Education Archives

Spring Break Catch-up

I was on Spring Break vacation with the family last week, so other than my post-dated blog posts, I didn’t write much … well, anything.  But I did surf the web and kept track of some articles I wanted to highlight when I came back.  Here they are, in mostly chronological order of when I found them.

Amnesty International decided that jihad was not antithetical to human rights so long as it’s "defensive". 

The bump in polling numbers after passing health care "reform" was supposed to go to Democrats.  Instead, while it’s just a measure of emotion at this point in time, you’d think that all the promises of the bill would give Democrats a few higher point.  Instead, they’re at an 18-year low.  It’s quite possible that people are only now understanding what they supported all along, because the "free" stuff isn’t materializing right now.

What was the point of the resurrection on Easter?  Don Sensing has (had) some thoughts.

The Tea Party’s ideas are much more mainstream than the MSM would like you to believe.  And Tea Partiers are much more diverse that the MSM realized.  Turns out, they did some actual journalism and found out the real story.  Imagine that.  Has the liberal slant of the press become a problem of corruption, especially with, first, the willful ignoring of the Tea Party story, and second, the willful misreporting of it?

Toyota cars have killed 52 people, and got a recall for it.  Gardasil, a cervical cancer vaccine, has had 49 "unexplained deaths" reported by the CDC and it’s still required in some states.

Changing the names to protect the guilty, the words "Islam" and "jihad" are now banned from the national security strategy document.  When the next terror attack Islamic jihadists happens, it’ll be interesting to find out how they describe it.

Cows have been exonerated of helping to cause global warming.  No, really.

Rep. Bart Stupak’s reversal of his principles is having the proper effect; he’s decided not to seek re-election.  Likely, he couldn’t get re-elected anyway, after betraying his constituents, but let this be a lesson about trusting "conservative" Democrats too much.

And finally, media scrutiny of church vs. state (click for a larger picture):

Media scrutiny

Oh, that liberal media.

Parental Consent

A teen can’t get her ears pierced without parental consent, but in more and more places they can get surgery without it.

San Diego school officials have upset pro-life advocates by adopting a new policy making it so teenagers no longer need parental consent for a host of activities, including abortion. The new policy makes it so teens can go on their own for confidential medical appointments without parental involvement.

The San Diego Unified Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to revise the policy without any opposition or debate.

Pro-abortion voices are, of course, thrilled at putting this sort of responsibility on children.

Vince Hall of Planned Parenthood told the television station he supports the change.

"Every day that the old policy was in effect, every day that the old policy guided people who work in the schools was a day that teens were really being put in danger," he claimed.

Teens were in danger because they had to get their parents’ permission to kill their unborn child?  On a daily basis?  Really? Hyperbole, anyone?

The only thing in danger was PP profits.  Follow the money.

Child Abuse: Getting Some Perspective

From George Weigel at First Things:

The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague; its manifestations run the gamut from fondling by teachers to rape by uncles to kidnapping-and-sex-trafficking. In the United States alone, there are reportedly some 39 million victims of childhood sexual abuse. Forty to sixty percent were abused by family members, including stepfathers and live-in boyfriends of a child’s mother—thus suggesting that abused children are the principal victims of the sexual revolution, the breakdown of marriage, and the hook-up culture. Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft reports that 6-10 percent of public school students have been molested in recent years—some 290,000 between 1991 and 2000. According to other recent studies, 2 percent of sex abuse offenders were Catholic priests—a phenomenon that spiked between the mid-1960s and the mid-1980s but seems to have virtually disappeared (six credible cases of clerical sexual abuse in 2009 were reported in the U.S. bishops’ annual audit, in a Church of some 65,000,000 members).

