34. Is There One Right Way to Get a Good Education?

Some kids go to public schools while others go to private school. Some kids are even homeschooled. What is the difference in these different types of schools and is one better than the other? In this episode, Connor and Brittany talk about all the different types of schooling and explain the problems with public schooling.


Here is the transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi Connor.

Connor: Hey Brittany.

Brittany: So I have a question for you today. I wanna know what kind of school you went to as a kid.

Connor: Oh, well, basically my entire childhood, with a small exception, I just went to public school,

Brittany: So I did too. I went to public school. But when I was a teacher, and we’ve talked a little bit about this before, I actually taught at a private school, so a little bit different from public school. And then I believe your children are homeschooled, right?

Connor: That’s right, yeah. We homeschool our kids. Before we had kids, I talked to my wife and said, I don’t think I wanna send my kids to public school when they grow up. And so that’s a decision we made before we even started having kids.

Brittany: So we brought up just in that small conversation, three different kinds of schooling. And so what I really wanna dive into today, is whether there is one right way to be educated or are there good things about each of these different kinds.

Connor: I think that’s kinda like saying, is there one type of potato chip that’s the best? Right? In some cases, I think a lot of people have different preferences. Maybe Brittany, have you ever talked to your parents about why they put you in public school?

Brittany: I think it was just available that it was a Cuz I, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve kind of wished that I was homeschooled. And I asked them later on why. And I think it was just the easy thing to do. Public school was there and they were already paying for it through their taxes.

Connor: Yeah And I think that’s a reason why a lot of people don’t choose a private school, right? Cuz then as you point out, you’re having to pay through taxes, and then you’re having to pay again. And often a lot of money a lot of times for private schools. When I talked to my mom about it, when it was really, Cuz again, it was just normal and when I was growing up, it’s just what you did. I didn’t know anything different. Just you go to public school and then you go to college and then you get a job and life moves on. And so I didn’t really think anything of it differently until, as I said, or getting married. And I was thinking about my kids, future kids, and what we would do for them. And as we started homeschooling my kids my mom came up to me one day and apologized for never homeschooling me.

I’m like, Well what do you mean by that? And she says it wasn’t really ever a thing. She didn’t really ever entertain the idea. It’s not like my parents sat down and reviewed their options. It’s just what you did. Yeah, They didn’t know any better. They didn’t really know anyone at homeschool. There wasn’t really a thing in the 1980s and ’90s in California. I grew up in San Diego. But Brittney, my perception is, and you tell me from your view of things, my perception is that parent, it’s very easy for parents right now to see a lot of alternatives, to understand that there are a lot of different choices and options. Is that a view that you share?

Brittany: Yes. Especially with what we saw with Covid, right? Because all of a sudden every school was shut down and so you had to explore new options. So I think you’re right. I think everyone is looking to see what the best one is right now.

Connor: Now let’s maybe think of it from a kid’s perspective. A lot of kids like school, not so much for the academic reasons that textbooks and the homework and the tests and the projects and everything else, but they really like the social aspect of school. They get to be around their friends and there’s, I don’t know, dances and football and whatever

Brittany: Success and all those things.

Connor: And so I can see how a lot of kids might prefer public school despite all of the academic annoyances and pressures and so forth because they get to do it with their friends. And so do you feel like if you were to go to me, as you point out with Covid, all these kids got ripped out of their kind of status quo experience with public school and sent to something alternative? What I’ve heard Britney though is, and I’m curious if you have a take on this, I’ve heard from a number of parents, cause a lot of people to know that we homeschool our kids and I’m very vocal about it. I’ve written books about it and so forth. So I’ve had a lot of parents come up to me and especially online, send me messages and talk about how their kids have really loved it. By it I mean doing education outside of public school because they still see their friends, they still meet up or they’re in the neighborhood or whatever. They’ve still found ways to carry on with their social life and see all their friends and have a good time. But rather than sitting at a desk all day long, or rather than having hours of homework, or rather than spending six hours, or seven hours at school, they get all their schoolwork done in two and a half hours, and then they can have the rest of the day. I’ve just heard from so many parents who have really seen that a public option other than public school has been good for their kids.

