Homeschooling as a protest movement

Responding to an earlier opinion column, Should evolution be taught in school?, Kalamazoo Gazette reader Lawrence Kapture throws out some thoughts on home education.

Homeschooling is essentially a protest movement. Regardless of motivation, homeschoolers believe public schools are unable to prepare their children to live in the world.  mlive.com

Perhaps for some.  Or perhaps it was at one time.  Or perhaps we are falsely perceived by a public who only hears from us when we are protesting a proposed law.

I am full of criticisms of public education, as are many of my fellow homeschoolers.  But then that is hardly unique to homeschoolers.  We didn’t write “Nation at Risk,” or “Why Johnny Can’t Read.”  Our measly 2% of the population hardly influenced President George Bush, Sr. to bill himself as “the education president.”  And I know his son wasn’t listening to us when he drafted No Child Left Behind.  Education has been a bit of a battle ground for some time, and homeschooling is only one (very small) part of that public conversation.

Being critical is not a protest movement.

Supporting reform is not a protest movement.

Choosing an alternative is not a protest movement.

It is only a protest movement if our decision to homeschool is directed at what is going on in public schools.  Like an organized boycott, a sit-in or march of some sort.  I can only speak for myself, but I did not choose to home educate because of what is going on in the public schools.  I chose to home educate because of the virtues inherent in this form of education.

Some people garden as an act of protest.  Most of us, however, just prefer the taste of homegrown produce or enjoy the hobby for its own rewards.  It is the same with home education.

Unfortunately, what homeschooling can do is isolate children from the market of ideas, especially when it comes to biological science. There is a large amount of fringe literature published by religious groups that support the claims of creationists while providing no real information about the vast field of evolutionary biology.  Ibid.

There is a large amount of fringe literature available on any topic imaginable and you don’t need to be a homeschooler to find it.  I do find it interesting that we’re talking about the “market of ideas” in public school, although by and large there is only one idea presented, taught and tested.  And that isn’t exclusive to the whole evolution debate.  There isn’t enough time to present anything like a marketplace of ideas with testing looming overhead, and all the baggage students bring with them to school.

And again, this isn’t about homeschooling.  We only account for approximately 2% of the population.  Yet according to a recent Gallup poll, only 39% of Americans say they believe in the theory of evolution, 25% do not and 36% don’t have an opinion.  Education was a factor in the beliefs, as was church attendance. Surprisingly, a poll in Britain revealed that only 25% of Briton’s thought the theory of evolution was “definitely true.”  This isn’t even an American issue.

If I were concerned about Americans’ lack of knowledge regarding Darwin and his theory, I would look first at why people are graduating high school…public high school…without this knowledge long before I’d jump on the homeschoolers.

Homeschooling allows families to isolate their children from good information by providing them only with information that is comfortable with their own biases.  Ibid.

The potential is there.  The potential is there anywhere someone has control over the curriculum.  Should that control come from the state or the parent?  What about when parents disagree?  What about when students disagree with the content that is being taught them?  One of the more interesting questions in one of my ethics courses dealt with this very debate.

The question was whether it was ethical to pass a student who demonstrated a knowledge of evolutionary theory that surpassed the course requirements, but who didn’t believe it.

There is a fundamental question about control here, but it isn’t about homeschooling.  We are just a bit of a catalyst for the discussion.

Like homeschooling is a protest against public schools, creationism is a protest against anything that opposes a literal interpretation of the Bible. When it comes to the origins of life, creationism is not a scientifically educated movement.  Ibid.

Kapture never supported his assertion that homeschooling is a protest movement against the schools, and now he’s claiming that creationsim is a protest as well.  It isn’t.  It is simply a belief.  One that existed prior to Darwin and prior to his predecessors who had already begun to look at the world outside a religious worldview.

Back in February, academics and scientists across Europe got together in Germany to discuss difficulties regarding the acceptance of evolution.  Some fear these lingering beliefs in creation are a danger to scientific thought in this country and the Western world in general.  I don’t exactly buy that, but our schools’ ability to graduate students who can scarcely read just might.

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67 Responses

  1. I found it interesting that Kapture devoted four paragraphs of his argument to homeschooling. When I went back to the original column, I couldn’t find reference to it. I read it twice before using the browser search function to find where it was mentioned.

    It was in the author’s bio. He is a homeschooled senior. And it looks like he is taking part in the “marketplace of ideas” by participating in this debate to me.

