Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Carnival of Homeschooling is Up

Go check out the Carnival of Homeschooling--week 3. I found this link to an article by George Will quite interesting:

In 2002 the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education declared that a "professional disposition" is "guided by beliefs and attitudes related to values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice." Regarding that last, the Chronicle reports that the University of Alabama's College of Education proclaims itself "committed to preparing individuals to"—what? "Read, write and reason"? No, "to promote social justice, to be change agents, and to recognize individual and institutionalized racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism," and to "break silences" about those things and "develop anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-sexist community [sic] and alliances."

Wow, time for indoctrination but our kids can't read or reason--no wonder so many parents are homeschooling. But my real question is, with the shortage of male teachers, who is "breaking the silence" about institutionalized sexism?

Udate: Ann Althouse also discusses the gender gap in education.


Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Schools are designed by women for girls. In the long run, that works out to many boys' advantage, as they learn that life isn't fair. But the system does seem to break an inordinate amount of boys in the process.

Most of the junk you hear about how girls are developmentally older is just a rationalization for the fact that we design schools which highlight their skills more than boys.

Yeah, yeah, I know lots of folks out there think this can't possibly be true, and find it infuriating that I should even suggest such things. Raise sons and see for yourself. Wait until your son's science fair project on fractals doesn't even place because the middle-school judges don't understand it and it's messy, while the girls knock down the top prizes with baking-soda and vinegar volcanos and drawings of the circulatory system because they're neat.

But as I said, life isn't fair, and it's sometimes good to learn that early.

7:25 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


That is just part of the equation--some men feel that the school environment stereotypes men who want to work with children. An article from the Christian Science Monitor looks at the problem:

"Nelson notes that the fear of accusation of abuse is another barrier to men entering the teaching profession. "I have had men tell me that they are not being hired or they can't get an interview because people think there is something wrong with a man who wants to work with children," Nelson says."


9:34 AM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave - Why do you believe teaching pays so poorly? Compared to what? And what about relative benefits, time off and employment risks?

Rot set into our educational systems in earnest in the 60s. Think war protests, NEA unionization, a radical feminist movement targeting education - and using educational institutions as safe harbors from which to advance the cause; the first women's and ethnic studies programs; proliferation of women's centers; quotas in higher education; seedlings that grew into full-blown political correctness and erosion of basic educational values; dumbing down the SAT... And the list goes on.

By and large, schools at all levels tend to be rats nests of liberal thought that has been strongly influenced by radical feminist cant, and we are now three generations into the problem. There just isn't much comfortable space for males in that kind of environment, either as teachers or students. And the "true believers" are not likely to change through any introspective process. Thought, in fact, is foreign to the breed.

11:26 AM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Psych Pundit said...

Less frequently noted: There's also a shortage of talented FEMALE teachers. Ironically enough, it looks like it's an unintended consequence of the feminist movement. Until about 40 years ago, a high percentage of the best and brightest career-oriented young women used to become teachers. But as career options for talented women opened up in the 1960s and beyond, the talent level in the teaching ranks plummeted. Yesterday's female teachers are today's doctors, lawyers, and CEOs.

Along these lines, I was appalled to hear from a colleague recently that the mean GRE score (nationally) among graduate students in schools of education has fallen below 900 (combined Verbal & Quantitative) - FAR lower than you'll see in any other field of study. Although there are some wonderful exceptions out there . . . by and large, public school teachers just aren't that bright any more.

11:51 AM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Helen,

Henry Cate let me know that you mentioned my post. Thanks!

12:08 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

psych pundit

The low GRE's for Education majors goes back at least 30 years. I'm not suggesting that this invalidates anything you wrote.

Homeschooling has some regional differences. In some parts of the country, if I child is homeschooled, it is usually for K-8 or K-12. Here in NH, many children are homeschooled for a year or two. Our only experience with it was the first 4 months our Romanian sons were in America, as we prepped them to go to a local Christian school.

12:31 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

I think that homeschooling is increasing in general as people become less and less tolerant of the public schools--both because of the PC environment and the poor learning that goes on there. Did anyone see the special the other night by John Stossel about why American students are getting "stupider" despite all of the money being thrown at education? I thought it made some really great points and exposed the teacher's unions for what they are--particularly in NYC. They used many of the ideas in Jay Greene's book "Education Myths."

