April 12, 2007

Makes Sense to Me

Glenn Reynolds calls attention to this comment by Bruce Kesler:

Wonder why so many of the news articles you read, or steam over, are lacking essential information or perspective? Wonder no longer. Knowledge and experience of the subject is only a “plus.” Would the AP advertise for a sports reporter for whom knowledge and experience with baseball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey, tennis, and so forth is only a “plus,” rather than essential and primary?

So, why should the AP believe that knowledge and experience of intelligence, or medicine, or any other important and technical subject only requires a “plus”?

Maybe because the reporter was schooled in a system where subject matter expertise is not required for a teacher of a hard subject, but the ability to "[d]emonstrate[] an understanding and acceptance of diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, gender, special needs and religious groups" is?

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March 31, 2007

Rethinking Schools, Indeed

I haven't done a "why we homeschool" post in a while; not for lack of material, so much as that I have been orienting my free time away from blogging. But every now and then, I weep.

Posted by jeff at 9:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 4, 2006

Deep in the Art of Texas

I haven't written a "why we homeschool" post in a while, but it is clearly time.

So an art teacher in Frisco, TX (hello, Nemo) took her class to the DMA, a fine museum in downtown Dallas, having followed appropriate procedures (including taking the same route through the museum before taking her class, having other parents and teachers along, getting approval from the principal and getting signed permission slips from the parents). After the tour, the teacher was suspended, on a variety of "causes," by the principal, apparently after a parent's complaint that their child had seen a nude sculpture.

Now, I know enough of Texas to believe that a parent might complain about such a thing, regardless of how gobsmackingly obvious that probability was even before the parent signed the permission slip. And I know enough of how schools work to believe that a principal, faced with a complaint from a parent (particularly if the parent was influential in the community) would both suspend the teacher, and make up all kinds of bogus reasons for doing so. And I know enough of lawyers to believe that the school district's lawyers would compound the problem with "even if we didn't suspend her for the reasons we gave, here are all of the other valid reasons she should have been suspended". And I know enough of newspapers to realize that they are only telling the teacher's side of the story here, and there may well be more to it than that. (Remember, the teacher has a lawyer, too.)

I am struck by this part of Education Wonk's commentary:

In a case that is all-too-familiar for many of us who work in public education, "accountability" seems to be a concept that is readily applied to the individual who actually works in the classroom while those who have oversight (and make the final decisions) are exempted altogether from the consequences of their actions. (or lack thereof)

It seems that classroom teaching is destined to become little more than a McJob, where initiative, dedication to students, and hard work aren't rewarded, but, to the contrary, are often punished by a system that offers little or no chance for advancement based upon merit while those who are in authority (and do make the decisions) often obtain their positions sinecures through those Evil Twins who've plagued public education for decades: Nepotism and Cronyism.

Is it little wonder, then, why I can no longer recommend public school teaching as a career choice for our nation's brightest young people?

I would be more impressed if such problems were enough to have Education Wonk recommending to parents that sending their children to public schools, apparently so heavily infested with circumstances that almost guarantee the school's failure in its primary stated mission (providing a quality education to children), is a bad idea, and they should consider other alternatives.

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August 30, 2006

One More Reason for Homeschooling

Textbooks with faked disabled kids to meet photo quotas is just the beginning of how bad textbooks can be. But why use textbooks for most subjects, when the original material is available? In schools with large classes (government or private), the real reason for using textbooks, I think, is that the material is predigested, so the teacher has to spend less time figuring out how to present the material: the choices are made for you. Yet that entire approach misses the fact that the process of learning how to extract meaning from data is thereby eliminated, and children do not learn how to extract meaning. I think that has something to do with why so many supposedly educated people are so easily fooled.

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February 24, 2006

Gifts and Talents

http://drhelen.blogspot.com/2006/02/im-not-really-talented-and-gifted-i.htmlDr. Helen has a post pointing out some of the idiocies inherent in today's American public schools. It's an easy task, I grant you, but the reality is that the schools are doing exactly what we, as a society, have asked them to do. Yes, even the dumbing down of language, the compulsion to conform to an artificial norm, the arbitrariness, and the pointless bureaucracy are essential parts of our public school system's ability to do its job.

There are, fundamentally, four kinds of education (not, as Mark Twain noted, to be confused with schooling): how to live, how to follow, how to lead and how to do a trade.

How to live is going to be learned by any person other than the severely mentally disabled; this is stuff like how to get food, how to buy things in a store, and so on, and we learn it as a natural part of living, to at least some degree. It would be nice if we all taught our kids things like fundamental economics — balancing a checkbook and so on — because the public schools don't tend to teach these skills. Still and all, it's impossible not to learn the names of colors, how to count, basic grammar and so forth unless you are disabled in some way.

Our school system is geared to teaching how to follow. It was, after all, based on the Prussian schools that were designed to create soldiers, so that's not really surprising. We teach people to read and write at at least a basic fluency, how to follow orders, how to keep to a schedule, how to show up, how to accomodate to arbitrariness and abnormality, and how to value themselves based on others' opinions. We teach them how to be content with their lot, and how not to rock the boat. We teach them the consequences of falling outside the norm, rocking the boat, or being different. We teach them our public societal values, and we do it very, very well.

There is still a rump system for teaching how to lead, although it is vastly atrophied. Much of what is left is in certain colleges, but the doctrines on display very publicly right now at Harvard have driven much of that out of even the college level. Classics, history, languages, biography, rhetoric and so forth are not really taught, except by certain schools and certain homeschoolers, in the US. Mentoring is critical here, and there is no place for that in public schools, and little place for it in undergraduate colleges.

Trade school is still available for certain trades, but in most cases we've moved that into college (journalism, engineering, and so on) or on the job training. There is some specialized training, of course, for things like art education (particularly music lessons) provided through private instruction.

Our schools are doing exactly what they were intended to do: equalizing the vast majority of people at a level consistent with holding down a job in our system. The problem is that the idea of education as a singular body of knowledge/skills, combined with the essential monopoly of government-provided education, means that we are, and have been for about a century, leaving everything other than that minimum to chance. Many of the holes this leaves are actually plugged in community college continuing education classes, which tend to focus on life skills, learning how to lead in small ways (assertiveness training comes to mind), broadening trade education and so forth.

I suppose that an ideal system that could be implemented in a nation-wide system would have everyone follow the same basic education, regardless of all factors, up through about age 12 or 13. That's long enough to learn to read and write, how to do everyday math up through early algebra (figuring out who pays what on a complicated restaurant bill, or whether you have enough gas to get to the next gas station or need to stop now), and to learn what your interests and options are. At that point, those people who were gifted enough to learn to lead would be sent to a separate system for that, focusing on a rigorous classical education. Those who have special skills or interests could go into apprenticeship to learn a trade. The vast majority would continue to be schooled as they are now, and could start into the leadership or trade systems later if they developed the desire and ability for that.

But as that would require that we realize as a matter of public policy that everyone is not exactly the same in their intellectual abilities (as we generally recognize for other talents), I don't expect it to happen.

