Monday, August 08, 2005

Homeschooling


"The first duty of society is to give each of its members the possibility of fulfilling his destiny. When it becomes incapable of performing this duty it must be transformed" Alexis Carrel

What got me thinking about homeschooling was a recent encounter through The Education Carnival for Week 26 with a blog in last week's Education Carnival, Cross Blogging that discussed legislation proposed in Rockford, IL that would require homeschooled students to meet the same truancy criteria that every other school age child is expected to meet. There were a few commenters at the blog very much against this legislation, and there was impassioned talk of governmental intrusion into parental freedom. This got me thinking about education and our responsibility to society at large, and to what extent we are expected to abrogate our freedom to accommodate what is for the better good of our society's ability to function. As near as I can determine it the responsibility for education isn't equally distributed, with homeschoolers and parents in general not expected to hold the bag much at all, though their taxes do help; alas, that's not where the responsibility should end.

I didn't see the truancy legislation as a problem, first because I don't think parents should have the freedom to be unaccountable for what their children are doing, especially when the kids are supposed to be absorbing an education, and second because a kid out shopping or hanging out in a mall during school hours is a legitimate issue, a societal issue, and I believe that they should be accounted for in some way. We as concerned citizens should be asking why a child is hanging out at the local video gallery during school hours and expect the authorities to get involved to pin down what's going on. I'm also sure that Rockford, IL truant officers, if the program ever gets itself off the floor, will be able to work out something with the local homeschooled parents to make sure that kids found in the park (unsupervised? Hmmmmm ...) doing science experiments won't be picked up for truancy.

I found this concern with impinging on parental freedom a curious one. Indeed, a lot of freedom comes with homeschooling. Last year I tutored two girls in science who were homeschooled. I wasn't expected to meet any state education standard and the girls were pretty much allowed to choose what they wanted to learn in science. While I have no question that we covered more than we would have in a standard classroom for the time we spent together, the fact is that we only met once a week for an hour. Their mom, a very conscientious and capable woman, only had to report that they did the following courses to meet the state requirement for graduation. I imagine if I had the freedom to teach my kids anything they, or I (let's remember that a large percentage of homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians many of whom have a hard time with the science and much of the secular curriculums in our schools) were interested in, and let them learn anytime we wanted to, then the need to be accountable to state truancy laws would indeed be an obnoxious intrusion into one's daily routine. But then in my mind we can would hope, fruitlessly it seems, that truancy requirements aren't the only requirement homeschoolers should be striving to meet.

Before I get too far into this let me make it clear that I'm not against homeschooling. My experience with it, to include the girls I tutored and children who I've run into who were back in the mainstream after being homeschooled, has been positive. There's also evidence to show that kids who come from homeschooling environments often perform as well, or better, than their traditionally educated peers. So on the whole I have personal and anecdotal evidence that homeschooling can indeed work, but I also know that I'm only seeing a segment of this population and I really have no clue how representative that segment is of the entire population of homeschoolers, and as near as I can tell nor does anyone else.

This issue of education and freedom also got me thinking about what our responsibility as a society is for educating our children. As I see it there's at least two clear cut responsibilities that come into play here. First there's passive responsibility, the strongest example that I can point to for this is that we take money out of your pocket to enable education to occur. Whether you want to or not you're likely contributing something to the local school system. Then there's active responsibility, but we seem to be a bit more ambiguous about the role of the players here. We should be expected to call truancy authorities if we see kids in places they shouldn't be expected to be found during normal school hours, though I'd guess that this doesn't often happen unless the kids in question are committing crimes or otherwise presenting a problem. And of course parents are expected to be actively involved in their children's education, going to the school to confer with teachers, reacting to problems as they may occur, and overseeing that their kids are doing their assignments - alas, we as a society don't hold parents very accountable for missing the educational mark of their children, instead dumping much of the blame on schools and teachers.

