Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here be Dinosaurs

Here be Dragons Dinosaurs

I know that there are people out there who are quite responsible about the home-schooling of their children in terms of providing instruction and curriculum that is similar or more rigorous than that provided in the public schools. I do not care. Here is why: schools are about more than education. They are about socialization and citizenship. They are about being members of the greater society. Personally, I think everybody should go to public school, but I can accept that accredited parochial and other private schools serve a purpose that public schools don't. And to some extent, I think that private schools still provide that sense of communal belonging and responsibility. But if you care about education at all, and you home school your children, shame on you for opting out. Because while you might be doing a very good job, the eloquent arguments of people like you allow people who
teach stuff like Beowulf, Killer of Dinosaurs! to 'teach' their children at home.

I'm not even going to go into how offensive I find it that home-schoolers frequently demand that their children be allowed to participate in music and sports programs provided in the public schools. You opt out? You're out. I just don't think people should be able to opt out. Education isn't something that should be provided by the non-educated. Parental rights shouldn't trump the rights of children, and the rights of the general public to insist that all our children -- the people who will grow op to live and work with us -- be well educated with us. If you don't like the public schools in terms of facilities, safety, and rigor, get off your ass and do something about it. With the time you are supposed to be spending home-schooling your kid, you could be effecting real change for lots of kids.

(Please note also the blatant plagiarism. That's a good, Christian lesson. Not.)


meg said...

Oh, bleah. And I only clicked on one of the links.

Re homeschooling, even without the religious slant: School teaches humility. Every homeschooled student I've ever taught in college was completely lacking in the stuff. Even for profs, they were unbearable, and they appeared to be utterly shunned in the dorms.

Rebecca said...

Oh. My. God. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Bardiac said...

The links scare me.

I think you're totally right about opting in: it IS about community, and the potential for improving schools all around. And the homeschooled kids do deserve better (in general; obviously a few may be getting a solid education).

But, I have to admit that I worry about the effects evangelical fundamentalists have on public schools. I don't want them pushing their agenda in the public schools. (They do it far too much with the abstinence BS!)

The homeschooled kids I've run into seem self-centered in inequipped to deal with disagreements in useful discussion.

Anonymous said...

I am not a big fan of the "homeschooling is the best" crowd but I have seen some cases where homeschooling is necessary - when a child is so picked-on by their peers that they are being regularly attacked, homeschooling is for the best. Also, when kids are developmentally uneven - wiz bang in math but can't read at the age of 8 for example, they are incredibly difficult to deal with in California public schools because grouping by ability is illegal in our state. I'm also not sure what to think about the art / sports thing because in a way, having kids in those activities brings them partially back into the fold as it were. And their parents are taxpayers so perhaps have the right to take advantage of the services they pay for?

Overall, it's the smug self-righteousness like that expressed in this post that irritates me. ( and interestingly, you both agree on one thing - that public schools exist to socialize students. But look at her spin on this:
the state is now free teach your child exactly what he needs to do to be a good worker in the global economy. Congratulations! You have just been liberated from your primary obligation as a parent. Go in peace.

I recoil from the rancor of the post but I also wonder what experiences made this person so negative about public institutions and government. Food for thought.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Oddly, I think that meg and I are both products of the California public school system -- pre-Prop 13. The laws must have changed, though, because it was the norm to group according to ability when I was in school. Regarding the trust of the government, I think it's in part a relic of the Reagan revolution and mistrust of Big Government. What boggles my mind is that that mistrust was rooted in anti-liberal sentiments, yet government is more conservative and Christian now than ever before.

phd me said...

I don't have much experience with homeschooling (other than knowing there's no way in the flaming nether-regions I would ever do it). I do question parents' motivations for pulling their kids out of schools, putting a religious or moral agenda ahead of a basic education. If you have beliefs that aren't supported by a public school system (nor should they be, dare I say), I can understand why you wouldn't want your child raised in an atmosphere that denies those beliefs. Never mind the fact that kids need to learn how to entertain different perspectives and accept different beliefs...

That said, there are a few problems with the socialization offered in the public schools. Traditional schooling is based on competition; I don't care how much cooperative learning we put into classrooms, success is still about grades and test scores. We do socialize our students to accept predetermined social roles; think about tracking: basic kids go to McDonalds, honors kids go to Stanford. With the pressure placed on schools through standards, social policy and No Child Left Behind, we do support positions that in no way benefit our students (abstinence only, anyone?).

