About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

A little rant about home schooling

Yes, I do have some (liberal) friends who home school their kids, and I respect their opinion and, of course, their right to do so. That said, I think this is a horrible idea, and one that has the potential to seriously harm this country over the next several decades.

The basic idea of home schooling is that parents can do better than teachers, especially when the choice is the public school system. This is misguided at best. Of course some teachers are under-trained and over-worked. Of course some (but by no means all) public school systems are of really low quality. But this still doesn't make home schooling a better choice, for a variety of reasons.

Let's start with the common criticism of public schools. I have a very good friend who sent his kids to private school on the ground that the public ones where he lives are not good enough (which is actually debatable, since he lives in an area where public schools have a good reputation). As much as my friend is a kind person, smart, and generally speaking liberal, I still haven't been able to making him understand why public schools perform, on average, less well than private institutions. The answer is two-pronged, and rather simple: good private schools have more money (which implies a variety of things, but chiefly a better teacher/student ratio, the single best predictor of a quality educational experience), and of course private schools can select the best candidates and discard the rest. But neither less money nor the inability to fail students are ingrained into the definition of a public school, they can both be changed, if the public so wishes.

Now back to home schooling. First off, the very idea is an affront to the teaching profession, because it implies that anybody, and I mean anybody, can do a better job at teaching than those people who are actually professionally trained to do so. The fact that there are incompetent teachers is no excuse, because that applies to any other professional category. Just because there are incompetent mechanics, doctors, and constructors, that doesn't mean that each of us has to turn into a full time mechanic-doctor-constructor-and-whatever-else-is-needed in order to make it in life. A major point of living in a society is the division of labor that it affords all of us, with the consequent ability to specialize and do a better job at specific tasks.

Moreover, even when parents manage to do reasonably well at teaching the curriculum, they are simply unable to expose their kids to genuinely different viewpoints, which is arguably one of the best features of a public education. Of course, that's exactly why home schooling is popular among religious fundamentalists: because they are not interested in raising a generation of critical thinkers, but rather a bunch of ideological robots. And they are succeeding! I've met home schooled children from fundamentalist families, and their naive view of the world, as well as their total lack of inter-personal skills (unless they find themselves among equally trained little robots) are at the same time pathetic and scary.

American society is on the brink of seeing millions and millions of these robots come of age, get jobs, vote, and -- in some cases -- get elected as public officials. Most of them think that evolution is a dirty word, are convinced that abstinence-only programs are the best form of sex education, and fervently believe that God personally favors the US of America in its Manifest Destiny. These are not bad people, just unbelievably uneducated (in the broad sense of the term) ones. It doesn't matter that their scholastic achievement tests are comparable to those of public school kids, that isn't the point. Knowledge of facts is necessary for education, but it is not what education is all about.

Please, tell your friends not to home school their kids. Instead, they could put their energy and resources into demanding better support for public schools and their teachers. That would really make the US a better place to live for all of us.


  1. That is what the mode of socialization that you were raised with has taught you.

    On this rather long list of complaints, there is a complete misunderstanding of why it is that parents are free to INFLICT their values on their children in the first place. And thus naturally, whether you happen to be secular or not, you would have some children in any given family that would be more extroverted or introverted, more inclined to think critically or not. And that's just fine, we don't need robots in that regard either, now do we.

    Socialization criteria and critical thinking can be a total matter of opinion.

    And it makes me wonder why exactly children should not be be naive and innocent. That used to be "good" thing you know. Is there a reason that we need incredibly sophisticated children before they turn 19? Possibly so they can have a hardened and completely world-worn hearts by the time they are 29?

    Which category of youngins do you prefer to choose a method of euthanasia for you or me?

    -- I'll bet you know who I am

  2. I agree with Massimo that the broader a childs experience is the better chance that child has of being a well rounded adult. No one is saying that a kid should be a man/woman of the world at 7, 10 15 or 19 years old. They should just be kids but at every step the should advance, gain a bit of maturity, not regress which is basically what happens to most home schooled kids. ( Assuming that MOST home schooled kids are of religious, mostly fundamentalist parents)

    These little home-schooled automatons, when they reach adulthood, will lead their peers not into the future, but back to the Dark Ages. They have no concept of the future, as their worldview is of where they came from, not where they can go. They don't have the ability to ask questions, they only know the set answers that the dogma of their parents allows them.

    That is again one of the many complaints that I have about religion. Maybe one person (who is nominally religious) in a thousand has ever made an individual choice about their religious belief. They just follow what their parents believed. That is where atheists differ. Most of us have come from religious back grounds and, for what ever reason, have questioned the dogmatic construction of the religious life and found it sorely wanting.

    I don't profess to be an anarchist, but I think that little bumper sticker I often see has a profound message -"QUESTION AUTHORTY". If the Congress of the United States would have follow that advice after Bush gave up trying to find bin Lanen in order to strike out as a brave little soldier to find WMDs, bring democracy and the "Merican way of life to the unwashed of Iraq (and the rest of the Middle East), we wouldn't be in the predicament we find ourselves today. Bush's thought process (and I use the term very loosely) are not forward looking. He never considers the consequence o his actions, only what he wants to happen. To date he has a pretty poor batting average.

    Admittedly I have wandered a bit, but there is a thread that continues from the first paragraph to the end.

    I'll end this with a quote from Steve Benson, the son of one of the leaders of the Mormon Church.

    "Let your conscience be your guide--not that of some fiery god or foaming clergyman pretending to speak in the name of deity. Using your powers of will, you be the judge. Using your powers of intellect, you choose right from wrong. Using your powers of reason, you make your decisions in life."-- Steve Benson (1949-), editorial cartoonist. "From Latter Day Saint to Latter Day Ain't," Freethought Today, December 1999

  3. Dennis:

    So "looking forward" to you means perpetually pondering and living one's life in opposition to what persons of "the other" political persuasion are doing?

    Hmmm. There are more efficient ways to revolutionize the world, I'm positive.

    I suppose the scorn that you and the w.b. host feel is normal for your world-view. But is it accurate? At least for an instant, do try to imagine life on the other side. I can certainly imagine what life is like on yours.

    I can actually remember what it was like when my husband hated church, preachers and might I add, rather disliked children, too. By default, at least, he was an evolutionist. So I think your idea of the people who want to protect their children, for presumably no reason other than fear, ignores a lot of possibilities and processes that those same persons may have gone through to get to the point of wanting to protect their children from the cold, cruel world.

    At this point in our lives, and as an absolute miracle in my mind, my husband has a congregation of scientists, (of different fields) former skeptics, individuals on the left and right, teachers and whole variety of education and experience levels that would entirely throw your and Massimo's presuppositions off.

    those are the facts.


  4. You secular humanists make me laugh! Perhaps it is too inconceivable for you that God has entrusted children to specific Parents for a reason. Teleologically speaking, Parents are supposed to be the primary educators for children--up to a point of course. I doubt most parents could teach chemistry to their kids, but I think many could teach the fundamentals of learning, including reading and writing. I, myself, have a Ph.D. in philosophy so I can teach them ethics and logic as well. Sadly, the Public schools lack the courage to mandate courses in Logic to high-schoolers, and are too politically correct to touch the topic of ethics. Given the postmodern, relativist garbage spewed forth by many public school teachers (and I should know, having attended public school and universities all my life) you should reconsider your blanket condemnation of home schooling.

    But of course, what is probably driving your rant is your horror of the topic of religion being taught to children. Now effectively purged from public schools, you lament the fact that you cannot eradicate it from the home. You ASSUME religious instruction necessarily produces automatons... this is because your have a poor conception of religion. Aristotle was as "Rational" as they come and yet was neither embarrased to speak of theology as the highest science nor to recommended the instruction of ethics to all citizens.

    For thousands of years the intelligentia in the Western culture affirmed the existence of One God, and I am confident that in the centuries ahead God will not be de-throned... but the secular humanists will...

  5. Beg my pardon. But I am thinking awfully skeptical thoughts about who actually even wrote the comment above.

    Who wrote this, really? Name or identify yourself - but don't say that you "laugh at secularists" and then run off.

    A person who firstly has Christ, not to mention a PhD, doesn't need to laugh at anybody.


  6. Yes, religion is pretty much purged from the public school systems, as it should be. Why? I would ask whose religion are you going to teach in public school? Methodism, LDS, Catholicism, Islam, Jainism, Pentacostalism, Christian Science, Jehovah Witness? Tell me which will it be? Is there going to be a sectarian war to decide who gets to teach their dogma. No secularist will be threatening anyone with death because of how they pray, or kneel to pray. or whether you sprinkle holy water on a baby or completely emmerse a young adult in the baptism ritual. People have died over these and other disagreements of equal insignificance. I guess it will be up to us (the godless) to act as arbitors when all hell breaks loose.

    Isn't it better to leave religion out of the public domain and let it be taught where it belongs - in the home and in your church? After all wasn't it your Jesus that said to do your praying in a closet, or words to that effect? I have absolutely no problem with that. Pray, worship, handle snakes, dance, do whatever it is that you do (as long as no one else is injured and your kids don't die because of the lack of medical attention) but don't force your particular brand of voodoo on the general public.

    The nasty secularist mindset (and I'm proud to be one) is the very kind of thinking that guarantees that all beliefs will be honored, that every person will be free to have and hold their own beliefs, including the belief that there is no god.

    Looking forward means (to me) that there are an infinite number of questions that are yet unanswered in the universe, or universes. Religious dogma says that everything we need or some god wants us to know is contained in the Bible, or the Quran, or any number of "holy" books. Rubbish! If religion ruled we would still be bleeding people, or thinking an earthquake, or a tsunami, or a hurricane was some god's way of punishing "sinners" (Does that sound familiar). Priests went around after the disasterous earthquake in Portugal some centuries ago trying and killing people whose "sins" they deemed responsible for the quake. Even today the same mindset is alive among many fundamentalist and some not so fundamentalist groups. Fortunately clearer minds now prevail (most of the time and in most locales).

    I feel something coming on; it always crops up eventually soI wish to address now.Please don't label me a satanist or devil worshipper either. Anyone who can't believe in god certainly can't believe in the devil. That's all supernaturalism, and it is beyond my capacity to believe.

    I don't have a PhD, just a lowly Bachelor of Science. I spent my life as a military officer and in the trucking industy. It took me many years of pondering the things we discuss in these blogs to come to my conclusions such as they are. I would never deny your right to your beliefs, but I do deny you the right to force them on me. Nor do I wish to force mine on anyone else. In the public realm we have an opportunity to work toward good for everyone. If your religion gives you pleasure and peace of mind - Great! But just remember one man's pleasure is another man's poison!

  7. I have mixed feelings on homeschooling. I think it can actually be a good thing for kids who are super advanced or very slow. The fact that the homeschooled child gets individualized, one-on-one instruction may help to offset the teaching parent's (or parents') lack of teaching credentials.

    A recent study of homeschooled kids in college at many elite schools found that their grades were, on average, higher than that of their non-homeschooled peers. And, interestingly enough, the homeschooled kids tended to be less concerned about fashion trends and the like.

    As far as the socialization thing goes, virtually all homeschooling parents are aware of the need to socialize their kids. Therefore, they make sure the kids join athletic clubs and the like.

    The homeschooled children I have met (and I've met a bunch now) have all been very vibrant, mature kids, not mindless automatons.

  8. Now effectively purged from public schools, you lament the fact that you cannot eradicate it from the home.

    Oh barf.

    Can you say, "strawman"?

  9. I'm a secularist without kids, and a public elementary school teacher.

    I'd actually prefer to home school my kids for several years if possible, or to get them into some situation with a very good teacher-student ratio, and with very good teachers.

    I know the difference in my classroom between teaching 5 students, teaching 15, and teaching 25. If any teacher can teach more than 25 kids much of anything at all, beyond a very basic level, that teacher is a heck of a lot more competant than me.

    So my reason isn't for religion; I'd actually prefer that my kids be well exposed to many, many religious traditions. I personally visit the odd temple, synagogue, mosque and church now and again, and if I have kids I intend to take them with me.

    And to teach them math.

  10. wyote said:

    I'd actually prefer to home school my kids for several years if possible...

    Same here, if and when I have kids.

  11. Adrienne,

    I think you have overlooked a couple of my points. I did say in the post that there seems to be little if any difference between home schoolers and public schooled children in their academic performance (which, by the way, would also count as an argument against home schooling: apparently, these kids don't do that much better than their public counterparts!). What I was suggesting is that the breadth of their conceptual worldview (e.g., understanding of science, social issues, etc.) is likely to be narrower, which is going to negatively affect society.

    Second, the socialization problem is hardly solved by getting kids together with other such small clubs once or twice a week, as it is often done by religious fundamentalists who home school their children. The kids tend to associate with yet more cultural clones, hardly a recipe for diversity.

    Finally, your and wyote's comment about "I'd rather my own children..." is perfectly understandable, but again misses the broader issue that if everyone were out only to nurture their own kids society at large will lose. Just my two cents, of course.

  12. The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.

    There's an irreconcileable tension between the State and the family. As long as individuals are free to disagree with the Powers that Be, somebody will have to decide what children learn about the controversial issues. You seem to be suggesting that the State should have the final say.

    In my house, we use the "cut and choose" rule to decide how to share limited resources. If there is only one brownie and two children, we let one cut the brownie into two pieces and the other child picks the one he wants. It's very fair.

