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Saturday, May 22, 2004

Diana West, in the Wall Street Journal, discusses her decision to homeschool her kids:

I added my twin fifth-grade daughters this past year to the estimated 1.7 million to 2.1 million students who, according to the Oregon-based National Home Education Research Institute, are educated at home. (In 1999, the year of the most recent government survey, the U.S. Department of Education counted 800,000 home-schooled children.) "Secular" or not, the newish orthodoxy in the public schools is what ultimately sent me packing.

Ms. West is responding, in part, to the Southern Baptist Convention's resolution that encourages its members to pull their kids out of the public school system because of its "godlessness".

The author makes so good points that are worth noting. She questions the resolution itself, and wonders how "godless" the schools really are. I have to agree with that assessment, for I cannot recall any direct allusion to God in my grade school days. As they say, there will always be prayer in schools as long as there are exams, but as far as that directed by the school itself, there was none.

Further, the author points out the differences between "godless" education and "secular" education.

Thanksgiving, as described in a holiday assignment to read "multicultural stories of family and immigration," became "a time when families get together to celebrate their traditions and their heritage." It was the "their-ness" of the formulation -- as opposed to the "our-ness" of the holiday -- that could make any happy thanks-giver choke on the stuffing. Defining the holiday as an occasion for families to celebrate "their" separate traditions and "their" separate heritage gives the day of national thanksgiving an unmistakable international-night-at-the-community-center flavor.

Which was typical of the way the school framed all subjects, cropping anything universal for a clear shot at the ethnic label. Book reports for young readers, only just delving into decent chapter-books, were pegged to race or gender -- never writerly merit or imagination -- in such assignments as "Hispanic book month." (This fourth-grade assignment, not incidentally, revealed the slimness of identifiably "Hispanic" pickings. Most were insipid books from Mattel's American Girl doll company about Josefina, a child in 19th-century New Mexico.)

One daughter's big fourth-grade history project was to portray Tiger Woods in a "living wax museum" that the class created to mark Black History Month. (A handout went home prohibiting face paint and wigs in the children's costumes.) An honors unit in English -- sorry, language arts -- focused on Japanese internment during World War II. A "poetry" project lavishly turned classrooms into both a 1950s Greenwich Village coffee house and a "People's Park" -- children were asked to wear black -- but generated only lousy haiku. Colonial history morphed into a unit on immigration that included a field trip to a social-services center to "interview" mainly Hispanic immigrants.

That last tore it -- especially after a teacher instructed the class not to use "real names" in follow-up essays, lest the immigrants be in this country illegally. It sounded as if the teacher were making a bunch of 10-year-olds accessories to a crime. Anti-law and officially brainless, I call it.

It is this description that best epitomizes the reasons that my wife and I, too, have concluded that homeschooling is our only alternative insofar as educating our son. In the days where the "three Rs" were the focus of teaching, it made sense to send kids to public schools. However, those subjects seem to be taking a back seat to anything politically correct.

The situations Ms. West describe are completely foreign to me as a student, but seem to be common place in today's 21st-century classroom. As far as that goes, I want no part of it. Ms. West concludes by saying that "school isn't necessarily the best place for learning". I could not agree more.


.: posted by Dave 10:01 AM

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