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Oct 13 2012

The ducks are gonna get you

Some poor young girl, deeply miseducated and misled, wrote into a newspaper with a letter trying to denounce homosexuality with a bad historical and biological argument. She’s only 14, and her brain has already been poisoned by the cranks and liars in her own family…it’s very sad. Here’s the letter — I will say, it’s a very creative argument that would be far more entertaining if it weren’t wrong in every particular.

I’ve transcribed it below. I couldn’t help myself, though, and had to, um, annotate it a bit.

Homosexuality, including same sex marriage, is not an enlightened idea [But tolerance and acceptance of diversity are]. The Romans practiced homosexuality [Every culture has had homosexual individuals; they differ only in the degree of suppression. The Romans actually regarded homosexuals as effete and inferior, and used accusations of gayness as expressions of contempt, just like modern middle schoolers]. Surely, after 2000 years, our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat, so that we can truly pride ourselves of being cleverer than our forebears [Two millennia is actually a short span of time for biological evolution. Also, have you ever heard of the Dark Ages? Progress is not inevitable].

If homosexuality spreads, it can cause human evolution to come to a standstill [Nope. Homosexuals reproduce. Homosexuality refers to behavior and social preferences, not to biological limitations. Also, many heterosexuals choose to not reproduce as well, and it does not stop evolution in its tracks — in complex social organisms like ours, there are many ways to contribute to the species that don't involve breeding directly]. It could threaten the human position on the evolutionary ladder [There is no evolutionary "ladder". You have some serious misconceptions about biology, young lady!], and say, ducks, could take over the world [Evolution is not about taking over the world. There is no pinnacle. Every species has a different niche, not a different spot in a hierarchy of dominance]. Ducks always nest in pairs [This is called the naturalistic fallacy. You cannot draw conclusions from how one species behaves and declare that it justifies one specific kind of behavior in another species. I could point to gorillas, and announce that we should live in polygamous harems; I could point to bonobos and say that public homosexual acts ought to be accepted as a matter of course, and that we ought to have casual sex as often as we say hello. If you'd like, I could give you a long list of very kinky sexual behaviors practiced by various species on the planet; shall we decide that because ducks rape, so should we, lest we fall behind evolutionarily?] and if we allow same-sex marriage, then the ducks will have evolved further than we have [Ducks are just as "evolved" as we are, and we're not more evolved than any other species on the planet. Evolution is about branching trees, not climbing ladders]. We will be in danger of all being equal, with ducks more equal than us [That makes no sense].

We should learn from history and not be stuck with copying ancient behavior [Are you, by any chance, a follower of Jesus or Mohammed? Because you know, those faiths are all about imposing ancient rules for behavior on modern society]. The government has no right to bring us back to the stone age [But the Middle Ages are OK, I suppose?]. I don’t want my children to have to compete with ducks [Wait. I'm trying to puzzle this out. Because you think ducks are all heterosexual, and your children will all be heterosexual (brace yourself, you might get a few surprises in 10 or 20 years there), and a policy of tolerance will turn every other human being homosexual, you're afraid your kids will be competing for mates with ducks? Or is it that duck heterosexuality is the only criterion that makes them acceptable for positions of power, so years from now, your children will find themselves in a workplace dominated by duck bosses, who have overcome the handicap of lack of manipulatory appendages and very small brains to be in charge of everything? I don't get it]. I want them to evolve further than I have [But you don't believe in evolution!]. Any self-respecting human would aim for that, too. [Are you aware that the Abrahamic faiths all preach that humanity is in a state of ineluctable decay since the Fall and that human sin corrupts us? I don't think any self-respecting human should be a Christian or a Jew or Muslim, for the same reason]

None of this really bears any weight for be, because I do not believe in evolution [You don't understand it, either]. However, the powers that be believe in evolution, and have made many decisions based on it. They should be consistent: if you believe in evolution, then you can’t be in favour of homosexuality [If you accept evolution, then you recognize that there are diverse successful sexual strategies in the world, and you also have a deeper appreciation of the complexity of biology, so no, you should be much more accepting of reality], or the ducks will get you in the end [You can live your life in fear of ducks, or you can love your fellow human beings and encourage more love in the world. Your choice].

Jasmin H, aged 14 [You have time to grow up!]
Homeschooled [Obviously], Scargill

146 comments

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  1. 1
    dianne

    Someone has to say it…I, for one, welcome our new duck overlords. At least when they walk like ducks and quack like ducks, they won’t deny being ducks. Unlike, say, Republicans who lie and deny being liars.

  2. 2
    Mr Ed

    So Howard the Duckwas really a morality play, who knew.

  3. 3
    maryb

    If this isn’t a good reason to outlaw homeschooling, I don’t what is. Even her premise is stupid. I had ducks in our backyard and ducks do go homosexual – at least when there are too many males in the small flock. They also rape and rape incestuously and homosexually. Basically, they weren’t very nice at all and I felt sorry for the female ducks.

    Kind of explains how so many people can make such stupid conclusions – false premises, exclusion of all evidence contrary to her conclusion, fake straw-man, it goes on and on.

  4. 4
    steve84

    Let’s hope she doesn’t reproduce

  5. 5
    whiskytangofoxtrot

    I could be wrong, but I think you just got Poe’d.

  6. 6
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    … and a policy of tolerance will turn every other human being homosexual…

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I have dibs on SallyStrange. (Sadly, this is exactly the rhetoric that you hear out of certain conservative circles. We’ll be forced into gay marriages! Oh noez!)

    I’ve often wondered what goes into the thought process when a newspaper chooses which letters to print. Does someone think she has a valid point? Is her letter being used as some sort of misguided “balance” to another letter/article? Are they mocking her? Pulled her name out of a hat?

  7. 7
    mikehigginbottom

    As soon as I saw that this girl was home schooled I knew you’d be having a swipe at it again. Home schooling is not the problem here. A creationist environment is the problem here. The very last thing I did before reading this post was send my home schooled daughter a link to Qualia Soup’s recent and excellent animation on evolution. Not all of us home schoolers are creationists and whilst I accept that the vast majority of US home schoolers ARE, please try not to confuse correlation and causation.

  8. 8
    chigau (違う)

    Shooting fish in a barrel.

  9. 9
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    We have a “nesting pair” of ducks that often visit the garden: one female and two males. (They’ve been a “pair” for at least 5 years.)

    Someone should tell Mrs H[redacted]!

  10. 10
    dianne

    I’ve often wondered what goes into the thought process when a newspaper chooses which letters to print.

    It got our attention. Attention is good when you have a product to sell. Fortunately or unfortunately, PZ didn’t include a link so the paper isn’t really getting much out of publishing this letter, at least not from us.

  11. 11
    irisvanderpluym

    I would prefer that our Congress was comprised entirely of ducks. White House and supreme court, too. They would cause a lot less problems than Christians, and whenever they said something as duck-brained as a creationist, we could kill them and enjoy a delicious confit.

  12. 12
    irisvanderpluym

    chigau (this space for rent):

    <blockquote<Shooting fish in a barrel.

    Perhaps a hearty fish stew to accompany the duck confit?

  13. 13
    irisvanderpluym

    I failz blockquote.

  14. 14
    MattieF

    “We will be in danger of all being equal, with ducks more equal than us [That makes no sense].”

    She must have just read Animal Farm.

  15. 15
    chigau (違う)

    With ducks, there is always the danger of being nibbled to death.

  16. 16
    darwinharmless

    That letter reminds me of Richard Dawkin’s contention that religious indoctrination is child abuse. Somebody poisoning that child’s mind. I can only hope she will somehow find your site and read your comments. Because that poor girl needs rescue.

  17. 17
    Mak, acolyte to Farore

    I could be wrong, but I think you just got Poe’d.

    I dunno, I know someone who thinks very similarly to how she does, and is totally serious about it. Uncoincidentally, he’s also homeschooled… and lives in near isolation with his family out in the country, except for church and work, and grew up reading Dobson and Ham, and never really had his mindset challenged by anybody. And he’s a full-grown adult.

    It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if a kid growing up in similar isolation with similar “education” would see no problem in spewing weird stuff like this and sincerely think it’s a compelling argument.

  18. 18
    lilandra

    My understanding of the biology of homosexuality is that there are more biological factors in play than just inheritance of a trait. Birth order plays a role in boys. The more older brothers a boy has; the more older brothers a boy has the more likely a boy is to be gay. (Take that quiverfullers!) It has something to do with the amount of testosterone available in the mother. Girls with more exposure to testosterone in the womb are more likely to be lesbians.

