17 March 2008

The Littlest Godwin and Other Education Stories

A week or so ago, a panel of three judges of a California appellate court ruled unanimously over a child welfare case that parents in California needed teaching or tutoring credentials in order to homeschool their children. Now, I don't know much about this specific case or homeschooling in general, but on the face of it this seems perfectly rational intuitive to me. Requiring parents to have teaching credentials before they be allowed to teach? What a novel idea!

Homeschooling parents, however, are apparently up in arms. SNL's Weekend Update included a little blurb lampooning the protests (hat tip Crooks & Liars):
Many California parents who homeschool their children are upset by a California court ruling that may force their children to be taught by a credentialed teacher. Said one angry parent, "This is just like what the Nazis did to the Eskimos in the 1850s."
Ha ha! Oh, the hyperbole! So amusing!

But wait. Since homeschooling is so often used by evangelicals to protect their children from reality, it's only natural that a Christian "news" site like One News Now would pick up the story:
"We will not give up home schooling our child," she states. "If it means moving from out of state, however we have to do that, we will do it because that is what we feel that God has called us to do." Kathleen says she and her husband have not had much chance to discuss the issue beyond that basic decision.

Even Kathleen's nine-year-old son understands what is happening to parental rights in his home state. "He said to me, 'This is like that bad man,' which he couldn't think of his name, 'in Germany. That's what it reminds me of,'" she continues. "And I was surprised at his perception, that he actually considered that a comparison.

Adolf Hitler outlawed home schooling in Germany in 1938. The practice is still illegal in re-unified Germany to this day.

Many of the commenters on that article applaud Kathleen's son for having such insight on world history, and hail this as a victory for homeschooling. But I'm guessing he didn't come up with the Hitler comparison on his own; either he was taught it directly, or he overheard his parents talk about it in that context, or he had already been primed to invoke der Führer to smear his opponents in a different context (maybe against us evil-utionists! just one month 'til "Expelled" is released!). In any case, his mother/educator clearly approves of the comparison, which bespeaks ill of the education he's receiving.

Greg Laden links to some less Godwin-y articles on the homeschooling controversy here.

In other news...

A CDC study indicates that one in four teenage girls has an STD, with HPV being the most prevalent. Naturally, fundies see this as indication that we need more abstinence-based sex education. Never mind the fact that ignorance-only sex ed DOES NOT WORK, and more than likely is partly to blame for the current teen infection rate. I especially liked this quote in the article from National Abstinence Education Association official Valerie Huber:
"When we learn that one in four teen girls is infected with [an STD],
it becomes clear that the contraception-based approach taught in 75
percent of U.S. schools is failing young people."
Gee, one in four teen girls has an STD, and one in four teen girls isn't getting education about contraceptives? Hmmmm.... ;-)

Meanwhile, via Americans United, a recent study has revealed that students at Catholic schools perform no better than public school students in reading, and actually do worse in math. Just one more piece of evidence that government vouchers for private schools are NOT the way to improve education in America. Instead, we need to reform and reinforce public education.

And boy, could public education use some reinforcements. For instance, the Disco 'Tute is trying to push an "academic freedom" bill through the Florida legislature as a countermeasure to the recent inclusion of evolution (and exclusion of intelligent design) in the state science standards. All is not lost, though. Ben Stein tried to peddle his propaganda to Florida lawmakers, but the event tanked. And Casey Luskin has let slip that the academic freedom bill is about intelligent design after all, and the press noticed... oops! (As a side note, Luskin appears to be trying to make amends for his indiscretion by churning out
another article on how ID isn't creationism, this time with the help of
Mike LaSalle of right-wing site Men's News Daily. I'm not about to give MND a close read, but somehow I'm not
inclined to trust it as a source of commentary.) Here's hoping that the Academic Freedom Act withers and dies. This isn't about academic freedom, this is about academic integrity and responsibility.

But the real humdinger is going on in Oklahoma, where House Bill 2211, the "Religious Viewpoints Antidiscrimination Act," threatens to undermine all that is education. In short, the bill is intended to make it so a student can get credit for a wrong answer, so long as that wrong answer is based on the student's religious beliefs. Teachers who ask the age of the Earth on a test would be required by law to mark answers of "6,000 years" as correct. Maybe it would work that way, maybe it wouldn't... there's a law like this already on the books in Texas, and it's just begging for a federal case. Bullshit like this makes me want to fly down to Oklahoma and apply as a science teacher; I'm mad as hell, and an angry letter to the Oklahoma legislature isn't cathartic enough. Sometimes you feel the need to inject a little reality right at the source.

This bill and others are being promoted by state Representative Sally Kern, a "hate filled, backwards bitch" (I really can't put it better than that) who (surprise, surprise) has been hiding a gay son.

This bill seems to be getting a fair share of attention, which is probably the best way to snuff it out. And snuffed out it must be.

