Friday, October 23, 2009

Why Does this Not Surprise Me?

One of the subject areas I feel was majorly lacking in my own formal education is economics. My high school offered an elective course in economics my senior year but I did not have room for it in my schedule. My college alma mater had a well-respected economics program but again I did not take any of its courses. So whatever I know about the topic comes from what I've learned on my own or from my parents, both of whom were economics majors undergrad and pursued graduate studies in business administration.

So I was interested to see a thread on the Well-Trained Mind bulletin board about materials to teach kids basic economics. Several of the books recommended have been ones I've used with Miss Scarlet- The Everything Kids Money Book by Diane Mayr, The Story of Money by Betsy Maestro, and If You Made a Million by David Schwartz.

There was one title mentioned in the thread that looked really intriguing: Capitalism for Kids: Growing Up to Be Your Own Boss by Karl Hess. I read a review of the book that made me think it would provide a great counterbalance to all the negative "spin" that we've been hearing in the elite media (e.g. the media blitz promoting Michael Moore's new movie).

Since I'm the frugal type, I checked the availability of the book at libraries in my area. First I checked the county inter-library loan system. Nope. Then I widened my search to the San Francisco public library since I drop my DH off in the city every weekday morning. Nada. Then I checked the Santa Clara county system even though that would be a bit of a schlep down the peninsula. Zilch. Turns out that the closest library that carries the book is 20 miles away, across the bay down in southern Alameda county.

Sadly, I'm less than shocked that none of the libraries in San Francisco, San Mateo, or Santa Clara counties carry a kids' economics book with a pro-capitalism message...

P.S. I'm most likely going to purchase the "Business, Economics, and Entrepreneurship" course from Bluestocking Press that includes Capitalism for Kids plus 2 other titles & a teachers' guide.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Not Everything That's Wrong Should Be Illegal

A Louisiana justice of the peace is in hot water after declining to perform a civil wedding for an interracial couple and referring the couple to a colleague.

While I totally disagree with Keith Bardwell's refusal, I'm leery of the government forcing justices of the peace to perform weddings to which they object & not allowing them to refer the couples to a colleague. What if the situation were not an interracial couple but a homosexual one? Should the government force a Christian justice of the peace to officiate against his/her deeply held religious beliefs? At least 11 justices in Massachusetts resigned after that state legalized homosexual marriage and then-Governor Mitt Romney told justices they could not refuse to perform them.

What's so wrong about allowing a justice to say, "sorry, I can't help you but you can go to my colleague so-and-so"? The inconvenience of the couple having to go elsewhere should not outweigh the conscience right of the justice of the peace.

Do I think Keith Bardwell is flat-out wrong in his stance on interracial marriage? Absolutely. But he and other justices of the peace should have the right to refuse to marry a couple for whatever reason so long as another justice can be found to perform the marriage. Otherwise, Christian justices may very well have to choose between keeping their job and following their religion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Look Beyond the Hype to the Actual Data

How's this for a headline:

"99.6% of homeschoolers studied have had no involvement whatsoever with the child welfare authorities and 97.8% of homeschool graduates are employed or pursuing higher education/training"

Not going to sell very many papers, is it? Nor will it do much to support the governmental push in the U.K. to dramatically increase regulation of homeschooling in that country.

But what's the actual headline found in The Guardian?
"Children educated at home at severe disadvantage, study shows."
I wish that the above were a joke, but unfortunately it's real.

Graham Badman, the former education director of the town of Kent, recently provided a report to the U.K. Parliament committee for children, schools, and families on home education in Britain. The review looked at the status of 1,220 children (out of an estimated 40,000-60,000+ U.K. homeschoolers) from 74 local authorities (no info on how those were chosen).

The report claimed that:
"while 0.2% of children in the UK population were known to social services, the figure was 0.4% among those who were educated at home....The percentage of home-educated children who are not in employment, education or training [NEET] is more than four times the proportion in the national population".
First of all, the Financial Times in August quoted a report from the Department for Children, Schools and Families saying that the "NEET" rate in the U.K. is 16%. That would be almost EIGHT TIMES the rate found for homeschool graduates. I find it incredibly hard to believe that the NEET rate would plummet from 16% down to 0.5% over the past 2 months. The most plausible explanation is that at least one of the two government reports has an incorrect number. If I had to estimate the true rate, I'd say it has got to be closer to the 16% than the 0.5%.

But let's suppose for the moment that the claims made in the Badman report were accurate. Does a 0.4% rate of involvement with CPS (note that it includes the numerous investigations in which the parents are ultimately declared innocent) and a 2.2% NEET rate actually warrant the term "severe"?

To put the numbers into context, the teen pregnancy rate in the U.K. is TEN TIMES higher than the rate given for CPS involvement among homeschoolers. That number is nearly double what it was in 1990 (unlike the U.S. where the rate has declined 45% over the same time frame). Government ministers called the teen pregnancy rate "disappointing".

I would personally argue that the government has its adjectives backwards...