    So gay children can be born to heteroseual parents. Everybody who regurgitates the homosexuality is unnatural because of evolution (even though otherwise they fiercely hate evolution) is talking out of the side of their pants.

  19. 19
    Alexandra (née Audley)

    Speaking of “natural”:
    I have two gerbils, both male, both from the same litter. Right now, Chuck (the bigger of the two) is quite enthusiastically humping Syd*. So, according to Jasmine’s duck fallacy, it’s okay for brothers to pin each other down and go to town, yes?

    *I think it’s a dominance thing, but still.

  20. 20
    Jackie

    Mary, outlaw homeschooling? Because of this? What about public schools that feed the school to prison pipeline? What about public schools with abstinence only sex ed and little to no evolution taught? Are you serious? What about public schools that encourage girls to dress in skimpy costumes and preform dance routines that belong in Vegas, not in a school? What about public schools that allow a bully culture that leads to teen suicide? Are we going to outlaw them too? That would be ridiculous. It would also be ridiculous to make it impossible for families to opt out of that system.
    I homeschool one of my kids. She is severely dyslexic in a state with no programs for dyslexic students. I’m sick to death of the stereotypes and tropes spread around about homeschoolers. So, check yourself. Opportunities to learn and play are not limited to certain locations or hours of the day.

  21. 21
    michaeld

    I have brain hurt…

  22. 22
    lilandra

    Sorry about the typos. I don’t have my glasses on.

  23. 23
    michaeld

    @15

    lol Well played. <3 B5.

  24. 24
    vexorian

    Saving this for the next time anyone brags about homeschooling.

  25. 25
    bortedwards

    If she’s right, apparently we’re doomed. If she’s wrong, and instead people like her continue to breed and “hold their position dominatingly atop the evolutionary ladder” (snark) – we’re screwed. Seemed we’re screwed either way, so I’m just going to continue to screw (like humans, ducks and every other successful species, but with the benefit of contraception) while we all get screwed as the ship goes down. Hoora!

  26. 26
    Quodlibet

    Here is an image of the page containing the letter published in the October 3 edition of Northern Outlook (Christchurch, New Zealand, circ. 21,000).

    http://cincodenada.com/stuff/Ancient_Behaviour.pdf

    The home site of the online paper is here (registration required)

    http://fairfaxmedia.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx#

  27. 27
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    We all know that PZ doesn’t approve particularly of homeschooling, but he also knows that there are plenty of homeschoolers among his loyal fans, including one of mine, who wears a PZ autographed jacket most places she goes during cooler weather. Homeschooling is an easy target, but eliminating the right to homeschool would not prevent kids from spouting this sort of nonsense. At best, it would reduce the number of kids with the chutzpah required to send such silly letters to local newspapers – homeschooling often does teach kids to speak up more and to take public positions about current events or issues. This, however, is independent of whether the homeschooler is evangelical – my kids speak up about problems with creationism (including last year at the Skepticon field trip to the Creation Museum of the Ozarks), as well as about rape culture, racism, homophobia, the merits of a cap and trade system versus a carbon tax to address fossil fuel CO2 pollution, and a zillion other things.

    Homeschooling makes it marginally easier to convey stupid ideas, like the idea that the world is only 9000 years old and ducks are paragons of sexual ethics for humans, but those same ideas are astonishingly prevalent in American culture. They’re easy to convey to children, widely supported, and difficult to eradicate once taught. I work as a naturalist at a public park. One of my coworkers attended 13 years of public schools in an affluent suburb of a major metropolitan area. She has a bachelors of science degree in wildlife biology from a well-respected state university. She believes that the world is 9000 years old and that micro-evolution does occur, but that macro-evolution does and has not, that there is (in her words) no ancestral or family relationship between pandas and penguins.

    When the public schools and universities can provide an education that prevents students from emerging with the ideas of young-earth creationism firmly in place, we can move on to discuss why I should not be allowed to homeschool my kids.

  28. 28
  29. 29
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I always knew the dinosaurs would conquer us all. Damn avian theropods!

  30. 30
    maryb

    @jackiepaper

    There are always exceptions. There should be education standards that homeschoolers have to meet. This one clearly doesn’t. I have a niece who is homeschooling her boy and she really, really doesn’t have the education herself to be teaching anyone or any subject, let alone all subjects for a 12 year old. And he is learning nothing, just enjoying not having to to go to school. It is child abuse. She lives in TX, so of course this is ok. How many homeschooler parents have adequate education to do the job? Most kids would be better served to have a real education and then supplemental learning outside of school. At least they would have to learn to sit in classes and be exposed to ideas and subjects.

  31. 31
    thomaslawson

    Homosexuals have been able to marry in Canada for quite some time now, yet there have been no duck marriages. Score one for the apes! Top of the ladder!

  32. 32
    Jackie

    @ Mike H.
    Yea for science loving homeschoolers! We’ve used Qualia’s vids too. My daughter loves NPR’s Science Friday. Friday at one, I can always find her planted in front of their website with her earphones in. Her ceiling is hung with models of molecules she built and labeled with her cousins. She’s working on a biology scrapbook in her spare time. When she isn’t drawing or playing Halo with friends, she’s walking around the park taking pictures of various fungi, birds, reptiles etc. then identifying them.

  33. 33
    jenl

    We have a “nesting pair” of ducks that often visit the garden: one female and two males. (They’ve been a “pair” for at least 5 years.)

    Someone should tell Mrs H[redacted]!

    That seems pretty common. We’ve lived near groups of ducks a few times, and it seems like one of the most stable groupings they form is 2 males, 1 female. One of the males will be dominant, and will be the one that generally mates with the female. The other male helps the dominant male keep other, outsider, males away.

    And when the dominant male is away for whatever reason, the subordinate male goes for it. (It doesn’t seem like being a female duck would be all that pleasant.)

    I figure there’s a payoff for the subordinate male, in that he’s part of a grouping that helps him survive, and he’s got a better shot at reproducing than the outsider males…

  34. 34
    mikehigginbottom

    @Mak A sample size of 1 is always a dodgy place to extrapolate from. Obviously most of the home schoolers I know are by definition not isolated but here’s my home schooled daughter’s schedule for next week.

    Monday we’re off to a Techniquest Glyndwr at Wrexham University for a science day (eyeball dissection, titration and magnetic fields) with a group of twenty or so other HS kids. In the evening she’s off to the local stables where where she’s a member of Pony Club. Tuesday we’re having a ‘school’ day delving deep into the immune system because she was said it was ‘awesome’ when we studied the basics last week and we’re also factorising quadratics because she hates algebra but some skills are just useful. Wednesday she’s building a few electronic circuits because she’s volunteered to help out Manchester Girl Geeks teach soldering to a group of 12-18 year olds as part of the Manchester Science festival towards the end of the month. Wednesday evening is the second session of her archery course because like all good teen girls she’s big time into The Hunger Games. Thursday we’re off to the cinema with another group of home schooled friends in the morning to see a mystery film called Hugo based in 1930′s Paris (part of the National Schools Film Week). In the afternoon we’ll be doing some experiments on diffusion using potassium permanganate in agar, soaking in dilute HCl. Friday morning is another film, this time it’s The Last Train Home about the journey across China for the New Year celebrations. In the afternoon we’re off to Manchester Museum for a lecture on the social history of dog breeds. In the evening she’s got trampolining with another home schooled group. Saturday will be Facebook and cleaning out the rabbit hutch. Sunday she’ll be off to the local stables again where she volunteers.

    Now granted this coming week is a bit more socially busy than usual and we’d never get all the academic work done if every week were like this but for you to claim that home school equates to isolation is just breathtakingly wide of the mark.

  35. 35
    Matt Penfold

    Whatever the the right and wrongs of home-schooling is it evident that whoever is home-schooling Ms H, they are doing it wrong.

  36. 36
    mikehigginbottom

    @maryb The problem with legislating homeschooling is that those of us who want to excel usually want to do it by NOT following state mandated programmes or guidelines. There are a lot of problems with state interference and some of just want to be left alone to crack on and do a fantastic job of rearing well adjusted, well educated, socially skilled kids who love learning and have the confidence to become productive members of society. Of course there will always be those who fail and I understand that there’s a tension between the freedom to teach what and how you want and the responsibility for the state to ensure children are not denied such things but we need a much more nuanced view than “Oooo look! A stupid creationist homeschooled kid! Let’s ban it!”

  37. 37
    chigau (違う)

    I agree with mikehigginbottom #7 and jackiepaper #20.
    Homeschooling is NOT the problem and everyone should stop automatically assuming that homeschooling is done for religious reasons.

