Article

Editorial Slams Public Schools As 'State Church'

Editorial Slams Public Schools As ‘State Church’

Dayton, Ohio; and Columbia, S.C. – Americans would revolt if the government forced them to join a state-established church. They guard too fiercely their liberty of conscience, guaranteed by the First Amendment. Yet when some parents choose not to submit their children to the government-operated school system – whose curriculum and culture embody beliefs and values with which they disagree – they still must pay taxes to support the system. Even then, they often face opposition.

We contend that the conduct of schooling in the United States should be determined by the rights of conscience of parents, in accord with the democratic nature of our society and our confessional pluralism. Parents who choose not to send their children to public schools should not be subject to harassment. Nor should they be forced to support the state system as well as their preferred educational arrangement.

[…]

Most recently, a small but rapidly growing number of parents, a majority of whom are conservative Christians, have chosen to educate their children at home. Holding to the proposition that parents have the primary right to direct the education of their offspring, a right affirmed by the Supreme Court several times since the landmark Pierce v. Society of Sisters decision of 1925, they are the most radical dissenters yet. Like earlier dissenters, most home-schooling families believe the public school system transmits an orthodoxy alien to their belief system. As a matter of conscience, they feel bound to provide an education congruent with their worldview. And like other dissenters from earlier state churches and the current functional equivalent, the public school system, these parents have had to pay taxes to support a government-privileged institution as well as the costs of the education they prefer, been occasionally harassed, and sometimes hauled into court.

The Christian Science Monitor ran this editorial by Thomas C. Hunt and James C. Carper supporting the practice of home schooling as some sort of fundamental right. They are bothered by the idea that home-schoolers still have to pay taxes to support the public school system. But most home schooling is designed to promote a religious indoctrination so severe that children graduate from it ill-equipped to participate in the mainstream. They have been so brainwashed by extremist religious propaganda they may never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking or intellectual honesty. By strategic and systematic miseducation, they have been rendered impotent and unable to participate in an increasingly technical and competitive society. This is a burden these kids should not have to bear. The original mandate for public education recognized the value of a consensus-based curriculum, and a pluralistic marketplace of ideas (which Hunt and Carper purport to subscribe to) for the advancement and progress of humanity. This is not just for the benefit of individuals, but for the strength of the whole society.

In addition, the home-schooling movement fails to take into account the vital impacts of peer socialization, which arguably amount to more important life-skill training than academics. Further, the deliberate withholding or twisting of sex education in religious conservative households leads to adults who lack important knowledge that could affect their very survival in a world of ever mutating and more virulent STIs.

If parents want to opt out of public education, Hunt and Carper argue that it is their right to do so and decide for themselves what is best for their children. It’s a libertarian claim: Why should parents pay for an educational system they don’t agree with and aren’t using? From the standpoint of economic liberty, it makes some sense. But a counterargument can also be made: many home-school curricula teach blatantly and provably false ideas about the universe. Parents (or “imprimers” as Marvin Minsky calls them) have an inordinate impact on their children. Kids are biologically designed to give high value to such parental input. Because of this, society should hold home-schoolers to extraordinarily high standards of truthfulness and academic rigor.

Instead, what exists is a watered-down patchwork of regulations which basically allows home-schooling parents to teach anything and everything as long as their kids can pass basic competency tests. But sequestering children in this manner and force-feeding them blatant falsehoods should not only be financially discouraged by the state, it should be considered child abuse and punished accordingly. Parents do not own their children. We do not allow parents to abuse children’s bodies, so why do we stand by and let them abuse their minds?

Hunt and Carper’s editorial fails to convince on another count as well: the accusation that secular schools represent a ‘state church.’ Secularism is not and could never be considered to be a religion. This kind of “framing device” used by religious conservatives is a blatant attempt to misinform and mislead. Secular schools expressly exclude the official teaching of religion. That is their point. To insinuate otherwise is to do violence to the language and common sense. The authors of this editorial clearly have no concern other than advancing their narrow parochial interests at taxpayer expense. They should be roundly condemned for their anti-democratic and theocratic folly.


Comments (10 comments)

The Exterminator / October 25th, 2007, 1:15 pm / #1

Like earlier dissenters, most home-schooling families believe the public school system transmits an orthodoxy alien to their belief system.

Yeah, that alien orthodoxy is called KNOWLEDGE.

Sean, I agree with your comments 100%. And I think we atheists have an important lesson to learn. You said: But most home schooling is designed to promote a religious indoctrination so severe that children graduate from it ill-equipped to participate in the mainstream. We nonbelievers must make sure that those folks who insist on religious indoctrination remain out of the mainstream. But every day, superstitious nonsense edges closer and closer to becoming the mainstream. Just look at all the presidential candidates, left and right, who spout their theocratic claptrap proudly. We atheists must continue raise our voices — and cast our votes wisely.

