Monday, November 14, 2011

NY Times - Cherry Picking And Extrapolating, Again

The NY Times is up to its old tricks again...

They found a grown woman who was homeschooled in the psychedelic 70s and have paid(?) her to paint *parental education* in a horrible light. Her critique is laced with the stock Times casuistry and invokes all the usual bigoted, intolerant stereotypes.

It's a long and tedious article so I'll highlight the relevant parts for the lazy/busy set:

Today, according to a poll by the Department of Education (PDF), 83 percent of parents who home-school their children — nearly two million children are now taught at home — do so out of "a desire to provide religious or moral instruction."

Okay, that's total BS. "Or moral instruction" widens the category. Which freakin' concerned parents ARE NOT engaging in, or at least intending to morally instruct their children???

The *for religious reasons only/primarily* tag has been overdone, and over-estimated time and again. But it's typical, for propagandistic critics like the NY Times, to summon favored bogeymen...

The author repeatedly and vividly lamented how destitute their counter-culture (hippie!) family was:

We learned to make do. We had our teeth pulled by student dentists at a free clinic and shopped for bargains at the dented-can outlet. Very briefly, we stood in line for food stamps. When a broken collarbone demanded a trip to the E.R. during a blizzard, my father took me to the hospital via sporadic bus service — we couldn’t afford a car. To ease the pain of my injury (and my recovery), Dad gave me one pack of Juicy Fruit gum, which I was then made to share with my three siblings. It was such a treat that I slept with the remaining two sticks clutched under my pillow. My mother went without haircuts or date nights.

The insinuation of *stupid, uneducated, and POOR* homeschoolers just cannot be missed.

Then came the messy, painful transition to government school:

Our transition to formal schooling happened to coincide with the moment St. Louis was trying to address the problem of its segregated school system. To avoid forced busing, the city decided to open several magnet schools with specialized curricula to attract students of all races from around the city. To my parents (perhaps conveniently), these schools sounded as if they offered the kind of progressive learning atmosphere they had been seeking. They quickly enrolled us. James and I were to attend the school dedicated to math and science; Mary and John the one focused on performing arts.

One early September morning, our parents dropped us off in front of our respective schools. They didn’t walk us into the building. They didn’t introduce us to our new teachers. They didn’t even tell us what grade we were in. John remembers it this way: "Luckily, Mary and I deduced that, because I was 10, I would go into the lowest grade (fifth), and as an 11-year-old, she would go into the next (sixth)." As the youngest, only 5 that fall, I burst into tears when I was separated from my brother James. I hadn’t been warned that we’d be in different classes.

Going from yoga and tea (with parents) to gym and a packed lunchroom was a shock to our systems. And feeling lost wasn’t the hardest part. Looking like Goodwill poster children was. "I thought I looked great in my huaraches and striped, fiesta-themed peasant pants," Mary says. "But everyone else in the sixth grade was wearing a Led Zeppelin T-shirt and jeans. I was not too na├»ve to realize I needed to get some jeans. Quick."

Everything about the single-file, cliquey public-school system was counter to our counter-lifestyle. "I was in math class," John recalls, "sitting at a desk wondering, Am I going to have to sit in this same spot every single day from now on? The teacher was grilling kids on decimals, which I did not understand. To me it just looked like a dot! Then the teacher asked me to recite the nine multiplication table. I answered, totally nonchalantly, ‘I don’t know it.’ The teacher paused, eyes zeroing in on me, and said, ‘Boy, I’m gonna have fun with you.’" Slowly the meaning of being unable to recite lines from "Star Wars" (we’d never seen Hollywood movies) and not having feathered hair began to sink in. We were weirdos.

After asking, "I’m curious about how you basically stood it all day," Cokie Roberts repeatedly pressed my mother about our socialization. To gain independence and prepare children for the realities of adulthood, didn’t they need to be with their peers and suffer all the harsh experiences that entails?

"I don’t know if children should be put through bad school situations just so they can be socialized," my mom replied. It was a noble sentiment, but unfortunately bad situations were exactly what was in store for us, especially for John and James. "I was very green, and a few days into school this kid pushed me so hard I fell over a desk," John remembers. "I just couldn’t understand. Why would a kid want to fight me?...

