Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Homeschoolers Get Ready to Regulate the Public Schools

Caveat:  This blog entry is intended to shine light on the absurdity of our laws and our lawmakers, the illogical straw-man arguments made by panic-master politicians who are greedy to unearth votes in the dark corners of ignorance, and the monstrous nature of a government seeking to encroach on every aspect of our daily lives.  While researching the child abuse statistics to prepare this blog entry, I thought my heart would break in two.  I pray for all of America's abused and neglected kids, whether the abuse comes from felons, families, brutal bullying in schools, coaches, or social networking. I do not take child abuse lightly.  No one should.    

An Open Letter to Ohio Lawmakers

To your recent proposal that ALL home educators be investigated by social services before being permitted to home educate, I have the following observations:

Tragically, nearly 5 children in the USA die every day from abuse and neglect. This statistic comes from National Statistics on Child Abuse.   The annual death toll is approximately 1,600.   Just awful.  

Statistics on the number of abuse-deaths in home school families are hard to come by. But, based on the homeschoolphobic mainstream news histrionics, it is roughly one per year. Based on my math, this represents approximately .032 % of the victims. It is very important to note that truant families and these vile human beings who hurt their kids ALWAYS purport to be home schooling.   The .032 % is probably much lower.  

The more appalling statistic:  

99.97% of the children who die from abuse in the home attend public or private school (100% minus .032%).   What in the world is going on here?  Of course, of course, I know , I know  - - correlation does not equate causation (unless, of course, you home educate).  But, folks, 99.97% is a staggering statistic!   Ohio lawmakers -  do not ignore these numbers.   Ohio's children deserve the best - even the kids who get on the big, yellow bus every day.

I suggest that a task force be formed to review known cases of abuse.  Based on the well-documented successes of home educated students, this Board of Overseers should obviously be headed by experienced home school families (without prejudice to race, religion, gender identity or marital status).  

In addition to determining the safety of the home and the safety of the school environment, the Board will be charged with identifying those students who are not reading at grade level and whose math scores are borderline or below grade level.  If performance is found to be substandard, the child(ren) should be immediately pulled out of the school in order to be home educated. 

If any physical abuse is reported to the Board of Overseers, then social services will be contacted immediately.

Based on the academic performance of home educated students and based on the safety standards in their learning environments, these families are surely best-equipped to advise and supervise in  the public schools, where currently a disproportionate number of students suffer from severe depression, chronic fear of bullying, and exhaustion.

This country and the State of Ohio should not stand by while 99.97% of the reported cases of abuse - all kids who attend public or private schools - goes unfixed.  

Most sincerely,

Rosemary Laberee

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Homeschool Whistleblowers and the Religious Thought Police

Home educators are perhaps the most mystifying group of people on the planet.  We are all dissenters of one kind or another.  Some flat-out reject mass education, others feel their special-needs kids cannot be served well, and many fear negative socialization, violence and bullying.  But the majority of home educators do the arduous work of schooling at  home for religious reasons.  These families were the pioneers decades ago who blazed the trail for the rest of us.   Most of mainstream America cannot fathom why sane parents would choose to spend every day and night with their kids.  The whole world thinks we are weird.  That's our burden to bear.  Thanks to this article, our job just got a little harder:

Ms. Joyce begins her attack on Christian Fundamentalist home educators by telling a shocking tale of a young adult woman who is basically held hostage in her home by a mentally ill mother. For her to imply that this is emblematic or typical of home education is disingenuous at best.  It is a lousy introduction to what is an otherwise informative essay.

A few clarifications - I am not a fundamentalist, but I am a Christian, and I've home schooled for 15 years. We home school for academic excellence.   I've met hundreds and hundreds of home school families, most of them Christian.  It is safe to say no two families are alike.  As a population home educators are practically impossible to categorize.  We defy generalizations.  Not knowing any better, Kathryn Joyce stubbornly tries to categorize home educators but only succeeds carrying out a crazy witch hunt..  This is so regrettable because she does unveil other important issues - issues that merit more discussion.  But, the most worthy aspects of her essay are buried in her own bigotry.  More on this later.....

As mentioned, the most conspicuous flaw in this essay is found on the launch pad - the author devotes the first few paragraphs to the awfully sad,  extraordinary, and rather dreadful circumstances of Jennifer's schism with her parents.  News flash:  Correlation does not imply causation!  Jennifer's parents are a little nuts. Home school or not, these parents eventually would have been a force for poor Jennifer (and Lauren) to deal with.

After Kathryn Joyce primes the pump with this theatrical opening, she proceeds to throw many people and organizations (all of them conservative Christian in scope and sequence) right under the "religious-thought-police bus".  She has sat behind the wheel of this buggy for many years, but she seems only to steer toward Christians, cheerfully eager to plow them down.   She is a bigot and she is barreling around in the bigot bus, targeting Christian initiatives with all of the zealotry she seems to detest in others.

There are many ways she could have addressed some of the valid issues that exist in very conservative Christian home school circles.  An even-handed approach would have borne more fruit.  For example, this article would be more plausible, if it had included a discussion of what the Amish are taught in their homes and churches.  Additionally, if Ms. Joyce is truly concerned about what children are learning outside of this nation's state conditioning centers, she really should have included a discussion of ultra conservative Judaism, which is most analogous to the very conservative fundamentalist Christian. For example, in conservative orthodox Judaism, marriages are often determined by parents and it is frequently a financial arrangement.  Boys and girls are taught separately.  They are opposed to viewing secular movies and reading secular newspapers.  They are told to be fruitful and multiply.  This sounds like just the thing to get Ms. Joyce's knickers twisted, but she does not talk about them or other groups.

Kathryn Joyce is deeply interested in religious liberty.  Well, why doesn't she focus on the oppression of young Muslim girls?  Here, a storehouse of great exposés await her golden pen.  Imagine the good she could do by raising awareness of the ocean of brutality and subjugation in the extreme forms of this religion.   Instead she spends her time accusing Christians of evil-doing when they rescue children through adoption. Better those children should die slow and painful deaths from infection, neglect and abuse, right, Kathryn?  Anything would be better than having them cared for by Christians.

Also, I cannot  help but wonder why Kathryn Joyce did not give any space in her article to talk about the amazing achievements of home educated students.  It is a glaring omission.  It robs her thesis of integrity.