  2. We started homeschooling because of abuse in public schools! I will continue to blog for those children we “left behind.”

    But as to the evolution thing, I just want to be told UP FRONT that that’s what the children are studying. (That is actually a VERY BIG problem in public schools.) With older children I have no problem with it when it’s done respectfully. If the test contains info on the theory of evolution, but makes no requirement that the children espouse the theory, I’m content with that.

    I remember on one of those parent nights that tucked into the syllabus was the subheading “scientific theories” and I asked if evolution would be discussed.

    Yes, the teacher said, but only for a week… And we won’t test the children on it. And I am a Christian, so I will not indoctrinate the children into any one theory but let them each make up their own mind.

    Ok.

    Well, I was sad to learn later that as a result of that public discussion, quite a number of parents protested and the teaching was pulled. No one learned in class of Darwin’s theories.

    I think a valuable opportunity for discussion was actually missed. But when someone comes off and says this is what I *must* teach my children, I’m tempted to tell them to go jump in a dustbin.

    In reaction to these intolerant secular science only people, I find myself more apt to skip all secular texts and blog about it under the heading of “you can’t tell me what to do.”

    :]

  3. You touched on something I hadn’t put into words for myself yet – I probably never would have considered homeschooling if government schools would allow more than one opinion on things…and I’m a former public school teacher!

    They called Christians intolerant but I have no problem with my kids learning about evolution IF they also get to hear about creation as well.

  4. I know we agree there, Julie. 🙂

    And I guess I don’t really see that as protest any more than I see my refusal to ever eat at Jack in the Box as a protest. People died of food poisoning in Indiana, they were shut down, but lived on in bad jokes through my high school years. I was surprised to see them in other states when I left my secluded life in IN, but I still won’t eat there.

    Not exactly the same, but responding to a bad situation by removing yourself from it is not necessarily a protest movement. Most of the people I know who removed a child from public school did it reluctantly after doing all they could to make it work. (Small sample size for what it’s worth).

  5. I guess I did start homeschooling as a protest. I was protesting that the public school in our county was “out of options” for educating my child. They wanted to move her to a locked classroom for a year and then transition her to a “day treatment program.” This program was a 9-12th grade program that housed all the worst behaved children in the district. The program is unstructured and, in fact, only requires 6-hours of academics a week. Generally, the kids are across the street at a covered shelter smoking. Uh, no thanks ~

    I am pretty upfront in my blog that I believe that science classes should only teach that which is observable, measurable, testable and repeatable. So, by all means, tell my student about speciation, adaptation and natural selection… just don’t tell them that these process explain how life started in the first place. Evolution, creation or intelligent design as an answer to how life came to exist and who and what man is simply doesn’t belong in a science class. It belongs in a philosophy class and all sides of the debate should be respectfully presented. There is just a huge difference in man as an image bearer of God and man as a biological machine. And, the difference impacts how we treat each other, how we make ethical decisions and whether we are cogs of the world’s government or something more than that.

  6. re: “I have no problem with my kids learning about evolution IF they also get to hear about creation as well.”

    I have no problem with my kids learning about astronomy IF they also get to hear about astrology as well.

  7. You left out part of the actual reality imo:

    “Should that control come from the state or the parent?”

    The real question is:
    Should that control come from the State, the CHURCH or the parent?”

  8. RE: “There is a large amount of fringe literature available on any topic imaginable and you don’t need to be a homeschooler to find it.”

    Love that.

    Very good post.

    Just as some use private education for their children as they think it is best and right (and they can afford it), so we homeschooling parents choose to home educate as we think it is right and best (for right now).

    Those who criticize homeschoolers for not using public schools never criticize parents (including politicans who make education laws and take money from the NEA) for using private school. Why is that??

  9. I was just about to bring up private schools when I see Christine beat me to the punch.

    Why is it that government-school cheerleaders typically criticize home educators but at the same time give private school parents a free pass?

  10. “If I were concerned about Americans’ lack of knowledge regarding Darwin and his theory, I would look first at why people are graduating high school…public high school…without this knowledge long before I’d jump on the homeschoolers.”

    Dawkins (among others) has complained that US public schools do not adequately teach evolution, and that public school science textbooks don’t present the most current thinking on evolution. That isn’t because of the influence of creationist parents; it’s because of the broken public education system.

    Myers says he doesn’t care whether most people believe in evolution; in fact, he thinks most people are too stupid to ever understand it. He just wants the most current evolutionist thinking to be the only thing taught in science classes.

