January 06, 2005

Blood Pressure Rising

When you participate in any activity which is not widely done, and which challenges the perquisites and powers of an established power bloc, you're going to be smeared from time to time. Thus also with homeschooling, which attacks directly the powers and perquisites of the teachers' unions (and, by extension, their political allies on the Left, including many in the media). Bryan Preston at Junk Yard Blog takes apart one such article. (hat tip: Wizbang)

And let's guess who wrote it, shall we? It's Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard, whom we last met here, and who have now descended to citing their own reporting at the Akron-Beacon Journal as definitive, since no one else was picking up on their themes. Ah, yes, the "news".

Posted by Jeff at 12:34 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

December 13, 2004

Gotta Ban Something

What would you guess would be the emotional impact on a 10 year old girl of being hauled off in handcuffs in a police wagon to the local police station? That happened to a girl in Philadelphia who had scissors in her book bag at school.

School district and police officials said yesterday that they were following state law and procedures in dealing with students who have weapons on school property. They say that those rules demand police be called and that procedures call for handcuffing suspects regardless of age or crime.

Porsche Brown's mother, Rose Jackson, was outraged.

"My daughter cried and cried," Jackson said yesterday. "She had no idea what she did was wrong. I think that was way too harsh."

[snip]
School district officials acknowledged that the girl was not using the item as a weapon or threatening anyone with it. The scissors were found Thursday morning during a search of students' belongings after something was discovered missing from the teacher's desk area, Gallard said.

The scissors, however, qualified as a possible weapon under a long-standing state law, and the school followed proper procedure by calling city police, he said.

Porsche will be suspended for five days, and the district will then decide whether to expel her to a disciplinary school or allow her to return to Holme, he said.

City police, meanwhile, decided not to charge her with a crime because they determined that she had no intent to use the scissors as a weapon, said Inspector William Colarulo, a police spokesman. In fact, police believe she had the scissors to unwrap a new CD, Colarulo said.

He defended the police officers' decision to handcuff the child and take her to Eighth Police District headquarters. All suspects, regardless of age or crime, are handcuffed, he said. "The officers acted in good faith," he said.


At the very least, this girl will likely trust police considerably less than she used to. She will also likely trust teachers and administrators less than she used to. By extension, she may trust all adults less than she used to. So, for the "crime" of bringing school supplies to school to work on a school project, this girl has now been mistreated, and made suspicious of adults. Way to go, Principal Cabry!

You know, if legislators want to ban dangerous things at school, they should ban thinking. Ah! Now it makes sense!

Posted by Jeff at 07:14 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

December 10, 2004

"the one thing that society should not tolerate"

Steph points to a fine followup to the series of Akron Beacon Journal articles on homeschooling I talked about last month. After summing up the series, the Cato Institute's Neal McCluskey gets directly to the heart of the matter: "Home schoolers believe that some things are right and others are wrong. They dare to have a say in how they are governed. Apparently, allowing them to exercise these basic rights is the one thing that society should not tolerate."

Yep, that's what Oplinger and Willard were saying.

Posted by Jeff at 11:10 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

November 26, 2004

And How do you Teach American History, Then?

Apparently, a teacher in California has been banned by his principal from presenting any material in class that mentions God or Christianity. (hat tip: Wizbang) Including the Declaration of Independence and the writings of many of the Founders (and presumably including the Constitution, since it mentions God in the preamble). I don't know the circumstances under which this all happened, but it would make teaching American History a little difficult.

Posted by Jeff at 01:22 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

November 18, 2004

Akron Beacon Journal Reporters Drink the Kool-Aid

Doug Oplinger and Dennis J. Willard of the Akron Beacon Journal (annoying registration, use BugMeNot) have not just drunk the NEA's kool-aid; they've nearly drowned themselves in it. Oplinger and Willard came to my attention when Steph started talking about a series of articles they are doing on homeschooling, among other things either saying outright or merely insinuating that homeschooling leads to:

(government schools, of course, detect all such cases almost immediately)
And that's just their
current series of four articles (so far). It gets worse, though, when you google the authors. They have asserted in the past that:

There's a lot more; I'm just tired of reading this stuff. I was going to fisk their articles, but the reality is that it's just not worth my time. What has basically happened here is that two reporters have a very particular view point, and a platform for expressing it in print. Fine, fine. Just don't expect me to agree.

