Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Appellate Court Accepts Brief from Homeschool Groups

The Homeschool Association of California in conjunction with the California Homeschool Network and the Christian Home Educators of California has been granted permission by the Second Appellate Court to file an amicus brief in the re-hearing of the Long case.

Additionally, two other briefs have been filed in support of homeschooling, one by Gov. Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Jerry Brown and another by a group representing 19 members of the U.S. Congress.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Virtual Mimosas for All the Homeschooling Mommies (and Daddies, too!)

Per the request of the Activities Coordinator from "Life of the Planet" in a comment over at "Principled Discovery", here's a virtual mimosa in one's choice of alcoholic or non-alcoholic version (for the Mormons, preggos, and other teetotalers):

  • 8 ounces orange juice
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle dry champagne or sparkling white grape juice
  • 2 ounces triple sec (for alcoholic version)
  • orange rind, curls (to garnish)
  • Directions

    1. Rinse and chill 4 champagne flutes in freezer to from the glasses.
    2. Pour 2 ounces of orange juice into each flute.
    3. Fill almost to rim with champagne.
    4. Top each glass with a splash of Triple Sec and garnish with orange curl.
    Cheers! Slainte! A votre sante! Prosit! Salute! Salud! L'chaim!

    Saturday, May 10, 2008

    Fear and Loathing About Homeschooling

    Abigail Esman is a single, childless Jewish-American expat freelance journalist living in the Netherlands. Based on a misleading New York Times article on Muslims homeschooling (the Deputy Headmistress over at "The Common Room" had an excellent debunking of it) and glancing at the website of one private Islamic school in Washington state offering an Independent Study Program she is now calling for homeschooling to be banned.

    "The truth is that ideally, I'd see an end to all home schooling."

    Sounds like Ms. Esman is of the same opinion as the German government and the Second Appellate Court of California. All of whom seem motivated by fear and stereotypes rather than actual knowledge about homeschooling.

    Ms. Esman claims that the curricula offered by the "ArabesQ Islamic Academy" neglects literature, poetry, and the arts but their website clearly states that literature and fine arts are included in their unit studies. Also, it's been my observation that the typical homeschooling family has a huge collection of books available for their children to read outside of whatever curriculum (if any) they use. I'm not currently using a formal reading curriculum in our homeschool but my DD is an avid reader nonetheless.

    Ms. Esman also criticizes the ArabesQ program for not offering any religious studies aside from Islam. That's the equivalent of criticizing Abeka or Bob Jones for only teaching Evangelical Protestant Christianity and Seton for only teaching Catholicism. Parents who buy a faith-based curriculum are doing so because they want their children taught in accordance with their worldview. Secularist liberals may bemoan the lack of cultural relativism of the government-run school curriculum- Ms. Esman writes that she wants children's education to provide:

    "options, not indoctrination; insight, not propaganda."

    Except that the government-run schools are guilty of the *exact same thing*, only different dogma. In preaching cultural relativism, "tolerance" for alternative lifestyles, only one belief about of the origins of life, and often presenting an overly negative view of Christianity, Western Civilization, and America, the government-run schools engage in indoctrination of their students into what Bill O'Reilly calls "secular progressivism".

    Islamic parents have as much right to teach their children their worldview as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and so on. Ms. Esman and other critics of homeschooling such as Prof. Rob Reich of Stanford may want to deprive parents of that right but they're going to have one heck of a fight on their hands if they try!

    Ms. Esman is afraid that Muslim homeschooling is an indication of "horrifying abuse" but provides no actual evidence to back up her claim. She points to a mention in the NYT article that the homeschooled Muslim girls help out with the housework and typically have arranged marriages soon after completing their education. Neither of which are necessarily signs of child abuse. It may be politically incorrect to assign chores along traditional gender lines, but not abusive. Also, just because a marriage is arranged doesn't automatically mean that the young woman is being forced into it under threat of violence. I remember reading in my college psychology textbook that people in arranged marriages are actually *happier* on average several years in than those who married for love because they tend to have more in common (opposites initially attract but they struggle to make a marriage work in the long run).