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February 17, 2006

Fear of Reason

Richard Cohen asks in Thursday's Washington Post What Is the Value of Algebra?

Cohen makes the argument that one can live a very fine life without knowing how to figure out how much time it takes for two boys to mow a yard. More history and English, maybe, but not algebra.

However, I would wager Cohen knows more algebra and mathematical reasoning than he realizes. I bet Cohen can figure out without much effort, for example, that a 200 mile trip on the interstate takes about 3 hours. Maybe he doesn't see that as algebra, but it's a pretty simple formula:


There are those of us who know the sweat, the panic, the trembling, cold fear that comes from the teacher casting an eye in your direction and calling you to the blackboard. It is like being summoned to your own execution.

This is the real problem Cohen has with algebra. Not the knowledge, but the fear. Well, since Cohen likes language and history so much more than reasoning, let me refer to this quote from Marie Curie:

"Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less."

Dumbing down academic expectations is not a way to conquer fear, it will only encourage it.

(Hat Tip: Kevin Drum)

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February 9, 2006

Zero Intelligence Policies

Can a six year old commit sexual harassment? A crime of intent — making someone sexually uncomfortable, in this case — would seem to be predicated on intent, and thus on knowledge of the effects of the crime (otherwise, how could one intend to cause those consequences?). But never let that stop a school from suspending a six year old for sexual harassment. (hat tip: Planet Moron) What immediately occurs to me is the image of explaining to my not-quite six year old, or one of my former six year olds, what sexual harassment is and why they were suspended from school. It would probably start with, "Well, dear, teachers and other bureaucrats are generally idiots...." Of course, since we homeschool, it's not actually an issue for us.

(And of course, how long will it be before the laws forcing "sexual predators" to register for life are extended to sexual harassment committed under any circumstances at any age? And when people stop taking sexual crimes very seriously because of this watering down, causing victims of real sexual crimes to lose protections they would otherwise have, who will take the responsibility? Like most bureaucratic nightmares, no one.)

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January 4, 2006

Where Your Tax Money Goes

McQ at QandO has some interesting information on where the NEA spends its union dues: a raft of hard Left causes absorb millions of dollars. But what McQ does not go on to note is that these teachers are themselves paid out of tax dollars. In other words, you pay your property taxes to the school district; a portion of those taxes goes to teachers' salaries; a portion of those salaries (mandated, not given) goes to the NEA teachers' union as dues; and a large amount of that goes to support groups like "Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, Amnesty International, AIDS Walk Washington and dozens of other such advocacy groups".

Have I mentioned how much I hate the way that unions have worked out in reality? I'd kind of like to given Francis Porretto's idea a try: unions without special legal privileges.

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November 8, 2005

Weird Science

I've written before about the discussion in Kansas about teaching "intelligent design", and now the decision has been made. What bothers me about this is not that Kansas has decided to teach critiques of evolution alongside evolution; we in fact intend to do that with our kids. What bothers me a little is the attempt to insert blatantly unscientific information as if it were science:

[The new standards] also declare that the basic Darwinian theory that all life had a common origin and that natural chemical processes created the building blocks of life have been challenged in recent years by fossil evidence and molecular biology.

Not really. The fossil evidence and molecular biology evidence is still overwhelmingly in favor of evolution. In fact, I have been unable to find any site that was not promoting intelligent design that has said this with anything to back it up. And the intelligent design sites back up the claim with handwaving and mumbo jumbo, rather than any serious attempt at science. The statement "there is no evidence of A" is not equivalent to "there is evidence of not A", yet this is what passes for science among the intelligent design advocates. To the point, indeed, that the Kansas education board made the second and much more deadly mistake: they redefined the meaning of the word "science".
In addition, the board rewrote the definition of science, so that it is no longer limited to the search for natural explanations of phenomena.

Sad for the Kansas education board to hear this, but someone has to tell them: they don't get to unilaterally redefine words. Science is explicitly the search for natural explanations of observed or inferred phenomena, and explicitly disavows non-natural explanations. This does not mean that non-natural explanations must necessarily not be true (a mistake many scientists and many atheists in particular make), merely that science cannot discover a non-natural explanation for a phenomenon. What is science, despite the pronouncements of the Kansas education board (also known, IIRC, for trying to define PI as exactly 3 to make the math easier, or was that just a hoax)? Science is knowledge gained by the scientific method, which has four steps:
  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena.
  2. Formulation of an hypothesis to explain the phenomena. In physics, the hypothesis often takes the form of a causal mechanism or a mathematical relation.
  3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations.
  4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments.

OK, so the phenomena observed include the diversity of living things, the relationships of living things to each other in behavior and appearance, the similarities and differences in DNA and RNA structure, the existence of fossils of plants and animals, and numerous related observations in fields other than biology; hundreds and thousands, in fact, of different observations in dozens of different fields interlock to contribute to our understanding of how life began and has changed over time. Where do the intelligent design folks stand on this? By and large, they don't challenge the observations, but their interpretation. That brings us to step two: formulation of a hypothesis.

Evolution is, in brief, a set of hypotheses that together state that these observations can best be explained by life initially arising from non-living chemicals, and diversifying in numerous ways collectively known as "speciation", with some types of living things dying off entirely due to environmental effects or internal design problems, and others surviving and continuing to diversify. Intelligent design says that this did not happen randomly, but was guided by god — well, they're careful not to say god, but merely to define god and call that definition an "intelligent designer" that happens to share all of the characteristics of their god.

OK, let's dignify this by assuming it is science (even though it does not conform to the requirement of science to not include supernatural explanations, since they don't meet the test of "reliable, consistent and non-arbitrary" that science uses to try to minimize bias and prejudice). Then intelligent design must make predictions; that's step 3. But intelligent design does not make predictions. Intelligent design says nothing about how life might have changed, or might not have changed. All it says is that it happened through a transcendent, undetectable and irreproducible agency. So how can it be tested? How can it be disproved? The answer is that it cannot. Intelligent design cannot be taken seriously because no evidence can disprove it; no test can be made to reproduce it. As such, it cannot be called science, though it can be called a critique of the evolutionary hypothesis.

As such, redefining science to try to fit in intelligent design has some interesting possible side effects. For example, if we are now allowing — indeed, requiring — the teaching as science of theories which are compelling to some believers if you accept the possibility of supernatural events and entities, does that mean that Kansas will now teach, alongside scientific speculation about the beginning of the universe, the Pagan creation tales that have the universe coming into being as the result of sex between a God and Goddess? And how does intelligent design, for that matter, offer anything more or less scientifically reasonable than the idea that new living things spring from the good will of a Goddess of Fertility, that needs to be propitiated appropriately at Beltane? And if intelligent design is to be taught, should not we also teach interpretation of the classical philosophical elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water alongside psychology — for that matter, should we not also teach astrology as part of psychology — since though they cannot be proven, they do make predictions about human behavior and psychology is far, far less provable than evolution. (In fact, psychology may in some ways be no more explanatory than astrology, when it comes right down to it.)

