Education Archives

First Day of School

Growing up in the North, school never started until after Labor Day.  Living now in the South, it comes much earlier.  Today is the first day of school for most districts around metro Atlanta, and I have 2 in high school; one a freshman and one a junior.  For the freshman, it’s his first day of public school, and he’s looking forward to it.  All our kids have been home schooled through 8th grade.

One reason (of many) that we do this, relates to this article talking about Delaware schools.  It repeats a statistic that I’ve highlighted in the past, and think now is as good a time as any to repeat it.

Across the country, it was estimated in 2003 that nearly 10 percent of American students — or more than 4.5 million — were targets of sexual harassment or abuse by a public school employee between kindergarten and 12th grade, according to a study by former Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft.

The study, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, said those numbers could be low because inappropriate behavior by educators is likely under-reported, Shakeshaft wrote.

Emphasis mine, as I emphasize them again.  Know your school district.  Home schooling is always an option.

Britain Clamping Down on Homeschooling

…and using the United Nations as the club.

British homeschoolers may no longer be able to teach independently. Children’s Secretary of Britain accepted a report in full last week that could change the face of homeschooling in Britain indefinitely. In the report, the author, Graham Badman, Chair of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (BECTA), argues for an end to homeschool freedom.

"While it’s disgraceful that the British government would even entertain this report it’s particularly troubling for American parents because the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) was used as the justification for this action," said Michael Farris, Chairman of HSLDA and President of

The Badman report uses Articles 12 and 29 of the UNCRC to justify registering the estimated 80,000 homeschooling families in Britain, forcing them to provide annual reports regarding their homeschool, granting government officials the right to enter the home and interview the children alone as well as reserving the choice of curriculum to the state.

HSLDA has been warning that the UNCRC could bring an end to homeschool freedom in the U.S., if the treaty was ever ratified by the U.S. Senate because Article VI of the U.S. Constitution says that treaties become the supreme law of the land.

OK, first I have to admit that I snickered a bit when I read the phrase "The Badman report".  But getting beyond that…

I’m wondering if the UNCRC says or implies that children can be used as witnesses against their parents without a lawyer present.  I mean, why would any government official be granted exclusive access to a homeschool child other than to find out what’s really going on?  Somehow, without all this invasiveness, homeschool children are, on the whole, doing better academically than their public-schooled peers.  Part of the reason people homeschool is precisely to avoid the problem with government-chosen one-size-fits-all curriculum.

Do people misuse the opportunity?  Indeed they do, but it is such a small minority that this is akin to burning down the forest to kill the mosquitoes.  Parents, on the whole, are doing just fine thankyouverymuch educating their own children.  (One wonders how we learned anything prior to the 19th century.)

A Media Experiment

Take two similar stories and try to figure out how the media will cover each.  With a hat tip to Newsbusters, here are the two stories:

1. A former Catholic priest comes forward Monday (4/20/09) to claim that another priest abused him as a teenager nearly 30 years ago. (The accused priest has no other similar public complaints and denies the allegations against him.)

2. A former school teacher was sentenced Wednesday (4/22/09) after pleading no contest to eight felony counts, including having sex with two girls under the age of 16. The man "admitted to having intercourse with the girls, performing oral sex with the teens and taking extremely explicit nude photographs of his victims — including pictures of him with one of the girls – before sending the images over the Internet."

OK, they’re not entirely equivalent.  The priest story is from 3 decades ago and the teacher story is from this month.  OK, and the priest denies the allegations while the teacher is being sentenced.  So given that, what was the disparity in coverage?

NewsBusters answers:

Now it’s quiz time! To which story did the Los Angeles Times devote two generous color photos and a 640-word article? Which story did the Times totally ignore?

If you’ve been a close follower of this issue here at NewsBusters, you already know the answer. The Times loudly trumpeted the case of the Catholic priests, even though the original story was reported three years ago (!). Meanwhile, it totally ignored the story of the teacher (Contra Costa Times, 4/23/09; Long Beach Press-Telegram, 11/5/08).

In addition, at Google news, the story of the priests returns "about 128" results. The story of the teacher? One.

We’ll say it again: It seems the most important element to the Times when reporting the awful abuse of children is whether the words "priest," "bishop," or "Cardinal" is in someone’s job title.

Given the Google results, it’s not just the Times that has this ailment.  It’s almost journalists have some blind spot when covering negative stories on government schools and / or a hot spot when it comes to negative stories regarding religion in general and Christianity in particular. 