Tony / October 26th, 2007, 8:40 am / #2

While I will give you the fact that the vast majority of homeschooling families do so for religious and particularly Christian religious reasons, there is a rapidly growing number of postmodern/secular families choosing homeschooling as well. Prime among the reasons is that the highly centralized and creativity stifling public schools, vis-a-vis No Child Left Behind, are not providing the education necessary for our children.

And while the past stereotype of the non socialized homeschooled child may have carried some truth, it does not apply to this new set of homeschool children. They are involved in community projects, are environmentally aware, have educational opportunities in a wider range of encounters and organizations and have more involvement with a wider variety of social interactions with all ages than the public school could imagine to provide.

This postmodern/secular homeschooled child is better prepared than any other generation to provide leadership to solve the crises facing our planet during the next century.

I encourage you to widen your knowledge of the homeschooling movement and see the evolutionary potential that it holds when used by parents coming from a postmodern/secular perspective.

BlackSun / October 26th, 2007, 8:53 am / #3

Tony,

I understand where you’re coming from. My kids actually did a form of home schooling just like you’re talking about. But here’s the difference. It was a program called “Opportunities for Learning” which is a part of L.A. Unified School District. They went in and took their tests and socialized with other children. And I pay property taxes.

It’s not “Home Schooling” as a concept I’m opposed to. You know I’m referring to what is essentially “Home Confinement” for young kids of fundie parents. And then they want to get tax breaks on top of it. No freaking way!

Marcy Muser / October 27th, 2007, 8:47 pm / #4

Tony,

You said, “But most home schooling is designed to promote a religious indoctrination so severe that children graduate from it ill-equipped to participate in the mainstream. They have been so brainwashed by extremist religious propaganda they may never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking or intellectual honesty.”

WHERE do you get this information?! I know of NO studies that support this, and only a couple of anecdotes that might be construed that way (as opposed to literally hundreds of anecdotes and multiple studies that support the opposite conclusion). You’ve made some pretty severe accusations; that “most” homeschooled kids graduate “ill-equipped to participate in the mainstream,” that they “may never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking, or intellectual honesty.”

I happen to be a conservative Christian homeschooling parent, probably one of the “fundie parents” your commenter referred to. But the major reason I’m homeschooling is that most students turned out by the public schools are in fact “ill equipped to participate in the mainstream,” and truly may “never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking, or intellectual honesty.” I am absolutely determined that my children WILL be equipped to participate in the mainstream, and I think homeschooling is by far the best way to achieve that goal. I’m homeschooling because both my daughters are highly gifted (as was I), and I want them to have every chance at academic excellence, critical thinking, and intellectual honesty. I don’t think the public schools – or even the majority of private schools – can give my kids that kind of chance; so I’m doing it myself. (Oh, don’t get me wrong – I avail myself of every resource I can dig up, particularly in areas that are not my specialty – but I’m making the determination of what’s best for my kids, rather than some anonymous committee member choosing their curriculum for them.)

The studies that have been done of homeschooled kids suggest that these kids participate in society at a far greater rate than public-schooled kids. They vote in greater percentages; they are almost all gainfully employed; they volunteer; they give to charitable organizations; they have many friendships and participate in civic organizations; they attend college at higher rates and are FAR more likely to graduate from college. And colleges across the country have gone from rejecting homeschooled applicants because they didn’t have high school diplomas to developing special processes for admission for these applicants, most of whom will go on to do very well in college (socially as well as academically) and to be a credit to their institutions.

Now I ask you – in light of these facts, if my firm belief is that homeschooling provides my children with a far better foundation in “academic excellence, critical thinking, and intellectual honesty” than the public schools can possibly do – why should I be forced to support those failing schools? If I see public schools crushing independent thought, breaking down their students’ self-esteem, pressuring them relentlessly with hours of busywork, and in many cases not even succeeding in teaching them the basics of reading, math, and writing – why shouldn’t I be allowed to claim a tax credit for educating my children at home? And why should I be held to a higher standard than the public schools are, when I’m using my own money (which, if tax credits were approved, I’d otherwise be paying in taxes) to provide my children with a superior education, while the schools are using other people’s money to provide their students with a poor one?

BlackSun / October 28th, 2007, 12:13 pm / #5

Marcy Muser,

My objection to conservative Christian home schooling is fourfold:

–Improper science education involving creationism
–Lack of adequate sex education (focus on abstinence instead of safe-sex)
–Lack of socialization/exposure to a diversity of views.
–Inordinate focus on Bible as the word of god and fact, as opposed to a political document or piece of literature among many others.

Regardless of how homeshooled kids do on achievement tests, they have been severely handicapped by these four pillars of Christian homeschooling.

Public schools may ultimately have lower academic standards, but at least they make the attempt at impartiality. You would probably see secularism as a bias, but that’s a dominionist fantasy.

Most Christian conservatives feel that unless their religion is privileged over all else, there is something wrong. I’d support home schooling with tax breaks if it were regulated and ensured to be truly balanced and impartial. There would also have to be a mechanism to ensure a quorum of students at public schools so that other taxpayers would maintain their right to free public education.

