Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Home Education is Not the Problem

The Center for Home Education Policy – A Solution in Search of a Problem

I was with great interest that I read The Washington Post Magazine’s article, by Lisa Grace Lednicer, on this new enterprise – The Center for Home Education Policy.

The young people who run this organization were homeschooled and their goal is to help those who do not like the homeschool life their parents have designed for them.  The Center for Home Education Policy wants to help young men and women “escape” their homeschools, and, rather presumptuously, will offer some basic life skills support in the process.

Sarah Hunt and Carmen Green are rather accomplished young people (Rhodes Scholar candidate and Georgetown Law).  They have an outstanding command of the king’s English, did well at college, and clearly know how to get a job done.  This  puts them head and shoulders above most of their brick-and-mortar-schooled peers.  They are not poster children for some backwoods, Bible-thumping, slop-‘dem-hogs-or-else kind of parenting.  I bet that the parents of these enterprising young adults are exceedingly proud of them, as well they should be.

The goal of The Center for Home Education is more government regulation of home education, but as this essay will point out, there are errors and omissions in their petition.

The Center for Home Education Policy zooms in on fundamentalist Christianity as a culprit while ignoring other forms of religion-motivated, segregating, educational options.   This is troubling.  If The Center for Home Education Policy truly cares about the isolating and rigid circumstances which can be found in some extremely religious homes, and if they care about how hard it is for the young lives trapped there, then it would definitely need to put a wide-angle lens on the camera.  Christians are not the only home educators out there.  What about the solitariness of Amish children?  What of the detachment of children in conservative, orthodox Judaism?  Finally, what about the confinement, oppression and degradation of young Muslim girls?  These cultures represent huge homeschool communities -  why doesn’t the Center for Home Education Policy “go there”?

I think it is because they would not feel comfortable stomping around the sacred grounds of a culture they do not know, even if it does have practices which offend their sensibilities.  Maybe they have more respect for the rituals of these religious cultures than for their own?  Regardless, their approach to helping home educated youth seems biased.  They appear to be on a targeted witch hunt, and it robs their goals of integrity and sincerity.

On the claims of abuse and starvation in these fundamentalist homes, it is imperative to point out the difference between families who are truant and families who home educate.  Truant families do not send kids to school.  Neither do they homeschool.  They do nothing at all because they are bad people.  Legislating home education will do nothing at all to save kids from bad parents and creating a police state where kids are checked up on regularly steps into a very menacing space.   The corruption in large government, bureaucratic departments which aim to “help children” is legendary.  Relying on any agency to verify the integrity of a homeschool (against whose standards?) has a distinctly Orwelian stench.  Bad people who fail to send their kids to school ALWAYS claim to be homeschooling.  Hunt and Green have erroneously conflated these two groups.

Think.   How many public-school kids suffer at the hands of bad parents?  Tragically, too many to count.  Why don’t we blame public education for this?  Why don’t we seek some oversight in these families?  If a few of the 1.8 million homeschool kids are mistreated in their homes, this is a terrible thing.  But here is a much worse statistic – thousands and thousands of kids, who are not homeschooled, are mistreated in their homes each year. Thousands of kids who attend public schools are victims of abuse.   Kids who attend public school are also much more likely to be murdered - while AT the school.  Child abuse is ghastly and heart-breaking and for the sake of those victims, I think we should interpret the data correctly.

Hunt and Green explain that many kids who were homeschooled in isolating circumstances need very basic life skills training and academic remediation as well.  I have caught one or two rare glimpses of this, so I do not disagree entirely.  But it is very disingenuous to suggest that this is common in home education.  It is not common.  It is rare.  It is, however, very common to meet a middle schooler who attends a public school and who still cannot read.   Of the young people who fill our prisons and who drop out of high school or college, the overwhelming majority went to a public school.  That is a very scary outcome.

You see, the question that does need an answer is this:  Why are so many young people who come out of our nation’s public schools not prepared for college, for life, and for self-sufficiency?  This is a problem that needs a solution, but it is not a problem generally found in homeschool homes.