So, I can understand why some parents feel homeschooling is the answer. Unfortunately, I can't understand why the average citizen feels he/she knows enough to educate a child in today's world when professionally trained teachers struggle. And I'm not sure they're taking all these issues into consideration when they start teaching algebra at the dining room table.

Terminal Degree said...

This is a tough issue for me. My dad and grandma were both teachers, and I got a degree in education. We were all very much against homeschooling. Homeschooled gets don't get the social lessons they'd get at school, and the school system doesn't get as much kids who can't afford homeschooling are left with less funding in the public schools.

On the other hand.

A few years before my dad retired, a parent asked him, "Which teacher would be better for my kid next year?"

Dad was stumped. Because both women tied for the role of Teacher From Hell. One routinely taught misinformation, and the other screamed at kids all the time. Her kids looked scared. Perpetually.

And suddenly, Mr. Anti Homeschool asked the mom, "Have you considered homeschool?" And he wasn't kidding.

I wasn't convinced (and I'm still not entirely convinced), and then I started my student teaching in Urban Metropolis. UM is supposed to have decent schools. Some of them truly are. But others are a nightmare. I taught at one of those. The kids didn't learn a damned thing, except how to fight, swear, and intimidate each other. Some of the teachers took the philosophy that trying to teach kids basic skills would backfire, beacause we'd be "setting them up to fail." Really.

And suddenly I started seeing the appeal of homeschool. Because I would never, ever put my own child into that kind of hellhole.

I saw a couple of things this year while teaching privately that let me know that not all homeschooling is created equal. One of my homeschool kids, at age 7, could barely read. She and her sisters had no social skills (but then, either did their parents!), and even fewer rules. Simply put, they were hellions who really needed social guidelines. On the other hand, I had a prodigy who cried when he had to stop practicing kazoo every day to go to school. Now that he's homeschooled, he's a MUCH happier kiddo. (He also has 5 siblings to keep him in line, as well as social activities in his music groups. Let's face it, this little genius will never be normal anyhow. At least he can be happy.)

I actually wish I'd been homeschooled for two years of elementary school. I got great education at home from my parents every dad, and nothing at school except nightmares (literally--I'd wake up screaming at night).

Music teachers get kind of pragmatic about this. We need the numbers for our perpetually shrinking funding, so we'll take any student we can get. (Hypocritical? Probably.)

Homeschooling is such a grey area. When it's done to "protect" conservative students from mainstream society, I have a problem with that. (Christians were never told to hide from the world's problems, after all!) But when the school really sucks, or when a kid has special needs that just can't get met in a school (and when the parents are equipped to teach), I can see where it has a place.

But those articles you linked to? Gah.

Anonymous said...

omg. There are days like today where I begin to believe that there is nothing left now to shock me. First I had a student insist that pre-modern (I actually think he meant pre 1980, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and say pre 1950) people were not as intelligent as we are. He's going to be such a pain. And now I'm afraid that one day someone is going to correct me in class and explain that Grendel was a dinosaur. And I'm going to have to NOT laugh. But what will I do? cry?

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Politely tell him he's wrong. TD, I think there are those rare cases where homeschooling is appropriate -- but for those cases, I say, "Private and credentialed tutor". For the other things you mention? The system needs fixing, no doubt. But letting people opt out is not going to get it fixed.

Ian Myles Slater said...

Now I'm anticipating (if not dreading) the crypto-zoological rebuttal; a definitive treatise identifying Grendel (and his mother) as examples of the European variant of the Sasquatch/Yeti!

My parents were teachers in the LA City Schools; I've work in them myself. They have problems. But I'm not fond of home schooling in general, and I've seen some less-than-happy results in which parents were the main source of information, backed by the sort of "professional help" you've indicated.

And I very much agree that opting out doesn't come close to helping the over-all problems.

But I know several examples in which the results of parental teaching seem to have been nothing but good. I don't generalize from them, however. Not, I hope, from bias. It is just that not many kids have parents with advanced degrees in, variously, science, history of science, classic languages, and medieval studies, or who develop software for planetary exploration. And who are also excellent teachers.