    The other point suggested by your post, but unrelated, is why news stories about adult illiteracy never address the question of how so many Americans who finish all or most of K-12 can be classified as illiterate adults. I just heard a story about this on NPR and I wanted to scream at the reporter.

  11. Dave: “(The neglect of teachers to teach evolution) isn’t because of the influence of creationist parents; it’s because of the broken public education system.”

    It’s because the broken public education system caves to pressures of fundamentalist creationists.

    Look at what’s happening in Texas right now. I wonder how many of the state’s best educated kids will be yanked out of schools (to homeschool) by parents horrified by the ascendancy of fundamentalist-stocked school boards intent on substituting “Intelligent Design” and “Christian Nationalism” for real science and history. Those poor remaining children, “left-behind” for Dark Age educations. Maybe Texas will just secede (as promised) before they drag the rest of the country down with them.

  12. Mrs. C: “If there is a sizeable number of Christians in a given area who are offended by evolution teaching, the schools ought to be able to defer to the needs of those families through opt-out or opt-in.”

    What if parents in my district are offended by, oh, native american history… or geometry?

    And, have you looked at a recent list of “disputed” teachings by the Christian Apologist Industry lately? Gee, talk about a short school day.

  13. JJ, as much as I value discussion in public schools, I also think the local TAXPAYER should have a say-so in the curriculum. If there is a sizeable number of Christians in a given area who are offended by evolution teaching, the schools ought to be able to defer to the needs of those families through opt-out or opt-in. I don’t see where anyone’s rights are violated when evolution is *not* taught in the same way that a religious minorities rights would be if all the children were required to memorize chunks of the Westminster Catechism.

    JMO

  14. I grew up in Massachusetts in a town where there are hardly any Fundamentalists (the closest Protestant church not affiliated with a liberal mainline denomination was a 20 min drive away). Everyone I knew believed in evolution (either theistic or Darwinian) but I wouldn’t say that the topic was particularly well-taught at the government-run school I attended.

    The science teaching in general was on the weak side at the school- lots of rote memorization & multiple-choice tests, after which the information was mostly forgotten. I struggled at first when I got to college and started taking science classes that actually required me to *THINK* about the material rather than just be able to regurgitate it on exams…

  15. JJRoss, you said:

    The real question is:
    Should that control come from the State, the CHURCH or the parent?”

    But the church doesn’t have that kind of power. It can certainly be a point for organization. Something some atheists seem to want as well.

    If I disagree with the teachings of my church, I can leave and there are no national discussions about whether I am harming my children by removing them from a religious institution. People won’t accuse me of being a “church protester” or part of some lunatic fringe group who believes God can be found without a pastor.

    If I leave my church and it comes after me, the law will defend me.

  16. But, Lynn… don’t you think the voters should decide what’s taught in the schools they fund? And if not, WHO should decide? Just askin’.

  17. Dawkins (among others) has complained that US public schools do not adequately teach evolution, and that public school science textbooks don’t present the most current thinking on evolution.

    Appears to be an issue in Britain, too, though the statistics may have something to do with increased immigration of Muslims, the other large group tending to believe in creation.

    At any rate, I tend to agree. My science textbook didn’t adequately teach anything. I used to get my grade changed all the time because after a test, I’d bring in journals and articles showing that this or that was outdated. I learned way more from Scientific American, Discover Magazine and Astronomy Today (my three favorite magazines) than I ever did in a high school science class.

    College was more interesting. And strangely enough, the only time evolution was brought up was when I chose to write a paper on evidence of evolution in sunflowers and some semi-aquatic plant in Canada.

    It was always assumed and rarely taught. Even in college.

  18. Lynn, your comment regarding astrology is actually quite interesting. According to the North Texas Skeptics, astrology was virtually driven out of Europe with the spread of Christianity because it was seen as incompatible. It made a bit of a comeback with the crusades because Islamic scholars still studied and spread the ideas.Science pretty much finished it off.

    Until just after World War II with the advent of the weekly horoscope in the newspaper. Now 31% of Americans believe in astrology. And this I found interesting from a Harris Interactive poll:

    31% of the public believes in astrology including 36% of women and 43% of those aged 25 to 29 but only 17% of people aged 65 and over, and 25% of men.

    Almost half of our young adults? Because of a weekly newspaper feature?

    Since Christians (the fundamentalists ones at least) tend to view horoscopes as the work of Satan, this lack of respect for sound scientific reasoning is hardly to be blamed on them. And yet it is increasing.