We as a society expect children to be able to do some very basic things after they're through a K-12 experience. What the local school system considers important may not be what a parent does, which is where homeschooling tends to come in. But some basic things, like reading, writing, and how to do math, the basic things assessed in the initial implementation of No Child Left Behind (NCLB), we expect kids to have a minimal level of proficiency with and I don't think there'd be much disagreement about this. But homeschoolers aren't expected to show that their kids have been left behind, or are far ahead, or anything at all (this may differ from state to state, but when the state of Massachusetts, which ranks fifth amongst all states in educational expenditures, doesn't expect much that's specific from homeschooled kids my guess is that this is a general national trend), which is another example of the government not expecting parents to be accountable for their children to society as a whole. School and teachers are expected to be held accountable for the educational failure of students, but not homeschooling parents.

I can buy into the philosophy that parents should be allowed the freedom to educate their children as they see fit, but I don't see why they shouldn't be expected to meet the same standard of accomplishment, at least with regard to some very basic areas of education, that everyone else involved in this endeavor is expected to meet. At a minimum we as a society should expect all of our children to read, write, and do basic math, and in the case of the standard state public school, through NCLB we've made these expectations a national requirement, yet homeschoolers are not expected to meet them. Of course I'm not even touching on the fact that homeschooling teachers are not expected to meet the qualification standards established by NCLB.

Homeschoolers who get into a frenzy over having to account for why their children are in a mall during school hours are likely bristling at this, but then maybe there'd be something in this for them. If we expected homeschooled students to attain similar levels of basic skill mastery as regularly educated children then the state should also be responsible for ensuring that the parents in question have the resources to do this (and yes, a slight bur pertinent tangent, this would apply to private schools and likely constitute something akin to vouchers, though only for basic education requirements which are deemed essential by society.) That's not to say that the state should pay for homeschooling, I don't advocate that at all, but rather some parts of homeschooling would be appropriately paid for as we as a society feel it's important that children meet basic levels of educational proficiency, and moreover that schools, or in the case of homeschoolers parents, are held accountable for this.

Being free to educate your children as you see fit is fine, but you should also be prepared and society should expect homeschoolers to be accountable for how well their children are doing. Other than intruding on some measure of "freedom" I should otherwise think that this would be welcome by the homeschooling advocates inasmuch as they're sure they're doing a better job of educating their children than the local school system. Surely this would give homeschooling advocates the opportunity to prove that very point, and moreover that they, as by and large unqualified teachers per NCLB, don't need to be qualified; it could open a whole new debate regarding parental responsibility and what the federal government, or any oversight entity, should be expecting of students, teachers, and school systems.

We don't give parents the freedom to do with their children what they want, which is why child abuse is finally getting the attention it deserve from all professionals who work with children. In the same vein parents shouldn't have the unrestricted freedom to not be accountable for the
educational proficiency of their children. Some would clearly see this as governmental intrusion into the lives of families, I see it as looking out for children and ensuring that they are obtaining the necessary tools to function productively in our collective society. Certain things, and education is one of them, should stretch beyond just parental responsibility.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the fundamental problems with any discussion about education is there is little agreement on just what is the purpose of education. In a general sense everyone likes education. We all agree an education is a good thing. But people start disagreeing in the details. Should children be prepared to go to college? Should they be taught to be good citizens? Should schools teach children a trade? Should schools make sure the children know how to balance a checkbook or prepare a balanced meal?

Study after study has found that homeschooled children do better than public school children, by a large margin. They do better on tests, as a group they are a standard deviation above public schools. Home schooled children are more involved in politics. They are happier. They do better at college, more go off to college and more graduate from college. (One good resource is Brian Ray's study, check out: http://www.nheri.org/)

So why are homeschooled children doing better? Many parents who homeschool believe it is because they don't have to account to the government. It is because there is so much government interaction that public schools are failing.

So before a call for more government control could be taken seriously, there would be a great need for an explanation of why homeschoolers are doing a much, much better job, and how any kind of government medaling would improve the current situation.

10:30 AM  
Anonymous James said...

I'm sorry, but you're referencing a study from an organization, the National Home Education Research Institute which, quite frankly, has an inherent interest in showing how homeschoolers are, as you put it, "... doing a much, much better job ..." of educating children. If you want to make this specific point then you're going to have to refer to studies which have nothing to gain from results which forward a given agenda.