More importantly, today’s headlines have revealed how public school students are narrowly formed around a bubble of progressive, politically-correct, left-of-center orthodoxy.  The shocking events on our nation’s college campuses show us how very intolerant and viciously protective that isolating piece of society can be.  (Here, I am referring to the isolation which public education molds.)

Now  -  take a look at the Nation’s Report Card 

THIS is terrifying.  None of the kids represented in these statistics were home educated.  This is a crisis, a tragedy, and a terrible injustice.  On a GRAND scale.   How can one point fingers at a very few ill-prepared homeschool children, when an entire nation is facing an academic extinction event brought to us compliments of ….no, not home education…. but that wondrous alternative known as public education?  The author of this article, Lisa Grace Lednicer, failed to show the Nation’s Report Card or the Homeschool Report Card.   Such an omission is not cool.

The numbers and the research speak volumes.  This is why I think that The Center for Home Education Policy is a solution in search of a problem.  Home education builds better citizens.
The problem is public education.

In the Washington Post article, Sarah Hunt explains that some homeschoolers do not even know what the SAT is.  The direct opposite has been my experience.  I have heard the same things, year in and year out, from homeschool teens who take the SAT or ACT.  Homeschooled teens come away shocked at how oblivious the other students are about these tests.  During the test breaks they listen to bewildered comments from the school kids, many of whom do not even know why they are there. These public school students are shocked to find out that the test is 3.5 hours long.  They are shocked to learn that they must write an essay.   They are shocked to learn that they must know Geometry to do the math portion.  My own four kids (each took SAT 2 to 3 times in total) were flabbergasted at how unskilled and vulnerable these kids seemed.  And they felt pity for them.

As someone who consults with parents during the college application process - parents of homeschoolers as well as parents of public school students – I can tell you that there is a huge difference between the two.  Homeschool parents are much more aware of the requirements for graduation and the criteria for admission to college.  For many homeschool families, the proof of the pudding arrives during the first year in college.  This is when homeschool kids truly shine.  Colleges are eager to have them and they thrive, while many of their public schooled peers do not. 

I think that Hunt and Green have focused on the wrong data.   To illustrate this point - imagine you are in a room where there are 100 young people who were very poorly educated and who come from wacky families.  Now, imagine that 3 of them were home educated.  How can you hope to be taken seriously when your take-away from this is that more regulation is needed in home education, when the real problem is in the BIG numbers … the 97 other people?  It does not make sense.

The timing of this article and, indeed, the timing of the whole “homeschool monitoring” message is suspicious, given the present political climate.  There is an elephant in the room, which may be the real reason for the howls for “home education monitoring”.  It is this - the inevitable a la carte approach to education.  If the US moves toward a voucher model for education then home education will grow even more.  So, best to start the bleating and barking for more controls now, right?

I wish The Center for Home Education Policy well but remain convinced that they are a solution in search of a problem.  I hope they turn their well-formed minds to the real problems in education, where they might rescue countless children lost in an intellectual and cultural wasteland.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Race Politics Rescue?

How Race Politics Tempered Republican Rhetoric
(and maybe saved them from self-immolation)

These are days of unprecedented public displays of hate – we have born witness to four months of lunacy and political violence from the left and it has most citizens on edge.  What is going to happen next and how will it end?

Only a few lone voices predicted the Trump triumph in November – true.  However, I don’t think anyone at all predicted the unhampered hurricane of hostility from the Democratic Party.      While catching my breath in between reports of physical assaults and property damage, and while trying to escape the scathing rants against President Trump and his family members, I found myself reflecting on the anger of Republicans over the past 8 years.

I recall how infuriated I was when Obama cancelled my medical insurance, but the peak of Republican rancor during the Obamacare debacle was found in a filibuster, via 21 hours of a talking Ted Cruz.  There were no riots.  No one ever imagined attacking Democrats who were sporting Obama hats, and no one launched savage personal attacks on Barrack, Michelle or their daughters.

Maybe conservatives are more even-tempered.   But, consider this possibility:  The strident political rhetoric of the Obama years was kept in check because no one wanted the public to confuse scorn for Obama’s collectivism with racism. 

