Friday, February 29, 2008
The CDRP made all kinds of recommendations in their report for improving the situation, most of which include spending more taxpayer money and increasing state control over schools. As I mentioned the other day, I don't think the government can solve the problem of bad parenting.
In the CDRP report, the researchers point out that the students at highest risk for dropping out of school are those whose parents are low-income, less educated, and/or not married. Given that these parents often receive some form of government assistance, shouldn't that assistance be conditional upon their minor children either attending school or demonstrating progress in a homeschool? I'm not a big fan of government interference in homeschooling, but when someone chooses to accept government money that means accepting a higher level of government oversight. Don't like the strings attached? Don't take a handout from Uncle Sam...
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
"A wall at Broad Acres is filled with student reports titled 'Places I've Been.' With practiced penmanship and admirable grammar, one second-grade child after another recounts trips to Toys R Us, McDonald's, and Chuck E. Cheese."
It just makes me wonder what is wrong with these parents. Here they are with all kinds of wonderful museums, monuments, and other attractions that do not charge any admission fees and they prefer to take their kids to a fast food place instead.
Several times in recent weeks I've noticed "tweenage" kids wearing t-shirts with anti-intellectual slogans on them. Given that they are not old enough to be earning their own spending money, the parent(s) must have purchased those shirts for their offspring. Again this raises the question as to what is wrong with some people. What kind of message does it send to the child about the value of education when the parent allows him/her to wear those clothes?
No amount of money poured into the schools is going to be able to make up for bad parenting. Politicians offer all kinds of "solutions" for the achievement gap but I haven't heard them talk about the elephant in the room: values. Regardless of race or class, parents who value education tend to have children who are educationally successful. As a society, we need to place greater responsibility on families as the primary educators of children.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
She answered "Christian, of course."
So I asked her what that meant to her.
She paraphrased Mark 12:30-33: "Love God and my neighbor".
I was so proud of her! :-)
"I am adamantly opposed to labeling children, or even allowing them to label themselves, with words that imply the informed selection of a complex worldview....Once a label is attached, thinking is necessarily colored and shaped by that label. I don’t want my kids to have to think their way out from under a presumptive claim placed on them by one worldview or another."
This attitude is one that I've run across before. The playwright Julie Pascal wrote an article for The Jewish Chronicle last spring where she called religion a form of child abuse:
"Perhaps organised religion should carry a health warning and only be made available at 18 with the right to vote. Isn’t it child abuse to imprint religion and identity on an infant? In our Western democracies, we say we believe in the freedom of the individual to make their own life choices but we allow parents to enforce their own dogma on their offspring. Why not teach children about all religions, as well as secularism and humanism, and let them decide how they wish to identify when they become adults? The 1989 UNICEF Convention on the Rights of the Child expressed the importance of 'respect for the views of the child', but which son or daughter is ever consulted about which religion they wish to follow? You get what your parents give you."
The question I have for Dale, Ms. Pascal, et. al. is whether they feel the same way about parents who are vegans for ethical reasons raising their children as vegans. Isn't that "enforcing their own dogma on their offspring" too? Would they truly advocate forcing vegans to feed their children animal products against the parents' deeply held ethical beliefs? Or would they be okay with the argument that the children will be perfectly free to eat animal products once they grow up should they choose to but until such time the parents have the right to raise their offspring in accordance with their values?
I suspect that the same atheists/agnostics who are so vehemently against religious believers "imposing" their family's faith on their offspring would be perfectly fine with vegans raising their kids as vegans. Which just goes to show that their criticism isn't really about "respecting the views of the child" but really about hostility to organized religion.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Today I want to critique The Mommy Myth further. The authors do make some valid criticisms of the excesses of the Type A mothering expectations modern women face. Their chapter on those gushing profiles of celebrity moms that ignore the army of paid helpers those women have at their disposal (nannies, maids, gofers, personal chefs, personal trainers, stylists, hair & makeup artists, plastic surgeons, etc.) is dead-on. Unfortunately, their obnoxiously smarmy tone completely overshadows these. One of the reviewers on Amazon.com compared them to Michael Moore and that's a perfect analogy. Like Moore, Drs. Douglas and Michaels come off as completely arrogant and even when I might agree with the point they're trying to make, the mocking sarcasm just turns me off.