Government schooling has given every child in the US the opportunity to be educated at least to the degree of basic literacy and numeracy. For a while, government schools were able to provide an excellent education, but between education fads and dumbing down the material repeatedly, a cycle of degeneration has set in, and American government schools are now by and large slipping into a mold of barely educating most of their students. Government schooling does provide a needed service. It should not be taken beyond that point, though, into giving government oversight rights on all children "in the public interest", or allowing government bureaucrats to decide what is best for all children. There is a name for this: tyranny.

I reject both the poor education and the tyranny for my children: I want my children to have excellent educations and thus be able to achieve anything they set their mind to. I want them to be free, and to be good citizens (by and large, government schools teach children to be good subjects). I don't want them to be limited by lack of understanding. Government schools, in my opinion, would limit their understanding and poison them against self-education. For that, among many other reasons, we homeschool our children.

To lump us in with white supremacists, child kidnappers, child abusers and the like says way more about the reporters than it does about us.

Posted by Jeff at 12:49 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

October 20, 2004

More Government School Issues

Francis Porretto presents two interesting vignettes on government schooling. The first points to an article about Virginia schools teaching about Islam. While the article is a bit overwrought, it strikes me as interesting that any hint of Christianity or Judaism in the schools is utterly forbidden, while Islam is somehow a fit subject for study. Not very consistent that.

The second points out the motivations behind public schooling, and the obvious places it leads. Basically, given that schools and bureaucracies are both inherently authoritarian, schools tend to promote statism. Not a difficult leap, there, but it's probably true that not many people have thought about the connection.

I told Stephanie just last night that it seems to me that as we've increased schooling in this country, we've actually ended up decreasing education, with the peak probably having come some time between about 1910 and 1940. Since WWII in particular, the tendency of schools to engage in faddish behavior, combined with the Gramscian "long march through the institutions" that began in the 1960s, has led to a dramatic drop-off in academic standards and performance, combined (not coincidentally) with a rise in politicization of and activism in the classroom.

Yet more reasons why my children will never attend a public school.

Posted by Jeff at 09:53 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

June 24, 2004

June 08, 2004

Knowledge is no Excuse

Reading Joanne Jacobs just makes me furious. At least we know that kids won't learn the "wrong" things, like actual facts, judgement or Western culture.

Posted by Jeff at 09:44 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

June 07, 2004

Who's Teaching Your Children

One more reason to homeschool: your kids' teachers won't be Communists unless you are.

Posted by Jeff at 02:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 27, 2004

What is the Philosophy of Government Schools?

This Opinion Journal article by Diana West is interesting as an essay on why one parent chose to homeschool her children:

As anti-Christian and officially godless as Baptists would find the excellently rated, wealthy and very white public elementary school in Montgomery County, Md., that my daughters attended last year, it eventually inspired in me a deep and abiding faith: I came to believe there was no way on, er, God's green earth that I could possibly teach my girls less than they learned in that school.

But what inspired me to write about it is a comment left by reader David Land:
Diana West almost identified the schools' problem: They are teaching religion, and the religion they are teaching is paganism. Paganism involves nature worship and the devaluation of human life and institutions (sound familiar?).

It is time to explode the myth that the schools are in any way "neutral," and to demand that public institutions quit preaching "paganism" while denying a voice to all other religions under the guise that every other view violates "separation of church and state."


Well, there are so many things to attack in this one short bit that I almost don't know where to start. For one thing, I can certainly understand how Mr. Land equates Paganism with generally Leftist thinking. Most Pagans I know tend towards watermelonism: green on the outside and red to the core. This is because, I think, that most people who become Pagan become "fluffy bunny" Pagans, because they're really searching for a Hippy movement that doesn't exist any more as such; it's a similar cultural backlash, and will likely have similarly short-lived effect. Such people don't choose Paganism as a religion as much as a political statement. However, one can no more equate all Pagans with this viewpoint than can one associate all Christians with the Inquisition or with Republicans.