In the end, of course, such attempts would be thrown out with hardly any discussion, as not being scientific. Intelligent design should likewise have been discarded as part of the science curriculum. That it has not been thrown out shows that, in the end, the Kansas education board have simply made monkeys of themselves.

Posted by jeff at 10:31 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

October 30, 2005

Education, Schooling and Dependency

I heard a report on NPR this morning, about tent schools opening up in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Everyone was pretty happy about this, because the parents "need a break" and the kids could have "age appropriate reading" lessons and were "getting bored" at home. It had me despairing within minutes. What are the lessons being taught by this?

These kids are learning that when there's a problem, other people take care of it. They are learning that they are just in the way. They are learning that "The Phantom Tollbooth" is more important than what it takes to get your house and goods and family recovered after a disaster. They are learning that order above all, regularity above all, is what is key.

In contrast, in such a situation, children that are being educated, rather than schooled, would be learning how to find the salvageable goods amongst the wreckage of the home, how to clean and repair the home, how to reconnect the broken parts of your old life into a new life. They would be learning how you can survive and thrive after a disaster, that friends and family are more dependable than strangers, that all help is welcome, that giving help is as or more rewarding than getting help. They would be learning how to live as independent adults, in other words.

It's not about the building or even the students. There are almost certainly publicly schooled kids learning the latter lessons, and homeschooled kids learning many of the former. It's about the attitude: are children the center of a family's life, or are they a peripheral to be enjoyed nights and weekends, as long as there's still time for the parents to have time to themselves then, and maybe on vacation? Schooling is not the same as education, and putting schooling above all leaves very little time for practical learning.

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August 30, 2005

F-You, F-You, F-You, F-You - How many is that?

Well, at least this nonsense is taking place in the UK, but will California be far behind?

A secondary school is to allow pupils to swear at teachers - as long as they don't do so more than five times in a lesson. A running tally of how many times the f-word has been used will be kept on the board. If a class goes over the limit, they will be 'spoken' to at the end of the lesson.

Welcome to "The real world of public education".

Posted by Brian at 6:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

July 19, 2005

Constitutional Lesson Plan

Mark Lerner is creating a Constitutional Lesson Plan. Here is lesson one: Our Constitution is one of liberty or negative rights.

Worth following.

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July 1, 2005

Who Knew?

Steph points to a truly revealing story of pure Idiotarianism. If a homeschooling support group advertised themselves as "welcom[ing] all educators regardless of religion, race, teaching style, politics, marital status, age or sexual orientation", what would be your first reaction? Would you describe that statement as "Christian bashing"? How about the thought occurring to you that "not discriminating on sexual orientation basically means discriminating against most major religions, since the two are mutually exclusive"? Nope, me neither.

It is not uncommon to find homeschooling support groups that do not allow members who are not of a particular religion, or race, or economic background, or teaching style, or political or sexual orientation. That is a result of the homeschooling movement largely arising in the 1980s among radical Christian fundamentalists. It's getting easier all the time to find groups, resources and curricula that are secular or non-fundie, but it is still the case that some of the best homeschooling material is explicitly Christian and sometimes rabidly so, necessitating (in our case) considerable editing to be useful. But it is also, sadly, still easy to find jerks like the Prides.

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June 16, 2005

I'll Vouch for That

Florida has been undergoing a program of experimentation with educational vouchers. It's been working. How well? Well enough that the teachers' unions, faced with having to allow improvements in public schools, have gone to the Florida Supreme Court to stop the program. (Yes, the same Florida Supreme Court that, in the 2000 presidential election, set three different standards and deadlines - none of which comported with state election law - trying to eke out a win for Al Gore no matter what. Let's just guess how they'll rule.

The problem is, vouchers seem to be working. Anyone with a rudimentary understanding of markets and how monopolies distort them could have predicted the sequence of events:

Start state: teachers unions hold an effective monopoly on education, using the coercive power of the State to derive their funding; failing schools attract constantly-increasing funding, much of which goes to the unions through new members and the resultant dues.

Introduce an element of real competition: vouchers programs allow students from failing schools to take a part of the tax money dedicated to that students' education, and use it at any school. Many private schools decide that the voucher amount is sufficient for tuition, meaning that a student can move at little to no cost into their schools from the government schools.

Monopoly union tries to hold off major change by introducing minor changes. Horror of horrors: they work, and student outcomes dramatically improve. Now it is convincingly demonstrated that the problem with schools is not the students, but the teachers, administration, educational methods and choices, and priorities of expenditure. This is major bad juju, because it means that there is little to no justification for increased expenditure, and indeed a full-on vouchers program could force government schools to compete on both price and educational outcomes, when experience shows that they lag private schools in both categories (not to mention home schooling).

Faced with the possibility of losing power in a free market, the monopoly union goes rent seeking, attempting to get the courts to stifle the education market.

Yeah, that's about how it goes. Assuming the Florida Supreme Court does strike down the voucher program, it is unlikely that Federal courts would overrule the decision, on federalist grounds. At that point, the only way to make vouchers effective in Florida will be by amending the Florida constitution. But teachers should be careful what they wish for: the evidence of improved outcomes and the possibility of dramatically-lowered property taxes from a full-on vouchers program could be enough to make such an amendment happen.

<voice show="simpsons" character="preacher's wife" tone="hysterical">Won't someone please think of the children?</voice>

Posted by jeff at 10:25 AM | TrackBack

June 6, 2005

The Examined Life

Mark Safranski pointed me to this article on self-reflective thinking. The post is good; the reference links at the bottom are better (particularly this one. Best of all, though, is the blog from which the post comes, which takes a classically-oriented and neurologically-based view of education. Excellent stuff.

Posted by jeff at 2:22 PM | TrackBack

June 2, 2005

Tell It To Evan Goldwyn

Brooklyn College is already back in the news.

Timothy Shortell, who was recently elected as the chairman of the sociology department, wrote in an online posting that "religious adherents" are "an ugly, violent lot" and "in the name of their faith these moral retards are running around pointing fingers and doing real harm to others."


Shortell refused to talk with FOX News but wrote in an online posting that "we should be able to debate the issue in the public sphere without fear of retribution."

In the public sphere, but what about the classroom?

Speaking of Ms. Parmar, one student, Evan Goldwyn, wrote: "She repeatedly referred to English as a language of oppressors and in particular denounced white people as the oppressors. When offended students raised their hands to challenge Professor Parmar's assertion, they were ignored. Those students that disagreed with her were altogether denied the opportunity to speak."

Students also complained that Ms. Parmar dedicated a class period to the screening of an anti-Bush documentary by Michael Moore, "Fahrenheit 9/11," a week before last November's presidential election, and required students to attend the class even if they had already seen the film. Students said Ms. Parmar described "Fahrenheit 9/11" as an important film to see before they voted in the election.

"Most troubling of all," Mr. Goldwyn wrote, "she has insinuated that people who disagree with her views on issues such as Ebonics or Fahrenheit 911 should not become teachers."

Students who filed complaints with the dean said they have received no response from the college administration. Instead, they said, the administration and Ms. Parmar have retaliated against them, accusing Mr. Goldwyn and another student of plagiarism in January after the semester ended.

