If you want to know why our public schools are screwed up, here's one reason

Cynthia Dunbar has written a book. It's typical wingnut nonsense: it "refers to public education as 'a subtly deceptive tool of perversion' and calls the establishment of public schools unconstitutional and 'tyrannical.'" It goes further and says that…

…she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education. Her own children have been privately educated and home-schooled.

Typical and unsurprising so far. It's a shame that she's abusing the intellectual development of her own children, but unfortunately, she has that right. At least she's not harming other kids…uh, wait a moment.

Cynthia Dunbar is on the Texas State Board of Education.

Dunbar has served as the state board's District 10 representative since 2006. Her district covers 16 counties in Southeast Texas, including half of Travis County. She is a member of the board's instruction committee, which oversees curriculum and graduation requirements, student assessment programs, library standards, and the selection of textbooks.

America's method of governing public education is severely broken when a kook and hater of public schools like this can be one of the top administrators of educational policy in one of the largest public school systems we have. And that she is evaluating textbooks and curriculum…I am appalled.

The Texas Freedom Network is on the case. I think we need something deeper than just booting this destructive lunatic off the board of education, though — we need sweeping structural change all across the country so that the only people put in charge of schools are those who have an interest in making them better. Do you think a corporation, for instance, would succeed if it promoted people to positions of power who openly admitted that all they wanted to do was destroy the company from within?

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Yes, Texas could. After ditching creationist dentist Don McLeroy as head of the state board of education, Governor Rick Perry is now considering Cynthia Dunbar for the job. Dunbar is the author of a book called One Nation Under God, and despises public education…just the person to put in charge of…
Arch-creationist dentist Don McLeroy is limping and quacking his way off the Texas Board of Education, but there's still plenty of crazy left behind. Cynthia Dunbar recently appeared on a far right-wing radio show to preach her revisionist history, her dislike of atheists and Christians who aren't…
I'm honestly undecided about Elena Kagan's nomination to the Supreme Court. She's got a distinguished record of legal service and scholarship, though few publications to document her views. Larry Lessig likes her, Glenn Greenwald doesn't. At the end of the day, President Obama likes her, and the…
From the NCSE: As reported in last week's Evolution Education Update, Chris Comer, the Director of Science at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) who was forced to resign over a dispute involving intelligent design, filed suit in federal court, seeking an injunction against TEA's "policy of…

...she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education. Her own children have been privately educated and home-schooled.

Um. Not this again.

Yes Cynthia. We'll start mandatory spiritual education in line with what all parents what. I'm sure you'll be ok with your kid learning about Sharia Law.

no? Oh just the spirituality you Christians want. Ok We'll get with the Vatican and see what the Pope has to... No? Not Catholic either?

Oh ok. I see.

Almost unbelievable! This woman & her ilk are absolute idiots, because they let their belief in an idiology trump education, evidence, & reason. What a fool!

By Richard Harris (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Let me see if I have this right. Dunbar thinks that public education is unconstitutional because it violates a biblical proscription. Nowhere in the Constitution is there any hint that the Bible trumps it.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

What comment 3 says. The stupidity of confusing the Bible with the Constitution is really hard to surpass.

Is stupid oxide a greenhouse gas?

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

RevBigDumbChimp at #1:

Yes Cynthia. We'll start mandatory spiritual education in line with what all parents what. I'm sure you'll be ok with your kid learning about Sharia Law.

no? Oh just the spirituality you Christians want. Ok We'll get with the Vatican and see what the Pope has to... No? Not Catholic either?

Erm, as I understood the original post and linked article (admittedly I haven't read her book, nor have I previously heard of her), she wasn't advocating "mandatory spiritual education" - in fact, quite the opposite. She was arguing that educational decisions should be left to parents and that public schools are, therefore, a bad thing.

I don't, of course, agree with her ultra-religious stance regarding the curriculum; nor do I agree that public schools inherently infringe on parents' rights (as long as parents retain the right to homeschool their children or send them to private schools, both of which are essential liberties). But I think it's unfair to mischaracterise her views (unless I've misunderstood them, which is distinctly possible).

There is nothing in the bible either about public education. She is just making stuff up about both the constitution and the bible. Not very bright and doesn't care.

Cynthia Dunbar was elected by the voters in Texas. It isn't public education that is broken. It is the voters in Texas, at least a majority in her district.

I guess the majority just want to be stupid and ignorant and have their kids work at menial jobs that don't require thought or literacy. That Dark Ages yearning. From the social problem statistics, they are well on their way to it. High rates of poverty, child poverty, teen age pregnancy and the usual social problems that accompany ignorance.

Erm, as I understood the original post and linked article (admittedly I haven't read her book, nor have I previously heard of her), she wasn't advocating "mandatory spiritual education" - in fact, quite the opposite. She was arguing that educational decisions should be left to parents and that public schools are, therefore, a bad thing.

Yeah. I know. No coffee lots of fire.

It happens.

How the hell does the process even work where this person (1) actually *wants* to be on a state school board, and (2) gets elected?!

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

That's one reason our school system is screwed up, certainly.

Another is the standard method of funding: through property taxes. This leaves poor neighborhoods underfunded, while giving educational advantage to richer neighborhoods, helping continue the myth that the poor deserve to be poor; after all, their kids have "the same opportunity as richer kids."

Still another is the disdain with which education is treated in this country. Sports are given inordinate amount of money and attention, and academics are treated as a second-class objective.

Don't get me wrong. People like Cynthia Dunbar are caustic to real education. She's certainly operating under, and propagating, the myth that Science Is Evil(c)(tm)(r), that secularism destroys morality, and other rubbish. But our education system is fundamentally broken well beyond the influence of a microcephalic purveyor of authoritarian theistic fantasies.

That said: it's probably much easier to get her ousted and replaced by an intelligent person than it is to fix the fundamental brokenness of our school system.

Ah, the L-word voice of someone with no kids to educate. Nothing to see there. Move along folks.

This is a matter of professional competency. You don't hire someone who wants, and is likely to, tear down your house to do a minor remodeling job. This woman has no business being in charge of anything education related.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

But I think it's unfair to mischaracterise her views (unless I've misunderstood them, which is distinctly possible).

Yeah you're right. I was taking it a little past what she claimed there using the flip side of what her argument could be if she had control over the schools.....

This is particularly distressing considering how the US has been consistently sagging in other globally competitive areas.

Our only real future as a major world power is to make ourselves into the brain trust America.

I don't see it happening, though and I fear that, within my lifetime, the US will become as geopolitically irrelevant as a nation of our physical size can be.

"Do you think a corporation, for instance, would succeed if it promoted people to positions of power who openly admitted that all they wanted to do was destroy the company from within?"

Well, it seems to have worked pretty well for the not too soon to be ex - "worst preznit ever"...

Not for the rest of us however.

Please don't paint all homeschoolers with the same brush. I homeschool for a large variety of reasons one of which is because our (current) local school had signs proclaiming, "God Bless America" and "Under One God" hanging in the entry hall when I went to check it out. I have BS and am working on a masters degree. My children get lots of interaction with other children (including those that go to public and private schools), play on sports teams, and have not been indoctrinated into a religious cult.

This woman doesn't know what she is talking about and does not belong on the school board.

"...she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education."

Umm... I'm not sure I get this. My brain kind of exploded when I tried to read it. Can someone explain?

… the US will become as geopolitically irrelevant as a nation of our physical size can be.

I.e., completely. (Think mainland China for most of the last century.)

Actually, given the amount of garbage the USA pumps out (and here I meant physical trash, e.g. pollutants and greenhouse gases), it won't become that irrelevant for a long time: It's hard to ignore the idiot in the corner throwing crap all over the place.

@#5 (as long as parents retain the right to homeschool their children or send them to private schools, both of which are essential liberties).

How is it an essential liberty to deny children a reality based education and to handicap them so severely as they start life. Most homeschooling and religious private schools do this deliberately. They should both be illegal.

Nevermind... Got it after reading some of the snarkier comments...

To #17:

The Supreme Court has ruled its a fundamental right to control the education of your kids. Came about when public schools in the early part of the century banned kids from speaking anything but English, and the courts said parents had the right to teach their kids what they wanted to.

By DamnYankees (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

How the hell does the process even work where this person (1) actually *wants* to be on a state school board, and (2) gets elected?!

Easy answer: it doesn't. American kindergartners are world-leading in international comparisons, but that head-start is squandered by the time they graduate high-school. No wonder American grade-school and high-school is the laughing stock of the rest of the World.

She says:
"...she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education. Her own children have been privately educated and home-schooled."

Huh? That is not in the constitution, and as far as I know it's not in the bible either (not that it matters whether it's in the bible or not). She is totally making that up.

Cynthia Dunbar is on the Texas State Board of Education.

Perhaps states get the sort of education they deserve?

By Greg Esres (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

@#19
Doesn't make it right. At the very least we should emulate the German system which allows homeschooling only by a duly state certified teacher.

People who think government is the problem should not be put in charge of the government.

By LightningRose (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

I sent a suggestion to the Obama-Biden transition team (you can do so by going here: http://change.gov/page/s/education ). Here it is:

I believe that the biggest problems facing society today is many people have the power to make decisions about things they are not qualified to be making decisions about. There are extremely qualified and competent people available he vast majority of the time, but because of how the system works it is not only possible but plausible for unqualified people to get selected for such positions over the qualified individuals. There is, of course, a multitude of examples of this. However, I believe one of the most important examples involves education. Having qualified teaches is of course a top priority, but having even the most highly qualified teachers is not enough to ensure that students get a good education. The state board of education decides what the education standards will be, what textbooks will be used, graduation requirements, library standards, and a multitude of other things which are key for a good education. Yet the people who make up the board of education are not required to have any real knowledge about the matters their job requires them to be making decisions about. This is in spite of the fact that there are more than enough highly knowledgeable experts to choose from. I would simply like to suggest that president-elect Obama work very hard to make sure that knowledgeable experts are the ones making decisions about the subjects they are knowledgeable about. This should be a basic principle for all areas of society. It is a very simple and I think blatantly obvious suggestion, but it is one which so far has not been listened to.

Nutjobs never seem to be in short supply. The more desperate, the more noise their DWINDLING minority will make.

Mike D over at Balloon Juice is trying to quit smoking and here's a little cross promotional libertine comment I made over there that I'll share:
------------
------------
It's actually easier to quit heroin in the long term according to research I read long ago (and I believe it until shown otherwise).

If marijuana were more prevalent (and cost effective) I would definitely substitute it for the cigarettes, but that's not (yet) socially acceptable. Marijuana was a gateway drug for me to cigarettes. I don't want to harsh your mellow John, but I have stopped smoking for a couple years, and then returned. I never used the patches, etc. You either free yourself of the dependence on nicotine or you pay the pharmacy (many are uninsured) what you would have paid the tobacco store. You will lessen whatever damage the smoking part contributes by using patches, gum etc.

I'd like to live forever, and if quitting smoking and running marathons were able to make it so, then I'd jump on board.

Having just turned 51 in November, I am acutely aware of the frailty of life. When scanning the names of the dead in my 30 year high school reunion yearbook (Class of '76), or just glancing over the obits in the newspaper. Plenty of people I have personally known, who are my age or younger, are no longer with us. My own mother died of an aortic aneurysm at the age of 37, just weeks after watching me graduate in the aforementioned year.

Such an "up front and personal" early brush with mortality, right at the dawn of my early adulthood, totally changed my outlook on life. It's easy to identify how religions get their minions. Fear of death is a powerful recruiting tool when you're promising ethereal inoculations. I'm not sure where my immunity from such tripe resulted, but I suspect the math and science focused education my mother forced upon me may be in play.

Good luck on your attempts.

Enjoy.

Sittin' on the fence that's a dangerous course
You might even catch a bullet from the peace keepin' force.
Dire Straits

Cynthia Dunbar is on the Texas State Board of Education.

RWDBs (Right-Wing Death Beasts) strive to "starve the beast" and the best way to do that is from within.

That makes them sound suicidal but, since they're taking the rest of us with them, they're really more akin to suicide bombers.

I'm reminded of the Onion magazine's heading, "They Tried To Teach My Baby Science": http://www.theonion.com/content/node/44260

She whines about how educational standards are all fascist, but fifty bucks says she supports making/keeping gay marriage illegal.

"Do you think a corporation, for instance, would succeed if it promoted people to positions of power who openly admitted that all they wanted to do was destroy the company from within?"

The CEO of GM, who admitted 'we've made some mistakes' lost 30 billion dollars last year and received a 6+ million dollar bonus. It does happen!

About home schooling- allowable only if the parent/ teacher is required to show high school level proficiency in all subjects and the kid are required to take yearly proficiency tests administered by the state. If they fail, the teacher is jailed for child abuse.

Public education in America was established by Puritans in Massachusetts to produce a literate population who could read the Bible, the better to resist diabolical temptations. It was called the Old Deluder Satan law of 1647.

I've been following her work for a year or so now. I used to think that engaging such people directly made them stronger, but I don't any more. The tactics have shifted--even in Texas, the assumption of moral superiority among the Jesus-infused is not automatic. She's taking heat for her bald-faced hypocrisy, and the stealth attack on public schools is no longer considered beneath mention. Not to mention the Palin effect--these people are expected to make sense in their public pronouncements and on-mike conversations, and when they utterly fail to do so people notice. It takes them a lot of hard work to create the rationalized, treacherous underhanded tactics they use; it takes a lot of their energy to defend their ideas against sincere and honest questioning. Needless to say, they lack the two key resources for such processes: a thoughtful and moderate worldview that is aligned with the goals of the enterprise, and an articulate and patient capacity to express that perspective. Ms. Dunbar is especially weak in these respects.