This effort to get the government to privilege religious education has existed for many years in many forms. First it was vouchers, now it’s home schooling. Why is it that people of faith can’t be satisfied with simple equal treatment?

Marcy Muser / October 28th, 2007, 9:14 pm / #6

Tony,

You have every right to object to those particular points in homeschooling; however, you have no legal right to require that all students receive the particular type of education you happen to believe in. And in fact, your criticisms in this comment are very far removed from the criticisms in your original post – that homeschooled students “graduate from it ill-equipped to participate in the mainstream,” and that they “may never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking, or intellectual honestry.” These more recent criticisms in no way lead to your original criticisms.

I’m going to stay completely away from the creationism issue except to say that I’ve studied the issue in considerable detail (and yes, I’ve read a number of articles on talkorigins.com), and in my opinion evolution violates both the first and the second laws of thermodynamics, the law of biogenesis, and the law of cause and effect.

As to adequate sex education, there’s absolutely ZERO evidence from the multiple studies done on homeschooled students that would suggest these students have been inadequately educated in that area. Rates of teen sexual activity, pregnancies, abortion, and STD’s are inordinately higher in public school students than in homeschooled students – in fact, they would seem to be practically nonexistent in the homeschooled population, as they are in many religious private schools. Nor do I consider there to be anywhere near adequate proof that safe-sex education is more effective in preventing these than abstinence education.

I mentioned issues related to socialization in my previous post. Studies have shown homeschool graduates to be exceptionally strong socially. As I said above, “The studies that have been done of homeschooled kids suggest that these kids participate in society at a far greater rate than public-schooled kids. They vote in greater percentages; they are almost all gainfully employed; they volunteer; they give to charitable organizations; they have many friendships and participate in civic organizations; they attend college at higher rates and are FAR more likely to graduate from college.” For more information, please see the website of the Fraser Institute at http://www.fraserinstitute.org/commerce.web/search_publications.aspx?Page=1&title=&author=0&keyword=&date=0&topic=0&formatid=124&sort=date and download their report: “Homeschooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream.” I should note that the Fraser Institute is “an independent non-partisan research and educational organization based in Canada,” and is not a Christian nor a homeschooling organization.

In the case of my own children, as is true with the majority of homeschoolers I know, I make a tremendous effort to ensure they are exposed to a true diversity of views. How many schoolchildren do you know who have the chance to interact regularly with people from birth to 90 years of age? My children do. I also take pains to make sure they meet and interact with people of other races, social classes, and religious backgrounds. Unfortunately, most public schooled children are exposed to a very limited diversity of views. They meet almost only the views of the 30 or so kids in their classroom (most of whom share not only their age, but also their race and social class) and the teacher. Not only that, but I (as many other homeschooling parents) make a tremendous effort to ensure my children are exposed to books and other curricular resources produced by people from many different perspectives. And as they grow, I increase the variety I expose them to, knowing that eventually they will be adults and will encounter every variety of perspective possible.

As to the “inordinate focus on the Bible,” you and I clearly disagree on this issue. I agree with your statement that secularism is a bias – you as a strong secularist are just as religious as I am. You firmly believe there is no God, and no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise; I equally firmly believe there is a God, and I find the scientific evidence in favor of God’s existence to be far stronger than that against it. I vehemently disagree with the dominionists; I do NOT believe the Bible teaches that we are to take over secular governments and make them Christian. But I believe very strongly that secularism is religious, based on my dictionary’s definition of religious: “relating or devoted to the divine or that which is held to be of ultimate importance.” You hold naturalism and secularism to be “of ultimate importance,” and you are committed enough to it to have devoted this blog to it; thus, you are religious. Dismissing this as “a dominionist fantasy” is a logical fallacy, and supports my contention that you hold naturalism and secularism as religious beliefs.

Now, in light of the above, why should my tax money be used to teach kids your religious belief system? I have no problem with my tax money being used to help those who are in real need, or to maintain the safety and security of this nation. But taking away money my husband and I earn through our hard work and using it to indoctrinate children – and then requiring that if I want some of my own money back I must indoctrinate my own children with your religious beliefs – is just wrong.

People of faith “can’t be satisfied with simple equal treatment” because we aren’t GETTING equal treatment. Have you taken a look at how holidays are taught in schools these days? Schools can teach about Kwanzaa, about Ramadan, about Native American beliefs, about Santa Claus – but mention the name of Jesus Christ, and they’re setting themselves up for a lawsuit. Schools can teach evolution, the atheist’s religious belief, but they’d better not even bring up the truth that there are controversies among evolutionists about how things happened, or they’ll be accused of teaching creationism. Schools can require students to pray the Muslim prayer five times a day for a week (ostensibly to teach students about Islam), but they can’t allow students a moment of silence at some point in the day for fear of being accused of promoting religion. In fact, many schools are telling children THEY can’t carry their Bible to school or pray on school grounds – a clear violation of their constitutional rights.

