Posts Tagged ‘education’

Indiana Rejects Common Core

March 27, 2014

Walter Russell Mead has some interesting things to say about Indiana’s recent rejection of the Common Core federal education standards. He approves of the move not so much because of any defect in the standard but from a sense that a one size fits all program for a nation as large and diverse as the United States is not desirable. Here are his reasons.

First of all, families should have as much freedom as possible to shape their children’s education. And the closer to the grassroots level educational decision-making resides, the more likely it is that parents can help shape important decisions about their kids’ education.

Secondly, it’s clear that our educational system is in the midst of a period of change, as it needs to be. Society is changing, the economy is changing, yet our educational system is still a product of the Industrial Age. It’s designed to produce people who are good at following directions, coping with boredom, and sitting still for long periods of time. Coming up with a new model suited for the 21st century is going to take time and experimentation. Letting cities and states (to say nothing of individual schools, whether public, charter, or private) try out new approaches is the best way to do this. Let a hundred flowers bloom.

More broadly, as the U.S. continues to grow, we need to work much harder to keep important decisions at state and local levels for the sake of national unity and the health of democratic society. The individual American has almost no influence over decisions at the federal level, but at state and local levels grassroots coalitions and social and civic organizations can make a real difference. America is based on the idea that ordinary people should be responsible for their own lives; a mass society dilutes that necessary freedom and authority. Our democratic society will wither away if Washington tries to make all our important decisions for us. Centralization of power also tends to exaggerate and heighten political polarization. Let Texas live as it pleases, and let Vermont be Vermont. America will be happier and more peaceful when smaller units of government make more of the really consequential decisions.

This last argument is one to keep in mind. We think of ourselves as a democracy, the sort of country in which the people rather than a king or dictator rules. Yet, how democratic can a country with a population of over 300 million actually be if all the major decisions are made by a centralized government in a distant capital? One person out of 300 million simply has no voice. Pundits and professional worriers always complain when fewer than half the electorate actually votes in any national election, but why should they? One person voting in any national election, presidential , senatorial or congressional really isn’t going to make a difference. As centralized government over a country as large as the United States can’t really be very democratic at all, despite the number of elections that are held. By necessity, any such government must tend to be despotic just in order to get things done. Three hundred million people are never going to come to any consensus on any issue.  For this reason,we would be a whole lot better if most of the decisions that affect people’s lives were made at the state and local level, where an individual could make a difference.

I also think that a lot of the so-called culture wars over social issues would be a lot less intense and divisive if we got away from the idea that the federal government should impose one solution over the whole country. Take same-sex marriage. Why not let California legalize it while Iowa could ban it? That way people in both places could be happy.The same could apply to abortion, gun control, and many other issues. If you don’t like the way an issue is handled in your state, well, it is easier to change policies at the state level and you could always move.

Of course, the progressives hate the very idea of the federal government yielding any of its power. It is a lot harder to make fundamental changes when you have to deal with 50 states than with one federal government. They always profess to love diversity, except in matters where diversity really counts.

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Teaching the Bible in Schools

March 5, 2013

I have long felt that the Bible should be taught in public schools. Not as religious scripture, that would be unconstitutional and undesirable. I mean that the literary and historic aspects of the Bible should be taught as part of any effort to acquaint students of their American and Western heritage. Nothing comes even close to the impact that the Bible has had on Western civilization for the last two thousand years and it is all but impossible to really appreciate our cultural heritage without some knowledge of the Bible.It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was thoroughly familiar with the Bible. Public speakers, whatever their private opinions about religion could make allusions to Biblical verses and their audience would understand precisely what they were trying to say. Thus, Lincoln, who may have been a skeptic, could quote Jesus in saying that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. The founding fathers were a diverse lot regarding religious beliefs and practices, some were orthodox Christians, some were Deists, but the Bible was part of their education and all of them shared a common, biblical, Judeo-Christian worldview, even if any of them explicitly rejected the Christian religion. By effectively removing the Bible from our education and our culture, we have lost something very important.

I am glad to discover that I am not alone in that opinion, as this opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett shows. They make the case better than I could so I hope you don’t mind if I quote it in its entirety.

Have you ever sensed in your own life that “the handwriting was on the wall”? Or encouraged a loved one to walk “the straight and narrow”?

Have you ever laughed at something that came “out of the mouths of babes”? Or gone “the extra mile” for an opportunity that might vanish “in the twinkling of an eye”?

If you have, then you’ve been thinking of the Bible.

These phrases are just “a drop in the bucket” (another biblical phrase) of the many things we say and do every day that have their origins in the most read, most influential book of all time. The Bible has affected the world for centuries in innumerable ways, including art, literature, philosophy, government, philanthropy, education, social justice and humanitarianism. One would think that a text of such significance would be taught regularly in schools. Not so. That is because of the “stumbling block” (the Bible again) that is posed by the powers that be in America.