  19. CW: “I grew up in Massachusetts in a town where there are hardly any Fundamentalists (the closest Protestant church not affiliated with a liberal mainline denomination was a 20 min drive away). Everyone I knew believed in evolution.”

    My husband was raised Catholic (in Philadelphia) and everyone he knew believed in evolution, also. And, he attended Catholic schools all the way through college – until he came to California (for his Ph.D. and post-doc work in science) where he discovered young earth creationism for the first time. He was also surprised to learn that, contrary to what he was taught, Catholics aren’t “real” Christians according to some Protestants. Poor guy, should’ve stayed in Philly.

  20. Dana: “…lesson plans on astrology for the public schools!”

    So much for my argument then 🙂 Maybe I should’ve said “feng shui”… but now I’m wondering if there are 81 lesson plans for that, too 🙁

    Good point about growing Muslim populations in Europe. Apparently many Muslims also reject evolution (for religious reasons). I think I read that they’re now even co-opting Discovery Institute buzz phrases: “teach both sides” “Darwinism is just a theory”…. though they probably don’t try to link Darwin and Hitler like they do here 🙂

  21. Mrs. C: “But, Lynn… don’t you think the voters should decide what’s taught in the schools they fund? And if not, WHO should decide? Just askin’.”

    Actually, I’d be angry if schools were wasting my tax dollars, deciding curriculum based on the inexperience and personal prejudices of Joe Taxpayer, rather than the general consensus of leading experts in each field. Sure, sometimes the system will fail, but it’s far better than the alternative.

  22. And while I do believe that the local school should be under the authority of parents/taxpayers, I don’t want them to be under the control of populist sentiment. From my understanding, the current system of compulsory education is the fault not of secular humanists with whatever agenda it is we want to pin on them, but of Protestants worried about what Catholics were teaching their children.

  23. Dana: “Since Christians (the fundamentalists ones at least) tend to view horoscopes as the work of Satan, this lack of respect for sound scientific reasoning is hardly to be blamed on them. And yet it is increasing.”

    Richard Dawkins has an interesting DVD (“Enemies of Reason”), in which he makes the same case: “Utterly irrational belief systems from astology to New Age mysticism, clairvoyance to alternative health rememdies are booming… society seems to be retreating from reason… (there is) an epidemic of irrational, supersticious thinking..” It still surprises me how many people I come across in the, erm, “atheiosphere” who, while rejecting religion, have all sorts of irrational beliefs. They seem to be in the minority, but still…

    btw, I know a woman (a devoted fundamentalist Christian and former astrologist) who wrestles with astrology. Though she now sees horoscopes as the work of Satan, she’s also convinced that he makes them true in order to succeed at deceiving more people. This seems to be a dilemma for her: it’s hard for her to ignore horoscopes (published everywhere, as you said), knowing that they’re true.

    You’ve also reminded me that when I first signed up for Blogger, I was asked to answer a small set of profile questions, one of which was my “sign” [rolling eyes].

    Thanks for the links. The history of astrology is more interesting than I expected. They should teach it in school more often 😉

  24. Oh, and I learned how to be a telephone psychic in a college geography class. It is fascinating how much you can find out with a birthday and a zip code and an internet connection. It won’t work most of the time, but statistically you should be able to nail a few specifics with enough people to keep yourself in business.

    (The actual lesson was about geography, community and statistics.)

  25. The history of anything can be interesting if you get more than names and dates. I always find it fascinating how the strangest of things influence events and nations. I loved James Burke’s Connections. Of all the old shows available online, that one should be brought back.

    And the best argument I ever heard for teaching the Bible in schools was made by my high school English teacher who found it more difficult to teach literature every year because no one understood the imagery and references to biblical passages.

    It has influenced our history, literature, art and culture in profound ways. Not always in good ways, to be sure, but not always in bad ways, either.

    As a Christian, however, the idea of a required religion course or teaching the bible in other subject areas makes me a little nervous. It is required in Germany, and my religion class was…strange. A quarter of the semester was spent studying Jesus Christ Superstar.

    The Christian Right talks a lot about parental rights, but Catholic parents and Muslim parents have rights, too. It isn’t the state’s job to further my religion, just to protect me in the expression of it.

    (And for the record, I belong to those curious few in the statistics who don’t believe creation should be taught in school, or at least not in science class. I don’t really believe abiogenesis should be a major topic at all, actually.)