I have no desire to see the schools reinstitute prayer (I can only imagine what that would look like!). I have no desire whatsoever for schools to teach religion. And quite frankly, the issue of religion is NOT the reason I’m homeschooling my own kids. As I mentioned in my first comment, you had claimed that homeschooled kids “may never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking or intellectual honesty.” I’m homeschooling my kids precisely so they WILL have those chances. My kids are getting an excellent academic education (including, in addition to math, language arts, social studies, and science, a more solid understanding of evolution than most public schooled students get AND an understanding of creationism). They are really learning to think critically (I refuse to allow them to accept “pat answers,” and when I hear one from any perspective, I generally challenge them with an objection so they actually have to THINK about what they are saying). And I insist on intellectual honesty. Yes, I teach my children what I believe, but I also teach them why, and I teach them both the support for and the objections to my position.

I doubt you’ll like my answer, but there you have it.

Morgaine / October 29th, 2007, 9:30 pm / #7

Marcy said: And in fact, your criticisms in this comment are very far removed from the criticisms in your original post – that home schooled students “graduate from it ill-equipped to participate in the mainstream,” and that they “may never have a chance at academic excellence, critical thinking, or intellectual honestry.” These more recent criticisms in no way lead to your original criticisms.

Although the later points are more specific, I think Sean’s initial and later critiques are most definitely connected. Yes, home schoolers represent all walks of life and viewpoints so there are exceptions, but the fact is a majority of homeschooling parents in the US happen to be highly religious, and there’s no way these kids will get anywhere near as rounded and unbiased ( intellectually honest) an education as they would otherwise. These kids capacity for critical thinking can’t help but be stunted when they are taught to value supernatural.explanations and pseudoscience over objective reasoning.Sure they may excel in certain fields, but how psychologically healthy can they hope to be when they have to internalize a worldview that inculcates so much implicit (and explicit) guilt and shame? The self love they need cannot be born in such judgemental repressive, atmosphere as religious orthodoxy.-

From Wikipedia: .”Statistically, the typical American homeschooling parents( a majority) educate their children primarily for religious or moral reasons, and are almost twice as likely to be Evangelical than the national average. 91 percent describe themselves as Christian, although only 49 percent can be classified as “born again Christians.” They were five times more likely to describe themselves as “mostly conservative” on political matters than as “mostly liberal,” although only about 37 percent chose “mostly conservative”, and were “notably” more likely than the national average to have high vie w of the Bible and hold orthodox Christian beliefs.”

And, the heavy dose of indoctrination these kids endure does not effect them alone ( although that’s sad enough). It is these young people who will be voting in our leaders not too long from now. We need to be nurturing the next generation’s capacity to think logically, to see nuance, to be able to discern what is a subjective opinion or gut feeling, from an objective fact. To be able to look within their own psyche and wonder..” what subconscious motivations might I have for reinforcing/protecting this ( any) view I am holding?”. We need to encourage young people to value introspection, to examine existential fears and wishes, and observe how our psychology shapes our every thought. At least in public schools, (and with home schooling parents who aren’t heavily religious or politically extreme), the kids get exposure to varying perspectives. They will be will have a shot at making up their own minds.

Then there is this interesting tidbit..By 2001 (see Wikipedia)-“Muslim Americans were the fastest growing subgroup in the American home school movement, and were predicted to double in number every year for the following eight years after.” Meanwhile what we need more than ever is for those with fundamentalist views (Christian and Islamic alike) to begin to think about other points of view- and end the rampant ‘black and white thinking.’ This could very well worsen with homeschooling in these populations. The continuing polarization of memes could be lethal for humanity

It has also been argued” that part of being a citizen is having something in common with fellow-citizens, and homeschool diminishes that by reducing students’ contact with peers.”

Marcy : I’m going to stay completely away from the creationism issue except to say that I’ve studied the issue in considerable detail (and yes, I’ve read a number of articles on talkorigins.com), and in my opinion evolution violates both the first and the second laws of thermodynamics, the law of biogenesis, and the law of cause and effect.

This isn’t staying ‘completely away” by any stretch. Since you say you have “studied in considerable detail” would you please share some of the research links, and evidence you use to base this opinion? ( aside from talkorigins… a Usenet newsgroup devoted to discussion and debate, a collection of articles and essays)

Marcy: As to adequate sex education, there’s absolutely ZERO evidence from the multiple studies done on homeschooled students that would suggest these students have been inadequately educated in that area. Rates of teen sexual activity, pregnancies, abortion, and STD’s are inordinately higher in public school students than in homeschooled students – in fact, they would seem to be practically nonexistent in the homeschooled population, as they are in many religious private schools. Nor do I consider there to be anywhere near adequate proof that safe-sex education is more effective in preventing these than abstinence education.