One of the couples, and their oldest daughter, are currently involved in on-line tutoring, which can provide the same level of intellectual rigor and one-on-one attention. This will still demand parental attention to socialization. Given the variety of non-academic motivations for avoiding public schools, some very disturbing, that does give me some concern for the children; and an atomized society.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

And I guess that's it for me -- I know that there are people who can and do do a good job with home schooling. But it seems to me that, if the educational 'haves' are opting out, then they are not helping to make sure that other children are getting a decent break. If people who do know what a good education means are not involved in making the education system better, there's something very wrong. And whether or not they like it, when the educational 'haves' opt out, they make it possible for the educational 'have nots' to school their children at home.

History Geek said...

O_O *boggles* *tries the googles*
*googles do nothing*

This also explains one or two of the kids in my Intro to Myth class. If I don't kill them before the year is out it'll be a mircale.

Ardsgaine said...

I didn't bother clicking on the links, because, frankly, nothing the fundamentalists come up with could astonish me. On the other hand, I consider the notion that the general public has any rights where my children's education is concerned to be pretty loony also. These are my children, not the public's.

ADM wrote:
"But it seems to me that, if the educational 'haves' are opting out, then they are not helping to make sure that other children are getting a decent break. If people who do know what a good education means are not involved in making the education system better, there's something very wrong."

You're apparently not aware that the homeschooling community is divided into a multitude of different opinions on what constitutes a "good education." It would be impossible for that minority, divided as it is, to effect a change on the public school system that would satisfy all of them. This is particularly true of myself, since I believe that the first and most fatal flaw in the public school system is that it is public. If education is a right, which is the fundamental premise underlying public education, then we all must have the right to the same education. We must also reach an agreement on what that education entails, which makes it a compromise between many different points of view. The final result is, by necessity, monolithic, bureaucratic, and resistant to innovation.

You are free to do what you like about that problem, but I am not going to toss my children into the meat grinder with the faint hope that I can stop the machinery before it chews them up. I have the opportunity to do something better for them, and that's what I'm going to do. I recommend it to anyone able to do it. It's a rewarding job to undertake your children's education. The time you get to spend with them is priceless.

Steven Brockerman, MS said...

Government schools indeed teach children humility--the better to rule them, of course. Taken right from the religionists' textbooks and dressed up as "secular" socialization.

Both derive from mysticism--the mysticism of supernaturalism and the mysticism of collectivism (See Hegel).

You all, with a rare exception, deserve the anti-conceptual, concrete bound, conformist savages that have been and will continue to be produced by such anti-educational institutions.

Indeed, some of you are among them.

Steven Brockerman, MS
English education

Ardsgaine said...

Oh yeah, humility... my children don't have it. Perhaps if I bullied them, teased them and called them names, I could achieve the same humiliating effect as the public schools, ya think?

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Ardsgaine, if you don't understand that there is a difference between humility and being humiliated ...

Conformist savages?

I make no bones about the fact that public education is a right and a responsibility. I happened to go to schools in the best schools in the country at the time, and I know what good public education can be like. It should not be there to create good workers (although some people will end up being so) -- but one of the goals should be to create good citizens -- citizens who understand the rights and responsibilities of living in both American society and in a global one.

I think the crucial difference here is that I believe in representative democracy and that our public employees, from the top down, work for us. That makes us responsible if our public institutions fail us.

Society isn't about paying the government taxes and fees for goods and services, but that seems to be what people like you would like to reduce it to. To opt out is to whittle away at your humanity.

Anonymous said...

Bear with me, as I would like to address some of the issues that have been presented in the post and in the comments. For starters, I was homeschooled from grade 3; my parents had taken me out of public school because even the gifted classes were boring me to no end. Instead of challenging me by giving me extra assignments, my 2nd grade teacher gave me fill-in puzzle books to complete while the other students finished their work. My parents were very involved in my public school, and often team-taught an advanced reading group for my class, but they ultimately decided that homeschooling was the best option. My parents removed me from public school because they wanted me to be challenged and to excel as a student (instead of becoming proficient at puzzles). It was most definitely not the easy way out for my parents, and they made the decision in my own best interest.