I remember the worst times for conservatives during the Obama years.  They included rage over multiple lies surrounding Obamacare, the arbitrarily altered deadlines, inclusions and exclusions, and the enormous increase in premiums for the middle class.  The umbrage also rose when he violated the First Amendment right of internet service providers, when he failed to prosecute the IRS scandal, when he ran lemming-like into the transgender bathroom bungle, and when he repeatedly ran the country like a king, usurping legislative power by way of one executive order after another.   

Where were the barbaric attacks on his supporters at our college campuses and on our city streets?   Where the personal impugnments - the personal denigrations?

These did not happen.

The fact that Barrack Obama is African-American and that he was our country’s first black president curbed the language of hate (and I am glad for this).  Of course, Republicans did not have disregard for Obama because of his ethnicity.  They detested his Euro-socialism and his disdain of American values.  Rather than have anyone mistake biting criticisms of his policies for racism, the sharpest words of the conservative’s ire went unuttered. 

So, instead of devolving into the often violent, sandwich-board lunatics we now see in the news daily, the GOP carries on, with its self-regard fully intact.    The race-motivated restraint exercised by the Republicans stands in stark contrast to the present unrestrained brutality of the left.  That is why, in just four months, the Democratic party is in a mess and the GOP, while flawed, is intact, albeit changed.

Monday, February 13, 2017

The New Vetting

I never cared about the philosophical underpinnings of the leaderships at Microsoft, Apple, Starbucks, Airbnb, or any other of the big and powerful profit machines.    I was just your standard issue consumer – if I liked the service or products and thought the price was fair, I bought.   Forever gone are those carefree days. 

It all began with Target.   You know, I never entered that store without spending $100 more than I had intended to spend?    Loved their products.  Then they jumped into the transgender bathroom nonsense, when Barrack Obama was at the helm, wreaking havoc on traditional citizens with traditional values.   While I have nothing against transgender individuals (yes, I do know a few) when Target took such an aggressive stand on the issue, they had my full attention.  The transgender population represents a very, very small portion of society and Target thought that this small segment of the population needed to feel accepted.  Ok.   But, they never thought about or spoke to the much larger segment of the population who would feel unaccepted and marginalized by coed, co-use bathrooms.   The restroom policies at Target favor the comfort of so very few at the expense of so very many. 

I have not crossed the threshold of Target since their very odd and aggressive stance on bathroom policy.*  If they cared so little about my position on the matter, the only sensible thing left for me to do was to stop giving them my money.  So, I did.  They don’t care about me or my business, of course, and I do know this.  However, I instantly felt good about my decision and have never regretted it.   It made me feel less powerless in the face of great nonsense. I do wish they had stayed out of the transgender bathroom conflict and had simply stuck to selling me socks and sheets, but I estimate that my separation from Target has saved me at least $1500 far.  That said, I do feel like I was vetted - profiled - and considered unimportant.  Not included.  So it goes.
(*I have read that Target has since backed off their regrettable stance on transgender bathroom policy and that it cost them over $20 million to do it.)   

Today, I find myself making similar decisions.  Many similar decisions. 

When Starbucks announced that it would hire immigrants while many Americans are jobless, hungry and eager to work, they got my full attention.   In no world does this makes sense, I thought.   Either Starbucks executives have a bone to pick with our current President or their marketing department saw an opportunity to get more brand loyalty from millennials, who part with great sums of money to be able to ‘hold the cup’ – that handy emblem of the accomplished! Regardless of the motivation behind their anti-American pronouncement, it struck me as vicious and perverse.   I am a coffee achiever as those who know me can attest.  I drink no fewer than six cups a day and I use to swing by my local Starbucks three to four times a week.  No more.   From the day that Starbucks played its sinister hand in politics and marketing, I stopped my Starbucks habit.  Again, I know that Starbucks does not care about me and my little itty bit of business.  That is not the point.   I use to enjoy my Starbucks coffee and might have gone on enjoying it, had the organization not done such a clumsy, transparent, manipulative, polemical thing.   Heavy sigh.   On the upside, I order my coffee in bulk now (not from Starbucks) and I keep a coffee machine in the trunk of my minivan.  Yes, I brew my own pot of Joe when I’m on the road and it is simply divine.  I have saved $20/week since I separated from Starbucks, but more importantly, I feel very good about the decision.  On the other hand, I feel bad about being vetted by Starbucks’ politics and I wish they had simply stuck to selling me coffee. Starbucks now makes me feel unwelcome, not included.  So it goes.