Posted by Brian at 11:59 PM | TrackBack

May 31, 2005

The Long March Continues

Mark at ZenPundit draws attention to a further step in the long march through the institutions: requiring teachers to be "educated" in "social justice". That is to say, in order to obtain their teaching certificate, and thus become eligible to apply for most teaching positions, a prospective teacher must parrot particular "progressive" views. Deviation is not allowed.

It is a shame that the increasingly-odious practices of government schooling reinforces the progressive loss of freedoms we take for granted. And it is a question of time before these practices are reformed in an ugly way, or the Republic falls into darkness. Holding the line against the most visible and egregious abuses is insufficient, and there is remarkably little consensus for it anyway.

This virtually ensures that the practices will grow to the point of intolerability, and the important questions are how long that will take, and whether there will then be enough people who are capable of outrage and willing to fight to change the system and reclaim the Enlightenment heritage of the West from the intellectual barbarians who've been ravaging the West for a century.

I'll keep putting my bets on homeschooling my children. They'll be educated enough to prosper in any system that arises - or escape if it is the kind of system that kills the educated.

Posted by jeff at 11:18 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

May 24, 2005

Home Schooling, Civil Society and the State

Michael Williams points to an excellent article on home schooling, government schooling and the State. I'll have more on this tomorrow.

Posted by jeff at 11:17 PM | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

Intelligent Design and Unintelligent Teachers

This is just stunning. Stunning in its stupidity, actually.

You see, in Kansas there is once again debate over whether evolution should be taught in schools. Given the mass of evidence for evolution - particularly micro-evolution - it is odd to even be having a debate about whether it should be taught as the primary probability of how life came to be as it is today. That said, the teachers in Kansas deserve to have their clock cleaned, because they are clearly idiots. And here is why: their definition of science is "a human activity of systematically seeking natural explanations for what we observe in the world around us." That is crap.

Science is a human activity, certainly. But there is nothing in it about seeking natural explanations for what we observe. Science is all about what is provable and what is not provable. What is "natural" simply doesn't enter into it. I'm a Pagan, after all, and for me the Divine is natural. It does not matter whether or not the Divine enters into it: can any given theory be proven false? If so, the process of developing and of attempting to disprove that theory is science. If not, it is at best a critique, and usually less than that.

It may well be that life was a creation of a Divine being. But the "intelligent design" theory is not science even if it is correct, because it does not attempt to formulate a disprovable hypotheses, and then test it. Without that, it is nothing more than a notion - even a theory has the prerequisite that it provide a disprovable hypothesis.

So part of the problem is that the science teachers in Kansas apparently don't know what the core difference is between science and non-scientific belief. Part of the problem, too, is that our culture has (in the name of technology, really) turned "science" into a religion unto itself. Can you explain how we can know the mass of stars hundreds - thousands - of light years away? Neither can I, though I've studied physics enough to guess at it. But I take it on faith that we can know that, and so (likely) do you. And the reality is, we take most of what we think we know on faith. A scientist or a teacher says it's true, and we simply accept that because it's too hard to know for certain that it is so. It's provable, but it's beyond us to prove it. (I use proof here not in the mathematical sense, which is a wholly different animal.)

So it's not science, but Scientism, that most of us believe in. We simply accept that a process was scientific, because it was claimed to be so, and thus that the conclusion it arrived at is reasonable. Look at the hundreds of studies that are reported each year. How many of them are believable? A small fraction? Yet we don't take the time to examine these studies to see if they are reasonable; it's a study so it must be scientific and thus true.

Here's a hint: ad hominem is not always wrong. Sometimes, the fact that a drug maker funds a study on a problem really is a conflict of interest that leads to bad results. And frequently, what we take to be scientific consensus is no more than a passing fad with questionable antecedents.

The truth is, we are all to blame for the debacle in Kansas, because we have are collectively willing to believe just about anything if the alternative is to work hard to know the truth - or as close as we can approximate to the truth - for ourselves. It's simply an economic problem: we have limited time, so what shall we accept and on what matters will we demand proof or at least strong evidence?

The problem in Kansas is that the educators responsible for passing on the notion of what science is have failed to understand it for themselves, and are thus incapable of communicating it. As a result, they are unable to defend against plausible-sounding beliefs which have no evidence behind them.

The science teachers in Kansas deserve to lose this fight. Their students deserve better.

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September 12, 2003

Incompetence This Great...

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Kim du Toit makes a great point:

The other day our Carpenter's helper heard me say something along the lines of, "it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy."

He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey's known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, "You can't make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent."

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September 11, 2003


Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Steph takes a look at recent resolutions from the NEA convention. The NEA are a bunch of parasitic, Leftist, America-hating bastards who want to force conformance to their views - and those of their supporting partners such as radical environmentalists, "peace" activists, unions, the transgendered community and the like - who in any decent society would be kept away from children for the children's (and society's) good, but who in our society are for some reason exalted as the only qualified agency on not only education, but child-care as well. Why this is I do not know.

Not that I'm bitter.

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August 10, 2003

Government School Idiocy

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

If you have a strong stomach - and preferably if you don't have kids in school, so that your head doesn't explode - read some of these examples of school idiocy and dangerousness. My personal "favorite" has to be the kid who got suspended for having a prop for a school play (a broomstick painted black to simulate a musket).

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July 24, 2003


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Just read - but only if you really want to be angry. By homeschooling our kids, we ensure that not only will they actually know this country's history (and the world's), but that they will see the good points of the country, as well as the bad.

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July 16, 2003

Credit Where it's Due

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If you've read any of my rants about homeschooling vs. public schooling, it would probably surprise you to know that I actually don't have a problem with the concept of public schools. The problem that I have is that our system is mandatory, monopolistic, intrusive, expensive and frequently doesn't work in the most rudimentary sense. However, I'd like to point out a school district that is doing something right, particularly because my local school taxes go to pay for this. The article is from the Keller Citizen, and is not available online, so I will retype it here:

Back to the Books

Keller ISD students are headed back to the classrooms Monday, and for those at Florence Elementary School in Southlake, there will be some exciting and innovative additions to their curriculum, Principal Mark Martin said.

Florence is the first KISD school to begin incorporating elements of a classical education into its regular curriculum. The goal of the program is to teach children how to think and instill a love for learning that will last a lifetime, Martin said.

The knowledge of more than one language is an integral part of the concept.

"Studies have shown that a child who learns a second language at an early age does better in school than one who doesn't," Martin said. "With that in mind, we are introducing Spanish to our students during the announcements each day. Each morning, our head custodian, Gabriela Prado, will introduce a Spanish word or phrase."

In addition to the vocabulary learned each morning, a computer program on the school's computer system will help teachers at the different grade levels teach Spanish.

Martin said familiarity with Latin and a second modern language gives children the ability to determine the meanings of new words by associating them with words from another language.

"Spanish is a very usable language for students in this part of the country," Martin said. "And since most languages such as Spanish, French and English have similarities, students use their knowledge of one to learn another."