  38. 38
    Jackie

    Mary, having a cousin does not make you an authority on the subject. I could point to several local students in public and private schools that are receiving poor educations. Close to 25% of our high school students drop out. Many more graduate unable to make decent ACT scores. Studies show that far too many of our state’s students graduate prepared for jobs or further education. Why is that when supposed standards are in play already and enforced? Why don’t you focus your disgust on the system the state already has control over, rather than suggesting that they need to expand control to my home? My advice is this: Clean up the state institutions first. Then you can worry about me and mine.
    What makes you think I’m the exception? Many universities now have programs to court homeschoolers. I don’t think that’s because we’re all such abysmal failures. Why would we need to be policed by the state? We are not a part of any state run institution. I am not a state employee and I receive no state funding. Also, homeschool laws vary state to state. It sounds like you have no idea what they are or how they compare to laws concerning private schools. You make several assertions here that you cannot back up. I suggest you educate yourself instead of making speculations.

  39. 39
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    So, Mary, what are you doing to help expose your niece’s kid (as well as those kids who attend public schools where they don’t learn anything) to knowledge and ideas? Or is whining on the Internet about how “it should be illegal” enough for you? Have you even looked at what the local public school would offer this child to determine whether it is, in fact, superior to what he’s getting at home? And lastly, homeschooling parents generally try to expose their kids to sources of information beyond just themselves and often learn stuff alongside their kids. A parent’s level of formal education is often a poor indicator of how good a homeschooling parent they will be.

  40. 40
    Mak, acolyte to Farore

    A sample size of 1 is always a dodgy place to extrapolate from.

    I’m not extrapolating, I’m saying that if she had such a background as this person I know, the stuff she’s spewing isn’t all that surprising. It was in response to the claim that this was probably a poe, I’m guessing because whiskeytangofoxtrot found it too unbelievable to take as anything but.

    I know lots of people who were homeschooled and came out just fine.

  41. 41
    =8)-DX

    Come ON Ed! Is this the oft-vaunted inability of Americans to understand irony and satire?

    This piece was totally amazing – a gem! This particular sentence is comic gold and leaves no room for doubt in my mind:

    They should be consistent: if you believe in evolution, then you can’t be in favour of homosexuality, or the ducks will get you in the end.

    Totally a piece of satire and I applaud the girl’s writing abilities*, perhaps she watches Stephen Colbert – this is his kind of style only much more nuanced.

    (* unless someone else wrote this in her name.)

  42. 42
    Mattir, Another One With Boltcutters

    “Standards” are not the answer to bad homeschooling, just as they aren’t the solution for improving bad public schools. I once had to explain to the official public school administrator who oversaw my kids’ education why there would be marine fossils in the Appalachian mountains, several hundred miles from the nearest ocean. She did not believe me. She also chastised my “language arts” portfolio for including 40 or so classic novels and non-fiction books, including Orwell, Dawkins, Coyne, Austen, and Borges, because I did not supply any completed worksheets from official textbooks. If I’d walked in with some creationist A-Beka or Bob Jones crap, I’d have been fine. As it was, she told me that I’d had the worst portfolio she’d ever reviewed.

  43. 43
    indicus

    Sounds like someone has been reading up on their Orwell… “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”. But now comes the important question: are these evolutionarily superior ducks which will overthrow us in the end CROCODUCKS?! My god, Kirk was right all along! All hail our future scaly/feathery overlords!

  44. 44
    lilandra

    Perhaps, standardized testing would be a better way to weed out homeschoolers that aren’t actually educating their children. This student would most definitely flunk a 9th grade Biology exam.

  45. 45
    glodson

    We need to get this whole homosexual marriage thing going, I don’t want my years of playing Duck Hunt to go to waste. Let those webbed footed bastard rise!

  46. 46
    Stardrake

    But the ducks aren’t going to get us in the end. They’re too short. Their cousins the geese, now…..

  47. 47
    jimmauch

    So this is our governments solution to the education of our youth. You can either choose to give your child that quality education that you didn’t receive yourself or you can homeschool your child. That way you can feel secure in knowing that she too will believe that worshiping a bronze age god is enlightenment. Is it written in the constitution that you have the right to pass on your willful ignorance to your children?

  48. 48
    mikehigginbottom

    @mak Apologies then. I read your phrase “Uncoincidentally, he’s also homeschooled” as implying exactly that.

    @Mattir That’s a good point about parental lack of education. One of the most valuable lessons that I’m teaching my daughter is that you CAN’T know everything and that when you want to know about stuff you don’t know about you DON’T need a teacher these days. Because homeschooling is one-to-one it’s MUCH more efficient than trying to teach a mixed ability group. That efficiency creates slack in ‘the programme’ which we can use to learn new stuff TOGETHER. The ability and willingness of kids to do independent research when they have unanswered questions (even if it’s only at the level of Google and Wikipedia) is both empowering and a useful skill.

  49. 49
    Nemo

    I wonder if the letter writer is a secret Garfunkel and Oates fan.

  50. 50
    chigau (違う)

    But the ducks aren’t going to get us in the end. They’re too short. Their cousins the geese, now…..

    or swans.
    Those suckers are huge!

  51. 51
    Bronze Dog

    I salute the sensible home schoolers who’ve spoken up. It’s easy to forget you exist with all the vocal nutbars out there, and I’m hoping PZ makes a correction with a narrower brush.

    It can’t be easy to teach a wide variety of subjects to a kid on top of the usual parenting responsibilities, so kudos for doing a good job of it. I realize public schools vary widely in quality, so I know there can be plenty of good reasons to avoid the one in your district.

  52. 52
    Sastra

    Audley Z. Darkhart #6 wrote:

    I’ve often wondered what goes into the thought process when a newspaper chooses which letters to print.

    Keep in mind that a lot of newspapers don’t really have a lot to choose from. When I moved from Chicago area to a small rural town, I noticed an extraordinary change in both the quality and topics of the Letters-to-the-Editor. I once spoke to the editor and he admitted that, most days, they only received one to three letters. Sometimes none at all. So they’d check for slander, invective, and a few other obvious no-nos and on the page it would go. Thus, you get a lot of ordinary folk writing on what ordinary folk want to write on, the way ordinary folk write, on the topics ordinary folk think about, in the way ordinary folk think. As a way of learning about the world around us, this has both advantages and disadvantages.

    “None of this really bears any weight for me, because I do not believe in evolution.”

    She does believe in evolution — and she doesn’t believe in evolution. Part of the reason this letter (and the writer) are so confused is that the term “evolution” and the concept that “living things evolve” are treated as deepities. Different interpretations are being confused with each other, going back and forth from one meaning to the other so that there’s no distinction and no clarity of thought.

    Loosely, “evolution” means “change.” The scientific theory of evolution is “change as the result of descent with heritable modification.” The popular social meaning of evolution is “change due to growth or progress.” Jasmin is mixing these two up. She’s applying the second definition to the scientific question of the origin of species and what we read is the sad result.

    I think a lot of creationists do this, particularly the ‘unsophisticated’ ones. But even those who write and debate on the topic a lot still seem to think in deepities, trading on their own confusion to continue confusing others.

    Jasmin might be very bright. It’s actually hard to say. Her letter seems fairly well written for a typical 14 year old. But she hasn’t been taught how to think, and think clearly. She’s dealing in deepities — and getting way out of her depth in the process.

  53. 53
    brakemanz

    Wow, that was close. I thought the girl’s logic had PZ pinned for sure.. He sure squeaked by that one..

  54. 54
    Matt Penfold

    or swans.
    Those suckers are huge!

    An adult swan is quite capable of breaking the arm of an human adult. They are not be fucked with.

  55. 55
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Why is it that no one seems to understand the term Poe?

    Saying something is a Poe is not saying it’s heartfelt. It’s not saying it’s a parody. It’s saying it is writing on a viewpoint that is so loopy, illogical, or downright inscrutable that one **cannot tell** if it’s serious or not.

    If you can tell, it’s not a Poe. Thus the phrase, “I can’t tell if it’s a Poe” should never be used as a synonym for “I can’t tell if the writer actually believes what was written”.

    Clearly, the authors of such confused usages are homeschooled.

  56. 56
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Matt -54:

    I see what you did there.

    @Nemo -49:

    I have always loved that song. Always. Like since before I was born.

  57. 57
    Matt Penfold

    Keep in mind that a lot of newspapers don’t really have a lot to choose from.

    This certainly seems to be the case on my local paper. Almost every week they have a letter from one of two locals who are opposed to wind-farms (quite a few in these parts, with more planned) on the grounds that climate change is a lie. Quite often they have letters from both of them.

