The Myth of Credentialism

I would like to take the comment left at one of my posts and respond to that person’s viewpoint step by step because there is certainly a segment of people who hold these beliefs.  Each of the italicized quotes come from the comment found here.

I’m curious to know how many DIY schoolers here have earned their state certifications to instruct students? (Note:  DIY means do-it-yourself.)

I am of the opinion that if you aren’t certified, then you have no ethical business trying to teach your child the school or district mandated curriculum at home.

What if I read a few medical textbooks and declare myself a medical doctor? Should that be permitted to treat my own children?

Why do state certifications exist?  Is it to “qualify” a person?  In actuality, most professions of certification came about after it began as a “do-it-yourself” discovery.  In other words, do-it-yourself came before certification.  That includes the medical field, the legal field, and yes, the teaching field.

I was able to witness one of these “professions” as it turned into a certification process.  It first begins with an identifiable segment of skills.  In this example’s case, it was the application of “applied behavioral analysis (ABA)” as it is applied to the autism world.  ABA has actually been around for a while under the auspices of psychology/psychiatry.  It had also been applied to the world of autism for a number of years before becoming “popularized” by a parent’s personal account utilizing its principles in the book, “Let Me Hear Your Voice”.  Interestingly, it is by the power of the educated parent who demanded the right of information dissemination that this effective intervention became widely known and available.

It also prompted a certification process to emerge.  Before this, those who were in the psychology field would study under an expert in the arena (far and few between) and would simply have experience to back up their abilities.  Previous to the information dissemination of informed parents, the experts were keeping these skills closely guarded lest it be used “ineffectively” by less able practitioners or laypeople.  At the same time, it was understood that the intervention could only be successful if parents were educated and heavily involved.  In other words, the experts didn’t want to disseminate the information, but the parents needed to have the skills.  Official state certification programs began to emerge prolifically.  However, it is understood that there are those who are self-taught and those who choose to obtain these state certifications.  It then becomes a choice of the client which they will choose.  There is no evidence that states one is better than the other.  The difference in success has many factors, one which includes the quality of the ABA skills applied, whether self-learned or state certified.

This example reminds me a lot of the teaching profession.  Homeschooling has been around well before public institutions began.  Many respected bright minds of our distant past as well as currently have been homeschooled without credentialed support.  Thus, teaching without credentials came first; certification followed.  Further, there are a myriad of choices within schooling practices from which to choose by the “client”.  Private schools have been around as long or longer than public institutions, yet the private sector has always surpassed the public sector in abilities.  The private school option has protected its right to govern itself.  That includes the option of whether their educators are formally credentialed or not.  The last commonality I notice is that it is touted often that the success of a student is commensurate with the involvement of a parent.

That brings us back to homeschooling.  It is legal in all 50 states to do-it-ourselves.  It is in the best interests of the state to raise an educated populace.  By legalizing homeschooling, they recognize that homeschooling has been the foundation of our country in education and has produced, and will continue to produce, respectable citizens.  Studies have been conducted, and probably will continue to be conducted, that proves that learning outcomes have little to do with the education level of the teacher involved.  There are more important factors involved.

So, what is the purpose of state certification?  I believe it is to standardize a set of skills.  If you are certified as a teacher, I can expect that you know or should know certain things in order to accomplish the ability to teach in a school.  It is meant to assure us of a minimum standard of ability.  Does this mean it is true?  Of course not.  Thus, why the adage “buyer beware” emerged.  Further, the focus of the certification for one setting may not be useful in the home environment.  Teachers often attest to the fact that much of what they are taught in university to prepare them as teachers is classroom management, administrative paperwork, and legal responsibilities.  Then, when they are placed in the classroom, they discover they are limited to adjusting the teaching to the weakest link, to the end-of-year test, and to the pressures of the administrative goals of performance.  Therefore, in the end we discover that certification often equates to conformance.  And conformance often hinders exploration of new ideas, stilts creativity, and simply creates a dull but compliant workforce.

I’m of the theory that most, if not all, so-called “unschoolers” aren’t simply malcontents who feel their destinies are out of their control, so by taking advantage of a few laws, they seize the control they think they have lost to traditional k-12 institutions.

An autodidactic’s folly is to presume their expert status without formal training and certification. They are assuaging unchecked egos that believe they can do better than someone else.

No one has to “take advantage of a few laws” in order to homeschool.  When laws began to be made regarding compulsory education, it logically followed that it became necessary to create official laws regarding homeschooling.  Homeschoolers worked hard to create legal recognition and authority for the oldest form of education in our country.  Our country is founded on the premise of freedom of choice, and that includes diverse forms of education.

There are proactive and reactive reasons to choose any educational path.  The United States of America is founded on the principles to think for ourselves and to make choices that meet our needs.  We have the right to our own beliefs, ideas, and needs and have the right to act on these things based on the dictates of our own consciences.  Many homeschoolers I meet are doing just that; proactively acting on their beliefs, ideas, or needs.  Homeschooling accomplishes this for those who make that choice.  Others may feel public, private, charter, cyber, or umbrella schools support their beliefs, ideas, or needs.  Sometimes, a parent discovers that their original choice is not working for their child.  They may decide to investigate other options for a better fit for the needs of their child.  That may involve moving from public school to a charter school, or from a charter school to homeschooling, or from cyber schooling to unschooling.

There have been many studies and polls created in order to discover some of these purposes for parents choosing homeschooling.  The original reason for our homeschooling our children was to continue my first son’s enthusiasm for learning.  After a brief stint in a progressive academic preschool that highlighted the limits of formal educational settings for him, we realized that the home setting had provided everything needed to progress including leadership qualities, problem-solving abilities, and intellectual growth.  Once my son and I explored the different styles of homeschooling that first year, I added reasons to why we homeschool through a snake lesson and a creative project.  Far from egotistical, unschooling has been a humbling experience.