Students at Florence will also be introduced to Latin during the school year. Leearning roots, prefixes and suffixes will help students in vocabulary development, Martin said.

"Although Latin is no longer spoken, all of our words come from the Latin roots, suffixes and prefixes," Martin said. "In the long run, this will help our students achieve better scores on college entrance exams. It will also possibly give them an advantage in earning scholarships for higher education."

The various classroom teachers sat down together and created a vocabulary list for each grade level, Martin said. Because this is the first year for this project, he expects some changes to be made throughout the school year.

Another new element welcoming students back to school is a timeline painted along one of Florence's halls. Once complete, the 56-foot-long timeline will depict historical events from cave drawings to the present.

The timeline, which is being painted by art teacher Gina Menasco and Karen Schwab, a parent volunteer, will be used by students at each grade level.

Students will be able to write essays about the subjects they are studying, illustrate them with drawings of their own and place them in the appropriate spot.

"This way, our students can see what else was happening in the world at the same time as the invention of the automobile or construction of the White House," Martin said. "This gives them a sense of how everything is affected by events that occur at the same time."

Martin has high praise for his faculty, staff and parents. He pointed out that this year's additions to the curriculum mean extra work for everyone involved.

"There are certain subjects and skills we are required to teach," he said. "The new things are just a way of enriching the students' education. They are the icing on the cake."

A classical education is difficult and time-consuming for the parents, teachers and students. It takes a lot of work, but provides the best possible liberal (in the original sense) education available. Most of all, it requires parents, teachers and administrators to believe in the capacity, intelligence and willingness to work of the students. This is an excellent start down a very rewarding path.

Bravo to all concerned.

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July 12, 2003

HMS Pinafore on Educrats

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This is really funny.

I am the very model of an Education Minister;
My arguments are tortuous, my motivation sinister;
But though my plans are ropy, and my reasons even ropier,
I'm laying the foundations of a socialist utopia.

I'm well aware the arguments the Tories use to blame us is
that schools without competition will foster ignoramuses.
But tolerating independent schools will be hypocrisy
since freedom's incompatible with genuine democracy.

I want to see that everyone learns socialism properly,
and this is only possible inside a state monopoly;
All schools that I don't recognise will therefore be prohibited
and any private tutors will be flogged or even gibbeted.

All middle-class morality I promise to eliminate;
Exams I shall abolish, since they certainly discriminate;
A college with a vacancy selecting its own candidate
will quickly wish it hadn't, when it finds I have disbanded it.

I'll throw away all covenants and charters international
with which I disagree, and which must therefore be irrational;
I short, in all of Europe from the Parthenon to Finisterre
I'll be the most intolerant, intolerable Minister.

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June 17, 2003

The Joys of Mainstreaming

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Read. Weep.

Nearly every day, I see or hear a story about the current condition of government schools, and am thankful that I got out of them when actually educating students was still considered important, and when it was still OK to tailor classes for exceptional students (in both directions) to make sure everyone got what they needed.

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May 16, 2003

Religion in Schools

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I like Aubrey's take on the issue of religion in schools. Actually, I especially like this quote:

That problem, as I see it, is that public education has a fatal flaw. What we're seing in so many places (religion, sex education, testing, etc) is that the public school system cannot respond to market demand. It must attempt to cater to all needs and all tastes (as well as all the additional crap that has been thrust upon it over the years). What we're seeing here is a frustration of market demand because of the government imposed monopoly in education. If people's demands are frustrated in the marketplace, eventually they will look for other routes to get them satisfied, by force if necessary (either the courts or the tyranny of the majority) if there are no other outlets.

If we'd get past the idea that education must be public, we can start to look at satisfying the needs of each stakeholder. If some people want prayer and bible studies in their schools, that can be handled. If others want 'just the facts', the market will provide for it.

To coin a phrase, indeed.

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May 15, 2003

How Much do you Pay in Property Taxes?

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Consider how much of it goes for this kind of stuff.

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May 12, 2003

Let's all go Reread Harrison Bergeron

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Maybe these guys should reread this story because this is a fetid load of dingo's kidneys. Remind me again about how government school teaches kids to live in the real world? (hat tip: Right Wing News)

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May 11, 2003

"I Don't Call That Failure"

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Porphyrogenitus has already sewn up today's award for raising my blood pressure to dangerous heights. He passes along articles from the Washington Post and the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus about an incident in Barre, VT, where "[a] uniformed police officer persuaded a custodian to open a school in the middle of the night so he could photograph class projects he found objectionable as an American and as a military veteran."

While Officer Mott certainly has the right "as a resident and a voter and a taxpayer of this community" to take these photographs - this is after all a public place - the fact that he did this under cover of law - that is to say, while wearing his uniform and in fact on duty - makes his action iffy. He will likely (and should) get a reprimand, and possibly some remedial training.

This was apparently sparked by parent complaints:

Mott said he took the photographs less than 48 hours after attending a school board meeting at which several residents complained about what they claimed was an attempt to "indoctrinate" not "educate" students.

School officials have rejected that notion, defending Treece as a "thought-provoking" teacher who provides students in his public issues class with resources from the full spectrum of political perspectives.

This is balance???



I think that what bothers me most is that school officials, who have to see this after all, as they move around the school, didn't find it objectionable - not the viewpoints, but the fact that a teacher was obviously politically indoctrinating the students. I wonder if they would have been so sanguine if a teacher had put up an American flag as a sign of respect, rather than stuffed into a combat boot, or maybe a bumper sticker saying "Charlton Heston is my President."

By the way, the significance of the title quote is here.

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Cultural Marxism

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Porphyrogenitus asks how to defeat Cultural Marxism, the "Long March through the institutions." I wrote a little about that here, but there is another point that needs to be made.

In any evangelistic movement, there are only two ways to end the movement. Either a competing axiom set must arise, which makes a better fit with the needs of the people exposed to it, or the evangelists must be killed. It is in the nature of evangelism to be persistent and coercive. Otherwise, an evangelist is unlikely to convert anyone to his belief system. It is also in the nature of evangelistic movements to be based on logically-shaky foundations, because if the foundations were logically formed, evangelism would be unnecessary; reason would be sufficient to convince people of the utility of the belief system.

As a result, "bad philosophy" is rampant: it is at the heart of every evangelistic movement, and our schools do not teach reason, logic or other Enlightenment values. (This is likely a deliberate tactic, in order to weaken resistence to the next phases of the Marxist agenda.) Interestingly, this lack of teaching of logic and reason does not merely make it more possible for Cultural Marxism to spread, but also for radical right-wing Christian evangelism - the initial benefactor (during the 1980's to mid 1990's) of a lack of ability to evaluate belief systems. (Note: I am not bagging on Christianity per se, merely the political movement based on the Christian equivalent of Sharia.)