Is our children learning? Not if some people can help it...


Dawn said...

The issue of teaching credantials for homeschoolers is a more complicated issue then you give it credit for being. Credentials usually address the specific needs of a public school and those needs are usually a lot different then the needs of a successful homeschooling family. There is one study that suggests the possession of credentials by a parent have no impact on a child's performance in homeschooling (http://www.hslda.org/docs/study/comp2001/HomeSchoolAchievement.pdf) Certainly most studies (here's one- http://www.ericdigests.org/2000-3/home.htm) seem to point to homeschoolers doing quite well despite the fact most of us don't have credentials.

I think what's perfectly rational is to take a look at homeschooling, at the different communities and at the data availible and go from there. What you were suggesting isn't rational, it's simply what's obvious with limited insight and data.

Just a note about the homeschoolers up in arms. Many simply aren't. Yes, many of the christian creationist folks are being whipped up into a frenzy by their HSLDA but from what I see of the state organizations, blogs and such (I'm an outsider looking in on this) there are a lot who are sitting back and waiting. Shame that the media seems to prefer hearing from the ones having hysterics.


Dawn said...

Me again. I have a trackback for you...

[A post from Synapostasy called The Littlest Godwin and Other Education Stories. In it he says the following:...]

Aaron Golas said...

Thanks for the comment! You're right that "rational" isn't the right word, and I struggled over it if that makes you feel better... in hindsight, I should have said "intuitive" (a big difference, wish I had thought of it last night... in fact, I'd better go ahead and change it).

Like I said, I know very little about homeschooling. I certainly don't mean to be dismissive of it. Those articles you linked to look interesting, I'll have to give them a closer look!

Anonymous said...

You are right about the Nazi hyperbole, but aren't you doing the same thing? You have been told all your life that to ensure a quality education, one must learn by passively obtaining information taught to you by a 'professional educator'. Isn't that why this seems logical to you, and not because you have reasoned and researched this topic?

You are an intelligent guy- so how much have you actually learned on your own, by investigation, research, experience, apprenticeship/mentoring relationships, and sometimes just falling flat on your face when attempting a new endeavor?

Then there is that broad brush generalization of 'Christians home educate to hide from reality', which is as old and tired as Joan Rivers at 2am. Families enjoy home education for many reasons, and sometimes a strong motivation is to create an atmosphere that honors and passes on their beliefs, and there are homeschool support groups for every ethnicity, religion, and lifestyle choice you care to name. This is no way should be interpreted as indoctrination, but a preservation of one's culture. Nothin' wrong with that.

Check out http://www.ed.gov/ and read the report "Meeting the Highly Qualified Teachers Challenge". It is only about 94 pages long. According to this report, in some states it is not necessary to meet the national average in mathematics to become a teacher, or to come up to the national average in reading. In other states, one can score in the bottom 25% in either math or reading (or both) and still meet the requirements to become a teacher.

Is certification still sounding intuitive to you? ;)

Aaron Golas said...

Re: sunniemom,

Please don't assume that I disapprove of homeschooling... I emphatically don't. Nor am I so naïve as to think every homeschooler is a fundie Christian out to replace biology with creationism or American history with divine providence.

I do believe that children have a right to a good education, which means a certain amount of oversight is necessary. How much, I have no clue. Teaching credentials sounded like a fair idea, but maybe they aren't necessary after all.

I only really brought up the story because I was amused/disturbed by the "Nazi" rhetoric. Don't read too much into it.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Aaron. I can appreciate the point of your post. Every group seems to have its extremes, eh? And those who maintain a balance groan inwardly as the media consistently presents those extremes until they become the stereotype. Argh. Sometimes exaggeration to prove a point is humorous and makes the point clearer, but bad analogies cause the focus to shift and muddies the pool of thought.

As for oversight being necessary, one thing comes to mind- the assumption of guilt. In order to require oversight of any part of private family life, the state must assume that that activity is suspect.

The state often proclaims a vested interest in an educated population, but in the face of proposed national healthcare programs, the next step could conceivably be oversight into the lifestyles of families to ensure the children are receiving a balanced diet and enough exercise. This assumes that unless the state micro-manages the citizenry, folks will persist in being irresponsible, immoral, unethical, abusive..... and while human nature often exhibits these less-than-desirable characteristics, our constitution grants us the freedom to be stupid until we actually hurt someone else.

Nice to meet new people in the blogosphere. Ya'll have a nice day now.

Dawn said...

That's the perfect word Aaron! Sorry for being a...er...um...word Nazi but sometimes it makes a difference. :)

I do understand your feelings on the Nazi rhetoric although I understand why they use it. For the people they're talking to, it works. Launch the hyperbole on World Net Daily and watch as higher brain function stops and fearful panic ensues.

Ben Cox said...

Ha! Godwin's law! I get it now!

Jeezy Creezy. Guess it's just been one of those brain-fart days for both of us...