  58. 58
    flapjack

    I could take Jasmin H to task on the huge heap of logical fallacies she’s put into print, but the first thing I thought of when I read her conspiracy theory about gays leaving humanity vulnerable to duck supremacists was this

  59. 59
    Mike

    Was there ever a better advertisement for the abuse of the young that religion gets away with. If any one of us told a child they had to believe in Mantis, let’s say. And Mantis desires that they would have to show their faith in Mantis by ignoring the fact that they need to breath and pray for hours with their head underwater. Sure a few die but the truly faithful will not. Would we not be labeled criminal

  60. 60
    GodotIsWaiting4U

    The Romans conquered an entire continent, and Latin spawned an entire family of Indo-European languages. I’d say they were pretty clever.

    I’ve always been immensely confused by people who call homosexuality depraved and disgusting, yet act as if legitimizing it would lead to EVERYONE doing it and the human birth rate would drop below replacement level. Clearly I must be the outlier here, because I’ve never felt the siren allure that another man’s penis apparently must have.

  61. 61
    =8)-DX

    Oh Darn, this was PZ’s blog, had too many tabs open and got thought it was an entry by Ed.

  62. 62
    Mak, acolyte to Farore

    Apologies then. I read your phrase “Uncoincidentally, he’s also homeschooled” as implying exactly that.

    That was more in reference to the fact that he’s one of those who was homeschooled because his parents think public schools are a liberal hotbed of sin and propaganda, and based on the contents of the letter, I assumed the same for Jasmin. I admittedly didn’t think of how that would affect responsible homeschoolers and so wasn’t kind to you in saying it. Sorry about that.

  63. 63
    kantalope

    The SO’s first response was also, “Ducks? It is the Swans you have to look out for!”

    This also might be a case of: Anatidaephobia

  64. 64
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    Homeschooling is not the problem. Many homeschooled kids turn out excellently (Mattir’s Spawn are more mature than their years – heck, her DaughterSpawn is more mature than most of the Pharyngulites in our area XD)

    The problem is Conservative Evangelists being able to teach that their Bible is inerrant doctrine. It’s being allow to teach kids that fairy tales are true. It’s creationism, it’s lies.

    Making homeschooling illegal will not solve this problem! What needs to be changed is not being allowed to teach children that the Bible is science.

  65. 65
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @a3kron:

    I was going to mention that too.

    Ducks engage in homosexual sex, necrophilia, rape, and – if I remember correctly – sex with other species, not even birds (I recall hearing a story about a duck raping something like… a rabbit.)

  66. 66
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Jasmin:
    In honor of the epic, world shattering fail of your entire letter, you get to be the inspiration for my new ‘nym.

  67. 67
    raven

    and say, ducks, could take over the world

    I see it was said in the first comment.

    Jasmin says that like it is a bad thing. I, for one, welcome our new duck overlords.

    PS Jasmin seems to have invented a new metafallacy. The Argument from Ducks.

  68. 68
    Christoph Burschka

    If it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and swims like a duck… it might just be a homosexual duck.

    Why do they let idiots homeschool their children? In Pakistan girls her age risk getting killed for going to school; what’s her excuse?

  69. 69
    chigau (違う)

    Tony
    re the new ‘nym
    Two thumbs tentacles tail feathers up!

  70. 70
    maryb

    If children are being well schooled at home, then he or she would have no problem passing a test to determine whether he/she meets a standard. After all, the standard is pretty low for public education. So why the resistance unless you want your child to be as ignorant as this girl? This girl clearly would not pass.

    She would also benefit by some time on a farm …

    Swan overlords would be very pretty.

  71. 71
    d.f.manno

    @ jackiepaper:

    Mary, outlaw homeschooling? Because of this? What about public schools that feed the school to prison pipeline? What about public schools with abstinence only sex ed and little to no evolution taught? Are you serious? What about public schools that encourage girls to dress in skimpy costumes and preform dance routines that belong in Vegas, not in a school? What about public schools that allow a bully culture that leads to teen suicide?

    What about someone who’s swallowed every negative public-school stereotype and thinks all public schools are like that?

    I homeschool one of my kids.

    No kidding.

  72. 72
    Brian Murtagh

    The banner is the Crockoduck. Is that a coincidence, or was it arranged (possibly by duck Illuminati)?

  73. 73
    chigau (違う)

    I homeschool one of my kids. She is severely dyslexic in a state with no programs for dyslexic students.

  74. 74
    Mak, acolyte to Farore

    What about someone who’s swallowed every negative public-school stereotype and thinks all public schools are like that?

    Jackiepaper didn’t say all public schools are like that. But schools like that do exist and it’s good for people in those situations to have other options, especially when they live in areas where they can’t just send their kid to another public school or even a private one.

    I know many people who were homeschooled precisely because of the bullying problem Jackiepaper mentioned, including my younger brother. This stuff DOES happen. Do you think kids should be forced to endure that shit just because their parents can’t move to another district and private schooling is out of the question?

  75. 75
    d.f.manno

    @ mikehigginbottom:

    The problem with legislating homeschooling is that those of us who want to excel usually want to do it by NOT following state mandated programmes or guidelines. There are a lot of problems with state interference and some of just want to be left alone to crack on and do a fantastic job of rearing well adjusted, well educated, socially skilled kids who love learning and have the confidence to become productive members of society.

    The problem with homeschooling is that very few parents are natural-born teachers. Teaching is a skill, one that has to be learned. From experience (as a GA in grad school and in leading training classes at various jobs), I know that it’s not an easily mastered skill, either. It’s not one that can be picked up by reading a few books.

    Of course there will always be those who fail

    And when an unskilled parent with a political or religious axe to grind fails at homeschooling, a child’s life has been ruined.

  76. 76
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @d.f.manno:

    And the good parents who realize they’re perhaps not great teachers (my mother for an example) supplement their homeschooling with other kinds of teaching – lectures or courses held at places like libraries for instance (where my sister and I took courses on Shakespeare and foreign language.)

  77. 77
    alektorophile

    I for one welcome our future web-footed overlords.

    But seriously, I have had ducks, chickens, turkeys, guinea fowl, quails, pheasants, and geese for years now. When kept together, ducks end up at the bottom of the hierarchy, just barely above turkeys. Surely, if Anatidae are going to take over, it’s geese who will be calling the shots.

  78. 78
    alektorophile

    I don’t want my children to have to compete with ducks

    and this quote is priceless. I expect to see it soon on signs at tea party gatherings.

  79. 79
    chigau (違う)

    Teaching children and teaching adults…
    not the same
    at all
    by a vast margin

  80. 80
  81. 81
    Akira MacKenzie

    While I can understand the desire to homeschool in many reasoable cases, we still can’t ignore the 800lbs gorilla in the room: that it provides some the ability to teach children bullshit without any sort of government oversight.

    My family is a case in point: my mother’s youngest brother is a screaming fundie and to protect his brood of about a half dozen Stepford Brats (I lost track of how many cousins on my mother’s side a I have looooong ago. My Father’s side, though staunch Catholics, kept the reproduction to a reasonable level.) from the evils of secular education, he has homeschooled them all. His oldest has just turned 18, has just gotten married to another product of Christian homeschooling, and is appearently is working on spawning the next generation of Jeeb-us freaks. However, he has no job, no job skills, and no interest in going to school to obtain them. He and his wife live with my uncle.

    I believe that his brothers and sisters will share a similar fate soon.

  82. 82
    Jackie

    Mary, Several people have already explained why standardized tests would be a very bad idea for homeschoolers. (Did you miss the part where I mentioned my daughter’s dyslexia or her passion? Neither would benefit from forced standardized testing.)I also explained why I do not owe the state proof that I’m supplying my child an education that meets their standards. I am in compliance with state laws. Meanwhile, no private school is required to teach evolution, comprehensive sex ed or an honest account of history. Yet, I see no one calling for the outright banning of private schools. I also noticed that you first began crying for the criminalization of homeschooling, then switched to state mandated standards and testing. Which is it to be? Then try answering some of the questions I asked you and taking my advice to learn more about a subject before you presume to give us your ill-formed opinion as fact.

    DF, I never said all schools were like that. I suggested that is was as ridiculous to outlaw homeschooling as it would be to look at those samples of public school shoddiness and suggest outlawing public schooling. Availability heuristic and just plain prejudice is at play here. Those who hate on homeschoolers will always trot out the worst case scenario in homeschooling (Usually their neighbor’s friend’s cousin’s roommate..) and compare it to the best case in public schooling. I’m not having that here. I am merely pointing out the failures within the system and suggesting that the state fix the problems in their own institutions before they try to “fix” what is not broken in my home. BTW, I have 4 kids. Three attend public school. One does not. I’m a member of the PTO. Don’t put words in my mouth.