    Ms. Esman claims that some NGO attorney told her about "honor killings" in the U.S. I found a trio of horrifying tragedies (an incident where two girls died in Texas this year, one in Arizona in 2004, and one in Chicago in 2000) but none of them were among homeschoolers and sadly domestic violence is not uncommon. I couldn't find any statistics to suggest that Muslim-American women are at any significantly higher risk of being killed by a family member than non-Muslims of similar age and income level. Also I couldn't find any evidence to suggest that homeschoolers of any faith are at any higher risk than non-homeschoolers of similar age and income level.

    Ms. Esman fears that homeschooled Muslims are:

    "potential radicals in the making, and easy targets for recruiters for jihad."

    John Walker Lindh, the American caught working with the Taliban, was homeschooled. However, he came from a very different background than the families profiled in the NYT article. He was your stereotypical rich Californian kid with overly permissive divorced parents willing to indulge his "self-discovery" even if that meant studying in a madrassah in Pakistan. So I'm not sure what anyone aside from Ms. Walker and Mr. Lindh could've done to prevent his jihad. Certainly one should not use "Taliban Johnny" as a reason to clamp down on Muslim homeschooling.

    Islamofascism is a very real threat to the U.S., but homeschooling isn't the problem.

    Friday, May 9, 2008

    Better Them than Me: Duggars Expecting Baby #18!

    It seems rather on the early side for an announcement given that Michelle is 41 and by my calculations only 6 weeks along, but the Duggars are expecting their 18th child on New Year's Day.

    Best wishes to Jim Bob and Michelle and their growing family!

    Wednesday, May 7, 2008

    A Question for the CA Teachers' Assn.

    Would you be so quick to intervene if a teacher in a government-run school were accused of repeatedly making disparaging and religiously intolerant remarks about Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or any other non-Christian faith?

    Chad Farnan, a student at Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, filed a lawsuit alleging that his Advanced Placement European History teacher, Dr. James Corbett, violated the First Amendment's establishment clause that prohibits government from promoting hostility toward religion. According to an article in the Orange County Register about the case:

    "The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages and attorney fees, alleges that Corbett typically spent 'a large portion of class time propagating his personal views to a captive audience.' He railed against Christianity and traditional Christian viewpoints on topics such as birth control, teenage sex, homosexuality and erectile dysfunction, according to the lawsuit....

    Court papers cite statements tape-recorded by Farnan such as 'Conservatives don't want women to avoid pregnancies – that's interfering with God's work' and 'When you put on your Jesus glasses, you can't see the truth.'"
    Fox News had another inflammatory excerpt from Dr. Corbett's class in its article on the case:

    "[Corbett] suggested that Christians are more likely than other people to commit rape and murder. Farnan recorded his teacher telling students in class: 'What country has the highest murder rate? The South! What part of the country has the highest rape rate? The South! What part of the country has the highest rate of church attendance? The South!'”
    While Dr. Corbett is free to hold whatever personal beliefs he wants about Christianity, he clearly crossed the line when he used his class time to promote those beliefs and created a climate hostile to those of his students who are Christians such as Chad Farnan.

    The California Teachers' Association, of which Dr. Corbett is a member, has filed a motion with the Court seeking to intervene on behalf of the Capistrano Valley School District and Dr. Corbett. The judge has permitted the intervention.

    Again, I ask- would the CTA be so quick to defend an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim teacher?

    Saturday, May 3, 2008

    Catholic Homeschooling Magazine Revived!

    Margot Davidson of Hillside Education is reviving the old Heart and Mind Catholic homeschooling magazine. The renamed Mater et Magistra (Latin for "mother and teacher") is scheduled to publish its first new issue in July. Subscriptions are $20 per year for 4 quarterly issues. More info is available here.