Brittany: Yeah And I think again because a lot of families have been in this, the situation where they’re home, everybody has to do that, that you’d probably think they would be losing their minds. And I’ve talked to maybe a few that are really struggling with the homeschool thing, but most kids, and most parents I’ve talked to like you said, are really enjoying the experience. I saw one picture going around social media where a teacher had asked a little boy to write what he missed the most about school. And his essay was the opposite of that. He basically said I don’t miss school. I’m having a great time learning with my parents. I don’t wanna go back at all. So I think we’re gonna see, especially the next month, a couple of months as people go back to school that people aren’t going to want to go back, that they’re gonna really like this homeschooling. But one thing I think we didn’t really talk about if we can back it up for a minute, is what homeschooling is. So you homeschool your kids, what does that mean?

Connor: Okay, So with many things, there are a lot of different ways to look at it. There are some homeschooling families who will do literally homeschooling. They will school at home. They will say half an hour of this subject and then half an hour of this subject, and then we’re gonna do 15 minutes of this. And then, so it’s very regimented. It’s a very kind of schedule. And they do a lot of very specific curriculum. And so it’s kind of like the school experience except you’re doing it with your siblings rather than your friends. And maybe you don’t have to ask permission to go to the bathroom as you do at school, But it’s a very kind of schoollike experience. And then on the other end of the spectrum, so that’s kind of the more structured side, then you have the very unstructured side, which is often called unschooling.

Brittany: That’s My favorite.

Connor: Or sometimes child-led learning and things like that.

Brittany: Self Direct learning, I think I’ve heard it called

Connor: Exactly. So there’s a lot more flexibility. Kids are learning more about what they want to rather than being told to learn specific things. And then of course those are two opposite ends of the spectrum. You have a lot of wiggle room in the middle. There are a lot of families who will maybe use curriculum as kind of a guide or maybe they’ll be structured with English and math, but then nothing else. So there are just a lot of options. And a lot of the states are very the state laws, I should say, are very kind of laid back in terms of homeschooling. And some states you have to pass certain tasks or the government has to inspect and make sure that you’re teaching the right things. But in a lot of states, including our own we helped get the law changed a few years ago to say, homeschoolers don’t have to comply with anything. No tests no inspections, no requirements from the government at all. It’s basically total education freedom. And so what I find interesting is I’ve always really admired a man by the name of John Taylor Gatto.

Brittany: Yep. He’s one of my heroes too.

Connor: And he passed away, I think about a year or two ago. He was a public school teacher his whole career in New York City like 30 years. He was a teacher. He won the New York City Teacher of the Year award

Brittany: Several times. Not even just, I think he won several times.

Connor: And then he won the New York State Teacher of the Year. And what’s interesting Brittney is in the very same year where he won that teacher of the year at the whole state level, he quit and he wrote an article in the Wall, I think it was the Wall Street Journal, a big national newspaper. And the title of his article was, I quit, I think. And he went on to explain how he loved kids, he loved education, but there are so many problems with schooling that he was actually hurting kids more than he was helping them. And so he wanted to leave traditional schooling and find a different way to help kids. And so our listeners here, those who have read The Tuttle Twins and The Education Vacation are familiar with Gatto and a little bit of his story, cuz he’s one of the characters featured in the book.

But Brittany, when I was married, I read his book Dumbing Us Down which talks about a lot of the problems with structured schooling. And that was kind of the initial inspiration for me to say, Oh yeah, I can, looking back on my life, I can see that these are problems. And look, I turned out okay. Right? That’s the thing you always hear. Oh well, it turned out okay. I was in public school and I turned out fine. Well, number one public school 30 years ago is a lot different than it is now. But also just because we turned out okay, I always wonder how much better could it have been for me. Could I have started out as kind of an entrepreneur earlier on? Could I have found my life path earlier on? What opportunities have I missed? Cause I was stuck sitting in the classroom.