Throughout the book, the authors bash women who do not agree 100% with their rigid idea of what all moms should be like. How is this any better than the bad old days of patriarchy? Feminism was supposed to be about empowering individual women to decide for what's best for *themselves* rather than having external forces dictate what all women should do.
In their attempt to free women from the demands of "intensive mothering", the authors time after time imply that there is something inherently wrong with: full-time homemaking, career sequencing, part-time employment, organic food, babywearing, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, large families, educational toys, homemade Halloween costumes, singing to and playing with one's kids- even wearing moisturizer, having blonde hair, and wearing a size 2. Excuse me?
Doing those things doesn't automatically make a mom a saint, and not doing those things doesn't automatically make one a sinner. It all depends on the reasons why those choices are being made. Most of us are just trying to do what we think is best for our own families given our own personal circumstances. It is so NOT helpful for overly judgmental "feminists" like Professors Douglas and Michaels to bash those moms who've made different choices than they themselves would make.
If having a high-powered career, sending your kids to daycare and then a traditional school, bottlefeeding, using a crib, etc. works for you- that's your prerogative and I agree with the authors of The Mommy Myth that you could still be a good mom. Just don't go around bashing those of us who really do find a home-centered lifestyle to be more fulfilling as reactionary, anti-feminist, self-righteous, "domestic slaves" the way Drs. Douglas and Michaels do.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
What struck me most was the increase in "afterschooling" as a result of the new program. Because the government-run schools are failing to teach the kids how to actually calculate, parents now have to spend their time and money supplementing. The afterschoolers cited in the WP article are engineers and former math teachers- what about those parents whose own math skills aren't as strong? If they can afford it, there's always online courses such as Johns Hopkins' CTY ($1825/yr) and Stanford's EPGY ($1485/yr) or tutoring at the local Kumon center ($110/mo). But what about families who don't have that kind of cash?
Prince William County already has a significant racial and an income achievement gap. While 88% of Caucasian students passed the state standardized math test in 2007, only 72% of African-American and Latino students passed. Only 68% of poor students passed compared with an overall student passing rate of 81%.
The children who will be most hurt by the "fuzzy math" program are those whose parents are less educated and less affluent (who are also disproportionately African-American or Latino). These families also have less ability to simply move to a town with better schools or to enroll their kids in a private school.
Let's hope that the parents in Prince William County succeed in their attempt to eliminate "fuzzy math" from their schools!
Pro-abstinence student organizations have been formed at Harvard, Princeton, MIT, and even at the quintessential party school Arizona State.
Wendy Shalit has written an excellent book called Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It's Not Bad to Be Good. on how more and more young women are rejecting the radical feminist notion that sexual promiscuity = empowerment. The trend towards greater abstinence among college women IMHO shows that today's coeds realize that one can be smart, independent, assertive, aspire to a career, etc. and still be modest, kind, and treat sex as a sacred gift between husband & wife.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Why? Because I'm not totally fluent in quadratic equations, the XYZ affair, and the literary symbolism of Banquo's ghost in Macbeth. Forget about the existence of such things as oh, I don't know, teacher's manuals, literature guides, reference books, online and community college courses, tutors, etc. Forget the fact that the typical elementary schoolteacher would almost certainly have equal or greater difficulty in teaching these concepts without any kind of reference material. Not to be too much of an educational snob, but I scored more than 400 points higher on the SAT than the average new elementary teacher and had a higher college GPA than >60% (the study unfortunately lumped together all the 3.5+ students so I'm not sure exactly at which percentile mine would place me).