Homeschoolers like to point to successes with children brought up through homeschooling. There should be justifiable pride in any child, but especially a homeschooled child, making it into an Ivy league school, but the problem here is that there are no studies that address the entire (as best such could be determined) population of homeschooled children and how that population as a whole is doing. Focusing exaggerated attention on the success stories which turn out to be outliers to the overall population as a whole obscures the reality of what may be the case for the median homeschooled student.

I believe there are indeed agreements with regard to what children should be able to do upon graduation from k-12, specifically they should have an ability to do basic mathematics and reading, and on some level be able to think abstractly, but for now I'm only aware of mandated tests for reading and math. I don't think this is an issue of having to agree on what should be taught as how well you read is not determined by whether you take Shakespeare or a survey of books by Kurt Vonnegut - the outcome in either case should be the same with regard to reading levels. The same holds true with math, though with far less controversy over the potential subject matter taught (for now, anyway.)

I think you're also confusing my expectation that homeschoolers meet specific standards with the issue of government control, a frequent and seemingly inflated concern for homeschoolers. I'm not asking that the government control how homeschoolers achieve education goals for homeschooled children, merely that homeschooled kids be expected to meet the same standard for things like diplomas as any other child in the public school system. Frankly given your belief that homeschoolers are doing a much, much better job of educating children you shouldn't have a problem with this as based on your belief homeschooled children should have no problem at all doing well in such standardized tests as we now have for math and English.

11:18 AM  
Anonymous John said...

James, you haven't showed that there is a problem with homeschoolers. We know there is a problem with public schools. Shouldn't you try to fix the more important problems first?

2:41 PM  
Blogger James said...

John,

I think you miss my point. My intention wasn't to show that there were problems with homeschoolers, though I am a bit concerned that homeschooling parents don't think their kids should meet the same standards of attendance and learning as other kids. My point was that we as a society value certain basic things in education, essentially reading, writing, and 'rithmetic, and it's expected that all children should be able to meet a minimum standard or proficiency in those three endeavors, which is what NCLB is ostensibly all about. Great, homeschoolers should be able to meet those standards, and if as you would suggest there's no problem with homeschooling then homeschooled kids should be able to meet the NCLB standard hands down, adding a significant coup to the homeschooling proponents out there. Indeed, homeschoolers meeting, or as many homeschoolers would like to suggest exceeding the testing standards that all other children meet, would highlight the deficiencies of the public school system and maybe fuel change.

The fact is that I'm not aware of any significant study that shows how well homeschoolers are doing as compared to their publicly schooled contemporaries. We have the NHERI's work, but as I pointed out before anything they do is self-serving, akin to drug companies testing the safety and efficacy of their own drugs. On the whole there's no unbiased study to how how the whole community of homeschoolers are indeed doing, and so I suppose there's something to be concerned about there. We have no way of knowing how well the overall body of homeschoolers are doing their job or not. My guess is that they're likely doing about as well as anything else that's not inspected or in anyway overseen, except by itself - not very darn well. Though you do have a number of interesting success stories, but that doesn't make for the whole pie.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Three points:

1) The issues with the truancy law were twofold: a) truant students were already covered under another underenforced law, and b) homeschools often follow a different annual and daily schedule from public schools. For example, today I taught my daughter inequalities and when to use "k" or "c" in spelling; the public school kids here don't even get started for two more weeks.

2) "let's remember that a large percentage of homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians many of whom have a hard time with the science and much of the secular curriculums in our schools" - the science remark is a generalization, and your assertions are not backed up with any hard evidence (and this after you took anonymous to task for citing information from NHERI).

I suspect this has to do with a certain debate over biological origins. My guess is even the most "fundamentalist" of Christians don't have a problem with, say, physics, chemistry, or even most astronomy, geology, or biology curricula (except for any that might be academically substandard). In any case, it's a distraction from your main point.

3) I'm not up on every detail of NCLB, but it seems to me that public schools are accountable under NCLB because, well, they get public money. Homeschoolers do not.

I'd be willing to concede that homeschoolers have some measure of accountability to society, but not that they necessarily have accountability to government.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Lennie said...

First, the article you referenced on my site isn't about truancy, it's about a Daytime Curfew. Homeschoolers do have to keep records in most states that prove, if needed, that their kids are meeting requirements put forth by the State.

