Creationist Wisdom #606: Home Schooling

Today’s letter-to-the-editor appears in the Tyler Morning Telegraph of Tyler, Texas — nicknamed the “Rose Capital of the World.” It’s titled Home schooling is a parent’s privilege. The newspaper had a comments feature when we first saw this thing — but it seems to have been removed.

Technically, what we found isn’t a letter-to-the editor. It’s an editorial, but with no byline. We’ll treat it as a letter, and refer to the writer as The Editor. Excerpts will be enhanced with our Curmudgeonly commentary and some bold font for emphasis. Here we go!

Home schooling is “shockingly under-regulated,” Slate magazine warns. Yes, it is – and we like it that way. Slate’s salvo against teaching children at home has all the predictable angles.

We’re not provided with a link to the Slate article, but he’s probably talking about this: The Frightening Power of the Home-Schooling Lobby. Then the Editor gives us a quote:

“Some of these families, and almost certainly a majority of (Home School Legal Defense Association) members, have religious motivations for choosing to home-school; many use alternative textbooks that teach creationism instead of evolution and offer a Christianity-centered view of American history,” Slate writes.

We found some of the Editor’s quotes in the Slate article, but not that one. Perhaps it’s been revised. Anyway, the Editor responds:

The horror! Here’s what Slate magazine doesn’t get. First, parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s education. Parents may choose to enroll their children in a public school or a private school – or they may choose to educate their children themselves. The Texas Supreme Court upheld this principle in Leeper v. Arlington, a 1985 case that validated home schooling in this state.

Perhaps so. Let’s read on:

Second, let’s look at charges leveled by Slate and other opponents of home schooling. Slate says parents might do a poor job of educating their children. Some parents, the magazine points out, don’t even have a high school education themselves. This argument might carry a little more weight if we couldn’t point to countless public (and private) schools that are already doing a poor job of educating children. Unfortunately, Texas graduates many, many young men and women who haven’t been well-served by their schools.

Huh? He’s saying that the public schools are bad, so it’s okay if home schools are bad too. That’s not much of a defense. The Editor continues:

Still, it’s a concern. But statistics allay those fears. They show that home-schooled children do just fine on standardized tests.

Maybe some of them do. We’ll skip to the end:

The fact is that home schooling has proven to be a blessing for many, many families. Sure it’s unregulated – and that’s one of its advantages. Parents – not the government – are in charge. As they should be.

The Editor has a point. It’s one we once wrote about in Do Creationists Have the Right To Be Ignorant?, where we said: “If they want to be ignorant, then let them be ignorant. They’re happy, and they have the right to drool.” But of course, they don’t have the right to force their ignorance on the rest of us.

We’re still not certain of our position on this subject. What do you think about home schooling, dear reader?

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31 responses to “Creationist Wisdom #606: Home Schooling

  1. My experience with home schooled kids is that they are good in some academic areas but they are totally unprepared to deal with the real world when home schooling ends and they step out their protected environment. Parents can’t “protect” their children beyond the home schooling period. Good social adjustment requires exposure to the world the way it is, not the “cloistered” world that some parents try to provide. Of the several young home schooled people that I have known, only one had the strength of character to make it in the real world – the others just couldn’t cope with the sudden exposure to the way most people live and were marginalized in their adult lives..

  2. What do you think about home schooling

    The government has an interest in having an educated population as a work force for the economic well being of the society as a whole and as an electorate for the betterment of the government. Therefore, while home schooling may be acceptable the government should have the power to set minimum standards and to do periotic testing of the home school students to make sure those standards are being followed by the parents.

  3. I have mentioned before that my wife and I homeschooled our children and hired tutors for them up to the point where we lacked appropriate facilities. Then we filled out their curriculums* by enrolling them in high school AP classes and courses at the nearby college. One went on to attend Rice University, the other Macalester College. Obviously, we were pleased that home schooling is “shockingly under-regulated.” To us, “under-regulation” is a synonym for “freedom.”

    We do not know whether anything can or should be done about those parents who use that freedom to teach their children things we disagree with, or to allow them to remain ignorant. What do other commenters think?

    *You may prefer the Latin plural “curricula.” Me, I maintain that if a word is good enough to use in an English sentence, it’s good enough to have an English plural suffix attached to it.

  4. Re: the claim that home schooled children do just fine on standardized tests. There is no independent confirmation of this because politico-religious homeschoolers do not let their children be tested and the states don’t require any independent evaluation of a child’s progress.

  5. Diogenes' Lamp

    The HSLDA are extremists who demand zero regulation, meaning they don’t have to follow any curriculum at all or pass any standardized tests. It’s one thing to defend home schooling, and another thing to say zero regulation or oversight.