Didn't you get the memo from Professors Susan Douglas of the University of Michigan and Meredith Michaels of Smith? The one saying that home educators need to be omniscient, spend the absolute entire day imparting knowledge into our kids, and feel a compulsion to have our kids step over others, be the envy of others, rise above the mass of the others, "to be, and to be seen as, well, a star"? That we are self-righteous zealots who consider ourselves to be the perfect examples of enlightened maternal virtue?
Pardon my French, but that's a big, fat, steaming load of manure. It's quite clear from reading the discussion of homeschooling in The Mommy Myth that Drs. Douglas and Michaels don't know the first thing about real-life homeschoolers.
The authors' bias is obvious in their treatment of the National Center for Educational Statistics study statistic about 30% of the homeschoolers surveyed citing the desire to "provide religious or moral instruction" as their primary motivation for educating their kids at home. Now, those of us inside the homeschooling community know how broad that statement is, and how extremely diverse the group of families are who might concur with it. No one group has a monopoly on morality and people of any faith or none whatsoever might decide to homeschool in order to teach their children in accordance with their family's values. Yet to Drs. Douglas & Michaels, they're all ultraconservative fundamentalists motivated by:
"an insistence that their kids never encounter the words 'evolution', 'birth control', or 'Oscar Wilde'."
Even the most conservative Christian homeschoolers I know teach *ABOUT* Darwinian evolution and sexuality. Drs. Douglas & Michaels may not like the way those topics are being taught by conservative homeschoolers, but it's a myth that homeschooled kids are totally sheltered from controversial topics.
The authors of The Mommy Myth truly seem to believe that homeschooling is super difficult for the parent doing the primary teaching. But honestly, I see what they would have me do instead of homeschooling to be way more stressful. Throughout the book, they make it abundantly clear their preference for women to hold full-time employment outside the home by glamorizing careers and presenting an excessively negative portrayal of homemaking. Yes, it can be tedious to do housework, change diapers, and so on but the corporate world isn't all fun & games either. I could go on at length about the tedious aspects of my last paid position. The point is, Drs. Douglas & Michaels would have me employed 40+ hours per week, and on top of that somehow find the time & energy to devote myself to the "rehabilitation of public education" by "[joining] the PTA and [giving] the local school board h***."
Forget the fact that the local school board has very little power to fix the problems with government-run schools. I'd have to try to influence things on the state or even Federal level, which would be a full-time job in and of itself. Maybe it's a generational thing, but I'm a lot more cynical about the chances of me actually being able to bring about a significant improvement in the schools. Frankly, I'd rather spend my time and effort on giving my kids a good education at home than on some idealistic but likely futile crusade.
That's what I think truly bothers the authors of The Mommy Myth. They have this attitude that I should feel some sort of noblesse oblige to sacrifice my kids' well-being for what Drs. Douglas & Michaels see as the collective good. However, I don't see why the fruits of my labor should go to benefit "free riders" rather than my own family. Why should I invest my time & effort to help out the kids whose own parents are too lazy or disinterested? It's like the children's story of the Little Red Hen or 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "if any would not work, neither should he eat."
Friday, February 15, 2008
If you want to impress me, show up in one of these babies:
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Sunniemom from "A Woman on Purpose" wrote:
"I venture to say that the reason some ‘run’ from Christianity and the Bible is because of what it teaches-they aren’t running from ‘indoctrination’, but from ideas such as generosity, compassion, tolerance, and sacrifice. That is why so many ‘come back’ when they get all grown up."
J.J. Ross from "Cocking a Snook" replied:
"I don’t believe it was the tolerance, generosity and compassion [the preachers' kids] all were fleeing, but the weight of endless expectations and examples and limits, and rules and restrictions in every direction except OUT."
I actually happen to agree more with J.J. than with Sunniemom here because it's not the generosity and compassion that's so difficult about Christianity but the requirement for self-discipline. It's hard to deny ourselves things that may feel good for our bodies but are bad for our souls, especially when modern society so often glorifies vice and mocks virtue.
In recent decades, our culture has turned away from the moral absolutes of traditional Judeo-Christianity in favor of a wishy-washy moral relativism. This cultural trend has really polarized religious believers into two camps: those who've embraced relativism and those who've resisted it.