  83. 83
    mikehigginbottom

    @maryb#70 You’re presuming that some absolute testable measure of retained knowledge is an appropriate metric for measuring the quality of education an individual child is receiving. There are a number of issues here.

    The role of a teacher should be to provide equal benefit to each of his pupils. That does not equate to getting each of his pupils to reach a certain score on a test. Such testing only works (if it works at all) because the large sample size smooths out the effects of outliers. This approach cannot be applied to a single ‘teacher’ teaching a single child.

    My daughter happens to be academically able and so even if I were a terrible teacher she would have a much better chance of passing such a test than a less able child with a great teacher for a parent.

    Many children are not suited to academic careers. Home schooling allows the opportunity to focus on building high quality vocational skills if they’re more appropriate.

    What about kids with learning difficulties? In my experience these are often the kids who benefit the most from homeschooling and yet these are also the kids who would be least likely to be allowed that opportunity under your system.

    Testing fosters the approach of teaching to the test. One of my biggest tasks since my daughter left school has been to ‘un-teach’ a huge variety of misunderstandings which have clearly been taught as a means to passing tests rather than building deep understanding of a subject through accurate models and a good grasp of their limitations. And this in a child who attended excellent schools as well.

    Very quickly, any such testing introduced would increase in scope to the point that it became a huge part of a homeschool curriculum rather than a simple baseline test to ensure adequate teaching. That’s just the way government oversight works.

    Related to the last two points is the restrictions testing would place on the freedom to teach to the child’s interests and abilities. For example, we’re focused very heavily on science even at age 13, much more so than a school would cater for. We value tremendously the opportunity to go deep on a particular subject as we see fit rather than having to learn a prescribed set of topics. If my daughter has her imagination fired by the operation of the immune system, why should I deny her the opportunity to research the role of helper T cells? Should I really stomp on her love of learning by moving on to the next topic on the list because the timetable puts us on a deadline?

    I guess that last point is at the heart of our homeschooling experience. Education should not be the filling of a vessel, it should be the lighting of a fire.

  84. 84
    mattand

    Went and found the newspaper where the editorial came from. Apparently New Zealand has a problem with crazy Christian home schoolers as well. Hopefully, they have a much smaller influence on their national politics that the ones is the US do.

  85. 85
    Jackie

    DF,

    The problem with homeschooling is that very few parents are natural-born teachers. Teaching is a skill, one that has to be learned. From experience (as a GA in grad school and in leading training classes at various jobs), I know that it’s not an easily mastered skill, either. It’s not one that can be picked up by reading a few books.

    Sooooo many logical and factual errors here!

    Teachers are neither “naturally born” (If they were, why would they need to attend school in the first place?) nor does homeschooling employ the same skills as classroom teaching. I have no need to study administration. I need no special training in crowd control. In fact, a couple classes and a couple book are all I need to teach one very willing pupil. Where my skills fall short, I have tutors at the library, classes taught on DVD, and various other methods of coping that are not difficult to come by. Did you know that teachers may have no specialized training in the subjects they are assigned to teach? Did you know that a teacher may not even know what they are going to be teaching until a couple of weeks prior to the start of the school year? Did you know that not all teachers are great at their jobs? (It is a job. Some people are very good at theirs. Some people are not. Just a fact, not a slam on teachers.)Being a teacher in a public school does not bestow a special mantel of excellence upon that individual.
    As to ruining children’s lives, are you suggesting that never happens within public or private schooling? Is the brick building magic and all who enter it exit wholesome, well balanced individuals? Do you think creationists don’t successfully indoctrinate their schooled children? Do you think it is your job to protect kids from their own cultures and from their parent’s influence? How far will you take that? Outlaw Sunday School? Like it or not, people are going to raise their children with the principles and beliefs they see fit to raise them with. I know far more publicly and privately schooled homophobic, creationists than homeschooled ones. Walk into any public or private school in my area and ask if Noah’s flood was real. The vast majority will tell you it was.
    I’m also a foster mom and I volunteer with special needs children, many of whom have been abused six ways to Sunday. Your pearl clutching at mere homeschooling “ruining” a child’s life shows almost no grip on what is actually happening to children that “ruins” their lives. If you care so much about abused children, get out and work with them. Crusade to end child rape, neglect and abuse. But do not get on here and spout hateful BS about the horrors of homeschooling as if that is the real blight that needs to be delt with. It isn’t.

  86. 86
    Jackie

    Sp = dealt

  87. 87
    Jackie

    Oh, and DF, I’ve been and plan to work again soon as a public school sub. (With absolutely no formal education in teaching and nary a degree. Yep, that’s legal.) So, try to understand that I am not knocking one form of schooling or exalting another. I’m just asking that people stop spreading stereotypical garbage concerning a method of education few critics seem to know the first thing about.

  88. 88
    mikehigginbottom

    @d.f. Sure. Teaching is most definitely a skill but this is a common misconception amongst those who don’t home school. It’s actually far less like teaching than most people think. It’s much more like a cross between conventional parenting and working with colleagues to solve problems.

    I guess the closest thing I do to teaching is parsing my daughter’s behaviour looking for misunderstanding, confusion or opportunities to lead her into new discoveries about herself. I do very little in the way of conventional ‘didactic’ teaching. These days that aspect of teaching is trivially easy to obtain through the excellent academic print materials available or through various internet resources.

    Essentially my daughter teaches herself and I focus on teaching techniques, assisting her with problem solving when she runs into difficulties and checking her work over for chances to improve things. She frequently marks her own work, coming to me if she can’t understand things she’s got wrong.

    I guess my time is split pretty much equally three ways; learning the subject matter myself, finding resources for her to use, and checking, correcting and assisting her when she hits problems.

    Conventional teaching and homeschool teaching really are two very different beasts.

  89. 89
    mikehigginbottom

    @Akira We had this ‘oversight’ debate recently here in the UK when Ed Balls wanted to introduce monitoring of home schooled families. The 800lb gorilla in the room is, I’m afraid to say, merely a matter of perception. There’s another 800lb gorilla in the room as well. The government does not have the right to monitor the contents of your house just in case you’re a thief. Yet nobody thinks of this as being a gorilla. Sure, some people ARE thieves but we don’t consider universal regular government house searches to be a proportionate response to this problem. It’s easy to ask for oversight of home schoolers when you yourself won’t face the consequences of such oversight. It’s easy to see this as an 800lb gorilla and ignore the other one which WOULD affect you.

  90. 90
    Jackie

    @ MikeH
    Similar situation here. My daughter is old enough that I play the role of learning facilitator, transporter and wallet holder, rather than the role of teacher. My daughter checks her work. Her dad re-checks it. She and I shop for books and supplies together. We come up with projects together, flip through bird books, listen to podcasts, surf Wikipedia or just walk and talk about what she’s into and what is challenging her.
    At one point we attended a private school for dyslexic kids. I learned some skills there and taught a bit. It was quite a commute and very expensive, but we loved it. Sadly, it is closed now and there is nothing remotely like it anywhere nearby. In the short time we had there we learned enough about dealing with dyslexia and accepting limits to see us the rest of the way on our own. I find that most homeschoolers experiences involve a wide range of outside classes and events. Maybe it is the name that confuses people and makes them think we never leave home or call for back up when we need it. :) Yet my daughter has danced with The Moscow Ballet, worked with horses, sat in on a Master Gardeners course, taken martial arts classes, numerous art classes and so many other things I would not dream of trying to instruct her in on my own. It’s still called homeschooling. Maybe it should be called something like…autodidact facilitation within the home and greater community?

  91. 91
    congenital cynic

    Totally agree with your annotations, and as I was reading the unannotated version I was thinking many of the things you wrote, and in particular that bit about ducks gang raping females. Wonder how the writer would feel about that attribute of her duck overlords? (I watched one of those gang rapes once in a secluded part of a harbour of a fishing village and it was really quite violent.)

    But the one thing that you didn’t pick up on was the absurdity of her opening sentence. Homosexuality isn’t an “idea” at all. It’s a characteristic of some portion of a population of the species that just falls out of the distribution of traits provided by genetic diversity and delivered up by large numbers of individuals. I’m a happily married hetero, so I don’t know what it’s like to be gay, but I know a lot of gay people and I’m absolutely SURE that not a single one of them woke up one morning and said to themselves, “oh, I have an idea, I’ll be gay”. Nobody would do that in this culture unless they were into increasing the adversity they would face in life, and there’s plenty of stress and difficulty to go around without increasing it. I’m pretty sure that they came hardwired “gay” out of the box.

