3/06/2008

SCHOOLED...AND IT'S ABOUT TIME

Home schoolers are in for a shock. An appeals court ruling has affirmed that existing California law does not permit parents without teaching credentials to define their household as a private school for the purpose of educating children.

The fur is going to fly over this one. Personally, I think this is overdue. Most parents who teach their own children are not going to do a good job in math or science instruction, and the state has the right to expect a minimum level of competence. Kids who are home schooled for much of their education often do well on the SAT's and excel in subject matter that can be absorbed through books and skill rehearsal, but home schooling is never going to be the best way to train engineers, doctors or scientists. Laboratory experience is essential: just how many parents are going to have the skill and dedication to obtain a fetal pig and dissect same, or set up an acid-base titration or master the math necessary to teach introductory physics? Not too many, and right now many of these well-meaning parents (at least I prefer to think their heart's in the right place) are getting a free pass, for the most part oblivious to or indifferent to the gaping holes in their own education.

Having said all that, though, I think that there should be an alternative to credentialing for parents who want to home-school their own children exclusively. California should require them to pass the CBEST for basic skills, then take survey courses (at their own expense, natch) their first year of teaching in order to familiarize them with the standards. Parents should be given the opportunity to challenge these courses by examination, of course. Parents should also be required to purchase/lease textbooks that teach the standards from their local school district. Parents whose students tested 'below basic' should be required to take additional coursework to maintain their certificate.

15 comments:

Forthekids said...

I don't home school, but I think this ruling is horrendous.

My youngest has recently run across several of his friends at church who he found out are homeschooled, and he was very impressed with their education. He said, "they're really smart, Mom".

Lately, with the NCLB crap educators are having to deal with, I'm not sure it wouldn't be the better option to home school. Shoot, my son missed 3 days of school this week due to being sick, and I wasn't impressed with the amount of work he had to make up. He was finished with it in no time. I often wonder if our public schools aren't pushing our students hard enough.

My oldest is irritated because he complains that they have to focus so much time on what they will have to know for yearly testing.

I hope the next administration cans NCLB.

Stan said...

"The state has a right"?? Scott, you are way off base on this. The state is not the parent or the guardian of children. The state has no right over their minds. This smacks of required state schooling in totalitarian regimes.

"Parents should be required..." Again, statism, dictating. The parents have been denied their right to determine what is right for their children. That right is now with the state. This is now only one step from state conscription of children. The excuse for this seizure of rights is the presumed inability of parents to properly educate. This has only in recent history become the function of the state.

Your assumption that training to be engineers, doctors or scientists is the only reason for education is also way off base. Science is only a small part of education. The lack of chemicals is no more an issue than the lack of trips to Appomatox or Europe or Australia, or even to Mount Palomar. What about learning technology without trips to oil rigs or integrated circuit factories? Manufacturing management without trips to automobile manufacturers or steel mills? Literature without trips to Stratford-on-Avon? Civics without a trip to D.C.?

Education is learning how to learn, and loving to learn. Those who receive this, will succeed.

Training is not education. Science is not all there is.
The state usurpation of parental rights is dangerous; dictation of educational content is also dangerous.

Forthekids said...

These two articles indicate that homeschoolers are indeed outperforming their public school peers.

Sounds to me like the public schools are feeling threatened by the performance of home schoolers.

The state has no right to dumb down kids whose parents take the time to provide them with an advanced education.

Peter said...

I mostly agree with Stan in principle, but Scott is basically correct when he says "the state has the right to expect a minimum level of competence." The only problem with that statement is that it doesn't use the correct legal term. If you say it like this, it's correct: "the state has a valid interest in expecting a minimum level of competence."

The difficulty with this case and others, on up to the U.S. Supreme Court, is that they are not making homeschooling unconstitutional. Rather, they are holding that states can constitutionally regulate education, even to the extent of making it compulsory and disallowing homeschooling except under specific and stringently defined circumstances.

The rationale for these cases is that so long as states are not infringing any rights protected by the federal Constitution, they have the power to regulate education, and they have an interest in ensuring that all children within their borders receive the same quality of education.

That's why the parents in this case challenged on the basis of their religious beliefs. They wanted the court to find that the state regulation of education unconstitutionally infringed on their federally protected right to free exercise of religion. But while the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the Amish to pull their kids out of compulsory education after 8th grade, courts have been extremely hesitant to allow other religious claims to succeed. They are generally looking for some very specific, lifestyle-integrated beliefs that justify an exception. The parents in this case basically just said, Our religious beliefs conflict with the policies of California and we don't want our kids exposed to those policies. (Specifically, they don't want their kids exposed to tolerance of homosexuality.)

Basically, the problem is that legislatures pass compulsory education laws, and, absent a viable constitutional challenge, the judiciary will defer to those laws. Furthermore, since the judiciary has a hard time saying that states don't have a valid interest in ensuring the same quality of education for all their children, knocking down compulsory education through lawsuits is pretty much going to be a fruitless endeavor.