  26. We’re not mindless robots. Not every disagreement with the state is because of the church. A lot of us just seem to have similar political viewpoints. And it certainly isn’t being hammered into us by the our pastors. They aren’t allowed to be political in their sermons.

    Notre Dame wants to offer an honorary degree. Something apparently ASU was unsure about. Some Catholics protest. That means the church is some dark and seedy manipulative entity? If so, they aren’t very good at it.

    The Catholic Church is huge in the pro-life debate. It has been hammering Obama as much as it legally can from the beginning. I am told a letter went out that, while remaining within the law, did everything it could to persuade people not to vote for Obama. Yet Obama carried Catholic voters.

    You assume that every belief is the fault of the church, but people are pretty free to pick and choose churches based on their beliefs…or start a new one. And churches are continually moving toward the left, with some of the same issues continually coming up for discussion, with some significant backing away from these same issues.

    When the church teaches that it is your responsibility, and offers support in that area (a room for you to talk to other homeschool parents?), that isn’t control. A good deal of homeschoolers I know actually run into problems in their churches because the church doesn’t believe you should homeschool your child.

    When the state tells you you have to do something, you do not have the same kinds of options.

    Church attendance is declining across North America, with more people identifying themselves as “spiritual.” Many are already claiming the death of Christianity.

  27. What if both are inseparable, in other words if the only way that our ps system can possibly BE American is with all kinds of options built into it, including home education? What if we argued that the hs option is an essential part of our commitment to education, not some subversive alternative at all?

    Dana, do you really believe Church is less interested in and active in exercising educational control over our children, than State?

    Should that control come from the State, the CHURCH or the parent?” —

    But the church doesn’t have that kind of power.

    Seriously? This stuns me. Show me something more powerful than Church, in all of human history right up to this week’s news, from Notre Dame finding the leader of the State’s free world wrong in his beliefs and Miss California’s bible college bigotry as she prepares to teach elementary school special ed, to the pope’s political trip to the middle east.

    It can certainly be a point for organization. Something some atheists seem to want as well.

    If homeschooling is too small a percentage educating kids for much concern, the same is true of “atheists.” And according to Harvard’s Humanist of the Year, atheists are terrible organizers. 🙂

    If I disagree with the teachings of my church, I can leave and there are no national discussions about whether I am harming my children by removing them from a religious institution. People won’t accuse me of being a “church protester” or part of some lunatic fringe group who believes God can be found without a pastor.

    Further stunning.
    In this culture where Pastor Rick Warren hosts the first general presidential debate IN HIS CHURCH and to deny any bigotry pronounces “atheism” the only disqualifier for the American presidency. Nobody bats an eye in the public or the punditry. Barney Frank may be openly gay but by god (pun intended) he’s got religion, or he wouldn’t have a Senate seat.

    If I leave my church and it comes after me, the law will defend me.

    See Cheryl Lindsey Seelhoff against a Christian homeschooling-for-pay conspiracy. But if it’s just your personal and family life being ruined in the name of god rather than your “business” then the Sherman Act can’t help.

  28. “It’s because the broken public education system caves to pressures of fundamentalist creationists.”

    Lynn,

    I don’t think so. Most science teachers are not certified according to NBPTS standards, and those who are, are not current on evolutionary thought. In other words, they are mostly just promoting a political agenda. Also, the process of textbook publication and adoption is corrupt, leading to serious errors being propagated.

    If I were an evolutionist, I would homeschool not because of a few anti-evolutionist activists in one state, but because the public education system is intrinsically flawed, inviting tampering from ignorant demagogues on both the liberal and conservative sides.

  29. “Show me something more powerful than Church, in all of human history right up to this week’s news”

    JJ Ross,

    I’m not sure I understand your point. All of your examples point to no such powerful institution called “The Church,” but rather a bunch of individuals arguing for their personal points of view to prevail; and among those individuals, certain ones seem to be more susceptible than others to feelings of persecution and victimization from a massive conspiracy of clerics.

  30. Dana,

    “A good deal of homeschoolers I know actually run into problems in their churches because the church doesn’t believe you should homeschool your child.”

    That is why we left our last church, which was quite conservative. Yet, they couldn’t give up their faith in the public school system to raise children in the parents’ absence.

    “When the state tells you you have to do something, you do not have the same kinds of options.”

    It creates an underground culture, as in the old USSR, modern China, and modern Germany; and today with creationism in the US. The whole idea is repulsive, however, to anyone believes that their ideals must be immediately accepted for their intrinsic goodness and rationality.