    (HT: Love2Learn )

    Education or Indoctrination in Oakland?

    Oakland's government-run schools don't exactly have a stellar academic reputation. Consider these dreadful statistics:

    • Only 45% of the students graduate from high school.
    • Only 45% of Oakland's 10th graders were able to pass the California High School Exit Exam in math (which tests only up through 8th grade math) and only 48% were able to pass the CAHSEE in English on the first try, more than 15 percentage points below the statewide averages.
    • A mere 3% of Oakland's 11th graders were deemed academically ready for college-level English and only 6% were ready for college-level math on the Cal State "Early Assessment Program" tests.
    Sounds to me like the kids in Oakland's government-run schools really need their teachers to focus on academic basics- wouldn't you agree?

    So why, then, did more than two dozen of them Thursday shelve their regular curriculum in favor of teaching about:

    "topics like the war in Iraq, racial inequality and a recent 10 percent cut in the state schools budget...Teachers from elementary school to adult education classes allowed students to discuss everything from whether the United States was committing acts of violence against innocent people to whether American businesses were getting rich on the backs of the poor"?

    I could see touching upon these topics in an Advanced Placement U.S. History, World History, Government, or Economics course, since those students presumably have a solid grounding in the basics and therefore should be able to hold a reasonably intelligent policy discussion.

    But it is clear to me that the Oakland students lack the background knowledge to make any sort of reasonable argument and therefore the exercise is nothing but propaganda. Just listen to this quote from a 12th grader attempting to discuss California's proposed budget cuts:

    "We don’t have any money because it’s all going to the war. And now they’re shutting all this stuff down."

    It does not appear that Ashley Lawless has much understanding of the workings of the Federal and state governments and their budgets, nor even which part is responsible for paying for what. The Iraq war may indirectly be worsening California's current budget crunch, in that geopolitical instability in the Gulf is driving up energy costs, contributing to the downturn in the economy and resulting in lower tax revenues. But Ms. Lawless seems to believe that the Federal money spent on the Iraq war is directly causing a reduction in state funding available for education. And worse, Oakland's teachers appear to be encouraging this fundamental misunderstanding!

    "One worksheet handed out to students was blunt in its assessment of the current events: 'About 1,000,000 Iraqis are dead and 4,000 American soldiers. The war will cost the U.S. about $2.8 trillion. Our schools don’t have money. Many people don’t have health care.'"

    Wow, where to start in discussing this little gem of ultraliberal propaganda? How about with the allegation of one million Iraqis killed? The number of Iraqi civilian casualties is hotly debated, with wide variations in the estimates ranging from roughly 100,000 to the one million claimed in the worksheet. No one knows what the true number is, but it's reasonable to assume that it's somewhere in the middle. Still a tragedy and I'm certainly no fan of President Bush or his administration's handling of the Iraq war. The whole situation is a huge mess :-( But the Oakland teachers have no business presenting only one viewpoint as "the truth" about the war.

    Also, I find it very interesting what was *NOT* discussed as contributing to California's budget woes: the enormous (and quickly growing) number of illegal aliens in the state. There are an estimated 3.5 million illegal aliens in the state, a number that has grown by an estimated *1.5 MILLION* since the year 2000. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform, the estimated cost of providing K-12 education to children of illegal aliens in California is *$7.7 BILLION* per year as of 2004. Another *$1.4 BILLION* goes toward health care for illegal aliens and their families and *$1.4 BILLION* is spent on incarceration of foreign nationals. California is facing an estimated $16 billion budget shortfall this year. The $10.5 billion spent annually on government services for illegal aliens and their children would go a long way in solving this fiscal crisis without raising taxes or fees on California's legal residents!

    My point is not to bash immigrants, but to point out the hypocrisy shown by Oakland teachers. They were clearly not interested in an intelligent policy discussion of the multidimensional causes of California's budget woes but rather in using class time to further their own political agenda :-(