Enjoying the “Unaware/Unaware” Critics of OHSU

The Salt Lake Tribune recently ran a front page feature on the Open High School of Utah that generated a number of comments online. (More recent OHSU coverage at eSchoolNews). Many of the comments about the online school ran along these lines:

So much for peer relationships! Social growth is also a good idea – or was….

Re Taxpayer… these online courses lack the academic interaction between students that is so crucial to a great education

The fact that these readers are arguing with one another in the online comment thread about whether you can have meaningful academic or social interactions in an online setting is really just too delicious.

More interestingly, several students from the OHSU (who someone apparently forgot to tell that they can’t have meaningful interactions online) have joined the argument, with posts like:

I would like to ask those who are posting on the article how much they REALLY know what they’re talking about. Honestly. What do you know about OHSU (Open High School of Utah–what this article is all about)? Next to nothing. You know that it is an online charter school, it’s curriculum is “open,” and that there is a student named Jizelle. Am I missing anything? As a student at OHSU, I would like you all to stop trash talking my school until you understand exactly what it is you’re talking about.

Hi, my name is Robin, I am a thirteen year old girl. I have been public schooled, home schooled, and I am in OHSU at the time being… I have more time to learn, and grow with OHSU. I am sorry if you like brick and mortar schools better, but the facts are, when there are 45+ students in a class with one mentor it becomes babysitting NOT teaching!

I am also a student of the Open High School of Utah… I really wish that people would cease with the stereotyping that children who learn at home lack social skills, have some sort of mental problem or disability (I’m pretty sure my mental health is great, thank you very much), or that this type of learning isn’t as effective. Like what LisaMaren stated, OHSU uses discussion boards, in which we are REQUIRED to read through and respond to what the other students have to say. Yes, the posts are longer and well thought out since students are given the chance to sit there, think, and type it down rather than how it would be in an impromptu face-to-face conversation. Everyone has an equal chance to speak their mind and be heard–unlike in the traditional school, where the shy girl may be overshadowed by the know-it-all geek.

Is there a more enjoyable critic to listen to than the one who disproves his own point as he argues for it?

10 thoughts on “Enjoying the “Unaware/Unaware” Critics of OHSU”

  1. This is priceless. I have homeschooled my children for 10 years. I have two things to say about social interaction.

    One: If I want to beat up my kid and steal his lunch money I can do that at home.

    Two, the only problem a homeschool kid has when talking to his peers is the homeschool child has to remember to use smaller words and shorter sentences.

    The same people who feel insulted by those comments are the ones who insult Homeschool families with the type of things printed in that article.

    My 17 year old Homeschool daughter has her first classes at BYU-I today. We must have done something right.

    • Just a observation– it is just as incorrect to stereotype public education, as you have done in your post. A quality education can be had in the public, private, and home institutions. It is the trifecta of instructor, content, and student motivation that make the difference in education. No one benefits by pitting educators (in whatever form they come in) against each other.

  2. As with Wikipedia, the question is not the quality of the new product, but its quality *relative* the quality of existing options. Nature found 4 errors per Wikipedia article (in the physical and natural sciences), but also found 3 errors per article of Encyclopedia Britannica.

    Even *if* OHSUers are socially deficient in some way, we must compare that deficiency to the attributes of publicly-schooled children.

  3. “The fact that these readers are arguing with one another in the online comment thread about whether you can have meaningful academic or social interactions in an online setting is really just too delicious.” PRICELESS!!

  4. Joy! I love the irony in the comments you culled, but especially that the students spoke up. The second student presents an admirable defense of discussion boards–this is the sort of insight I’d be impressed to hear from an online instructor.

  5. Great post, Dave.

    The students you quote seem vastly more articulate than the majority of adults responding to online discussions.

    The thought also occurs to me that having students chime in should count towards something related to civics or social studies, shouldn’t it?

    Seems like something good is happening . . . .

  6. Great stuff, but I’m still a bit confused. You guys are integrating a lot of OER into your curricula, and also spending money developing new OER to cover gaps – great! Where is it? Can I see the curricula? Do I have access to the OER that you have generated? I don’t find this on your main website anywhere, but perhaps I am looking in the wrong place?

    • Our first release will be in August 2010. We have a carefully crafted formula of building, teaching through it once, evaluating, and adjusting to ensure that our content is excellent, prior to its release.

  7. I think that this issue is more complicated than it might seem… When we say “meaningful” and “social” we mean many things… In particular, the traditional classroom was a way to create the meaningful social interactions necessary to creating a share sense of collective identity through a share set of common experiences. We were or are all “American” because we (most of us) went to public schools. Similarly, we were all “American” because we shared the educational goal of trying to make sure everyone had access to (at least) this level of education. I teach online full time, but I worry that these shared ideals and experiences are being eroded by both home schooling and by distance education. I don’t this is necessarily true– it’s certainly not inerrant in the technology or in home schooling– but I do think we need to find ways to re-assert or re-enforce our sense of collective experiences and destiny.

  8. With reference to and respect for Mr Watkin’s opinion, I vehemently disagree that we are “American” because of our public school experience. The vast majority of our founding fathers were “home schooled”. What makes us Americans is freedom…freedom to assemble in whatever forum we choose, freedom to speak our minds, freedom to worship, freedom to live where we want and to move freely, freedom to select the government officials who lead us, freedom to dream and freedom to acheive those dreams through hard work, perserverance and dedication, freedom to live our lives as we see fit, not according to someone else’s idea of social utopia. The public schools Mr. Watkins references and that we all remember ceased to exist some time ago. They are now controlled by unions and are more concerned with being politically correct than fostering acedemic excellence, not to mention the additional challenges of bullying, vanity, dishonesty, inappropriate (underage) gender relationships, etc. By definition, if you are in the mainstream, you are not excelling. My appologies to the dedicated educators and students who buck this trend. Home schoolers are not immune to these social ills, but I like the odds of my children becoming well rounded, functional adults who have the skills to contribute positively to their communities.

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