I’m sure there’s a logical explanation.

Henry Neufeld and Timothy Sandefur (here and here) have both blogged about the NC divorce case that I highlighted yesterday.  Both point to a PDF of the judges ruling in the case, and note that there is more to the ruling on schooling.

Mrs. Mills has joined the Sound Doctrine church, a church that many who have “escaped” from it (that’s the term they, in fact, use) say has anything but sound doctrine.  After reading excerpts of the affidavits in the ruling, I would have to agree.

The concerns that Mr. Mills had to homeschooling included misconceptions that those don’t homeschool typically have about the practice; that it did not expose the Mills children to “the real world” and didn’t give them a “firm foundation for their future social relationships”.  Some of their extra-curricular activities are listed, and it sounds like they could easily find socialization in those.  He also said that it was his understanding was the the homeschooling was temporary.

At the end of the section about schooling, he does mention that some of this included religious training from this Sound Doctrine church, which he was concerned about.  Fair enough, but here is where we find ourselves at a decision that could, contrary to Mr. Neufeld’s and Mr. Sandefur’s thoughts, have widening influence.  The judge finds that it would be in the best interest of the children to pull them out of a schooling situation where, the judge agrees, the children have “thrived academically”.  There can be only two reasons for this based on what’s in the ruling; either it’s the “only temporary” issue or it’s the religious issue.

If it’s because the understanding was that homeschooling was to be only temporary, then perhaps some other education needs to be done to make sure that this isn’t being nixed by the husband because of misconceptions about homeschooling.  The whole “real world socialization” idea has been thoroughly debunked.  And on page 7, point #5, the judge “clearly recognizes the benefits of home school”.  So this appears not to be the main reason.

Which brings us to the religious issue.  After conceding the benefits of homeschooling, the judge, in the same point, then agrees to Mr. Mills’ request to “re-enroll the children back into the public school system and expose them and challenge them to more than just Venessa Mills’ viewpoint.”  This is where it gets dicey.

Others cited in the ruling consider the Sound Doctrine church to be a “cult”, and I’m not in a position to disagree with them.  The behavior of Mrs. Mills tends to back up their assertions.  However, if this ruling is made specifically to expose the children to other viewpoints, than any homeschooler of any religion or philosophy could have their choice annulled by a court for that reason, cult or not.  (I imagine, indeed, a judge that took children out of an atheist homeschooling situation to “challenge” that viewpoint would find all sorts of “friend of the court” briefs from the ACLU.)  The mother could lose custody of the children based on her religious beliefs and how those beliefs translate into abuse, but, while even that is a difficult thing for a court to decide, that is not, as I read it, the reason that the children are being sent to public school.

There’s that poem that has lines “First they came for ___, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a ___.”  It’s been used and misused over the years, but I think it applies here.  I don’t think we can see this ruling and not feel some concern over perhaps government coming for Christians or Jews, or whatever other religion that a judge thinks needs to be “challenged”, on the say-so of an aggrieved spouse.  Whether the grievance is valid or not, or whether the religion is a cult or not, it should be cause for concern.

In the Best Interest of the Children?

Last week, a judge in North Carolina was ruling in a divorce case.  The husband was an admitted adulterer.  His wife was going to get custody of the kids. 

However, the husband decided he didn’t want to pay for the expenses of continuing to homeschooling the children, so his lawyer drew up a request, and the judge granted it.

Even with abundant evidence showing the Mills children are well adjusted and well educated, Judge [Ned W.] Mangum ruled overwhelmingly against Mrs. [Venessa] Mills on every point. He stated the children would do better in public school despite the fact that they are currently at or beyond their grade level.  Evidence showed two children tested several grades ahead.

When issuing his verdict Judge Mangum stated his decision was not ideologically or religiously motivated. However, he told Mrs. Mills public school will "challenge the ideas you’ve taught them."

Typical big-government mentality.  Never mind results, you gotta’ get with the program.

More details here.

Good News from Gitmo

The prisoners don’t want to leave.

BAGHDAD (AFP) — An increasing number of Iraqi detainees are refusing to leave detention centres despite being eligible for release because they want to complete studies begun behind bars, a US general said on Sunday.

“In the last three or four months we have begun seeing detainees asking to stay in detention, usually to complete their studies,” Major General Douglas Stone told a news conference in Baghdad.