    I think the "cut and choose" rule makes sense in this context. I'll let YOU decide who decides what children learn, and then I will pick which entity I want to control. If you decide that parents get to raise their own children in their own worldview, I'll cheerfully be a parent and raise my own children without bothering you. But if you decide that the State should decide these issues, I'm going to have to get politically active so I can gain the power to inculcate my values in the next generation.

    So: what would you rather have? Respect homeschooling, and you'll have a diverse community of homeschoolers, who teach everything from "Walden Pond" to "Left Behind." Ban homeschooling, and you'll have school boards who insist on teaching "Intelligent Design."

    It's your choice.

  13. Scott,

    I dont think the choice you present is fair:

    "So: what would you rather have? Respect homeschooling, and you'll have a diverse community of homeschoolers, who teach everything from "Walden Pond" to "Left Behind." Ban homeschooling, and you'll have school boards who insist on teaching "Intelligent Design."

    First, I never suggested "banning" home schooling. I'm a bit disturbed that so many people on this blog feel that any time that somebody disagrees with something, he (me) is suggesting to "ban it." I was simply arguing that home schooling is a bad idea, in the spirit of discussing the value of alternate ideas. No forced action implied (unlike our fundy friend on this blog, I truly am for an open society :)

    Second, school boards, at the moment, cannot impose the teaching of creationism, because the Supreme Court has declared it a religion, and hence unconstitutional in public schools. This may change in the future, but that is another battle, which needs to be fought on the proper legal turf.

  14. Good points, Scott.

    There is an effect that might seem kind of insignificant but really should be taken into account. And that is the effect of merely wanting your children around.

    Now I just happen to be in the category of weirdos who love to have my kids near me and they are teens. But my mother made me and my older brothers and sisters the center of her life, and I was not home schooled. So I think that where you place your children alongside all other priorities in your life matters more then where they are actually educated.

    Kids know what you value most. And believe me, it matters.


    ps. "I'm a bit disturbed that so many people on this blog feel that any time that somebody disagrees with something, he (me) is suggesting to "ban it."

    That's the price one pays for being an effective writer, M. ;)

    I note that I NEVER have such problems.

  15. "I dont think the choice you present is fair:"

    Fair? Fair = Moral, btw.

    If you get to choose "who" he merely gets to choose "how". What's unfair about that?

    Opposite of your position, he is not asking for absolute control.

    You are.


  16. Massimo, thank you for clarifying your position. I genuinely misunderstood you--my bad--and leapt to a conclusion that was unjustified. Sorry!

    I now understand you to be saying, "Homeschooling is a bad idea" in the same way I might say "Atheism is a bad idea." I would fight tooth and nail to defend the atheist's right to NOT believe, even though I believe that atheism is problematic in more ways than I can count.

  17. Here is an interesting article on home schooling stats:

  18. A bit of a biased source, no? I'd rather see a third-party assessment of the situation.


    Choosing to send a child to private school has nothing to do with "why public schools perform, on average, less well than private institutions."

    It has everything to do with if your school system is serving your child and can you do anything about it in time to save your child from that education, and save yourself from a long life of frustration and dissapointment.

    My town has a legendary great school system, yet was unable to serve either of my children.

    I won't go into the gory details of how a school system gives up on many, many gifted children, starting in kindergarten in my case. Its a well documented scenario. And it happens to lots of children whether you or the school system thinks they are gifted or not.

    So if your child is doing well in school, is motivated, learning each year what they need to, and teachers support them then by all means do not change anything.

    On the other hand if the school is saying your child is hopeless or should stay in a lower track etc. Then if you can afford it, have your child evaluated independently, and if you can afford it consider private school before your child gets further behind or further turned-off by school.

  20. Scott said:

    "even though I believe that atheism is problematic in more ways than I can count."

    Non- believers think that religion is problematic for countless reasons as well. But as M has said and I concur whole-heartedly we do not desire to ban religion, home schooling, or private schooling. As long as we realize and acknowledge that each one of these concepts comes with baggage that must be dealt with.

  21. "No forced action implied (unlike our fundy friend on this blog, I truly am for an open society"

    Probably better commentary than I deserve, assuming you mean me. But, of course, I don't think you are really are for an 'open' society. If this were true, you would seek to understand what brings people to the point of wishing to educate children at home.

    Where we live for instance, the high school which is the second closest to us, graduates about 50% of the kids. That's pretty abysmal, if you ask me. And according one of my son's friends about 50% of the Algebra class was failing, too.

    NM has been know to have substandard schools for a long time, but why are kids better off socialized in a failing environment, vs being able to have little more flexibility in their home environment?

    I am at a total loss as to why it is so negative for parents to share or pass their religion on to their children. Why should someone else’s indoctrination into society almost automatically be better than any parent could ever give?

    I think when we separate from our parents, and the accountability to their authority; we almost inevitably live different lives. Is that all secularists want?

    Amoral (non-judgemental) applications to education and class discipline don't work.


  22. I hate using personal experiences as arguments in discussions (I've done it at least once before on this blog), but this is one of those situations were it might add a bit of perspective, although it does not deal with homeschooling specificaly.

    My brother had a hard time in public school to the point that, during his junior year, it appeared as if he would have a hard time making it to graduation. On top of that, his teachers (maybe from being overworked, I don't know) simply did not seem to care. So my parents enrolled him in catholic school, were he thrived. Now my brother is no intelectual (in fact he is the living definition of beefheaded jock) but there is no doubt that the structure of catholic school got him to graduation.

    On the other hand, my sister thrived in the same public school that my brother had a hard time with. She graduated at the top of her class and was accepted to two of the top universities in our state and was even offered a scholarship to one.

    The point is , all kids are different. They learn at different rates and some learning environments that are ideal for some are poison for others. So wether or not homeschooling is a good idea is realy a matter for the individual parent to decide.

    That being said, if your homeschooling because you reject evelution or you think the word "condom" makes kids have sex at thirteen, I can't say I have alot of respect for your opinion. Most kids who go through public school turn out just fine in the long run.


  23. Why not send your kid to public school while you are at work, so that they are exposed to other children, and than spend time with them at night enforcing the concepts they learned during the day, while adding your own spin to it? (religion, etc)

  24. Why should someone else’s indoctrination into society almost automatically be better than any parent could ever give?

    Er... Could it be because a child will have tens of different teachers in the many years of school-schooling (private or not) and be exposed to all kinds of different styles, personalities, ideologies, etc., while they have only two parents at the most? An "indoctrination" by so many different people is much more likely to make the child think than to really indoctrinate. Duh...

    Now to a more interesting contribution, I hope. I come from a country where public school used to be the model, teachers were really respected and had social status. That was, I've been told, more than 50-60 years ago.

    Nowadays, I know how it is because I've seen. Brazilian public school is junk, with the exception of a handful. If you want your kids to go to a good college (which is public and free of charge), you MUST send your kids to private school, unless your kid is genius or spent a lot of time in an SAT preparatory course we have there, independent of normal school. (in case you're wondering, I was fortunate enough to go to a small private school, and then go on to pass the exams for public university. So yes, it wouldn't be far-fetched to think of me as "elite") :-/

    How did this come to be so? Well, I can't tell you exactly, because education's history is not my specialty, but the fact is that with time people stopped trusting the public system more and more. The middle class started spending a lot of its money on private school, instead of fighting for the quality of the public system. So now we have private schools that are mostly not that great either - in most cases probably worse than the old public school was - but public school is educational suicide. Only the big mass of poor people let their kids go there, since they have no other choice anyway. If you think American public school is so bad, you ought to go around more, guys. It can get WAY worse.

    By the way, we actually do not have anything like home shooling there (is probably not even legal to do it), which would sound like an aberration to us, if we ever heard of that (I just heard of it when I came to the US).

    The whole point of my rant (which is so long, as usual) is that, as you give up the public system - and automatically stop fighting for maintaining and possibly improving its quality so it could even accommodate those special needs kids you guys keep talking about - and put your kids in private or home schooling, you're helping to advance that degradation that I talked about. The same applyes to public health. Public safety. Public transportation - well, this one you don't have much in the US to begin with anyway (with some exceptions), so one less to worry about. In some cases, replacing the public services with private ones might be a good thing. If you're one of those who can pay, that is. What society to have depends on one's world view too, I guess...

    Now, I know it's not really a choice - let the kid suffer in an inadequate system just to try helping advance it. Do take your kids out of the system if you're really sure you must, do what's best for them. But even if your kids are not in the public school anymore, please have the decency of not being selfish. Fight for a better public school for everybody anyway, because not everyone can pay.


  25. What I was suggesting is that the breadth of their conceptual worldview (e.g., understanding of science, social issues, etc.) is likely to be narrower, which is going to negatively affect society.

    Obviously you're speaking out of your own assumptions of what constitutes home schooling, having little or no exposure to it. They used to think the moon was cheese, too.

    Second, the socialization problem...

    ...is not a problem. Look it up! "To come under government ownership or control." To hell with that. You can socialize your children if you want to, but I think I'll pass on treating my children like they were pets to be trained civil obedience above all else and brainwashed to respond like Pavlovs dogs.

    ...is hardly solved by getting kids together with other such small clubs once or twice a week...

    ...or by shoving them into a room with 15 to 30 other children their own age where they are simply not exposed to anything except their own age-clones. Oops, did I poke a hole in your fantasy world?

    ...as it is often done by religious fundamentalists who home school their children.

    Apparently your concern, seeing your choice of 'flaws' with home schooling, is that the parents can apply their own values and moral guidance to children, instead of allowing the government or teacher-activists decide. Here in California, public kindergarteners are expected to be 'taught tolerance' by 'acting out' same-sex intercourse with adults during class. That's not "tolerance," that's brainwashing. But, I guess I can't say I truly expect you to understand the difference.

    ...the broader issue that if everyone were out only to nurture their own kids society at large will lose.

    It's always humorous to see you secular humanists and hedonists claim that it is "better for society" for people to be treated like cookie-cutter replicas of each other. It must make it easier to prey on minds if they all look alike.

    Since when is society more important than the individual? If you think it is, then you've missed the point of why "society" exists, which is to SUPPORT individuals and families, not replace them.

    For anyone actually willing to commit the time to discover more about this issue, I strongly recommend reading the following book (which you can read online for free):

    The Underground History of American Education

    Or is extending the breadth of your conceptual worldview too much work for you?

  26. http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp

    A bit of a biased source, no? I'd rather see a third-party assessment of the situation.

    Sure, we could ask people how many homeschoolers they think there are as they walk into walmart, right? Whatever happened to 'scientists' (like yourself) having any respect for independent authority. Oh, I guess you didn't actually bother to look at the link, did you? That makes sense. Throw out an idea/concept/theorem on its face, not based on the content. Very scientific of you.

  27. Our public school failed us. Our daughter is very smart for her age, but our public school wouldn't let her start Kindergarten when she was ready, because she was not old enough. So we homeschooled for half a year, then found a German Immersion Charter School that would take her, and she finished K in 5 months at the top of her class. Then our public school wouldn't take her the following Sept in 1st Grade (age thing again). They wanted to put her in K again! Hello! You want to teach her the alphabet and to count to 10 when she can read at an adult level and do double-digit addition and subtraction? So, here we are, homeschooling again, due to lack of public school options. Homeschooling is not as bad as you think. I also tutor public school kids after school, and my daughter joins in. We practice their spelling tests and my daughter does better spelling their words than they do, and I have 5th graders. And my daughter doesn't even look at their words before taking the quiz. I've also taught at good public schools, and in my estimation, of the 6.5 hours in the public school day, no more than a third is actual instruction. The rest is waiting or recess/lunch time. And during those 2 hours of instruction, the teacher:student ratio is 20:1 or worse. Now granted, teachers are great, but no teacher can do a better job with 20 kids in a hectic environment than I can with 1 kid in a quiet environment. And in 2 hours, we can get more accomplished by homeschooling than the public school kids can, and that leaves more time to join dance clubs, taekwondo clubs, take piano and choir lessons, go to museums and parks, and spend time with kids of all ages, instead of being stuck in school with only age peers who are years behind academically. Then throw in the $8K+ per student per year cost of public education, and financially, it will benefit the State (California) if more people would homeschool, as the State keeps the taxes I pay, but doesn't have to deal with an additional child. And California can use the additional money. And my child can learn more in less time for less cost. Now when she gets to high school, I imagine she'll utilize the community college system, and then transfer to UCLA or wherever. Just at an earlier age than her public school peers. So, what's the prob? Seems like a win-win for everyone.

  28. The basic idea of home schooling is that parents can do better than

    This is not the basic idea at all. No wonder you are against homeschooling. The basic idea (for my wife and me)is that today's public school teachers are not able to do their job of teaching, because of state and federal mandates and bureaucracy, so students go through classes not learning the subject matter. The other basic idea is that public school teachers and administrators are told to implement a number of non-academic programs and ideas, many of which contain tenets that are not popularly held (some are even harmful).

    In other words, public schools are being forced to indoctrinate students with one-sided intolerant viewpoints about various subjects. This circumstance is what you are afraid that parents are doing at home, so you should really be up in arms that the public school systems of today are doing it. The German public school system of the 1930s and 40s was used in such a manner to brainwash future citizens who would cheer a dicator on to purging the country in the name of racial purity.