Like Michele Bachman, Dunabar is herself unassailably convinced of her own holy mission, and perfectly comfortable in the dense swirl of hypocrisy that is her intellect. This is mainly due to the cocoon of certainty that such people rise in, and then maintain. But that cocoon is being pierced for both of these blank-eyed dimwits. In hearings, Dunbar has gone screeching off topic, stalked out, and taken a look of poleaxed stupitude when confronted with any contrary opinion, even those expressed in simple, friendly terms. Like Bachman, she has lied or backtracked pitifully to cover her most intemperate pronouncements. True, like Bachman, her position is probably safe due to the like-(blank)mindedness of her constituents, but I think she does far more harm than good to her cause. Keep the pressure on her to do her job.

As a minor public figure, Dunbar is quite accessible. Do as I do--reach out to her in her public, church, and work life, and engage her in temperate, focused conversation. Unlike Bachman, who is insulated by federal office, Dunbar can be reached. No screeching or insults--measured, earnest questions and careful replies. Her attempts at moderate reply are clearly taxing. It's entertaining, to say the least.

ice

...she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education.

Non sequitur, much?

By GuyIncognito (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Not only am I in Texas, I'm in Travis County, and this woman is one of the most ignorant people I've ever experienced. Part of the problem is people voting straight ticket, without reviewing each candidate's views. By the way, our governor, Rick Perry, supports the teaching of ID in our schools. I promise we're not al idiots in the Lone Star State.

Uh...."all."

Follow-up to my comment #30. OT I am in favor of the GM bail out because of the immediate hardship on more than a million people and the ripple effect of loosing a few million jobs in many sectors would have on the U.S. (and global) economy. Hell, PZ might even loose his job with the 5 billion dollar projected state debt in MN- he is not (I believe)tenured as yet. I wish that the big 3 auto makers present CEO's and their immediate predecessors be financially stripped and the assets placed into the deliberately underfunded workers pensions.

I won't say what small Illinois town I live in, but when our sons were small one of them came home from 3rd grade public school saying "Mom, a lady came to class today telling us that evolution is bad and that God created everything!" I was stunned, as was my husband.
Making a long story short, some of us rational adults protested to the school board and wrote letters to the editors of local papers. I personally received one anonymous phone call threatening our children.
As I dug into the matter further and talked to a teacher friend at the school, I learned that the superintendent of the school district was "recommending" that all the teachers invite this person to their classes to speak to the children about creationism. The teacher who told me this said that she felt she might lose her job if she refused to do this.
I was much younger then (this was 20 years ago), and only wish now that I'd had the wherewithal to really nail those bastards to a wall. I will say in my defense that a threat to ones children goes a long way to diminishing ones courage...

By recovering catholic (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

The only hope for the Texas SBOE District 10 is to find a pro-science Republican to run against Cynthia Dunbar. Such people do exist; take Pat Hardy of District 11: a conservative Christian, experienced educator, defeated a YEC in the primaries, and operates in a district where no one outside of the GOP has a chance of winning.

Damn Yankees #8 wrote:

How the hell does the process even work where this person (1) actually *wants* to be on a state school board, and (2) gets elected?!

About 10 years ago or so I had a good friend who was both Mormon -- and a member of the John Birch Society. She was a very strong believer in homeschooling, and also felt that government should not be involved with schools at all. That should be up to parents and the private sector. The State would otherwise try to impose one view, control ideas, and limit freedom. She combined this deep concern for individual liberty with a theology built upon the importance of children learning to be submissive and obedient to godly parents, godly church, and, of course, God. She wouldn't let her kids watch Disney's The Little Mermaid movie because it taught that it's okay to rebel against your father's authority.

I bring this up because at one point she told me that she was seriously thinking of running for the local school board. I was astonished. She thought public schools should be abolished. She had 5 kids, and they were all home-schooled. Why?

Her answer surprised me even more. She was very honest. The John Birch Society was urging its people to run for school boards -- and more or less run the public schools into the ground. Vote no, no, no on spending. Kids need attention and good teaching, not money. Sooner or later the educational system in the US was were headed for a disaster which would damage a whole country: totalitarian state control.

Home schooling was the very best option. Do what you can to either make the public schools more like home schooling -- or make home schooling look better and better. In fact, do both. Save some children. Save the country.

I asked her if she intended to be open and up front about her reasons for campaigning. She was uncomfortable, and said 'probably not.' She wouldn't get elected if she was. I asked her if that was honest, and aligned with her Mormon beliefs? She said she'd think about it. That was a very good point. Turned out, she didn't run. Upon consideration, there were some 'moral problems' with running. Plus, no doubt, personal reasons: having all those kids at home all day left little time.

I'm not suggesting Dunbar is also a Bircher, but her argument sounds familiar to me. At any rate, I just throw it out there as a possible response to the first question.

I have to agree with Ben (#34). I live in Bexar county and Cynthia Dunbar is top of my list of officials who really should crawl back under their respective rocks. The worst part about Ms. Dunbar is that this year the Texas Board of Education is re-evaluating the standards for science in schools. With Rick - the hair - Perry's insistence on teaching ID, Texas is in for a bumpy ride. Oh and before I forget, Texas BoE approved a class in teaching the bible as part of the humanities. Mind you, the only standard they gave to the teaching of the class was that if 15 or more students requested the class, the school must provide it. This is from the same state that gave standards about the type of shoes to be worn during the aerobics portion of the physical education classes.

Texas is setting itself up for failure.

And if you want some interesting reading, look for Ms. Dunbar's comments about the election of the Barack Obama. The Huffington Post and Texas Freedom Network have all posted about it.

Would someone please support the hypothesis that our education system is broken, dysfunctional, or screwed-up? I would agree that it has broken parts and needs improvement, but I think the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We may be standing on the edge of the seat, but this country isn't in the toilet yet (well, the economy is feeling the wetness). We're still graduating scholars, scientists, poets, artists, etc, more than any country in the world (or the vast majority). I also think it gives ammunition to whackaloons like Cynthia Dunbar to constantly spout that the system is broken. We need to be more constructive on this front or we'll keep losing ground to the de-constructionists. I've seen PZ write here many times that his incoming biology students are ill-prepared, but I've never seen him offer concrete advice on what we should be doing differently. Perhaps its just that the wrong students are choosing biology now, and the demographic he saw in the past is now choosing other careers. Gaia knows, the Bush administration hasn't exactly boosted our nation's lust for discovery, it's squashed it. So let's here some positive thoughts, such as this from my town.

People who think government is the problem should not be put in charge of the government.

Doesn't that depend on just what it is they think the problem is, and what part or role of "government" is contributing to the problem? In the extreme case, such as this bubble-brained Texan blowhard, who seems to think anything the government does is wrong (such as attempt to improve the common good by providing education), as is everything it fails to do (such as establish a theocracy), I daresay you're correct: She really shouldn't be there. But if her argument was just something along the lines the state schools don't have enough qualified teachers and the pupils are not given enough individualized attention and it's the government's fault because it's not spending enough money, she might be worth having around--depending, presumably, on how she proposes to improve the situation and maintain the improvements. Of course, the details of her diagnosis, the evidence she uses (and fails to use), et al., also matter.

JamesF, I understand the party thing. I remember an election for our congresscritter when I was a teen to fill a vacant seat. The advertising for the winning candidate was simply "John Doe, Republican".

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

well, hell. if a woman like that can sit on the Texas Board of Education, there's no reason I can't. I'm in Texas, I'm bright enough, and I know the difference between science and religion.

Dunbar's delusional book couldn't be believed by anyone who has read the constitution or knows anything about US history. So it has a potential audience of about 375 million Americans.

While this particular kook deserves all the ridicule given, the general separation of school and state movement isn't just kooks. Indeed, it is precisely because public schools will _always_ be influenced by politics--including politically influential kooks and religious nutcases--that many believe the public school system is hopelessly broken and needs to go away. Education should be like any other product--subject to free-market competition so that inferior ones go out of business and excellent ones thrive.

And don't forget this little gem from a month ago...

AUSTIN -- State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

The Texas Freedom Network, a watchdog group that monitors the board, released a public statement Monday asking Dunbar to retract the statement.

"I don't have anything in there that would be retractable," said Dunbar, R-Richmond. "Those are my personal opinions and I don't think the language is questionable."

The full story is here: http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/Texas_official_Obama_plotting_with_ter…

susan:

That makes them sound suicidal but, since they're [Cynthia Wingnut] taking the rest of us with them, they're really more akin to suicide bombers.

Good point. This is just low key terrorism. No big explosions or blood, just a generation of kids with ruined lives. Probably more effective in the long run.

One thing I've noticed about the fundies. They set their kids up to fail. It is a tough, competitive world and life gets more complicated every year. Being ignorant, uneducated, and stupid isn't going to get the kids very far in the 21st century.

Craig@42:

Would someone please support the hypothesis that our education system is broken, dysfunctional, or screwed-up?

When I attended library school we had to read about the history of the public libraries in the U.S., which arose as part of the same "package" as the public schools. The problem we have now comes, at least in part, from the fact that the "system" was not conceived or implemented as an educational system but as a program of assimilation. None of the wealthy and powerful actually wanted to educate those horrible immigrants coming in: Italians, Spaniards, Eastern Europeans and [shudder with horror] Irish(?!). (Yes, in the bigoted perception of the WASPs and Germans who occupied positions of power in the U.S. in the early years the Irish occupied the lowest rung on their "scum" ladder). Dread fear of "foreign" influences and the desire to assimilate a huge influx of immigrants led to the creation of the public educational system. That's why students do not study foreign languages until about age 12 or so - just when the child's natural ability to learn language quickly and effectively has passed.

I realize and accept that the problems go beyond what I wrote above and others in this thread have done a better job than I could of describing them. I just wanted to give a little historical perspective.

In the US, scriptural authority begins with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, period. No scriptures of any kind coming before them have any authority.

(The Magna Carta has no legal force in the United States.)

Follow the money.

Dunbar received a $10,000 contribution from Cecelia Leininger, wife of James Leininger.

L.A. Times:
Leininger was raised as a Missouri Synod Lutheran, a branch that believes the Bible is without error. He and his wife, Cecelia, had three children and adopted a fourth. They educated them at home, then at private schools.

Leininger has financed the national pro-voucher movement though a group called CEO America along with members of the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune. He was also one of the founders of Patrick Henry College, which has trained numerous Christian students - many of them formerly home-schooled - to enter politics. In 2004, seven White House interns came from Patrick Henry's 240-member student body.

http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/12/nation/na-vouchers12

Another narrow-minded asshole using his billions to force his bullshit world view on the rest of us.

By CalGeorge (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Whatever else you think, the situation with mixing religion (of the approved variety-lol) that goes on in our PUBLIC schools is freakin' unbelievable.

My wife just retired from a ten year stint as a counselor for Jackson Public Schools. She worked at an elementary school and the stories she told me shock and amuse. I could never go public with them because of her job at the time and the trouble it would cause her. There isn't even a 'debate' here concerning some of the religious mixing. In fact I think it's actually encouraged and promoted!! Kinda like the first rule of fight club....

Enjoy.

"...she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education."

I had to read this three times. These two clauses have no logical relation whatsoever. I believe apples are bad for you because the sky is blue.

By Bouncing Bosons (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Is stupid oxide a greenhouse gas?

Yes. It resides in small and sometimes larger specific leather bound books.

By druidbros (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

As a high school student in Texas, I cringe each time I read about our dying school board.

Things are already bad enough as is. My net evolution education in all my rears of high school? Two sentences in my biology book freshman year. I am in the honors program.

I've had three teachers who didn't believe in evolution: two science teachers and one history teacher.
(There may have been more who didn't have the audacity to state it in front of the class, however.)

It's a good thing my plans for early graduation are going well. Only five more months.

By Mary-Elizabeth… (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

State Board of Education member Cynthia Dunbar isn't backing down from her claim that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is plotting with terrorists to attack the U.S.

Just WOW!!! Clearly an extremist and a kook both. I'm sure the Obama is a terrorist Arab Moslem schtick is the least of her fascist views. Concentration camps for gays, atheists, and evolutionists at the least. A world wide war to destroy all the false religions and spread xianity. Including the catholics who are led by the antichrist (very common and heartfelt fundie dogma, they even have it in their church statements of belief).

OK, we know what is wrong with Cynthia. She is a classic fundie internet troll who also happened to get elected to the Texas BOE. So what is wrong with the majority of the voters in her district?

The Magna Carta has no legal force in the United States

This is not quite true.

The Magna Carta forms part of English Common Law, and the US courts recognise precedents set under English Common law.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

It's kind of a blight on popularising science when less than 15% of the population believes what over 99% of scientists do. Where has the scientific establishment gone wrong?

Someone in a different thread asked this question. Maybe PZ would consider making this a thread unto itself?

My opinionated short answer would be that the educational system does not teach the philosophy of science. Some individuals, for whatever reason, do not need to learn the scientific approach to problem solving in a class. They may already think in that manner, or their parents taught them that approach, or they gleaned it from their science classes. But other people need to have certain principles explained to them. Slowly and carefully.

Start with the basic difference between inductive and deductive reasoning. I would be willing to bet that most readers of "Sherlock Holmes" books think that Holmes uses deductive reasoning (he doesn't - 99% of his "deductions" are actually obtained through inductive reasoning). Deductive reasoning remains a bit counter-intuitive for some. The building block of inductive arguments are analogies, metaphors, similes and comparisons.