Now, I travel a good bit with my teenagers.  Some years ago they told me all about Airbnb and I’ve been an enthusiastic customer for a few years now.  I got a very odd email from them a couple of weeks back – something about “weaccept”.  When I clicked through the link in the email I found myself having to accept what amounted to a catechism!  If you know anything about serious faith-based organizations, then you know that many ask you to sign a statement of faith saying that you agree with their ideas on higher powers and the order of the universe, etc.   Well, that’s what this was, except that the orthodoxy was political.  This outrageous communication from Airbnb gave me two choices – accept or decline.  Here is what the decline button got me: “Declining this commitment means that your Airbnb account will be canceled, and your future reservations will be canceled.”

I did not accept.   It was as offensive as it was stupid.   I could be a lying, thieving, pervert hoping to rip off some good soul – but as long as I click on “I accept” somehow I’d be part of some Airbnb-good-guys-club?  Again, either the owners of Airbnb have a bone to pick with our current President or they are hoping to get deeper into the pockets of millennials, their main source of business.  Either way, it is at best disingenuous and at worst contemptible.  I closed my Airbnb account.   Once again, I was vetted. Profiled and found to be unimportant.  Not included….by this organization that preaches inclusion.    Hmmm.   So it goes.

I am a sociable person and I have been using Meetup for joining various outdoor clubs.  Today, I received another odd email – this one from Meetup.   They want me to know that they created 1000 meetups for anti-Trump individuals.   I cannot begin to express how many ways this offends, unless Messrs. Heiferman and Meeker have also created 1000 meetups for those who support the general direction in which our country is headed under the new leadership in DC.    I am waiting for that email.  It seems to me that Meetup can accomplish its mission by allowing its users to figure things out all by themselves.  There is no need to create meetups which may or may not be used, unless of course, their intent is to tell people what it is they should think.  I have unsubscribed, of course, as there are other ways for me to get information on the local outdoor activities. Maybe Meetup owners are just keeping their investors happy.  I don't have time to follow the money, but I am sure someone will.    It is so strange to watch an organization created on the idea of inclusion turn its back on cultural diversity - rebuff its pluralistic membership.  I guess Meetup is not that keen on inclusion, after all.  Again, I was vetted and made unwelcome - not included.   So it goes.

My life as a consumer has been utterly transformed by those who do not like the changes that our new president is making.  There is a dirty, corporate inquisition afoot.  It seeks to corner people, demand to know their political identity and then exclude them because of it.   This is being done in the spirit of acceptance?  

On the other hand, I have not been made to feel unwelcomed by any businesses or organizations which support the President.   I know of several large enterprises which are run by conservatives who probably support Trump, but I have not received any emails from them seeking to vet or extort my politics or which require my compliance or subordination for continued inclusion. 

The stunning results of the election in November and the fact that most news sources and pollsters had wildly incorrect predictions proved that there is a big conversation going on, but that it is very one-sided.   The big companies discussed in this essay – companies seeking to vet their customer base - are also in one big conversation.  With each other.   This is the opposite of progress.   Many of the corporate, anti-American thinkers who are disguised as “accepters” and “nice guys who want the whole world to move to America”, simply talk to each other.  They do not want to be in a conversation with that other part of America.  Because that would be hard.  It would be deeply challenging.  They’d rather preach the virtues of flying to an audience of birds.  

Meanwhile, along with many others who support our current administration, I am forced to make my consumer decisions based on my politics.  What?   I am being vetted and profiled by those who are shrieking against the idea of vetting and profiling.  Hmmm.  So it goes.