The Homeschool Apostates (the title of her essay) gave voice to a growing group of young adults who feel they were robbed of a normal childhood.  This is a terrible thing - a heart breaking outcome.  I am glad these young people have found each other and have a public forum for airing their grievances. Their parents may wish they had done things differently.  Many parents do and most of them did not home school.  But, I had no idea that there were homeschool recovery groups, and it was deeply challenging to read the personal stories of so many young adults on these homeschool refugee websites.  It is important to read how things can go sideways - it doesn't only happen in school families - it happens in homeschool families, too.   I am glad that Kathryn Joyce put these websites out there. Together, all of these recovery stories present a complete manual on what NOT to do if you plan to home educate.  Ideally, some of these stories would make it into the "new homeschooler info packet".

I do not want to detract from the stories of these defectors.  However, much larger than this apostate group (by several million) are the public forums for young adults who wish their parents had rescued them from a hellish existence in school.

Here's the thing - some conservative Christian families do go over board in my opinion.  I know families who do not allow their teens to date and where the "Master of the House" dad is viewed as an overlord.  There are some families who meddle constantly in their children's lives and who smother them with rules.  Some have a highly flawed approach to academics.  But, at the end of the day, this is no more my business than is the neighbor's kid who gets on a big, yellow bus every day and who at the age of 12 still cannot read.

Kathryn Joyce seems very alarmed by the fact that home education puts most control into the hands of parents.  Who else should have control over our children's lives - the marauding, predatory, minions in Washington?  It is obvious that this author wants everyone to have the same life views.  Yes, a mob of automatons would be a manageable mob.  Hmmmm.  Don't you wonder what Kathryn Joyce really wants?

In this article, she was trying to get at some of the flaws in home education but her hostility toward Christians derailed her effort.  Hate is a terrible burden to bear.  Ultimately, I think this author degrades herself with her evident hatred of Christians and the result is a lack of imagination in her research.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

CCSI = Common Core Standards Initiative - the aligned gets maligned

You would have to be living on a deserted island to have escaped the interminable carping over the CCSI.   It is runner up for the Most Detested Sweeping Statist Change in America.  You can guess what takes first place, of course.

For the rest of this post, I'd like to ask you a favor.  Every time you see the words "National Standards" and "align/ment", please also hear the crisp, brush and clip of the goose-step executed by a sea of uniformed enforcers.

A few administrators remain giggly over CCSI  (Common Core) - these are the people who plaster every inch of the school with "You CAN do IT" and "Today is YOUR day" signs.  These buffoons don't count.  Then, there is the avalanche of publishers trying (poorly) to conceal their glee.  After all, that which is "aligned" has to be rewritten, sold, and then thrown out soon after.  It's a publisher's dream come true.

Why in the world did a bankrupt nation busily engaged in the ignoble work of losing its exceptionalism in every imaginable realm decide to jump onto the curriculum alignment bandwagon?  If it is part of a bigger plan - it is a wicked plan indeed.   If it is not part of any plan at all, if it is just more flailing desperately at the new congenitally subordinate intellect that our moocher nation has bred, God help us all. Warning - when you see the pieces of the puzzle float together, you will be ill at ease.  It is a nasty, confusing, and, in the end, gloomy business.

The entire US of A is being "aligned".  As of three days ago, all of the schools (except in Texas, Alaska, Minnesota, Nebraska and Virginia) are changing .....well, everything.  There is now a National Standard which is developing rapidly into a Common Curriculum for all states.  This has resulted in big companies like Scholastic, Inc publishing books that omit Israel from the world map and AP History textbooks misstating the 2nd and 3rd Amendments.   Oversights?  Maybe...I am not bothering to mention in any detail the flood of complaints about a pro-Islam agenda that has slipped into every subject book.  The only research creepier than the evolution of Common Core is botfly removal.

What out-of-touch, ivory tower clown cooked up the idea of one standard which would then belch out a common curriculum for states as diverse as Alaska and New York, Montana and New Jersey, California and Kentucky?  That would be Bill Gates.

A little history.  Many years ago, Bill Gates said something about education that got the attention of a few people who can smell money from miles away.  Gates said (in so many words) that he thought the states should all have the same academic guidelines - the same standards.  "We need a National Standard."   If you want to know what happened after his pontifications on education, all you have to do is follow the money.  There is a chilling conclusion to be drawn at the end of that trail.

Bill Gates and a couple of other guys decided they could create the image of a state-led education overhaul.  Except the state had nothing to do with it.  It was just a few guys setting out to change the country's schools.  Why?  Because they could.  And, for Bill's money, of course.  Why would Bill Gates underwrite every aspect of CCSI?  Power?  Bordeom?  Wait and see.  My speculation - there will be a Microsoft-based platform for CCSI in which all schools must participate and into which our tax dollars will be tossed willy nilly. How could 45 of our states jump on board this runaway train without looking more closely?   Since US students are routinely eclipsed by international students, and since this embarrassing problem is growing worse each year, the US government is willing to try anything. Anything.   And, if Bill Gates says it is necessary .... well, I guess that's good enough for our policymakers in DC.  The fact that the "state" had little if anything at all to do with the National Standards might be reason to hope, but a look at some of the "aligned" textbooks reveals this fact:  It is possible that government-led education reform is not the worst scenario.  Now, that is just a ghastly thought and not just because it means I have to eat my "Pro-Privatization" hat.

Some downright terrifying background:

After Gates "shared" his thoughts on National Standards, David Coleman, the president of the College Board, immediately started a company called Student Achievement Partners.  Bill Gates gave this SAP millions.  David Coleman's new (side) business has one and only one purpose - to develop Common Core Standards.  As president of the College Board, Coleman oversees the development and implementation of the PSAT,  SAT, APs and SAT Subject Tests.....just about every test your kids needs to ace in order to prove their worthiness to the university-world.  Are you starting to get scared?  Pour yourself a stiff drink, because it gets a lot worse.

The public has been told that:  "The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce." (This is from the CCSI website.) Baloney.   There were two organizations that Bill brought into the circle.  The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council for Chief State School Officers.  Here's the most interesting thing.  Bill Gates has plowed up to $150,000,000 into these organizations (and Coleman's SAP) since that first fateful meeting of a few avaricious minds in 2008 under the guise of an "educational forum" on National Standards.

An entire country is following Bill Gates' trail of crumbs, like a whole flock of Hansel and Gretel's, and no one stops to ask.....why?   What is at the end of this trail?  I don't know.  But, I feel compelled to run away.  Maybe because I've read Hansel and Gretel - the nonaligned version.