Popular works on science have to use simplifications in order to explain complex ideas without the reader having to take years of science coursework. But simplified explanations often have to use analogies, metaphors, similes, comparisons or stories in order for the reader to obtain some idea of what a given theory established as the best present explanation for a given body of evidence "says" about that evidence. Stephen Jay Gould called these "vulgarizations" (in the French meaning which is not pejorative: unrefined, broad strokes, big chunks, general picture, etc.). The use of these rhetorical devices has explanatory power and often prove persuasive, but remain the tools of inductive arguments. If all a person reads are popular works (vulgarizations) of science I see how it would be easy to mistake a scientific theory as "proven" (or not) by means of the quality of the inductive argument.

What I have notice with the trolls here and other places, as well as some of the highly (politically) placed whackos who PZ brings to our attention is that they have no idea that when then argue with the vulgarization they do not even so much as touch the theory. Anyone of even average (or below) intelligence can dispute an analogy, rip apart a metaphor, tear comparisons asunder. When creationist loons do so they sincerely believe that they have "demolished" evolution and that it's a "dead theory." They really do not and maybe can not wrap their minds around the distinction between a theory and its simplified abstractions.

If it were me "reforming" the secondary schools science curriculum I would start with a philosophy of science course within which you could assign both "Natural Theology" and "Natural Selection" as a way to demonstrate core scientific principles. Oh, and don't forget Bacon, Advancement of Learning,.

Just what the hell is wrong with voters in her district that they would vote a public school hater to the board of education? Or did she get in by acclamation?

You know, recently Lake Havasu City, where I live, and Kingman where described as the two ***stupidest*** cities in the US, due to the fact that every other city they had statistics on had **more** then the 11.3% of college graduates, with at least Associate Degrees. So, I am confused... How the hell can Texas manage to elect idiots like this, where we don't quite have as huge a problem yet, while actually managing to have a higher percentage than us?

Oh, and to be clear, we are not the only city in the US with non-existent industry, some don't even have a community college at all, yet ***we*** manage to be stupider than all of them. Sigh...

This is really of no surprise and far more common than any of us wish to think. Many of the members of the Lincoln County School Board in North Carolina think evolution is the sudden transformation of monkeys to men. No, I'm not exaggerating that is almost word for word what one board member said to me when I was inquiring about science curriculum and asked a question about evolution instruction.

It goes well beyond ignoramuses occupying school boards. My son, who is 7, came home from school Friday telling me that one of his teachers told the class all about Moses and the burning bush. Needless to say I have already emailed everyone I could think of at the school and I am waiting for a response. If I don't get one promptly Monday morning I am prepared to escalate the issue.

Here in the south religion is so intertwined with everything it's hard to even find a place where an agnostic or atheist is accepted or even feels comfortable. Among other things they pray before and after all meetings including town meetings, school sports, graduations, etc... It's overwhelming to say the least. We walk a thin line between attempting to preserve our rights as non-believers and total social ridicule.

While I'm not all that familiar with either Dunbar or public education in Texas, it seems to me that one of the easiest ways to get elected to any school board is to promise to keep down spending. Board members are elected in general elections, and an awful lot of people without kids -- or without kids in public schools -- seem willing to vote in anyone who promises to lower taxes. So the schools have to cut back? Times are hard for everyone. Heck, the kids nowadays are spoiled anyway. If you know your ABC's, your 1,2,3's, and your Bible, you'll get along fine...

Would someone please support the hypothesis that our education system is broken, dysfunctional, or screwed-up?

Well, it's probably not as bad as all that, but US grade-school and high-school students consistently rank pretty low in international comparisons with other developed nations, while outspending every other country in absolute terms and having comparable spending in terms of %GDP (nice summary at: http://tinyurl.com/56dgrk ).I noted earlier that US kindergartners lead the world in international comparisons, so there it something going wrong in primary and secondary education in the US. I don't know if it's so bad that it can be described as "broken, dysfunctional, or screwed-up" or what the cause of the problem is, but it's pretty hard to argue that there's no problem.

Oh, for fuck's sake. What is this business of people getting into government agencies who are fundamentally opposed to that agency's mission? Would you vote for someone for dogcatcher who was fundamentally opposed to the very idea of animal control? Would you vote for someone for a public health commission who thought public health was a bad idea and we should just let sick people die to weed them out of the population? Then why on earth would people vote for someone to sit on the Board of Education who thinks the very idea os an abomination?

I thought we'd gotten over the idea that the best qualification for serving in government is having no experience in it and holding it in contempt. Not in Texas, apparently.

Is Texas now leading in the BCS (Biggest Colossal Stupid)? There had been much competition what with Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma but they now must be leading by a fair amount.

Lets see what the coaches poll say into today's final ballot.

Steven Dunlap @59

Thanks for that very informative post. I read the type of books you mention, as I am in no way a scientest-just someone who loves it, and your posts puts alot of what I read into a new perspective.

My opinionated short answer would be that the educational system does not teach the philosophy of science.

I think there's a good deal of truth in that.
The general population seems to think that science works like some kind of committee, where people sit around a table, have a meeting where different ideas are discussed, and whoever persuades the others "wins" and his/her pet theory is then "true". This is the impression that I get from the tactics of the ID/Creationist crowd, who "argue their case" in an entirely fact-free fashion, without fulfilling even the more rudimentary requirements of a scientific theory, and expect it to be taken seriously. They appear to have no conception whatsoever of how science works in principle or in practice: they seem to believe that science is conducted like some kind of debate. I think the misunderstanding of the meaning of "theory" is a symptom of this, they think "you have your theory, I have mine, we have a debate, and we decide which is right", and are utterly bewildered by this (to them) bizarre notion that a theory has to be falsifiable, have predictive power, be tested by experiment, and be consistent with all of the available empirical evidence. To them, it seems like we're "making up rules" to exclude their "theory".
The exception to this is the small cabal of ID/Creationists with training in science. They don't have this excuse of ignorance. They must simply be liars.

Seriously, people don't study the candidates. They walk into the booth and vote straight Republican.

Ben is right unfortunately. The real election is the primary.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Ben is right unfortunately. The real election is the primary.

Which is why it's a good idea to re-jigger your party registration before each primary. Good thing they're not usually held at the same time.

I'm lucky to live in a state with an open primary. I tell the election judges which ballot I want.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Emmet Caulfield at #68:

The general population seems to think that science works like some kind of committee, where people sit around a table, have a meeting where different ideas are discussed, and whoever persuades the others "wins" and his/her pet theory is then "true". This is the impression that I get from the tactics of the ID/Creationist crowd, who "argue their case" in an entirely fact-free fashion, without fulfilling even the more rudimentary requirements of a scientific theory, and expect it to be taken seriously. They appear to have no conception whatsoever of how science works in principle or in practice: they seem to believe that science is conducted like some kind of debate. I think the misunderstanding of the meaning of "theory" is a symptom of this, they think "you have your theory, I have mine, we have a debate, and we decide which is right", and are utterly bewildered by this (to them) bizarre notion that a theory has to be falsifiable, have predictive power, be tested by experiment, and be consistent with all of the available empirical evidence. To them, it seems like we're "making up rules" to exclude their "theory".

Interesting. Having no training in science myself, I can see how that particular misconception could come about. Religious and political debate, of course, do operate how you describe; there are no demonstrably "right" and "wrong" answers, but different ideologies have varying degrees of coherence and persuasive power, and so the best way to make decisions is free and open debate. To laymen like me, therefore, it takes a mental readjustment to realise that the natural and physical sciences simply don't operate that way, and that "evolution vs. creation" is not at all the same kind of debate as "socialism vs. capitalism" or "liberalism vs. conservatism". I am, fortunately, educated enough to be aware of my own ignorance in this area, and this is why I don't generally presume to comment on purely scientific issues. But if I didn't know any scientists personally, didn't hang around on forums like this one and hadn't had any serious science education in school, I might well simply not realise this. Calling for creationism and evolution to be given "equal time" sounds, to the layman, seductively reasonable. I am, fortunately, aware that it doesn't work that way; but I don't blame those who are not.

How the hell does the process even work where this person (1) actually *wants* to be on a state school board, and (2) gets elected?!

I'm a little late on this thread, but it's actually very similar to what happens with the European Parliament. A very high proportion of them (much higher than in the national parliaments) are people who think the EU is an evil entity; they run for the office in order to impede it as much as possible, and get elected because low turnout means it's mostly the wingnuts who vote. Very much like school board elections.

By Midnight Rambler (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

In South Carolina, Kristin Maguire is the Chair of the State Board of Education. Not only is she a homeschooler, but South Carolinians for Science Education called her "one of the
most vocal critics of the evolution standards currently in our state science curriculum."

She was elected 9 to 7.

By Heidi Anderson (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Did you know that the Texas SBOE appointed an "expert" panel to review the science curriculum, and one of those members is Stephen Meyer from the Discovery Institute? A couple of the other panelists are equally nutty. It's truly painful. Most parents don't know or don't care. If you started telling them about the situation, most would say, "So they're going to teach the kids a little creationism in school? What's the big deal." I promise, even many of the "liberal" Christians would react that way.

I fear we're either going to have to just keep what we're doing and get more vocal and more numerous, which may produce results a bit too late, or we will come to blows with the fundies.

I am genuinely fearful for the future of the United States if the godbots get what they want. They will not only drive this country back into the dark ages, they will drive the world back into the dark ages.

Thus spake Walton:

Religious and political debate, of course, do operate how you describe

Yes, indeed. This is the kind of "decision-making process", for want of a better term, that the majority of people are familiar with. They just assume that it's the same in science, not realising that science is a systematic approach to knowledge-generation, not a decision-making process analogous to what they're familiar with. I have a B.Eng., will get an M.Sc. shortly, and have first-hand knowledge of the curricula for a couple of B.Sc. programmes. None of them at any time actually tell the students what science is. If someone can get a degree in a discipline without really knowing what that discipline is, what hope is there for the general population? Of all the zillions of science documentaries I've ever seen, I don't remember one explaining what science is and how it works.

Larry @66

Thanks for the BCS jab. Got to love a system where we have two undefeated teams in the country and neither one of the gets to play for the championship. Still love me my Blue Turf Broncos though.

By Traffic Demon (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Ahhh!! Religion and public school do not mix!!!! A new to public school student (previously homeschooled) in my Algebra II Honors class prays before every assessment. She hands in the assessment (writing on the top of it) "god will give me the 'A'" He may give her the 'A', but I give her the 'F'. I ask her to come in for extra help, she says the lord will provide it. I ask parents to have her come in for extra help..."the lord will provide it." Takes every ounce of self control to not say "how's that prayer thing working out?" "how is the lord coming with that grade?"

Child abuse? Probably, but like my job too much. Guess she'll be repeating next semester. I'm sure many teachers in Texas are feeling the same way.

"she believes public schools are unconstitutional because they undermine the scriptural authority of families to direct their children's education."

Somebody should tell her that "US constitution" != "bible".

I'm supposed to be studying for a genetics final, but instead, I read this blog.

This Dunbar woman makes me ashamed of being a Texas native. The mentality of squashing *actual* evidence completely baffles me. Then, she wants to force all the other children in the state to believe the way she does!

I'm so glad I don't have kids, because this would push me over the edge. It makes me sad for the future.

PS: PZ I'm grateful for your daily fight on this blog. I think that most other scientists don't realize that these people are a *real* threat, so they just ignore them. They think that other people will see just how stupid their words are and dismiss them as they do. Not so.

So, "thank you" from a less articulate Free-Thinker!

When I was in High School is SE Texas (loooong time ago) the only time evolution came up was when I brought it up

By gaypaganunitar… (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

I am genuinely fearful for the future of the United States if the godbots get what they want.

It's not quite that bad. We are currently in an anti-fundie backlash period. Polls show the majority of the people are sick and tired of them, including half of the conservatives.

Focus on Overthrowing the Government is losing money and members and has laid off 1/3 of their staff. 25% of evangelicals voted for Obama.

It hasn't yet filtered into Texas and might not. But 44% of the Texan voters, voted for Obama. As the most proximal victims and survivors point out, not all Texans are neurologically impaired.

Did you know that the Texas SBOE appointed an "expert" panel to review the science curriculum, and one of those members is Stephen Meyer from the Discovery Institute? A couple of the other panelists are equally nutty.

A kangaroo panel if there ever was one. It's OK, the more flagrant the christofascist slimers are, the worse they will look in court. A court case is inevitable and these idiots are genuinely dumb and it all comes out under oath. For one thing, they usually just lie and lying under oath is perjury, a criminal felony. And after everything is done and over, they threaten to kill the judge, another felony. So predictable.

Well at least now I know who to blame for my school's inadequacy. I know who is in charge now...

This is appalling.

mdcurler #80--Surely you're not implying that YOU are abusing that child?! Her parents should be jailed for that offense!

By recovering catholic (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Cynthia Dunbar's only opposition in the 2006 general election was a Libertarian, Martin Thomen. Just try to find any information about him at all. It was almost impossible at the time of the election, and he has not run for any other office since. No Democrats ran against Dunbar. She was heavily funded not only by Leninger, but by Bob Perry the Swiftboating Guy. She was endorsed by lots and lots of far right organizations. Although her creationist views were pretty obvious, and I for one knew that her own kids were homeschooled, she forgot to mention that she wanted to end public schools altogether -- in fact this little nugget of info is still unaccountably missing from her website.

Small wonder that her well-financed campaign crushed her opponents. While the people of Texas are certainly to blame for not fielding better candidates, by the time of the general election, Dunbar had it in the bag. The fact is, Texas is a one-party state. Until the Democrats come up with funding and personnel enough to oppose these people, the status quo will remain.