In Illinois, we homeschoolers, have to make sure our kids go to school 177 days and I believe 880 hours minimum. We do not have to register with the State like some States do.

Truancy laws do affect homeschoolers now because they must comply with them. Daytime Curfews are where the intrusion comes in. These curfews can be aimed squarely at homeschoolers who do not follow the normal days of the local Public Schools. My kids would get hit with this since we do a school year that starts Aug 1 and runs into early May. Our local schools start Aug 24 and end in early June. A curfew like this in my town would mean my kids were breaking the law for about a month in May each year if they were outside during the day. During the school year they could also be construed as breaking the law just by having a recess outside during the day.

Now for the argument that homeschoolers should be glad to prove their children are outperforming the public education students. This is pretty much like the laws that require fingerprints on driver’s licenses. It is saying, "if you’re not a criminal you won't mind giving us your fingerprint". In both cases you are being forced to give up your rights to privacy just to prove your innocence.

As a side note, I know several homeschoolers who pay for and give their kids standardized tests for their own records and to make sure they are teaching properly. Giving those to the States though is again an intrusion and the reason many homeschoolers do not take them. They don't want the government ever saying, you have to provide them. It is also this possibility of intrusion that their are not many studies done on homeschoolers. Many homeschoolers fear that if they participate it will bring more gonvernment controls and their loss of freedoms for no other reason than opening Pandora's box with Government regulations of any kind.

I will agree that there are some homeschoolers who do not teach properly. They are few and far between from my experience. Most homeschoolers have a great desire to help their kids and will therefore do a great job of teaching. They are willing to sacrifice for their children. Homeschooling is not easy and it does take more time in planning and implementing that sending your kids off to Public School.

I also know that a greater percentage of kids in the Public School system than are Homeschooled are not taught properly. That is easy to see on the Nations Report Card.

10:35 PM  
Blogger James said...

David,

I addressed point 1 in my original post: surely there's a way for the truant system to accommodate "off schedule" learning. Homeschoolers seem to adept at accommodating other challenges it escapes me as to why this one is insurmontable.

As for the system, if it's up and working as it should, it should apply to everyone.

Point 2: Indeed a large percentage of homeschoolers are religiously focused, and they have a college which accommodates them, Patrick Henry. My experience homeschoolers is to a person with their coming from a religious focus. So this is more than mere conjecture and I'm sure with more research on my part I'd find substantive evidence to support this.

Point 3: All schools, and homeschoolers, should be accountable for how they prepare our children for the society into which they're expected to take a part. NCLB merely codifies this, though with the added club that money comes tied to the challenge.

Your sense of "society" is a curious one. "Society" manifests itself through the government which represents it, though libertarians, another group strongly attracted to homeschooling, don't seem inclined to see it this way.

11:16 PM  
Blogger James said...

Lennie,

After reviewing your site you're right, I was conflating a curfew with truancy, though the two have much in common. That said, if the truancy laws were properly enforced I don't see a need for a curfew.

I'm glad to hear that you have to show something to the state that details you have put in some hours for educating your children. That said, how those hours are called is up to you, and there's no check to see that what you've done meets the need or in anyway was productive. That's my point: testing for reading, writing, arithmetic ensures that you indeed do something productive out of those 880 hours.

Your argument regarding fingerprints and testing loses me. You can choose to give up your fingerprints or not, you can't choose whether to educate your children or not. Fingerprinting itself is a form of identification, which today is a necessity. I gave up mine to joing the military some 20 odd years ago and the presumption was that I wasn't a criminal but my fingerprints were the only way to conclusively ensure that. Bottom line, you can choose to give up fingerprints or not, and frankly I don't think it's giving up much in the way of freedom when it in fact ensures that criminals, deadbeat dads, and a slew of others are made to account for themselves.

I also don't get this "Testing impinges on my freedom" thing. Uhhhhhh, your freedom for what, exactly, to not educate your children such that they're able to meet a standard for reading, writing, and math that every other kid meets? You don't have that specific freedom, or rather you shouldn't have it though by virtue of your children not being tested de facto you do.

I'd also like to say that my point wasn't that homeschoolers should be glad to have their children tested, I never thought that they'd be up for that. Rather I was responding to someone commenting who sang the praises for homeschooling and how much better educated homeschooled kids are. Fine, prove it via testing.