Further, Paganism at its heart is a grab-bag of religions that are not major. That is to say, Zoroastrianism (monotheistic, transcendant diety and no hint of animism I can see) is a pagan religion just as are Wicca (dual-theistic, animist, imminent diety) and Olympian Revivalism (pantheistic, animist, imminent diety). These are very different religions; more like Mormonism <-> Judaism than Baptism <-> Catholicism. But they are all pagan. In any event, the philosophy that Mr. Land is searching for is not a pagan religion, but "secular humanism", a profoundly liberal (in the classic sense) and uplifting ideology of individual liberty and responsibility, agnostic to religion but generally leaning towards rational atheism.

And he's wrong even there: secular humanism is most emphatically not taught in government schools. In order to teach secular humanism, one has to teach logic, reason, scientific method (not Scientism as a faith), personal responsibility and individual liberty. What the government schools tend to teach, to the extent that they teach any unified viewpoint, is actually an odd stew of leftover classical liberal elements completely without context, anti-establishmentarianism, authoritarianism/obedience, political correctness, watered-down Marxism and a cult of Self.

It's a toxic mix, certainly, but it's not Pagan in any sense. Or laudable. Or socially useful. Or particularly American.

Posted by Jeff at 07:00 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Ability to Speak Well = Ability to Teach Well

Apparently, it's a good thing Steph has high verbal ability.

Posted by Jeff at 11:32 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 18, 2004

Hardly Appropriate

At a San Diego high school, two teachers showed their students all or part of the video of Nick Berg being beheaded. By the time my sons are in high school, I hope that they are capable of handling the evil of the world and thus watching this video with sickness, rather than sick fascination, and without emotionally being harmed; if not, I will have failed my duty as a father. But not everyone has the same standards, and this is terribly inappropriate for a public school to show. It's also particularly inappropriate for a government employee to actively campaign against the country's actions.

Posted by Jeff at 10:08 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 30, 2004

The Claps of Civilization

I read this article (hat tip: Steph), and once I'm done wondering why such articles no longer make me weep inside, I have three thoughts:

  1. Perhaps, Mr. O'Neill, you should look carefully at the interconnection between Leftist thought, politicization of the classroom (note, for example, your snide asides, in this article about dumb students, about how dumb the President is, and how the stupidity of students must explain why Republicans are elected - yes, some of us can actually follow your insinuations to their logical conclusion), and the loss of practical education in favor of politically-correct dogma.
  2. Our Republic continues to be doomed. Hell, what am I saying: we haven't been a Republic since the passage of the 17th Amendment and the rise of judicial activism. Our semi-constitutional representative democracy continues to be doomed.
  3. When the new Power arises, it will be my children and those like them - with a grounding in history and languages, a studied understanding of human behavior, literacy, numeracy and vision - who will be standing in the reviewing stands watching their Death Legions march below them. And I will be standing in the shadows behind, laughing, "Meh heh heh heh heh."

Sorry - seem to have strayed a bit there.

Posted by Jeff at 09:27 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

April 16, 2004

Ignorance can be Fatal

After literacy, and even before more than a basic numeracy, the most important area of education is history. It's not just Santayana's observation, but the simple fact that you cannot make wise decisions about the future unless you know enough about the past to draw inferences. If you don't have a basis of comparison or a fund of examples from which to draw conclusions, you are likely to end up making very bad decisions. I am convinced that this is a large part of why Communism still has a following; no one who understood even a small part of the history of Communism in practice could support it.

It's still possible to stand on the shoulders of giants, but it's more likely that government-school students these days will be tied down by pygmies. In most states, there is no requirement that a teacher have any background at all in the subject area they teach.

Posted by Jeff at 12:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 31, 2004

This is Troubling

This is troubling. This is very troubling, indeed.

Posted by Jeff at 06:20 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 24, 2004

The Long March Through the Institutions

Francis Porretto doesn't mention Gramsci by name, but it is Gramsci's "long march through the institutions" - an avowedly socialist movement - that brought us to the point where even math doesn't necessarily have right and wrong answers...when it's taught in the government schools.

(By the way, Plano is not far from where I live. It's a wealthy district, with very well-funded schools. This is a choice deliberately made, not a compulsion forced upon a district which couldn't afford to go their own way.)

Posted by Jeff at 09:09 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

Are the Teachers Hippies?

I understand that hippies never liked squares.

UPDATE: GAH! I should just stop reading Joanne Jacobs' site. It makes me really annoyed at the stupidity of education bureaucrats.