For an example of this, here are two very different approaches to teaching children about the 10 Commandments:
"There are ten, there are ten
There are ten commandments to consider carefully
There are ten, there are ten
There are ten commandments to consider."
Contrast that with:
"[The 10 Commandments] were written on tablets of stone; they could not be changed or erased. They are God's laws for every one of us. A law is a rule or command that everyone must follow. If people abide by these rules, everyone can be happy and safe. They are not rules just for the classroom, or the home, or the streets; they are rules for life. By following these Commandments of God, everyone can be happy....If anyone breaks a Commandment, he sins. Sin displeases God and a person must be sorry for his sins and try to do better."
The first makes it sound as if the 10 Commandments are optional, just things to "consider carefully" and then accept, modify, or reject as the individual feels is best at that moment. The second is black-and-white: the rules are for everyone at all times to obey as God decreed to Moses or else the person is sinning.
The first quote happens to be from the lyrics of a song on a Jewish holidays CD by Peter & Ellen Allard and the second quote happens to be from the teacher's manual of the catechism program we're using (Our Heavenly Father by Ignatius Press). However, there are plenty of liberal Catholics who ascribe to the sentiment in the Allards' song and plenty of conservative Jews who would agree with the sentiment in the catechism. Catholicism and Judaism by all means have real theological differences, but the 10 Commandments isn't one of them (leaving aside the minor numbering variation).
The good news is that the fastest growing faiths here in the U.S. are traditionalist ones: Mormons, Pentecostals, non-denominational Evangelicals, and Catholics. Within Judaism, the fastest-growing group are the ultra-orthodox Haredi. The largest declines are among the liberal Protestant denominations. This is due to both a higher birthrate among religious traditionalists and also their success in attracting adult converts.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
1. George Washington
2. Abraham Lincoln
3. Benjamin Franklin
4. Paul Revere
5. Thomas Edison
6. Alexander Graham Bell
7. Neil Armstrong
She also guessed Pasteur, Mozart, and Bach. Okay, so her understanding of the national origin of historical figures is still a little fuzzy at this point :-) But overall she managed to come up with a respectable list.
The answers given by the government-school educated teens?
1. Martin Luther King Jr.: 67%
2. Rosa Parks: 60%
3. Harriet Tubman: 44%
4. Susan B. Anthony: 34%
5.Benjamin Franklin: 29%
6. Amelia Earhart: 25%
7. Oprah Winfrey: 22%
8. Marilyn Monroe: 19%
9. Thomas Edison: 18%
10. Albert Einstein: 16%So there's an overlap of exactly 2 individuals. I'll leave it up to you to decide which list you think does a better job at answering the question...
(HT: Grant Jones at "The Dugout")
Anyhoo, here are the rules of the meme:
1. Pick up the nearest book of at least 123 pages.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence.
4. Post the next 3 sentences.
5. Tag 5 people.
The book I just finished reading is called The Mommy Myth: The Idealization of Motherhood and How it Has Undermined Women by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels. I'm planning to critique it in a future post, but here's what page 123 has to say. It's discussing those gushing profiles of celebrity moms women's magazines prominently feature:
"Often, in the profile, the celebrity mom has triumphed over various heartbreaks and challenges, and the very structure of the story is designed to get us to root for her. In addition, in the interview, the celebrity both notes how she is above the herd but is also so very much like you, especially because she is a mother. Retaining their success is essential for celebrities, and the more you want to identify with them, the better their chances of staying in the limelight."
Consider yourself tagged if you're interested in playing along! Drop a note in the comments or email me & I'll link to you below:
1. Be the first!
Saturday, February 9, 2008
One thing I really appreciated during our field trips is how nice it was that we could go through the museums at our own pace. My kids were able to spend as much or as little time at each exhibit as they themselves wanted to. In contrast, we saw several class groups where it was obvious that the pace of the tour was not appropriate for a large percentage of the students. Many of the kids were either visibly bored or visibly upset at being herded along to the next exhibit before they were ready. The teacher or museum docent was in charge of the schedule, regardless of their students' own individual needs.