    BTW, if you tried homeschooling for any length of time, you would be amazed at how an average parent can help their child through a subject as effectively as a public school teacher can, especially if said parent has already taken that subject in public school. If s/he can't do that, then maybe the public school system wasn't so effective after all.


  29. Given the postmodern, relativist garbage spewed forth by many public school teachers (and I should know, having attended public school and universities all my life)

    Well, heck, I attended public school starting with grade K all the way through to the university level and I never once had a teacher spew any postmodern relativistic garbage ... does my anecdotal evidence cancel out yours?

  30. J "... Could it be because a child will have tens of different teachers in the many years of school-schooling (private or not) and be exposed to all kinds of different styles, personalities, ideologies, etc., while they have only two parents at the most?"

    Diversity is useful when genetic diversity, for instance, causes a "healthy" combination of factors. But interject just a few bad genes or mutations, and one has cancer or something equally difficult!

    That is KIND OF SERIOUS. And why should a precious little mind be any less significant?

    Some people, you see, think that their children's lives are terribly important. And through the time in their lives where they are most impressionable, (imagine soft concrete or clay) these parents are not willing to essentially roll the dice just to find out later if the people who educated their children were as concerned about their future quality of life as their parents are.

    J"An "indoctrination" by so many different people is much more likely to make the child think than to really indoctrinate. Duh..."

    And then, propaganda by some people is extremely dangerous. I know from personal experience. If it wasn't true, I wouldn't be "here".


  31. You are basing your experiences with homeschoolers on a small portion of the homeschooling population. Most homeschooled children will attend some form of institution of learning in their educational career. They will also be exposed to others through groups and various activities. Many parents would like to have some influence on when, what and how their children are taught. That is one of the main reasons we are homeschooling. I think that is just good parenting. Your way of thinking says that the government knows what is best for our children. So why don't we just take children at birth and assign them randomly to the next waiting person or couple on the list? My children will learn about more than our religion and home life, but it will be when they are ready to process the information, and have established a value system by which to judge the information.

    You may think that we can do that during the time they are home. But with school taking up 7 hours a day, including preparation time; homework, meals, chores, play, when does a parent have time to focus on such things. As you are aware, school is not a nuetral place of even exchanges of ideas. You say that many Christians don't want any talk of evolution. Well, the schools don't want any views discussed that involve God, and yet the vast majority of people believe in some form of God.

    If you want people to stop choosing to homeschool, than make the changes in the public schools that will make that choice more attractive.

    Glendale, CA

  32. Well, the schools don't want any views discussed that involve God, and yet the vast majority of people believe in some form of God.

    Oh brother, not that old chestnut.

    Look, it's against the Constitution for public schools to promote religion -- any religion. They are supposed to stay religiously *neutral*. That doesn't mean that public school students can't discuss "views that involve god(s)". It means that the teachers, administrators, principals, etc. can't lead kids in prayer or Bible study or tell them they're going to hell for not accepting XYZ belief.

  33. One reason I am somewhat reluctant to tell people that I home school, is that it will be assumed that I am a religious fundamentalist. I am an athiest, agnostic, secular humanist, homeschooling, ex-public school teacher. I home school my 17 year old daughter.

    1)Public schools are good at teaching to the norm. If you are withing 2 standard deviations of the norm, emotionally, intellectually and socially, you will do pretty well in our public school system. Due to the American penchant for the underdog, if you are below 2SDs we will remediate, get you a lower student/teacher ratio, etc. to make sure you acheive some intangible minimum. But if you are above the middle ranges you are on your own to fit in or not. As my daughter's public school counselor informed me, "it is not our job to make sure she reaches her potential. We just make sure she doesn't fall behind." Needless to say, I felt/feel that those were insufficiently rigorous standards for my daughter's education.

    2)Teacher training: most teacher training is "classroom management." How do you get the bully to quit picking on the small kid? How go you get the extroverts to be quiet long enough for the introverts to think, never mind work up the nerve to speak? etc. In my 1-1 situation, my knowledge of my daughter is sufficient. I don't need that particular training.

    3) Very few teachers are/were "gifted". They don't tend to understand gifted students. They especially don't understand GT/LD. My son went all the way through public schools. He has a very high IQ and dyslexia and visual/motor processing disorder. I used to call him my Pentium with a dot matrix printer. He would either be forced into classes that were too simple for him academically, or failed in the appropriate classes for being unable to write and the "advanced level". The option of verbal essays and tests was not available because the teacher didn't have the time. I didn't want my daughter to have the same difficulties.

    3) My daughter went to public school through middle school. She completely lost her love of math during those three years. She was ready for Algebra in 6th grade, but was not allowed to take it due to school policies regarding mixing 6th and 8th graders. She had one or two excellent teachers during those three years, but the rest were (dare I say it) average. She told me, "I'm loosing my love of learning. I don't want to hate school like everyone else does." She asked me to homeschool her for high school.

    4) False premise 1: homeschooling parents do all the teaching. My daughter has taken classes from retired army officers about the revolutionary and civil wars, from a retired musical nun (piano), from Stanford (Education Program for Gifted Youth) AP Physics. I'm looking for a photographer to take her on as an apprentice because her nature photography is phenomenal.

    5) False premise #2) Nondiverse viewpoints: My ex-husband is Christian (and anti-hsing) he provides one viewpoint. We attend a Unitarian Universalist church -- if ever a room full of diverse viewpoints existed, there it is. As a language/journalism assignment she regularly compares media coverage. On a given day, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, The USA Today, CNN, Fox news: what are the top stories? what are the slants? The homeschool community is more diverse than you seem to be aware, she certainly has heard more conservative/republican leaning politics since she left public school -- given the tendency of the teaching profession and the county in which we lived.

    6) socialization: You don't learn how to treat people decently by watching kindergarten kids interact. Have you read the books on how vicious middle and high school girls are to one another? Once, when picking my daughter up from school, I reminded her to thank the teacher for her treat. The teacher told me, in front of her, "You don't need to remind her, she's the most polite child we have." Well, of course, and do you think she got that way without being corrected every time she forgot her manners? Teahcers cannot stop put down humor, they cannot make classrooms safe places to try and fail, they cannot keep the different child from being ostracized. This is the socialization that my daughter is missing. I'm okay with that. Were you to meet her, you would not identify her as a robot.

    7) pardon me for yelling but: YOU DON'T RAISE GOOD CITIZENS FOR A DEMOCRACY BY SUBJECTING THEM TO TYRANNY. Whew! Got that off my chest. My daughter was an A student in middle school. Her only interaction with administration, despite being on the honor roll, was regular reprimands for wearing a bandana -- all head coverings are gang symbols you see. With our 'zero tolerance' policies we teach our children not to think; with our multiple choice tests we teach our children not to think; with our 'follow senseless rules' we teach our children not to think, not to question. This is not leading to better, more informed citizens. Students today have a greater expectation of being told an answer, told how to behave, than they do of figuring it out, working together.

    Today, after two years of homeschooling, my daughter is less likely to take a news report at face value, to believe a quick solution will work, to keep quiet at injustice because speaking up will cost too much.

    Many early homeschoolers were liberals who didn't want their children forced into a mold, rather than conservatives who wanted to pick their own mold.

    The problem with your "solution" to the problems with schools is that you ask me to sacrifice my daughter's potential on the altar of greater good. I posit that we can't know which will lead to greater good. As a homeschooler whose love of learning is encouraged rather than squelched, she may end up discovering a cure for cancer, or cheap fuel for space exploration, or writing an exquisite symphony. As a public schooler urged, trained, nay forced not to stand out, she will be another office worker -- not meeting her potential, but not falling behind.

    I vote for education, I work with public schools, I hope for education revolution. But I will not give my daughter less than the best possible opportunity I can give her in the name of "public good."

  34. HG said: "I attended public school starting with grade K all the way through to the university level and I never once had a teacher spew any postmodern relativistic garbage ... does my anecdotal evidence cancel out yours?"

    Not necessarily. I had the same experience as you (no garbage) when I went to school in the 50s and 60s. However, my 30 yo daughter went to school in the 70s and 80s and garbage was beginning to spew. Today in the new millenium, garbage is all over the place.

    I think more people would homeschool (and understand why others are homeschooling) if they sat through today's public school classes. It's not "your father's" public school system.


  35. I'm so glad I raised so much hell with this one, that's the point of a blog, isn't it? :)

  36. Lisa Bickford:

    Great, great post. Yeah, what you wrote pretty much sums up my observations of homeschoolers and my own feelings toward it. And I agree that well-homeschooled kids like your daughter are no less likely to grow up to be valuable members of society than those who weren't homeschooled.

    Originally I was opposed to homeschooling for many of the same reasons Massimo is, but now I'm 99% sure I'd do it for my own kids for at least part of their primary and secondary ed.

    Your comments about mean girls certainly hit home with me. I had terrible social experiences from 4th-6th grade -- I was suicidal at 11 because of social ostracism and picking on done by the other girls in my grade. And when you are that age, you don't have the perspective to think, "Oh, this is just temporary. Most adults don't act this way. Underneath the other girls are probably as insecure as I am." I don't think I would have missed out on any critical life experiences had I been homeschooled during those years.

    I will say that I *do* support paying taxes to public schools. I certainly don't think people who send their kids to private schools or who homeschool them ought to get a tax exemption or refund. And I also support some kind of mandated standardized testing for homeschooled kids, in order to make sure they are meeting certain standards of learning.

  37. @ Hume's Ghost
    -I find this very hard to believe. What years did you attend public school and where? Also can you give me a definition of both relativism and postmodernism--because perhaps we are thinking of different things...

    @Lisa, you cannot be both an agnostic and an atheist at the same time, because they are mutally exclusive categories:
    atheist= you hold that God does not exist, and agnostic = you are not sure whether or not God exists

  38. "Have you read the books on how vicious middle and high school girls are to one another?"

    YES! But not only read about it, my girls either were on the giving or receiving end. (sorry to say)

    I just picked up a couple of books (part one and part two) referred to as "MEAN Girls" My girls are, today one turned 15, and the other is 16.

    And I promise, these are the funniest book covers you have ever seen! But the content on the inside is even better. :)


  39. -I find this very hard to believe.

    Yet its true.

    What years did you attend public school and where?

    Savannah, Ga. 1984-1997
    UGA 1997-2002, 2003-2004

    Also can you give me a definition of both relativism and postmodernism

    Relatavism - Truth is subjective and culturally defined,

    Postmodernism - relativism plus Heidegger and Feyerabend

  40. Your conveyor belt education along with your ignorance is showing, big time.

    I homeschool because I wish for my children to know how to think, not be told what to think.

    I was a classroom teacher for many years, and still I homeschooled my children because I did not wish for them to be indoctrinated.
    I challenge you to read, 'The Underground History of American Education' by John Taylor Gatto. It gives an excellent expose of what is REALLY going on in the educational arena in this country. Another excellent read is, 'The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America' by Charlotte Iserbyte.

    Neither of these works are light reading by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly gives one a balanced perspective of what is really going on.

    I have not homeschooled my children for religous reasons, but rather simply so that they will have the ability to think and think well.

    Here is a list worth noting:


    John Quincy Adams - U.S. President

    Konrad Adenauer - Statesman

    Hans Christian Anderson - Favored children's author

    Alexander Graham Bell - Inventor

    Pearl Buck - Pulitzer and Nobel prize winning author, humanitarian

    William F. Buckley, Jr. - Author, columnist, TV personality, and vocabulary wizard

    John Burroughs - Naturalist, author

    Andrew Carnegie - Industrialist

    George Washington Carver - Scientist

    Charles Chaplin - Actor

    Winston Churchill - Prime Minister of England

    Agatha Christie - Author

    George Rogers Clark - Explorer

    Noel Coward - Playwright

    Pierre Curie - Scientist

    Charles Dickens - Author

    Thomas Edison - Inventor

    Benjamin Franklin - Statesman, inventor, author

    William Henry Harrison - U. S. President

    Bret Hart - Author

    Patrick Henry - Statesman, author

    Stonewall Jackson - Confederate General

    Robert E. Lee - Confederate General

    C. S. Lewis - Author

    Abraham Lincoln - U. S. President

    Douglas MacArthur - U. S. Army General

    Cyrus McCormick - Inventor

    Tamara McKinley - 1983-84 World Cup skier

    James Madison - U. S. President

    Clad Mount - Artist, painter

    George Patton - U. S. Army General

    William Penn - Statesman, author, human liberty advocate

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt - U. S. President

    Woodrow Wilson - U. S. President

    Wright Brothers - Inventors

    Andrew Wyeth - Artist, painter

    Jamie Wyeth - Artist, painter

    (Special note on the Wyeth's - here is an excerpt from "A Secret Life" by Richard Marina:

    "NC (Andrews father) considered even school contaminating. The year Andrew was born, NC wrote: "The sheeplike tendency of human society soon makes inroads on a child's unsophistications, and then popular education completes the dastardly work with its systematic formulas, and away goes the individual, hurtling through space into that hateful oblivion of mediocrity. We are pruned into stumps, one resembling another, without character or grace."

    Needless to say, all of the Wyeth's were homeschooled.

    I am preparing my sons and daughter for statesmanship and that cannot be accomplished any longer with a public school education.