I agree that homeschooling is not for everyone, and that there are some excellent public schools, but I also think that it is unfair to judge a book by its cover. Not all homeschooling families are alike. Some parents do isolate their children, but me and my sister were both well-socialized, friendly kids with no lack of social interaction. And, while some homeschooled students may have problems, I've never encountered any who lack humility more than their peers do, or who are more self-centered than the average kid. In my experience, public-schooled kids and teenagers have just as much attitude, because I think its endemic to most kids.

And, before you write me off as a crackpot, I do speak from experience having known dozens of homeschooled families of all shapes and sizes. I would like to know how many of you postponed snap judgments and have had serious conversations with them outside of the classroom. I think you would be pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, Ardsgaine makes a good point when he states that they are his children, not the publics. Since we are living in a culture that emphasizes personal rights and freedoms above all else, why should parents be any different? Why should they not be allowed to choose how to educate their child? I don't know of any homeschoolers who regret their parents' decision (although I'm sure there are a few out there). And, as for the assumption that all homeschooled students fail to receive a good education, I am proof that this is not true. I'm not trying to toot my own horn, but I've done well...I am a history graduate student approaching ABD status, and I got my MA from one of the highest rated universities in the nation.

This comment is not intended to attack or disparage those who choose to public school their children, because I prefer to take the moral high ground, but I am disturbed by the fact that so many enlightened academics seem unwilling to truly consider other perspectives. I am not trying to convert everyone to the world of homeschooling, but I believe that homeschooling deserves a just hearing. And that's my two cents.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Kristen -- my objections are not that homeschooling is an evil unto itself. My objections are based more in my belief that, to live in a society where individual freedom is prized, we have to also sacrifice some of those things for society as a whole. Now, I suppose an alternative that might be acceptable would be to strengthen a required core curriculum and raise Homeschooling standards -- we require a college degree/credential to teach in public schools, so why not require the equivalent of parents who homeschool? Well, because it's inequitable. It means, that people in lower socioeconomic/educational classes wouldn't have the same rights, in this case.

I've never said that homeschooling always results in bad education -- what I've said is that opting out of the educational system -- especially by people who can contribute more to it -- is bad for the education system and society as a whole.

Anonymous said...

I agree that homeschooling parents must have a solid education, but I don't necessarily think that they must have a college degree. My dad graduated from college, but my mom dropped out to work shortly after they got married. She had been an education major prior to that, and regardless, my mother is one of the most naturally intelligent people that I know. I am always in favor of getting a college education, but I don't think that it should be a prerequisite with no exceptions. No offense to education majors, because I have many intelligent, well-spoken friends who were ed majors in college, but I also knew some extremely unintelligent ed majors who were simply not qualified to teach. And, this was coming from a college where the education program was ranked rather highly. Sometimes a college education isn't all its cracked up to be. (Although I disagree with your statements about the parents' education, I do agree that a core curriculum, albeit with some degree of flexibility, would be great).

My parents were very responsible, so when I approached the age where my courses were a little out of their league (trigonometry, for instance), they shelled out serious dough to enroll me in a correspondence-type program. Each month I received videotaped lectures in the mail, and my mom received an answer key and teacher's guide with FAQs, homework assignments, etc.... It wasn't a correspondence program in the strictest sense, because my mom continued to grade my work, but she didn't have to figure out how to explain difficult concepts because, thanks to the magic of video, you can always rewind and watch it again. Of course, not everyone is willing to do this, but I think that a lot of homeschooling parents do know when to call in reinforcements. Some trade off duties...for instance, one parent teaches math and science to her own children and her neighbor's kids, while her neighbor leads a creative writing group for all the homeschoolers in the area. That way, each parent utilizes their particular area of expertise. These "co-ops" are quite common, and my younger sister was part of one for a while.

Regarding your last comment, yes, it would be great if all American kids could be part of a healthy, safe educational system. But, that's simply not the case anymore. And while parents may be able to affect the quality of education that their children receive, in my opinion there is very little that they can do to curb violence in schools, drug use, etc.... If parents had control over this, our schools would be a lot safer today. I was in school during the pre-Columbine era, but even though I was only in public school for a short time at a fairly safe, small school, I had a couple very frightening experiences that I would have rather done without. I can't begrudge parents who want to protect their children. They grow up so fast as it is.

