I've really enjoyed reading this thread so far. I agree with others, it's too bad that's it's not posted elsewhere because I think you might get a wide-range of responses on an interesting topic. Like the OP we don't live in the US and our public schools here are, well, ... scary. The schools are very much your cookie cuter schools that teacher the very bare minimum to kids (I should mention homeschooling is actually illegal here too...). However, privates schools come in every shape and size here and are affordable to even the lower middle class families so that's pretty much the route everyone I know takes (I honestly don't know a single family who sends their kids to public schools..). We chose a Montessori school for DD because we're on board with child-led learning and feel that the teacher's role in learning should be facilitator not a dictator. Personally, I've had such a mix of good and bad teachers at the public schools I went to (and I ended up studying a subject that I had a particularly bad teacher in, in HS) that I can't say that percentage comes anywhere near 95%. I actually LOVED a government class I had in high school while hating every second I had to spend with that teacher because I'm really fascinated with politics.
As to the question if parents can be good teachers to their own children, I agree that there's definitely a difference between a classroom setting and home. My mom was my art teacher for awhile and I hated it (basically for the same reasons a PP mentioned), but at home we certainly had a number of very meaningful/thoughtful discussions that I learned from. It really was the difference in the social aspect/managing the classroom when I was in it for both of us.
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl
Well actually this is not at all what I am talking about although it sounds pretty awesome. I am more speaking of kids who have very different political/world views being thrown together and being forced to work together. I think this experience is much different than having family discussions about the "issues". This is the same reason I am hugely opposed to tracking in classrooms, because academic achievement tends to break down on socioeconomic lines, and in areas of California that means racial lines. And what favors are you doing to anyone by separating students into homogeneous classrooms?
I have to strongly disagree with this one. I grew up in the midwest in an extremely conservative state (I think it might have voted democrat once in its history for the president??). Pretty much ALL my classmates were white, Christian, republicans. Ironically, I did actually have a very diverse group of friends but I have to contribute that to my mom more than anything else. Every since I was a young child she purposely sought out friends at the playground for me who were diverse (by beliefs or ethnicity), she also practiced what she preached and somehow managed to have a number of non-white and/or non-Christian friends in a city where the vast, vast majority of people where white. In that government class I referenced above I was the ONLY democrat and that would've happened whether I was in a public school or a private school or homeschooled there (my parents are Republicans). Now, you can certainly find areas of the country where there is more diversity in public schools but I wouldn't take that for granted by any means.
Originally Posted by Chamomile Girl
Tracking serves nobody well IMO. Academically the best thing to do for smart kids is to make the curriculum self-driven so that kids can go as fast or slow as they choose (which actually more looks like a project becoming as complex or simple as one chooses). The problem I have seen with tracking for gifted kids is that honors or AP classes are often dry and fact driven, so many gifted kids check out rather than becoming more engaged. But that is a whole 'nother discussion.
Ok, I'm going to have to bite my tongue on this one... but I will say I had a number of honors/AP classes growing up and they were quite the opposite of what you describe here. The normal English classes, for example, were entirely about grammar/spelling whereas my honor/AP English classes were entirely projects/essay writing and were very engaging. Ok, I'll stop here otherwise I'll end up writing an essay and go entirely off-topic.