As for those who are few and far between with regard to poor homeschooling, you don't know that in any objective way, that's the problem. You know your small community, that's it, just as I knew mine. The homeschoolers I knew seemed to be doing a great job, but I, nor you, have any idea whether that represents the community of homeschoolers as a whole or merely is the group of homeschoolers who know that they're doing a good job because of the effort they've put into it and aren't trying to hide themselves and what they're doing. How many else out there might not be so inclined? We have no clue. We have a clue about the kids in the Public School system precisely because they're tested. From my personal experience the difficulties associated with public education are far vastly complex than any homeschooler has to deal with, from parents who aren't involved, school systems with insufficient funding, larger numbers of children diagnosed with learning disabilities, and a myriad of problems tied to socio-economic deficiencies which vastly complicate what's done in the classroom. Frankly a reasonably dedicated and persevering homeschooler has it easy, and should have no excuse for not being successful; how many of the whole really are remains to be seen.

7:21 AM  
Blogger Suzi said...

This is in reply to several of your points.

1. In response to the idea that any study done by someone who endorses homeschooling must be flawed.

No one has done any studies of homeschoolers who were not homeschoolers that I can find on the net.

The only information available is done by someone who is "prejudiced," by your definition.

But by that definition, I would find any study done by the Dept of Education or NEA to be prejudiced as well.

But the study from the National Center for Home Education used information from Riverside Publishing Company. These were not self-selected, except to the extent that they took the test. This was a comparison of homeschoolers versus non-homeschoolers on the Iowa Test of Basic Skills.

"In a study released by the National Center for Home Education on November 10, 1994. According to these standardized test results provided by the Riverside Publishing Company of 16,311 homeschoolers from all 50 states K-12, the nationwide average for homeschool students is at the 77th percentile of the basic battery of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. In reading, the homeschoolers' nationwide grand mean is the 79th percentile. This means, of course, that the homeschool students perform better in reading than 79 percent of the same population on whom the test is normed. In the area of language arts and math, the typical homeschooler scored in the 73rd percentile.

These 16,311 homeschool students' scores were not self-selected by parents or anyone else. They represent all the homeschoolers whose tests were scored through the Riverside Publishing Company. It is important to note that this summary of homeschool achievement test scores demonstrates that 54.7% of the students in grades K-12 are achieving individual scores in the top quarter of the population of students in the United States. This figure is more than double the number of conventional school students who score in the top quarter."

"In 1991, a survey of standardized test scores was performed by the Home School Legal Defense Association in cooperation with the Psychological Corporation, which publishes the Stanford Achievement Test. The study involved the administering of the Stanford Achievement Test (8th Edition, Form J) to 5,124 homeschooled students. These students represented all 50 states and their grades ranged from K-12. This testing was administered in Spring 1991 under controlled test conditions in accordance with the test publisher's standards. All test administers were screened, trained, and approved pursuant to the publisher's requirements. All tests were machine-scored by the Psychological Corporation.

These 5,124 homeschoolers' composite scores on the basic battery of tests in reading, math, and language arts ranked 18 to 28 percentile points above public school averages. For instance, 692 homeschooled 4th graders averaged in the 77th percentile in reading, the 63rd percentile in math, and the 70th percentile in language arts. Sixth-grade homeschoolers, of 505 tested, scored in the 76th percentile in reading, the 65th percentile in math, and the 72nd percentile in language arts.

The homeschooled high schoolers did even better, which goes against the trend in public schools where studies show the longer a child is in the public schools, the lower he scores on standardized tests. One hundred and eighteen tenth-grade homeschool students, as a group, made an average score of the 82nd percentile in reading, the 70th percentile in math, and the 81st percentile in language arts."

for the above quotes, and more, go to
http://www.hslda.org/docs/nche/000010/200410250.asp

2. To the idea that homeschoolers need more government regulation.

Parents who are homeschooling have taken on a much bigger project than anyone who has not homeschooled can imagine. Why would they do such a thing? Most of the time, at least, it is because they care about their children and their children's welfare.

I don't work full-time. I stay home and I teach my children. That costs my family quite a bit financially. I do it because I want my children to do well.

