some more. You seem to belie (if that is the correct word) some of our hosts more thick skinned qualities. I hope you two find continued happiness. Alas, that is not the case with my daughter’s mom and myself. Perhaps you two will be more fortunate.

      Reply
  5. AvatarDaveL

    It’ll be much better once your kids are in high school Bark. They’ll have honors and AP options to align with their learning pace.

    Reply
  6. AvatarLynnG

    Bart,
    From your questions and Jacks many essays, you both seem to be involved parents. I know that life is busy and sometimes the more in plain view something is, the harder it is to see… speaking from experience. But let me offer my humble oppinion to your questions.
    1. Today in both public and private schools, teachers teach to the lowest common denominator. In other words, in a class of 30 instead of teaching to median they structure their presentation to lowest level as not to leave anyone behind. The result of this is that the vast majority of children are spend the day, day dreaming because they got the material the first time around.
    2. Teachers who challenge their students with more indepth material will eventually end up in the administrators office explaining why the administrator is getting calls from parents as to why the teacher is making their child look dumb. Also see number 1 above.
    3. The teacher may have noticed but does not have time to focus on the indivdual student’s talents when they are focused on the group as a whole. Now I am guessing that your elementary school has single teacher classes as opposed ot JR High where the students have indiviual subject teachers.
    4. Teachers are NOT underpaid, with few exceptions. That is a hoax that has been put on the American public by the NEA leaches for a generation and has become an accepted fact. I know this from experience. Let me give you an example, I grew up in the state with the lowest average teachers salary, and lived in the county with the lowest average teacher salary (in other words teachers in no other part of the USA earned less then in Greenbrier County WV). Every teacher we knew had a business or farm as a souce of second income. However, out of my small graduating class came a research scientist at the University of Michigan, a endowed chair professor at WVU, a department head at Concord College, a professor at Hendrix College (yes there is a real college by that name), an investment banker at Morgan Stanley, a venure capitalist in DC, and National Sales Manager Impulse Designs. exc exc… Again, from a rural county wiht the lowest paid teachers… So the next time someone gives the NEA song and dance, tell them to shut up.
    PS: Bart my wife has been a private teacher for 30 years this year, all of her students have went to college and most to graduate school. However, as you might guess the “n” is small because in 30 years she has only been with three families with a total of 10 children. As I belive Jack might agree, those with the means or the ability to spend time with the children make all the difference in the world.
    OK my cents worth. blast away..
    Best

    Reply
    • Avatardejal

      “Group as a whole”. They are herding cats in the younger grades and in the higher grades, rinse/repeat with different students all day long.

      Doesn’t mean I don’t think their industry and how they themselves are graded doesn’t need a makeover. Which will never happen.

      Home school with mom and/or dad, with a mom and/or dad really into it, has the kid paying more attention because it’s your kid.

      Reply
  7. AvatarKevin Jaeger

    Government schools are basically prisons for bright kids. It’s also probably the only time and place in their lives that they will experience physical violence, if they are moderately intelligent and successful.

    I would strongly recommend finding almost any alternative if you can make it work. Home schooling is an excellent choice if you can make it work.

    Reply
  8. AvatarGene B

    This is news? I have mentioned before, if you love your kids, GET THEM OUT OF PUBLIC SCHOOL…AT ALL COSTS. Lambs to the slaughter!

    Reply
  9. AvatarDisinterested-Observer

    They do learn how to stand in line and not talk during quiet time. That seems to be about it.

    Reply
  10. AvatarJames in WI

    The opportunity cost is simply too high for me to teach my kids reading, writing, and arithmetic. I will delegate that to my “highly rated” local public schools. But that’s only a fraction of their education. Art, music, travel, mechanics, carpentry, wilderness adventure, and other experiences among all the little things that make life worth living, and are best taught by a more interested party. Myself, my wife, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even neighbors will give them their true education.

    Reply
  11. AvatarS2kchris

    30 seconds of googling your name + Kentucky gets me your address, and then googling your address gives me your school district and their Great Schools rating. Which is admittedly imperfect, but tells me your local elementary, Shearer, rates a 5 out of 10. I’m not going to say it’s the whole problem, but let’s face it the South isn’t known for their great schools, and this one appears no different.

    Agree the quality will be different in high school.

