Educating Sam

September 16, 2013 — Leave a comment

Hot-button questions asked by prospective expatriates invariably hone in on education, and the necessity of providing continuity for children who roam the globe trailing parents. They are without doubt valid concerns and one of the reasons I am an advocate of boarding schools, if the child is suited and if circumstances warrant it, which can offer stability in both education and friendships so necessary in the formative teen years.

However continuity and ease of transition are why international schools around the world, particularly those following the international baccalaureate, are so successful in providing in-country education. It levels the playing field for students from all over the world, without dumbing down their education.

So used to hearing the concerns of American parents about the education of their offspring I was under the impression there was a standardised system in the United States. I quickly realised how erroneous my assumption was when, on arriving here the first time, I learnt there was no national curriculum. No using the same textbooks, no sending young people off to university, or into the world, with the benefit of a system giving the same measured instruction; equal credence given to various points of view.

I was disavowed of my quaint expectations when looking through one of my children’s history books I found Winston Churchill mentioned only in passing with regard the Second World War. On raising the subject with a teacher I was reminded I was in America and therefore an American slant was to be expected. I could accept slant, but I did struggle with only one mention of a figure instrumental in bringing about peace in Europe in 1945.

I quickly learned that each state has the power to choose it’s own textbooks, and the right to rail at publishers until texts are amended to better fit a particular state’s majority, or at least most vociferous, opinion. In some states for instance there will be greater emphasis on creationism as opposed to evolution, more pages devoted to civil rights, more space given Christianity versus other religions and so on. Serious sex education is considered deviant in some states, they being the ones that trumpet abstinence as the best form of contraception. They are of course correct but they fail to take into consideration raging hormones, or sheer lust. I wonder how without giving balanced information young people can form opinions, and make informed choices, for themselves?

The Associated Press today reported that in Texas, “Textbook influence by state is waning”, which sounded as if commonsense was finally prevailing. However on closer examination I learnt a law is now in place allowing individual “school districts the freedom to choose their own instructional materials…”. So not only is there no national norm, there is now no state norm, and in Texas there could be over 1000 educational norms if each public school district were to choose different materials.

And those considering a posting overseas are worried about educating their children in other countries?

There seems to be little uniting these United States at the moment, whether in politics, religion or it seems education. How can America look to lead the world, claim the mantle of ‘arbitrator’ when the young are being educated with such a lack of breadth? When a clerk at the post office counter knows little of world geography, or a teacher global history, but is asked to register his opinion with his representative or senator on how to vote on world matters.

So when considering an expatriate position think first of the rich education your child will get through osmosis, through hearing different languages, learning of different religions and cultures, of being open to new thoughts and opinions. Then consider the educational standard offered through international schools, or boarding schools. It is only with informed views that we learn that all is not black and/or white but rather shades of grey, at least fifty.

A far easier transition for a child could well be from Mississippi to Malaysia rather than from Mississippi to Michigan, at least as far as education is concerned.

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