Meanwhile, their kids suffer from lack of real structure, order, and discipline, all of which will be expected of them when they grow up and leave the nest.

Tell me what profession will allow its employees to work at their own pace and on their own schedule.

Part of formal education is to prep you for real life. Staying at home with mom or dad playing make believe is not prepping a child for real life.

It’s setting them up for real failure.

Many people mimic the belief that “school is a microcosm of our society,” but it isn’t.  How many jobs do you know that an assignment is given, with exact specifications, that must be turned in and graded and that ends the process?  In actuality, most often an end product or process is desired and the employee has to know how to use the resources available to him both from his own intellect and experience, from peers available to him who can add their expertise to the project, from seeking out new information, and from trial and error.  Also, in today’s world of technology and innovation, employees who can bring new ideas, processes and concepts to the table are valued.  Today’s work force that needs to depend on big picture thinkers in order to move forward in this conceptual age are relying more and more on creative processes that are not being taught in our schools today.

There is more flexibility in today’s workforce than ever before.  Telecommuting enables more flexible scheduling.  Dotcom and entrepreneurial business practices allow a person to work at their own pace.  I want my children to “find work they love so they never work a day in their life.”  Every choice, whether you love what you do or not, has built in parameters of both enjoyable moments and mundane tasks required.  Finding one’s passion and purpose in life doesn’t circumvent this, but it makes it palatable because you love what you do.  Structure, order and discipline naturally occur in these arenas that do not have to be artificially created.

What often really is meant by these comments is that by loving what you do and staying enthusiastic about learning, we are not encouraging our children to plug and chug through life, being obedient employees that do as we’re told, and buck up to the realities that life is a drudgery.  This was the inspirational model in creating our first public schools:  to create an obedient workforce that does not think for itself.  I would like to think we have evolved away from this motivation, but our schools have not evolved with us.  We continue to train ourselves up to do what we’re supposed to do when we’re supposed to do it how we’re supposed to do it; no questions asked.  I want my children to mindfully choose their path, whether that be the path more traveled or less traveled, and dare to believe that life is meant to be joyful.  And that we have the power to make that choice.

Real life is going to the grocery store to get food for the family.  Real life is developing a skill set or trade to contribute to society and provide for oneself and one’s family.  Real life is doing laundry.  Real life is bringing your money to the bank and making a deposit.  Real life is listening to the stories of the older generation and asking questions.  Real life is going to the bathroom when you have to go.  Real life is meeting friends at a gathering place and enjoying each other’s company.  Real life is using the phone to make an appointment.  Real life is deciding when you need to go to bed to get up for the activity you have scheduled in the morning.  Real life is seeking out a person who can help give you credible counsel.  Real life is building loving relationships.  Real life is a lot of things and homeschoolers access all of it.

What a pity more of you don’t see that. You read some research that tells you exactly what you want to hear that you conclude that all education is rotten.

You’ve failed to learn that a modern education must be a partnership between a school and its parents.

Clearly, the fact that you bailed proves that you did not fulfill your part of the commitment. You expected your school to do everything for your child.

My husband and I were highly successful in public school.  We made good grades, excelled in sports, and were well liked by many people, both of us managing to “cross cliches”.  Therefore, we didn’t “throw out the baby with the bathwater”.  But, we recognized the limitations of the schooling environment even as “successful products” to the system.  It can often be true that people are prone to the “pendulum effect” in many categories, such as parenting, schooling, work, etc., but because the motivating factor for many homeschooling parents tends to be the love for their children, I find they humbly (instead of egotistically) work through these types of initial reactions to find pure intent.

What my husband and I discovered through our process is that there is a difference between schooling and education.  We believe in education; but don’t feel that the schooling practices are necessary to accomplish that.  We believe in mastery of knowledge over graded experiences.  We believe in applied processes and products that work over testing factoids.    We believe in leading and being lead by various ages over a segregated populace.  We believe in learning through experience, exploration, and trial and error over bite-sized soundbites found in packaged curriculum.  We believe in learning alongside practicing mentors over being limited by an adult trained in group management and a general knowledge of a subject (most teachers never having practiced their actual subject outside of a school setting, i.e. a science teacher having been a scientist).

Some people consider those who choose homeschooling as “bailing out” on the system.  It’s interesting that private schools, charter schools, and other schooling options are not accused of the same thing.  That said, schooling practices have not changed while our society has.  It has not kept up with new knowledge on how the brain processes information, learning styles, or how they deal with these differences (labeling is more prolific than ever before).  The benefits gained by the children through homeschooling offers mass institutions of learning an example of something different that could be studied and analyzed and implemented in part as an answer to some of the difficulties experienced in the public school setting.  On the other hand, many have speculated that these institutions are so enormous and unwieldy that change to the level needed is not possible.  Therefore, because the system as it is does work for some children, bringing in diverse educational choices in the form of charters, cyberschools, and homeschooling allows choices for those whose beliefs, ideas, or needs do not align with how public schools currently operate.

In conclusion, homeschooling is a viable form of education.  In fact, it is the oldest form of education.  Studies show that credentials is not a deciding factor for effective teaching.  There are as many ways to homeschool and reasons for doing so as there are homeschoolers.  Children who are graduating from homeschools across the nation are being accepted into the colleges of their choice, finding jobs that they love, becoming entrepreneurs, becoming mothers and fathers, and building lasting relationships the same as their public, private, charter, and cyber schooled peers.  It’s simply another educational choice.  For our family, it is the right one for us.

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