Sunday, March 7, 2010

Separation of Church and Home

This blog isn't about science or religion, but sometimes science, politics and religion collide; and when all three of these intersect with elementary education, sparks will fly.

An article released by the Associated Press this weekend is a fine example of this explosive combination of issues. Although it probably doesn't qualify as a hit piece, Dylan Lovan does a pretty good job of portraying home-schoolers as anti-science wingnuts:

Two of the best-selling biology textbooks [for home-schoolers] stack the deck against evolution, said some science educators who reviewed sections of the books at the request of The Associated Press. "I feel fairly strongly about this. These books are promulgating lies to kids," said Jerry Coyne, an ecology and evolution professor at the University of Chicago.

Coyne is even more explicit about his antipathy toward home-schoolers in his personal blog:

As Lovan noted in his piece, “83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children ‘religious or moral instruction.’”

I weep for those children. For many of them are simply being brainwashed by their parents. Yes, that’s what it is—brainwashing...

How many budding biologists have been stifled by their parents’ willful ignorance of science, and on their insistence that the Bible is the real source of biological information?

Wow...sounds like the state should intervene, doesn't it? These poor kids probably should be taken from their parents. Forcing the kids to go to a government-run school would be a good start, but insufficient. Sure, you can get them on the right track at school, but what's going to happen when they go back home to their parents?

Reaction to Lovan's article on the left-wing spite sites has been even more paranoid. Robert Crook provides his very humble opinion:

Religiously brainwashing children, who are helpless because they depend entirely upon their parents, I asserted, is a form of child abuse.

Home-schooling, too, in most cases is done for the purpose of brainwashing, and therefore in most cases is child abuse.

Children home-schooled by “Christo” fascist parents are put at a huge disadvantage. Even children who are home-schooled for reasons other than religious indoctrination — children whose home-school curricula aren’t religious-based — are put at a disadvantage because they don’t get the same opportunities to socialize with children who come from different backgrounds as do their non-home-schooled peers.

For all the talk about the need for exposure to diverse views, Mr. Crook's ability to digest opposing opinions is surprisingly underdeveloped:

I Googled your e-mail address and found your blog, On your blog you link to Michelle Malkin, RedState and The Heritage Foundation as “important websites,” for [expletive deleted] sake. You’re a wingnut. So I’ll consider the source. You are, after all, preparing your children for the End Times, which they don’t teach in our public schools.

Unfortunately, this notion that home schooling is some kind insidious abuse is not confined to personal blogs and left-wing hate sites. Serious scholarly publications have entertained the idea as well:

The right to unregulated homeschooling visits quite concrete harms on the homeschooled children themselves, the mothers who are teaching them, and the often rural and isolated communities in which they are raised and taught...

...[T]here are political harms. Fundamentalist Protestant adults who were homeschooled over the last thirty years are not politically disengaged, far from it. They vote in far higher percentages than the rest of the population. They mobilize readily. The “army” in which adult homeschooled citizens are soldiers has enormous clout: homeschoolers were called “Bush’s Army” in 2000 and 2004 for good reason...

They are as effective as they are, and as successful as they are, because they engage in politics in the same way that soldiers participate in combat. They don’t question authority, and they can’t go AWOL. With little education, few if any job skills, and scant resources, their power either to influence the lines of authority within their own sphere, or to leave that sphere, is virtually nil.

An army of stupid, conservative Rove-bots? This must be stopped! Here's the plan:

As the political philosopher and homeschool critic Robert Reich has persuasively argued, curricular review would give the state a way to ensure that the academic content is such as to protect the children’s interest in both acquiring the necessary skills for active, autonomous, and responsible citizenship in adulthood, and in being exposed to diverse and more liberal ways.

And now we see the real concern. The statists aren't losing sleep at night because little Johnny can't read ― if that were the case, they'd allow kids to escape our lousy public schools ― no, the statists are worried that Johnny is sneaking off to Tea Parties with his parents when he should be at a real school singing praises to Barack Hussein Obama! Better keep an eye on Johnny.


Just for kicks, I recommend a visit to Dylan Lovan's Twitter feed. He links to this surprisingly religulous, unintentionally funny video from Symphony of Science:

...The sky calls to us
If we do not destroy ourselves
We will one day venture to the stars

A still more glorious dawn awaits
Not a sunrise, but a galaxy rise
A morning filled with 400 billion suns
The rising of the milky way... religious as anything I've ever seen or heard.


rewinn said...

I'm not qualified to speak about the whole of your post, but on the matter of home-schooler textbooks you will no doubt enjoy my review of the popular "Exploring Creation with Biology" by Jay L. Wile and Marilyn F. Durnell:

Neither author appears to be expert in the field on which they are writing. Marilyn F. Durnell appears to have no advanced degree, and Dr. Wile's degree and experience are in nuclear chemistry. This is rather like having an expert chef tell you how to fix your transmission.

For one example of where this lack of knowledge takes the book astray, consider its distinction between "microevolution" and "macroevolution" (something that no actual biologist recognizes today):

Quoting from the book: "Macroevolution ... assumes that a given life form has an unlimited ability to change. This means that some process must exist to add information to the creature's genetic code. After all, a creature's ability to change is limited by the information in the genetic code. There are only a certain number of genes and alleles of those genes. There is therefore only a certain number of possible variations in genotype and therefore a limited number of possible phenotypes. Thus, in order to get an unlimited amount of change, a creature must find a way to add genes and alleles to its genetic code!"