At my schoolyard, James, in third grade, was instantly picked on. Within the first week, he recalls, "an older kid kicked me in the butt really hard. The other boys were laughing. A girl finally told me someone put a ‘kick me’ sign on my back. I never heard of that, teasing and pranks." James was also taken to the back of the bus and "punched incessantly" for the better part of grade school. "Oh, God, it was awful." James never told my parents. He just "took it." Was Cokie Roberts right? James thinks so. "I wasn’t around kids," he says. "The four of us were never threatened, so I didn’t learn how to stick up for myself."

My mother worried that when we went to school, she would lose her identity. But she flourished in her new job as an editor at St. Louis magazine. We were the ones who lost ours. Mary never told anyone she’d been home-schooled. "By sixth grade I knew that kids weren’t, especially back then. When you’re a kid, you don’t want to be different, you want to fit in." Mary conformed quickly and even liked the rules, like having to "write your name at the top of paper." John was picked on until he fought back, pushing his tormentor over a desk. James learned how to fit in by observing the other kids and copying what they did. "It was a chameleon act. I was never the most popular, but I eventually made friends."

I have often wondered how the home-schooled fared compared with their classbound peers. While advocates make glowing claims — that the home-schooled do better on their college boards and vote more often — there is little hard data on achievement.
Okay.  Kids get picked on at school by bullies....that sounds to me like an indictment of the school environment more than anything else.

Essentially, it was an anti-homeschooling piece written by a sullen anti-homeschooling, homeschooled girl for good measure. This is precisely how the Times operates with EVERY subject. It's like when they given John McCain space to bash the Republicans or Warren Buffet  a column to bash the wealthy.

The irony, of course, is that most of the Times-type people who homeschool, and there are plenty of them, take PRECISELY this bohemian, unschooling approach. I've personally met a bunch of them - organic eco-planet worshipers who post messages on homeschooling forums about supporting Al Gore and Occupy Wall Street.

Furthermore, the supposed 83% who homeschool for *religious/moral reasons* are the ones who most certainly follow curricula and provide academic rigor.  Most of the kids are wearing shoes too.

Now I want those 10 minutes back I wasted reading that tripe!


Anonymous said...

Well tell the NYT that as a junior in college in a Freshman class (transferred and changed majors so playing a bit of catch up) that kids in 'real' school don't know how to write. They can't write research papers. According to them no one taught them. They can't research period. They can't take nuanced ideas and research concepts dealing with it, connect dots and synthesize their own ideas. They simply can't. In our group projects, I, the upperclassman, have to take charge of the group otherwise they repeatedly type in the same nuanced topic into google and get frustrated when they pull up the same useless websites, if they pull up anything at all twenty times because they haven't the slightest clue as to how to come up with concepts that deal with the topic and go off of those. Tell them how my college has to have CRITICAL THINKING EXAMS in order to gauge how no-child-left-unscrewed has ruined these kids. While most of them are genuinely lazy idiots, the fact that they can't do anything but fill out bubbles and thus fail out of college is sickening. This is not from a professor, or an analyst. This is from a student who has had to carry three groups on my back because if I wasn't there they'd just stare into space at a loss for what to do. I don't blame them. I pity them and hope that my schools resources can save the day...this is just sad. Sure, I went to public school, but my mother also made sure that I knew how to read before I stepped foot into kindergarten. She took me to libraries and ballets and museums and taught me outside of the classroom. I grew up in the library. Now, I never read books except Jane Eyre. Why? Because I'm much more satisfied writing my own plots and formulating my own characters. I don't say this to brag but to show that even if you don't home-school, some involvement from the parent is needed to keep these kids from somehow squeezing into college and failing out because they can't do anything but fill bubbles. Honestly, a lack of critical thinking skills creates sheople, and sheople create a situation like that of Nazi Germany (not to say that that's what created the first Nazi Germany, but in the future one like it could sprout from this stupidity). Yeah, I'm so going to spend 10 years in higher education to quit my six figure job and home-school my kids. It really is that important. Unless the school system fixes itself, but I have a feeling its going to be a lot worse by the time I have kids.

CaptiousNut said...

Few Big Gov't systems can actually *fix themselves*.

Furthermore, who says the edu-system is actually broken?

It's doing exactly what it was designed to do - create consumers (of goods and opinions) and slaves (mind, wage, debt).

Viewed in light of its original design it has been wildly successful. Seriously.

Read John Gatto.

Laura said...

Agreed, a horrible and truly pointless article. No one anecdote about homeschooling proves anything about homeschooling in general. Or, for that matter, one person's experience of public school doesn't proves anything either. That's why the point Anonymous makes is so important. Parental involvement makes a huge difference.