And, just as a side note, I myself am not "opting out" of the public educational system. Although I would go crazy teaching in a hectic public school (and I am impressed by those who do so without losing their sanity), I plan on teaching college once I finish my Ph.D. So, this homeschooled student will be making a contribution to society.

The back of the hill said...

I love the farkakte idea that Grendel and his mother were dinosaurs! I'm appalled, but I love it.

One of my friends, who regretably takes the Bible literally, once opined that the dinosaurs were wiped out in the flood. What made it unusual was that he come from a community that denies that there ever were dinosaurs......

I first read Grendel when I was in my teens, and seriously thought that exposure to several of the Germanic languages had to mean that I could whack my way through Anglo-Saxon. I was wrong of course, but it was a fun stumble.

"Grendel" said...

Look, it's utter rubbish, I can vouch for it personally. I'm a mythical monster, NOT a dinosaur and don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

jmstettner said...

As a homeschooling parent with a BA in Lit as well as someone who's worked in the public school system, I find ADM's comments, and many of the others, to be laughable while at the same time appalling. Clearly, ADM hasn't spent much time thinking about his opinions.

ADM says "to live in a society where individual freedom is prized, we have to also sacrifice some of those things for society as a whole." You've got it backwards, ADM. The society that prizes "individual freedom" celebrates it. Do you utter the same inane idiocy when homosexuals want to march in a parade? Of course not, because their right to march is raised above the larger majority who don't want them to.

As it happens, my seven-year old daughter is, at this moment, reading Beowulf to me. Yes, there are some homeschoolers who are not giving the best education, but the majority are not like that at all. Furthermore, if you'd take the time to study your subject before mouthing off, you'd have learned that homeschoolers by vast margins are better citizens than public schoolers.

The best thing for American education would be to have everyone homeschooling and put the indoctrination system out of business. As to humility, again, another pinhead speaking without much knowledge. Homeschoolers are by and large much more respectful and humble than public schoolers.

It never ceases to amaze me when people get righteously indignant without the slightest energy spent thinking first. Why couldn't Grendel be a dinosaur? I've never seen it that way when I've read the epic, but who's to say? The original text never gives a specific and detailed description of the beast. If someone were to try to explicate the epic in realistic terms and see Grendel as a dinosaur, who are you to say they are wrong? Are you an expert in the field?

Finally, I suggest you go back and re-read Dr. Beechick's article. She describes "wormkind" as dinosaurs, taking the folklore and giving it a real-world slant. She further goes on to explicate Grendel's name giving the suggestion that Grendel, too, was some form of reptile, and thus some holdover from the past. Now, before any of you Luddites jumps all over me for giving Beechick the benefit of the doubt, go look up the Coelacanth. (It's called research and ADM would have been well-served by doing some himself, but what can one expect from a public school graduate?)

Anonymous said...

You highlight part of the problem...'don't let anyone tell you otherwise' aka closedmindedness along with of course, the defense of the Teachers' Guild by the host.

Just how did the Republic survive before Publik Edumication came on the scene to let ivory tower theoreticians experiment on children for the good of us all? Wherever did we find such wonderful characters, well-socialized, wise, brilliant, patriotic, communitarian and all that as G. Washington, and T. Jefferson, and B. Franklin without the Department of Education?


Anonymous said...

Nike Free 3.0 shoes online,
Nike Free 3.0 Mens shoes for runner,
Nike Free 3.0 V2 Mens new style running shoes,
Nike Free 3.0 V3 Mens running shoes free run series,
Nike Free 3.0 black Mens running shoes light weight,
Nike Free 3.0 grey shoes for sale,
Nike Free run 2 mens shoes new style,
Nike Free run 3.0 womens shoes for sale online,
Nike Free run womens sale for runner,
Nike Free 3.0 blue shoes sale.

Nike Free run 3.0 shoes online,
Nike Free 3.0 Mens sale shoes for runner,
Nike Free 3.0 V2 Mens new style running shoes,
Nike Free 3.0 V3 Mens running shoes free run series,
Nike Free 3.0 black Mens shoes for sale,
Nike Free 3.0 grey shoes new style,
Nike Free run 2 mens shoes for sale,
Nike Free run 3.0 womens shoes for sale online,
Nike Free run womens sale shoes sale.
Nike Free 3.0 blue for runner,