We can reduce the influence and slow the spread of "bad philosophy" by resisting it. We homeschool our children, for example, which removes them from a major source of bad philosophy; and we teach them reason and logic so they can defend themselves against bad philosophies. Of course, some people have concerns that we may be abusing our children. The use of language like John Carey displays is the reason why resistance ultimately is futile: there is always a way for water to seep in. It's not, you see, that he dislikes or distrusts home schoolers; it's just that we have to make sure as a society that people aren't abusing children. This will require us, of course, to control every child and watch every parent closely, but we know you're with us in despising people who abuse children. Once a new (lower) plane is reached, the arguments begin to roll back the newly exposed elements of liberty and reason.

So the resistance is necessary, but temporary. In the end; assuming that we don't want to go the route of killing off the Cultural Marxists, Postmodernists, Transnational Progressives and the like; we will have to find an axiom set that is incompatible with the radical Leftist philosophies. Just as Protestantism took the power out of Catholicism, and "Compassionate Conservatism" and neo-conservatism took the wind out of the paleoconservative sails, it will be necessary to find an ideology which will woo the Leftists themselves - not the bulk of the public, which rejects the Leftist idiocy at every turn.

We need an axiom set which will attract the salvagable Leftists, isolating the unreformable radicals. This axiom set needs to be less destructive, in that it needs to limit State intervention to situations which are exceptional and specifically-defined, rather than having State intervention be the norm. The axiom set needs to focus on Justice and Fairness - the key concepts underlying the Leftist agenda - but actually provide for those attributes without becoming tyrannies. Frankly, the Leftist point of view is so far from mine that I cannot see what that axiom set would be. I hope someone can come up with one, though, because it would be a real shame to see mass killings in a few decades. Particularly because it seems to be the radical Leftists who are prone to committing the mass killings, and if that were to happen it would likely be the children of the Enlightenment - such as myself and my family and most of my friends - who would be the ones being killed. Oh, we'd take a few out with us, but it would be nice to just settle this peacefully.

One thing that I think might hold some hope is that world-changing events have been taking place, and more will be coming soon. In particular, the events of 9/11 have made people more resistant to radical ideologies, which will help to slow much of the Leftist agenda, at least over the next few years. In addition, there is some chance that we will finally begin private expansion into space. If Rutan's Space Ship One and projects like it are successful, we might begin the path to the colonization of space. Such an expansive movement will give a place for the idealists and dreamers to go and confront reality, and in the past has been one of the reasons that countries like Britain, the US and Australia - all active in robust frontier exploration - have tended to be both freer and more productive than stagnant societies like the European Continentals.

UPDATE: Porphyrogenitus comments both here and on his blog, and has some good points, so I wanted to address them. The points I want to talk about basically boil down to "been done" and the concept of ex-migration.

Porphyrogenitus notes that classical liberalism started from just this kind of break with the past, by creating new axioms to win away people from an existing movement. That's kind of my point, actually. I perhaps should have scarequoted "Justice" and "Fairness", because the Left does not use the same meanings that someone with, say, a dictionary and a grasp of the English language might use.

The radical Left - and Porphyrogenitus points this out continually and admirably - has a public face which is all about good intentions. They'd like you to please ignore the heat-soaked road off to the left. And the Left is immune to criticism, in the sense that they define every viewpoint and even matters of demonstrable fact as being part of a narrative, which they simply refuse to accept if it does not fit within their theory. Clearly, the theory is correct; therefore reality lacks conviction. Thus, since we cannot criticize the Left on reasonable terms, we must use their cant against them, much like a practitioner of judo throws his opponent using the opponent's own momentum. We must find a way to make their publically-acceptable good intentions lead to actual good deeds. That said, Porphyrogenitus has an excellent point that I need to think about more: "So this would bring us full circle, but with a strong tendency to continue the circle right around without getting us out of the quandry."

On the other point, I don't really see ex-migration as a panacea. I think that tyranny is almost inevitable in human relations; it is a very stable state. It takes much hard work to maintain a free state, in the sense that order is maintained and otherwise individuals are free to act according to their Will. At the heart of this is essential human laziness. Faced with no existential threat, humans just want someone else to take care of the problems and leave them alone. This makes it easy for a free society to degrade quickly into a tyranny.

The Founders in the US got it almost perfectly right. The one mistake that they made (in a Liberty sense - I'm not addressing the issue of slavery here) was to make it too easy to change certain parts of the Constitution. For example, the representation of the States in the Senate is far more crucial to American Liberty (because it acts as a check on a runaway Federal government) than the voting age, yet both are equally easy to modify. When we gave up the States' representation, turning the Senate into a long-serving and less representative House of Representatives, we set up the conditions for the big-government programs we've had since the Depression. I believe that had the Founders split the Constitution into two parts, the essential and the mechanical, and made it easy to change the mechanical aspects and frightfully difficult to change the essential aspects, we would be more resistent to creeping Socialism and other types of bad philosophy.

But even then, there is always the possibility of a moment of fear, when we give up essential Liberty for transient and often illusory safety. As a result, it seems only a few hundred years might pass between the attainment of Liberty and the onset of tyranny. (Other cultures have obtained Liberty in the sense we understand it, but I'm unaware of any who've kept it for more than 500 years.) So ex-migration can keep those who are willing to take risks for Liberty free, but only so long as they keep moving deeper into the frontier. When they stop and settle down, they will almost certainly fall into tyranny within a few hundred years.

As to places on Earth where we could go, I'd pick Alaska. It has rich natural resources, an independent mindset already in place, geography which makes it not much of a threat to anyone, and it borders only Canada. Plus, the population is small enough that an influx of people with a common goal could tip the political balance. That said, though, it's not a very practical idea. We'd still have to deal with the Federal government, and secession is a well-settled issue.

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April 30, 2003

Spluttering Indignation

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I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'm going to fisk a teacher. OK, I can believe it. This article was posted online, but then deleted from the page. Poor Ms. Flynn doesn't seem to understand that on the Internet, you can't take back what you say. Because the article is no longer online where it was originally posted, I am going to quote the entire article, even the parts I don't say anything about directly.




Sunday, April 13, 2003

By Kelly Flynn

The public school system takes a lot of bashing at the hands of the media and politicians. Some of it's justified. Most of it's not. And having taught there for almost 20 years, I'm certainly aware of its strengths and weaknesses.

Apparently you're not.
But when it comes to a well-rounded education that prepares students for the world of work and for functioning in a global society, the public school system can't be beat.

It can, and you can, and I shall.
They take everyone.

For a ride...an expensive and meaningless ride.
Blind, deaf, learning disabled, mentally impaired or non-English speaking,

Yes, that describes the public school system in general.
public schools take them all and provide the services they need.

Except, say, a well-rounded and in-depth education covering such useful topics as the structure, theory and practice of our governance at the State or Federal levels, US and world history, American and European literature, math and science, creative and practical writing, economics, logic, foreign languages or for that matter the English language, or indeed any of the critical knowledge required of adults in a free society. Which is necessary, of course, to prevent those students from realizing what a bad deal government schools are.
And in my experience, that's exactly what some parents don't like about the public school system.

