Demand higher standards for homeschooling!

Spank me and make me cry. Or just read this freakin’ terrifying article about homeschooling kids. First, start with the arrogance of Patrick Henry College:

“Christians increasingly have an advantage in the educational enterprise,” he says. “This is evident in the success of Christian home-schooled children, as compared to their government-schooled friends who have spent their time constructing their own truths.” The students, all evangelical Christians, applaud loudly. Most of them were schooled at home before arriving at Patrick Henry—a college created especially for them.

Then take a look at what their truths are like.

These students are part of a large, well-organised movement that is empowering parents to teach their children creationist biology and other unorthodox versions of science at home, all centred on the idea that God created Earth in six days about 6000 years ago.

Their “advantage” and “success” is completely artificial, the product of years of gutting standards so they can cultivate these little, self-satisfied, ignorant homeschooled kids in a hothouse of ignorance…and then they need to set up special colleges to maintain the illusion that they know anything.

Home-school parents are able to teach their children this way thanks mainly to a group called the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a non-profit organisation based in Purcellville—like Patrick Henry College (PHC), which the HSLDA founded. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the practice was largely illegal across the US. “The mechanism that was causing home-schooling to be illegal was teacher certification,” says Ian Slatter, director of media relations for the HSLDA. In 1983 two evangelical attorneys, Michael Farris and Mike Smith, founded the organisation to defend the rights of home-school parents. They fought to remove requirements that parents be certified to teach their own children. Through an impressive run of legal battles and political lobbying, they managed to make home-schooling legal in all 50 states within 10 years. “We rolled back the state laws,” says Slatter.

At my department, we just got the requirements for state licensure of education students, and we’ve been given the task of making sure our course content delivers what future teachers will need. It’s not trivial getting licensed to teach; but any idiot can declare themselves to be a teacher for purposes of homeschooling, and apparently many idiots do.

Please. Can we bring those laws back?

…there is virtually no government regulation of home-schooling. “Some states say you need a high school diploma,” Slatter says. “But we really don’t have many problems getting people, shall we say, qualified.” In Virginia, for instance, parents need a degree to teach at home, but there is a religious exemption, so those running a home-school for religious reasons don’t need a degree. In contrast, a public high school teacher must have a bachelor’s degree, and in some states a master’s degree, plus a state-issued teaching certificate. Thirty-one states require teachers to take additional exams to show proficiency in their subject matter.

A religious exemption? A religious exemption? I call that the freedom to abuse children. This is shameful. The article talks about how, if they only get enough people to adopt homeschooling and pull their kids out of the public school system, public education in the US will collapse—and they speak of this as a good thing.

I’m serious. We need to stop this. I think any politician who professed to be concerned about educating the children of this country, by supporting the NCLB, for instance, ought to be required to support increasing the qualifications and standards for homeschooling…and if a district doesn’t have the resources to monitor the competence of homeschool teachers, they ought to simply refuse to allow the kids to be pulled out of school.

Otherwise, we’re going to increase the percentage of idiots like creationist Jay Wile in our next generation.

“Home-schoolers are going to be leaders in their field,” says Wile. “They are going to change science and how science is done.”

That’s a horribly true statement.

(via Jim Anderson)

A Cretaceous hypothesis

Synergy! Ooblog leads me to a spectacular painting of carnotaurs mating (did they always get a flight of pterosaurs at the climax?), and then by way of The Two Percent Company, I found this enlightening poster of mammals mating (hey, how many of the first 20 have you done?)…with the unfortunate consequence of death by STD. Put two and two together, and what conclusion do we arrive at?

Dinosaurs didn’t use condoms.

A surfeit of good news

All right, stop it now. This is getting ridiculous. Tuesday, we watch the Republicans collapse in the elections. Wednesday, Rumsfeld folds up and goes home. Today, Allen concedes, giving Democrats the Senate. What next? Tomorrow, Bush and Cheney are abducted by aliens, who broadcast the anal probing to the whole planet’s television networks? The day after, it rains ponies?*

Am I missing a good bet by not buying any lottery tickets?

*OK, this one might be a little splatty and meaty and not so nice, unless they were magic flying ponies. I’m thinking it could happen right now.

Witch doctors in America

Brain imaging is a useful tool, but in the wrong hands it can be little more than hi-tech phrenology. Being able to say that you used single photon emission computed tomography to come to your conclusion sure sounds pretty, and it can seem like you know what you’re doing, but all too often the use of a fancy buzzword is only a ploy to get you noticed, no matter how trivial or even drecky your work is. Here’s a perfect example: a boring paper with almost nothing of interest in it gets published and highlighted in the New York Times, and why? Because the author couples expensive medical gear to religious nonsense, and obviously is very good at self-promotion. He’s a witch doctor in a nice white lab coat.

Andrew Newberg is an author of some rather New Agey popular books, an M.D., and a dualist. He’s the head of the “Center for Spirituality and the Neurosciences” (which is funded in part by the Templeton Foundation, wouldn’t you know it), and he thinks there is something outside the brain responsible for mind. How putting people in fancy gizmos and looking at cerebral blood flow is going to affirm his ideas is a complete mystery to me, but that’s what he does. And then afterwards, he waves his hands around and says the pretty colored pictures that most of his audience don’t understand support his claims.

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