Bill Gates is not a teacher.  Although he is a parent, something tells me his kids did not suffer under overworked, underpaid public school teachers struggling in unsafe, underfunded districts.  In short, he has no idea what he is doing.  Unless, of course, there is a hidden agenda, in which case he knows exactly what he is doing.  He and his "non-profit" partners, knew exactly what they were doing.

The NGA had 29 individuals present at the first pow-wow.  As it turns out, though, only 2 of these individuals were not affiliated with an education company.  As you will see from the list below, most of the education companies get boatloads of Gates' money.  See what I mean?

It really does look like a handful of guys rammed this through.  Not even a Hollywood B conspiracy theory flick could have created this kind of grandiose scheming.  Scary thing - it has worked. Washington took the bait.

So what is the moral to this spine-chilling story?  Well, when someone asks you nervously if the textbook you are using is "aligned", remember that just a couple of monkey suits banged this out on their way to and from the bank each day, and in between their trips to the islands.

Keep your old textbooks because "aligned" means that matters of faith have been buried, matters of constitutionality have been buried and 4th grade math has been made utterly incomprehensible.  You are about to witness conditioning that will make 1984 and Brave New World look like a Magic Tree House mystery.  The "aligned" texts have an insidious form of "new-think" which skips the unpleasant task of swaying your opinion because in many realms, they skip the truth altogether.

This needs to be repeated - keep your old textbooks.

At the bottom of this blog are two lists.  One is a list of the $$ Gates has paid directly to CCS architects.  The second is a list of educational organizations that have been bought by Gates.  These are from the deutsch29 Edu blog, but you can find the info in many places.

If you go to this blog, and I hope you do, you will see that included are links for every grant and contribution from Gates to back the research.

It you have a ton of time, you can ferret out all of these from the Gates Foundation website, directly:


The four principal organizations associated with CCSS– NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and Student Achievement Partners– have accepted millions from Bill Gates. In fact, prior to CCSS “completion” in June 2009, Gates had paid millions to NGA, CCSSO, and Achieve. And the millions continued to flow following CCSS completion.
Prior to June 2009, NGA received $23.6 million from the Gates Foundation from 2002 through 2008. $19.7 million was for the highly-disruptive “high school redesign” (i.e.,“small schools”) project, one that Gates abandoned.
After June 2009, NGA received an additional $2.1 million from Gates, the largest payout coming in February 2011,
to work with state policymakers on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, with special attention to effective resource reallocation to ensure complete execution, as well as rethinking state policies on teacher effectiveness 
Amount: $1,598,477 [Emphasis added.]
Years ago, Gates paid NGA to “rethink policies on teacher effectiveness.”
One man, lots of money, nationally shaping a profession to which he has never belonged.
As for CCSSO: The Gates amounts are even higher than for NGA. Prior to June 2009, the Gates Foundation gave $47.1 million to CCSSO (from 2002 to 2007), with the largest amount focused on data “access” and “data driven decisions”:
March 2007 
Purpose: to support Phase II of the National Education Data Partnership seeking to promote transparency and accessibility of education data and improve public education through data-driven decision making 
Amount: $21,642,317 [Emphasis added.]
Following CCSS completion in June 2009, Gates funded CCSSO an additional $31.9 million, with the largest grants earmarked for CSSS implementation and assessment, and data acquisition and control:
July 2013 
Purpose: to CCSSO, on behalf of the PARCC and SBAC consortia to support the development of high quality assessments to measure the Common Core State Standards 
Amount: $4,000,000
November 2012 
Purpose: to support the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in helping States’ to build their data inoperability capability and IT leadership capacity 
Amount: $1,277,648
October 2012 
Purpose: to support strategic planning for the sustainability of the Common Core State Standards and the two multi-state assessment consortia tasked with designing assessments aligned with those standards 
Amount: $1,100,000
June 2011 
Purpose: to support the Common Core State Standards work 
Amount: $9,388,911
November 2009 
Purpose: to partner with federal, state, public, and private interests to develop common, open, longitudinal data standards 
Amount: $3,185,750
July 2009 
Purpose: to increase the leadership capacity of chiefs by focusing on standards and assessmentsdata systems, educator development and determining a new system of supports for student learning 
Amount: $9,961,842  [Emphasis added.]
Gates money also flowed to Achieve, Inc.; prior to June 2009, Achieve received $23.5 million in Gates funding. Another $13.2 million followed after CCSS creation, with $9.3 million devoted to “building strategic alliances” for CCSS promotion:
 June 2012 
Purpose: to strengthen and expand the ADP Network, provide
more support to states for CCSS implementation, and build strategic national
and statewide alliances by engaging directly with key stakeholders 
Amount: $9,297,699  [Emphasis added.]