Yet in a pattern exemplifying the dog’s behavior in Proverbs 26:11, the sexual abuse story in the global media is almost entirely a Catholic story, in which the Catholic Church is portrayed as the epicenter of the sexual abuse of the young, with hints of an ecclesiastical criminal conspiracy involving sexual predators whose predations continue today. That the vast majority of the abuse cases in the United States took place decades ago is of no consequence to this story line. For the narrative that has been constructed is often less about the protection of the young (for whom the Catholic Church is, by empirical measure, the safest environment for young people in America today) than it is about taking the Church down—and, eventually, out, both financially and as a credible voice in the public debate over public policy.

I guess one question would be, if the Pope’s fair game, why not the US Secretary of Education?  If not, why not?

Are you going to home school through high school?

Are you a home school parent? Have you come up against criticism such as, “How can you be qualified to teach high school to your child”? If so, then simply hand out the following am i kwalafied 2 teech? card, which highlights an incoherent E-mail written [sic] by the President of the Detroit Public School Board.

Printing instructions: Click on the image above to open up the full-size version. Print the image, size to 3.5″ wide by 2″ tall.

Funding Failures, Suffocating Successes

In one of the McCain/Obama debates, candidate Obama promised this:

So there are some — some things that we’ve got to do structurally to make sure that we can compete in this global economy. We can’t shortchange those things. We’ve got to eliminate programs that don’t work, and we’ve got to make sure that the programs that we do have are more efficient and cost less.

OK then, how about the Head-Start program?  Does it work?  Not according to HHS.

“Head Start,” the flagship pre-kindergarten program introduced in 1965, has been a $166 billion failure. That’s the upshot of a sophisticated multi-year study just released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

An earlier iteration of the study, published in 2005, had found a few modest improvements in the language skills of participating students while they were enrolled in the program. But by the end of the first grade, even those few effects have disappeared, according to the follow-up released this month. Out of 44 separate cognitive tests given to former Head Start students at the end of the first grade, only two showed even marginally significant effects. The other 42 showed no statistically significant effect at all.

But even that overstates the case for Head Start. That’s because, on each of the 44 separate tests, there is a 1 in 10 chance of a false positive: a test result that appears to show a positive impact but is really just a random fluke. With so many test results, we’d expect to see at least a few false positives. Statisticians have ways to control for this problem, and when the authors themselves applied such a control, they found that the two apparently “significant” effects vanished.

What’s more, this applies to all the non-cognitive tests administered to students as well. After controlling for the likelihood of false positives, the study’s authors found no “socio-emotional” benefits and no “parenting practice” benefits either. No benefits to Head Start of any kind at the end of first grade. None.

Government education programs just give liberals the warm fuzzies, but we’ve spent half a century dumping money down this particular drain and no Democrat worth his NEA card would dare touch it.  Certainly President Obama won’t; he increased funding by more than a full one-third last year, and he shows no sign of stopping.

We’re not getting our money’s worth with Head Start, so how about funding another program that shows demonstrable results?

But President Obama and Congress have already had a golden opportunity to show that they will heed their own scientific evidence, supporting what works and what is efficient: the D.C. private school voucher program. The latest Department of Education study revealed that after attending private schools for three years, voucher-receiving students were reading more than two grade levels ahead of the randomized control group who had remained in public schools. What’s more, the average voucher value was a mere $6,600, compared to D.C. per-pupil education spending of over $28,000.

What did Congress do to the program that has proven itself dramatically more effective and many times more efficient than D.C.’s public system? They decided to sunset its funding, effectively killing it. What did President Obama do to save it? Nothing. He let it die despite having previously said that “if there was any argument for vouchers it was, ‘Let’s see if the experiment works.’ And if it does, whatever my preconception, you do what’s best for kids.”

Or not.

Don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.  Democrats kill education programs that work and pour money into those that don’t.  The voucher program is a classic conservative, free-market approach to education, and it works.  We need more policies like it.

Abstinence Works, and So Do Abstinence Sex-Ed Programs

Yup, the much-reviled (by the Left) program to teach kids to refrain from sex before marriage, rather than just avoiding pregnancy, seems to work.