    HSLDA extremists pull a hoax: they say “homeschooled kids do well on standardized tests”, and then they insist that the government cannot require standardized tests, or any tests, or any curricula, or any standards, or any educational goals.

    That’s self-contradictory because 1. When they say “Home schooled kids do well on standardized tests” they’re acknowledging that society has an interest in knowing the results of such tests, then they turn around and say we shouldn’t require any tests at all, because society is better for off with zero oversight;

    2. HSLDA demands no required standardized tests, no required standards at all, so how can we ever know if home schooling is working or not? How can we know if it’s failing?

    3. When some home-schooled kids do terribly on such tests, because some homeschooling parents simply do not educate, the HSLDA demand, not that their education should improve, but that their testing should cease forevermore.

    Of course some homeschooling parents are paranoid nuts who go so far as to conceal their children’s *existence* from *their neighbors*, abuse their kids horribly, and raise them like caged animals, and teach their kids that any knock on the door could be that gubmint demon, Child Protective Services, coming to take them away.

    The whole thing is based on double standards. Lurid horror stories about public school perversions (teens having sex in the cloakroom!), even if made up, are proof that all public schools are Sodomite horrors and worse than all home schooling; but lurid horror stories of abusive, ignorant, lazy, dungeony, or rapey homeschooling parents are buried, or are “exceptions to the rule.”

    If a homeschooled kid does well, it’s presented as being caused by homeschooling and true of all homeschooled kids; if a public school kid does well (as many do), it’s presented as if he did well *despite* his public school background.

    The whole HSLDA extremism is an appeal to emotion, and if that’s how they operate, shove the horror stories of homeschooling dungeons and Duggary molesters in their faces. Horrir stories are their argument against public schools; judge them by the same standard.

  6. Dave Luckett

    The ancient argument about what is the correct English plural of “octopus” applies here, Retired Prof.

    But as an Australian, I am deeply intrigued. There is no right to home-school in Australia, and home-schooling is very rare. It may be permitted, but if the State Education Department refuses permission, your only recourse is to the courts. There you must establish that there is no reasonable alternative to home schooling AND that you have the necessary expertise and facilities to provide it. Further, you will have to accept visits from the district educational inspector. It’s a high hurdle, and few get over it.

  7. Diogenes' Lamp

    P.S. I’ll take my kid’s public school over Duggar control freak weirdos any day of the week.

  8. First, we need to set a marker as to what constitutes “homeschooling.” Does it count as “homeschooling” if a child only goes to school for lab class, art, and other classes that would be difficult to do in a home environment?

  9. Beverly, there was a coalition of politico-religious homeschoolers around here that organized testing for homeschooled children, using the same standardized tests schools used, on the same days. We sent our kids to take those tests. We knew parents in another state who did the same.

    It is true the states did not require these tests. However, homeschoolers in our state who want their offspring to attend college know they have to cover the same subjects listed by the state’s Department of Public Instruction. There is pressure for independent evaluation even though the DPI cannot impose it.

    It is also worth noting that the Amish communities around here run their schools by their own standards. Children learn what they need to know to maintain what John Pieret calls “the economic well being of the society.” Not in this case the society as a whole, just the Amish subset of it. The civic component of education John mentions is irrelevant to them, because they decline to be part of the electorate. The Amish are very good about not trying to dictate to the rest of us how we are to run our lives, and it seems to me we should return the favor and continue to under-regulate them.

  10. Charles Deetz ;)

    If children are not forced to be indoctrinated in guberment schools, how can we have a godless society that the libtards are conspiring to create?

  11. I was home schooled for one year (7th grade). I had to endure the “A Beka Book” curriculum. It is shocking how warped those materials are. I was still steeped in fundamentalism at the time and even at that young age, I remember thinking that many of the points–in the science and history books especially–were nonsense or argued invalidly.

    My personal take on the issue is that home school students should have to meet the same standards of curriculum that their fellow public school classmates must meet.

    I think that if parents want to teach their kids that the noble South fought an imperialistic North for purely economic reasons and that the slaves were often very happy and comfortable and loved working for their masters then that is their right. (I may be exaggerating slightly for effect, but “A Beka Book” whitewashed the Civil War egregiously.) However, these children should have to at least be tested on and know the actual history in addition to the pseudo-history. The same goes for the YEE-HAW Creation science. If the want to teach their kids that, go ahead. But they should at least have to be exposed to real science in addition to it.

