In a recent Facebook post, Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel’s Dirty Jobs show, shared a letter he received from an Arkansas mother. The letter ran as follows:
My son, Spencer, decided to apply for the High Voltage Lineman program at Arkansas State University Newport. He went through the interviews just fine, applied and was accepted. We also applied for the full tuition scholarship that was offered through our local electric cooperative. (There are 17 said scholarships available annually, one for each co-op in the state of Arkansas.)
My son filled out his application and eagerly awaited his interview with the selection committee. A little background: Spencer was homeschooled most of his life. That gave him the opportunity to do some pretty neat things. At 18, his skill set includes: light electrical, sheetrock, tiling, concrete work, and graphic design. He currently works full time for a cement contractor, awaiting school to start in the Fall.
So Wednesday, he had his interview. This is what he was told. ‘Spencer, I'm gonna tell you something you don't want to hear. Your grades and test scores are too high and you are too articulate. We ran into this with another kid today. You need to enroll at the University and go into engineering. We need someone who won't get bored and drop out.’
No many how many assurances Spencer gave them, they wouldn't listen. He got the official rejection call the following day.
Mike Rowe responded to this letter with a rant about how the “college for all” push is senseless and driving the American skills gap. Undoubtedly, many Americans would agree with him.
But what I find even more fascinating about this story is the young man’s accomplishments. He is only 18, but obviously well-educated with a full portfolio of important life-skills. That’s not the type of student we see graduating from today’s high schools. Many of those students can’t even perform basic skills such as money management or conversing with strangers.
The element that seems to have set this student apart from others? He was homeschooled.
For years, homeschoolers have fielded doubts from the American public about whether their choice of education will make them different from students who were institutionally schooled. As Spencer’s story suggests, these fears have proven true: homeschoolers are different from other students… but not in the bad way which has always been implied.
In the last decade, the number of children being homeschooled in the U.S. rose 61.8 percent. In the U.K., homeschooling rose by 65 percent. Unless today’s institutional schools step up their game in regards to teaching children basic academic and practical skills, is it likely that the ranks of homeschoolers will continue to grow as parents look to form their children into well-rounded and well-adjusted adults?
Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.