  41. I come from Los Angeles, and when my kids were in school there, most people who home schooled did so because it was extremely dangerous to send their kids to highschools in much of the county. We had a licensed teacher for an hour every day, and I myself have a permanent community college credential. We had a large community of friends with children so they weren't stifled socially. Home schooling to keep your kids alive is different from homeschooling for religious reasons.

  42. Here is my own odd tale to relate about home schooling. My oldest daughter skipped two grades and found herself in 10th grade a little shy of her 14th birthday. She was going to a large city (public) magnet school. She was physically attacked and had to miss a considerable amount of time from school. So the system provided tutors for the remainder of the year. She designed a curriculum for herself that would be done at home and last until she was 16. She was quite successful, basically teaching her self with some input from me. She took her GED virtually on her 16th birthday but had begun college prior to receiving it. She is now in her second year of college and doing quite well. She'll be 18 next month.

    My younger daughter wanted to drop out of 10th grade but I would not let her do that without home schooling. Since she lacked the motivation her sibling had, I was much more involved. This 4 month experiment was a success as she agreed that returning to public school was most prudent and she became an ardent anti ID proponent due to my influence.

    I relate that story because I am very much against home schooling largely for the same reasons Massimo points out. We will have stronger schools and a better chance of keeping ID out of the sciences if we keep our kids in school and remain alert and active as to the machinations of the School Boards.

    It is such an irony that with my own understanding I found myself on two occasions home schooling.

  43. @Hume's Ghost. Well, my first comment is congratulations! I mean this sincerely, as we New Yorkers have had relativism and postmodernism crammed down our throats on so many levels.

    Perhaps the fact that Savannah GA is (or was?) less liberal (for lack of a better word) than New York saved you from some of it.

    Your definition of relativism is fine; your definition of postmodernism is "ok"--PM is really more insidious than your description, however. PM have reached the point where some are nihilists... too complex to get into now.

    However, I am still a little skeptical that you were 100% shielded from relativism and postmodernism.

    Didn't one of your English teachers ever say things like there is no one true meaning of a Text? Or didn't one of your teachers ever say that Abortion has to be a woman's choice and no one elses? I remember my teachers saying these things...

    Also, whether you realize it or not public school textbooks and standardized tests have undergone quite a transformation since the 1970's (before you were born). This was done through a manipulation of language and a careful selection of material based in part on political correctness and cultural relativism. For a well documented account on this see Diane Ravitch's "The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn."

    Anyway, since you were nice enough to give me your schooling years I will tell you mine. My public schooling years for everything besides college and beyond were: 1977-1990. I also went to a state university for grad school where many of the professors laughed at the idea of "objective truth", not to mention objective knowledge, which many thought was impossible.

    I want you to know even though we had different experiences I still respect you. My indignation is against the horrible state of education in this country.

    Though I must say one last thing. David Hume? Of all the philosphers almost no one did more damage to the view of science and philosophy as causal knowledge than Hume. Only Kant in my book did more damage.

    Anyway, take care of yourself; Nice talking to you even if we do not agree...

  44. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  45. Didn't one of your English teachers ever say things like there is no one true meaning of a Text?

    No. Unless we were discussing a text where the author was purposefully ambiguous.

    Or didn't one of your teachers ever say that Abortion has to be a woman's choice and no one elses?

    No, never.

    I'm terribly unsatisfied with the education system, too. For one, I think there is not enough emphasis on critical thinking, logic, statistics, and propaganda analysis.

    About Hume, I have to disagree. He helped identify one of the central tentets of science - that our knowledge base is probable and tentative. I think Hume went to far in saying we had NO reason tp believe there are causal relations, but even Hume himself lacked the conviction to really believe that. Plus, he identified the naturalistic fallacy well before GE Moore.

  46. The comment about this being an issue of the individual vs. The State, as well as the plethora of anecdotal comments replete with the words "I", "my", and "mine", illustrate the problem better than Massimo's post itself.

    Of course, this is not a matter of individual vs. State, it is a matter of individual interest vs. the interests of society.

    Participating in any society is a tradeoff - a balance between individual freedom and the benefits derived from membership.

    In the US, in particular, we have largely purged the concepts of communitarianism, shared responsibility and shared experience, jerking wildely and dramatically toward the Randian extreme mythology that selfish individuals bumping randomly against each other like gas molecules in a container, somehow magically acheive an outcome that is best for everyone. It is not only a false cultural story, it serves the interests of those who have the greatest opportunity to make comfortable choices for themselves and their families.

    Choosing to work to improve the public education system--based on whatever flaws any of you chose to list here--vs. chosing to take care of your own--that is the real distinction, that is the real choice confronting all of us as citizens and members of a society.

    Being part of a society requires a certain surrender of ego and a generosity of spirit. If nothing else, keeping our kids insulated from the imperfections of the big bad world tends to lead to a lack of exposure to diversity--of opinion and of everything else; and lack of exposure to diversity tends to lead to intolerance; and intolerance tends to lead to fragmentation and exclusion; and fragmentation and exclusion tend to lead to the destruction of community, and of society.

    I find it interesting that 90% of the comments here are self-interested - that is, people who home-school their children or who were home-schooled, defending themselves against a perceived attack on their choices.

    Barely 10% of the comments actually address the underlying, affirmative provocative point Massimo raised, which is that society can't be made up of isolated, self-interested and protected individuals with little common ground, little common experience, and few common interests.

    It is ever more rare these days to see people speak out about and defend the interests of others. Just as I, as a white male, can choose to speak out and act against discrimination against women and minorities, so too it would be remarkably refreshing to hear home-schoolers speak out in favor of public social institutions like the school system. Would be nice, but increasingly unlikely. We are all taught these days that advocacy means standing up for your own interests, and failing to even recognize the legitimacy of competing interests.

  47. @Hume's Ghost
    Fair enough.

    Last question:
    Its this your personal blog:


  48. galiel said:

    If nothing else, keeping our kids insulated from the imperfections of the big bad world tends to lead to a lack of exposure to diversity--of opinion and of everything else; and lack of exposure to diversity tends to lead to intolerance; and intolerance tends to lead to fragmentation and exclusion; and fragmentation and exclusion tend to lead to the destruction of community, and of society.

    I'm sorry, did you miss the parts where the parents of homeschooled kids talked about how homeschooling made their kids *better* members of society? And less intolerant ones?

    That study that found kids in elite colleges who had been homeschooled not only found they tended to have better grades, they also tended to be far less materialistic and worried about fashion trends than those college students who had not been homeschooled. Tell me how this is so bad for society, will you?

    society can't be made up of isolated, self-interested and protected individuals with little common ground, little common experience, and few common interests.

    Fer chrissakes, it's not like your experience and your brain both stop at age 18. There are many, MANY other opportunities to experience "diversity" in one's lifetime. I live in a very multicultural area, so I couldn't escape diversity -- in my neighborhood, in my workplace, in my shopping malls -- even if I *wanted* to escape it.

    And it's a myth that attending public school somehow "exposes" you to diversity of cultures, experiences, and points of view. Public schools generally draw from people who live in the same general geographic area. If all of your public school students are coming from a certain suburb of Salt Lake City, it's a given that they will be 1) almost all white, 2) from middle or upper-middle class families and 3) from Mormon families.

  49. This blog doesn't allow me to reply to replies and besides I don't have time to read them all. But you invited those of us on your email list to reply, so I'd like to suggest that you READ SOME JOHN TAYLOR GATTO, an award-winning teacher. He taught school in both rich and poor neighborhoods of New York City for 20 some years. He writes about this experience, saying that in each of those situations he taught seven lessons:

    * Confusion (from the teaching of un-related ideas, disconnected facts, as they switch from math to English to social studies at the ring of a bell),

    * Class Position (through a system of rigorous testing and numbering and classification of children, which is pretty successful in keeping kids put in the lower class from moving up),

    * Indifference (saying: "I teach children not to care too much about anything, even though they want to make it appear that they do. How I do this is very subtle. I do it by demanding that they become totally involved in my lessons, jumping up and down in their seats with anticipation....But when the bell rings I insist they drop whatever it is we have been doing and proceed quickly to the next work station."),

    * Emotional Dependency (with a system of rewards and punishments, saying: "individuality is constantly trying to assert itself among children and teenagers, so my judgments come thick and fast....Sometimes free will appears right in front of me in pockets of children angry, depressed, or happy about things outside my ken; rights in such matters cannot be recognized by schoolteachers, only privileges that can be withdrawn, hostages to good behavior."),

    * Intellectual Dependency (dependent on the teacher to tell them what to study),

    * Provisional Self-Esteem (dependent on expert opinion to tell them if they're "good" or "smart"), and the seventh is that

    * One Can't Hide (he says: "I teach students they are always watched, that each is under constant surveillance by myself and my colleagues. There are no private spaces for children, there is no private time....Students are encouraged to tattle on each other....I assign a type of extended school called "homework" [and] I [even] encourage parents to file reports about their own child's waywardness."). He also reports that teachers, too, are a victim of the system. He became so dis-enchanted with it that he said: "I began to realize that the bells and the confinement, the crazy sequences, the age-segregation, the lack of privacy, the constant surveillance, and all the rest of the national curriculum of schooling were designed exactly as if someone had set out to prevent children from learning how to think and act, to coax them into addiction and dependent behavior."

    Good homeschooling does not teach these things. Granted there is good homeschooling and bad homeschooling, but almost all institutional schooling teaches the above. I'm guessing your other readers will or have told you how their teachings can be high-quality and how homeschooling does not mean "only schooling at home with parents as the only teacher".

  50. Galiel said: "Barely 10% of the comments actually address the point...that society can't be made up of isolated, self-interested and protected individuals with little common ground, little common experience, and few common interests."

    I disagree that only 10% of the pro-homeschool posts addressed that point. Most of the posts at least implied from their experience that homeschooled children are turning out to be civic-minded free-thinkers, able to socialize with a diverse population.

    And I disagree that homeschoolers turn out as you described while public school students turn out the opposite way. I was publically schooled from K-college and my children are being homeschooled. While I turned out close to your description (isolated), my children are turning out much the opposite.

    In addition, as Adrienne pointed out: "it's not like your experience and your brain both stop at age 18." I continued to learn to mix with diverse cultures and ideas so now at 54 I can do so easily. Not that I buy every idea that comes along, because I'm not a relavist and I do believe in absolute truth.

    In summary, public school trained me wrong but I recovered. Homeschooling is getting my children off to a great start as useful members of society.

  51. I'm loving this thread! Thanks to everyone for the feedback.

    One small comment, about Adrienne's contention that we keep learning after we turn 18. Yes, some of us surely do. But there is plenty of evidence that the most formative years are the early ones, which is where home schooling can do the most damage. Later on, home schooling can be damaging simply because most people don't actually have the know-how to teach disciplines as diverse as English literature and math.

    And this, of course, ignores the major point I was making (as pointed out by galiel) about the trade-offs, and even duties, of living in a society, as opposed to a random assortment of individuals. But again, just my two cents, keep at it! :)

  52. I'm scrolling through the comments and not quite midway I run across this absurdity: "Here in California, public kindergarteners are expected to be 'taught tolerance' by 'acting out' same-sex intercourse with adults during class." Anyone wish to explain that one?

  53. That was, of course, an anonymous post. I wish people would stop posting anonymously, and I am considering allowing posts only to registered users (since it's easy to register, this shouldn't be too much of a deterrent for serious contributors).

  54. home schooling can be damaging

    //Gloves off://
    Anyone who still thinks this after reading today's posts about it must (IMO) be biased and must not have any homeschooling experience. They are also ignoring all the damaging that has been done in public schools, as posted about today.

    trade-offs, and even duties, of living in a society

    Again, take a look at what today's pro-homeschool posts have said about how their homeschooled children are turning out to be valuable members of society. Take a look at the long list of valuable famous people who were homeschooled in libermom's post. Take a look at the public schools of Germany, which turned out robots who were perfectly suited for the society that the government created, and willing participated in the holocaust. Public schools in the US are heading strongly in that robotic direction.

    //Gloves back on, maybe.//

  55. I have read all the posts, and still thinking about much of what has been said. But of course the point isn't to convince _me_, it is to have an open discussion.

    Your comment about Germany, by the way, is unfair (because under a dictatorship, "public" schools ain't public any more), and can be easily countered with the example of the good to excellent public school systems existing in many places in Europe today.

  56. Massimo please do not lock out anonymous posters. Some of us need the anonymity to post because if our workplace found out what we posted we might be fired.

    The internet is one of the truly free places where one can communicate without censorship.

    Please reconsider.

  57. Also, I would actually appreciate if people on this blog would _always_ keep their gloves on. Pointed criticisms are ok, personal attacks will be mercilessly deleted. Thanks!

  58. Anonymous (but which one? :) my understanding is that registering with blogger allows you to pick a username, which doesn't have to be your actual name. This preserves true anonymity but reduces the confusion caused by several people posting under the generic heading of "anonymous."

  59. There is an assumption being made that the only way society can benefit from children is if they are sent to public schools. I fail to see the connection myself. Society can be and is benefitted by diversity, educational diversity included. I have yet to meet a homeschooler who has managed to find an interdimensional pocket that they can use to completely insulate themselves from the rights and responsibilites of the society they inhabit, and I've never met one who would want to use it. The ones I have met believe that they are fostering a better connection with society by encouraging independent thought and solid analytical skills, rather than group mentality and rote memorization. Adaptability and flexibility are paramount job skills in today's society -- and they need to be wedded to some pretty down to earth ethics. Public schools aren't equipped to do this -- they aren't terribly adaptable or flexible themselves.