Zero evidence?? No adequate proof that safe-sex education is more effective in prevention than abstinence? Here’s some statistics out of Texas, and corroborated by Columbia University:

“Studies by Advocates for Youth (AFY) on the long-term impact of federally-funded abstinence-only programs on teen sexual behavior confirm recent literature on the subject: the programs have no long-term effect on teens’ intentions to have sex, but sour them on contraception, making it less likely they will take responsible measures to protect themselves if they do engage in intercourse. The AFY studies found there was “no lasting, positive impact” on sexual behavior: “No evaluation demonstrated any impact on reducing teens’ sexual behavior at follow-up, three to 17 months after the program ended.” In short, abstinence-only programs were highly unlikely to positively affect participants’ sexual behaviors, and actually discouraged safe sexual practices and increased unhealthy practices.

AFY evaluators noted that abstinence-only programs’ emphasis on the failure rates of contraception, including condoms, “left youth ambivalent, at best, about using them.” Latex condoms are highly effective at preventing both sexually-transmitted diseases and pregnancy, especially when used with proper training. But abstinence-only programs denounce condom use, mislead students about their effectiveness, and naturally fail to provide students with instructions on how to use them correctly. T he results are consistent with a Columbia University study by sociology chair Peter Bearman. Bearman’s study, which tracked the sex lives of 12,000 adolescents between 12 and 18 years old over a five-year period, “found unsafe sex much greater among youth who’d signed pledges to abstain from sex” until marriage. The “virginity pledge” is a key component of many abstinence-only education programs.

Pregnancy isn’t the only risk of unprotected sex: nationwide, half of new cases of STDs and HIV occur in people aged 15 to 24. Even the strongest appeals for abstinence won’t keep some teenagers from sexual experimentation. Is it wise for the adults who claim to love their children to act in a way that tends to turn a poor choice into a death sentence? In fact, most adults don’t. Studies show that the great majority of parents want their children given reliable and scientific sex education (93% of parents with high school children say it is appropriate to teach teens about birth control and methods of preventing pregnancy, while 84% of parents with high school children say it is appropriate to teach students how to use and where to get contraceptives.) Until the adults on the Texas SBOE begins to treat human sexuality in an honest and scientifically-realistic manner within the health education curriculum, Texas will continue to have some of the worst sexuality and health statistics in the nation.

If you love you kids, which I am sure you do, I implore you to re-think your position.

Marcy: I mentioned issues related to socialization in my previous post. Studies have shown homeschool graduates to be exceptionally strong socially. As I said above, “The studies that have been done of homeschooled kids suggest that these kids participate in society at a far greater rate than public-schooled kids. They vote in greater percentages; they are almost all gainfully employed; they volunteer; they give to charitable organizations; they have many friendships and participate in civic organizations; they attend college at higher rates and are FAR more likely to graduate from college.” For more information, please see the website of the Fraser Institute at http://www.fraserinstitute.org/commerce.web/search_publications.aspx?Page=1&title=&author=0&keyword=&date=0&topic=0&formatid=124&sort=date and download their report: “Homeschooling: From the Extreme to the Mainstream.” I should note that the Fraser Institute is “an independent non-partisan research and educational organization based in Canada,” and is not a Christian nor a homeschooling organization.

Just because they are self professed “independents” doesn’t make it so. As a libertarian think tank with well known ties to the oil industry Fraser has a strong anti-government/regulation agenda. Their research is, likewise, skewed to support this agenda. Ross McKitrick, a prominent critic of climate change science and the IPCC is a Senior Fellow of the Institute. He,along with other oil industry apologists and climate change deniers on staff, doesn’t help your implication that their research holds neutrality.

From what I have gathered, there seem to be, for some kids, some advantages. But what is clear, is that the degree of success or failure for any kid in public OR home school, is dependent most of all on the families interpersonal relationships, and commitment level of the parents. Studies show that children whose parents were highly involved with the kids curriculum in either form of school, excelled equally . At at this point, more research is necessary–what we have is inconclusive . Of studies indicating higher scores on various measures most are done by the very institutions whose mission is to promote home-schooling, which begs the question of their accuracy. Also the population to be studied is not readily accessible to researchers. And the types of research that can be done are still limited to case studies of families or to surveys of self-reports by participants. So what we have so far has limited credibility.
Marcy: In the case of my own children, as is true with the majority of homeschoolers I know, I make a tremendous effort to ensure they are exposed to a true diversity of views.

I really hope so..

Marcy: How many schoolchildren do you know who have the chance to interact regularly with people from birth to 90 years of age?

Most kids I’ve known both personally and professionally.

Marcy: My children do. I also take pains to make sure they meet and interact with people of other races, social classes, and religious backgrounds. Unfortunately, most public schooled children are exposed to a very limited diversity of views. They meet almost only the views of the 30 or so kids in their classroom (most of whom share not only their age, but also their race and social class) and the teacher. Not only that, but I (as many other homeschooling parents) make a tremendous effort to ensure my children are exposed to books and other curricular resources produced by people from many different perspectives. And as they grow, I increase the variety I expose them to, knowing that eventually they will be adults and will encounter every variety of perspective possible.M

Again,I hope so.