  12. Dave, the argument about the plural of “octopus” is more complicated than in the case of “curriculum.” “Curriculum” originated in Latin, and the plural “curricula” is etymologically legitimate.

    “Octopus,” though, comes originally from Greek. The “-us” on the end was not a suffix, but part of “pous,” one allomorph of the Greek root for “foot.” The Greek plural was “podes.” When “octopus” was borrowed into New Latin as a technical term, analogy with other Latin words suggested the plural should be “octopi,” not “octopodes,” which even spell-check corrects to “octopuses.” And that’s how “octopi” came to be one of the standard plurals. I still follow my guiding principle here even though “octopuses” is kind of an awkward word to pronounce.

  13. Dave Luckett

    Octopodes?

  14. Dave Luckett

    Sorry, I should have suggested “octopods”.

  15. I’m an alumna of homeschooling (I was homeschooled for all of my education through high school with the exception of 9th grade), and while I don’t think homeschooling should be banned, I’d like to see some regulation. I’m actually not a big fan of standardized testing as a way to measure student success because there are plenty of very bright students who simply do not test well but show insight during in-class discussion and present excellent papers and/or projects. I don’t know if this is still the case, but when I was homeschooling I knew some students from Pennsylvania, which had a system where homeschoolers documented their coursework and presented it to an educator for evaluation, and I’d like to see a system like that implemented everywhere. I’d also like to see some standards set for the academic texts homeschoolers use because my parents often chose texts that presented a Christian worldview to the point where my history and health knowledge especially was severely lacking. My (high school) health text didn’t mention sex at all, and my history texts presented old testament stories as historical events.

    Aside from textbooks, the other main thing I would change about my experience is the lack of diversity I was exposed to. I would have preferred to be homeschooled in a less homogeneous environment when it came to race, political affiliation, and religion. People often cite lack of socialization as a big problem with homeschooling, but I had plenty of friends growing up. In my experience, it’s being raised in a community with very little diversity that gave me the most trouble when I went to college.

    Overall though, I had a fairly decent homeschooling experience compared to a lot of other homeschoolers. I attended community college during my senior year of high school, which helped me transition well into college.

  16. Dave Luckett

    But the argument is really over whether the word “octopus” is a Greek word when used in English, or a Greek word that has become an English word, like “astronomy”. If the former, “octopodes” is correct, and the hell with spellcheck. If the latter, “octopusses” is correct. In neither case is “octopi” correct, unless by “correct” you mean “common usage”, vox populi, vox dei, etcetera.

  17. Recently a woman in Detroit had killed her children and placed their bodies in a freezer. Her kids were out of the school system on the premise that they were being home schooled. There was some outcry that their homeschooled children should have a welfare check once per school year (or something like this) I’m opposed to this. School’s primary purpose is not for government to make sure parents aren’t abusing their kids, it is to educate.
    Such a tragic story is very unusual, and spending tax money for the anomalous parents that abuse or kill their kids isn’t warranted.
    As for homeschooling itself, I think results depend on the parents. And since I tend to trust parents I think most results are probably pretty good (or pretty bad). I’m not concerned about creationism in this context, as the students likely wouldn’t accept evolution anyway.

  18. Dave, I avoid the terms “correct” and “incorrect” except in the context where a writer is supposed to be following a particular handbook or style manual. If somebody is writing articles for an editor who demands the plural “octopi,” then “octopi” is the correct form. In looser contexts, the relevant question is “What can I get by with and still get the rhetorical effect I want?” On this site, since the Curmudgeon doesn’t specify any particular style manual, we are free to risk our reputations by indulging our individual stylistic preferences.

    Speaking of what one can get by with, the monumentally prestigious OED lists “criterions” as one standard plural, and spell check also accepts it. However, I never write or speak in a context where I that form sounds acceptable, so I violate my principle and use “criteria.”

  19. P. S. “Octopods” is good. It should be easy to understand, on the analogy of “gastropods,” “cephalopods,” “copepods,” “arthropods,” “tripods,” and so on.

  20. Retired Prof says: “On this site, since the Curmudgeon doesn’t specify any particular style manual, we are free to risk our reputations by indulging our individual stylistic preferences.”

    All that I require is perfection. You will be judged accordingly.

  21. While “octopi” isn’t legit because adding a Latin plural to a word with Greek origins, it actually works pretty well to express a plural without the cumbersome “octupuses”. Hybrid latin-greek words are common in English since both languages have a large role in word origins. Since English is a bit of a hybrid (or more accurately a mongrel) language I think octopi works. I certainly understand the objection of purists though.