Sex education classes that focus on encouraging children to remain abstinent can persuade a significant proportion to delay sexual activity, researchers reported Monday in a landmark study that could have major implications for U.S. efforts to protect young people against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.

Only about a third of sixth- and seventh-graders who completed an abstinence-focused program started having sex within the next two years, researchers found. Nearly half of the students who attended other classes, including ones that combined information about abstinence and contraception, became sexually active.

The findings are the first clear evidence that an abstinence program could work.

"I think we’ve written off abstinence-only education without looking closely at the nature of the evidence," said John B. Jemmott III, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who led the federally funded study. "Our study shows this could be one approach that could be used."

Critics do have a point.

Several critics of an abstinence-only approach said that the curriculum tested did not represent most abstinence programs. It did not take a moralistic tone, as many abstinence programs do. Most notably, the sessions encouraged children to delay sex until they are ready, not necessarily until married; did not portray sex outside marriage as never appropriate; and did not disparage condoms.

"There is no data in this study to support the ‘abstain until marriage’ programs, which research proved ineffective during the Bush administration," said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth.

However, this is certainly a step in the right direction.  As Rush Limbaugh has often said, abstinence works every time it’s tried, and the more this message gets to the kids, the better.  The moral reasons for it can be left to the parents.

On being an elite, gifted, Socialist student

In the U.K., it seems that gifted students are being ignored by their teachers, lest they fall into the trap of promoting elitism. Per The Daily Mail,

Many teachers are not convinced of the importance of providing more challenging tasks for their gifted and talented pupils.

Bright youngsters told inspectors they were forced to ask for harder work. Others were resentful at being dragooned into ‘mentoring’ weaker pupils.

Teachers feared that a focus on the brightest pupils would ‘undermine the school’s efforts to improve the attainment and progress of all other groups of pupils’.

I find it interesting that the students interviewed expressed frustration at not only the fact that they aren’t getting more challenging tasks, but at also being forced to mentor their weaker (read: less adept) counterparts. Indeed, one has to wonder, if students are being  asked to mentor other students, exactly what are the functions and responsibilities of teachers in U.K. schools?

Yet, I can’t help but conclude that such nonsense is but an outgrowth of a socialist mentality. Socialism, per Wikipedia, may include,

…the view that capitalism unfairly concentrates power and wealth among a small segment of society that controls capital and derives its wealth through exploitation, creates an unequal society, does not provide equal opportunities for everyone to maximise their potentialities and does not utilise technology and resources to their maximum potential nor in the interests of the public.

I’ve noticed some common threads, among those with whom I’ve debated the actions of our current administration: For one, they think that we (whether referring to the U.S. or the world) need to work together for the common good. Also, evil capitalistic greed is what has driven us to the unequal state we now find ourselves in, as a society. And, we should expect the government to be the means with which to provide and regulate the so called common good.

Do you remember this statement?

It’s not that I want to punish your success; I just want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success, too. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

– candidate Barack Obama

When not reading from his carefully prepared text, Obama tends to reveal himself a bit more clearly. Notice that he thinks we need to make sure that other people behind a successful person (aka less gifted students vs. gifted students) get their chance for success. He also thinks that when the wealth is spread around (aka gifted students forced to mentor less gifted students) it is good for everybody.

As I see it, the problem with socialistic dreaming is that it promotes the notion that human depravity can be ultimately conquered by humans themselves.

The entire course of human history has shown us otherwise.

CDC Says Sex Ed Better Than Abstinence Ed, But…

they won’t release the data from which they drew that conclusion, nor the analysis showing how they got there.  They say they have their reasons…

A spokeswoman from the CDC told that it is standard procedure for the agency not to release the complete data used by the task force to make recommendations on a range of issues, including adolescence health.

“Before CDC releases information to the public, it must go through the CDC’s scientific clearance process to ensure not only that the underlying data are accurate, but also that 1) it is presented in a manner that is clear and not prone to misinterpretation, and 2) any inferences drawn from the data are defensible,” spokeswoman Karen Hunter said.