Marcy: As to the “inordinate focus on the Bible,” you and I clearly disagree on this issue. I agree with your statement that secularism is a bias – you as a strong secularist are just as religious as I am. You firmly believe there is no God, and no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise;

Wait…have you read this blog? Show me where in BSJ did Sean ever say that “no amount of evidence would convince him otherwise?” In fact, he has made it abundantly clear that if there ever was a logical coherent empirically testable argument that could be made, he (and the rest of us) want to hear it! Where’s the evidence? Someone who truly respects objectivity will concede to solid evidence. That’s entirely different than how you are characterizing his position.

Marcy:People of faith “can’t be satisfied with simple equal treatment” because we aren’t GETTING equal treatment. Have you taken a look at how holidays are taught in schools these days? Schools can teach about Kwanzaa, about Ramadan, about Native American beliefs, about Santa Claus – but mention the name of Jesus Christ, and they’re setting themselves up for a lawsuit. Schools can teach evolution, the atheist’s religious belief, but they’d better not even bring up the truth that there are controversies among evolutionists about how things happened, or they’ll be accused of teaching creationism. Schools can require students to pray the Muslim prayer five times a day for a week (ostensibly to teach students about Islam), but they can’t allow students a moment of silence at some point in the day for fear of being accused of promoting religion. In fact, many schools are telling children THEY can’t carry their Bible to school or pray on school grounds – a clear violation of their constitutional rights.

What about separation of church and state, and the right to send one’s child to learn in a setting where objective reality is valued and belief is left out the matter entirely? As it is, when one says the pledge of allegiance, whose god do you think is being referred to? Every child who says this and isn’t from a judeo-christian background is left out. So in the name of respecting the right to believe as one chooses, other traditions /perspectives have been brought into the classroom(since Christianity is the implied backdrop in our country) and now kids know a bit more about other cultures and their creation stories…except…for…atheists or agnostics.. . It’s atheists who are being discriminated against. Ever met a kid who was free to be an atheist without ridicule in school? Doesn’t happen.
.

Cristy / October 30th, 2007, 11:40 am / #8

I completely get what the author is saying but I think that he should have made it more clear that those things applied only to most, not all, home schoolers.
But I definitely agree that this is the case with many homeschooled children. I knew one little girl whose parents took her out of school, did not give her lessons in anything, used her as a free babysitter for her younger siblings constantly (this girl was ten at the time, not old enough to watch four kids for extended periods of time), and they no longer let her see her former friends or leave the house on a regular basis. It is like she has been imprisioned. She will most likely do the usual thing, which is barely pass the tests until 16 and then drop out. These children loose their ability to go to college or live up to their potential. It is truly tragic.
As far as the other homeschoolers go, if the school system is that awful, you should try to change it instead of just avoiding the issue. Make education and public schooling more of a personal and tax priority instead of less.

Marcy Muser / October 30th, 2007, 1:27 pm / #9

Morgaine,

You said, “We need to be nurturing the next generation’s capacity to think logically, to see nuance, to be able to discern what is a subjective opinion or gut feeling, from an objective fact. To be able to look within their own psyche and wonder..” what subconscious motivations might I have for reinforcing/protecting this ( any) view I am holding?”. We need to encourage young people to value introspection, to examine existential fears and wishes, and observe how our psychology shapes our every thought. ”

I have to say I totally agree with this, and teach my children to do all these things. I teach them to think logically, to see nuance, to discern subjective opinion and gut feeling from objective fact. I teach them to look for their own subconscious motivations. I teach them to observe how our psychology shapes our every thought. I personally don’t feel the schools do a very good job of teaching those things – do you, really? These are things that in my opinion must be taught one-on-one, life-to-life, by someone who knows the child well and can question their simplistic answers and perceptions. Teachers in classrooms of 30 kids (especially junior high and high school teachers, who are most responsible for teaching these skills, and who generally only see each child for an hour a day or so) are simply not able to accomplish this to any depth.

I do not, however, teach my children that religion is born exclusively out of our subconscious motivations, our existential fears and wishes, or our psychology, because I simply don’t believe that. I don’t believe something can be “true for you, but not for me.” I believe that truth exists outside of our human perceptions; truth is true whether or not I (or you) understand it or choose to believe it. Our limited human minds (much less our limited human senses) are not the ultimate determinants of truth. So I teach my children to look for that ultimate truth wherever they may find it, and I teach them to reason critically so that they can determine whether something is ultimately true or false. I teach them the scientific method and encourage them to apply it; I point out inconsistencies in what we read (even if it happens to be religious material); I say, “I disagree with this because . . . ” multiple times every week; I explain rules with reasons, not just “because I said so”; I provide them with resources from multiple perspectives and we spend hours in discussion of what these people believe and why, as well as analyzing our own perspectives and why we agree or disagree with them. I admit when I don’t know or when I’m wrong, and encourage my kids to research issues for themselves (of course not entirely unsupervised; generally we do a lot of discussion as well). I allow my oldest to read over my shoulder (not just my answers but also your comments) when I participate in discussions like these. Could the schools really do a better job? In my district, many of our seventh-graders can’t even pass our state proficiency tests in reading and math. Most of our eighth-graders can’t pass the proficiency test in science. If they don’t have a solid grasp of the basic facts, how on earth can they possibly be thinking critically about them?