This quote is so full of errors it is hard to tell where to begin.
* This "explanation" incorrectly assumes that to changing a genetic code you need to add something. Little could be farther from the truth; it is like saying to change the order of cards in a deck, you need to add a card. Someone should tell Dr. Wile about "shuffling."
* It's not necessary to have an "unlimited ability to change" to have some limited ability to change.
* You can have a huge number of species within a limited number of variations in genotype. This of it as the order of cards in a deck; you can have them ordered by number or by suit; the resulting appearance will be quite different but there won't be any new cards. Likewise, you can reorder the elements of the genotype and get very different phenotypes without adding anything.
* And of course you actually *can* get new stuff in genes, by way of mutation.

One could go on about epistasis and stuff but the basic point is: if you want to learn biology, don't see this book; go see a book written by a biologist or two. Teaching children is serious business, and should not be put into the hands of authors who do not know their subject.

Southern Man said...

Learning is not at issue indoctrination is. Both sides of the argument are seeking to indoctrinate our youth. The question is who should hold that right. I would gladly home school my children if my work permitted; it does not. I have to constantly retrain my children and correct falsehoods that the school has given them. Its not the matter of facts and figures that causes the issue; it is politics and religion that are being fed to the children in the guise of education. I am christian and fully intend to raise my children in a Christian manner. Schools should stick to teaching facts. We can debate theories such as evolution but I will not debate my core beliefs. It is my job to raise moral and principled children and not the government's. This is where the crux of the problem resides.

Southern Man said...

BY the way, love the site and added it to my blogroll.

LoneWolfArcher said...

Great site!! Your last point speaks to the real issue. The left is upset about the home schooling movement because it keeps the kids away from their meat hooks. As a previous commenter pointed out, they want to be the ones indoctrinating our kids.

I find it funny that the main issue these people raise is the lack of evolutionary teaching to home schoolers. They are right, those of us that home school ours kids do so partially to shield them from the teaching of a theory (evolution) as fact. In fact, most of us teach our kids about evolution as just that, a man-made theory whose main purpose is to prove that God doesn't exist.

But there are many other things we do it to shield our kids from:

1) The filthy language that most parents allow their kids to engage in.

2) The teaching that homosexuality is a viable alternative lifestyle.

3) That the earth is supreme and all our actions must be determined by what the earth-worshippers deem is proper.

4) That white men are an evil entity that must be knocked down to size by non-whites and women alike.

5) That animals are on the same plain of existence as humans and therefore should be treated as equals with humans.

There are others, but these give the gist. Until these teachings are rooted out of our public schools I encourage all parents that can do so to home school.

P.S. My wife and I were both degreed, working professionals when we had our daughter. She quit to stay home and home school our daughter. We are an anti-home schooler's worst nightmare!

Mr. K said...

I am a homeschooled individual, and indoctrination is not apart of the textbooks. I would say a balanacing act is in place, due to the fact there is a significant Christian presence, but in public school, there is a significant secular presence, thus we are all in good balance.

Mr. K said...

Also.........the three theories of Earth are taught in the text-books:

Creationism (God created all).

Evolution (BigBang theory).

Creationism-Evolution (God created earth, after which, evolution took over).

Always On Watch said...

Home-schooling, too, in most cases is done for the purpose of brainwashing, and therefore in most cases is child abuse.

And the secular public schools don't? Gimme a break!

I work with groups of homeschoolers. Believe me, they DO get exposure to different ideas and points of view -- at least, in my classes.

Today, debate class will go head to head on the topic of "Resolved: That private health insurance should be abolished."

As for faith, well, the Constitution guarantees our right to pursue the faith of our choice. said...

Great piece - completely exposes the anti-Christian bigotry and hatred that homeschoolers often face. As a homeschooling father of five, I occasionally come in contact with such useful idiots. Press them about Catholic schools. Hebrew schools. Notre Dame. Seminaries. See if the vitriol and hatred still flow as fast and free. If it does, they are at least consistent in their bigotry and they would only be happy living in Beijing. If not, it begs many more questions.

The funny thing is that I know a lot of homeschoolers for whom the decision to educate at home had nothing to do with religion. It's more about the quality of education, or the particular needs of the student. Even though our family is Christian, I can say we fall squarely into that category.

I'm routinely asked if my kids are "socialized" (as in "medicine?"). That's always a clear sign that the person has never encountered homeschooled children in the wild. In truth, we put more miles on the minivan than any government-school-soccer-mom you've ever met. Our students are at more museums, more concerts, more martial arts acadmies, and yes - more colleges taking AP courses.

The level of parental commitment in a homeschool environment is simply amazing, and should be the envy of all true educators. It's rare to find a home educated kid who is not completely comfortable with and respectful of adults. Unfortunately, abused kids don't often show such attributes.

We aren't isolated. We don't educate alone. Usually we belong to large tutorial groups that pool their resources to find specialists in foreign languages and the sciences. We carefully choose our curriculum per course, per student, and aren't subject to the tyranny of Texas and California school boards (unlike most government schools). I know hundreds of families who educate at home and trust me -- these kids are critical thinkers.

In our family school room, every desk has a computer. Every kid gets alone time with the teacher and has access to every possible educational tool. I've never met two homeschooling families who have made the same curriculum choices, so to comment on one textbook that happens to be written for homeschoolers is simply ridiculous and beyond sloppy (my kids know a "straw man" when they see one).

If someone is against religious homeschoolers in particular, it usually means they just don't like Christians or Jews. For someone to be categorically against homeschooling, they must completely ignore standardized test data, dropout rates and college admission rates. They have to ignore every spelling bee, geography bee, and every other kind of academic competition. In fact, they have to completely ignore homeschoolers altogether.

Unfortunately, such people invent their own world, populate it with imaginary idiots, fill it with ignorance and hate, and then mindlessly assail it.

In reality, homeschooling is the ultimate alternative lifestyle, chosen at great cost and sacrifice, solely for the benefit of the students. There are those who could use a little government-school-style sensitivity training to help them grow just an ounce of tolerance.

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