    Oh, and I couldn't let the mechanic/doctor/whatever else pass :). While I wouldn't rebuild my engine (lack of equipment and knowledge) I have rebuilt a carburetor; I wouldn't perform surgery but I can treat scraped knees and triage fairly well; when the heater persisted in going out I was the one who crawled up on the roof to fix it (every single component has been replaced...but it was a 20-year-old system [G]). Nobody can know everything, it's true, but we often know more than we think we do -- and we usually know when to hire an expert when one is needed. Likewise, if I don't like my mechanic, or doctor, or heating expert, I can go get another one that better fits my needs. Public schools are set up so that particular sort of shopping is impossible; one-size-fits-all solutions are pushed as the only course of action. If a child is ready for advanced math, why keep them working at their 'grade level'? If they're writing complete and coherent paragraphs, why insist that they relearn the alphabet? I've seen this happen time and time again at the elementary level, and I've seen the same tired old canards being trotted out to rationalize it. We're told that there is so much 'enrichment' going on in the classroom environment that it doesn't matter that the child isn't being taught anything. My child doesn't need 'enriching', he needs teaching -- at his level. I think this could be done in public education, but even if I were successful in changing the system, it would take too long to benefit my child. Why should I, or any other parent, sacrifice my child to this system? What's the point of ruining a child just to prove solidarity? It's a false dichotomy to imply that because someone chooses to privately educate their child, they can't work to improve the public school system. One does not have to have a child in public school to be concerned about what goes on there.

  60. Goodness, so much has been said already, I have been reluctant to add my two cents, lest it be lost in the debate. But in the end, I decided to post. So here it goes...

    I am a homeschooling mom of 3 kiddos in California. I’ve thought a lot about one’s individual desires versus collective interests of society. One of the things that I’ve concluded, is that public school does not teach about the collective interests of society. It teaches children about the interests of the teachers and the system. It teaches children that their individual needs and abilities are less important than the expectations and desires of the people in power; the collective interests of society is not part of the every day lives of children in school. Schools don't teach children about how to live in a society, it’s teaching them how to live under someone’s rule.

    I suppose homeschooling can teach that too, but I have only been witness to a few situations where this has happened. But this authoritarian suppression is not universal in homeschooling, that’s for sure. In school however, this blind adherence to authority is universally taught. Those who do not comply, are punished in one way or another. It really doesn’t matter if a child shows his unique strengths, nor does it matter if a child is benefiting from the things he learns, so long as he lives up to his teacher’s expectations.

    One of the many reasons why our family chose to homeschool, is because we want our children to be part of the society they live in from childhood, not ushered away into a building everyday, cloistered away from the world around them, dealing with issues mainly on their own with scant adult guidance. We want our children involved and “out there” in the day to day hustle and bustle of life, with an adult companion to show them how things work. We want them to see people of all different kinds, every day, to see that the world is full of different kinds of people. And, we want them to be able to make friends with all different kinds of people, of all ages, and all backgrounds, and not to discriminate based on age, sex, or social class. So our reasons for homeschooling are the exact same arguments made here against homeschooling – because we want our children to see how it really is in the world. The world looks very little like school. We want our kids to learn to live and work and to want to be a productive member of society, because the society they live in *means* something to them, rather than being something unspecific that is the adult world.

    Speaking in general terms about whether kids should be in public school or whether homeschooling is good for our society, I will argue that the best thing for our society is to have children growing up happy, successful, confident and compassionate. Whatever form of education works to bring a child to this kind of life, no matter what “facts” are taught, is going to be a positive addition to our society. And with so many kids in public schools failing at all of these criteria, it comforts me to know that at least parents have a choice other than public education and expensive private schools that allow them to do what’s best for their children and their families. Facts can be learned rather quickly. Self-confidence and a feeling of closeness to the world around us is learned over a lifetime of experiences.

    Homeschooling and public schooling – neither are the black and white blanket answer for all children and families. It’s wonderful that a free education exists to anyone who wants to partake of that offering. It’s also wonderful that families can also choose to stay together and learn together in a different way if that is more appropriate for them. There are even more options out there, which vary depending on which state you live in.

    I don’t like what public school is doing to our children and to our families, and I don’t like they way that information is distributed in a forced school situation, but I recognize that most children do come out of the public school system “just fine” and go on to successful lives and happiness. A fulfilled childhood really boils down to invested, attentive and involved parents, as well as a little luck not to be exposed to too many negative experiences without parental adult guidance, that give the best chance for successful and happy children. I personally think that schools make this a much more difficult task with all the demands it places on students and parents that have nothing to do with real learning, but it is indeed possible. And, I also think that homeschooling by bringing public schools home also makes this difficult, but that is for another discussion entirely ☺

    For us, there was never a question of whether our children would succeed, in school or out of it. We trust that they will. The deciding factor for us (and I know this is a personal anecdote, but that’s all we got folks), was how do we want to spend our children’s formative years? Do we want to spend these years on a daily struggle to get the kids to do schoolwork and deal with all the things that come with public school? Or do we want to spend our days happily enjoying one another and exploring the world together without all the arbitrary demands placed on our family by an outside entity? So far, the latter choice has been wonderful for us. I am thankful every day that we have a choice, because we are peaceful, happy and have lots of time to do the things we love to do, together. And gosh darn it, we also learn stuff!

    And before you ask, we are ambiguously non-religious, very active in the community and try not to make judgments on things that we know very little about, well, unless we’re trying to stir up a debate.

  61. “...this, of course, ignores the major point I was making (as pointed out by galiel) about the trade-offs, and even duties, of living in a society, as opposed to a random assortment of individuals.”

    I may be misunderstanding the meaning of this statement (and please correct me if I am) but this seems to border on false dilemma to me. Just because someone decides that public schools aren’t working, either for their own children or as an institution, does not mean they don’t support society as a whole. Besides, we all have our own opinions on how best to serve society (or how society would best serve us).
    Duties. Trade-offs. Every society has them . But, again, what that means for us, living in a democratic republic, depends entirely upon the individual and whether that individual gets other individuals to see things her way. I, personally, don’t see a need to put all of society’s eggs (i.e. education) in one ideological basket (i.e. public schools). Having a diversity of options seems to work better than simply trying to get everything (or everyone) to fit the same mold.

    By the way professor Pigliucci, good job finding the one subject on this blog that has more people siding with Cal (however provisionally) than with you. One wonders if you planned it that way.

    Noah (the blogger formerly known as Jer)

  62. Science and Engineering College Grads compose the backbone of the US Middle Class. How does Home Schooling help kids get ready for college-level courses in S&E?
    Sorry, I don't see that as probable.

    Demand Still High for S&E Grads
    By Bruce E. Phillips
    Mar 7, 2005, 11:10

    Despite headlines announcing cutbacks in the computer industry work force and the growth of manufacturing in Asia for the sector, the employment picture still looks bright for highly qualified U.S. science and engineering grads. Every two years, the National Science Foundation's National Science Board collects trends in science and technology nationwide. Based on the data collected in 2004, the NSB concludes that, "If the trends identified in 'Indicators 2004' continue undeterred, three things will happen. The number of jobs in the U.S. economy that require science and engineering training will grow; the number of U.S. citizens prepared for those jobs will at best be level; and the availability of people from other countries who have science and engineering training will decline...."

    The NSB estimates the number of jobs requiring science and engineering skills in the U.S. labor force is growing almost 5 percent per year, compared with a little more than 1 percent for the rest of the economy.

    Several factors are responsible for the shortage of S&E talent in America: The baby boomers who make up the existing work force are about to retire and need to be replaced, and there aren't enough qualified employees to take their place. Limits to the entry of foreign-born citizens, imposed by national security restrictions or by intense global competition for people with skills, have slowed immigration. And, finally, the U.S. is not graduating sufficient numbers of S&E students to fill the gap.

    For the full report, go to http://www.nsf.gov/nsb, and click on "Science and Engineering Indicators Report, 2004."

    Some Good News for the IT Sector, Too

    The IT sector should also grow in 2005, according to a December 2004 report by job search consultants Robert Half Technology (http://www.rhi.com). The company's poll of 1,400 CIOs nationwide revealed a projected net 9 percent increase in IT personnel for the first quarter of 2005.

    © Copyright 2004 by Career Communications Group, Inc.

    Also consider:
    The Rise Of India
    Growth is only just starting, but the country's brainpower is already reshaping Corporate America

    As you pull into General Electric's (GE ) John F. Welch Technology Center, a uniformed guard waves you through an iron gate. Once inside, you leave the dusty, traffic-clogged streets of Bangalore and enter a leafy campus of low buildings that gleam in the sun. Bright hallways lined with plants and abstract art -- "it encourages creativity," explains a manager -- lead through laboratories where physicists, chemists, metallurgists, and computer engineers huddle over gurgling beakers, electron microscopes, and spectrophotometers. Except for the female engineers wearing saris and the soothing Hindi pop music wafting through the open-air dining pavilion, this could be GE's giant research-and-development facility in the upstate New York town of Niskayuna.

    It's more like Niskayuna than you might think. The center's 1,800 engineers -- a quarter of them have PhDs -- are engaged in fundamental research for most of GE's 13 divisions. In one lab, they tweak the aerodynamic designs of turbine-engine blades. In another, they're scrutinizing the molecular structure of materials to be used in DVDs for short-term use in which the movie is automatically erased after a few days. In another, technicians have rigged up a working model of a GE plastics plant in Spain and devised a way to boost output there by 20%. Patents? Engineers here have filed for 95 in the U.S. since the center opened in 2000.

    Pretty impressive for a place that just four years ago was a fallow plot of land. Even more impressive, the Bangalore operation has become vital to the future of one of America's biggest, most profitable companies. "The game here really isn't about saving costs but to speed innovation and generate growth for the company," explains Bolivian-born Managing Director Guillermo Wille, one of the center's few non-Indians.

    The Welch center is at the vanguard of one of the biggest mind-melds in history. Plenty of Americans know of India's inexpensive software writers and have figured out that the nice clerk who booked their air ticket is in Delhi. But these are just superficial signs of India's capabilities. Quietly but with breathtaking speed, India and its millions of world-class engineering, business, and medical graduates are becoming enmeshed in America's New Economy in ways most of us barely imagine. "India has always had brilliant, educated people," says tech-trend forecaster Paul Saffo of the Institute for the Future in Menlo Park, Calif. "Now Indians are taking the lead in colonizing cyberspace."

    This techno take-off is wonderful for India -- but terrifying for many Americans. In fact, India's emergence is fast turning into the latest Rorschach test on globalization. Many see India's digital workers as bearers of new prosperity to a deserving nation and vital partners of Corporate America. Others see them as shock troops in the final assault on good-paying jobs. Howard Rubin, executive vice-president of Meta Group Inc., a Stamford (Conn.) information-technology consultant, notes that big U.S. companies are shedding 500 to 2,000 IT staffers at a time. "These people won't get reabsorbed into the workforce until they get the right skills," he says. Even Indian execs see the problem. "What happened in manufacturing is happening in services," says Azim H. Premji, chairman of IT supplier Wipro Ltd. "That raises a lot of social issues for the U.S."

    No wonder India is at the center of a brewing storm in America, where politicians are starting to view offshore outsourcing as the root of the jobless recovery in tech and services. An outcry in Indiana recently prompted the state to cancel a $15 million IT contract with India's Tata Consulting. The telecom workers' union is up in arms, and Congress is probing whether the security of financial and medical records is at risk. As hiring explodes in India, the jobless rate among U.S. software engineers has more than doubled, to 4.6%, in three years. The rate is 6.7% for electrical engineers and 7.7% for network administrators. In all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 234,000 IT professionals are unemployed.

    The biggest cause of job losses, of course, has been the U.S. economic downturn. Still, there's little denying that the offshore shift is a factor. By some estimates, there are more IT engineers in Bangalore (150,000) than in Silicon Valley (120,000). Meta figures at least one-third of new IT development work for big U.S. companies is done overseas, with India the biggest site. And India could start grabbing jobs from other sectors. A.T. Kearney Inc. predicts that 500,000 financial-services jobs will go offshore by 2008. Indiana notwithstanding, U.S. governments are increasingly using India to manage everything from accounting to their food-stamp programs. Even the U.S. Postal Service is taking work there. Auto engineering and drug research could be next.

    More Science in Schools
    Tech luminary Andrew S. Grove, CEO of Intel Corp. (INTC ), warns that "it's a very valid question" to ask whether America could eventually lose its overwhelming dominance in IT, just as it did in electronics manufacturing. Plunging global telecom costs, lower engineering wages abroad, and new interactive-design software are driving revolutionary change, Grove said at a software conference in October. "From a technical and productivity standpoint, the engineer sitting 6,000 miles away might as well be in the next cubicle and on the local area network." To maintain America's edge, he said, Washington and U.S. industry must double software productivity through more R&D investment and science education.