Holy Fuck.

I just started reading my first Terry Prathett book, and now I have to put it down to deal with this shit.

Anybody know how to get a hold of Matthew Chapman? If I can contact him, I can probably get this story bumped up to Democracy Now. Chapman is a pretty big gun. My contact is at http://acksisofevil.org/contact.html

Trying to book Matt Dillahunty for this thursday night, he's a fire breather, so think 30 minutes of brutally slamming Cynthia Dumbutt and all the other cross monkeys on the TBOE.

Nobody is using the Astrodome anymore, I think we should take up a collection and buy some lions.

Fucking Romans never finish anything.

Ms Dunbar is an unfortunate example of willful stupidity, but I grow weary of the bad rap home school gets because of high-profile numb-nuts like Dunbar.

For the record, not all home school proponents are drooling, bible-thumping, evolution-denying, knuckle-dragging, creationist idiots.

Some of us orient toward a humanist philosophy, if not outright atheism. Many of us are turned off by the industrial education consumer complex known as k - 12 public school. Truth is, most of the knuckle-draggers I've encountered in my lifetime have been the products of the public school system.

In short, home schooling is just like public school in that it is a system that is as capable of producing intellectual diamonds as dumb-ass lumps of coal.

Consider this: just because the religious wrong has been defeated, doesn't mean they're given up. Like Voldemort and Lord Sauron, they'll be back, but in the meantime, they'll be doubling their efforts to turn public schools into xtian madrasahs.

If they're successful, expect to see growth in the number of rational home school households.

By PlaydoPlato (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

The public school system is a bad idea. It gives one single authority too much influence over the direction of education. If crazy religious zealots took hold of the education system and started teaching their religious nonsense, you folks would be screaming for a private schools and home schooling.

There is no reason to run a state monopoly on anything. Not even education. A supply side monopoly is always a bad idea and always leads to ruin. The whole public school system should be privatized. People who can afford to pay for education, should (it's not like education ever free anyway). Those who can't pay can get assistance from the state in the form of grants, tax cuts or something resembling the food stamps system.

If you want the right to educate your children the way you wish, then you should defend the rights of others to do the same, no matter how much you disagree with them.

#90, we gave up libertarianism type discussions after the election.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

National standards for education might be a good idea, although when wankers like our not-soon-enough-ex president are in power it could mean dumbing down the whole country instead of just the red state schools. I think the lack of national testing is due to red state politicians' justifiable fears that their constituents would be at the bottom. Steve @ 50: It was not just immigrants. The southern states have never seen it as useful to have good schools for the general public either. They did not see how it would benefit their primarily agricultural economies. The northern states, with a relative emphasis on trade and manufacturing, have been the education leaders since colonial times. Add in culture and race, stir and bake, and we have this fine mess.

Steven Dunlap (@59) - Teaching more about scientific reasoning at the primary/secondary school levels--even at the sacrifice of, e.g., the difference between xylem and phloem--is a good idea.

And it's not just a good idea by itself either. You know how the creationist crowd wants public schools to "teach the controversy"? Hell, yes, bring it on, teach it--in this context. A discussion of how scientists work, and how scientific knowledge becomes accepted, with both good examples (like evolution) and bad examples (like ID) could simultaneously inoculate the kids against woo and set the Discovery Institute to ass-kicked and crying to its mama.

By Molly, NYC (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

She hands in the assessment (writing on the top of it) "god will give me the 'A'" He may give her the 'A', but I give her the 'F'. I ask her to come in for extra help, she says the lord will provide it. I ask parents to have her come in for extra help..."the lord will provide it." Takes every ounce of self control to not say "how's that prayer thing working out?" "how is the lord coming with that grade?"

The Bible is sufficiently full of contradictory statements that you might be able to find one what will convince her to put forth an effort.

The extreme passivity of "the lord will provide" and "[God's] will be done" might be met with "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God."

Does she throw herself off of buildings, saying that the Lord will keep her alive if he wants to, and take her to heaven otherwise? Does she walk around with her eyes closed, saying that the Lord will guide her steps? Does she refuse to eat and drink, saying that the Lord will keep her alive by a miracle?

By refusing to study, she is actually praying that God put the knowledge into her brain by a miracle. You could point out that if prayer (instead of actual study) provided true knowledge, there would be no need for anyone to study anything. Point out the contradiction and hypocrisy in her own life: She doesn't pray for knowledge of what her friends and family say, she talks to them directly, or on the phone.

Or something like that, anyway.

By Owlmirror (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Yeah. Some RC redhat over here (Britain) said it all started going wrong for Catholics when they started gettin educated.

And thinking for themselves.

And leaving.

If only we'd knowed our places and kept diggin' de canals and de railways and walkin from job to job wid our wheel barrers strapped to our backs and not tinkin' everythin' would ha' been foine.

Cock.

Do you think a corporation, for instance, would succeed if it promoted people to positions of power who openly admitted that all they wanted to do was destroy the company from within?

Imagine someday in the future, the last large scale manufacturer of cigarrettes is losing money because very few people smoke anymore, it's no longer "cool", and drugs that help those who want to quit do so are easily available.

So the shareholders elect someone as CEO whose stated intent is to shut down operations, sell off their assets, and divide the proceeds among the shareholders. The new CEO does this, and the shareholders do a lot better than they would do if they just kept burning through their cash (while marketing a product that kills their customers).

I don't see a problem with putting someone in charge of something they want to essentially eliminate, assuming doing so frees up resources for other things.

I very much disagree with what Dunbar is doing, obviously, but in a democracy, I don't see any conceptual problem with electing someone to head an organization that agrees with the voters' view that the organization should be reduced or eliminated.

Why oh why do christians think the United States is their church or something? I don't give a flying leap...about her church, what the stupid ass bible says nor what any priest/preacher/pedo says- If she wants to abuse her children I guess there is no way to stop her but she surely doesn't belong on the board of education where she can abuse other children

By robotaholic (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

This bitch is the representative from my district. I can't believe the people around me are so damn stupid.

I had no idea that there were so many nutcases in Texas education. When I moved from Houston to San Diego mid-way through High School, I basically missed a year of mathematics. My former school and teachers was and were far superior. Sure, we had to pledge allegiance to the Texas Flag, but that was no trouble compared to what I experienced in San Diego. I had read of those cases of "indoctrination in the classroom," and for the most part, I did not believe . . . until I came to San Diego.

I don't see any conceptual problem with electing someone to head an organization that agrees with the voters' view that the organization should be reduced or eliminated.

Yes, I'm sure shutting down the public schools in Texas is a great idea. Hordes of unsocialized, illiterate, unemployed and idle kids roaming around will do wonders for the states economy and crime rates.

We had a 16 year old girl who kept showing up at the ER with a baby. Her baby. Nothing wrong with it but she didn't have the slightest idea how to care for it. CPS found the father. He is mid 20s and retarded. Found the parents and promptly lost their address. They are meth addicts so far gone they didn't know where their daughter was and occasionally even forget she exists. And oh yeah, she is from....Texas.

If you want the right to educate your children the way you wish, then you should defend the rights of others to do the same, no matter how much you disagree with them. - Verster

People do not own their children, and should emphatically not have a right to educate (or miseducate) them any way they wish.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Yes, I'm sure shutting down the public schools in Texas is a great idea. Hordes of unsocialized, illiterate, unemployed and idle kids roaming around will do wonders for the states economy and crime rates.

Read the part where I say "I very much disagree with what Dunbar is doing, obviously". PZ and others attacked the idea of electing someone to run an organization they want to phase out. I disagree with that logic, and provided a warm fuzzy example to counter it.

This does not mean that I agree with the logic of Dunbar, in thinking that the texas public school system should be eliminated. I don't. But that is a different issue. I just hate seeing bad logic used to support a point, even if I agree with that point.

The whole public school system should be privatized.

You fucking idiots never give up do you? Thanks for the de-regulation and privitization you fucking flame retardant gas bag.

Go deregulate the water pressure in your house, then float your ass off to Somalia where there are no government regulations on anything.

By the way libtard, re Somalia, better get a reasonably good weapon built by a command economy like an AK, because American assault rifles are junk, capitalism rules my left nut.

I think we have room for these butt-monkeys at the new Astrodome Lion-Christian Olympics coming soon.

I regularly see the "privatization of education" argument whenever threads like this pop up. The problem is, this argument is founded upon a fundamental misunderstanding of the entire purpose of education. Education is not a public provided service for your children, it is a system designed to provide a foundational knowledge in order to make our system of government function. You can choose to partake in the public education system, choose to send your kids to private schools, or choose to homeschool them. On the part of the parent, the requirement is that the child is educated. On the part of the state, the educational system is available. The two are not, nor were they ever intended to be, a one-to-one interaction.

Privatized schools also have a fundamental flaw that their advocates seem to forget in their zealous support of them. If they fail, and succumb to the effects of market forces, it isn't as if they simply have a couple of bad quarters and move on, the kids who attend those schools are failed as well. This has happened all over the country as voucher and charter schools have been set up. A recent investigative piece that examined the Milwaukee voucher system found that more than 100 of the 120 voucher schools were worse than the public schools they were designed to replace. The majority of Arizona's charter school students can't pass the AIMS test in order to graduate. San Francisco had to terminate a privatization program when they found that the private company was using every and any excuse to expel low performance students in order to better meet their test score goals.

In addition, we always hear about how the United States compares with other countries on test scores. What they always seem to leave out is a simple fact. Outside of Western Europe, most school systems don't provide education for students above our middle school level unless they are the children of the wealthy few who can afford to send their children to private schools. In the major industrialized countries we are also quite different than our peers in that we have an egalitarian system. We send all of our students to comprehensive, in effect college preparatory, high schools. This means that when we compare our scores, we are comparing effectively all of our students to the top 20 or 30% of our peers. Many of the countries of Europe have a two track system, one for vocational instruction, the other for college prep. The kids in the vocational programs usually don't take the tests, just the kids in college prep schools.

Our public schools are in trouble, but not as much as opponents would like you to believe. They need to be revamped, reformed, not replaced. Personally I think our system should be split, our vocational ed. programs should be expanded, and our college prep programs enhanced. Of course, for those whose children wont be attending college, this would be the subject of major objections...

------------------------------

Sastra,

The idea of running for a school board, state board, or other elected position with power over educational programs in order to destroy public education isn't a new idea. I've been quasi keeping an eye on these developments for years, ever since I happened upon a rather well researched online paper where the author provided well researched arguments that these organizations were doing this all over the country. Unfortunately I had a system failure with my computer about 7 or 8 years ago and lost the link to the site ... never been able to find it since. The basic idea has been out there at least 15 to 20 years now, to my knowledge. The foundational argument is a religious one, the idea being that only private religiously motivated schools should provide education. Perhaps it's been around since "God was taken out of the schools," or perhaps it has only really taken off since the courts ruled that creationism wasn't science. Either way, the core of the movement is fundy based with ample support provided by unintentionally helpful Libertarians and others who believe that vouchers and charter schools provide viable alternatives for public education.

By dogmeatib (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

"Scriptual authority"???

Is that anything like as important as, say, bladder authority?

I guarantee that one of these actually has some business in real life situations.

No, wait, I'll go further. What kind of authority needs a friggin' SCRIPT? The authority of my bladder tells me exactly what I need to know and when I need to know it without a word from any middleman. Can it possibly be that my bladder is more competent than Cynthia's "god"? You betcha it is. It's been completely reliable so far. Can't say the same for the script nor its putative "author".

By Arnosium Upinarum (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

This successfully shifts the focus away from proving neo-Darwinism and scientific fundamentalism to religious fundamentalism.

Nice work.

This successfully shifts the focus away from proving neo-Darwinism and scientific fundamentalism - Mike

Neo-Darwinism can't be proved, only tested and (so far) corroborated; the term "scientific fundamentalism" is meaningless verbiage; you are an ignoramus.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Outside of Western Europe, most school systems don't provide education for students above our middle school level

[citation needed]
That might be strictly true in the sense that there are a large number of third-world countries "Outside of Western Europe", but it plainly excludes a vast number of counterexamples: Canada, all of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. They're just the easy examples off the top of my head.

This means that when we compare our scores, we are comparing effectively all of our students to the top 20 or 30% of our peers.

[citation needed]
First, in which countries is 70-80% of secondary education vocational? My intuition based on limited experience (Ireland, UK, Sweden) is that vocational education is not nearly that popular and statistics for the proportion of the population with third-level education (for which "academic" second-level is a prerequisite) would seem to directly contradict your idea. For example, amongst the G8 excluding the US, 32.4% (25-64 y/o, US-IES 2006) have a third-level qualification, a very clever trick if only 20-30% of them go to high-school.
Secondly, where is the evidence supporting the implicit assumption that the best students necessarily choose the academic route rather than the vocational one?
Thirdly, did the agencies who compiled the statistics administer tests only to the "academic school" population, rather than a random sample of the whole population of school age (or from all school attenders irrespective of the type of school)? It seems somewhat unlikely that OECD, UNICEF, G8, etc. would be so incompetent as to introduce so gross a methodological flaw that it can be spotted immediately by a lowly engineer (me) untrained in education or population statistics.

Mike, we know the real meaning of big words. We use them all the time in our work. Using them wrong doesn't impress us. It just makes you less than truthful.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

@ #90: "The public school system is a bad idea. ... "

The fact that it seems to have failed you is not, in itself, a reason to eliminate it.
If i were to base my entire summation of the Libertarian philosophy on your little rant, I would do it this way: "Being a Libertarian means never having to think things through."

How would these government grants for education work, if government were out of the job of education?