Posted by Jeff at 04:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

Conflict of Interest

A friend of mine made a simple and obvious comment the other day, the kind that makes you smack your head because you didn't phrase it that way automatically: "There is an inherent conflict of interest when the credential showing completion of an education is granted by the institution responsible for providing the education."

Yes. That's it exactly. The standing of the teachers' unions on education is based on the ability of their members to educate children. If they fail to educate children, the unions will eventually lose their credibility, and thus a large measure of their political power. The teachers' unions hate standardized testing and other measures of accountability, because these measures allow the performance of teachers to be judged objectively. Similarly, they hate consistent standards, because they're harder to game than feel-good measurements.

High-school diplomas used to be a measure of accomplishment, and many employers required them as a benchmark that at least their new hires could read, write. do math and reason logically. Because high-school diplomas were a benchmark, schools began to promote everyone they could, and flunk no one for any reason they could possibly get around; the administrators and teachers did not want to be responsible for their students not being able to get a job. Inevitably, standards declined to a minimum and then were eliminated altogether.

As the public education establishment deteriorated, college degrees became the benchmark of choice, because you could not guarantee that a high-school diploma meant anything, but you could be pretty sure that a college graduate could read, write, do math and reason logically. The colleges, though, were (and are) operating under a handicap: their incoming students are frequently illiterate, innumerate and incapable of reasoning, while being filled with an excess of belief in their own self-worth that often makes them unwilling to change their behavior. In response, many colleges are ... dumbing down. Big surprise, huh?

Many employers already test their employees, with any job offers contingent on passing the test. The tests generally measure basic English reading comprehension skills, basic math skills (simple calculation and sometimes simple algebra), basic reasoning (if these two things are true, which of the following is probably not true) and frequently also psychological factors. But this is very wasteful for employers, because there is no efficiency of scale - there's no way for businesses to rely on (or even know about) other employers' testing, so there's no way to share information. (Don't even get started on the legal ramifications of company A sharing testing information about fired employee E with company B, who then denies a job to employee E.)

I sense a business opportunity here. A company whose sole job was testing people for literacy, numeracy, logic and such could provide the bridge between people wanting good jobs and employers wanting good workers. By issuing ratings on a scale, the employer could match jobs to potential employees (for example, a computer programmer would need high logic, numeracy and literacy scores, while a telephone solicitor would really only need good speaking ability). Extras - such as a certificate of skill in various activities - could both add to the bottom line and enhance the job seeker's position.

The big problem is that of bootstrapping the process. You would have to get a large number of businesses to accept an externally-issued credential in order to get people to pay you to obtain the credentials. You would have to get a lot of people to obtain the credentials in order for them to be useful to businesses.

Must think about this.

Posted by Jeff at 04:51 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

What are Your Kids Reading at School?

One of the reasons that I cannot stand the direction taken by public "education" in the US is the reading materials. Gone are any attempts to study Western culture - I've seen reports on school districts banning everything from Mark Twain (racist) to The Iliad (sexist!) to The Red Badge of Courage (violent). But, apparently, there are still books that can be read by kids in public schools.

Posted by Jeff at 10:41 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

January 20, 2004

Education or Indoctrination?

Bird Dog has a post over at Tacitus which lists some really outlandish examples of political indoctrination of high school students. The list is a bit partisan (only has Leftists listed), but still interesting and scary. Particularly the bit about preventing students from leaving:

Students say vulgar language and so called "Bush Bashing" were the reasons they walked out of two human rights sessions at Churchill High Thursday.

"Everyone was trying to get out and she kept telling us it wasn't over and she got all the teachers to go up by the door so we wouldn't leave," said sophomore Grayson Dahn. "They were cussing and saying the f-word a lot."


Posted by Jeff at 02:38 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

October 13, 2003

Yet Another Reason to Defund Government Schools

Frankly, I'm more disappointed than surprised by this.

Tell me again why a teacher employed by the government is teaching - seriously, not as a thought experiment - that the Constitution is inherently violent and unsupportable, because it makes it a duty of government to actually defend the citizens? Feh.