    “Church attendance is declining across North America, with more people identifying themselves as “spiritual.” Many are already claiming the death of Christianity.”

    I’m afraid this claim has been around for at least a hundred years. However, there is a down cycle right now in those denominations which don’t offer much more than superficial emotionalism to begin with.

  31. Just got home and wanted to correct myself — of course Barney Frank doesn’t have a Senate seat either way. 🙂

    It’s a House seat that he’s had for the past three decades.

  32. To Dana and Dave — it’s like the analogy items on the old SAT. State is to government as Church is to religion.

    I used it in that construct, institutional “religion” and institutional “government” parallel as the two most powerful forces through which we the American people AS a constituted population have always governed ourselves. (Not as mindless robots though LOL, where did that come from?)

    This is not just about your personal pastor, any more than State is about my neighborhood’s elementary school principal. You might say Church and State play tug of war for control and we are the rope.

    To be analogous, the idea that you can always just leave a local church for another, would be parallel to leaving your local school to avoid a certain kind of teaching, but not to getting all Church and State influence out of your child’s education. For that you’d need to do the same thing necessary to completely avoid State — renounce your citizenship and leave with your family for someplace completely different, if you can find a place without Church or State, Somalia maybe. 😉

  33. I wish they were metaphors, Dave. Church and State are quite real though. They are analogous to each other, yes, in that they are similar or parallel but that doesn’t make them analogies or metaphors.

  34. But you suggest they don’t actually exist in any coherent form or in any particular place…that you can hardly ever escape them, unless you live in a total anarchy. They are therefore mostly social constructs existing in your own head.

    Holt pretty much had this view of what “school” is, as a kind of abstract learning structure imposed on children even when they are not in a physical school.

    That nebulous understanding of social institutions is really contrary to the commonsense meaning, and borders on a metaphorical or mythological abstraction. It’s a typical error found in postmodernist theory. It is only a problem for most adults if they haven’t learned how to think for themselves after leaving college.

  35. Oh.

    I suppose if I’d ever learned to think for myself I’d, um, thank you for correcting my error? If were smart and all concrete and common sense like you, maybe then I wouldn’t confuse “intangible” with incoherent. . .

  36. Either its real or it isn’t, JJ. But if you believe in something that you can’t define and can’t escape, its a superstition.

  37. Thank you for all the good points raised in discussing my letter to the editor. I was very suprised to see that anyone was interested in it besides me, and gratified that the discussion has been good natured.

    I largely wrote the paragraphs regarding homeschooling because I was responding to a product of homeschooling who was prescribing curriculum for public schools.

    I did try to stick with the subject, which was how people get and present information about evolution, as closely as possible. Mr. Cody got his bad information about evolution while homeschooling. He thinks other children should get bad information about evolution from public schools. Maybe the issues should not have conflated in my head. I have my personal prejudices, which, to a certain extent, is what opinion pages are all about. I certainly didn’t want to draw the ire of anyone who agrees with me that creationism is bad science.

    I am uncertain why protest movement as a phrase created consternation. It seems that any group who is withdrawing from social infrastructure because they don’t like it, regardless of reasons, is a group in protest. I like protest groups, in general. I do disagree with the protest against good science that is represented by young earth creationism.

    I can’t respond to all the points, even as itchy as they make my conversation centers. I’ll just say that I agree with both Lynn and JJ. I am sure there are a wide variety of homeschoolers, just as I know there are a wide variety of Chrisitans. I try to counter bad information about evolution where I can, linked it to homeschooling in this case, and tried to be measured. As you admitted, home schooling can be abused to isolate people from the world. If public education can do the same, I as a parent can counter that. Really, all I can do as a citizen is hope that more homeschoolers do than don’t.

  38. Kapture, some things that might interest you for your own further self-education:

    1. A philosophy professor named Rob Reich (not the Clinton Labor Sec but another Rob Reich) has made a whole academic speciality out of arguing that home education is “ethical servility” and some of us have spent years arguing with him that any form of education (there’s Church and State again!) has that potential.

    2. Connected to #1, see Harvard-educated robot theologian Anne Foerst and her fascinating theories about what misteaching dependent intelligence does to OUR ethical health, thus how we’d better be worried first and foerst-most about our own souls when we seek to control or slant children’s learning to our own beliefs.