Interestingly, one of the myths is about teacher pay and as auld pharte pointed out--it is not that bad. Greene compared teacher pay to engineers and other professionals and found that it is comparable due to fewer hours worked and summer breaks. Greene found that teachers worked an average of 7.3 hours a day for 180 hours a day--not bad.

12:51 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Psych Pundit said...

Asst. Village Idiot - Yes, the phenomenon of low GREs among education students goes back for decades. My point was that the trajectory has been one of steady decline . . . which has led to the nightmare scenario today in which education majors/grad students score a couple standard deviations below their peers in other disciplines on relevant standardized tests.

But, hey, at least they're preparing to be 'agents of change' (whatever that means).

1:03 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger DADvocate said...

Assistant Village Idiot and psych pundit are correct about the GRE scores. When I began undergraduate school in 1969 at the venerable institution where DrHelen's spouse now teaches, the university was completing a program in which curriculums were adjusted to be "easier" for non-education majors.

This was brought about by the fact that, at that point, education majors had the highest average GPAs and the lowest average GRE scores. Of course, the university's response was to dumb down the whole university. As a student I didn't complain but when you wonder why today's graduates don't quite measure up...

1:10 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 2 small children and I have decided to homeschool them both. I have a plethora of reasons for doing so, but the fact they are both boys figures highly into my decision. I do think that the available evidence strongly demonstrates a bias against males in public schools. Add to that the increasingly poor quality of education that children receive today and I think my sons will be better off.

I started teaching my oldest to read when he was 4. He just turned 5 and he is easily reading out of our neighbor's daughter's 3rd grade reading book. His progress has been wonderful. I think the fact the he can progress at his own pace and not be held back by the standards of the lowest common denominator that dictate the administration of education in public school classrooms will definitely benefit him in the long run.

Quite frankly, I am more concerned with my son's ability to read and do arithmetic at this age then I am about his awareness of "social justice".

2:47 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Kathy said...

I taught high school English for two years. Then I got married and moved away, and considered teaching again. After talking to other teachers and discovering that the situation in the school at which I had worked was not substantially different from other schools, I decided to take a clerical position, at lower pay, instead. I got a master's degree in Information Systems and went to work in the business world. Why? Not because of the pay. Because I found the schools to be a nightmare of incompetence and lack of caring. There were good teachers; don't get me wrong. But the older teachers were mostly holding on for retirement and just doing what they had to to get by, never mind what the students needed. The younger teachers in general had not a clue, and although we officially had a mentoring program it in reality did not function. (My mentor was my department head, whose son was even in one of my classes the first year I taught. I *never* was able to meet with her and she *never* sought me out.) Those who could get a job elsewhere usually left after a few years. Almost all the male teachers, by the way, were coaches who got a little extra money for those duties.

I was an English major, not education, but I had to take extra education classes to get my teaching certificate. I was a straight-A student, and I found the education classes to be pathetic, almost without exception. The interesting thing is that not one of my education courses actually taught me how to teach English, and only one of them even covered what to do in a classroom at all. That one covered generic lesson planning, essentially. And if you've ever read the state requirements for a particular grade level, at least here in Texas, they're well nigh incomprehensible. Most teachers of my acquaintance played games with their lesson plans to give lip service to covering the requirements because to do otherwise would be a)impossible (not enough time) and b)a mess (because no coherence).

My oldest is just turning 5, and we're homeschooling. We're using a challenging curriculum (but one that doesn't start traditional academics until the children are older, which I also like), and I can deal with "values such as caring, fairness, honesty, responsibility, and social justice" within the context of our own religious beliefs, thereby saving the schools that burden.

3:55 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...

Jeanne and Kathy,

Thanks for sharing your homeschooling stories. I am always in awe of parents who homeschool--I am not sure I would have the patience. How do you plan to teach social skills?

4:03 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Helen, what social skills are you referring to? Interaction with other children of the same age?

Unless parents are homeschooling from an igloo on the North Pole, I'd imagine their children would interact with others through sports, church youth groups, neighborhood kids etc...

This is one of the most often raised criticisms of home schooling, but one which I find most baffling.