Don't come back with the "great example" of Milwaukee, either: studies show that what happened there was exactly what was predicted: private schools cherry-picked their selections, taking good and promising students, leaving behind the less-abled and those who needed special accommodations. (The still manage to do a shitty job, even after that)

Yep, the Finnish system is on top of the world because of the scriptural authority inherent in the system...

Texans, if you want us to stop thinking of you as the pinnacle of rednecks, throw trash bags like these outside.

As if I didn't hate Cynthia Dumb-as-a-bar enough already! She certainly gave people a hard time at the Texas State Board of Education hearing a few weeks ago. She gave me a hard time because I stated that scientists don't disagree about evolution and she (once again) brought up this list of 700 PhDs across the US who don't believe in evolution to "prove" me wrong. I asked how many were qualified to make that statement as being a medical doctor, engineer or dentist, doesn't count (I got an out-loud laugh from Don McElroy at that, at least he has a sense of humor). She denied the validity of a survey of 500 biology PhDs from Texas that supports evolution as it was done by TFN, a biased source, and yet loves this other survey that was done by the Discovery Institute! I must say she was pretty quick witted and I found out later that she studied law, (perhaps is/was a lawyer?) and teaches anatomy and physiology. I wonder what she tells her students about the uselessness of the appendix. I also wonder what Don McElroy (a dentist and the head of the board, also a creationist) says to his patients about the uselessness of wisdom teeth.

By Miss Elaine (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

@ #90: "The public school system is a bad idea. ... "

Bullcrap. The USA and most or all industrialized societies have public education. The societies that don't like Haiti, Somalia, parts of the middle east and Africa tend to be somewhere between one step above the stone age and early Dark Ages.

Libertarianism is another godlet that failed. At this point there seem to be worldwide only 3 obsessive compulsive crackpots with no jobs and insomnia posting the same simple minded crap over and over on unrelated threads all over the internet. It gets tiresome and boring reading the L-trolls repetitive babbling. Why don't they just jump off a cliff and let the free market take care of them?

I would even gladly give them bus fare to the nearest high place but that would be socialism.

Don't come back with the "great example" of Milwaukee, either: studies show that what happened there was exactly what was predicted: private schools cherry-picked their selections, taking good and promising students, leaving behind the less-abled and those who needed special accommodations. (The still manage to do a shitty job, even after that) - dean

Well clearly their faith in The Free Market wasn't pure enough.

By Nick Gotts (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

My whole problem with vouchers is that the playing field isn't level. To be level, any school that accepts vouchers would also have to accept everyone, say 10-15% of students, that are assigned to them, and they must either educate them for a year or forfeit the voucher money. Just like the public schools must do. Let's see what these schools do with special ed and gangbangers in their midst. Meanwhile, maybe the public schools could offload enough trouble makers to regain control of the students. One time my sister was giving me the voucher argument until I brought up the even playing field. Then she dropped the subject.

By Nerd of Redhead (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

I wonder what she tells her students about the uselessness of the appendix.

She probably tells them it's packed with immunity-related lymphoid tissue (true). She might even mention that it may provide a "safe-house" for beneficial colon bacteria that could repopulate the colon after an attack of diarrhea (speculative but possible).
I doubt she mentions that it is homologous to the much larger cecum of other, herbivorous mammals. Pretty good article on the subject here for the curious.

By Sven DiMilo (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

I must say she [Cynthia]was pretty quick witted and I found out later that she studied law, (perhaps is/was a lawyer?) and teaches anatomy and physiology.

Probably means they know what they are doing, know it is illegal, and might well also know creationism is mythological bullcrap.

Quick witted or not, in court, creos invariably end up looking stupid and foolish. Cynthia D. and McLeroy have a long paper trail behind them of the usual paranoid creo idiocy.

For creos like McLeroy and C.D. creationism isn't about religion or science. It is about politics, power and money. As such the leadership doesn't have to believe it, just use it as part of right wing agitprop.

dkew @92

I think the lack of national testing is due to red state politicians' justifiable fears that their constituents would be at the bottom.

There's an expression in management theory: you can't manage what you can't measure. Keeping the "standards" localized allows conservatives more control. A centralized system would prove more difficult for them to game (imagine if a whackaloon like Dunbar had to run nationally or receive confirmation from the U.S. Senate).

Molly, NYC @93

Teaching more about scientific reasoning ...

This is exactly what I meant. Thank you for articulating it a bit better than I did.

Emmet Caulfied @78

Of all the zillions of science documentaries I've ever seen, I don't remember one explaining what science is and how it works.

Have you checked out James Burke's science documentaries? The Connections series finally found a DVD distributor in 2007 and he also did some great work in The Day the Universe Changed series.

OK, I'm bound to offend some people here, but there you go. The major problem w/ the public school system is 3-fold. (1) is the education degree req't - too much time is spent learning how to make an effective bulletin-board and not enough in the actual subject that one is expected to teach, esp. in the mats and sciences. One might argue that practice in the methods of teaching is necessary, but the opposite is held to be true at the university level - you can't have it both ways. (2) the position of tenure being granted automatically after 3 - 5 years needs to be curtailed, and finally, the fangs of the teacher's unions need to be pulled. However, as all these things need to be done together, I don't hold much hope.

Have you checked out James Burke's science documentaries? The Connections series finally found a DVD distributor in 2007 and he also did some great work in The Day the Universe Changed series.

I remember seeing Connections when it originally aired (showing my age a bit, but I was only little) and recently watched the first series of it again. I don't recall seeing The Day the Universe Changed. With that disclaimer, I don't recall Connections explaining the philosophy of science, although I could easily be wrong. I remember it more as creating an engaging narrative about the development of science, almost like a scientific Tarantino movie (with hindsight).

Those people who seem to think of public education as some monolithic structure run out of Washington have forgotten there are over 14,000 school districts in the US. Are schools in rural Mississippi or inner-city Detroit as good as schools in Greenwich, Connecticut or Beverley Hills? Not only no but hell no. However, pointing to the bottom decile of public schools and claiming they're the norm is lying.

150+ years of public education helped make the US an economic, industrial and scientific powerhouse. Certain people should stop pretending otherwise.

By 'Tis Himself (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

"She probably tells them it's packed with immunity-related lymphoid tissue (true). She might even mention that it may provide a "safe-house" for beneficial colon bacteria that could repopulate the colon after an attack of diarrhea (speculative but possible)"

True, she probably does, but what does she say when they ask, "But, what does it do? Why are people ok without it?" The sad thing is that the story behind vestigial organs is so interesting and these kids won't get to hear it. sigh.

By miss Elaine (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Regarding Cynthia Dunbar's election to the Texas SBOE.
(1) Social conservatives (Bible thumpers) vote as a
powerful block for their school board candidates.
The rest of us tend to pay little attention to that
election - for most people it is uninteresting.
(2) Texas is a one party state and the most active
Republican party members seem to be social
conservatives. Texas has had little in the way of
a Democratice party since the days of Lyndon Johnson.
(3) Getting pro-science candidates to run is very
difficult. Most of what the board does is unrelated.
Those of us who testified for sound evolution
teaching in November had to wait about 3 hours for
a delayed and long played-out debate with testimony
on whether to give more graduation credits for
playing football. I suspect it becomes apparent to
potential pro-science candidates that science or
comparable issues will constitute little more than a
farthing of their butt-dumbing hours at board
meetings.

By toucantoad (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

For that home-schooled algebra student who depends on faith for her grades: ask her to ask her parents if they know any good Christian farmers. Then ask those folks if they get up in the morning and pray to God to milk the cows or harvest the crops or feed the chickens... or do they do it themselves?

And my wife wants to know how she got into the honors algebra class - did her parents lie about her test scores, or something?

@ #41:

"Texas is setting itself up for failure."

Yes, in much the same sense as California is setting itself up for wildfires, Florida is setting itself up for hurricanes, and Toronto is setting itself up for Canadians.

Sven DiMilo at #118. Did you notice that the excellent article on the appendix which you cited refers to one P Myers?

By Blind Squirrel FCD (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

It's like I said to the Pope-

"You no playa da game,

You no maka da rules."

By Benjamin Franklin (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

@#9 [o]ne reason our school system is screwed up ... is the standard method of funding: through property taxes. This leaves poor neighborhoods underfunded, while giving educational advantage to richer neighborhoods, helping continue the myth that the poor deserve to be poor; after all, their kids have "the same opportunity as richer kids"."

Writing from the Canadian municipal sector, I have to concur, and add only that as a matter of public policy, social functions such as education or public health that affect the health and well-being of the State, state-wide, should be funded by the State, and decidedly not through property taxes. In the face of inelastic demand for these functions, the elastic ability to fund them results in enormous inequality of both opportunity and outcome.

By Doug the Primate (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

How do school board members get chosen? Did she run on a "gee, I wouldn't trust my kids in public school because they are evil, undermining, and anti-constitutional" platform?

Posted by: tomh | December 7, 2008 11:54 AM
How is it an essential liberty to deny children a reality based education and to handicap them so severely as they start life. Most homeschooling and religious private schools do this deliberately. They should both be illegal.
*************************************************

I hate to tell you, homeschooling IS constitutionally guaranteed to me by the State of Florida, as it is written in to our constitution that we have a legal right to do so. We are protected by this so that anyone who questions the legality of us doing so only has to turn to our state constitution to see that we not only have the right, but are fully guaranteed this right and are protected by law for it.

I also hate to tell you that I am not "handicapping" my children or denying them a "reality based" education in any way. That they don't go to a brick and mortar building with 2,000 other kids their age, does not make them any less educated or "handicapped".

As for private schools being illegal, you are kidding, right? I just don't get all this venomous commenting towards homeschooling. Ok, so the woman in the OP is a nutjob but she does not speak for all homeschoolers. Just like I could say that I do not like Atheists because they are all slovenly, rude, and disgusting--however that would not be true, now would it? Not all Atheists are like that just like not all homeschoolers are nutjobs.

Got news for you: I am more educated than some of my own husband's coworkers and I do not have a teaching degree. I have a lowly AS in Criminology. But to here and observe some of his fellow teachers, I am more qualified to be homeschooling my children than they are to be teaching anyone's children, let alone high school.

Please, quit the homeschool bashing, ok? She's an idiot and nothing but. I agree that morons like her probably shouldn't be homeschooling, but I will not abide by calling it abusive or declaring that it should be illegal because you feel it is.

Toni
A homeschooling Atheist Mom

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

costanza @121,

"the education degree req't - too much time is spent learning how to make an effective bulletin-board and not enough in the actual subject that one is expected to teach, esp. in the mats and sciences. One might argue that practice in the methods of teaching is necessary, but the opposite is held to be true at the university level - you can't have it both ways.

I didn't have any education course experience when I started teaching. (Secondary teaching wasn't my intended career path, and a severe shortage of qualified science teachers is how I ended up in this job, which I am quite happy with now.) I had my M.S. in Physics and was assigned to teach 1 physics class and 4 Earth/Space classes. I had the most difficulty with the Earth/Space classes, but not for the obvious reason. The content was not difficult. In fact, at that school, the Earth/Space course was intended for the lower-achieving 9th grade students. The biology textbook was at a higher grade level for reading, so E/S was supposed to be 'easier' in that respect.

The difficulty I had was that I was given the least motivated and most immature students in the school having never taught in that kind of class setting before. My Physics class was juniors and seniors that, at a minimum, cared about their grades and would do the assigned work. My easy-going personality and lack of experience just did not match up well with that situation. The things that would have helped me the most:

1) A real understanding of how to manage a room full of teenagers. Student teaching of some kind, or at least many hours of observation of successful teachers would have been useful. I was completely unprepared for the reality of what high school kids would be like from an adult perspective.

2) Knowledge of how to design and run interesting and engaging lessons. Lecture, reading, and answering questions/doing problems is fine for mature, adult learners that will (mostly) put the work in regardless of how entertaining you are. But only a small fraction of teenagers are that self-motivated. You can only do 'labs' involving equipment and experimentation so much. Students still have to learn certain basic knowledge and understand concepts. Activities that they will pay enough attention to in order to learn are something most of us old enough to have watched the "A-team" just don't know how to set up.

I could easily keep going for another half a dozen topics. More knowledge of geology and astronomy wouldn't be higher than number 5. I'll agree that secondary teachers should be enthusiastic and interested in the area they are teaching and should have at least some advanced knowledge of it. But knowing how to teach and manage a classroom is just as important.

One final thought is regarding the 'nature of science' portion of any science course. I don't recall any instruction on this in my college chemistry or physics courses. I think for people intending to teach science at any level, perhaps just as a matter of general education, it should be a separate course, or at least heavily emphasized in some other required course. This could be why so many teachers end up not doing so well teaching these ideas in all K-12 education, not just public schools.

Homeschooling works both ways. If my kids were in a substandard school run by christofascist morons, I'd probably take them out. Go private or homeschool. Because a life and a mind are too valuable to waste.

The people I know in Utah all send their kids to private schools. The story I got was that in areas with large Mormon majorities, the pagan kids tend to get treated as well pagans and the dominant religion pervades the school system and no one cares because the school system is LDS from the top down to the janitors.

Also, regarding tenure. You seem to have a misunderstanding of how tenure works. At least in my state, there is nothing automatic about tenure. I moved from 'annual contract' to 'professional service contract' after 3 years in my district because I had passed the twice-a-year evaluations from my administrators. At any time prior to that, if I wasn't performing up to standard, I could have been let go for little or no reason. Or, I could simply have not been asked back. This is what happened to me after my first year at the school where I was teaching E/S science. I got eaten alive by the students, and so they replaced me. I got some help and took a course on classroom management over the summer, and ended up teaching Chemistry at a different school. If I hadn't found a way to improve my teaching, I never would have gotten 'tenure'.