The authors of Poisoned Apple: The Bell Curve Crisis and How Our Schools Create Mediocrity and Failure use the museum group tour as an analogy for the instruction in traditional schools. Betty Wallace and William Graves write:
"These highly defined curricula pressure teachers to march students through their lessons as if they were on a group tour in a museum. The curriculum writers decide which halls the students march down and which works they will spend their time viewing. Teachers cannot tolerate stragglers in the museum of knowledge nor do they allow the more curious and energetic to race ahead or stray down inviting corridors on their own. Such departures jeopardize the group's progress."
Homeschooling allows us to replace the group tour with an individual one. Each student's individual needs determine the schedule, not some arbitrary decree by a committee of educrats hundreds or thousands of miles away. If we want to take a detour down an inviting corridor, we have the freedom to do so. These "rabbit trails" often turn out to be highly enlightening as well as enjoyable. Also, if we want to incorporate our own family's values, there is no ACLU to file a lawsuit against us. We choose what curriculum (if any) to use, and we have the flexibility to modify it or replace it entirely if it's not working for our students.
Friday, February 8, 2008
If you don't like his support for free trade or campaign finance reform or whatever, just say that.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
"Do you even know any of the people who are running for president?" I asked her.
She couldn't come up with a single name.
So then I asked her the name of our current president.
She admitted that she didn't know.
"I'll give you a hint," I said. "His first name is George."
She beamed: "Washington!"
Monday, February 4, 2008
I'll spare you all the rant about how I've never felt like either party truly represents me and how they both seem dominated by special interest groups. The point is that I was raised by liberal parents in a very liberal state (Massachusetts), graduated from a pretty liberal university, and now live in an ultraliberal area. Yet somehow I wound up turned off by liberalism, and the older I've gotten, the more conservative I've become.
I cringed, therefore, when I saw the article on parents trying to "party-train" their kids on CNN.com. They're dressing their little ones in achingly hip partisan clothing:
David Kaplan-Perkins of Chicago wears a "My Mama's for Obama" shirt. He's 7...[David's mom Jackie] Kaplan, a lesbian, also dresses him in shirts supporting gay rights, one of which reads "Let My Parents Marry."
"Sure, we cringe when we see a child wear an anti-choice shirt," Kaplan says. "And I am sure conservatives may do the same when they see David wearing our family's politics on his chest. But we all want our children to share our values, and these shirts are one of the ways we get to express that."
...Nuggets for little ones include dueling digs that read, "I Only Cry When Democrats Hold Me" and "I Only Cry When Republicans Hold Me." There are the basics, too, such as a stick figure holding up a sign that says "Mommy and Me for Hillary!" and a shout-out to the GOP: "Bush is my homeboy."
So what happens if these kids grow up and come to hold different political beliefs from their parents? Is Ms. Kaplan going to disown David if he becomes a "born-again" Christian and votes Republican? What happens to a "Weepublican" who grows up to discover that he/she truly believes that government is the solution and not the problem?
I'm all for parents being free to raise their children in accordance with their own family's values. But I don't think that includes political brainwashing. It's one thing for a parent to say to the child, these are my values and that's why I support this particular candidate. It's quite another to dress a young child as a walking political advertisement.
That also goes for homeschoolers who involve their preteen children in political activism. These kids aren't mature enough to objectively consider both sides and then make up their own minds- they're just parroting whatever their parents are telling them in an attempt to gain parental approval.
*I'm not really pro-McCain as much as I dislike him less than the rest of the candidates running.
Rev. Hermen Shastri, general secretary of the Council of Churches of Malaysia, said that he had never before heard of anyone being told to do this when bringing English-language Bibles into the country.
Rev. Shastri has said that the situation for Christians in Malaysia has gone:
"from bad to worse. This either points to a concerted effort to undermine the current practice of religious tolerance, or the religious enforcement authorities have been given a free hand and they are having a field day."