Yep, you nailed it. We don't like that you are incapable of educating our kids to the point that they could, by the end of 12+ years of schooling, pass the 8th grade test from Salina, KS in 1895. Part of this is the fault of mainstreaming, which puts children who are unable to learn at a given level and those who are well past that level in the same class, thus preventing the children who are more advanced from learning while assuring that those who need special attention won't get it. I suppose that it is opposition to that particular practice that you meant. If so, you've guessed wrong. If there are going to be government schools, they should accept all comers. But teachers and administrators shouldn't be stupid about how they attempt to provide an education for those kids.

And for that matter, the government schools should be tax advantaged only to the point of provision of infrastructure. The per-child costs should be given to the parents of the children (in voucher form, if you want to ensure that the parents don't use the money on new cars every year or two). They can then be given back to the public school (which would by law have to provide an education for exactly the amount given to the parents, and would use that money for teacher salaries, textbooks, classroom materials and administrators' salaries), or used to defer private tuition, or used for homeschooling supplies and educational trips. Yes, yes, I know that this would vastly reduce the number of government-employed teachers, and make it necessary for teachers to actually be able to, say, teach in order to hold down a job (otherwise, parents won't allow their students (and the associated money) anywhere near those teachers).

Still, I believe that parents should have choices when it comes to educating their children.

How nice. We are allowed to be responsible for our children...
Charter schools and parochial schools are great options.

The educational choice that confounds me, though, is home schooling.

...as long as we do it your way, that is.
Why would parents choose to isolate their children from a rich and varied learning environment?

We don't. Government schools do not necessarily provide a learning environment that is either rich or varied. Keller (TX, where I live) public schools are something like 87% white.
Why would parents choose to pull their children out of the real world and shelter them from the very society that they will ultimately have to live and work in?

School shootings, bullying, forced conformity to government norms, short attention spans and the other "real world" experiences of school my children can do without. I am happy for them to make the society better, rather than to settle for the least common denominator.
It's perplexing.

Go study history, logic, the Enlightenment. Then compare the achievement levels of homeschooled children to publically schooled childern. Then consider that Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein were all schooled at home. Then you won't be so perplexed. Or, simply realize that you are an ignorant and seriously misguided person who has no business telling me how to raise my children. Either way works for me.
In extenuating circumstances home schooling is the only viable alternative, such as in the case of a long-term illness. I'm not talking about those situations.

If it's OK in those situations, then why not as a matter of course?
But many times in my career I observed parents choosing to home school to keep their child away from a certain "element" in the public school system that they deemed to be unsavory, to isolate their kids in what seemed to me to be an unhealthy way.

Ah, but there are unsavory elements in the government schools. There are the druggies, the gangs, the bullies, the neglected kids who go on shooting rampages, the honors English teachers who put on movies for the kids so they can work on their aerobics routines (10th grade for me, thank you) and so on. And I would rather my boys not be exposed to them until they are capable of resisting the mental and emotional vampirism that such people radiate. And if that seems unhealthy to you, you can bite me.
School is more than just academics,

I would settle for academics, if government schools could provide it.
and parents do kids a disservice when they try to protect their kids from the real world.

So it's my public duty to make sure my kids are ignorant, blindly obedient and unable to resist those in authority, or even just their peers with slightly more power, in order to satisfy your vain notion that you live in the real world? Let me tell you about the real world. In the real world, I don't work with people who are all my age, or all of my same general financial class, or all of my same general background. In the real world, I have the authority to think and act for myself. In the real world, I have the ability to speak out against the injustices of arbitrarily or malevolently wielded authority, and to resist by many different means those who would take power over me. In the real world, I cannot do my job without using language, rhetoric, math, logic and a host of other skills I was barely, if at all, introduced to in the public schools. In the real world, every day is an economics lesson, and many days are hard lessons. In the real world, my actions have consequences and I have to live with them. If I screw up, my family doesn't eat, or loses our car or our house or (in extremis) me. None of this has any connection to anything I learned in the public schools I attended. So I'll be glad to talk to you about "the real world" once you've joined it.
Wouldn't it be more logical to teach them to function effectively in it?

That is the very reason why we homeschool, as it so happens.
To me, the most compelling reason for sending a child to a public school is because the public school environment reflects the real world: competition, teamwork, cooperation and simply interacting with a wide variety of people are part of the experience, as they are in society.

I have four boys, ages 1 to 7. Their friends are mostly, but not entirely, girls ages 1 1/2 to 12. My oldest son is on a baseball team. They know about competition, and teamwork, and cooperation. They interact with as wide of a variety of people as they would if they were at the government school, except that they have to suffer fewer idiots. And though they don't interact with people of different races very often (the suburb we are in is just beginning to get black and hispanic residents in any real numbers), my eldest son asked my wife, a little before our fourth son was born, if our new son was going to have brown skin or be pink like us. Skin color, for my children, is no more differentiating than hair color.
The social setting in a school is ripe with learning experiences.

But suffers a paucity of actual learning.
People from all walks of life go to public schools: rich, poor, smart, dumb, bullies, sissies, all cultures and ethnicities. And guess what? When kids grow up they are going to have to work with people from all walks of life: rich, poor, smart, dumb, bullies, sissies, and all cultures and ethnicities.

Yes, and my kids will be the rich smart ones who treat the dumb bullies with the contempt they deserve, ignore the sissies and don't understand why anyone makes a big deal of cultures and ethnicities. We don't do identity politics and victimization studies in my house.
Even with the help of home schooling organizations, home-schooled children are often shortchanged.

Evidence? Argument? Anything? Did you know that homeschooled students are banned from competing in most national spelling bees and academic tournaments? They were constantly winning, and the public schools and teachers unions got angry about that. Shortchanged? Nope, not my kids.
The worst public school has more to offer in the way of resources than most parents can offer at home, such as science labs, technology, foreign language, theater, large and varied curriculums, textbooks, a variety of multi-media lesson support, clubs and sports.

I barely know where to start! Clearly, I can only offer the examples of myself and those friends and relatives I know who have homeschooled. That is, I suspect, more than Ms. Flynn can offer.

Science doesn't come from a lab. While we will provide the equipment and facilities necessary to basic experimentation in science (more, in fact, than I was provided in government schools), the more important part of science education is learning the method, and knowing when to trust scientific claims and when not to do so. This doesn't require a lab, and in fact the lab can detract from it, by putting results from experiments with known answers before (and in most cases in place of) understanding.

OK, we don't have a Dukayne projector. We do have multiple computers (one just for the kids), videos and DVDs, and will get what we need when we need it. I am hard-pressed to think of any technology that the public schools can provide that we cannot.

I speak German, though I am woefully out of practice. My wife speaks Spanish somewhat, though she is out of practice there too. There is a smattering of Irish and Welsh between us. We are going to teach the boys Latin, and we will learn along with them. We will likely also teach them other languages, particularly Spanish, which is in wide usage in this area.

A friend's daughter was in several plays at the local children's playhouse. We'll probably do the same, if the kids are interested. All of the sets, stages, costumes, scripts and so forth are available. No government sponsorship required.