Maybe, Brittany, I’m gonna throw it back to you, but before I do I want to answer your question here for us is there one right way for someone to get educated? And I’m actually gonna answer for the purposes of our discussion, and I’d love to get your response. I’m gonna say the answer is yes, there is one right way. Not so much in the sense of public schooling versus homeschooling versus private schooling, but more in the sense that the right way for someone to get educated is to be self-educated. When we sit in a classroom and we’re forced to learn certain things, whether it’s a private school, whether it’s a public school, or even some home schools when kids are compelled to learn things, they do not retain that information the same way they do. If they themselves are curious about it, they’re interested in it, they want to learn it.

And so I think that all true learning is self-education. We have to be in a mindset where we are eager to gain that information and then retain it in our minds, and find a way to apply it. And so this can come in public school or private school or home school, but we have to totally, I think, shift the way that we teach kids and kids have to really have the freedom. I think. So, kids, you listen up, you now gotta go talk to your parents. At least on my side. We’ll see if Brittany wants to disagree with me or push back at all. But you can say, Oh, Connor says, I need the freedom to learn what I want to learn. Because I think that’s how we really learn in life. We need to have the mental energy and the freedom of time to be curious to explore our curiosities. It’s how we as adults learn. It’s how we as adults learn. We don’t have to, we’re not given a curriculum of here are the things you have to learn, we’re curious about something. We’ll go look up an article online, we’ll watch a YouTube video, and we’ll read a book. Why don’t we give our kids the same opportunity that we have as adults because we know it works? We need to let them do it. So Brittany, pushback, is there anything there that you disagree with?

Brittany: The only thing I would say is, and I’ll go back to your chip analogy cuz I think that there are many good kinds of chips, but I do think there is one bad kind of chip, and that’s salt and vinegar. It’s terrible.

Connor: Oh, I agree.

Brittany: Well, But I think public school is kind of the salt and vinegar chip of education. And now obviously that is not a shot at people who have to go to public school. We both went to public school and a lot of times that’s just the only option or that’s the option available.

Connor: Nor is that a shot at the teachers involved in

Brittany: No of course not. Schools, right? No. Yes. And a lot of them have the best of intentions but don’t. They’re not going in there trying to keep this broken system. They’re not the bad guys here. That being said, I think that because of the way our system is set up, it is set up to fail. And so while there are some kids that were very fortunate enough to grow up in areas where their local schools are great, there are so many kids who have had to grow up in neighborhoods where their schools are bad and simply nobody really cares for them. So a lot of people make these arguments that in homeschooling kids get neglected because there’s no one checking up on them. I almost think it’s the opposite. I think in public school a lot of kids get just kind of neglected and left behind because there are so many of them. That bureaucracy, as we’ve talked about before, is its own monster.

Connor: They fall through the cracks,

Brittany: They fall Through the cracks. And so that to me says that we need some sort of education that is personalized. And it’s kind of what you said, it’s kind of rephrasing what you said is that it needs to be self-directed. So when I wanna learn about something, it’s cuz I’m excited about it. I think I’ve talked about treasure hunts, that’s what I call them on here before. But when I wanna learn about something, I get so excited about it that I just am almost possessed. I have to learn more. But that never happened when I was a student in school because I had to do it unless there was something where it was like I got to pick a book report on whatever book I wanted to read. I responded better when things were individualized and when things were specific to me. And it’s really hard to do that in public school. So I don’t wanna say public schools are necessarily bad, but I do think there are better options. And I think what you said, I wish I could have been homeschooled. I can hardly imagine what I would’ve become if I had even more opportunities available to me.