It’s time to change that, for the sake of the nation’s children. It’s time to encourage, perhaps even mandate, the teaching of the Bible in public schools as a primary document of Western civilization.

We know firsthand of its educational value, having grown up in Europe—Mark in England, Roma in Ireland—where Bible teaching was viewed as foundational to a well-rounded education. Now that we are naturalized U.S. citizens, we want to encourage public schools in America to give young people the same opportunity.

This is one of the reasons we created “The Bible,” a 10-part miniseries premiering March 3 on the History Channel that dramatizes key stories from Scriptures. It will encourage audiences around the world to open or reopen Bibles to understand and enjoy these stories.

Without the Bible, Shakespeare would read differently—there are more than 1,200 references to Scripture in his works. Without the Bible, there would be no Sistine Chapel and none of the biblically inspired masterpieces that hang in countless museums world-wide.

In movies, without biblical allegories, there would be no “Les Misérables,” no “Star Wars,” no “Matrix,” no “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, no “Narnia” and no “Ben-Hur.” There would be no Alcoholics Anonymous, Salvation Army or Harvard University—all of which found their roots in Scripture. And really, what would Bono sing about if there were no Bible?

Teaching the Bible is of course a touchy subject. One can’t broach it without someone barking “separation of church and state” and “forcing religion down my throat.”

Yet the Supreme Court has said it’s perfectly OK for schools to do so, ruling in 1963 (Abington School District v. Schempp) that “the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as a part of a secular (public school) program of education, may not be effected consistently with the First Amendment.”

The Supreme Court understood that we’re not talking about religion here, and certainly not about politics. We’re talking about knowledge. The foundations of knowledge of the ancient world—which informs the understanding of the modern world—are biblical in origin. Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president known more as a cigar-chomping Rough Rider than a hymn-signing Bible-thumper, once said: “A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.”

Can you imagine students not reading the Constitution in a U.S. government class? School administrators not sharing the periodic table of the elements with their science classes? A driver’s ed course that expected young men and women to pass written and road tests without having access to a booklet enumerating the rules of the road?

It would be the same thing, we believe, to deny America’s sons and daughters the benefits of an education that includes a study of the Bible. Although we are both Christians, the list is long of ardent atheists who appreciate the Bible’s educational heft while rejecting its spiritual claims. It is possible to have education without indoctrination. On this point, believers and nonbelievers should be able to “see eye to eye.” (More Bible goodness.)

Interestingly enough, the common desktop reference guide “The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy” best sums up the Bible’s value as a tool of cultural literacy. Its first page declares: “No one in the English speaking world can be considered literate without a basic knowledge of the Bible.”

Can we hear an amen?

It will never happen. Teaching the Bible would mean teaching our Judeo-Christian heritage and the Leftists who control our public education detest that heritage. Besides, the Bible was written by dead, white men and everyone knows that dead, white men have never contributed anything of worth. There is also the danger that some young person may get the idea that there is a higher source of morality than the needs of the state. We can’t have that. They might even find someone other than Dear Leader to worship.

Home Schooling Demographics

February 16, 2012

The increasing acceptance and popularity of home schooling has to be acutely embarrassing to the educational establishment. To make matters worse for them, the stereotype of home schooling families as religious fanatics who don’t want their children to learn about evolution is no longer true, if indeed it ever was. The other day, I read an article in USA Today noting the changing demographics of people who decide to home school their children. An increasing number of parents who are opting for home schooling are secular minded.

There was a time when Heather Kirchner thought mothers who home-schooled their children were only the types “who wore long skirts and praised Jesus and all that.”

That was before the New Jersey resident decided to home-school her own daughter, Anya.

Kirchner favors jeans, and like the two dozen other families that are part of the year-old Homeschool Village Co-op in central New Jersey, she doesn’t consider herself to be particularly religious. “I was definitely not ready to hand over to anybody my 5-year-old, my baby,” she says. “I would hate to miss this. They grow too quickly.”

The New Jersey co-op is among hundreds of secular and inclusive home-schooling groups in the USA aimed at providing opportunities for parents to network and for children to socialize, conduct science experiments, play sports and games and more, according to Homeschool World, the website of Practical Homeschooling Magazine.

Secular organizations across the country report their numbers are growing. Though government records indicate religion is still the driving force in home schooling, members of these organizations say the face of home schooling is changing, not because of faith, but because of what parents see as shortcomings in public and private schools.

She says her area near Baton Rouge has some of the lowest-scoring schools in the nation. “A lot of the children are just falling through the cracks,” Burges says. Her five children, ages 16 to 35, were home-schooled, says Burges, a Democrat running for City Council in Baker City, La. “Parents are struggling, trying to see what they can do.”

One obvious reason for the increase in home schooling is a concern over the quality of the education that students in public schools are receiving. Parents trapped in substandard school districts have long since become frustrated in making any improvements. But I think a more fundamental reason for the growth of home schooling is that many parents perceive that the schools are teaching values different from and even contrary to the values they would like their children to learn.