She also said that all of the data will eventually be released when it is published in a “peer-reviewed journal,” which can take as long as one year.

Which begs the question, helpfully asked by CNS News:

When asked by how recommendations can be made before the data are proved to be “accurate” and “defensible,” Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, chairman of the task force and county director of Public Health, and health officer for the county of Los Angeles Department of Health Services, said he is “very comfortable” with the recommendations.

Well that make me feel better, or comfortable, eh?

There are a couple of folks on this 15-member task force, however that don’t support the findings.  They’ve come out against the non-release of the data and the methodology.

“We are concerned that the study averaged together the results of [Comprehensive Sex Education] programs that were very different from each other, such as programs in STD
clinics and programs in school classrooms, without identifying which kind of programs were effective,” [Irene] Ericksen told

“Doing this had the effect of glossing over the lack of results for the CSE programs in the schools, which is the setting where most teens receive sex ed,” Ericksen added.

“These programs did not significantly increase condom use, or reduce teen pregnancy or STDs,” Ericksen said. “To avoid comparing apples and oranges, a more meaningful study would have been a meta-analysis of school-based programs.”

This is almost like ClimateGate with doctors instead of climate scientists.  No transparency, just findings. 

Homeschool journals and the reliability of the Gospels

As part of our homeschooling endeavors, my wife and I will have our children keep journals while we are on road trip vacations. Besides being a method to keep them busy, the exercise also helps them learn about the various places we visit, as well as to hone their writing skills. Typically, we’ll have them keep a daily journal, encouraging them to be verbose and expressive as they relate the details of our trip.

On a recent trip, however, I asked them to take their journal writing in a slightly different direction. Instead of having them write from a perspective which relied heavily on feelings (i.e., expressing their thoughts and opinions about what we were doing), I instructed them to give an essentially historical and factual account of what transpired on the trip. They didn’t have to try and include everything that had happened each day, but only that which they considered most important or most unusual. As an added bonus to this alternative approach, my wife and I also kept trip journals.

After the trip, the journals were polished off and printed. I then had each family member read the entire set of journals. Once that task was completed, we all gathered for a group discussion. As expected, the journals were written in a chronological manner (e.g., Sep. 21, Sep. 22, Sep. 23). And, as expected, while the journals contained many of the same trip events, they were not equally comprehensive in their coverage of the trip. Descriptions varied, numerical values were sometimes rounded, specific events were ignored, etc. Due to the type of experiment I was conducting, I purposely varied the style of my journal from that of chronological to topical. I also crafted my account to include rounding, and exclude extraneous information of events that none of the other family members were a part of.

During our discussion I brought up these various differences in each of the journals. I asked what the differences might indicate (e.g., error, difference of opinion, omission). I asked if any of the differences indicated a direct contradiction or whether the differences were simply paradoxical. Essentially, I took our children through the process of harmonizing the four accounts of our trip. This was possible because the harmonization was being done on events they were eyewitness to, and the analysis was being made on data they had a direct part in producing.

Lastly, I then asked if they were aware of any other examples, of multiple accounts of the same events, having a different appearance in the forms we had just discussed. Our oldest quickly answered with, “Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,” and our youngest even piped in with the statement that Mark does not include any mention of Jesus’ birth. This, of course, was the point of my exercise: To show our children, brought up in the midst of a 21st century Western culture which prides itself in recording data comprehensively, that historical narratives can (and do) vary, and that such variances are not, in and of themselves, indicative of contradictions or errors.

I think that an exercise, such as this, is important for our children (and for some adults) to understand. During our discussion, I told our children that there are critics of Christianity, and the Bible, who will attempt to convince believers that there are irreconcilable contradictions within the text of the Bible. As this exercise hopefully demonstrated, we have the means to intelligently respond to the critics.