And I have my children take the Stanford Achievement Tests every year. But that doesn't mean I want to give this information to the government. And I don't think I should.

I am complying with the homeschooling laws of my state. That is sufficient.

3. Regarding daytime curfew laws, in addition to truancy laws which are already in effect throughout the nation:

Any governmental laws which impact homeschoolers alone, such as the curfew law which is in addition to a truancy law, is discriminatory.

3:34 PM  
Blogger James said...

Suzi,

I think I addressed the need for an independent assessment. My original analogy was: You don't leave it to drug companies to test the efficacy and safety of the drugs they make. The same logic applies to an organization which is established to support homeschooling. I'm not saying NHERI is lying, I'm merely saying that to have an unbiased and objective assessment of homeschooling you have to go somewhere else to get it, and it doesn't count that they went somewhere else to get information. If the report is in THEIR name, they're responsible for the content and they managed how it was prepared and presented.

2. Point 2: I never said homeschoolers need more government regulation. I said that homeschoolers, people such as yourself, should be held to the same standard as qualified teachers. Education of children, similarly to the protection of children, is more than a parental responsibility, it's a societal one, and there should be a measure of how well homeschoolers are doing their job. If homeschoolers are doing their job there's no issue, and if there is an issue then frankly homeschoolers should be held accountable for that. From that perspective I suppose that would be government intervention, but if homeschoolers are not doing their job, and right now there's no objective assessment that says in toto they are, there indeed should be government intervention.

3. My guess is that the standards for your state are just as lax as they are in Massachuesetts. I'm glad to hear that you're meeting those standards, but that doesn't tell anyone anything, and while you may have some objective determination of how you're doing that again tells me nothing - frankly no one takes my word what I do with my students, why should society take your word that you're doing your job with your kids?

3. To my knowledge the curfew law was not specified for homeschoolers, they're just the ones most vociferously complaining about it.

The law was intended, as I understand it, to address kids in general being out and about during school hours. The law (which frankly I don't think merits passage if the truancy laws are in fact supported and enforced as they should be) is not discriminatory if it happens to disproportionally affect a given group without deliberate intent, it's poossibly otherwise a poor law. But I have to wonder why so many homeschool children are out and about during school hours, and why, if they were fine under the truancy laws, they're not having a problem with a curfew. I suppose some mysteries are a part of life.

8:32 PM  
Anonymous David said...

James:

I think this comment gets to the crux of the problem:

"Education of children, similarly to the protection of children, is more than a parental responsibility, it's a societal one ..."

Says who?

I think you would find that many homeschoolers have a philosophical difference with you on this point. For my wife and me, education of our child is our responsibility, plain and simple. That's true whether I'm homeschooling or not.

Parents who allow their children to be educated in public schools are delegating some of that responsibility to the schools (and paying for it through taxes). Homeschoolers only concede responsibility and authority for the education of their children to the extent state law requires.

9:38 PM  
Blogger James said...

David,

Who's disagreeing with you vis-a-vis the following:

"For my wife and me, education of our child is our responsibility, plain and simple. That's true whether I'm homeschooling or not."

It indeed IS your responsibility, and that's not a matter of homeschooling but is the case for any parent. My point is that any society should expect its children to be educated to at least some minimum level and to put in place mechanisms to ensure that this happens. When something is left on its own, with no oversight, it's abused and in the end there are children who are left to become uneducated adults who can neither productively contribute to nor easily function within the society in which they're supposedly a part.

Moreover, I'm not asking homeschoolers to concede anything to the government so long as they make the educational mark for their children. If your kids can pass the standardized tests, great, you're good as gold and doing a great job. If you can't, you lose, really your kids are the ones who lose, and something has to be done to correct the deficiencies and this in that situation would indeed entail government intervention.

9:51 PM  
Anonymous David said...

James:

I'd like to begin by saying I appreciate your willingness to take on this topic and for your gracious hosting of my comments (and those of the other homeschoolers who have commented). The issue of accountability and homeschooling is one we're going to see more and more of as the numbers of homeschoolers continue to swell (and I predict they will). Kudos for tackling such a thorny issue.

That said ...