The 2007 survey showed 83.3% of home-schooling parents named “a desire to provide religious or moral instruction” as an important reason to home-school.

Susan Beatty, co-founder and general manager of the Christian Home Educators Association of California, who home-schooled three now-grown children, says most of her group’s members are looking to offer “a distinctly Christian education.”

Amy Wilson, 42, on the board of the Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, says the government statistics don’t paint a complete picture.

Wilson is an atheist and former senior research analyst for a nonprofit group. She home-schools her 12-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter in a state where home-school numbers are up from about 18,800 a decade ago to about 32,000 last year, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

“There are a lot of folks who choose home schooling, in part at least, because they’re concerned about transmitting their values,” Wilson said. “If someone answers (a survey question about morals) in the affirmative, it doesn’t mean they fit the stereotype of the evangelical Christian home-schooler.”

You don’t have to be very religious in order to believe that kindergarten is too early for children to learn about using condoms or that any age is inappropriate to learn about fisting.

The growth of the home schooling movement is a sign of our times. More than ever before people like choices and reject one size fits all institutions. Since every child in unique, shouldn’t each child have an education tailored to his or her needs. It seems to me that having twenty or thirty children in a classroom  all expected to learn at the same pace really isn’t a system that would work very well, even under the best of circumstances. When we have an educational system as consistently resistant to reform as our public school system is, the result can only be a disaster.

Hitler and Mussolini Would Love Our Public Schools

February 7, 2012

That is the opinion of the Catholic Bishop of Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I read this in CNS news.

 The Catholic bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., has apologized for offending anyone with his recent comments that Hitler and Mussolini “would love” the public school system in Pennsylvania, because it is similar to what they sought to create in their totalitarian states.

But in a statement issued by the diocese of Harrisburg, Bishop Joseph McFadden did not retract comments he made during an interview on Jan. 24 with WHTM-TV, the ABC affiliate in Harrisburg.

The bishop made a comparison between the interests of the public school system and totalitarianism, while discussing what he sees as a lack of school choice in Pennsylvania.

“In the totalitarian government, they would love our system,” McFadden said. “This is what Hitler and Mussolini and all them tried to establish — a monolith; so all the children would be educated in one set of beliefs and one way of doing things.”

McFadden’s comments drew immediate criticism from the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union – which complained that the bishop had raised the specter of the Holocaust.

“We respect the Bishop and his position in the Church.  We appreciate his commitment the education of children and the viability of Catholic schools.  However, he should not be making his point at the expense of the memory of six million Jews and millions of others who perished in the Holocaust,” Barry Morrison, Eastern Pennsylvania/Southern New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League.

I think his comparison is uncalled for and unfair. I am positive that the schools in Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were able to teach almost all of their students to read.

Actually, I see the bishop’s point, as he explained in his apology.

In a statement on the Diocese of Harrisburg Web site, the bishop issued an apology to anyone who was offended by his remarks, but went on to explain and justify his references to Hitler and Mussolini:

“To those who may have been offended by my remarks, I apologize to them assuring them that I purposely did not mention the holocaust,” the bishop said.

“The reference to dictators and totalitarian governments of the 20th century which I made in an interview on the topic of school choice was to make a dramatic illustration of how these unchecked monolithic governments of the past used schools to curtail the primary responsibility of the parent in the education of their children,” he said.

“Today many parents in our state experience the same lack of freedom in choosing an education that bests suits their child as those parents oppressed by dictators of the past. I intentionally did not make reference to the holocaust in my remarks,”

He’s right. I think that in the long run there is going to have to be some sort of school choice allowed in our public school system. The educational establishment is fighting any reform tooth and nail, but the failures of the system have become so obvious that I do not imagine they will be able to hold off reform for long.

 

 

 

Teachers’ Protest in San Francisco

June 10, 2011

If you are still sending your kids to “learn” in the public school system, then these pictures by Zombie at Pajamas Media will make you want to pull them right out. That is, unless you want them to be indoctrinated as Socialists. It is more than a little disgraceful to have these teachers drag their students out of class to use them as political props, not to mention demanding more money when the state of California is broke.

This sort of thing is part of the reason we homeschool.

Indiana School Teacher Loses His Mind

May 16, 2011

From Education Action Group,  and Townhall.com, we get this.

The Education Action Group, which supports vouchers, and other forms of education reform received an e-mail from an irate, and possibly unhinged teacher from East Allen County Schools;

Why do you distribute this propaganda? Do you have a conscience? Do you really believe any of this? I am not a union member but feel that Mitch’s agenda is killing Indiana. The education agenda is a holocaust against our children. Please understand I am speaking as a grandson of a Holocaust survivor. This is truly as bad or worse than what was done to the Jewish people only it is happening to innocent young people. It is frightening to me.

Okay. Trying to make sure that Indiana children get a decent education against the incredible opposition of the teacher’s unions is exactly the same as shipping people off to death camps.


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