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November 28, 2002
Schools versus learning

Joanne Jacobs says she's not sure about it, but reckons it's "worth a read". I'm sure Joanne won't be amazed to learn that I think that this Colby Cosh piece is a lot better than that. Sample quote:

See, this is the comical thing: tutors, as opposed to teachers, are doing more and more of the heavy lifting of a failing educational system. We've got these Kumon outfits, these Sylvan Learning Centres and the like, that are teaching math and reading to whole generations of children who are apparently coming out of public schools with no clue how to multiply five and seven. I notice, too, an increasingly lucrative trade in private tutoring for high-school students. I went to high school in the late '80s, and no one I knew was seeing a tutor or was employed as one. By 1995 I had friends who were basically earning a living on these kids. It's just standard now, it seems, for parents to send their kids to high school during the day and then pay someone to actually teach them, on the side.

What are "Sylvan Learning Centres" like? Anyone?

Cosh's further thoughts yesterday will to many be even more interesting, being his personal impressions of one home-schooled kid that ring very true to me, and confirm my impressions of such children whom I've met.

David Deutsch, pursuing his vision of what education should be in his logical, Oxfordish way, brings us to a similar conclusion:

So if we pursue the vision in a logical way, we come to the conclusion that the existing institution that comes closest to a non-coercive school is the entire town (or city, or society, or internet) that the children have access to, including their homes, and their friends' homes, and excluding only the existing schools.

This was the piece recommended by lars in his comment on this.

If I know Deutsch (which I only do from a few of his writings and by hearsay from various TCS people), he would forbid tutors that children themselves did not freely consent to. "Earning a living on these kids" wouldn't sound good to him.

Me, I'm just passing on what I read and like, even if a lot of it contradicts amongst itself quite a lot. When I try to teach these are the kind of prejudices I bring to it, if I can. If I ever have children, ditto.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 03:21 PM
Category: Home education

I think Spangolink may know a thing or two about Sylvan. They own a not very good Spanish language school.

Comment by: Patrick Crozier on November 28, 2002 08:55 PM

I think we will still have schools in 2100, for reasons of division of labor if nothing else. If schools can decently educate kids at a tolerable price, lots of parents will be happy to send their kids there.

We are planning on homeschooling but I would probably be OK with sending our kids to a free school, if there was one around.

Don't know anything about Sylvan Learning Centers except that they advertise an awful lot and the little girl in one of the commercials appears to be reading a Lemony Snicket book.

David Deutsch strikes me as a lunatic. Good to know what TCS is about but I think I have gone as far out on that fringe as I care to go.

Comment by: Matt on November 29, 2002 04:10 AM

It seems to me we are being treated to yet another black market emergence to cure statist rot.

The state, ensconced in education (inclusive of the old eastern block bovine fertilizer of Anti Soviet Society memories) with all that that entails, fails miserably to do the job. The only solution is do it yourself or as close to that as you can manage.

Hence, we now have home schooling with, inter alia, the able assistance of Sylvan and Kumon to educate our children. Things are looking good, some education is going on! The only problem will be when some prat wants to regulate it even more than it already is. For the good of us all don't you know!

Home schoolers here (USA) are unpopular with the educrats, or educretins, that run what passes for and education system. It is a system of sorts but what it has to do with education is still a mystery. However, the optimistic point is that there is education out there. Not where it might be expected to be,in a state schools, but it is out there with Mulder and Skully's truth.

Great blog site Brian by the way.

Comment by: Howard Gray on November 30, 2002 05:12 AM

Sylvan is a private company that offers tutoring. It started with reading and has now expanded to other subjects. The hourly fees are high, but the company has been expanding rapidly, so I guess parents feel it's worth it. A few public schools have used Title I funds (federal aid for disadvantaged) to pay Sylvan to teach reading to students who are behind.

With the new federal law, many parents of kids in bad schools will get vouchers that can be -- and I suspect will be -- spent at private tutoring centers.

Comment by: Joanne Jacobs on December 2, 2002 01:45 AM

Looks like I'm a little late to this Sylvan discussion, but I can report that the company seems much more interested in making money than educating. I have just been through several different Sylvan websites and could not find one opportunity to submit an opinion about the quality of the instruction. I found "Investor Relations" and several forms that allowed me to submit my contact info if I want to buy something. I could not find anywhere that I could tell them that my son's SAT prep course did not include mock tests!

He went to every class session and did all assigned homework. His SAT results were disappointing and he is trying to decide whether to take the test over. I asked how he had done on the Sylvan practice tests, and he told me they took one practice test the 1st day, and none more! Two were handed out early, but never assigned. The instructor never asked for the tests to grade them, and never made them a homework assignment. Of course, a professional test prep. co. should be offering practice tests under actual test conditions, not giving students two booklets that they could acquire for free and leaving them to their own devices.

Obviously, my opinion of Sylvan is very poor. My other son took the Princeton SAT review last year, and I believe it helped him.

Comment by: Brian on November 15, 2003 04:53 PM
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