I can't accept the implications of this statement at all:

"When something is left on its own, with no oversight, it's abused and in the end there are children who are left to become uneducated adults who can neither productively contribute to nor easily function within the society in which they're supposedly a part."

At face value, I suppose there's some measure of truth in it. But your implication is that with government oversight, this abuse is greatly reduced. I would say that our nation has plenty of "uneducated adults" who can't contribute or function in society, and I suspect very few of them are alumni of homeschools and entirely too many of them are produts of our public schools.

One could just as easily assert that "when government gets its grubby paws on something like an educational process, it can't help but screw it up" (efficiency of the Postal Service, compassion of the IRS, and all that sort of thing). That is at least as valid an assertion as yours is.

11:16 PM  
Blogger James said...

David,

I consider this blog as a tool for discussion, so all comments are welcome so long as they are respectful and engaged with the topic and everyone who's posted to this topic thus far has more than met those requirements.

Now as for accepting the following:

"When something is left on its own, with no oversight, it's abused and in the end there are children who are left to become uneducated adults who can neither productively contribute to nor easily function within the society in which they're supposedly a part."

There's a motto in the Navy that I learned from hard experience on more than one occasion, "You get what you inspect". You don't inspect anything you can't expect to get much of anything and given human nature that's pretty much a truism that most of us would recognize.

I also was not talking about all the "uneducated adults" that now exist, and nor was I laying the blame for them on homeschoolers, so that's a bit of misdirection there. My point was that society has a vested interest in doing everything it can to ensure that it's adults are educated and prepared to function within it in a productive manner.

In this case I'm not asking the government to get its hands, grubby or otherwise, on homeschooling, merely that homeschoolers be accountable for what they do or don't do. The best way to do this is to test homeschooled children and go from there. If the children do as well as homeschoolers believe they would there's no issue, the keep doing what they've been doing. If there's a problem then there's some level of intervention, how much, how far, that would have to be worked out.

As for homeschooling increasing, I think that remains to be seen. In a society which on the whole puts so little value on family in general and forces two-parent households to in many cases require both parents to be employed to make ends meet, it's hard for me to see parents having either the resources or the time to indulge something that's very intensive such as homeschooling. I honestly think it'll flatten out, if not now sometime soon, as you're not going to have that many families with a parent who can dedicate themselves to doing it. Were it to vastly increase I believe there'd be an even more compelling argument for there being some requirement for measuring what's being done.

Government agencies are not inherently inefficient or onerous, though those which tend to be overly politicized often are (the case in point being the IRS.) I don't know if you've ever had a chance to compare our postal service to what you get in the world at large, but I can assure you ours ranks as one of the better ones.

12:01 AM  
Anonymous David said...

Yes, but we could apply the same logic to parents' responsibility to feed and clothe their children (for which there is at least as strong a moral requirement and maybe a stronger legal requirement). Yet we are left to our own devices to handle this responsibility. True, left on its own, as it is, it is sometimes abused, but so far the government doesn't require me to send an annual report and pictures to ensure I'm doing an adequate job.

You see, government oversight (regardless of the level) isn't the answer for everything, and I don't think you've made the case that it's necessary for a parent's educating his or her child.

And I don't think my assertion about today's uneducated adults was a misdirection. My point is (again) that government is not always the solution its made out to be.

7:56 AM  
Blogger James said...

David,

Your analogy of feeding and clothing children is very apt, actually. What happens when you're unable to do that? You're provided public assistance in some form, and medicaid kicks in to cover health costs. Alas, the government is turned to when the parents are unable to provide the basic requirements for sustenance to children.

I didn't say that government oversight was necessary for a parent to educate their child, merely that it was necessary to ensure that it occurs, there's a difference and my concern is attended to easily enough through testing. If you don't like that form of parental accountability then come up with another one, but there should be something.

And again, I never said the government was the answer to everything, and I would never make the claim that the public school system was the font of all ill-educated adults. To some degree this may be true, but as in the case with homeschoolers parents enter into the equatino and here, too, they're not held accountable. So the lack of accountability goes both ways in this case, and teacher and the public school system otherwise bears the brunt of the blame.

8:07 AM  
Blogger XBIP said...