    Reply
    • AvatarBark M Post author

      Another 30 seconds of thinking and reading would have helped you realize that there’s a reason my daughter goes to a private elementary.

      Reply
      • AvatarTom

        You of all people should know the difference between something craft made vs. assembly line. You have (for now) the luxury of focusing all your attention on a single child, creating a bespoke lesson for that person.

        It is no surprise that you are able to do better than the public schools. No public school teacher has that luxury, and has to do the best they can within the confines of common core and the minute or two they get per student per day.

        Reply
  12. AvatarMrGreenMan

    Move to Michigan. Tons of people in my church homeschool with the father/husband working and the wife 100% at home. The pastor may be the best paid of the homeschooling families at $80k. However, they have mostly Sears-Roebuck houses.

    Reply
    • AvatarLynnG

      MrGreenman,
      “However, the have mostly Sears-Roebuck houses.”
      FYI, Here in Northern Virginia (Arlington/Fairfax/Loudoun County) Sears-Roebuck houses unimproved sell for $700,000-$900,000, remodeled and updated $1,200,000-$1,500,000. Market must be a little different in your area, $80,000/year will get you a one bedroom apartment nothing close to a house… That is why the the pople here are so disconnected from the rest of America.

      Reply
      • AvatarNoID

        As a fellow Michigan resident, I can vouch for MrGreen. My mortgage payment has never been over $1100, and my house has never been smaller than 1700 square feet.

        Reply
  13. AvatarFred Lee

    I’m far from an advocate for public education, but others have already said it…

    Try playing that duet with your son while 29 other kids are faffing about passing notes and getting in trouble. Try teaching your bright daughter while the dumb kid from next door needs to be taught as well.

    It’s really an unfair comparison. Could schools be better? Oh I’m sure. Break up the teachers union and pay based on merit. Yeah it’s hard and imperfect. Guess what? It’s hard and imperfect when GE or Microsoft or Intel does it too, and they do it anyway and they’re better off for it.

    I know the “indoctrination” theory is popular in some circles; it’s rubbish of course. Kids are indoctrinated far more by their parents than their teachers, but somehow no parent thinks it’s bad when their kid grows up to duplicate their own world-view.

    All that said, I do whole-heartedly wish more people would sacrifice to keep a parent home with their kids and I laud you for looking critically at individual decisions that make it difficult. I do think that kids well above average are let down by a school system that has to cater to everyone.

    Reply
    • AvatarBark M Post author

      Just saying something is rubbish doesn’t make it so. Please refer to my prior post on the Kentucky gubernatorial election on how the students at my son’s school “voted” almost exactly the opposite of their parents.

      Reply
      • AvatarCJinSD

        If there’s one thing I’ve observed about Fred Lee, it’s that he’ll say indoctrination is a rubbish theory with the greatest conviction if his betters suggest that he should.

        Reply
  14. Avatarrambo furum

    This may be the first column of Mark’s to which I have no real objection. I could quibble about the Baruth knack for blowing cash fast, but that’s it.

    I briefly was a substitute teacher after college. It quickly became obvious that most teachers were underworked, lazy on top of that, generally none too bright either, and had the gall to act like they serving a divine calling while being utter ingrates about their overcompensation. 80+% need to be canned, the rest can name their price.

    Reply
    • AvatarGreg Hamilton

      Rambo,
      I must agree with you and Mark on the subject, and blowing cash fast is an apt three word description of the (talented) duo.

      Reply
  15. AvatarPower6

    I’m not having nearly as successful a time trying to do “school” with my daughter, but she’s 7 and needs the structure of school as well as not having as much curriculum that can be translated to home work. She’s in a Spanish immersion program so it doesn’t help that I barely know any Spanish. We already do a lot of informal learning on stuff she’s interested in at a higher level then school. Putting structure to her day, either I am not good at it, or she resists me in a way she would not dare do to the teachers, or a little of both.

    It strikes me as odd that my own reaction to school holding your bright kids back is “well of course it does” but perhaps that reflects on my own feelings that public schools failed me. At 43 I was just diagnosed with ADHD and only now putting things together as to why. There may be nothing anybody could have reasonably done back then, but I was a bright kid and they didn’t really have anything for me, not being a natural achiever.