Morgaine: “would you please share some of the research links, and evidence you use to base this opinion? ( aside from talkorigins… a Usenet newsgroup devoted to discussion and debate, a collection of articles and essays)”

First, I’m unwilling to so quickly dismiss talkorigins as a source, because though it is a newsgroup “devoted to discussion and debate,” it is also the single most common reference used by almost every atheist and evolutionist with whom I’ve discussed evolution. As for the “discussion and debate” it promotes, as you are undoubtedly aware, it has no space for anything but criticism of creationism; the only discussion and debate welcome there is discussion in support of evolution. My contention that evolution violates the first and second laws of thermodynamics, the law of biogenesis, and the law of cause and effect are my own conclusions based on my study and basic common sense. For example, the first law of thermodynamics states that in a closed system (such as the universe, absent a Creator), energy and mass are conserved. For evolution to be true, at some point in time, energy and mass must have originated from nothing – a clear violation of this law.

The second law of thermodynamics states that with time, a closed system (again, such as the universe – I understand the earth itself is not a closed system), will become more random and disordered, and energy will be less available to do work. Evolution requires that at least in the first few billion years of its existence, the universe must have become MORE ordered (generating stars, planets, and galaxies from a random explosion), and its useful energy must have increased by natural processes.

The law of biogenesis states that life can only arise from life. Evolution calls for life to have arisen from nonliving matter; thus at some time, in order for life to have developed, the law of biogenesis must have been suspended. As stated in Biology, Nell Campbell, page 504, “Life cannot arise by spontaneous generation from inanimate material today, so far as we know, but conditions were very different when Earth was only a billion years old.” Spontaneous generation is taught as scientifically unacceptable in every chapter of biology textbooks except the ones on evolution!

The law of cause and effect says that an observed event can always be traced to an event that preceded it. Creationists believe in an ultimate First Cause; evolutionists don’t.

These four laws are among the most firmly established of all scientific laws. It takes considerable maneuvering for evolutionists to get around the basic, common sense statements of these laws. And in fact, many evolutionists agree. For example:

Richard Lewontin, in “Billions and Billions of Demons,” in The New York Review, January 1997, says, “We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated ‘Just So’ stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine foot in the door.” (If you are serious about asking about subconscious motivations, you might ask yourself, “What is my own subconscious motivation for refusing to accept a ‘Divine foot in the door’?”)

In Scientific American, volume 191, George Wald wrote this, “. . . the macro-molecule-to-cell transition is a jump of fantastic dimensions, which lies beyond the range of testable hypothesis. In this area all is conjecture. The available facts do not provide a basis for postulating that cells arose on this planet.” “After having chided the theologian for his reliance on myth and miracle, science found itself in the unenviable position of having to create a mythology of its own: namely the assumption that what, after long effort could not be proved to take place today, had, in truth, taken place in the primeval past.” “One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede that the spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet we are here as a result, I believe, of spontaneous generation.”

As recently as January 2000’s National Geographic, you can read Joel Achenbach’s quote: “Even on Earth the origin of life is a stubbornly enduring mystery. ‘How can a collection of chemicals form themselves into a living thing without any interference from outside?’ asks Paul Davies, a physicist and writer. ‘On the face of it, life is an exceedingly unlikely event,’ he argues. ‘There is no known principle of matter that says it has to organize itself into life. I’m very happy to believe in my head that we live in a biofriendly universe, because in my heart I find that very congenial. But we have not yet discovered the Life Principle.'”

I’ll freely admit I don’t spend a lot of time reading scientific articles and books by evolutionists about evolution – though I do read some occasionally, and I use them with my own children. Belief in evolution is pervasive in our society, and every time I read a magazine, or visit the museum or the zoo or the Grand Canyon or anywhere else, I encounter quotes, articles, essays, and more written by evolutionists. I also frequently look up research quoted by evolutionists on blogs and forums such as this, and I generally read those articles thoroughly. I realize some might say that therefore I haven’t really researched evolution, and perhaps they are right. I generally don’t find, however, that those who criticize creationists have spent nearly as much time reading material by creationists (though in fact that material is freely available) as I have reading material by evolutionists.