In a statement, the Council of Churches called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badaw to publicly reassure Christians of their rights, and urged authorities to release the Bibles and issue a formal apology.
This kind of persecution is absolutely outrageous! The U.S. provides millions of dollars annually in aid to Malaysia- shouldn't we be putting more pressure on the Abdullah government to reign in the Islamofascist zealots?
Sunday, February 3, 2008
When the authorities performed an inspection of the abortion
Five other women also died as a result of abortions performed by Dr. Hachamovitch or his
How can we protect our daughters?
"Sarah's Law" would help protect young girls from butchers like Dr. Hachamovitch and also from sexual predators. If approved by California voters, Sarah's Law would require abortion providers to notify one parent in writing 48 hours before performing an abortion on a girl under 18. In cases of an abusive parent, an adult family member such as an aunt or uncle, grandparent or adult sibling over 21 may be notified. A girl would also have the option of seeking confidential approval for the abortion from the juvenile court.
Under current law, a minor needs parental consent to take an aspirin from a school nurse or attend a class field trip yet a child as young as 12 can be taken for a secret abortion that often has long-term physical and mental consequences. As we've seen from Sarah's tragedy, it can even be fatal.
A study of over 46,000 pregnancies of school-age girls in California found that over two thirds were impregnated by adult men who were an average of seven years older. Abortion
Family Notification will help parents and law enforcement in their struggle to protect our state’s minor daughters from sexual predators. It has also been shown to reduce the risk of teen girls contracting an STD (a proxy for risky sexual behavior) by an average of 20% for Latinas and 12% for Caucasian girls.
What you can do to help
From now until the end of March, supporters are gathering signatures of registered California voters to place Sarah's Law on the November 2008 ballot. You can request a petition by calling (866) 828-8355 or emailing petitions@FriendsofSarah.com. If you are technically savvy enough, you can even download one to print here.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
"high-income workers have received far larger pay increases than others over the past generation."
While gross incomes for the upper middle class may be higher than two or three decades ago, in many areas there has been a decline in actual purchasing power. When my dad graduated from business school back in the late '70's, his student loan debt was equivalent to 30% of his first year's salary. When my DH graduated in 2006, his debt was equivalent to nearly 100% of his first year's base salary. My parents were able to purchase a starter home in the Bay Area for roughly twice my dad's salary. That same house today costs more than five times my husband's salary. We are paying a much higher percentage of our income for healthcare, too.
My parents were able to send me to private school for K-3 on my dad's salary, and when they had a 3rd kid and decided that tuition was too expensive for all of us, they were able to afford to buy in a neighborhood with a good public school. Today, my DH and I cannot afford the private school tuition for even 1 kid, nor even to rent in a good school district.
The hours for upper middle class workers have lengthened, too. More than 31% of college-educated males now work 50+ hours/week compared with only 22% in 1980. I would say the norm in our area for white collar jobs is 60, and in certain industries (financial services, management consulting, law, IT, etc.) folks often work 80-100+. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that 1.6 million Americans now work "extreme jobs" that require more than 60 hours/week. The study found that 52% of the nation's top income earners -- those in the top 6 percent of earners and often making six-figure salaries -- work more than 70 hours a week.
To be fair, some aspects of our lifestyle are better than my parents'. We have a nicer car, for one thing. Our economy car has anti-lock brakes, 2 airbags, air conditioning, automatic transmission, power windows & doors, power steering, cruise control, a CD player, etc. while my parents' economy car had none of those things. But we didn't really have the option of buying an equivalent car even if we had wanted to.
Don't get me wrong- we're among the lucky families in this country. We can afford health insurance, rent in a safe neighborhood, healthy food on our table, etc. We can also do it all on DH's salary, to allow me to be home raising our children. Too many moms these days don't have that option :-(
But I just would like to see Sen. Obama, former Sen. Edwards, and the rest just try living in the Bay Area on what they consider a "wealthy" income and see whether they still consider those families "rich"...