Posted by Jeff at 02:24 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

October 02, 2003

Zero Tolerance Means not Having to Think

Zero tolerance means not having to think, and that is why it is such a good fit with public schooling. But this is more than just unthinking - it's stupid. (hat tip: One Hand Clapping) I mean, we can't let a little thing like actually educating children who aren't otherwise causing problems get in the way of just retribution for those little rulebreakers leaving their shirts untucked!

What is really terrible about this, actually, is that zero tolerance dress codes do provide a sort of education. They teach children that rules are arbitrary and mindless, and authority figures (teachers and administrators) are either complicit in their breaking or responsible for enforcing them no matter how pointless they might be. They teach corruption, bribery and toadying. They teach that school is not concerned with academics or learning, no matter what your teachers tell you while they work on their exercise routines after plopping you in front of a movie (honors English, 7th grade, happened to me).

Somehow, I think that's not the education taxpayers expected the government to provide.

UPDATE: Gak! It was 10th grade, as Steph points out in the comments. That's what I get for posting while apoplectic.

UPDATE 2: Kimberly Swygert comments on this as well - about an hour before I did in fact.

Posted by Jeff at 03:08 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 20, 2003

Incompetence This Great...

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."

Posted by Jeff at 12:23 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 15, 2003

What Lessons of 9/11 for our Children?

One of the most difficult decisions that a homeschooler undertakes is what to teach their children. A part of this is what curricula to use and how to adapt it, and what supplementary texts and materials to use, and how much to use events like trips as educational fora as opposed to making them a kind of escape. But above everything else, the hardest part is figuring out what your goal is.

Simply being "educated" is insufficiently descriptive to form choices around. After all, a child who knows everything about pornography can be said to be educated in that subject, and I don't know of anyone who thinks that is an appropriate educational subject for, say, 13- and 14-year olds. In order to make choices about what subjects, and to what degree, you will educate your children on, you have to have a specific defined goal. For us, it is to give our children the tools, background and knowledge necessary to be productive citizens of a free Republic.

If you ask any given parent of a child in government schools, they would likely list job preparation, preparation for college, preparation for being a good citizen and the like. Even though the schools themselves have been trending more and more towards social activism and pop psychology, many teachers apparently still teach to goals more similar to those of the public at large.

Teachers' ability to teach to those goals, however, is more limited than that of a homeschooling family. The reason for this is that teachers by and large cannot choose which curriculum they will use, and in many cases cannot even choose how to apply it. These decisions are made by school administrators, school boards (and increasingly by State and Federal school bureaucracies). Inevitably, this reduces the ability of teachers to decide what to teach.

Given all this, what are teachers to teach about 9/11? Something must be taught, particularly in social studies (the modern substitute for history, geography, acculturation and civics) and particularly to students who have a very firm memory of the actual events. To the extent that we discuss those events with our children (particularly our eldest, who is seven), we focus on the horror of the attacks; the necessity to prevent their recurrence by actively waging war on the people who committed the attacks, those who supported them, and those who provide the ground for raising up new groups to attack us; the bravery of the rescue workers and the passengers of Flight 93; and the necessity of pre-planning for disasters. At least, I hope we are able to teach those things over time, in such a way that they will stick in the children's heads.

Apparently, some school administrators think that the best thing to teach about 9/11 is ... nothing at all. What's really annoying about this is the lurking suspicion that the same administrators trying to slip the horror of 9/11 down the memory hole are simultaneously (if in different contexts) telling students that they are unique, and therefore should have high self-esteem (regardless of merit), but they should also examine the reasons the terrorists hate them, because as Americans they must have done something wrong.

Yes, I know I'm reading an ideology into this that might not be there, and certainly that is not explicitly stated in the story, but I'm having a really hard time picturing an administrator pulling this kind of crap without also sharing the rest of the Leftist ideological basket. Drink the Kool-Aid, and it'll all be OK.

Maybe I should be more charitable, and assume that the administrator is so feckless, gutless and unimaginative that she simply feels anything stronger than pablum is "risky." Or maybe it's too late and I'm too grumpy.

Posted by Jeff at 10:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

September 10, 2003

The NEA

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.

Posted by Jeff at 11:33 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

August 15, 2003

Government School Idiocy

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).

Posted by Jeff at 10:44 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 10, 2003

Pathetic

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.

Posted by Jeff at 12:26 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

June 06, 2003

The Joys of Mainstreaming

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.