As for the issue of abstinence vs. safe sex, I could be wrong. I do wonder, though – what was the incoming perspective of the Advocates For Youth on the topic? Did they come into the research neutral, or were they already strong safe-sex advocates before they began looking for studies? I went to their website, and discovered that they’ve been around since 1980, when they were established as the “Center for Population Options,” and they have always stood on the safe-sex side. That, in my opinion, makes their report even more skewed than you believe the Fraser Institute report is, because the Fraser Institute wasn’t founded to represent homeschooling, while Advocates for Youth WAS founded to advocate for safe sex. If you take a look at the Heritage Foundation website instead, at this article, you’ll find a different perspective:

http://www.heritage.org/Research/Abstinence/BG1533.cfm

This report gives results quoted from 11 different studies of 10 different real abstinence education programs, studies with results published in such reliable sources as the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports, the Journal of Health Communications, the American Journal of Sociology, Family Relations, Family Planning Perspectives, and reports from the Center for Health Promotion Research at Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine, the Arkansas Department of Health, and more. The report shows quite dramatic positive results. So I’m not convinced I should listen to Advocates for Youth, which was founded to promote safe-sex education, rather than the Heritage Foundation, which while clearly a conservative organization, is not a single-issue group, and does not depend on the success of abstinence education for its own livelihood.

As for the Fraser Institute, simply because an organization is libertarian or conservative doesn’t make it pro-homeschooling. Your statements that it is “anti-government/regulation,” that has “ties to the oil industry,” and that an anti-climate change critic is on their board, have nothing whatsoever to do with their perspective on homeschooling, any more than a person’s being an atheist automatically means they will favor a government health plan. And I agree 100% that more research on homeschooling would be a positive development; I have no fear of what the results will find. In addition to the Fraser Institute study, there’s another here:

http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/

from the Education Policy Analysis Archive, edited by Dr. Gene V. Glass, of the College of Education at the University of Arizona. Keep in mind this is an old study, dated 1999; far more students are now homeschooled than were then, including the majority of those who are homeschooled for non-religious reasons. My own daughters, for example, would not have been included in the statistics, because the older did not start K until 2001. I just downloaded another study, but can’t locate it online at the moment, on homeschooling and citizenship, from the same source at about the same time.

As for the position of the editor of this blog, I can’t say a whole lot. This post showed up on my alert. However, the statement that if there was ever a “empirically testable” argument for God he’d listen effectively means he’s committed to believe God doesn’t exist. There are plenty of “logical” and “coherent” arguments (see books by Josh MacDowell, for example, or by Lee Strobel, or by Ravi Zacharias, or many others), but asking for empirically testable evidence for God is like asking for empirically testable evidence for freedom or justice – it is simply impossible to prove their existence. That doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t exist. God is not a puppet, to be summoned at our beck and call to do tricks in order to prove He exists. The very existence of the universe according to natural laws, the existence of life itself, testifies to His existence – and even evolutionists admit they don’t understand it – but they don’t prove His existence because it can’t be proven. It’s contrary to His nature to force Himself on us; those who truly want to know Him will find Him. I realize atheists will have trouble accepting this, but I’ve found it very true nonetheless – those who search for the truth about God do find Him. The truth is logical; it’s coherent; it’s rational – but it’s not empirically testable. And in order to determine whether it’s logical and coherent, a person must put in more time studying it than most atheists want to spend. (Maybe that’s why it’s only those who want to know the truth who actually do – the others quit before they discover it.)

Morgaine: “What about . . . the right to send one’s child to learn in a setting where objective reality is valued and belief is left out the matter entirely?”

But it’s IMPOSSIBLE to leave belief out of the matter entirely. You believe in naturalism (only what is empirically testable can be known to be true); I believe in God (there is One who is true who is not empirically testable). If I teach God in the schools, I am teaching what I believe; but if you teach naturalism in the schools, you are also not leaving out belief. Teaching naturalism means teaching what you believe instead of what I do. I don’t insist that you teach children what I believe (and while I realize some homeschoolers would, I never will); why do you insist they be taught what you believe?

As for your contention that only atheists and agnostics are discriminated against in this country, I just don’t buy it. In fact, in most schools, the atheist’s creation story is taught as truth, in science classes, rather than as cultural myths, as the other religions are taught; and the creationists’ creation story is deliberately excluded from being taught at all. I don’t even know of any public schools today (at least not in my state) who actually say the Pledge of Allegiance. I’ll admit atheists’ kids are probably ridiculed in school – as are fat kids, skinny kids, tall kids, short kids, slow kids, smart kids, Christian kids, Muslim kids, Hindu kids, anybody who is different – and that pretty much means all kids. I’ve never heard of a teacher or school administrator ridiculing an atheist child (though I’d imagine it happens, especially in the South). But I’ve known kids whose papers have been failed because they chose to include the name of God or Jesus; I’ve known of kids whose free speech rights have been infringed when they tried to pray at the school’s flagpole before school started; I’ve known of kids who have been told they couldn’t pray silently before their meal in the school cafeteria; I’ve known of kids who’ve been told they couldn’t bring their Bibles to school. That kind of discrimination, by adults against children, is far more serious, to my way of thinking, than a child being ridiculed by other kids because he or she doesn’t believe in God.

OK, I’ve spent literally hours writing this. I don’t have time to continue this discussion. I hope I can get back and check in on it at some point, but I have kids to teach, and two jobs to work, and a home to take care of, and a husband to help. I wish you all the best.

Black Sun Journal » Archives » The Home Schooling Question / October 31st, 2007, 12:43 am / #10

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