    3. Harvard cognitive scientist and education/leadership/power of story genius Dr. Howard Gardner proposes a complete K-12 curriculum built on nothing but “truth, beauty and goodness.” Dave would say Gardner’s full of error and superstition, I suppose, because truth, beauty and goodness can’t be defined or escaped (much less tested with multiple choice!) but we who have learned to , learn, teach and think about truth, beauty and goodness needn’t bother about those who have not.

    4. Connected to #3, the curriculum focus Dr. Gardnew proposes for “truth” is — evolution.

  39. Dave :”Most science teachers are not certified according to NBPTS standards, and those who are, are not current on evolutionary thought. In other words, they are mostly just promoting a political agenda.”

    So, because most science teachers are not “current” on the latest findings related to evolution “according to NBPTS standards,” they are therefore just promoting a political agenda? Wow. That’s quite a bold statement. I’d love to review the data upon which you’re basing this assertion. Do you have a link?

  40. Wouldn’t you know I’d be having computer issues when there is such an interesting conversation going on.

    I should be back Monday. Hopefully my brother can get my computer fixed!

  41. Lynn,

    I don’t have the comprehensive independent study at hand. However, you can look up the stats yourself at http://www.nbpts.org/resources/nbct_directory/nbcts_by_certification. The first is for high school, the second for middle school:

    Science/AYA 3039
    Science/EA 2201

    These are the total numbers of board-certified science teachers in the entire US. In my area, Indianapolis Public Schools, the number for both is zero.

    Here are the NSTA stats for the total number of science teachers in the US:

    http://www.nsta.org/about/olpa/faq.aspx

    NSTA estimates that the United States has nearly 2 million public school and private school K–12 teachers of science. The majority of these educators (1.6 million) teach at the elementary level, and NSTA considers all of them to be teachers of science.

    Elementary: 1.6 million
    Middle: 54,000 to 68,331 (teach science as a main or secondary assignment)
    High School: 98,000 to 111,000 (teach science as a main or secondary assignment)

  42. Also, you disparage my comment about being current. However, this criticism is from Dawkins and Myers, not me. I don’t care if they want to teach Haeckel and Eohippus and the linear descent of hominids. That will just make even more miseducated evolution advocates.

  43. From Kapture:
    “I am uncertain why protest movement as a phrase created consternation. It seems that any group who is withdrawing from social infrastructure because they don’t like it, regardless of reasons, is a group in protest.”

    A protest group uses picket signs and Internet petitions to harass the establishment because they have no actual power to change its policies. Parents are required by the state to accept responsibility for their children’s education; therefore, if the state-run system has been a failure for the last 40 years, they are free to choose other options. If anything, it is public school advocates who are engaged in a protest movement against homeschoolers, since they have no actual power to impose their educational policies (in most places in the US).

    “As you admitted, home schooling can be abused to isolate people from the world. If public education can do the same, I as a parent can counter that.”

    This is patently false. The long-term objective of the modern public education system is to exclude parents from participation in order to create a unified and authoritative curriculum untainted by “private interpretations.”

  44. Lynn, I hope everyone is alright. Having no computer through the weekend has made me feel very out of touch with everything!

  45. Your trolliness? I didn’t expect to be able to post on this particular op-ed without a discussion of religion, evolution, etc. You’ve been entirely respectful and my only regret is that I haven’t had a regular computer to be able to actually discuss anything. 🙂

  46. Dana, you’re not the only one who seems to have been unable to “actually discuss anything” —

    Call its absence what you will, but being “entirely respectful” in human discourse involves more than literalist left-brain binary pronouncements. It requires understanding of and respect for “social constructs existing in your own head” too. Daniel Pink’s Whole New Mind concepts connecting the left and right brain, for example: meaning, story, play, design, symphony, empathy.

  47. But we need not agree. Thus I’m always content and no one gets moderated so long as they remain respectful.

  48. A dissertation written here by an active school system administrator several years ago, surveyed local homeschooling families and then posited two main motivations for homeshcooling, the “push” and the “pull” reasons.

    Push reasons were negative things about the schools that families wanted to avoid or escape. These were correlated with lack of satisfaction with homeschooling too, and return to school, often an in-out-in-out pattern with truancy, relocations and other family stressors or instabilities.

    Pull reasons were pretty much the opposite: positive aspects of home education as an alternative to school, that families wanted to fill their lives with. These were correlated with high satisfaction and sustained, successful, committed homeschooling for many years.