Regarding unions:
I teach in Florida. (Orlando area, specifically. Sorry that I wasn't able to meet you at Rollins college or UCF, PZ. It just didn't fit into my schedule. ;)) As a 'right to work' state, unions generally have less influence than in other states. Teacher's unions around here have no 'fangs' to drive policy. I don't know how it is elsewhere, though.

My fingers are frozen.. my "to here" should be "to Hear"...

And to JasonTD: my Dh has a BS in Physics and is currently teaching Physics/Physical Science/Chemistry/AP/Earth Science classes to all grade levels at the high school. At first, he didn't have this magical "teaching certification" either, but has since received it. He is now working towards his Master's in Space Science and I can tell you this one thing: In all his almost 10 years of teaching, he has NEVER received any kind of "how to" class for teaching.

That is to say, he has never sat in on a class taught by a teacher that would be teaching him how to teach kids. He has had to wing it for the last 10 years because the State of Florida does not offer that type of class anymore. They now use "mentors"--teachers who've been teaching for a number of years to "assist" the new teacher throughout their first year.

All of his lesson planning, his in class teaching, and everything you've mentioned were all learned on the job.

They do offer student teaching courses, but that is only for people who go into a college program fully knowing they want to teach something. Otherwise, if you are hired by a county because of your degree level and you pass the State test in a particular subject, you get a teaching certificate.

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

Potentially dumb question:

How the hell did a harpy like Dunbar get elected in the first place? I'm not from the US, so I was hoping somebody could clarify how your processes let a travesty like this happen.

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

David Marjanović,
"Is stupid oxide a greenhouse gas?"

-ROTFLMAO-

Perhaps it could be something in that Texas water.

And to cover my ass...Emmet, I have no proof of that! Just a hunch.

By Rick Schauer (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

This type of shit is what leads us back into the dark ages. Religion is the worst kind of poison.

@#132
I hate to tell you, homeschooling IS constitutionally guaranteed to me by the State of Florida, as it is written in to our constitution that we have a legal right to do so.

Why do you hate to tell me? No one, especially me, ever said you don't have a legal right to homeschool. I just said you shouldn't have.

I also hate to tell you that I am not "handicapping" my children or denying them a "reality based" education in any way.

Congratulations. The fact is that every poll shows that the primary reason people homeschool their kids is a religious one. They don't want their kids exposed to irreligious ideas. Here's a
representative one. The University of Oregon did a study on homeschooling, concluding, Even today, the majority of parents who homeschool their children do so for religious reasons, basing instruction on "religious teachings, moral values, and patriotism mixed with basic skills" (Russo and Gordon 1996). There are many others.

As for private schools being illegal, you are kidding, right?

No. Religious private schools indoctrinate kids in myths and fairy tales as if that were reality. Secular ones are only available to the wealthy. Those are both good reasons to ban them.

Just like I could say that I do not like Atheists because they are all slovenly, rude, and disgusting--however that would not be true, now would it?

I have no idea. Do you have any evidence one way or the other?

I will not abide by calling it abusive or declaring that it should be illegal because you feel it is.

You won't abide someone have an opinion you don't agree with? Is that what you teach in your home school? That your children shouldn't abide contrary opinions?

I am more qualified to be homeschooling my children than they are to be teaching anyone's children

I'm sure you think so. Since the state of Forida has no requirements or evaluations for parents acting as teachers, there's no way to know.

I've been trying to think of how she can justify what she's trying to do.

I can imagine that she thinks she'll change this "tool of perversion" into a "tool of Christian theocracy", but how does she change this 'unconstitutional' tool into something that is constitutional in her eyes?

...unless, you know, she's just stringing words together and doesn't know what the fuck she's on about.

By Ryan F Stello (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

I think we need something deeper than just booting this destructive lunatic off the board of education, though -- we need sweeping structural change all across the country so that the only people put in charge of schools are those who have an interest in making them better.

President Obama probably is a fan of PZ's blog, so if you're reading this now Mr. President can you please do something about the school boards in America's hick states?

Twin Skies @ 137:How the hell did a harpy like Dunbar get elected in the first place?

Not a dumb question, the answer is straight ticket Republican voters, and they sneaked in under the radar, now it's too late.

And of course, the main ingredient, Money. They were financed by a single crackpot chistard millionaire.

The first five minutes of or friend, AronRa's you tube video is a great primer on the Texas school board disaster:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XTVpzwcpCCM

@scooter

"Not a dumb question, the answer is straight ticket Republican voters, and they sneaked in under the radar, now it's too late.

And of course, the main ingredient, Money. They were financed by a single crackpot chistard millionaire."

Deja vu - the same thing happened with Proposition 8 if I recall.

Just swap out the "single crackpot chistard millionaire" clause with "a coalition of crackpot Chistard and Mormon millionaires."

Obama may now be your prez, but it's sickening to see people like Dunbar still weaseling their way into the system.

By Twin-Skies (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

"It's a shame that she's abusing the intellectual development of her own children, but unfortunately, she has that right. "

Hey, I was homeschooled by my Christian mom and I turned out just fine. Homeschooling gave me a love for critical thought and learning that eventually turned me away from the lies of religion.

Miss Elaine @ 114I found out later that she studied law, (perhaps is/was a lawyer?) and teaches anatomy and physiology.

Do you have any citations for that? I'm doing a report on her this Thursday. My information is that she's a high school drop-out, and is not a teacher anywhere. She home schools her kids. Not that there's anything WRONG with that, but most teachers do not have the time to home school their kids.

I've read tens of thousands of words on Cynthia Dumbass, and there is no mention of her being a teacher.

She may be quick witted, but scholastically, she is an uneducated trailer trash high school drop-out, and if she is teaching physiology, it is at Sunday school unl;ess you know different.

if I'm wrong, I'd appreciate any citations, because I hate doing retractions

thanks

well, her biography is
here where she claims to be a graduate of Regent (Pat Robertson's law school). No mention of her being a teacher.

Wow. I am dumbstruck in awe. Keeping up with right wing fundamentalists determined to eviscerate our education system is more exasperating than dealing with the pigeon problem at the house. We really need to have some type of qualifying examinations before people can run for any public office. At least that might be a good first step.

Officially a teacher, or does she come in to a few school assemblies and teach them that sex is very, very bad for you and makes baby Jesus cry and if you all share the same chewing gum, isn't that gross? Vaginas are just like chewing gum!

Because a very, very loose definition of anatomy and physiology could encompass the really distorted crap spewed by the Abstinence Only "educators".

By Samantha Vimes (not verified) on 07 Dec 2008 #permalink

I am from Texas (head hung low). I can attest to a few comments above that it is the voters in Texas that are broken. Statistically, fifty percent of all people are below average. In Texas it's more like 75 percent. That may sound bitter and mean, well, it is. It's not easy being an "out" atheist in Texas.

"the position of tenure being granted automatically after 3 - 5 years needs to be curtailed, and finally, the fangs of the teacher's unions need to be pulled. However, as all these things need to be done together, I don't hold much hope."

Yup, that's another great idea. A sure way to let schools

a) eliminate teachers after a few years to keep costs down
b) eliminate teachers who are strict enough to raise complaints from parents, in order
to keep peace in the district
c) eliminate teachers who try to teach evolution

yet another foolishly simple answer to a complicated problem

andy Stimpson> Would you care to back up your assertion that tenure is a cause of problems in public schools? Or are you relying on your point, which is flawed, to be self-evident. Tenure is intended to protect teachers from criticism from, well, people like you who have no idea what they're talking about but insist that they know what's best for everyone's children. The review process PRIOR to tenure may need to be more stringent on some places, but just because you couldn't have your child's bio teacher removed for teaching them evolution doesn't mean that it's a problem with public education.

@tomh:
Too bad that poll is from 2006 and also too bad is the fact that there isn't a more current one available. I am willing to bet that if you conducted the same poll now, you'd find that number a little smaller than it was in 2006.

Yes, even in just the last two years, homeschooling is on a huge upswing for Atheists, we've developed lots of material for our use, stood out, up and above the religious homeschoolers and have actually made a stand for ourselves. The religious number would still be high, but no where near as high as it is in that poll.

Also, you said "You won't abide someone have an opinion you don't agree with? Is that what you teach in your home school? That your children shouldn't abide contrary opinions?" In a way, yes, it is what I teach in my home. But what I should have added prior to your comment was "I won't abide by... when people insist what they know is fact or truth, when I know it is not".

Meaning that I do teach my children to not abide by contrary opinions IF those opinions are based on untruths, half truths, lies, or distortions--anything but what is reality. And calling homeschoolers (religious or not, whether YOU said this or not) abusive or committing abuse is not the reality of it.

I no more like the fact that they homeschool for religious reasons than you do, however, take away their right to homeschool for those reasons and you take away my right to homeschool for my reasons.

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

Libertarians who want to do away with public education, I have a question!

Is there ANYWHERE in the world where this has been successful?
Is there any evidence that it would work?

By Donalbain (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

One last comment about the way things are in Texas. Following is a letter to the editor in today's Austin American-Statesman. There are plenty more just like him....

Evolution and atheism

Evolution is nothing more than atheism cloaked in science, in just the same manner of the claim that intelligent design is really trying to get religion into schools.

Yet claiming evolution is science gives it a green light for evolution to be in school.

Either God created man, or he evolved from apes, as followers of Charles Darwin claim. There is no way both can be true.

It amazes me that teaching our children atheism is fine, but keep that evil Bible out of the classroom.

Dan W. Cawthon

jumpsuitx38@hotmail.com

Georgetown

Evolution is nothing more than atheism cloaked in science, in just the same manner of the claim that intelligent design is really trying to get religion into schools.

Ben, tell me where the Theory of Evolution says anything about atheism?

Yet claiming evolution is science gives it a green light for evolution to be in school.

That's because Evolution is science.

Either God created man, or he evolved from apes, as followers of Charles Darwin claim. There is no way both can be true.

Do you see the rest of the world so black and white?

It amazes me that teaching our children atheism is fine,

Please point us to the curriculum where children are being taught atheism?

but keep that evil Bible out of the classroom.

Yes the bible does have some disgusting parts to it but evil?

If you say so.

Rev- Ben was just posting a letter-to-the-editor he found in an Austin newspaper. Those aren't his views (AFAICT).

Rev. BDC, sorry for the confusion--it wasn't me saying those things. I was posting a letter from today's Austin newspaper, as an example of the ignorance I'm exposed to on a daily basis.

RevBDC,

how long have you been on your puter man,i reckon youve been here 36 hours straight or something...:-)

DamnYankees (@8):

I'm coming late to this, so forgive me if I'm covering ground covered by others (e.g., I see at a passing glance that Sastra has already said some part of my comment)....

How the hell does the process even work where this person (1) actually *wants* to be on a state school board, and (2) gets elected?!

Regarding (1), it's wingnut orthodoxy that it's much easier to fly the plane into the ground if you have your hands on the stick. I mentioned some weeks ago that I was reading Thomas Frank's The Wrecking Crew, which argues fairly persuasively that the failures of right-wing government are not attributable to "simple" incompetence, but are instead a natural result, if not a deliberate strategy, of the right's anti-government ideology. Recall that Reagan wanted to eliminate the federal Department of Education, and appointed a secretary (I forget the name) who considered that his/her primary mission... and also appointed James Freakin' Watt as Secretary of the Interior. A more recent example is Bush's appointment of (as Rachel Maddow would say it) JOHN BOLTON!!! as Ambassador to the UN, despite Mr. Bolton's longstanding virulent disgust for that institution. If you hate some aspect of government or the public infrastructure of society, the best thing you can do is put someone in charge of it who also hates it.

Ahh, but Cynthia Dunbar was elected, not appointed, right? Sooo... in regard to your (2), see above, and consider who the people are who are doing the electing. [sigh]

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

The contention that public school classrooms are political is wrong, in my direct and extensive experience. The primary weakness in any educational scheme is that teachers are quite independent; good teachers, good work; bad teachers, bad work. That independence leaves room for the really really good and the really really bad to go nuts, to be sure; we all had some of both. But that independence also saps and weakens any top-down political initiative or policy into ineffectiveness by the time it arrives in the mouths of babes. So "systems" aren't liberal, or political, in fact.

Christianists generally assume that public schools are liberal places. This is wrong because they are not "one kind" of place by any stretch of the imagination or intellect, and because they are teacher-driven. Of course, if the grounds of their argument is that the Constitution or Biology or Journalism is inherently liberal, then they have a point, but it's a wrong and stupid point.

Truth is that the typical teacher is well aware of the boundaries of good conduct, including political neutrality and the philosophy that learners should be permitted to develop their own ideas and opinions at any age and in any subject. Furthermore, it's plainly obvious in most courses when teachers cross the line into indoctrination (including, of course, in science, where such indoctrination is most common.) In public school--show me a teacher of any political stripe who is in indoctrination mode and I'll show you a teacher that fails all or part of his or her class, and the students will know it.

It's easy to be neutral and objective toward your students. (Unless of course "neutrality" has been redefined by politically devious people--mainly conservative people--to include canards like "teach the controversy.") I teach a writing course in high school that has frequent connections to political thought, and manage easily to keep my students guessing as to my own political affiliations even while facilitating their normal inclination toward incisive and opinionated conversation. And these are smart, active, thoughtful kids. Don't believe the fundamental assertion that teachers automatically or naturally or accidentally exert political influence on students; it's a lie based on wishful thinking.