    But there's also a far more positive view -- that harnessing Indian brainpower will greatly boost American tech and services leadership by filling a big projected shortfall in skilled labor as baby boomers retire. That's especially possible with smarter U.S. policy. Companies from GE Medical Systems (GE ) to Cummins (CUM ) to Microsoft (MSFT ) to enterprise-software firm PeopleSoft (PSFT ) that are hiring in India say they aren't laying off any U.S. engineers. Instead, by augmenting their U.S. R&D teams with the 260,000 engineers pumped out by Indian schools each year, they can afford to throw many more brains at a task and speed up product launches, develop more prototypes, and upgrade quality. A top electrical or chemical engineering grad from Indian Institutes of Technology (IITS) earns about $10,000 a year -- roughly one-eighth of U.S. starting pay. Says Rajat Gupta, an IIT-Delhi grad and senior partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Co.: "Offshoring work will spur innovation, job creation, and dramatic increases in productivity that will be passed on to the consumer."

    Whether you regard the trend as disruptive or benefical, one thing is clear. Corporate America no longer feels it can afford to ignore India. "There's just no place left to squeeze" costs in the U.S., says Chris Disher, a Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. outsourcing specialist. "That's why every CEO is looking at India, and every board is asking about it." neoIT, a consultant advising U.S. clients on how to set up shop in India, says it has been deluged by big companies that have been slow to move offshore. "It is getting to a state where companies are literally desperate," says Bangalore-based neoIT managing partner Avinash Vashistha.

    As a result of this shift, few aspects of U.S. business remain untouched. The hidden hands of skilled Indians are present in the interactive Web sites of companies such as Lehman Brothers (LEH ) and Boeing (BA ), display ads in your Yellow Pages, and the electronic circuitry powering your Apple Computer (AAPL ) iPod. While Wall Street sleeps, Indian analysts digest the latest financial disclosures of U.S. companies and file reports in time for the next trading day. Indian staff troll the private medical and financial records of U.S. consumers to help determine if they are good risks for insurance policies, mortgages, or credit cards from American Express Co. (AXP ) and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM ).

    More here: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/03_49/b3861001_mz001.htm

  63. Tired of homeschool rantsOctober 26, 2005 1:53 AM

    I honestly do not even know where to begin to comment on the ignorance of this article.

    It is obvious this person knows very little about homeschooling the homeschooled child or the community at large.

    There are far more negatives to placing a child in a Public or Private school situation than in homeschooling.

    The author also has bought the lies about lack of diversity/socialization in the lives of homeschooled children.

    It also is quite apparent the author has not seen the studies on how the homeschooled student does academically and or what htey are involved in socially; nor has he taken time to see the broad range of socioeconomic backgrounds homeschoolers comprise.

    In short the author to use a much over used phrase "IS CLUELESS"

    Just sign me tired of these types of anti-choice elitist socialistic rants.

  64. It seems most people just skim the article and start shooting their guns off without actually addressing the specific points made :)

  65. Jim said:
    One of your own comments was that the student to teacher ratio was the best predictor of student performance.

    Homeschooling actually provides the best student to teacher ratio of all, and not only that, but a parent who is committed to the well-being of a child through all aspects of life is in my opinion just as well equipped as a professional teacher to help that child succeed. The parent will continue to persevere with a child that is having difficulty or expand opportunities and challenges for a gifted child where the public school system may not be able to.

    That's the other issue here: differing definitions of the word success surrounding education.

    The massive age-segregated system of education we have today is a new phenomenon compared to home education. All through the ages instruction has been rightly understood as the duty of the parents. Are the children the responsibility of the parents, or are they the property of the state?

    enough for now...

  66. Wow. I just discovered that Massimo has transformed his Rationally Speaking column into a blog format.

    I just want to congratulate all the above commentor's on a great thread.

    I had no particularly strong viewpoint either way on this topic, though on the surface would have tended to agree with Massimo's initial assertions.

    However, I believe the pro-home school comments have won me over -- albeit with the disclaimer that readers of this blog may be more rationally minded than the average home schooling parent (I hope that is not too much of a sweeping generalization).

    Not that I would necessarily home school my own kids (I probably lack the patience), but if the majority of home schoolers were as those represented here I see little inherently dangerous with the concept in the ways that the intial post was implying.

  67. Someone asked: "How does Home Schooling help kids get ready for college-level courses in S&E?"

    You may have seen the studies that show an achievement gap between publically-schooled students and homeschooled students. For example, in my city, public school students score (on average) at the 40 percentile level, private school students score at the 60%ile level, and homeschoolers score at the 80%ile level. /brag on/ My homeschooled kids scored at the 80% /brag off/.

    What you may not have seen is that studies show that the achievement gap widens for high school students who are in public vs. home schools. You may also not have heard that homeschooled graduates are widely sought for admission by a variety of colleges and universities (my alma mater included). Not only for their high SAT/ACT test scores, but also for their good study habits and high civic involvement (social skills?). All that, coupled with the fact that some children have a natural aptitude for science or engineering, and will seek them out as careers no matter how they are schooled, means that S&E careers are in no danger of declining just because the homeschooling movement is growing.

  68. Regarding "Clueless" comments:

    Look in the mirror and you'll see it's ugly in there. Want proof? The proof is not what American's wish but based on actual observable behaviors and facts. The fact is - educational commitment to advancing science and engineering grads in China and India exceeds the US commitment to the same. Could anyone possbily think that home schools adds rather than subtracts from the pool of US students in college? Why would a K-12 home education conceivably exceed that of a good, well supported public school based on taxpayer's commitments? The resource is dollars committed. Americans just don't make the connection...

    Rue the day when Asia exceeds the US in biotech research due to ideological issues...


  69. Hmmm... As Galiel pointed out up there, I've read VERY little besides "me, myself and I". Fine, you have to have your kid's best interest in mind no matter what. I would surely try to do the same.

    Anyway, in a way similar to what Alan said, I also got much less scared about home schooling than I was before reading most of the postings here. I'll sure not have a knee jerk reaction of horror if I hear somebody is homeschooling their kids, at least, since there seems to be evidence it can be well done. And some research (which I admit I didn't look up, and won't) that says the kids can do well academically. But (and there's always one), I still have reservations with some of the arguments presented.

    Adrienne said:
    I'm sorry, did you miss the parts where the parents of homeschooled kids talked about how homeschooling made their kids *better* members of society? And less intolerant ones?

    Sorry, Adrienne, but I'm a cynical of the classical type.
    What do you expect homechooling people to say about their own kids? That they raised troglodytic misanthropes? I'm not saying their kids are NOT all they say, but I guess you get my point about that type of argument.

    Another observation, about the long list of notable homeschooled people. This kind of thing always annoys me. Kinda silly and ineffective tactic from an "intellectual honesty" point of view, if you pardon me. It might impress some (as seem in a post here), but it's just not meaningful. I mean, if you mine the data enough, you can come up with a list of serial killers, criminals, antisocial types, dictators and whatnot who were homeschooled. Or a list of even more notable and brilliant people than presented above, but who went to public school. Or sociopaths and assassins who went to private school. Or... you get the point, I guess.

    And finally, I've seem no clear refutation to my warning that abandoning the public services will lead to their degradation - which means you either agree it to be the case or don't care? Well, there was a bit of timid "I would care anyway" or "I vote with public education in mind" kind of thing. But, again from the experience of my society, the vast majority of people won't care much anymore after they put their kids in home or private schooling. Just enough to say "oh, that's so bad" when they hear the reports about abysmal public ed. situation, and forget it right away. They'll be too busy homeschooling or working their asses off to get money for private school.

    So what, if the public system degrades? Well, I don't care about all of you geniuses who manage to raise such wonderful and socially adjusted kids who have such great academic achievements. You're abviously doing fine and I'm happy for you. I'm worried about the huge mass of people out there who can't even judge very well if their kids school is being adequate or not, let alone homeschool them. You'll say again that these people are proof that public education failed. I don't buy that for a simple reason: school systems were not designed to form teachers, right? If you where fortunate enough to have additional formation that made you a good substitute for professional teachers, good. If you stopped at high school level, or less, for whatever reason...

    Anyway, nice, long discussion. :-)


  70. J wrote:

    What do you expect homechooling people to say about their own kids?

    I'm basing this on what I have read about studies on homeschoolers (and not all of these studies are conducted by HDSLA). And on my own anecdotal experience with homeschooled kids.

    I've read VERY little besides "me, myself and I".

    Sorry, I don't see parents' concern for their own children's welfare to be all about "me, myself, and I".

    But, again from the experience of my society, the vast majority of people won't care much anymore after they put their kids in home or private schooling.

    And yet, this is contradicted by what's happening in this country as we write. Despite the fact that religious conservatives hate to put their kids in public schools, they certainly haven't given up any interest in trying to run the public schools, have they? Why do you think all these ID fights are taking place? Religious-right Christians made it a point of policy to take over local schoolboards in the US to push their agenda, regardless of whether their own kids went to the public schools or not. Maybe it's time liberals adopted the same strategy, regardless of where their own kids go to school.

  71. If you have read books on "Cognitive Science" you will see that traditional schooling does almost nothing except silences one's "inner seeker", kills the love learning, consumes one's entire childhood and fills it with stress, and consumes the motherload of extorted tax funds.

    We have all been programed from age 4 to think exactly what you have posted here. Until you learn to overcome that program, open your eyes, and question your pride, you will never learn anything new. If this helps, you can start with Steven Pinker or John Holt. It is obvious to those of us who study cognitive science that what you are saying comes from your opinion and limited personal experience only.

  72. J said: "I'm worried about the huge mass of people out there who can't even judge very well if their kids school is being adequate or not, let alone homeschool them."

    Hey, I don't think most of you skeptics (about homeschooling) know personally any of the huge mass of people out there. I think you just heard about them (us?) in the (biased elitist) mass media. Do you skeptics all live in big cities where no one talks to each other?

    I've got good news for you. I have lived in four states for about 12 years each (NY, Ohio, Texas, and Minnesota) in small villages and large cities. All of these places are populated with real people, most of whom are capable of homeschooling their children very competently. And I've spent time in 48 of the 50 states; I haven't found a state populated with a huge mass of incompetents yet. Maybe they all moved to Alaska and Hawaii?

    C'mon, 'fess up. Do you personally know a sufficient number of people that match your description so that you can make claims like this?

  73. Sigh... I'm starting to worry about your reading skills, people. Or, more probably, about MY writing skills.

    So, to the slow among you, I'll repeat myself and then explain again:

    Anyway, in a way similar to what Alan said, I also got much less scared about home schooling than I was before reading most of the postings here. I'll sure not have a knee jerk reaction of horror if I hear somebody is homeschooling their kids, at least, since there seems to be evidence it can be well done. And some research (which I admit I didn't look up, and won't) that says the kids can do well academically. But (and there's always one), I still have reservations with some of the arguments presented.

    There you go, I wrote slowly so you have time to read it. Now I'll say in other words: the arguments PRO homeschooling did change my mind quite a bit - although I can't say I'd homeschool myself, or that it is necessarily the solution to all educational evil. The "but" in the end was against SOME types of argument presented, not against the conclusion itself. And most certainly I've never meant that homeschooling should be banned or anything like that! After all, I'm a sympathizer of anarchist ideals... :-)

    Adrienne, now I'll repeat yourself:

    ...did you miss the parts where the parents of homeschooled kids talked...

    Then you say:

    I'm basing this on what I have read about studies on homeschoolers...

    So, which one do you want to keep?? I can't read your mind, so if you first talk about "missing the parents talking about their children", I can't conclude that you're basing yourself on studies. Right?

    C'mon, 'fess up. Do you personally know a sufficient number of people that match your description so that you can make claims like this?

    Well, Mike, I might not know that many people to make a significant statistic (do you, really?), but I've seen the conditions quite a few people live here in Richmond, VA. And there was those interesting and sad charts, just before hurricane Rita struck, showing the poverty percentage in the areas at risk (all around 25%). And what was that percentage of people in the US who believe in literal creationism, again? I don't remember the exact number, but it was something pretty high. I would guess that's an interesting indicator of their science education and critical thinking capabilities. But maybe not.

    About your extensive wanderings around the country, that's all fine and nice, sure I must have seen much more that I did. But I'd like to know: have you really been all over the place? Have you lived in the trailers? In the containers-style houses I see around here? In the physically degraded neighborhoods? Or did you always stay in the comfortable middle class suburbs, among the likes of all of us who write in this blog?

    All of these places are populated with real people, most of whom are capable of homeschooling their children very competently.

    Wow, that's impressive, being able to judge that about "most real people" all over the continental US. I'd suggest you get a position as Secretary of Education (did I invent this term?) and save us all.


    I suppose you were answering to me. I was not exactly defending "traditional schooling", although I probably did not emphasize when I wrote - I did include private schooling (that counts as traditional, right?) as a problem. And I was not attacking homeschooling for what it is either, as I repeated above. I was worried about the (further) degradation of the public system. OK, the traditional system is not good, but why not change it to be better? That was the point, and it's more a phylospphical one, I guess. I have the impression you're happy to see public schools disappear. If that's the case, it's fine, it's your opinion. I'll probably stick to mine a while longer. Mayeb because I was "traditional schooled".

    Actually, I don't even claim to be right, guys. I do acknowledge my ignorance, specially on this subject. I just can't swallow any badly sketched argument that's thrown at me before some fight. I have to point out when your arguments seem weak or your tactics seem falacious to me, or stuff like that - and I welcome you to argue I'm wrong. And I'm glad if you can point my mistakes too, for that matter.