A Cult of Personality

"Big Hollywood" documents the latest in a long line of videos showing children singing Obama’s praises.  The videos get more and more fawning, and the kids get younger, as you move down.  Unfortunately, some of the videos have been removed, but the transcripts are still there.  Words like:

Michelle wants her daughters to think their own things. She doesn’t want their colors to do it instead. The 44th President of the USA because he beat Senator John McCain. Obama in charge of the oval office. He told Bush and his cabinet to get off this. A – a-a-a-aay. Obama is President of the USA-aaaay. Tomorrow’s a new day – ay – ay- ay- ay. And we’re living our life.

And these 11(!) videos are just the latest they’ve been made aware of.  You expect this sort of thing out of China and North Korea.  (But, thanks to George W. Bush, not from Iraq anymore.)

When schools do away with books

Officials at Cushing Academy, a Massachusetts’ prep school, have decided that library books are old fashioned and have dumped them in favor of flat screen access to the internet and… a $12,000 espresso machine.

From The New Criterion (HT: Every Thought Captive),

…James Tracy, the current headmaster, finds the whole idea of a library, and the objects they traditionally contain, positively quaint. Speaking to The Boston Globe, he actually said, apparently without embarrassment, “When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books.”

And here I thought that it was only evangelical churches in America that considered a rational approach towards text to be passe.

Robert George on Kevin Jennings

Robert George on Kevin Jennings, head of the Education Department’s Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools, who also happens to be a gay activist.

On giving up the Crunchy Con

I’ve been reading Rod Dreher, the Crunchy Conservative, for a few years now. While I’ve enjoyed most of his writing I’ve been taken aback, in the near past, with his increasing propensity to drift into some other-world region neither Right nor Left nor Libertarian nor… Crunchy. While such a position is not, in and of itself, reason to pull ranks, and while I can put up with most of his doom and gloom prognoses on issues such as the economy, a recent post of his, regarding the uproar pertaining to President Obama’s planned speech to schoolchildren nationwide is the last straw.

From Dreher,

A teacher in a Dallas suburban district just phoned the colleague of mine who works in the office next to mine. She’s a personal friend of his. He says she phoned from the break room at school, close to tears. She told him, “This is getting out of control. Parents are calling up the school and yelling at the principals. The principals are freaking out.”

All because the president of the United States is going to give an address on education to students.

Meanwhile, it took no time for a commenter on the Dallas Morning News editorial board blog to compare the president to Charles Manson. Which was followed by this:

This all sounds very familiar. Oh yea, Hitler was well liked by children. He could speak to them very well, and won them over. Hitler organized the youth as an army, complete with regiments. A boy could rise from the simple rank of just a boy to lead a squad, platoon, company, even a battalion. A girl could rise to become a leader. Even lead them into community organizers. Don’t drink any more of Obama’s Kool Aid. Wake up people.

Obama would be smart to release the text of his planned address to defuse the crazybomb on the Right. I doubt that will be enough. A Texas Republican friend this morning told me two things: a) not all conservatives agree with these people; and b) that said, this is the last straw for him, that he doesn’t want to be associated in any way with the GOP, which in his view has lost its collective mind.

No, Mr. Dreher, the furor is not because the President of the United States is going to give an address on education to students. It’s because people were sold a bill of goods when they naively thought hope and change was coming to our land (albeit, the globe) via the White House. Instead, we’ve seen a concerted effort to “spread the wealth around” with a decidedly socialist agenda. Citizens of the United States do not want government intruding into their lives and they especially do not want to let THEIR children become a captive audience to such culturally socialist mantras.

Consider this video that was shown to school children at an elementary school in Utah.

Our children should be taught about patriotism, responsibility, human rights, civic duty, and our rich history. They should not be expected to “pledge service to Barack Obama” (3:17 into the video above), or any other human, be they Democrat or Republican. Granted, the video above was not shown nationwide and is not part of the President’s planned presentation, yet one has to wonder why such a blatantly political video would be considered as acceptable to broadcast to public school children in the first place?