  49. JJ,

    I take your point that the “push” reasons point to parents who homeschool as a reaction to, and attempt to manipulate, the public school system. Those folks are what I would call “education protestors.”

    They want a subsidized daycare system that costs them only $300 a year (in residential property taxes) for 180 days of relief, and guarantees plenty of socialization and sports for their kid. If the current system disappeared, they would build another one just like it.

  50. No, as I recall, they were more the social misfit strata with many dysfunctions and troubles, and felt pushed out by “the system” — not just the school system itself but The System.

    You know, folks whose own educational experiences didn’t equip them well for life, living on the margins with unreliable income and sort of hanging on by a thread and resenting that everything’s so difficult and full of red tape, with other social service problems and needs (free health clinics, food banks etc) and weren’t very skilled at managing or negotiating all their um, shall we say interfaces?

    So pushed out but they weren’t “pushy” as in demanding PTA parents or whatever . . .

  51. I think we should think mostly about our own lives rather than pronouncing judgment on all the folks. To me this study was a good lesson that to be a happy, successful home education family for life, it helps to focus on filling rather than emptying your life, and to stop resenting and begrudging and complaining about the public schools and all that you think is wrong with them. . .

  52. It’s interesting that homeschooling has produced some of the most thoughtful and intelligent people that I know. But then, so has public schooling. Often my homeschooled friends have perspectives that were very underrepresented in public school (I am a product of public education). The way I see it, students get out of their education what they want to get out of it.

    Not all of my homeschooled friends are Christian, either, I’d just like to point out.

    However, I do think it’s important that people be able to make their own decisions on the matter. Any parent that deliberately shields their children from evolutionary theory (of which I am a firm supporter) is committing something akin to a crime.

    So, it seems to me that even Christian parents who homeschool should expose their children to evolutionary theory. They should be educated in the basic mechanisms that drive it (allele frequencies, convergent and divergent evolution, sexual selection, mutation, etc).

    It’s the only way that, as adults, children will be able to make educated decisions about it.

    Otherwise, you run the risk of alienating your kids completely if they do decide to rebel against their upbringing. My parents are highly conservative creationists and I have a fantastic relationship with them. And I firmly believe that this is because they support me and my beliefs (even if they don’t agree). The biggest crime is alienation, not teaching children evolution.

    As for public schools being terrible, I wholeheartedly agree with all of your indictments. It doesn’t do what it ought, and No Child Left Behind is a sham and a joke.

  53. I would also like to add that social development is one of the key things that students do actually pick up in public schools, and I am concerned that some of my homeschooled friends, while intelligent, insightful, and very dear to me, are oftentimes very socially awkward. I would like to see some research on how homeschooling affects social development.

  54. Eric, the Christian parents I know do expose their children to evolutionary theory. They just don’t call it that. It isn’t like they teach “God dun it and that’s the end of that” like so many stereotypes I’ve read. It isn’t adaptation, natural selection, etc. that they/we take issue with.

  55. Adaptation, mostly. I haven’t looked at the science textbooks, but I know when I say evolution, I’m usually corrected and told I mean adaptation. Or “little e” evolution. That is popular in some circles. The objection is more to the origins of life question, and I think that is part of why it is so difficult for their to be any meaningful discussion. Say “evolution” and the science you are talking about doesn’t come to mind, just the life arising from nonlife in the beginnings of time.

    I can’t say how other people teach anything. I can say my children know more about Darwin than most kids their age and not in a “what a horrible man” kind of way. I personally believe that isolating a child from theories and opinions, especially those they are almost guaranteed to eventually confront, makes it difficult for them to really defend their beliefs or to discuss these issues intelligently.

  56. Sure, I buy that. And I actually sort of assumed that that was the case.

    I am curious to know what they do call it. Evolution by means of natural selection is the predominant scientific theory. In fact, the statistics that you supplied are interesting, they are even more interesting when compared to the statistics for experts in the field of biology where fewer than one percent of relevant scientists gave credence to creationism. Logic dictates that we must defer to an expert in certain fields.

    There is strong evidence to support it and while I would never criticize anyone’s child-raising (I don’t have any yet myself, so how would I know?), I am bursting with curiosity about how these theories are taught, along with whether or not they stress the scientific definition of the word “theory.”

    I do apologize. I’m getting way off topic. The basic premise of your post has little to do with evolution directly (and I must reiterate, that I do agree with that basic premise) and I hope you don’t think that I’m grinding an axe because I really am curious.

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