  92. 92
    Hank_Says

    I have some words of hope for our young correspondent:

    We had ducks when I was a kid. The female (Biggles) and the male (Ginger) raised 12 ducklings and just as we were in danger of being enslaved to spend the rest of our lives hunting snails and digging canals for our new overlords, two heroic foxes crept across our yard in broad daylight and rid us of them all in as much time as it took me to read your letter.

    So fear not, Jasmin: whatever havoc society’s acceptance of homosexuality wreaks upon our species, there will always be foxes.

    Oh, but wait … they’re much smarter than ducks.

    Oh. My. GOD.

  93. 93
    dianne

    Foxes mate for life too (or so say various dubious internet sites anyway.) Clearly they’re going to out breed humans and eat the ducks AND us.

  94. 94
    hopeleith

    Seems like mentioning homeschooling is like mentioning circumscision, it’s like a Bat signal for the same people to run the same defense.

    I’m at the university end of this – and I have to tell you, we’re working on how to recruit homeschoolers, but it’s not about how do we attract these fabulously well-prepared folks because they’d be such an asset to our institution. It’s about how do we assess and place a group of students whose transcripts aren’t a reliable predictor of their skills and knowledge, who are at best inconsistently prepared because they’ve been allowed to do what interests them and avoid what doesn’t, so that they may lack language skills, science skills etc. How do we work with students who have been self-directed for so long that they think university will be similarly accomodating of their specialness, and not make them take pre-requisite courses or stick to the syllabus or skip the assignments they don’t like and demand that the prof re-write the syllabus and re-design the assignments to suit them?

    That’s my experience of home-schooled students at university, students who don’t know how to function in a large class instead of one-on-one, who don’t know how to take direction or even take turns, who seek to dominate classroom discussion because it doesn’t occur to them that every idea and thought they have isn’t brilliant and worthy of being shared right now, who think that the prof at the front of the room doesn’t actually have any greater knowledge of the topic or the skills than they do and doesn’t have much to teach them. These students have a really hard time their first year, they annoy their profs and their fellow-students and they don’t really know why, but if they’re very bright and very lucky and shut up long enough to find out they have lots to learn, they manage. And that’s the homeschooled kids whose parents AREN’T doing it to shelter them from the evil outside world and actually let them go on to a secular post-secondary institution.

  95. 95
    moxie

    Why a duck?

  96. 96
    Argle Bargle

    moxie #95

    Oh no, I’d completely forgotten about that.

    Je suis un Marxiste, tendance Groucho.

  97. 97
    ck

    Why a duck?

    No one would expect them. One minute, you’d think nothing about the ducks swimming in the pond behind your house, and the next we’re all stuck living in a real life version of Planet of the Ducks. Then you’d have Charlton Heston screaming things about “damn dirty ducks”, and you know that won’t end well.

  98. 98
    Lofty

    Once again, proof that creationism is entirely quackers.

  99. 99
    Ichthyic

    Oh, but wait … they’re much smarter than ducks.

    Oh. My. GOD.

    not to worry, that’s why fox hunting was created!

    tallyho!

  100. 100
    Ichthyic

    No one would expect them. One minute, you’d think nothing about the ducks swimming in the pond behind your house, and the next we’re all stuck living in a real life version of Planet of the Ducks. Then you’d have Charlton Heston screaming things about “damn dirty ducks”, and you know that won’t end well.

    I just can’t get that scene from “Holy Grail” out of my head…

    “If she weighs the same as a duck…”

  101. 101
    Ichthyic

    …oh, and +1 for the Biggles reference!

    Buffybot introduced me to the entire Biggles series on my arrival to Hobbitton.

  102. 102
    poecilia

    That reminds me of a marvelous case report, involving a horny Dutch duck and the glass front of the Natural history museum in Rotterdam:

    http://www.nmr.nl/nmr/binary/retrieveFile?instanceid=16&itemid=2574

  103. 103
    Chris Clarke

    I’m biased for having spent two decades married to a teacher in the California Public School system, but I think the divide between homeschooling parents and parent who sent their kids to a classroom is not quite the right one to focus on.

    I think un- or mis-educated parents whose estimation of their ability to home-school their kids runs up against the Dunning-Kreuger effect are a problem. But I actually suspect that parents who send their kids to school and think the teachers are covering all the kids’ educational needs are a bigger problem. Or at least there seem to be a lot more of them.

  104. 104
    otrame

    So, those insisting that homeschooling is so cool (and for your kids, I’m very sure it is) and you don’t want homeschooled kids tested (for reasons I can understand), what do you suggest the government do to help the kids of the vast majority of homeschooling parents who teach them so poorly, with intent to prevent them from knowing anything about the real world that conflicts with their religion? I understand where you are coming from and as the mother of two boys with ADD who fought the public school system tooth and nail and eventually put them both in a private school (and felt guilty because we could afford it and we knew how many couldn’t), I can tell stories about how bad public schools are all day long.

    But I honestly feel that we, as a society, owe all our children a decent education. Given that you give your homeschooled kids a better education than most kids get in public school, there are still all those other kids out there. What about them? I honestly don’t know how to fix that without affecting people like you. Do you have suggestions? Because right now, tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of kids are being denied even the education available in a bad public school. They are usually pretty good at math, but their notions of history, biology, cosmology, geology, and geography are so distorted that they are so handicapped, even compared to public school graduates, that the best job they are likely to get will involve asking if you want fries with that. Or engineering, I guess (j/k).

    So what do you suggest to help them?

  105. 105
    mikehigginbottom

    @hopeleith Interesting perspective. Firstly I’m puzzled why you’re trying to recruit these students if they’re so much trouble.

    Secondly, my experience is that unis in the UK at least are keen to recruit home schooled students for pretty much all the reasons you cite as being negatives.

    They’re interesting individuals rather than cookie cutter clones. They’re self-directed learners who don’t need hand-holding to get shit done. They realise they’re paying an extraordinary amount of money for an education and they want to make sure they’re getting good value for money. They’re prepared to contribute to classes rather than snore at the back or just copy down notes from the board. They’re not afraid to put their ideas forward for discussion because they know there’s value in much more than people think there is by convention or familiarity. They’re not afraid to question authority and ask “How do you know that?” or “What if?” They’re not afraid of being annoying or of rocking the boat. And they don’t think their role in society is to shut up and do as they’re told all day.

    Finally, I’ve met teachers on several occasions who love the opportunity to teach home schooled groups because they’re not just a bunch of kids reluctantly going through the motions. Because they actively engage with the learning process. Because they love to contribute. Because they ask difficult questions. Because they work well together in groups and can engage meaningfully and respectfully with everyone they meet regardless of their age, role, or personality. Because they are willing to support younger members of their group whilst also being willing to seek guidance from their older peers and adults.

  106. 106
    mikehigginbottom

    @otrame Great question. First off, there’s no way this even comes into my thinking as far as my daughter’s education is concerned. I’m prepared to make sacrifices in order to help society as a whole but I’m not prepared to feel guilty about using every means at my disposal to make sure my daughter doesn’t get used as a pawn to help me do it. If home schooling is the best option for her, that’s what she gets. Ditto when she was privately educated. She doesn’t get called upon to sacrifice her educational opportunities.

    I’m not really sure why you’re directing questions about the rise of creationism and anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism towards homeschoolers though. It’s a problem in society as a whole, as has been stated elsewhere. Seems to me calls for banning religious homeschooling are just as invalid as calls for banning religion in general. Sure, both are bad for society but I’m not sure many would argue for banning religion. I think the best approach is to just keep doing what we’re doing. Standing up for secular values, laughing at stupid ideas, correcting bad science, voting for the right politicians, marketing geek as chic and atheism as normal and moral. All that kind of stuff.

    My expectation is that religious extremism will rise in response though and that society will become more polarised. But I think this will be a short term phenomenon. The general trend around the world is for a slow and inexorable rise out of the mire of myth. Eventually theism will be on an equal footing with racism; a quaint notion, long in the past with small pockets of idiocy remaining to remind us of humanity’s failings.

  107. 107
    consciousness razor

    Mattir, way back in #27:

    Homeschooling makes it marginally easier to convey stupid ideas,

    If “marginally” isn’t an understatement, yep, that’s about right.

    When the public schools and universities can provide an education that prevents students from emerging with the ideas of young-earth creationism firmly in place, we can move on to discuss why I should not be allowed to homeschool my kids.

    It’s clearly already the case that public schools can do that, since not all public school students emerge with ideas like YEC. Of course, that’s not the only sort of bad idea you have to worry about either, though it plays to the crowd here. Anyway, I don’t know whether it should not be allowed, but you just gave a good reason above why it should be avoided.