Connor: So I wrote a book a few years ago that I’ll encourage the parents listening to look into, it’s called y The forward of it was actually written by John Taylor Gatto, which was really fun for me. So in this book, I talk about how I approach education with my kids, and it’s what we’ve just been talking about, finding ways to leverage a child’s passion, what the kids are interested in, and then using that passion to build a little curriculum and find ways to teach them English or work in some history or use math concepts all using my little ponies or Angry Birds or Pokemon or Minecraft or horses or whatever the kids are interested in. So it’s a really more natural and authentic way to learn because it allows kids to learn what they’re genuinely interested in. And Brittany, I remember when I was younger, I wanted to start a little web development business.

That’s what I did before moving into politics and everything that I do now. And to learn web development, I had to learn math, I had to learn writing. I had to learn programming and some basic science and all kinds of things. And so I was learning all of these subjects that were connected to what I wanted to do so that I could learn what I wanted to do. If you want to learn how to launch bottle rockets well, you’re gonna have to learn a bit of physics and you’re gonna have to learn trigonometry and you’re gonna have to learn these things. And it’s not that you’re sitting down in a trigonometry class and flipping through the textbook. Hey, someday you’ll learn, you’ll use this knowledge, kids, that’s the traditional schooling method. But more like project-based learning like your treasure hunts, you find something you’re interested in, you’re gonna learn all the little connected little bits that help you put the puzzle together of that seeking that treasure.

That is a really fun way to learn. It’s how we do it as adults, and I think it’s how the kids need to be given that opportunity as well. A final story before we wrap up. Brittany and I share it in that book, Passion Driven Education. But this story has always stayed with me. There’s this gal named Erica. And Erica went to public school, I believe it was in New York as I recall. And this was about a decade ago when she graduated from high school and she was what’s called the valedictorian, which means basically she was like the hardest working student. She was top of her class, she got straight A’s, worked really hard. So she was given the opportunity to give a speech at graduation. This is kind of a common thing for high school graduations. The valedictorian will kind of say shares or their thoughts.

She gets up on stage and begins to share how she’s terrified of adulthood because she spent every spare second that she had done extra credit, making sure everything was correct, and that she could get straight A’s Her goal was to excel at school. But here she was the supreme product of school. She had done everything. She had worked hard, she had risen to the top. You would think if the school was designed to prepare us to be good adults, to know what we wanna do with our lives, to provide value to other people, as we’ve talked about, to have economic value and know that what you want to contribute to the world, you would think that the schools would be set up in a way that would help a girl like Erica Thrive. And yet she stood up in that speech and talked about, she was terrified, literally terrified.

She’s like, I saw every subject, every assignment as the goal. And she said, while my friends would doodle in class to later become an artist or kids would daydream and look outside to later become explorers or whatever, I was just laser-focused. And she talked about how she lost a lot of her childhood and she was kind of lost. And then so that’s what the parents, we don’t want that for our kids. And if the school’s like, Look, some people have to send their kids to public schools. Some people just have to be in the situation they’re in. That’s totally fine. We’re not here to criticize that at all. The point is you can make good things out of a bad situation. There’s a silver lining in every cloud. And so for the parents, check out Passion-Driven Education. It can be applied in whatever school context you’re in. Kids you would love it if you’re not already using it. So tell your parents to go get Passion-Driven Education because when we as kids have the freedom and opportunity to learn the things that we’re genuinely interested in, life is better. Life is a lot more fun. So this is a great topic. And something like Brittany, you and I keep learning, right? You’re still a student, you still go on your treasure hunts, right? ,

Brittany: I think even more so as I become an adult. So yeah,

Connor: Even more so, right? Yeah. So this stuff never stops. And so as parents, I think it’s important for us to figure out ways that we can give our kids a leg up, get ’em a step ahead. This has been a great topic. Make sure guys that you are subscribed to the podcast. You can go to tuttletwins.com/podcast. Make sure that you’re looking up the show notes page. We will link this particular episode to Passion-Driven Education. If you’d like to take a look at it, as well as maybe an essay or two from John Taylor Gatto and some of his books, we can link those resources for you as well. So tuttletwins.com/podcast. Check it out, Brittany. Thanks as always and we’ll see you next time

Brittany: See you Next Time



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