Parents are concerned because time has shown that increased government intrusion in the lives of its citizens results in less freedoms for said citizens. This is a president that has clearly demonstrated his desire to increase the federal government’s role in the private sector. That alone should be cause for concern when this administration expresses a desire to speak to the nation’s children – correction – the parent’s children.

Unfortunately, Dreher fails in his attempt to illustrate the utter craziness of the crazybomb Right with a blatantly disengenous comparison of his friend’s tearfully compassionate teacher with that of an anonymous foul-mouthed internet troll who compares Obama to Hitler.

So, adios Crunchy.

First Day of School

Growing up in the North, school never started until after Labor Day.  Living now in the South, it comes much earlier.  Today is the first day of school for most districts around metro Atlanta, and I have 2 in high school; one a freshman and one a junior.  For the freshman, it’s his first day of public school, and he’s looking forward to it.  All our kids have been home schooled through 8th grade.

One reason (of many) that we do this, relates to this article talking about Delaware schools.  It repeats a statistic that I’ve highlighted in the past, and think now is as good a time as any to repeat it.

Across the country, it was estimated in 2003 that nearly 10 percent of American students — or more than 4.5 million — were targets of sexual harassment or abuse by a public school employee between kindergarten and 12th grade, according to a study by former Hofstra University professor Charol Shakeshaft.

The study, commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education, said those numbers could be low because inappropriate behavior by educators is likely under-reported, Shakeshaft wrote.

Emphasis mine, as I emphasize them again.  Know your school district.  Home schooling is always an option.

Light Blogging of Late … and Why

Much of my spare time until the month of August is done will be devoted to trying to make a dent in the large reading assignments handed out in a spirituality class I’m taking. We are getting pretty unrealistic (for the employed) reading loads with the caveat to “get familiar” and not read in depth each piece. So I’m doing a lot of skimming. We’ve been reading a lot of early patristic writings moving forward slowly through the historical documents from the church on this matter. We started with very early texts and some were partially gnostic … the line between gnostic and non-gnostic is not as sharp is pretended. An interesting tidbit from that week was that the conventional wisdom regarding gnostic texts is that they were suppressed by the church. This is a hard accusation to make seeing that most of these documents we have today have been preserved in monasteries.

The next week we read and discussed works of Origen, Evagrius and St. Gregory of Nyssa (his Life of Moses an allegorical reading of the history of Moses). St. Gregory remains overall probably the most prominent non-celibate church father. Even though married and not celibate he penned a famous defence of virginity, in praise of the celibate life. He was happily married, this was not a document motivated by any misogynistic strains. However, his wife and child (children?), died relatively young … this was an age where the average age for women was substantially lower than men because of the risks of childbirth … and children frequently died in their early years. We didn’t read this defence, it would be off topic, but it was mentioned in passing. We also read the St. John Cassian books/chapters from the Institutes on the eight passions. I do really like reading St. John’s writings, which I find refreshingly straightforward and practical.

For next time the large part of what we are reading comes from the pseudo-Macarian homilies, Isaac of Sketis (which I haven’t printed for reading yet), some letters of St. Antony, and Evagrius “on tempting thoughts”. I thought I’d finish tonight with a few observations on what I’ve garnered on monasticism in the early church (3rd century and going forward a few centuries).

What were these men and women doing going into the desert in small cenobitic communities and even solitary isolation? One analogy might be to today’s large scientific projects like the Manhattan or Genome project. This was a project to discover what regimen, what practices and what methods might be used to shape the human self to the ideal they and their community envisioned. It was a radical (or “extreme” in today’s reality TV vernacular) project in which these people, using themselves as both the subject and experimenters. You find a common element in their writing, the urge to observe others and “take the best examples” from each and try to emulate that quality. It seems obvious that we could learn more than a little from their centuries of experimentation.

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