Gates Buys Select Major Ed Organizations and Think Tanks
Let us now consider major education organizations and think tanks that have accepted Gates money for the express purpose of advancing CCSS:
American Enterprise Institute: $1,068,788.
American Federation of Teachers: $5,400,000.
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development: $3,269,428.
Council of Great City Schools: $5,010,988.
Education Trust: $2,039,526.
National Congress of Parents and Teachers: $499,962.
National Education Association: $3,982,597.
Thomas B. Fordham Institute: $1,961,116.
(For most of the organizations above, Gates has funded other reform-related efforts, including those related to charter schools, small schools, teacher evaluation, and data systems. Comprehensive listing of Gates grants for the organizations above [and then some] can be found here:  Gates Foundation Grants to Select Education and Policy Groups)
Date: January 2011 
Purpose: to track state progress towards implementation of standards and to understand how what students read changes in response to the standards 
Amount: $1,002,000 [Purpose emphasis added.]
Even though CCSS was never piloted, Gates and Fordham want to watch state “progress” in implementing CCSS, and they even want to know how the untested CCSS shifts the curriculum– even though reformers are quick to parrot that CCSS is “not a curriculum.” This “tracking” tacitly acknowledges CCSS is meant to drive curriculum.
Next is this Gates purchase of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI):
Date: June 2012 
Purpose: to support their education policy work in four distinct areas:
Exploring the Challenges of Common Core, Future of American Education Working Groups, Innovations in Financial Aid, and Bridging K-12 and Higher Ed with Technology 
Amount: $1,068,788 [Purpose emphasis added.]
Gates is paying AEI to promote educational policy that bolsters CCSS. And Gates is getting his money’s worth from AEI “scholar” Frederick Hess, who offers these twoarticles advising “Common Core’ites.”
Third is the Gates purchase of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT):
Date: June 2012 
Purpose: to support the AFT Innovation Fund and work on teacher
development and Common Core State Standards 
Amount: $4,400,000
Even though AFT was not invited to the CCSS table until the “standards” had already been drafted by the CCSS Inner Circle noted above, and even though CCSS has not been piloted, AFT only called for a testing moratorium and not for a cease-and-desist of CCSS altogether. It appears that accepting $4.4 million in order to “work on teacher development and Common Core Standards” precludes “just saying no” to what amounts to the CCSS Colossal Education Experiment.
Fourth is the Gates purchase of the National Education Association (NEA). In July 2013, NEA officially endorsed CCSS, and in July 2013, Gates paid NEA for its support in the form of two grants totaling $6.3 million:
Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates
Amount: $2,426,500
Date: July 2013
Purpose: to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts
Amount: $3,882,600
NEA was not at the CCSS birthing table with NGA, CCSSO, Achieve, and David Coleman’s Student Achievement Partners. However, after the establishment of CCSS without teachers, now Gates is willing to pay a teachers union to create curricula that in the end do not really matter since the CCSS power is in the assessments that are completely out of NEA’s control.
I have saved my favorite CCSS-Gates purchase for last, this one to the Council of Great City Schools (CGCS):
Date: June 2011 
Purpose: to promote and coordinate successful implementation of the new common core standards in major urban public school systems nationwide 
Amount: $4,910,988
Date: March 2010 
Purpose: to support the development of a cross-sector proposal to pilot test the new common core standards in a set of selected cities 
Amount: $100,000  [Purpose emphasis added.]
It seems that Gates paid CGCS $100,000 to propose a pilot study of CCSS in 2010 (not to conduct a pilot study– just to draft the idea for a pilot). Fifteen months later, there is no mention of a “proposal” much less a pilot study materializing; instead, Gates pays CGCS to “just go ahead” and “coordinate successful implementation” of the untested CCSS.

Final words:

One more time, because I cannot stress this enough:  Hold on to your old textbooks.  There will be more truth in them.  Their content will have more integrity.   They do not bear that most degenerate brand - "ALIGNED with COMMON CORE."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The wisdom of a liberal arts education ....

Regarding a liberal arts education - here is a sobering look at trends from Business Insider.  I have taken the liberty of pasting the whole article below, because every word is golden.  However, if you only read the following words, you will get the gist and I hope be inspired to read it all.

A 2010 study from Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that students majoring in liberal arts fields see " significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study." 
De-emphasizing, de-funding, and  demonizing the humanities means that students don't get trained well in the things that are the hardest to teach once at a job: thinking and writing clearly. 

My p.s.  -  With the US government exercising unprecedented control over the lives of its citizens, it is more important than ever before that we know how to think and express ourselves clearly.  Otherwise, we have nothing more than a global society of sheep.

The article:

The decades-long war against English and the other humanities has succeeded in many ways, which has had some unintended and very negative effects, according to a new report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Parents don't read to their children as much, K-12 humanities teachers are not as well-trained as STEM ones, federal funding for international education is down 41% over four years, and many college students graduate without being able to write clearly.
Although humanities degrees are not in total freefall, the bigger problem centers on the  decline in pre-college humanities education and in the liberal arts curriculum in college.
Humanities get a tiny fraction of the federal funding that STEM programs do. Many schools, public ones in particular, are already under huge financial pressure, so they're going to focus more of their energies on the things that they can get others to pay for:
Federal funding by academic discipline
That means fewer offerings, less faculty, and a decline in the sort of introductory and mandatory classes that used to be standard in college. 
The result is not only relatively fewer humanities majors but also a generation of students who get out of school and don't know how to write well or express themselves clearly. 
 The New York Times' Verlyn Klinkenborg, who has spent time teaching writing to both undergrads and graduate students at places like Harvard, Yale, Pomona, Sarah Lawrence, and Columbia'sGraduate School of Journalism, reports that kids are shockingly ill-prepared:
Each semester I hope, and fear, that I will have nothing to teach my students because they already know how to write. And each semester I discover, again, that they don’t.
They can assemble strings of jargon and generate clots of ventriloquistic syntax. They can meta-metastasize any thematic or ideological notion they happen upon. And they get good grades for doing just that. But as for writing clearly, simply, with attention and openness to their own thoughts and emotions and the world around them — no.
Those are undergraduate and even graduate students at some of the top colleges and universities in the country who have chosen to focus on writing to a certain extent. Things are presumably even worse elsewhere.
A 2010 study from Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa found that students majoring in liberal artsfields see " significantly higher gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writing skills over time than students in other fields of study." 
De-emphasizing, de-funding, and  demonizing the humanities means that students don't get trained well in the things that are the hardest to teach once at a job: thinking and writing clearly. 
CEOs, including Jeff Bezos , Logitech's Bracken Darrell , Aetna's Mark Bertolini , and legendary Intel co-founder Andy Grove emphasize how essential clear writing and the liberal arts are. STEM alone isn't enough. Even Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke recently gave English majors a shout-out.    
The point is that good writing isn't just a "utilitarian skill" as Klinkenborg  puts it but something that takes a great deal of practice, thought, and engagement with history and what other people have written.
Let's hope that argument keeps the field alive.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

My letter to the editor on "Why American Education Fails"

The recent issue of Foreign Affairs magazine  (Volume 92 Number 3 , May/June 2013) carries an article titled, Why American Education Fails and how lessons from abroad could improve it by Jal MehtaI was irresistibly drawn to this for reasons that should be obvious, if you regularly visit this blog.

Here is my letter to the editor of Foreign Affairs, which I am sure will never make it into a printed version.

Dear Foreign Affairs,

I love your magazine and turn to it eagerly for the world of ideas and for the intelligent, nuanced discourse found there.

I read Jal Mehta’s article on the epic fail of American public education with great interest.  I thought that Professor Mehta identified many of the problems accurately.  But I found it disturbing that in 4,000 words (yes, I counted them) the word parent was not used once.  Not.  Once.  How does anyone pontificate on education AND fail to mention parents?  Have we severed the American child from a parent-based world so thoroughly that parents are not even worthy of a casual reference in connection with the value of a kid’s education?  Big omission.