James,

"If your kids can pass the standardized tests, great, you're good as gold and doing a great job. If you can't, you lose, really your kids are the ones who lose, and something has to be done to correct the deficiencies and this in that situation would indeed entail government intervention."

So, you are saying if the kids can't pass the tests then someone has to step in and correct the problem, correct? If so, then how do we as citizens step in when the government run schools can't teach our kids and they are failing these tests. Government is not the answer and it never will be for social issues.

"Your analogy of feeding and clothing children is very apt, actually. What happens when you're unable to do that? You're provided public assistance in some form, and medicaid kicks in to cover health costs. Alas, the government is turned to when the parents are unable to provide the basic requirements for sustenance to children."

This is another area that I don't believe the government should be involved in. Society as a whole can take care of this through private charities. We have allowed the government too much authority as it is. They have overstepped their mandates outlined in the Constitution. Government should be the rescuer of society. Society should be. Government running the welfare state has made it politicised. It add so much beuracracy that it takes billions more than it should to do the same job private charities can and would do if the gorvenment was not involved.

This is why homeschoolers like myself and others see any testing or regulations by the government as a step into taking over our rights as parents. They may start with good intentions, but it won't end that way. How many government programs ever end? Almost none, they just increase in size and scope a little more each year.

8:41 PM  
Blogger James said...

XBIP,

As for:

"If so, then how do we as citizens step in when the government run schools can't teach our kids and they are failing these tests. Government is not the answer and it never will be for social issues."

You're clearly not familiar with what happens to school that lose their accreditation or, these days, fail to meet their NCLB mandates. Bottom line, the school is put under special supervision by the state, there's a cleaning out of the faculty (many of it strictly voluntary as they don't want to be a part of the upheaval attendant to the change that comes with state supervision), and the school is strictly supervised until it pulls itself out of the hole it found itself in.

Schools do respond to this, it's painful and expensive, but it can work. So that's what happens when schools don't meet the mark. As for homeschoolers, they're not in the least bit accountable for anything they do, to no one but themselves (many of them would say God, too, but I don't see him taking over for anyone that's not meeting the grade.)

You homeschool advocates are big on "government is not the answer". Not that I believe it is, though I recognize that there has to be something which society can look to as a measure of last resort. The difference between myself and many of your homeschool folks is that you all don't seem to believe in the last resort.

"This is another area that I don't believe the government should be involved in. Society as a whole can take care of this through private charities."

Here we disagree. Private charities are funded by the few, not the all. Government intervention, which comes with no strings attached unlike many religious-based charities, comes with few strings attached and is funded by ALL the taxpayers. The only system that works equitably to meet a need that can't be ignored by the unfortunate few, and is funded by all regardless of whether they think subsidizing the unfortunate is worth doing, is through government.

"Government shouldn't [I'm assuming this is what you meant] be the rescuer of society; society should be"

Interesting thought, but in a democracy government is supposed to represent society, so you're losing me here. In what organized, fair, and non-judgmental way is "society" supposed to take care of itself? I'm not aware of any model that provides for this.

Your belief in private charities is amazing, and how you'd propose that they be funded to do what you'd like to put on them such that we all share the load would make, I'm sure, for interesting reading. And as those charities got bigger and bigger what would we get? Well, the bureaucracy you're so loathe to live with except now spread out over God only knows how many private charities. And who is it that ensures accountability of those private charities, or are we supposed to just trust them all?

You don't have a right to inadequately educate your child - well, in a de facto way indeed you do and that's wrong. You, and all homeschoolers, should be totally accountable for what you're doing with your child and able to demonstrate that indeed your child can meet the minimum levels of educational functionality in the society in which they live. As it stands right now you can pretty much do what you want, and I have little doubt that there are kids out there that suffer for that because there's no one anywhere that can tell their parents to do anything any different.

Government programs end all the time, but I doubt you'd be interested in hearing about that, and the fact that the overall size of the government has decreased as a percentage of the population. No, that doesn't fit your argument about the evils of government and how its only purpose is to suck up dollars and usurp your rights. Well, your issues with the government are besides the point, the issue here is accountability for the education of children and while you don't trust the government I don't inherently just trust the millions of people who claim that they're homeschooling their kids, and frankly given human nature I think I have good reason.

9:59 PM  

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