I've known a few teachers who have attempted to influence their students politically (again, among smart and energetic high school students in AP courses). It's usually a failure, and even counterproductive. Of course, these sophisticated students dime out and resist such attempts, which are usually pretty crude. Only the jesus freaks last in that role, because it's just too much work to try to persuade or work against the grain of a classroom majority.

Despite the much repeated notion that these influences are overwhelmingly liberal because teachers are overwhelmingly liberal, I've found that the majority of the proselytizers are conservatives and Christians, for the same reason that the Dunbar woman wants to be on the school board: they believe they bring a special credence to the classroom, and that the philosophical ideal of open thought in education doesn't apply to them because they are fighting evil. It's curious that those supposedly so alert and connected to "morality" are the ones so blithely and consistently unethical in their work, whether it's on the board of education in Texas or in a middle-school science classroom in Ohio or in a hundred thousand other classrooms. And as usual they and their ilk assume that their "opponents" use the same tactics as they do.

I'm pretty tired of the liberal classroom lie.

ice

I second Bill's comment @165- all the reading I've done about the religious right's tactics and goals bears this out. The best way to bring down the country is from within.

Consider Dunbar as "Sarah Palin on the micro scale".

(Except Dunbar actually succeeded in being elected.)

Odd, I read the following phrase ...we need sweeping structural change all across the country... as:
...we need sweeping scriptural change all across the country...

RevBDC,

how long have you been on your puter man,i reckon youve been here 36 hours straight or something...:-)

Actually I wasn't on much yesterday. Just some hit and run stuff between other things and was off the pc by 9:30 or so last night. I was mostly editing photos so it's easy enough to pop over and make some snarky comment or jump to a conclusion or whatever...

It's just an illllluuuuuusion that I'm here all the time.

Robbrown (@96):

Your analogy of a tobacco-company CEO is made of FAIL. That CEO would not be trying to destroy the company from withing; instead, she would be trying to change the company, in response to changing conditions, so that it could survive.

Cynthia Dunbar and her ilk don't want to reform public education; they want to destroy it. Any CEO who displayed the same attitude toward her company that Dunbar has displayed toward the enterprise she presumes to lead would instantly be fired and/or sued by the company's stockholders... and rightly so.

And not for nothin', but there haven't been any changing conditions in education equivalent to society's (hoped-for) abandonment of smoking. Public education could use some reform to improve its effectiveness, but there are no new facts on the ground that would justify the sort of 180-degree turn your analogy suggests.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

Emmet (@109):

That might be strictly true in the sense that there are a large number of third-world countries "Outside of Western Europe", but it plainly excludes a vast number of counterexamples: Canada, all of Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Southern Europe, Russia, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. They're just the easy examples off the top of my head.

Silly you! Don't you know that "Western Europe" is code for "modern industrialized nations where White People live, plus Japan"?

;^)

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

@156
I am willing to bet that if you conducted the same poll now, you'd find that number a little smaller than it was in 2006.

Well, since there is no evidence to support your assertion I'll just accept the most recent data and actually, as polls go on subjects like this, 2006 is quite recent.

I do teach my children to not abide by contrary opinions IF those opinions are based on untruths, half truths, lies, or distortions

You seem to equate opinions with lies. I hope you don't try to teach logic in your home school.

take away their right to homeschool for those reasons and you take away my right to homeschool for my reasons.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

electricbarbarella (@132):

As for private schools being illegal, you are kidding, right? I just don't get all this venomous commenting towards homeschooling.

I myself wouldn't go so far as to advocate a ban on private schools (though I might change my mind if non-public schooling ever approaches a majority position), but I understand what motivates such a comment. It's not just about religious indoctrination — I understand full well that there are plenty of nonreligious private schools (and nominally religious private schools that are mostly secular), and that homeschoolers are sometimes motivated by things other than religion and right-wing politics — it's also about a fundamental difference of opinion about the mission of primary and secondary education in a democratic society.

The "there's no such thing as society" crowd view education in terms of delivering services to individual students, or more particularly, to the parents of individual students. This view of education is based on the notion of parental autonomy. Some of us, though, tend to agree more with Nick Gotts (@101) that...

People do not own their children, and should emphatically not have a right to educate (or miseducate) them any way they wish.

IMHO, in a democratic society, children are not little action figures for parents to shape as they see fit, nor are they individual works of parental "art"; instead, they are citizens (albeit nascent ones) and neighbors and (most critically) future members of the electorate. As such, not only does it "take a village to raise a child"; the village actually has a more critical stake in the raising of children than their parents do.

If education were simply a matter of delivering services to individual parents seeking some sort of competitive advantage for their children, there would be no justification for making education mandatory, nor for spending public money on it. In fact, though, we do make it mandatory and we do spend public money on it, because its true mission is the preparation of young citizens to be competent electors, and more broadly to be acceptable members of society. I realize this view will be anathema to those with libertarian leanings. That's alright, though; they themselves are anathema to me.

So given my view of education's true mission, there are two broad objections to all forms of private education (including homeschooling), irrespective of the quality of that education or whether it promotes religious wingnuttery:

1. Private education is finally accountable only to its customers (i.e., students' families), and not to the larger society. The most ardent advocates of private schooling no doubt see this as a Feature, Not a Bug™; my disagreement with that view is absolute and polar.

2. Because it is costly and resource-instensive, private schooling preferentially removes from the public school system those students who come from relatively advantaged backgrounds (in terms of economic status, family stability, family commitment to education, etc.), leaving behind in the public system a relatively less advantaged, more challenging population of students. This makes it more difficult (and more costly) for the public schools to accomplish their mission, and makes failure more likely and more frequent. Thus, private schooling affirmatively injures that portion of society that, for whatever reason, does not "privatize" its education. Which is to say, it injures society as a whole.

Now, there are clearly some circumstances where private (or home) schooling does a good job (in which category I do not include private schooling for the purpose of religious or political indoctrination), and as long private schooling remains a relatively minor adjunct to public education, its harm is minimal (and arguably counterbalanced by benefits); if it ever became a dominant paradigm (as voucher and homeschooling advocates seem to desire), though, the harm would be massive and insufferable.

So those of you who really want to hang on to the "right" to homeschool should think twice about how much you evangelize: Your success might eventually turn into your downfall.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

Being a new Texan, I was looking forward to the chance to vote out some of these fundies and creationist in the school board, unfortunately when I went to the polls, I found no school board elections in my district. Damn, foiled again!

@Bill Dauphin:
Since I haven't mastered the quote feature, I'll just say this: I do not "evangelize" my homeschooling. I advocate its usage within the public sector. I, personally, am not some kind of homeschooling nazi (such as the lady in the OP), to the point that I believe it is the only way to go. No, I am more of a "pro-homeschooling as the best option, with the realization that the next best thing for most people is public/private/school of your choice".

I, personally, do not use religion of any sort in my homeschooling except to teach it as it juxtaposes with history. To do anything else, would put me square in the middle of the crowd the OP runs with and I am not doing that.

I do disagree with you about the village part of your argument but then you said "us liberals" might, so at least you had the hindsight to see that. Well, let's just say I disagree with a lot of what you said, but that's alright too. :) I'm not here to fist fight anyone on the matter of homeschooling.

Instead, the only thing I am here for is to show that not all of us homeschoolers are like the OP or anyone who believes similarly to the OP's stance. While tomh may rely on stats from 2 years ago, I do not. I truly do wish to see an unbiased, not skewed, poll regarding homeschooling and who does what/how.

@tomh:
No, I do not equate opinions with lies. I equate only *those* opinions that are based on lies, with lies. If you wish to have a negative opinion towards homeschooling, great. But if you wish to have a negative opinion towards homeschooling *because* your neighbors brother's father twice removed told you that Billybob only did it because he wanted to abuse his kids, so therefore all homeschoolers are child abusers--*then* and only then, am I going to call you out on your "opinion" and state it as a lie.

Now, if you wish to have an intellectual discussion of the merits or lack thereof of homeschooling that is *not* based on the skewed opinions of some bible-thumping whack-job--then I would be happy to engage you.

But if your opinion on the removal of private/homeschools is based solely on the machinations of an idiot, then please do expect me to call you out on such an opinion.

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

electricbarbarella (@175):

I have no doubt that you and I disagree, but you've mistaken my intent on several points:

Since I haven't mastered the quote feature, I'll just say this: I do not "evangelize" my homeschooling.

My parting comment to "[t]hose of you who..." was directed not to you personally, but to a broader, generic-second-person-plural sort of audience. I certainly wasn't personally accusing you of being a "homeschooling nazi" (a metaphor, BTW, that I would never employ).

...I am more of a "pro-homeschooling as the best option, with the realization that the next best thing for most people is public/private/school of your choice".

Homeschooling might be the "best option" for teaching an individual student (I don't actually believe that's the case, but I know better than to argue the point with an advocate)... but if my contention that education has a broader societal mission is correct, then your assertion is inconsequential: Lots of things that are preferable from the POV of a single individual are nevertheless bad public policy. In this case, even if I stipulate that homeschooling is the best model for an individual student, it seem vanishingly unlikely to me that it (or any sort of private schooling, for that matter) is the best model for society at large.

I do disagree with you about the village part of your argument but then you said "us liberals" might, so at least you had the hindsight to see that.

No, I said people with libertarian leanings (which term includes people who wouldn't necessarily self-identify as libertarian, but who subscribe to some libertarian ideas) would disagree, not liberals. I consider my position to be the liberal one (and I mean that term in the current, commonly used sense; I recognize there's a "classical" definition of liberal that doesn't match the way the word is used in current American political discourse).

To be clear, I'm talking about the political axis from individual concerns to common goods. It seems to me that home/private school advocacy — even when it's purely pragmatic rather than ostensibly ideological — gives individual goods (i.e., parental autonomy and the commodity value of education to individual students) absolute primacy over common goods... and that, according to me, is a libertarian/conservative position, not a liberal one.

Well, let's just say I disagree with a lot of what you said, but that's alright too. :)

Yes, I'm sure you do... and yes, it is. ;^)

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

One more thing, electricbarbarella:

Since I haven't mastered the quote feature,

<blockquote>[put quoted text here]</blockquote>

Jus' sayin'...

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

@Bill:

My parting comment to "[t]hose of you who..." was directed not to you personally, but to a broader, generic-second-person-plural sort of audience. I certainly wasn't personally accusing you of being a "homeschooling nazi" (a metaphor, BTW, that I would never employ).

[[The "homeschooling nazi" term is one frequently employed by those who wish to show that we homeschoolers are equally on par with the horrendous actions of the Nazi's. eg: being a homeschooler equals as bad as a nazi. Of course, I do understand Godwin's Law and frequently employ my ability to spot it (that's supposed to be funny actually), but they (those opposed to us) nonetheless, feel that we are really no better than a Nazi for doing so. Otherwise, I do apologize for misunderstanding your intended comment]]

(snipped)Homeschooling might be the "best option" for teaching an individual student... Lots of things that are preferable from the POV of a single individual are nevertheless bad public policy...(snipped)

[[I am not sure how (if we remove the idiocy that "claims" the homeschooling movement) one can feel it would be bad for the public at large, to keep a child home as opposed to putting them in an institution at large. I could state my reasons for keeping my child at home, but likely what will happen is that I will get many disagreeing with those reasons, claiming them invalid. Basically, I educate to children at home based on their current learning styles/needs. This may be apples to oranges, but my reasons for keeping them home are just as valid as the reasons for a mother keeping her highly allergic child home. You and I would not expect nor would I (at least) want the mother with the highly allergic child, dictating what can/cannot be placed in a public institution simply because her child is allergic to something. That would open the door for lots more bothersome things to take place. Likewise, you would not expect nor want a mother like me, with my own reasons, coming in to the school dictating what can/cannot happen to your child simply because I don't want it happening to mine. And since private schooling (religious or not) is out of the question, monetarily, for me, the next best option is homeschooling.

My children (and I can safely say *nearly all* homeschooling children) are not locked in the house 24-7 without some type of outside public interaction. So how would we be doing a disservice to the public at large by keeping our children home? We aren't taking any taxes away from the public schools because I've got a tax statement that shows I still pay my taxes towards those schools--it isn't like I can suddenly say "Sorry, my kids aren't in the public school anymore, gimme my money back". So how are we a threat (general) or a disservice?]]

[[And I did misunderstand your choice of words vis-a-vis "liberal" vs "libertarian". Mea Culpa.]]

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

I am not sure how ... one can feel it would be bad for the public at large, to keep a child home as opposed to putting them in an institution at large.

My argument is that primary and secondary education is a societal institution with a societal purpose. Since it's not at all clear that private or home schooling serves the same purpose, pulling a child out of public education at a minimum deprives society of one participant educated in that public-goods tradition. On the micro scale, that might not be such a big deal: I don't suppose you're incompetent to teach your children good citizenship. But you're not accountable to me or your neighbors for doing so in the same way that public schools are, and there's no saying (and no way to verify) that all the other homeschooling parents are as good or responsible as you.

Further, as I said before, home/private schooling tends to preferentially remove the best students from the best families from the public schools, leaving behind a population that's more challenging and costly to work with, and that lacks the benefit of the positive values represented by the students/families that have left.

We aren't taking any taxes away from the public schools because I've got a tax statement that shows I still pay my taxes towards those schools--it isn't like I can suddenly say "Sorry, my kids aren't in the public school anymore, gimme my money back". So how are we a threat (general) or a disservice?

Depending on where you live, you probably are taking taxes away from your local public schools, since many schools' state aid is based on student headcount. You may still be paying the taxes, but if your kids are not going to the local public school, your taxes may not be going there either.