On the plus side - I loved the criticism of No Child Left Behind.  Billions down the drain AND American kids fell further behind.  A smart business person would fire every barbarian whose fingerprints could be found on that vile legislation.  I am still waiting for some kind of repercussions ….or maybe a refund on my tax increase?

I do think that more could have been said about the inevitable deja-vu that Common Core Standards Initiative represents.  Ten years from now and billions of dollars later, the governments will have MORE control, the CCSI will be an epic fail, taxes will go up, and America will slip behind far enough that it will no longer be taken seriously on the global education stage. 

Professor Mehta compares America to Finland, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.  Of course, we pale in comparison to these nations.  Most American kids would be hard pressed to find these nations on a map, much less out-read, out-math, out-science or outsmart them in any way shape or form.  BUT, these nations all have the manageability that homogeneity delivers.  All the kids are very similar – ethnically and socioeconomically similar.  These nations simply do not have the same burdens that American schools have.  Also, I think it is intellectually misleading to suggest that America emulate homogenous nations with a strong welfare state, especially when America’s insolvency is already a pox on its people.  And what about the fact that the NEA , the largest, most powerful union in the country,  has a creepy, anti-freedom agenda, and consistently acts out of self-interest and against the beleaguered population of students and parents it should be helping.  Why isn’t this in the first paragraph?

The article skips from one illusion to another because like so many in academia, this author does not once contemplate a redo on the FAMILY level.  It seems that all answers to the education problems that plague us must come from the Wizard of Oz in DC.   Why is the squalid state of American politics being relied upon for anything at all ?

Finally, how can any well-educated researcher in this field make this statement WITHOUT suggesting that the US Department of Education take a hike?  “Not only does the field (US education) lack knowledge; it lacks the resources and infrastructure needed to produce it.”   What the heck are we paying for? 

To his credit, Professor Mehta does allude to schools and teachers turning to commercial and nonprofit institutions for help.  But, seriously, here he is swatting at a lion seal with a handkerchief.  He would get much more attention and support if he just stated the obvious, just spoke the plain truth.  The Department of Education has utterly failed.  It should stop robbing US children of an education, admit that it is nothing more than a costly train wreck, stop taxing the life out of American families, and hand education over to private industry.  Then American families would be free to find a true education. Believe me we would then begin to find our greatness once more.  We would become the self-sufficient innovators of yesteryear.

Know this  -  The problems in public education in America are Big Government, One Size Fits All, Big Taxes, Big Union.  So, axiomatically, the solutions cannot be Bigger Government, Bigger Taxes, Bigger Union.   Professor Mehta is right in that we need a redo.  American public education has spoiled.  But, we simply cannot put the sour milk in a bigger, more expensive fridge and hope that tomorrow it is going to smell better.  

Friday, May 31, 2013

SJ Magazine: "New Jersey's Failing High Schools"

This article left me weary and worried.  Read it and weep....

Like so many commentaries on the shocking state of education in NJ and elsewhere in this
once- upon-a-time land of the free and home of the brave, it states the problems clearly and then dives enthusiastically into the bottomless pit of fictions that we have manufactured to divert ourselves from a painful, ugly reality.

In the first few paragraphs, the author states a few tragic facts:

1.  70% of New Jersey's high school graduates need remedial coursework in order to be college-ready.

2.  Students who begin college by taking remedial coursework have only a 25% chance of graduating from college.

Heaven help us.

But even more shocking than this scandalous truth about the value of public education in NJ, is the fact that the outrage is omitted!  Friends, you have been robbed!  How much of your annual tax bill supports the public schools?  Demand a refund !!  In no other industry could there be such gross neglect without dire consequences. If you were this derelict in your duties at your job, you would be canned.  If you are a law abiding citizen who pays taxes without complaint and your kid has graduated from high school but needs to take pre-algebra at the community college - You. Have. Been. Robbed.

You paid for your kid's education with prodigious taxes and now you have to pay for the same coursework - again - but this time with after-tax dollars, that warm and fuzzy double whammy.

But instead of howling with outrage, shock, and righteous indignation, the author begins the equivocations and idle talk of common core standards, 'partnering with high schools', Student Success Summit, task forces, proficiency testing, blah, blah, blah.   She tells us the public schools are falling short and then suggests .... more of the same !!  What??

Is it because I have not sent my kids to schools that I feel such umbrage and have an overwhelming desire to grab every parent by the shoulders, shake them hard, and bellow, "Snap out of it !!"

None of the task forces, partnerships, committees, study teams, testing cultures and revised standards have worked. Standardized test scores continue to drop; they are at record lows!  It has all been for nothing.  The whole system is quicksand.  Once you are in it, the more you struggle, and the deeper you are pulled down by it.  What else needs to be said?

The exasperation I felt after reading this article was palpable.  Into what hermetically sealed chamber has the collective common sense of American families been forever ditched?  Unless parents snap out of it and demand a refund or walk away, nothing is going to change.  The fiction will only grow more Leviathan-like around the dark chambers of the public education stage until the specter-like whispers of truth evaporate altogether.  Meanwhile, taxes will go up, America will slip further behind its international peers, and citizens will decry the outsourcing of jobs.  Friends, the madness really must stop and only you can make it stop.

Lest you think that I believe teachers are bad or guilty, think again.  They are saints.  The union?  Not so.  But teachers are creative, caring individuals who really want to help.  But the entire system is built upon a lie.  Mass, group education is a bad idea.  The minority of students who succeed would succeed even if you dropped them on a deserted island.  They are determined to learn, and they'll do it no matter what.   Mass education does not produce a good result for the majority.  That's really the only truth that needs to be absorbed by the collective consciousness of the American public.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is the Ethnicity Box obsolete?

Diversity practices in the college application process are a very touchy topic.  The reasons are obvious – we mourn for errors past, we bid all strife and discourse cease, we strive for equality in opportunity and hope never again to witness the terrible sadness of a scalded soul.  Amen, amen and amen.

But, diversity practices are getting complicated - hard to manage and harder yet to explain.

Russell Nieli, a Princeton professor and admissions adviser to Princeton freshman, uses an interesting phrase when analyzing the practice.  He calls the diversity targets  "identity groups".  He describes it well in this article:

An identity group is an ethnic identity which is viewed, generally, as challenged, discriminated against, or somehow not given a fair chance in life. Most would agree that the "identity group" practices in colleges aim to get at this thing: They want to help kids who have been oppressed, kids who still suffer from the sins of our country's past, or kids who have no access to good teachers or good classes.  They want to give these kids a leg up, a second chance, the benefit of the doubt, etc....  Very few would argue against this most worthy goal.  But there is a  problem here.  Color, race, ethnicity and exotic roots are poor barometers of the social conditions in which a student strives to succeed.