    #39:

    Have you even looked at what the local public school would offer this child to determine whether it is, in fact, superior to what he’s getting at home?

    Who is determining whether it is in fact better or worse than the homeschooling they’re in fact getting, if it isn’t people who are already homeschooling? How about a person from the public education system who can come up with some kind of standard that can judge them fairly?

  108. 108
    mikehigginbottom

    @otrame Oh and by the way, I’m pretty sure there aren’t many homeschoolers who think it’s a silver bullet or a perfect or even the best solution. I frequently have days filled with doubt and frustration and terror at the responsibility I’ve taken on. Am I neglecting teaching music theory because I’m no musician or am I neglecting it because my daughter isn’t interested? Are either of those valid reasons? Should I deny her her passion for biology to make sure she improves her French language skills? Am I certain she’s going to do as well as she would have if she’d stayed in school? How would I even measure that? Should I be sacrificing my career for this? What about all the money we would have if I were still working? Then she could have her own pony like she’s always wanted. And my salary would buy a metric shit-ton of museum trips. Jeez, we could go visit the Acropolis instead of just reading about it. Is it healthy that she spends so much time with me? Or was it healthy that she spent all day with only her peer group when in school? Is my wife justified in feeling left out of so much of what we enjoy together? Is my life going to be empty when she leaves for university? Am I just doing this because I enjoy teaching her?

  109. 109
    consciousness razor

    Am I neglecting teaching music theory because I’m no musician or am I neglecting it because my daughter isn’t interested? Are either of those valid reasons?

    Depending on what you mean by “music theory,” the second might be okay. I say this as a musician and composer, someone who loves and understands music theory very well: it’s not something everyone needs in their education. In some cases, it would be like teaching high schoolers advanced mathematics. They just need the basics, up to, let’s say, calculus — or a math teacher is welcome to jump in and correct me — but note that, if you ask some people, calculus is so “advanced” it’s unnecessary.

    However, if you mean a basic music education about general concepts in music (which is all “music theory” means to some people), then that is something students should learn as part of their education in the humanities, like it or not. The problem is that, if you yourself don’t know enough about the subject, then you don’t know what makes up the difference.

  110. 110
    chigau (違う)

    They’re prepared to contribute to classes rather than snore at the back or just copy down notes from the board. They’re not afraid to put their ideas forward for discussion because they know there’s value in much more than people think there is by convention or familiarity.

    This probably doesn’t work very well in a class on differential calculus. or human anatomy.

  111. 111
    pacal

    Prof Myers you say:

    Every culture has had homosexual individuals; they differ only in the degree of suppression. The Romans actually regarded homosexuals as effete and inferior, and used accusations of gayness as expressions of contempt, just like modern middle schoolers.

    I admire you PZ Myers but here you are grossly over simplyfying to put it mildly. What you are referring to is the Roman attitude towards what the Roman’ called the “Cinaedus”, who were considered to be be people so sex obsessed that they would have sex with anyone in any form. Today they are frequently considered to be men who liked “passive” homosexual sex, although at times the Romans considered them to be men much too fond of hetrosexual sex and lacking self control.

    The Romans seemed to have considered “active” homosexual sex as not problematic in the least. But for an elite male citizen to “submit” to “passive” sex was a definite no no, and such people were in fact ridiculed, along with those who were thought to lack self controol over their sex drives. That violated the stoic ideal of self control and “moderation”.

    An elite Roman male was allowed and incured no moral blame or ridicule if he he “penetrated” his social inferiors, slaves, women, non-Romans. To allow himself to be penetrated was considered shocking and a scandal.

    The “Cinaedus” was indeed regarded as effete, passive, lacking in self control and was an object of ridicule. Although characterizing this “type” as “Homosexual”, misses that it was the sexual “passivity” and alleged lack of self control that was the object of censure and ridicule. Further the “Cinaedus” was also accused of excessive hetrosexuality!

    The Romans were indeed fond of throwing sexual insults at each other but not that so and so was “Gay” but that so and so was “passive”, that so and so “swallowed it” or “took it up the arse”. If they were giving and not recieving there was little or no problem.

    It is interesting to note that the Romans seemed to have regarded “passive” oral sex as more “shameful”, (except when done by slaves etc, when it was just expected), than “passive” anal sex.

    The elite Roman male who screwed his “inferiors”, slaves etc, did not get much if any condemnation.

    Some books:

    Same-Sex Desire and Love in Greco-Roman Antiquity and in the Classical Tradition of the West, Ed. Beert C. Verstraete & Vernon Provencal, Harrington Park Press, New York, 2005.

    Bisexuality in the Ancient World, Eva Cantarella, Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1992.

    Roman Homosexuality, 2nd Edition, Craig A. Williams, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010.

    Homosexuality in Greece and Rome: A Sourcebook of Basic Documents, Ed. Thomas K. Hubbard, University of California Press, Berkeley CA, 2003.

  112. 112
    chigau (違う)

    pacal
    Interesting post.
    Next time you could skip the condescending shit as an introduction.

  113. 113
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    The government does not have the right to monitor the contents of your house just in case you’re a thief.

    But we (society as represented by the government we elect) do have not only a right but a responsibility to monitor your treatment of your kids to make sure you’re not abusing them. Children are not possessions of their parents. They have rights too, and one of them is a right to an education. Bully for you that you’re doing a good job (at least you say so), but far more homeschooled kids are being neglected or worse, brainwashed with nonsense. So step back from your own situation and come up with a plan that would accommodate both homeschooling and insurance that children are at least learning the basics. Unless you’re one of those assholes who say “I got mine, so fuck the rest of you”?

  114. 114
    Therrin

    Sastra,

    ordinary folk

    I believe they’re called Reel Amurrahkins.

  115. 115
    marcmielke

    Humans could never compete with ducks. Our fat is not so crispy and tasty, and we do not pair as well with Chinese Plum Sauce and soft steamed bun.

    Now I’m all hungry.

  116. 116
    chigau (違う)

    also
    I, for one, am looking forward to these paragons

    They’re interesting individuals rather than cookie cutter clones. They’re self-directed learners who don’t need hand-holding to get shit done. They realise they’re paying an extraordinary amount of money for an education and they want to make sure they’re getting good value for money. They’re prepared to contribute to classes rather than snore at the back or just copy down notes from the board. They’re not afraid to put their ideas forward for discussion because they know there’s value in much more than people think there is by convention or familiarity. They’re not afraid to question authority and ask “How do you know that?” or “What if?” They’re not afraid of being annoying or of rocking the boat. And they don’t think their role in society is to shut up and do as they’re told all day.

    being our new Overlords.
    Provided they are Indigo.

  117. 117
    Jadehawk

    They’re prepared to contribute to classes rather than snore at the back or just copy down notes from the board. They’re not afraid to put their ideas forward for discussion because they know there’s value in much more than people think there is by convention or familiarity. They’re not afraid to question authority and ask “How do you know that?” or “What if?” They’re not afraid of being annoying or of rocking the boat. And they don’t think their role in society is to shut up and do as they’re told all day.

    what that reminds me of is the hyperskeptics trolling social justice sites and JAQing off; that type is not a pleasant class-mate, especially in lower-division classes.

  118. 118
    chigau (違う)

    that type is not a pleasant class-mate, especially in lower-division classes

    amen
    We had a god-botherer in an Anthro101 at a small community college, in a class of 6 or 7 people.
    When GB started to ask a question, the prof would put down the chalk, sit down, pick up the coffee and wait until the blither got to the actual question.
    I was 19, I probably just took notes.

  119. 119
    Tigger_the_Wing, Back home =^_^=

    My only regret re homeschooling is that I didn’t do it sooner. I followed the rules, getting as much official help as I could to keep the offspring in question in school. Had I ‘given up’ sooner,* I wouldn’t have had such a difficult task trying to instil a love of learning into young people who had had all their enthusiasm drained out of them.

    Even the best of schools cannot always cope with children who have educational or social challenges to overcome, however academically able they may be; let alone give those children what they actually need to gain an education.

    *I don’t actually think it would have been giving up; rather, it would have been a positive change. But that’s not how the schools saw it.

  120. 120
    Menyambal

    To the tune of The Stars and Stripes Forever –

    Be kind to your web-footed friends
    For a duck may become your master …

    —-

    pacal, what you posted was very interesting, but not enough different from what PZ said to warrant the snark.

    In the last duck rape that I saw, the male was using his bill to hold on to some feathers on the back of the female’s head, and he was shoving her head under the water.