As enrollment (and thus state aid) declines, though, cost per pupil might actually go up, since many of the overhead costs involved are fixed and irreducible. If too many people opt out of public schools, they become increasingly unsustainable, both in economic terms and in their ability to deliver instruction; at some point, if enough people leave, the public schools will simply collapse.

I don't accuse you of this, but I know for a fact that this collapse of public schooling is precisely what many advocates of vouchers and homeschooling desire. I know this because at least a few of them have told me so.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

Let's see if I can do this correctly:

My argument is that primary and secondary education is a societal institution with a societal purpose. Since it's not at all clear that private or home schooling serves the same purpose, pulling a child out of public education at a minimum deprives society of one participant educated in that public-goods tradition.

Well, this is where we would differ on what exactly public schools accomplish. I don't feel the accomplish quite the societal purpose you purport faith in. I do know there are many studies out whereby college professors are loudly complaining that many public schooled students are not prepared for college life(the educational aspect of it); however, they are actively courting homeschoolers because they have seen that (at least the ones they've interviewed) they have demonstrated the ability to keep up with the level of college work given (as they most often are working above their peers in academics).

On the whole, public schools serve their purpose: to give the child an education that they normally might not get in another setting. To give all of those children in attendance a similar education to keep them on an even keel with the public's perception of learning. None of this is a bad thing, just not quite the "societal contribution" you might think. I like the fact that I can challenge my children above and beyond what the public schools can or are allowed to do (and let's face it: PS teachers are limited on the how's and why's of teaching. They are frequently told to not move so fast so as not to make the "dumb" kids feel dumber. My only experience with this is the fact that my DH teaches in a public high school and I know nearly all in the Science and Math departments and am on first name/friendship terms with the Principal/Vice and I am told these things by them).

Further, as I said before, home/private schooling tends to preferentially remove the best students from the best families from the public schools, leaving behind a population that's more challenging and costly to work with, and that lacks the benefit of the positive values represented by the students/families that have left.

There is no doubt that you and I can agree on the broken-ness of the public school system. It does need fixing. But blaming the removal of those "best students" on the fact that the schools will break if we do, is really not a valid argument. The schools won't break by removing them, they'll break because Educrats will tell you they are broken and do what they can to prove this to you. To fix the school system, one needs to start at the top--with the people who know nothing about running a school system (very much like the woman in the OP)and either replace them with people who do, or educate those that don't so that the greater good is serviced, rather than a small faction.

Depending on where you live, you probably are taking taxes away from your local public schools, since many schools' state aid is based on student headcount. You may still be paying the taxes, but if your kids are not going to the local public school, your taxes may not be going there either.

As you said, that may be true where you live but according to my tax sheet, money IS going to "My County" School System. It may not go to an exact numbered pupil, but the school is still getting my tax dollars no matter how you cut it. We recently had an Amendment on the ballot that simplistically, gave every person who voted *for* it, what amounts to $100 a YEAR back on their property taxes. This might sound like a good thing but the money had to come from somewhere, right? And guess who took the cut? Teachers, Cops, and Firefighters. That's right--idiots voted **for** and amendment to save $100 a year and my DH and others like him are now facing the firing squad because of it. So yes, my taxes do and are going to the schools, but unfortunately they aren't being used properly as this vote proves.

I don't accuse you of this, but I know for a fact that this collapse of public schooling is precisely what many advocates of vouchers and homeschooling desire. I know this because at least a few of them have told me so.

Rather than believe we are the cause of the problem, I'd rather focus on the fact that #1 the public school system won't collapse because far too many rely upon it and will do what they can to see it thrive and #2 if the public school system were in better shape, you just may see the decline of the use of a voucher system (which is nothing more than pick and choose) or homeschooling as a choice. Of course there will still be morons like the OP who think that their right to indoctrinate their brood trumps all others rights and they continue to homeschool; but if the school system in general were fixed, those like myself (which I still believe us to be a growing majority) would utilize the system as it was intended for us to do.

I, personally, do not want to see the collapse of the school system. I do agree with those of you who feel there are some people who have no business having children let alone homeschooling them. However, until things are fixed in such a way that can truly guarantee my children (and yours) the kind of education I can and do give them at home, then I will continue to keep them at home until this fix occurs.

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

Well, this is where we would differ on what exactly public schools accomplish. I don't feel the accomplish quite the societal purpose you purport faith in. I do know there are many studies out whereby college professors are loudly complaining that many public schooled students are not prepared for college life(the educational aspect of it); however, they are actively courting homeschoolers because they have seen that (at least the ones they've interviewed) they have demonstrated the ability to keep up with the level of college work given (as they most often are working above their peers in academics).

But why is that only the case in the USA?

The most obvious possibility is the fact that the public schools are drastically underfunded in the USA. Sort of like the universities in Europe, only worse.

By David Marjanović, OM (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

But why is that only the case in the USA?

The most obvious possibility is the fact that the public schools are drastically underfunded in the USA. Sort of like the universities in Europe, only worse

As to why is this only in the US? I cannot answer that definitively. I have my feelings on it, but I am not sure nor do I care to give you those as definitive answers. I can tell you only this:

I know that there are MANY homeschooling programs out there that are based on the European/Eurasian mode of education. There are also curricula based on Charlotte Mason/The Trivium/Waldorf/Latin Centered, etc... (an example of these might be Singapore Math/Science. Basics taught are done using the same method to teach these subjects as they are in Singapore).

This bodes for a higher level of learning. That isn't to say that the public schools use sub-par curricula because *I* have used many textbooks over the course of my homeschooling years. But since public schools are at the mercy of the School Board and each individual county/city, there are many things left untaught that I have the freedom of actually teaching.

As for the Universities in Europe, I was under the impression that University was free to anyone wishing to go (or something similar. I could be thinking of your equivalent to our Community College). That doesn't mean they aren't suffering, but I suppose you mean because of taxes or revenue not being collected to fund them, they don't have a higher level of education offered in them as they should or could?

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

I got this from the Theocracywatch.org:

"The Texas Republican Party Platform, 2004, a document that reflects the values of the Bush administration, has no use for the U.S. Department of Education:

We call for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education and the prohibition of the transfer of any of its functions to any other federal agency.

Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote:
"I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don't have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them." (America Can Be Saved!, Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, Tenn. 1979, p. 52-53.)"

This platform also wants to get rid of all state run hospitals, charities and get rid of public tv ad radio. So proud to be a Texan. Sigh.

By miss Elaine (not verified) on 08 Dec 2008 #permalink

electricbarbarella wrote: I equate only *those* opinions that are based on lies, with lies.

You keep saying this about my opinions without providing a shred of evidence. Can you quote one sentence I've written based on "untruths, half truths, lies, or distortions" as you claim? When you make nasty comments like that you should have something to back them up.

Yes, even in just the last two years, homeschooling is on a huge upswing for Atheists,

Again, no evidence. You dismiss evidence from two years ago as though it were from the 18th century. There are about 500,000 children in the US being homeschooled and most of them were also being homeschooled two years ago. As this and other polls show the number one reason people homeschool is for religious reasons.

I do know there are many studies out whereby college professors are loudly complaining that many public schooled students are not prepared for college life(the educational aspect of it); however, they are actively courting homeschoolers

Again, an extraordinary claim with no evidence. What studies, can you reference even one? And, just saying I read it somewhere, doesn't count as evidence.

In my opinion, based on my observations and study of the facts, not on lies as you would have it, parents, no matter how well-meaning, should not be allowed to try and educate their children. Your arguments on this thread prove the point. It's too difficult for an amateur. Do your kids a favor and hire a professional.

sticks and stones tomh, sticks and stones.

Over ONE MILLION kids are homeschooled in this country:
http://ezinearticles.com/?Homeschool-Statistics---Over-1-Million-Homesc…

http://family-parenting.savvy-cafe.com/home-school-statistics-prove-its…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeschooling

Now I cannot convince you, nor I gather, can anyone else, that your opinion of homeschooling isn't based on fact. You said, in your first post:

How is it an essential liberty to deny children a reality based education and to handicap them so severely as they start life. Most homeschooling and religious private schools do this deliberately. They should both be illegal.

And now I am calling for you to prove to me your opinion. So yes, your opinion is based on lie, not fact. Prove to me where "most" homeschoolers do this "deliberately". And no, a 2006 poll citing "religious studies" is not proof (especially since the magazine that hosted the poll is frickin' Christian).

In any case, it's kinda like arguing with a drunk, you won't ever win, so I'm going to stop this little argument with you as no amount of proof will convince you we are not all whack jobs.

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 09 Dec 2008 #permalink

electricbarbarella (@180):

I think you and I are somewhat talking past each other, so I won't belabor this much longer. That said...

Well, this is where we would differ on what exactly public schools accomplish. I don't feel the accomplish quite the societal purpose you purport faith in.

You seem, in this and in the couple of sentences that follow this snippet, to be talking about the performance of the public schools (i.e., what they manage to accomplish), while I have been trying to focus on the purpose of public schools (i.e., what they're intended to accomplish).

Your comment...

On the whole, public schools serve their purpose: to give the child an education that they normally might not get in another setting.

...seems to suggest that you see the role of the public schools as being schools-of-last-resort at which students who don't have access to better schools can get at least some minimal instruction. I coudln't disagree more: I think the role of the public schools is to educate the public in service of the public good of a highly qualified electorate. The goal, OTOH, of private schools (in which category I include home schools) is always to educate individuals, for their individual benefit, which may or may not benefit the larger society.

Mind you, I'm not claiming that private education invariably creates selfish bastards: History is filled with the indispensible societal contributions of people from private school backgrounds. But ultimately, as I've said several times in this thread, private schools are not accountable to the public for producing any public good. Indeed, this lack of accountability to the public is precisely what many private school advocates like about their schools.

There is no doubt that you and I can agree on the broken-ness of the public school system. It does need fixing.

Actually, I think we might have significant disagreement about exactly how "broken" the public schools are, but I'll stipulate the point because what I've really been trying to talk about is the nature of the "fixing" you have in mind. If you think, as you seem to, that the "customer" of education is the individual student/family, then fleeing a "broken" system is a fix; if you think, as I do, that the "customer" of education is the public, then having a bunch of middle-class and upper-middle-class families flee the public schools is the polar opposite of a fix.

As regards your taxes, I don't know where you live, and each state has its own model for funding public schools... but in almost every state, some portion of public school funding is calculated based on student headcount. For me, all of my property taxes go to fund the local (i.e., town) government, which in turn funds the Board of Education... so in that sense, my taxes are going to the schools regardless of whether my children do. However, the BoE also receives state funding on a per-student basis, and the ultimate source of this funding is also my taxes, in the form (in my state) of income tax and sales tax (not to mention the taxes and fees businesses pay, which they pass along to their customers in the prices of their goods and services). It might not be obvious, but in virtually every state, when schools' enrollment declines, so does their public (i.e., tax) funding. I actually once lost a teaching job in this way: Enrollment at my school declined to the point where there was no longer funding to cover my position.

You say...

...if the public school system were in better shape, you just may see the decline of the use of a voucher system (which is nothing more than pick and choose) or homeschooling as a choice.

...but I would turn that around: If there were fewer opportunities (if not encouragements) for smart kids and stable, middle-class families to opt out of public schools, the public school system would almost certainly be in better shape. Virtually every study of educational effectiveness I can recall reading about has identified the commitment and support of parents as a (if not the) critical factor for success... and in light of that, it's impossible not to see the flight of the best and brightest families as harmful to the system.

While a few advocates of vouchers, homeschooling, etc., frankly admit they want to supplant public schools altogether, many more claim they're trying to improve public schools through market-based competition. I can only see this contention, like the punitive approach of No Child Left Behind, as being based on the notion that what's wrong with public education is that public educators are not sufficiently afraid of losing their jobs, funding, and (mostly illusory) political power. In my experience, this notion is entirely bogus: The public educators I've known, including my own teachers, my colleagues during my teaching days, my daughter's teachers, and the educators I'm acquainted with through my involvement in local politics have invariably been focused on improving the lives of their students and their communities. Even those who have been less than excellent in their skills have almost never been venal or selfish; increasing their stress and economic uncertainty — whether through "competition" or through draconian punitive measures — has no potential to improve educational outcomes.

What public schools need to excel is [1] adequate resources (in terms of facilities, equipment, operating funds, and personnel) and [2] involved, supportive, committed families. The flight of the educated middle class to private school options deprives the public schools of both of those key requirements for success. The result might be "locally" good for individuals, but it's bad for society as a whole.

Personally, I'd rather be a reasonably well educated person living in a broadly well educated society that a superbly well educated person living in a broadly poorly educated society, just as I'd rather be a reasonably healthy and wealthy person living in a broadly healthy and wealthy society than be a rich, robust person living among the poor and sick. YMMV.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 09 Dec 2008 #permalink

Rather than continue to side track the thread, Bill, I think you and I are "half-full, half-empty" kind of people. Which one of us is which, I don't know yet.

Maybe we are more "pro vs con" or some other such opposite type behavior. But either way, you and I do see a very different public school system at play here.

If you wish to continue this, we can privately, electricbarbarella AT verizon DOT net.

Otherwise, I'll just let the thread die with whatever happens, happens. :)

Toni

By electricbarbarella (not verified) on 09 Dec 2008 #permalink

If you wish to continue this, we can privately...

Nah, I'm cool leaving it where it is. It's been a stimulating conversation, for which I thank you, notwithstanding our (apparently intractable) disagreement.

By Bill Dauphin (not verified) on 09 Dec 2008 #permalink