    I hope my daughter doesn’t suffer the same fate. We live outside Boston in a “top 10” school district. The teachers are not underpaid, they are literally our neighbors living in the same half-mil shack that you get around here. The parents bloc approve all the budget overrides at town meeting. We figured the Spanish immersion was a challenge she could handle and she has so far.

    Reply
    • AvatarBark M Post author

      I used to think that Spanish immersion was a path to success in this country. Now, I think we’d be better off with Chinese immersion.

      Reply
  16. AvatarEric H

    I’m sure your kids teachers would love to hear about how bad they are at their jobs by someone who has had no training, has done less than 1/15th of the work (assuming there’s 30 kids in the classroom) and who doesn’t have to deal with lesson plans, grading papers, mandated curriculum, and behavioral issues of both student and parental types.

    Reply
    • AvatarBark M Post author

      Maybe they’d like to hear about it from my kids’ mother, who is a former public school teacher and is now a full professor with tenure and a doctorate?

      Reply
  17. Avatarhank chinaski

    In a ‘it could be worse, it could be raining’ moment: https://techcrunch.com/2020/03/26/norwegian-school-whereby/

    Hizzonner was desperate to keep the city run baby sitting service open as long as possible, knowing the potential uptick of ‘blue flu’ would be synergistic to mayhem.

    Our school district pays very well with guaranteed yearly raises, cushy pensions, and the freedom to wear their politics on their sleeves.

    Reply
  18. AvatarMark VS

    If you cannot allocate the time to homeschool not the funds to send to a top notch private school then you should consider moving to a better school district.

    All of these options are better and more cost effective in the long run compared to a poor educational environment.

    Reply
      • AvatarKevin Jaeger

        I prefer the Chinese bat plague of Wuhan.

        No one should ever forget we’re going through this because the Chinese have wet markets of exotic animals where they serve bats, pangolins and all kinds of other weird stuff.

        They should be ruthlessly stigmatized and mocked for their dietary habits until they stop unleashing plagues on the world.

        Reply
  19. AvatarCJinSD

    I know a gaggle of school teachers. Reading what they’ve written about the school closures and the Chinese Wuhan Virus in general paints a pretty vivid picture of how essential it is to keep your children far from them. I read a treatise on how this is a stressful time for your children too, so you should abstain from stressing them out by trying to teach them during this crisis. To me it sounded like this one wanted to avoid having parents become as informed as Bark now is about what passes for primary education. Quite a few were claiming that your kids are our kids and we miss them! We want to be doing what we love, which has nothing to with NEA work rules, three months off, or complete unaccountability for your kid reading on the same level as a kid who arrived from Somalia in September.

    Some say that these Ed School, DoE, NEA devised schools aren’t meant for smart kids, but nothing could be further from the truth. The system can only tolerate so many smart adults, and our schools reward the children who forfeit their ability to think. Do you think Pelosi would get away with holding up aid in a crisis, or that Deblasio could hide respirators in warehouses, or that the governors of Michigan and Nevada could make medical decisions for their subjects if our schools were more than indoctrination centers?

    Reply
  20. Avatarstingray65

    Happy to see you return Bark, but you are expecting a lot of the teachers. Education schools/programs in universities are among the most Leftist on campus (which is saying something), and draw mostly from among the lowest IQ segments of the student population. Partly as a consequence teacher training mostly involves indoctrination on various feminist/socialist theories of social injustice and big government activism, and very little involves actually learning how to teach hard stuff like math, science, reading, art, history, etc. In fact, most education programs have special math/science/history/etc. courses for education majors that go light on subject matter and heavy on social justice that makes it much easier for the 100 IQ professors and students to grasp, and puts the education major students on their way to the highest average GPA of any major on campus. Thus they graduate with little ability or training to actually educate on real subjects, and get jobs teaching our future generations.