I cannot begin to go into the curriculum resources available to homeschoolers. There are hundreds of curricula, on dozens of major and many more minor subject areas. We probably have a half-dozen curricula in our house right now, and we use the bits and pieces of them that work to help us teach our boys. Admittedly, we don't have the tendency of government school teachers to stick rigidly to a curriculum regardless of its ability to convey meaning to our kids, but I think we'll be OK on that score, too.

I refuse to use textbooks which ignore the important basics while striving to offend no one and manipulate the truth in order to make political points. Since this covers most textbooks, we prefer to rely on encyclopedias, real books, and source materials. The bedtime story for my two older boys for the last couple of weeks has been Jim Lovell's Lost Moon, about the Apollo 13 mission. We have libraries around us, and our own book collection, and we are constantly buying books as well. I somehow don't think the kids will suffer for lack of textbooks.

It is true that we don't offer a wide range of "multi-media lesson support," as we prefer to rely on actual teaching rather than gimmicks. But then again, I suppose it matters how you define "multi-media lesson support." While any given lesson may not have a movie, followed by computer games, followed by reading from a textbook, followed by discussion, followed by drawing a picture of how solving for a variable makes the kids feel about the necessity of defining a numeric problem space in such a way that it makes sense to talk about "solving for a variable," the lessons are repeated over and over again in different media. Not only is Lost Moon their current bedtime story, but the kids have toys of rockets and astronauts, and they have seen both movies and documentaries covering the space program, and we have a variety of other space books around, and I'm seriously considering building an Apollo command module from plans I found online.

My oldest son is playing baseball this year. For a while he was going to chess club as well, but he kind of lost interest in that. Maybe later. In any case, there are a variety of clubs and sports available to us; probably in the end not much different than what's available to government school students - certainly not much different than what was available to me when I was in school.

The teaching staff in a public school can be colorful, too.

Yes, but colorful does not imply competent, which is far more important to me.
A variety of teaching and evaluation styles forces a student to grow as a learner.

The semantic content of this sentence is zero, so I guess I'll just skip it.
Teachers are even trained to teach to multiple intelligences.

Sniff! Sniff! I smell a fad, here. If I refuse to use terms like "word smart" and "self smart," and instead use "literate" and "sentient," am I teaching multiple intelligences? It's hard to tell, apparently, without spending a lot of money.
How many parents can say the same?

With a straight face, you mean?
Although I have a teaching certificate,

A piece of paper, signifying nothing.
I know that I couldn't come close to giving my children the education they could get in a public school.

Then what were you doing teaching in one???
I couldn't possibly offer the depth and breadth of education that I know my colleagues offer every day.

OK, I can buy that you are an incompetent teacher. Your total lack of logic, and apparent inability to do reasearch (you could have, say, called a homeschooler and asked some questions) shows that very well. Don't project, 'kay?
Sure, I could go to the home-schooling store and buy a book on say, history, and I could read the chapters and assign the accompanying assignments. I could check the answers using the answer key. We could even take a trip to Greenfield Village. But could I offer the same depth of understanding as someone who chose to teach history because of a passion for it, someone who is an expert in the field?

Let me assure you that people who teach history in government schools do not have any different coursework or requirements than people who teach math in government schools. Before you teach history, perhaps you should try understanding it, so that you won't need answer keys and such. Perhaps instead of traipsing around some site of ostensible historical importance, you could imbue your students with a sense of how history influences our lives today, and why that is, and how our knowledge of history can inform our view of the world. I know, I know; that would require effort, intelligence, patience. I realize it is hard. But if we can do it, I'm sure you can too, with a little effort. Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, forfend you should get someone passionate about history from, say, a Marxist viewpoint to "teach" your kids. You never know when they might be paying attention, and pick up on a very, very bad idea. If they were government schooled, they won't have any defenses (such as knowledge, reason, logic, skepticism or inquisitiveness) against such bad ideas.
Of course not. I would be a weak substitute, and I know it.

I know it, too.
Parents who home-school their children have their reasons, of course. But the effects of what these students are missing remain to be seen.

Well, given that we've already seen the effects of government schooling, I'll take my chances.
All in all, a public education is the best deal around. It's a great training ground for the real world and, even better, it's free.

Where "great training ground" means "babysitter at best" and "free" means "costs you thousands of dollars per year in taxes, even if you don't have children going to school," that statement makes sense. In "the real world," it's just an example of how pathetically deluded you are.

Kelly Flynn, a former area teacher, lives in Fenton Township. You can contact her at flynnkelly@earthlink.net.

A special thanks is owed my wife, who showed me this article as she headed off to bed, thus guaranteeing that I would be up way, way too late responding to it.

Posted by jeff at 2:48 AM | TrackBack

April 25, 2003

Sometimes, the Parents are the Problem

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Tammy McQuoid points to this article by Tim Grobaty, which states in part:

Jenkins is working on a project researching the effects of the '33 quake on schools in the Long Beach Unified School District. If you're one of those who attended class 'neath the eucalyptus in Rec Park, or on the athletic field at Poly, or in the tent-like bungalows at Jefferson or at any of the other al fresco post-quake campuses in town, you can contact Jenkins via e-mail at pjen kins@lbusd.k12.ca.us . OUR NERVOUS, NURTURING SIDE: According to this alarming missive from the American Red Cross, "Now, more than ever before, youth are relying on the adults in their lives for reassurance and guidance.'

This is bad news for our kids, who have been raised thus far with an incredibly jumpy father. A UPS truck rumbles down our block and we're apt to scream "EARTHQUAKE!' and snatch our kids and hurl them through the living room picture window for their own safety. About the most reassuring thing we've ever uttered to our children is "RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!'

This is why we're totally against home-schooling. We rely on schools not only to teach our kids about guns and sex, but also about the horrors of war, terrorism and other traumatic events. Because, after you strip away our almost transparent veneer of bravado, we're pretty much always packed and ready to bolt.

Mr. Grobaty's real problem, of course, is that he is unable to take responsibility for his kids' emotional security. If he thinks the government schools will do better, he should read this.

Posted by jeff at 9:44 PM | TrackBack

March 26, 2003

Why do we Homeschool?

Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

Oh, just read.

Posted by jeff at 12:42 PM | TrackBack

February 26, 2003


Note: this is a post recovered from my old blog, before it died of an insufficient backup. Any comments/trackbacks on it have not been brought over, but can be seen with the original. The date is that of the original posting.

From the St. Petersburg (FL) Times:

During the first year of school choice, hundreds of African-American children in St. Petersburg will be bused out of their neighborhoods, leaving behind new schools that are only two-thirds full.

Pinellas school officials acknowledged Tuesday they are limiting enrollment in several elementary schools, including the brand new Douglas Jamerson and James Sanderlin elementary schools in south Pinellas.

The reason, in part, is that not enough nonblack students want to attend schools in predominantly black neighborhoods.

That means hundreds of students who wanted to attend the two brand new schools -- as well as the rebuilt Campbell Park, Fairmount Park and Gulfport elementaries -- will be forced to choose another elementary school, even as their preferred classrooms sit empty.

Posted by jeff at 11:41 AM | TrackBack