Posted by Jeff at 05:54 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (12)

May 22, 2003

How Much do you Pay in Property Taxes?

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

Posted by Jeff at 03:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 08, 2003

Killing Joy

I think that this - a story of kids burning down a playground - is terribly sad. There have been such incidents in this area as well, as recently as last year. I don't understand the mentality that leads someone to do this, because it is a very infantile reaction - wouldn't it be cool to see something this big burning? - and I was raised by adults to be an adult. It is one of the great mysteries in life why apparently well-meaning people would ever have come up with the idea of kids raising kids. I suppose they just didn't think of it that way. But that is what it is: you take a baby and put her in daycare, and there are maybe two adults around for most of her day (and they have no emotional attachment to her); you see her for a few hours each night, while you're trying to get her to bed so you can clean the house and maybe unwind from your own day, and for the weekends; then you put her in school with one adult and thirty kids her own age, and you see her less on weekends - and even week nights - because of soccer or band or whatever; and one day you find out that your little darling has become physically capable of burning down a playground and has all the moral restraint of a twelve year old who has never had any meaningful adult supervision (or, put another way, all the moral restraint of a bully with a gun in a land of rich rewards and no punishment). Where did it all go wrong, you say? How could this have happened?

My wife stays at home with the kids while I work, and I work from home three days a week. Our boys - we have four - are constantly around adults who care deeply for them and will correct their behavior as it happens. We homeschool. We play with the kids and follow their interests. We attachment parent, which means among other things that we try to mold our and our children's behavior to avoid punishment, and to fit such punishment as is necessary to the "crime" that necessitates it.

If we fail, if our children some day burn down a playground, there will be no question where the fault lies. But there's something funny about that: we won't fail. Our kids simply are not allowed the mindset that would allow them to be destructive in this way. But this is not a mindset that can be instilled in a teenager burning down a playground; it has to be instilled in a toddler breaking his brother's toy. There are no do-overs in parenting.

Posted by Jeff at 11:56 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

May 07, 2003

"I Don't Call That Failure"

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???

DoortoClass.jpg

SurpressDissent.jpg

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.

Posted by Jeff at 11:28 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

May 06, 2003

Drivel

This is not about school, per se, but was was written by a teacher. I suppose that her students, like most, will get no training in logic or history. (hat tips: Andrew Sullivan and Cold Fury)

THE EVIDENCE OF this overwhelming meanness of spirit is everywhere, abroad and at home. Even the administration’s efforts to justify the war in Iraq as one of liberation and declare victory cannot mask the human costs to American troops and their families. How many thousands of Iraqis are dead? Where are the ridiculously named “weapons of mass destruction” that Bush used to justify this invasion? Witness the looting of priceless antiquities, kitsch and cash from Iraqi museums and Saddam Hussein’s palaces and homes, allowed and participated in not only by Iraqis but members of the American armed forces and their “embedfellows,” the media.
Yet to question this war and its aftermath is characterized as at worst treason and at best anti-American cynicism.

No, no, Ms. Nelson. We don't think that you are treasonous, nor anti-American. It is quite clear from your column that you are weak-willed, ignorant of history, pathetic, illogical, and a pathological hater of Republicans in general and of President Bush in particular. That, or you are in serious need of psychiatric help. But not treasonous or anti-American, per se.

Posted by Jeff at 02:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

May 02, 2003

Let's all go Reread Harrison Bergeron

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)

Posted by Jeff at 12:34 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

April 30, 2003

Spluttering Indignation

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.

FLINT JOURNAL COLUMN


GENESEE COUNTY

THE FLINT JOURNAL FIRST EDITION

Sunday, April 13, 2003

By Kelly Flynn
JOURNAL COLUMNIST

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 Edison 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 02:48 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

April 25, 2003

Sometimes, the Parents are the Problem

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 09:44 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

April 24, 2003

Blue Angels...Bomb...Seattle???

You just have to read it to believe it. I linked to the Natalie Solent article because it links to some other interesting ones. If her archives don't work (she's on blogspot, why should they?), the article is titled Want a little anger before you go to sleep tonight? and is from April 24.

Posted by Jeff at 05:46 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

March 26, 2003

Why do we Homeschool?

Oh, just read.

Posted by Jeff at 12:42 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

February 26, 2003

Busing

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 | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)