    In the classroom they discover that the 30 little angels they are getting paid a 12 month per year salary to educate 9 months per year are highly variable in their abilities, learning interest, and civilized behavior. This can be a shocking discovery for some after being told by their education professors about blank slates, and that all differences can be explained by patriarchy based socialization, and overt or implicit biases and inaccurate stereotyping based on sexism and racism. But still, the brighter teachers can’t help but notice that the Asian kids are generally well behaved and studious, that the most creative writing and best math performances tend to come from boys, that black kids often struggle to keep up with grade level work, that girls are usually better students and less disruptive than boys but are often underhandedly mean or snitches, that single parent children are the most disruptive and more often suffer from emotional problems that inhibit learning, and that these patterns persist no matter how much their lesson plans are designed to overcome and correct them. The teacher may also start to notice that whenever the principal, school counselor, or diversity administrator comes to visit the discussion is rarely about improving the learning environment, but mostly accusations about too many Asian and white kids getting into honors/advanced programs, being too over-represented among the high GPA students, and getting too much recognition for scholarly achievement, and agitation that the black and Hispanic students are falling behind on standardized exams and being sent for discipline too often. The teacher may notice that administration seems to be blaming them – implying that these ‘bad outcomes’ are the result of racism or other biases, and that if they want their contract renewed and tenure they better get their classroom outcome statistics in line with the diversity proportions of the school district. The smarter ones will see the teacher’s unions and administration don’t have their back on any issue involving PC sensibilities or improved learning outcomes, but do work to protect slackers and hacks who don’t question Leftist dogma and juggle their grading and discipline to achieve the desired diversity balance, and avoid complaints from parents. The best teachers will try to find a better school system (i.e. where most kids come from two-parent households of above average socio-economic backgrounds), or a nice private school with selective enrollment, or will leave the profession entirely, which means the less bright and most Leftist ones remain and eventually move into administration. And this very expensive baby sitting and political indoctrination is what your property taxes and votes for Democrat candidates are being used to support.

    Reply
  21. Avatarscotten

    Damn I missed this post.

    I’ve been saying for years: the education system in the USA is designed primarily for the teachers and administrators (paycheck, tenure, summers off, pensions) and the children and their education is a very distant second place.

    As an independent vote, I can still point to this being the outcome of 30-40 years of left leaning people running that system… there needs to be some balance.

    Reply
  22. AvatarHarryc

    Simple: KERA killed Kentucky’s education system.

    For the uninformed: Kentucky’s supreme court declared the education system unconstitutional in 1989. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1989/06/09/kentucky-public-schools-ruled-unconstitutional/18216585-e5a7-487c-9dfb-f5ec7e00d3c8/

    What followed was a decades-long morass of our educational system being used as a guinea pig for every pedagogical whimsy known to man. Ungraded primary. Outright elimination of hard science curricula in favor of “Applied Biology and Chemistry”. Elimination of AB Calculus and AP Courses in favor of “Heterogenous Classification.” The Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 is still a spat-upon term by all the teachers in Kentucky.

    Was school in a coal town in the 1980’s great (Breathitt County, about an hour southeast of you on Ky 15)? No.

    But, I knew everything a ‘grammar’ student _should_ know. The dummest student in our 3rd grade class could rattle of multiplication flashcards like the UK Basketball scores.

    Now, we lowest-common denominator teaching to the tests. It’s disgusting.

    We homeschooled my two daughters until we moved in 2016, and even in private school in Texas now, the eldest is still far above grade level in all core subjects.

    Reply
  23. AvatarDanio

    These thoughts mirror my own. I’ve been holed up in my home office, business as usual. However, my wife was laid off from her client facing job, so she holds class for the kids each day. I do the French portions with them since she isn’t fluent (my kids go to a French immersion school, Canada eh).

    The combination of an attentive parent and the fact that the teachers had been on rotating strikes for most of the school year means that my kids are learning more now than when they did in school.

    If I hadn’t already paid for the school and the teachers, they’d never go back. Even then, if we cut some things around here, we could probably afford to do it.

    Ironically, one of the things the teacher union was striking about was the Province pushing them to do more online learning and they didn’t want to. It’s evident they still don’t want to by the effort they’re putting in (same situation as Bark’s kids teachers.) Talk about being dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

    Reply
  24. Avataryossarian

    i’ll be the lone dissenter. i’m impressed about how my 14 year old’s public school handled the transition to online at home instruction. granted it’s a magnet school and that may account for the difference. she averages about 6 hours a day of instruction and homework. there’s tons of stuff being posted by her teachers online and daily assignments. to make up for lost time, the dept of education has decided to continue online instruction through the april recess. there’s nothing lazy about her teachers. i know it’s working because she clearly knows more than i do about many subjects. last week, after i was confused by what the vet told me about my dog’s liver problem, she explained to me how the liver and kidneys interact.

    Reply
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