  22. What John Pieret writes is basically Dutch law. Homeschooling is possible in The Netherlands, but you have to accept strict governmental monitoring. According to Dutch Wikipedia less than 500 Dutch children were homeschooled in 2012.

  23. I just took a look at a Latin dictionary, and it did not list “octopus”. It did list “polypus”, which has a similar Greek origin, and while it did not specifically mention the nominative plural, the genitive singular is “polypi”, indicating that it was treated as if it were regular 2nd declension masculine Latin. I suggest that “octopodes” is therefore a hyper-correct form.
    “Octopods”, I further dare, is only the plural of “octopod”, the familiar term for a member of the order Octopoda.

  24. About home schooling – I did public school from K to 12. It was mostly 13 years of government-sponsored terrorism of little kids, in the form of bullying from other kids (& occasionally some teachers) that was never noticed or empathized with or stopped. Home-schooling nicely gets rid of that. Oh – I wish. I’ve since noticed 2nd-hand that modern schools pay lip service to bullying but do little about it actually occurring.
    About plurals – “octopi” sounds silly – I do “octopods”. “Curricula” sounds OK, I guess. “Syllabi” is beyond-words horrid. I always say “I have to write syllabus handouts for the new term.” The only Latin-style plural I don’t mind is “alumni”. Oh – another one – the plural of “tsunami” is “tsunamis”, contra what most people will say (it’s not a Japanese-only word any more – it’s also an English word & subject to English spelling rules, including how one makes plurals).

  25. Holding The Line In Florida

    @James St John. About the bullying in today’s schools. Granted I can only speak for my school and the 13 years I have taught there. Bullying in my view has become a more out of school thing. Because we HAVE taken it more seriously, it has gone more to the social networking thing. That can be especially vicious. Girls particularly are mean. I will not tolerate anything that remotely resembles it in my view. The kids fully understand that and will come to me if it occurs. Most of it is truly harmless stuff that occurs in Middle School. Serious stuff is dealt with swiftly and without mercy. Now that social media stuff is a parent responsibility thing in my opinion. Many of the powers that be want the school to discipline kids for things they do outside of our control. Sounds like a perfect homeschool setting thing to me! I do remember regularly getting my butt kicked in PE for being a long hair in Mississippi in the early 70s however!

  26. To some home schoolers, readin’, ‘riting, and ‘rithmatic is all they need to get along in the world as long as they don’t have high expectations for their kids, bible college suffices, and every day jobs are good enough to live by. It’s just when they’re put into positions of power/authority by likewise dimwits, conflicts with the real world arise, only to be resolved in their favor by equally dimwitted thinking politicians on the fringe right element.

  27. michaelfugate

    Today’s number triggered this – I am looking forward to Creationist Wisdom #666.

  28. michael – thought the same thing! Also, with this being CW 606, I had to think about how Mennonites everywhere seem to know 606 as code for a specific hymn – google Mennonite 606 for some a capella singing.

  29. About homeschooling — I recall one mother who pulled her daughter out of middle school because she (the mother) objected to sex education. Unfortunately, the daughter was pregnant at age 12. Mother (now grandmother) raised the young child, while daughter returned to public school. To be fair, we have neighbors who homeschooled two sons through 8th grade; both have done exceptionally well. One recently graduated from law school, while the other is at the top of his class in high school.

    About Latin plurals — I agree about “alumnus – alumni”. “Alumna – alumnae” is a bit stilted though, but “alga – algae” is just fine. Same for “fungus – fungi”.

    Instead of “syllabi” for the plural of “syllabus”, I would suggest “course outlines” as a reasonable substitute. In the same vein, “course listings” would work for “curricula”.

    Much has been written above regarding “octopus – octopi”, but what about “cactus – cacti”?

  30. Dutch keeps it simple – octopus, octopussen and cactus, cactussen. Also doctorandus, doctorandussen. If you can’t do that it’s just not Dutch.

  31. Here’s what Slate magazine doesn’t get. First, parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children’s education. Parents may choose to enroll their children in a public school or a private school – or they may choose to educate their children themselves. The Texas Supreme Court upheld this principle in Leeper v. Arlington, a 1985 case that validated home schooling in this state.

    But unless parents plan to keep their children apart from ordinary society forever, as the Amish do, they have a responsibility to educate them up to that society’s standards–which means, among other things, offering them the best available current knowledge, not an alternative curriculum which leaves them unprepared to function in that society.

    Good home schooling meets this test. The kind of home schooling undertaken to keep students away from “wicked” ideas like evolution and indoctrinate them with a fantasy version of science and history does not.

    A final note: the Texas Supreme Court does not speak for the nation, for which we can all be thankful.