Remember - the positive promotion of "identity groups" in universities all over the country is not hidden.  It is not the topic of furtive whispers.  It is out in the open.  It is the subject of scholarly essays and it is widely acknowledged.  But, it is increasingly being challenged in the courts.  And, now, science also seeks to turn it on its head.

The era of the ethnicity box may be coming to an end.

Today, it is possible for any person on earth willing to part with $200 to have their ethnic roots known with certainty.  I’m not talking about; I’m describing DNA analysis through the National Genographic Project.  The results are guaranteed to shock.  My family just did this.  We are about as boringly white as white gets (or so we thought), with grandparents all hailing from Ireland, Scotland or England.  Our DNA tells a different story.  We are only 29% northern European.  We are 41% middle-Eastern and 30% western Asian (area now known as Turkmenistan and Iran).  WHO KNEW?   Now, these results go back thousands of years.  And, when any one of us goes back this far, we ARE going to find Asian, Mediterranean and/or African roots.  All of us.  Interesting, huh?

The ethnicity box says nothing at all about the prospective student’s life experience or social condition, which is the real information it seeks to get at.  Since there is just no way to quantify the cultural experience, we settle for a mostly irrelevant reporting of   a) the color of your skin, or  b) the most exotic soil on which a parent or grandparent was born.   That seems rather shallow.

Here are some scenarios in which the ethnicity box fails miserably.  By the way, I do not know the answers to any of these questions…..

A child from an impoverished area of South America, but adopted as a baby by an affluent white couple and raised happily in a Bryn Mawr mansion - what box should he check? Should this college applicant seek advantage?  All of the adopted Chinese children who were raised in the average white American household – what box should they check?  What if the adopted Chinese baby is raised in an African American household - what box does she check?   Is it fair for a Puerto Rican student with a neurosurgeon dad and a lawyer mom to gain the advantage of an "identity group" applicant?  How about a rich white kid who steps over his father’s drunken body on the bathroom floor every night so he can brush his teeth?  Is there a box for him to check?    Most would agree that it really is the cultural conditions, rather than ethnic roots, which can truly augment or impair a kid's chance for success in life and that  "challenged life" should trump "ethnic roots".  But, see how messy this is?

Add to this the fact that DNA analysis is going to be as commonplace as an app for your iPhone and soon, very soon, we are going to be faced with the fact that we ALL have exotic roots. What, then?

In this era making generalizations about someone's lifestyle and social condition based on their ethnicity is downright offensive. In every day life we know better than to do something this coarse.  We work hard to NOT generalize.  Yet, when it comes to college applications, we lose our sensibilities.  Now, we want people to make generalizations based on race. And, regardless of which box you check ...even if you check  "I prefer not to disclose", assumptions and generalizations have instantly been assigned to you.  That's kind of weird.

Another problem with correcting admissions for diversity is the collateral damage to merit.  There are other identity groups who face discrimination of a different type.  If you are Chinese, East Asian,  Jewish, or Korean and you have perfect SAT scores, perfect GPA, high achievement in the arts, sciences or music, you are faced with a disproportionate chance of rejection.  Your hard work, your sacrifices, your determination and your tenacity are punished.  What is to be said about this?  What words sound right to explain this Kafkaesque condition?  Doesn’t it seem un-American to bypass excellence, much less punish it ?

On the topic of punishing excellence, I have this interesting anecdote:
My daughter recently applied for a scholarship.  Initially denied the scholarship because it did not ‘appear’ that she needed it, the committee looked over her achievements and, to their credit, they asked her to appeal it with an essay about why she deserved it.  She did.  It made her so happy to be able to put into words her deep frustration with "the system".   I do not think she will mind me quoting her a little bit .....

"What does my father's tax return have to do with me?  I've worked like a dog all through high school.  Whether he made very little or quite a lot, it has nothing to do with me. I chose to seek excellence.  My sweat, my sacrifices, my hours of studying, my choosing to do what is hard over what is easy again and again, should stand on its own. Does anyone ask an Olympic athlete how much money their dad makes?  Focus on parent income defiles the effort of the student and kills the incentive to excel.  Either I am the best student for this scholarship or I am not.  That is all."

She got this scholarship.

I think there are many college applicants who want to scream out similar words, who want to have their efforts evaluated independent of ethnic heritage or economic status, and who decry the death of meritocracy. 

My daughter's experience underscores the deeply challenging question that American universities and American families must ask themselves.  What exactly are we trying to achieve?  Is it even possible to tease out the information we seek, in order to even the playing field and thus sleep better at night? 

Finally, faced with the ethnicity box’s inevitable fall from grace, I do wonder what will happen next.

Twilight is falling over the sea,
Shadows are stealing dark on the lea;
Borne on the night winds, voices of yore
Come from the far off shore.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Educational Ecosystem

I overheard this striking aphorism the other day; words spoken by one battle-weary parent to another:
"You are only as happy as your saddest child."
Wow.  Think on that.  It packs a punch.  Those of us with multiple kids know - we are buoyed up by one child's success only to be brought down by the other's struggle.  At the end of the day, the plight of the troubled child is the last thought, the last words in our sleepy prayers for answers... for guidance.

This got me thinking about the ecosystem of families.  No family event, no family issue, arises in isolation.  Everything touches and changes everyone.   In nature if you take away something as simple as ants or bees, it can cause a collapse on a grand scale.  Correspondingly, the tragic tendrils of one child's misery can reach into every corner of family life, challenging even the most casual kitchen conversations. As parents, educators, providers, and cruise directors, we have to strike an absurd balance here.  Specifically, the task is to maximize the well-being of all family members so the ecosystem infrastructure does not rupture and so that all thrive. (This is the ancestral birthplace of heartfelt prayer!)

Thankfully, families have the ultimate superglue - love.  Love finds solutions where all else fails.  But, it is a formidable task, nevertheless.

If you think family ecosystems are complex, what of educational ecosystems?  Is a class only as good as its worst student?  Is a course only as effective as its least contributing, least interested student?  Maybe.