  74. j -- you're not crazy. ;) or reading-impaired.

    I formed my opinions on homeschooling based on what I've read and who I've met, but I also thought that the parents of homeschooled kids on this forum did a good job of defending how their own kids have turned out. Fair enough?

  75. So arrogant... Just like most 'overworked' teachers... It would be great to see you spending your time cleaning out the incompetent teachers, pedophiles and general idiots from your proffession instead of defending it.

  76. That is a nasty, pretty stupid, comment, and of course it is by a generic "anonymous." How sad.

  77. j -- you're not crazy.;)

    Phew... Not yet, at least. :O)

    Thanks, Adrienne, it sure is fair enough. :-)

    Now, regarding cowardly ad hominem attacks... Even if it gets a bit heated in the discussion, as is normal and understandable when people passionately believe in something, I'll try not to lower myself to the wormy level of that comment. I'll only consider debating ideas.


  78. J said: "And what was that percentage of people in the US who believe in literal creationism, again? I don't remember the exact number, but it was something pretty high. I would guess that's an interesting indicator of their science education and critical thinking capabilities. But maybe not."

    The percentage is about half the people in the United States and about 60% think that creation should be added to the classroom.

    It IS an interesting indicator, because scientific discoveries during the last 10-15 years have shown that the theory of evolution has very little evidence to support it. The only reason it is still around is because its proponents have redefined science to apply to only natural causes. They define any solutions that refer to God as religion, not science, therefore unscientific.

    Note 1: I realize this is a homeschooling thread and evolution is off-topic. I won't be replying about it on this thread, but if someone would like to post a URL where this creation discussion would be on-topic, I'll be happy to continue defending the education and intellects of half the population.

    Note 2: Some define evolution as adaptation (and survival of those adaptations), such as finch beaks that lengthen. Of course adaptation happens (and fit adaptations survive). But true (non-creation) evolution does not stop there. It goes on to say that all life, indead, the entire universe, happened from chaos. But no one has seen any species turn into any other species, nor are there transitional fossils. No one has seen life generated from primordial soup. And no one has seen an orderly earth generated from chaos (with no chaos left to be found). Those who are making theories about how these happened are not using science.

  79. The notion of “creative” powers of Chaos comes directly from ancient Greek mythology. (secular sources even agree w/me on this) As does a great number of secular humanist tenets. I think most humanists never stop to think it through.

    Myth vs. Science
    Questions closely related to the nature of myth are "what is truth?" and "how do we know anything?" It seems fair to say that myth is not the same as scientific fact, but what exactly does even that mean? If we look at one of the ancient Greek creation stories, the world was originally Chaos. From Chaos suddenly Order appeared, and from the conflict between the two of them, all else in the world was created. Did the Greeks think of this as the literal truth? How would they know for sure? Perhaps they extrapolated from their observations and powers of reasoning to construct this world view as an allegory.


  80. Mike Ebbers said:

    ...scientific discoveries during the last 10-15 years have shown that the theory of evolution has very little evidence to support it. The only reason it is still around is because its proponents have redefined science to apply to only natural causes. They define any solutions that refer to God as religion, not science, therefore unscientific.

    Oh man, those are fightin' words around here. You do know that Massimo is an evolutionary biologist, right? So what do you think he does for a living -- sits around making up new ways to trick the populace into believing in "evolutionism"?

  81. "scientific discoveries during the last 10-15 years have shown that the theory of evolution has very little evidence to support it. The only reason it is still around is because its proponents have redefined science to apply to only natural causes. They define any solutions that refer to God as religion, not science, therefore unscientific."

    First off, there are absolutely no scientific discoveries that threaten the modern theory of evolution. If you know of any, I'd like you to share such knowledge. As a professional scientist I'm apparently unaware of it. (And if you are referring to either Michael Behe's stuff on the bacterial flagellum or Jonathan Wells' "icons" of evolution, they are both a load of dingo kidneys, for reasons that I've amply explained elsewhere.)

    Second, science is defined by the fact that it can only study the natural, not the supernatural. When was the last time you actually saw somebody putting God under the microscope, my friend? Not only scientists approach it this way (it's called methodological naturalism), but philosophers of science too. The only people who disagree are theologically-biased bozos such as Bill Dembski and Phillips Johnson. Back to you.

  82. "First off, there are absolutely no scientific discoveries that threaten the modern theory of evolution."

    You just won't entertain them, however.

    I've straighforwardly (meaning, there is no "trap" in the verbiage) asked for you to think some ideas through a few times, and there is not even a marginal attempt to refute. And I KNOW that if it was entirely worthless and pointless I'm sure you'd say so. But you don't, so I'm just left to wonder if you will not entertain ideas at all that you consider to be a potential problem for what you've invested a lot of your life and time to.


    If you only will engage in ideas that strictly CONFIRM what you already believe to be true, what do we call that again?


  83. M says, "As a professional scientist I'm apparently unaware of it. (And if you are referring to either Michael Behe's stuff on the bacterial flagellum or Jonathan Wells' "icons" of evolution, they are both a load of dingo kidneys, for reasons that I've amply explained elsewhere.)"

    Well, I recind my statement that I will not respond to postings on evolution (to avoid clogging a homeschooling thread), since the blog owner is a professional scientist and doesn't mind changing the topic of this thread. And no, I didn't know he was a biologist. For all I knew, he was a public school teacher, or a computer geek like me.

    Massimo, I'd like to read your argument against Behe's stuff, since that is one of the scientific discoveries that I had in mind. Please post a link or let me know if I can search your site to find this.

    I did think (and still will, until I have read your counterargument) that in 1992 microbiologists discovered that each cell has 10,000 complex structures, each of which is interdependent. This shows that the cell could not have evolved.

    I also did think (let me know where to read that I am wrong) that the discovery of DNA shows that genetic information is lost when mutations occur. Also that the vast number of mutations are harmful. For both of those reasons, it is impossible for organisms to mutate to a more complex structure. And Darwinian evolution needs to have helpful mutations, or his theory falls apart. Right?

    I also did think that scientists have recently observed a lot of processes take place quickly that had been thought to take millions of years. These include the canyons of Mt. St. Helens and the production of coal and diamonds in just hours or days. I am sorry that I can't buy punctuated equilibrium off the top of my head, where changes occur very quickly and thus are not fossilized. That doesn't sound scientific to me, yet I'd love to have you point me to a site that explains why it is true science.

    I also did read that many known new rocks and other items have been scientifically dated to be millions of years old. My interpretation of that is that the dating process could have a few bugs.

    I also thought that scientists had discovered unfossilized dinosaur bones with blood cells in them near the Arctic Circle.

    And I honestly thought that scientists had taken a look at the eye and ear structures with various microscopes and found amazing functions that could not have evolved. For example, the cilia in the ear canal "do the wave" to move chunks of ear wax containing foreign matter out. These are not random motions; how did they evolve? Similarly, the ovarian tubes have catchers mitts to capture the egg, then the cilia move it into the vagina. How did the cilia and the catcher's mitt evolve at the same time and what superiority did this system have that caused it to survive such that now all females have it, with no other vestiges in sight? The eye has skin that is opaque except where it needs to be clear, at the cornea. How did it know to be clear at that exact location? And the image is transmitted upside down to the retina, except for the octopus eye. Why do not 50% of the eyes have upright images? I'd love to read an explanation of how all those functions in the eye, ear, and reproduction system evolved at once in amazing coincidences through mutations and natural selection. Please point me to that URL or at least let me know that there is an evolutionary explanation somewhere.

    By the same token, I have often wondered how animals who "evolved" from sea to land or land to air evolved mechanisms for breathing, reproduction, locomotion, and food-catching/digestion all at the same time, and how did a male and a female evolve the same mechansisms at the same time, and how did those two meet? And why don't we see any animals today evolving into different species? We should at least see one or two promising mutations, if not millions.

    M says, "Second, science is defined by the fact that it can only study the natural, not the supernatural."

    Firstly, I think the indications for creation that I cited above are totally natural, not supernatural. So they should be available to you as a scientist to consider.

    Secondly, I beg to disagree. Being a professional scientist doesn't make you a linguist any more than working with computers makes me a scientist. On the other hand, professional scientists can certainly decide that they will only study the natural and ignore the supernatural. But that makes them a subset of scientists (methodological naturalists, I think you called them). It also makes them closed-minded, since they refuse to think about anything other than what can happen "naturally", including that God could have created natural laws and set them in motion.

    But what if things do happen supernaturally? Should we leave that to only theologians? I don't think so. Why should we? Science came from Christians who wanted to know more about the world that God created. The scientific method that I was told about in public schools in the 50s and 60s involved a hypothesis, observational testing, and a conclusion.

    I can't post here daily because I work for a living and I have a family. Plus I am sure that thousands of other sites have similar discussions. But I will look at any sites that are posted here, especially Massimo's refutation of Behe.

    And I do have a challenge for you, Massimo. I suspect that most of us rely on the opinions of others; I know I do. Since you are a professional scientist, tell me what discovery(s) you personally have made that point(s) toward evolution and away from creation. If you don't have any of your own, then you and I are on equal footing, relying on others for our information.

    Creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence available (though many evolutionary evidences have turned out to be hoaxes yet are still being published in scientific textbooks). The difference is the frame of reference from which it is interpreted. If a scientist says he will not consider anything other than the natural, then he will automatically assume that everything happened naturally and there are no other explanations. He will discard anything pointing to the supernatural.

  84. There's a very simple reason scientists only study the natural, mike ebbers. That's because only natural phenomena can be repeated, measured, etc.

    If something is miraculous, by definition it cannot have occurred by natural means. It's not that science ignores the supernatural, it's that there is no way to describe it or draw concrete observations about it.

    Think about it: we can't say for sure that God designed XYZ, because to do so would place limits on God. See if this sentence makes any sense to you: "We know God couldn't have designed the human menstrual cycle, because we know from repeated experiments that God only designs female animals to have twice-yearly estrus cycles." Well, but hey...this is God we are talking about...right?

    If you're dealing with an omniscient, omnipotent, omni-etc. Deity, then you're not dealing with something that can be duplicated, measured, and observed in a laboratory. You're also talking about something we can't reliably detect using our senses or machinery...how would you make an instrument that tells you whether or not God or an angel is present, for example?

    And also, to draw a conclusion about the universe being "designed", you have to know what an undesigned universe would look like. And once again, given that this is some sort of "higher" power presumably designing things, something that might look designed might in fact not be, and vice versa. But you have no way of knowing or testing for it either way.

  85. Mike,

    your post is too long for me to deal with here,and it is way off topic. One of these days I'll open up a new discussion on creationism, but for now the best I can do is to direct you to my book, Denying Evolution. A link to it can be found on the header of the blog, and I have actually addressed pretty much all your points there (sorry for the shameless self-promotion... :)

  86. Mike,

    Not being as patient and diplomatic as Adrienne and Massimo were, I have to break it on you: you've really got to brush up your biology there, man! And a little bit of reading on the way science works wouldn't hurt either.

    By your post, I got the impression you honestly want to be directed to resources explaining why the objections you stated have nothing to do with modern science. So here go some books in addition to Massimo's (which I haven't read yet, sorry, Massimo! :), and some websites.

    First, many of the misconceptions you posted are readily solved by a quick look at any undergraduate level biology (or geology, in some cases) book, or checking out the original research instead of relying on third hand accounts (like the case of diamonds created in hours in non-natural, extreme conditions).

    The following are books I have here right now (most of mine are back where I used to live), there are many more that are surely even better. Being a professional biologist myself, and specifically with a PhD dealing with evolution, I might be wrong in thinking these books are adequate for non-biologists. But that's what they were intended to be, so here they go.

    A nice book is "What is Biology", by the late Ernst Mayr. It has chapters like "What is science?", "How does science explain the natural world?", "How does biology explain the living world?", "Where do humans fit into evolution?" and "Can evolution account for ethics?", among others.

    Still by Mayr, and now focusing specifically on evolution, is "What evolution is". I highly recommend this one - it might not have the colourful and entertaining language of other science popularizers, but is short, concise and to the point about the fact of evolution, and what the theories are to explain it. He does not present all details of all different views, but considering he was 97 when he published this book, it's amazing how on top of the happenings in the field he still was.

    Now jumping to the molecular realm: there's this really entertaining, and sometimes polemic, book by James Watson of DNA structure fame. The book is called, simply, "DNA". Some of its chapters explain the mechanics of genetics. Others, applications of DNA technology. And some, how the use of genetic information strongly corroborates evolutionary theories (chapters "Reading genomes: evolution in action" and "Out of Africa: DNA and the human past").

    There are many more books I remember which you could easily read to enlighten yourself on biology and science. But in case you're not feeling like getting some dead trees home, try the website for the National Center for Science Education at http://www.ncseweb.org/ to start with, and specially their resources page:


    This page contains links to several articles with detailed reviews and refutations of the "new" things that Behe et al., as well as links to further information.

    Another, more didatic resource, at UC Berkeley: http://evolution.berkeley.edu/

    And finally, the National Academy of Sciences evolution page: http://www.nationalacademies.org/evolution/
    They have a free online book called "Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences", to read thereor download.

    I hope I didn't waste my time and keyboard life time here...


  87. Thanks for the resourses J. I accept evolution as fact but I might even check out your suggestions. I like learning about the details.