The US military offers a wide range of educational programmes to the 23,000 or so detainees — adults and juveniles — being held at its two detention facilities, Camp Cropper near Baghdad’s international airport and Camp Bucca near the southern port city of Basra.

Some parents of juvenile detainees, too, have asked that their children remain behind bars so they can continue their schooling, said Stone, the commanding general for US detainee operations in Iraq.

The US military, he added, was not encouraging the trend.

“We don’t want them to remain in detention,” he said. “When they are no longer considered a threat we want them to go home.”

(Hat tip: Betsy Newmark.)  Just keep this in mind when human rights groups complain about how bad the place is.  What kinds of a “concentration camp” educates its own prisoners to the point that they’d rather not leave?

Democrats are poised to kill an educational program that has shown results for those who otherwise couldn’t afford to take their kids out of failing public schools.  The Washington Post editorializes:

Last week, the Democrat-controlled House passed a spending bill that spells the end, after the 2009-10 school year, of the federally funded program that enables poor students to attend private schools with scholarships of up to $7,500. A statement signed by [Rep. David] Obey as Appropriations Committee chairman that accompanied the $410 billion spending package directs D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee to "promptly take steps to minimize potential disruption and ensure smooth transition" for students forced back into the public schools.

We would like Mr. Obey and his colleagues to talk about possible "disruption" with Deborah Parker, mother of two children who attend Sidwell Friends School because of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. "The mere thought of returning to public school frightens me," Ms. Parker told us as she related the opportunities — such as a trip to China for her son — made possible by the program. Tell her, as critics claim, that vouchers don’t work, and she’ll list her children’s improved test scores, feeling of safety and improved motivation.

As I said 9  years ago, while keeping money in people’s pockets is the best way to deal with school choice, vouchers are a good fall-back position.  (The moment money touches the hands of the government, the use of it on religious schools becomes an issue.  I don’t think it should be, but that’s the way it currently is.)  But why would Washington Democrats not even want this proven program removed?  The Post continues.

But the debate unfolding on Capitol Hill isn’t about facts. It’s about politics and the stranglehold the teachers unions have on the Democratic Party. Why else has so much time and effort gone into trying to kill off what, in the grand scheme of government spending, is a tiny program? Why wouldn’t Congress want to get the results of a carefully calibrated scientific study before pulling the plug on a program that has proved to be enormously popular? Could the real fear be that school vouchers might actually be shown to be effective in leveling the academic playing field?

Why must the government be the be-all, end-all solution to these guys?  They proclaim that they care about the poor and about education, and then then kill a popular and successful education program for the poor.  Which are we to believe; their words or their actions?

And if public schools can’t handle the competition, they should be the ones feeling the pinch, not the private schools.

Taxation Without Representation, Union-Style

Another interesting story that came out about California’s Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage, and the effort to make public the names of donors who supported it, was this article from NPR showing how the Teacher’s Union and its own teachers were on different sides of the question.

As California’s legal and cultural conflict over same-sex marriage played out this fall, the state’s teachers union put up $1.25 million to advocate against the gay marriage ban.

But at the same time, individual public school teachers in the state were giving more money to enact the ban than to defeat it, according to an NPR analysis of Proposition 8 contribution data recently released by the California secretary of state.

Teachers, aides and counselors in California public school systems gave about $2 to support the marriage ban for every $1 they gave to oppose it. The educators gave some $450,000 in individual contributions to advocates supporting the ban and about $210,000 to those opposing it, according to the NPR analysis.

So the union went against the very people it purports to represent, and spent the dues money teachers are obligated to pay in a political cause that the majority of dues-payers opposed.  What a scam!  If you want to educate our upcoming generation, you must donate to political causes that you disagree with.  No wonder liberals love unions; it’s a cash cow for their pet causes.

Never mind the fact that an organization who’s purpose is to supposedly look out for the rights of teachers is giving money to a political cause completely unrelated to their charter.  Not only are teachers forced to underwrite this, it has nothing at all to do with their welfare as teachers. 

I say again; what a scam.

Academic Abuses, 2008 Edition

The Young America’s Foundation put together a list of the top 10 abuses by academia in 2008.  From banning conservative speakers, to threatening expulsion for praying (behind closed doors), to banning Thanksgiving, it seems that the more liberal our school become, the less they are the bastions of free speech, debate and tolerance they were intended to be.

From Chuck Asay.

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