Ask any teacher and they will eagerly describe their trials and tribulations in the classroom.  If they have students who don't want to learn or who are disruptive, little can be done.  Like a drought or a monsoon on fertile fields, uncooperative students change everything:  the classroom atmosphere, the speed with which material can be covered, the teacher's mood, the motivation of the other students, and, of course, the learning outcome.

It is true in public schools, private schools, and home schools.

As home educators, we have checked out of the group-learning, school model, only to desperately recreate it at every turn.  We have homeschool-schools, co-ops galore, small group learning, and clubs.  We are not immune to the educational ecosystem challenges.  With the alacrity of an inborn, genetic predisposition we rush together and embrace the new ecosystems we create and all the concomitant complexities.

The metaphorical question is - how to treat an invasive species?  In nature, if long-horned beetles are spotted in a woods, the big chemical guns come out, treatment is aggressive, and many other beneficial insects and organisms are sacrificed in an effort to spare the trees.  This is imperfect but it does save the trees.  Measures like this (metaphorical only) don't work in schools.  The goal is to educate all, control the wayward, and keep everyone there ....whether they want to be there or not.  So, the invasive species is really part of the landscape, forever.  The weeds must be welcomed.

Home educators would be foolish indeed if they became saddled with the issues germane to group education.  We need to work just as hard at striking the ecological balance in our home schools, as we do in our families.  It helps to frequently revisit why we started on this journey in the first place.  For excellence, Godliness, familial ties, and freedom of choice - when we find ourselves in grave conflict with our original vision and our educational ecosystem is unbalanced,  it is time for a change.

"Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand."

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Home Education in the News ....again.

It seems that every few months, New Jersey newspapers are destined to churn-out same old, same old articles on home schooling. Very few of the reporters take the time to dig deeply.  I think I know why.

A week ago I was contacted by a reporter who wanted to talk to someone about home education for an article he was writing.  I responded with a long and detailed email of at least 300 words.  Buried in the email were these words ...."For the record, I think that home educators should not be regulated.  Ever."  Of course, these are the only words that made it into the article.  I had no idea I was being quoted in the article, until a friend emailed me about my name appearing in it.  Imagine my surprise.  Here's a link:

Why do we continue to have the same discussion over and over again?  When people ask if home schooling works or if it is good for kids or not, they might as well be asking if we are sure the Earth is spherical and not flat.  Lord, it really is time to move on.

This is the article that should have been written.....

When you see the Scripps Spelling Bee and the Math Counts Competitions trying to finagle ways to limit participation by home school students, you know we have succeeded.  Yes, home educated kids have to sign a special form developed by Scripps in which they promise not to study too hard or too long.  I am not kidding.  Also, a home school parent may not start or run a county level bee.  Burlington County has not had a sponsor for several years, hence NO student in Burlington County can participate in the Scripps Bee because there is no feeder bee.  I could have fixed this and offered to do the work,  but was barred from doing so because my kids do not attend the local state conditioning centers.  Huh?  Translation:  Parents and Hollywood got angry when so many home schoolers began winning at Scripps.

Math Counts has also demonstrated their respect for home educated kids by barring them from forming teams.  Why? Well, because they would then have all the smart math kids on their team.  But, when the local school puts together a team, do they choose the football players?  I think not.  They choose their best math students.  And they are permitted to do this and, of course, would be fools if they did not.  Not home school kids.  No teams permitted there.

These examples of discrimination could be viewed (by those of us who do this hard job of managing our own kid's educations) with bat-crap crazy rage, but are better viewed as an institutional bow of respect.  We win. Lots of people do not like this.

Everything the government does to interfere with parental rights leads America to greater mediocrity.

Fact:   Home education is the ONLY educational outpost of progress on this blue planet.
Fact:  The media and the political spin doctors will never stop looking for ways to maintain their tragic fiction.
Fact:  Home educated kids, regardless of their religious beliefs, are independent thinkers who will never be walking in lockstep with the masses.  They have not drunk the Kool-Aide and thus are still original thinkers.

That, my friends, is why the trite ,hackneyed, fluff articles continue to circulate.  For, as long as those who remain in the US Dept of Education trance can cast a shadow of doubt on the stunning success of the home education movement, they can continue to feel good about their own choices.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Race to Nowhere ??

Have any of you seen this documentary?  Race to Nowhere is a film about the pressure to succeed in high school in order to gain admission to a competitive four year college. It's primary focus is on the super-testing atmosphere and the demands of AP classes and extracurricular activities on the students and their families.

I watched it twice.  Each time I came away with the same impression.  The families and students interviewed seemed utterly unprepared for the competition they were in.  My 16 year old daughter watched it and had the same impression, stating quickly that most or all of the students interviewed extensively in the movie never should have been put into the pressure-cooker in the first place.  Her words:  "These kids are not equipped for high performance and should not have been put into AP classes or told they could get into Harvard or Stanford or UC Berkely, in the first place!"  I do agree.

The problem is NOT too much homework, as the movie suggests.  The statistics bear out the opposite - most kids in high school watch 4 hours of TV per day and play video games on top of this ....daily.  The problem is one of goal setting.   For example, my youngest child is not the athletic type.  Outdoorsy - yes.  He'd much rather be outside, no shirt, playing for hours, running and carrying on.  But give him a basketball or a baseball and bat?  It is not a pretty sight.  Would I ever put this kid in a competitive sport with a ball that had to be bounced, kicked, caught or hit with a racquet?  Never.  I have different goals for him - reasonable goals for him in the realm of sports.

This same kind of reality check needs to be done all over the country, when it comes to college preparation. After I sat through this whiny vignette a second time, I asked myself why in the world these parents were doing this terrible thing to these perfectly nice kids.  I have met kids who can do 4 hours of advanced algebra without complaint and then turn to the memory work needed to prepare for five different AP exams.  They are calm, driven and gifted.  I have also met kids who are completely lost (academically) most days.  Not only are they unable to handle the intensity of AP level work while balancing other commitments, they also have no idea why they are doing it.  They lack the big picture, they are not playing to their strengths and pushing these kids up the Ivy hill is just wrong.  But, I blame the parents, not the schools for this tragic error of goal-setting.

I thought the entire move reeked of this and it could have been more aptly named ....The Injustice of  Erroneous Goals.