  88. As a pseudo-scientist, I lean toward physics much more than biology, so please excuse my ignorance if my question is too elementary: Is there a documented case of any scientist observing one species evolve into another?

    In physics, the general procedure is observe, hypothesize, predict, experiment, observe... Assuming the same is true in biology, observation of evolution in action - generating a new species - should go far toward proving the hypothesis.


  89. Asg,

    two brief comments:

    First, even physics includes the study of historical processes that cannot be observed in the laboratory. For example, the entire field of cosmology, stellar and planetary evolution. Anybody actually seen a star forming lately?

    Second, speciation has been observed during historical times, in a variety of organisms. In the case of some plants, the process has actually been reproduced in the laboratory.

    One more note, surely you didn't mean to say that you are a "pseudo" scientist, did you? Are you into the paranormal and ghost hunting? :)

  90. Massimo,

    Thanks for entertaining my off-topic post. I couldn't resist. :)

    You said: Anybody actually seen a star forming lately?

    I don't think so, though there are nebulae that may be on their way. If only someone could get funding to watch some such nebula for a few million years, we could get one on record. But regardless of the lack of observation and repetition by independent researchers, I think few today would say that astrophysics is not a science.

    I threw that out there because of the oft-repeated sentiment that if something is not backed up by observed evidence, it is not science. Just because we have not observed a star's ignition or even what happens in a star's core during its lifetime or exactly what happens during a supernova explosion, that does not necessarily mean theorizing about such things is not science. What it does mean is that the hypothesis has made a prediction and is waiting for observations to prove or disprove it.

    Along those lines, I think the story of Chandrasekhar's discovery of the possibility of black holes is enlightening. Though he had the math and physics to back it up, prominent scientists of his day, most notably Eddington, disregarded it because its conclusions ran contrary to popular opinion and belief. It took decades before the scientific community accepted the theory and strengthened it by observing phenomena that matched its predictions. But even though it is now universally accepted, it is not beyond modification or refutation. If Newton's mechanics could be replaced after centuries of success, nothing is safe.

    No, I don't hunt for ghosts, but that does not prevent me from entertaining the possibility of phenomena that cannot be explained by our current understanding of "natural" processes.


  91. speciation has been observed

    That's a surprise to me (though I don't keep up with research along these lines, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised). I would think that such evidence would be so huge - on the order of the discovery of relativity and quantum mechanics - that it would be generally known, and should tear down all theories that deny the possibility of changing from one species to another. Can you point me to where I can read about it?

    But maybe my terminology is incorrect. Maybe "species" is not the right word. What I was after is observed evidence of some organism having descendants that are unable to reproduce with the parent species. I'm not interested in things like longer beaks or new colors. I was thinking of something dramatic like doves having descendants (after many generations) that are genetically incompatible with doves such that they cannot reproduce with each other; or maybe plants that cannot cross-pollinate with the parent stock.

    Is there something like that? Thanks.


  92. asg,

    hate to blow my own horn, but there is a chapter on observed cases of speciation in my book, Tales of the Rational (see blog's header), which also includes references.

  93. Asg,

    "What I was after is observed evidence of some organism having descendants that are unable to reproduce with the parent species. I'm not interested in things like longer beaks or new colors. I was thinking of something dramatic like doves having descendants (after many generations) that are genetically incompatible with doves"

    Like star formation, evolution requires a larger span of time than a singe human - for that matter, the entire human species - can shake a stick at. Everything around you is comparable to nebulae in the sense that something new is always being formed through pressures of environmental stressors on both already existent gene variation and new gene mutation. Expecting to see great-great-grandparents that cannot reproduce with their respective grand-offspring is in the realm of the supernatural, it's similar to saying you don't believe the sun will ever stop burning unless it grows dim in your lifetime. There is a wonderful book on the largeness of numbers and how we are restricted by our lack of training to think in such enormity called, Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos.

    Continuing the off-topic tangent :)

  94. Michele,

    It looks like we're going to need the gravity well of a black hole to get this blog back on course. :) I promise my next post here will be on home schooling. The NEXT one...

    I agree with you that observations of evolution of the magnitude that I described will take much longer than the funding of current research projects will allow. (At least that's how I understand it. Massimo's claim that such events have been observed in the lab are worth investigation.) I also agree with you that lack of direct observation does not disprove a theory. That applies to evolution, astrophysics, cosmology, string theory, and (dare I say) Intelligent Design or even fundamentalist creationism.

    But considering the virtual impossiblity of observing some predictions of the aforementioned theories, some prominent scientists have declared these theories to be more philosophy or religion than science. If one accepts the classical definition of the scientific method, failure to make predictions that are verifiable and repeatable through experiment implies that these theories are indeed philosophical. But regardless of the prominence of critics, I believe that impediment, by itself, does not necessarily disprove theory.


  95. Now, as promised, on to the home schooling.

    Massimo claimed that private schools generally fare better than public schools because of a better teacher/student ratio, the single best predictor of a quality educational experience.

    In the "single best predictor of a quality educational experience," homeschooling fares better than most schools, public or private. It is not likely for a homeschooling family to have two dozen children, much less two dozen children with an age difference of a year or two. Families with many children usually have them spaced out, such that the older ones can help with the younger ones. This gives you a teacher with a handful of students, with some of them acting as TAs.

    Compare that to the plight of public and private schools. They would be ecstatic if they only had to deal with two dozen students. How about help from some of the students? Well, we all know how elementary students regard class monitors and ball monitors, and how effective they are at maintaining order and improving instruction.

    Let's consider the case of older students. Once you get past elementary, the student/teacher ratio gets worse. Now, teachers have five classes with two dozen students each. Instead of learning and accommodating the idiosyncrasies of two dozen individuals, they're now dealing with over a hundred minds. How do they manage to take into account a hundred learning styles? They don't because they can't.

    It's easy to see why a better student/teacher ratio is the single best predictor of a quality educational experience. And on this point, the homeschool easily beats the mass schooling paradigm.

    Massimo also said, "But neither less money nor the inability to fail students are ingrained into the definition of a public school, they can both be changed, if the public so wishes."

    In theory, that's true. But let's put some meat on that theory to see the likelihood of its fulfillment.

    More money: Increasing the funding is supposed to help the student/teacher ratio. Let's do some rough math to see how much more funding we're looking at.

    Homeschool ratio - 6 students, 1 teacher (6:1)

    Mass school ratio (elementary) - 24 students, 1 teacher (24:1); we must increase school funding 400% to match homeschooling

    Mass school ratio (middle school) - 120 students, 1 teacher (120:1); we must increase school funding 2000% to match homeschooling

    Mass school has the advantage of specialized staff to handle some tasks (administration, custodial, etc.) which tends to decrease the impact of the horrendous student/teacher ratio, but that comes with extra overhead which tends to increase the need for more funding. For our rough calculation, that's a wash.

    Does anybody really think we can get this kind of funding?

    Inability to fail students: Why does this problem exist? Probably because of the funding issue. Schools can't afford to fund more than 12 years of schooling to get a 12th-grade education. But the problem is even worse than that. There was a story in the 11/7/05 issue of the Los Angeles Times ( No Pass, No Diploma: No Ceremony Either?) that should enlighten. Below are highlights.

    Educators across California are grappling with what to do with nearly 100,000 seniors who could be denied diplomas next spring after failing the state's first-ever high school exit exam.

    At least 5,000 of these students are in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is discussing what to do with students who pass their classes but fail the exam.

    ...in San Bernardino, where more than one-third of 2,500 seniors have yet to pass the exam...

    All students, including English-language learners and special-education students, are given six opportunities to score at least 55% on an eighth-grade-level math test and 60% on a ninth- or 10th-grade-level English test.

    "I'd be so sad," said Emma Barba, a Riverside senior who is taking a special workshop to help pass the math portion.

    The 17-year-old, who passed the English exam on her first try but has failed the math test three times, said she would be the first in her family to graduate high school. Two older brothers dropped out, and she hoped to be a role model for two younger brothers.

    "I need to pass," said the B-and-C student, who hopes to attend a trade school or junior college. "That's like your ticket for anything."


    These are 12th-grade students who cannot get half the answers right on an 8th-grade math test, 60% of a 9th- or 10th-grade English test! More scary is the fact that they have been allowed to get to the 12th grade. Worse, they're passing their 12th-grade classes, even getting B's and C's.

    How did they manage to get through high school with such a low level of academic skill and achievement? It's the mass school mentality of "herding the cattle" through as quickly as possible. Inability to fail students? You better believe it! But the bigger problem is the system's inability to meaningfully pass these students.

    Note that the problem addressed by the article is the failure of students to pass the dumbed-down exit exam. Consider how many students passed it by the skin of their teeth. Just imagine what would happen if the exit exam consisted of a 12th-grade math and English test that required 70% (the standard for a C- grade) to get that diploma that certified you have a 12th-grade education. Remembering how things were when I was a California public school student in the 80's, if the situation has not improved, it would be pretty ugly.

    When I was in 6th grade, I was in the "advanced" class. We were the only class in our grade that was at grade level for all subjects. Assuming the same proportion in high school, that implies a graduation rate of about 20%!

    Some insights from my wife, who was an elementary education major in college: 1) They spent more time learning how to manage the students' misbehavior than teaching academics. 2) Misbehavior results in more attention from the teacher, resulting in less attention for those who cooperate. 3) Academic standards are geared toward the poorest performers in the class, leaving high achievers to fend for themselves. 4) The CBEST, which is the basic exam all teachers must pass, was so easy she was insulted that they would test her on such elementary things. 5) Some of her college classmates were amazed that she passed on the first try.

    Until next time...


  96. The only way to deal with religion in any school system is to make it a subject, i.e. religious studies ,where all belief systems are discussed and and knowledge will prevail over ignorance.

  97. Home schoolers feel that they are able to teach/raise a small group of their own children (in my case it would be 2 kids) better than a public school teacher can teach a group of 25 while having to adapt his or her teaching style to the current politics of education. Nor do home schoolers have many of the constraints that our public school system has to work under. A homeschooling family can go on a field trip any time they want and they don't have to worry about lawsuits. Home schoolers can also form coops allowing each parent to teach those subjects which they have a specialty in. Furthermore, if their child falls behind in a subject there is plenty of time in the day to seek out additional tutoring. The bottom line is that they are doing something completely different than a public school teacher working with 5-10 times as many children, and by most measurable academic standards they are outperforming their public school counterparts.

    The bottom line is that they are doing something completely different than a public school teacher working with 5-10 times as many children, and by most measurable academic standards they are outperforming their public school counterparts. There is no affront to teachers because what makes a teacher a professional is classroom management and their ability to teach a classroom of kids all at the same time.

    In regards to home schoolers being automatrons, a better argument could be made about public school students. Home schoolers teach their kids using whatever approach they want, and the spectrum goes from unschooling to a strict traditional approach. Furthermore, while many are religious zealots, there are a good number of athiest and agnostic home schoolers.

    At the public school my children attend, they must say the pledge of allegiance every day starting in kindergarten, and this is followed by broadcasting either patriotic songs or the songs from one of the divisions of our military. Then, you have the curriculum which is now state and/or federally mandated. We have now legislated that all public school children are taught the same thing with programs such as 'No Child Left Behind', Virginia's SOLs, and Florida's FCATs. Instead of working on critical thinking, my kids are now taking practice tests. 10 years ago the solution was simple (for those who had the means). Parents could simply move to a different school system; however, these days all the other school systems are doing it in much the same way. They don't have much choice. Foreign languages for example, should be taught at a very early age; however, it is a tough topic politically, so it isn't a requirement and as a result it generally isn't taught. Meanwhile, the local homeschooling coop is pooling their resources and teaching their children foreign languages early on.

    In regards to private schools, the American public could theoretically pass legislation to make public schools comparable, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. The reality is that private schools do have the advantages which the author described as well as much better parental support.

  98. What's the difference between parenting and teaching? Parents set guidelines within a household. Teachers set guidelines in a school building. Parents teach. Teachers teach. So why shouldn't a parent be able to teach? We are taught that teachers teach and only teachers teach. I think we all have something to teach.

    Sometimes, the details get in the way. Teachers are taught these standards and how something should be, and that there is this logical way to teaching. But those details get in the way of ACTUALLY teaching. My grandmother was a teacher for 30+ years. When I decided to homeschool she didn't seem bothered by the fact. She thought it was great. It works for us. It may not work for others. It takes hard work and dedication, just as much as a teacher in the public school setting gives.

    I just don't see why people make such a huge fuss about parents teaching their kids. We do it from day one, once they've left the womb and ventured out in this world. We were there when they sat up. We were there when they said their first words. We were there when they took those first steps. Why is that all we get to enjoy? Why can't be be there when they learn their first words or learn to write those words? Why can't we be there when they learn that one plus one equals two? Why can't we be there when they vote their first votes? It's all so silly that we parents can't teach. We've done it from the beginning.

  99. Katina,

    I'm sure you are not kidding when you ask what is the difference between parents and teachers. That would be like asking what is the difference between parents and car mechanics, or brain surgeons. Teaching is a profession, it requires skills and knowledge. Parenting is a natural biological activity (though it also obviously requires skills, but of a very different nature). There is a huge difference between teaching basic behavior and ethics to your kids (parents) and teaching them math or critical thinking skills (unless you have a background in math or philosophy).


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