    It reminded me of the Sunday School newsletter I took home a long time ago, that had an article about how there is no rape in the animal kingdom. Even then I knew that ducks were rapists.

  121. 121
    hopeleith

    We’re seeing more and more of these students rather than actively recruiting them, and no, in a large lower-division class they’re not fun to teach, they’re a disruption to the learning of everyone else in the class. The idea that all anyone needs to teach every highschool subject is good intentions, reasonable literacy and the ability to search the internet does make me tired.

    The privileged attitude, displayed abundantly in this thread, which sends a student into a class with dozens if not hundreds of other people convinced that they are entitled to argue with the prof during lectures, rewrite the syllabus to suit themselves and decide which assignment they will or will not do, is probably the biggest handicap homeschooling tends to burden its students with, in my experience of them at university. And these are the good, bright homeschooled students.

    So, if you don’t want standardized testing or a standardized curriculum (this at least might get rid of the anti-science, ahistorical fundamentalist workbooks) then how on earth do you even know whether your kids are performing at grade level? Because it says “grade 10 math” on the book you bought or the website you’re using?

  122. 122
    nms

    Homosexuality, including same sex marriage, is not an enlightened idea. The Romans practiced homosexuality. Surely, after 2000 years, our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat, so that we can truly pride ourselves of being cleverer than our forebears.

    I look forward to further letters from Jasmin H taking similarly brave stands against roads, sanitation, standing armies, and, sooner or later, Christianity.

  123. 123
    kayden

    I had to stop reading after the “ducks will take over the world” line. Priceless. My dogs are sleeping and I don’t want my raucous laughter to wake them up.

    And how do we know that a 14-year old girl wrote this? I bet it was an adult posing as a child.

    So idiotic. Unfortunately, so American.

  124. 124
    dexitroboper

    Well may we choose to blame the US, kayden, but Jasmin H. is from New Zealand.

  125. 125
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Nice to see the libertarians out in droves.

    Alright, homeschoolers. Pop quiz. What is wrong with this reasoning:

    Clean up the state institutions first. Then you can worry about me and mine.

  126. 126
    texasaggie

    FWIW I read a short blurb about a study that showed the sisters of gay men had more children than the sisters of straight men. That would suggest that something, either DNA or the uterine environment, favored something that favors female physiology. Homosexuality may therefore be one of those factors that are the result of something else being selected for in the other sex.

  127. 127
    strange gods before me ॐ

    That would suggest that something, either DNA or the uterine environment, favored something that favors female physiology.

    Pretty sure you’ve worded that wrong.

    Homosexuality may therefore be one of those factors that are the result of something else being selected for in the other sex.

    May be. There’s like a half dozen other good hypotheses too, and in fact there are probably multiple causes.

  128. 128
    Christoph Burschka

    I got it! It’s not about ducks, it’s about witches. They’re hard to tell apart since both are made of wood.

  129. 129
    Hank_Says

    128:

    It’s a fair cop.

  130. 130
    Ichthyic

    Jasmin H. is from New Zealand.

    *facepalm*

    I guess Ray Comfort forgot to take her with him.

    you know, I once contacted Comfort’s old outfit here in NZ. It still exists!

    ….and it consists of a single person taking care of a poorly done website.

    no kidding.

  131. 131
    AJS

    The solution is not to ban homeschooling.

    The solution is to introduce a nationally-standardised test in basic maths, English, history, geography, science and one other language. And then make passing grades in each section a requirement for legal adulthood.

  132. 132
    Menyambal

    AJS, there are nationally-standardized tests as part of the No Child Left Behind mess, and the schools wind up teaching to the tests. Some schools even shuffle kids around to have them avoid the tests.

    Your idea to have such tests as a legal requirement for adulthood actually tickles my fancy, but I say that IF a student has passed through a standardized school system, with passing grades, he has theoretically been prepared for such a test, already. And has passed many a test in his time.

  133. 133
    Jadehawk

    I say that IF a student has passed through a standardized school system

    well, that’s the point: homeschoolers by definition have not gone through a standardized school system.

  134. 134
    janeymack

    @mandrellian, #92: I, for one, welcome our new Vulpine overlords!

  135. 135
    pacal

    chigau says:

    pacal
    Interesting post.
    Next time you could skip the condescending shit as an introduction.

    What!?

  136. 136
    bortedwards

    @106- mikehigginbottom, I admire your optimism!:

    “Eventually theism will be on an equal footing with racism; a quaint notion, long in the past with small pockets of idiocy remaining to remind us of humanity’s failings.”

    Maybe in many ‘first world’ countries racism has been pushed below the surface, but it and theism appear to be innate human prejudices that are never far away (evidence is out there, but no citations to hand, sorry). I hope you’re right, but my non-scientific gut suspects strongly otherwise, and it would be naive to assume we are working towards any sort of ‘enlightened’ end-point :(

  137. 137
    Matrim

    Perhaps she suffers from Anatidaephobia; the fear that somewhere, somehow, a duck is watching you.

    I love the Far Side.

  138. 138
    lilandra

    I am a inner city public school teacher. I also had to homeschool my autistic son for a few years because he falls in the cracks between not being low enough to need the class with severe impairments or high enough to function academically in a regular classroom. Public school has been a mixed bag for us.

    I still think it would be a good idea to test homeschoolers. My son would have surely failed the grade level tests. He did learn to read, but he never learned math no matter what way it was presented to him. However, he has an adapted test. Dyxlexic students can have modifications all the way to having the test read to them.

    Yes there is the hassle of adapting your scope and sequence of the year to state standards. I do that for about 130 students with varying needs every year. It does bug me that at times the pace is dictated by what is covered on the test. I also hate wasting time on test taking skills. And yes Texas’s new supposedly more rigorous 400 million dollar test baby is developed in a way where the question wording is unnecessarily confusing. However, testing is a necessary evil. I have heard of classrooms where zero instruction is going on. Testing makes this noticeable to authorities.

    Which brings you back to homeschooling accountability. There are homes where zero instructions is going on. This girl is one example. In worst cases, there was someone who nearly starved a foster child to death. Neighbors called social services because a skelton looking boy was seen digging through the trash. This type of abuse would have been very noticeable in even the worst case scenario public school.

    Good parents do the best they know how for their kids and choose public school or private school or homeschool. Unfortunately there are some good parents who lack the skill to educate their children. Amd too many more think that Abeka or Bob Jones is educating their children. They are isolating their children, and they think this is for the best. In the worst case scenario are the outright bad parents who don’t want their children or are mentally ill, whose children would benefit the most by oversight.

  139. 139
    Margaret

    We will be in danger of all being equal

    This is a concise summary of the right wing’s basic fear. They fear being equal to women, gays, blacks, immigrants, etc. And apparently being equal to ducks too.

  140. 140
    geraldostdiek

    I was tempted to leave the ‘last’ word to Margaret, whose summary is both elegant and concise. However, I feel obligated to point out:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wildlife/4962394/Blue-Ducks-likely-to-die-out-in-UK-after-male-birds-get-together.html

    furthermore:

    http://books.google.cz/books?hl=en&lr=&id=KXM3F59y1jkC&oi=fnd&pg=PR7&dq=homosexual+animals&ots=WGYG_h8r-Z&sig=EKdhYDJqsxMxdv6L8yAyBeqPIRQ&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=homosexual%20animals&f=false

    To sum: an extremely rare species of duck is likely to die out entirely after the last two surviving members of the species spurned the advances of the last female of the species in favor of each other. Furthermore, homosexuality is not uncommon among many species.

    To extrapolate (with sanity): homosexuality is part of the natural condition and carries no ethical baggage and has no significance on the human condition.

    To extrapolate (without sanity): teh gay ducks are coming for your children!!!

  141. 141
    geraldostdiek

    a crimany, I meant: the last two surviving MALE members of the species…

  142. 142
    ragnar

    My Masters thesis was about reproductive hormones in male Mallards and domestic Rouen (i.e. Mallard) ducks. Ducks in enclosures are rapists of the worst sort, and are not really discriminating by gender while raping.
    So, there’s homosexuality in ducks too.

  143. 143
    johw

    Surely, after 2000 years, our level of intelligence should have evolved somewhat, so that we can truly pride ourselves of being cleverer than our forebears

    I think she undermined her whole argument with this since obviously there are still many people who believe in religion, even after 2000 years of evolution.

  144. 144
    arthur

    PZ, please.

    This was obviously a wind up. A piss take.

    I can’t believe you’ve taken this seriously!

  145. 145
    chigau (違う)

    arthur
    You don’t have a doorstep?

  146. 146
    freetotebag

    I love how she rejects the conditions for her example at the end.

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