I found this Washington Post article illuminating:

The reason these kids are sick, distraught, overwhelmed and failing is that most of the parents (not all of them) were oblivious.  The parents were all watching a train wreck take place in their kid's lives because deep down inside, they want their kids to keep up when they really should have encouraged them to slow down.  Then they blamed the system, the homework, the AP classes, the unforgiving and unrelenting testing.  But, parents ALWAYS have a choice.  Parents ALWAYS have the freedom to walk away. The movie was about the 'system' so I did not expect to see much coverage of home education.  But, to not mention it even once as a viable alternative?  It was an odd omission.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Chosen Few

This is the season when high school seniors find out who got in and who got injured; college admissions is a full contact sport and not for the faint of heart.  For the past two weeks, I've been hearing reports from both the happy and heartbroken in this take-no-prisoners game and I was reminded of T. S. Eliot's modernist epic poem, The Waste Land, because it begins this way ....

"April is the cruelest month ..."   The poem is 434 lines long, so I won't inflict the entire thing upon you in this blog.  (I love this poem and spent a full year studying it - not because I had to - just because I loved it.)

There are legions of disappointed high school seniors who would agree that April is the cruelest month.

I read the open letter from Suzy Lee Weiss printed last week in the WSJ and titled ...."To all the colleges that rejected me ...."

More interesting than the writer's sprightly message to the Ivy League schools that rejected her were the reactions from casual readers.  Some were deeply offended, some thought it hilarious, and some were alarmed.  I had almost no reaction to it because I have seen so many similar essays and articles in the past.  I remember racing over the lines in the article and thinking, 'yada, yada, yada.....'    The young lady does not cover any new territory.  She merely shines a light on the same old-same old.   If we hate what we see it because we hate it (in fact) or is it because it is true?  I do not know.

I do know that gaining admission to a very competitive four year college is a vulgar game where the stakes are high.  I would never pretend otherwise. Still, I play it.  I do this because in the past 5-10 years I have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs.  Median American wages are stagnant and I think they are going to stay that way.  There is a shocking concentration of wealth at the top (America's richest 1% now possess almost as much net wealth as the bottom 95% combined.)  And it is only getting worse.  I do not begrudge the 1% their millions.  Kudos to them.  Also, I do not think that money can solve all of one's problems.  But, as I tell my kids, money will solve all of the problem caused by not having money. And, God will take care of the rest, if you let Him.

This article on the $$ value of an Ivy League education is a good read:

Here is a quote from it:  "Harvard, Yale, and Princeton are among the most expensive universities in the country, yet their graduates are among the five colleges with the least student debt.  This is the case primarily because grads of these institutions find good jobs and make enough money to pay their loans back.  In other words, degrees from these institutions are terrific values in the long run, even if they cost a pretty penny upfront."

I do believe that a degree from a very good university will keep paying off years down the road.  Additionally, these institutions are pipelines to power.  Don't we, as Christians, want to see more Godly men and women at the very highest echelons of society?

Schools with admission rates below 15% are not for everyone.  But, regardless of your student's aptitude, I urge you to reach for the best possible school within his/her reach.

My husband and I have four kids to get into college.  The first one made it through the eye of the needle.  Most importantly, he is happy.  He loves UPenn.    Next year, we'll see if my daughter's dreams will come true.   Regardless of where she goes to college, my husband and I know she will thrive.  She knows what hard works feels like and she is not afraid of it.  And, most importantly, she loves to learn.  Still.

So, although it occasionally distasteful,  I will keep plugging away, planning and seeking out unique experiences and opportunities, looking for ways to challenge.  And I will fall asleep and awaken each day with a prayer of thanks on my lips.

Final thoughts from  The Waste Land ....

And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of dust.

Friday, March 22, 2013

America's Entitlement Crisis and the Marshmallow test

Many citizens are confronting this harsh reality:   The US cannot keep up with its entitlements.  Welfare, Social Security, and many other government programs designed to help the weak and the old and the temporarily incapacitated, are going to fail.  Eventually.  Maybe sooner than most want to believe.

This crisis will open the floodgates for all kind of evildoers.  Nature instructs here.  Not all, but most animals instinctively exploit, desert or kill off the weak.  With the US showing signs of collapsing under the weight of government programs, Korea, the Middle East, Russia and China will naturally seek to gain.

As the US wrestles with moral issues that are implicit in helping those who cannot help themselves and as the US tries to develop more ways for government to help, it only succeeds in burying itself more thoroughly.  Meanwhile, other world powers regroup, rethink and react.  My opinion: The world is too big, too complicated and too diverse and no set of politicians regardless of philosophical underpinnings can untangle the mess.  At the risk of sounding trite or perhaps fatalistic ....I think that only the strong will survive.

Maybe it is time to think about how we got where we are so at least those who do emerge from the inevitable chaos in one piece can avoid the mistakes of the past.

I was reminded recently of the famous marshmallow studies of Walter Mischel.  Four year old children were offered one marshmallow, which they could eat right away, or a promise of two marshmallows, if they could just wait a few hours.  These children were then followed-up and, not surprisingly, the children who were able to delay the marshmallow reward (at the age of 4) were also the more successful adults.

If this test were given to a large group of American children, a large group of Chinese children, a large group of Iranian children and a large group of Norwegian children what story would the numbers tell?  In other words, can a test as simple as this predict which nation is best prepared for success?

In our own homeschools,  we try to have our kids work harder than the average kid.  We ask them to delay a present reward  for a greater and later reward.  We might tell them that they cannot attend a sleep-over because the next day they are facing a science test.  We might suggest that they not watch any TV during the week so that they have more evening time for reading and studying.  In these efforts we succeed or we fail and a pattern emerges which can follow a kid through life.  Add to this outcome the long-standing national concept that "we can have it all!"   How can a nation that knows not how to delay gratification and that at the same time promotes the idea of having it all have ended up anywhere else but in this utterly vacuous and deadly space - the squalor of the moocher state?

The inability to make do with less is why we continue to borrow money from China (money we cannot and will never be able to repay).  We want to be able to provide hip replacements for poverty-stricken seniors, give gallons of milk to moms on welfare, and offer special services in our schools for children with learning differences.  All of these things seem necessary, I agree.  It sounds like a good idea.  Yet, we continue to whistle in the dark ....even when intellectually we know there really is a big, bad guy hiding in the shadows.  And it is not China.  Nor Russia.  It is ourselves.  It is the American mind-set ....demanding to have all of its treats today without a thought of tomorrow.

Yes, we are the generation that grabbed the marshmallow that was offered, the moment it was offered.

God help us.