I'd imagine that a homeschooled child would get the benefits of social interaction but they'd also be protected to a certain extent from the, I can't think of a good phrase for it, unfettered peer associations that many kids today have in place of or alongside a traditional family-centric home life, absorbing the mores of the lowest common denominators in their peer groups (peers whose parent(s) choose not to parent or provide a structured upbringing for their children).

I think a person would be better off without some of those elements in their formative years.

4:34 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I think social skills primarily start in the home (perhaps this is a faulty assumption?), in the interaction that the child sees between his/her parents and between other siblings. Also, I do believe that the age-segregated environment that public schools (and private too!) employ is artificial and not the best way to really teach children how to interact with others.

For my children, I use a variety of methods. One is community classes. My city has a program where homeschooled children get together once a week and do art and physical education classes together. I also belong to a homeschooling group that frequently meets so the children have an opportunity to learn and play toghether, go on field trips, go to plays, etc. The advantage I see is that my sons play and interact with children and adults of all different ages.

Of course, my sons are also involved in martial arts lessons, community soccer, and our church, so every week they have ample opportunity to mix and mingle with lots of different groups of children and adults.

So far is has been a win-win situation all around. I am biased of course, but they are well- behaved, polite, and happy little boys.

4:40 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Kathy said...

I agree with msplank and Jeanne. We're in two homeschool groups already, plus we have church (2 hours on Sunday morning plus another 1-1/2 hours on Sunday night for Awana, with some of the same and some different kids each time) and we do gymnastics class once a week. We do a weekly park day with one of the homeschool groups, twice a month playday at the church (not confined to church members, though), plus other activities at times. That's plenty. I have three children and may have at least one more, so we get a great deal of social interaction at home. :-) If we chose she could participate in a co-op through one of the homeschool groups where she would take classes from other moms/dads three Fridays a month, but we probably won't do that.

I think that learning to interact appropriately with family members plus a few other groups is really sufficient to provide social skills training. I say that based on the wonderful, well adjusted older homeschool students I know. And I don't have to worry about the cruelty that often goes on in classroom and school playground socializing. It probably happens some at church too, but it's better monitored there and it's only once a week.

There are weird homeschool kids, just like there are weird public school kids. But mostly you'll notice those kids are from weird families, and they would have been weird no matter what school they went to. Most homeschoolers of my acquaintance face the problem of limiting social opportunities because if you take advantage of all the activities available you'll have no time for actual school or family time.

5:04 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

It is true that home-schooled children achieve social skill and have plenty of interaction (many local homeschoolers band together for regular events). As well as such things can be tested, they actually seem to be superior in some measures, such as leadership.

There is a small subset of deeply pathological people who homeschool to keep their children from contact with others. There is usually some odd religious belief attached to this, with the father believing that he is chosen or special. Unsurprisingly, they seldom find churches willing to go along with this interpretation. I know that this is the stereotype that homeschoolers often have to contend against, and I don't want to play it too strongly, but it is not a fantasy.

5:10 PM, January 18, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

I forgot to mention: There are good school systems and great things being tried. I posted on Daviess County, KY's great program a few days ago.


5:47 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know what homeschooled kids will not learn?

They won't learn to sit quietly in rows and soak up whatever the flavor of the month is, sociologically. Boys who are active will be labeled ADD, and their parents encouraged to drug them so that they are quiescent.

Doesn't sound like homeschool is all that bad!

I keep hearing that parents can indoctrinate their own kids. Sure. But all teenagers rebel against their parents. So what is the point?

My hat is off to homeschoolers.

May I recommend a book written by a fellow who was homeschooled? It is called "On Common Things" by Jedidiah Purdy. Many critics disliked it because Purdy attacked the common "cool ironic" view of our ruling classes. But it is still worth a read---if for no other reason, Purdy is an example of what home schooling can be.

5:47 PM, January 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am really interested in why boys are not doing well in school.

One of my thoughts was that the obliteration of single-sex schools has been bad for boys. One would think all male education would be more geared towards male learning styles.

But I wonder if this is true. I do not know if there ever was a time in the last 100 years when male education was not based around sittig still in a classroom. Boys have always dropped out to learn trades, etc., which is now considered evidence of failure though it was not in the past. The difference was that classroom education was not seen as necessary for a decent job.

Can anyone here comment on attending an all male school? Was that better for boys? Or is some entirely different approach needed?

7:26 PM, January 18, 2006  
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