In other words, if you're no fan of compulsory education, the horrendous thing here is not the court's opinion (which rests on the statute and on precedents from California courts), but the legislature's decision to make education compulsory, and the extremely basic underlying problem of arguing that states have no interest in ensuring the same quality of education for all their children. (Yes, I know it starts to sound like a drift toward fascism, but really, good luck trying to argue that states have no interest in educational quality.)

Finally, the family in the case is not exactly a saintly bunch. A related opinion, which was not published, recounts their 20 year history of problems with the Department of Child and Family Services stemming from the father's physical abuse of the children and his failure to prevent sexual abuse of his daughters by his friends. It's a pretty long and sordid tale. Getting these kids out of their parents' house all day and into public schools would actually be a major step up for them, socially, emotionally, and all around.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Science is only a small part of education. The lack of chemicals is no more an issue than the lack of trips to Appomatox or Europe or Australia, or even to Mount Palomar.

No, science is one of the pillars of education in a global economy. As populations grow, the interdependence of all members in managing common resources leads, whether we like it or not, to the tyranny of the state. Whether you like it or not, Stan, federal and state laws are on the books that allow the government to take over local schools that are low-performing. Of course, local school districts could reassert their independence, but there's a catch....

They'd have to pay all their own bills! Most school districts are stuck to the federal/state teat of funding, because most communities do not have either the resources or the will to properly fund their public schools. People don't pay for their education, typically, so they expect the government to pay for it. But, incredibly, many well-educated people feel that the local board should still have all the say where that's concerned.

See, I don't see this as an individual rights issue. I see this as another example of the tragedy of the commons. The education of the populace concerns the entire community, and if significant numbers of parents opt out of science by abandoning formal schooling (because that is pretty much what happens), it damages our community's ability to compete in the global marketplace. In the long run, ecological realities trump traditional beliefs: you might as well talk about the 'right' of individual parents to have as many children as they want, regardless of the food supply, or the 'right' of individuals to dump sewage into the river they share with their neighbour. The concept of such 'rights' surely exist, but the assumptions that promulgated them (illimitable, inexhaustible resources) were an illusion. The best way to safeguard what little liberties that are left to us in an increasingly complex world is to promote scientific literacy, and I don't think an educational system that allows parents to completely opt out of their obligation to the community promotes scientific literacy.

Forthekids said...

Scott, Dude, they are excelling ABOVE THEIR PEERS in science as well.

Our public schools are turning into a political horror show, and it's obvious that if a parent is serious enough to pull their child out of the public schools, they are dedicated to giving them the best education possible. Their children have individual attention like no other. It's no wonder they excell.

Get past your "secular science rules" mentality, and look at the bigger picture here. Home schoolers are dominating their peers in the universities as well.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Ftk:

Scott, Dude, they are excelling ABOVE THEIR PEERS in science as well.

What's your source for this claim? If true, for example, we might expect that a higher frequency of home-schoolers would earn graduate degrees in science than their representation in the general population. If you have such data, I'd like to hear it.

BTW, I have no doubt that many home schoolers excel in the law and in other fields that put a premium on individual scholarship. There is self-selection in the home-schooling population for activities that do promote intellectual growth. I am definitely not opposed to such activities, nor do I think that the public-school environment is the right thing for all students, all of the time. But I do think teachers should be credentialed if they are teaching kids other than their own, in order to ensure a certain minimal standard of competence. I mean, what is all this NCLB/state standards/teacher certification about? Why shouldn't home-schooling parents be required to meet a comparable standard?

Peter:

Thank you for your informed post. You explained what I meant by 'right' far better than I could, not being a legal scholar. Indeed, the individual parents have rights, and the schools (as agents of government) have, as you say, a valid interest in promoting competence. I want to clarify that I am not oppossed to home-schooling per se, just the indiscriminate de facto licensing of uncredentialed (and largely unqualified) persons.

Stan Stephens said...

So the global economy trumps individual rights? (It is indeed individual rights we're discussing). And the ecology trumps individual rights?

And now, our competitive edge in the global marketplace trumps individual rights?

Here's some other things that could be listed as trumping individual rights: national security; freedom from birth defects; freedom from improper breeding; racial purity; right to experiment on humans; right to monitor improper thinking patterns; right to monitor home behavior; right to conscript children.

These have all trumped individual human rights in the past, so they are not fantasies.

These are brought into place via the Hegelian "thesis - antithesis - synthesis" mechanism, aka "boiling a live frog". They have taken somewhat longer in the U.S. than in europe, but the encroachment is persistent and imminent.

The logic is always apocalyptic, as you demonstrate, going in this general vein: "our very existence depends on the state assuming these rights, which the individual will never miss; for the good of mankind, the individual man must submit". You do know what kind of philosophy this is, don't you?

Stan said...

Well Scott, your above post arrived while I was writing mine and seems to somewhat ameliorate some of your earlier appearance of intolerance of homeschooling.

However, you still seem eager to financially punish homeschool parents, who must pay for government schools as well as their own, and now extra government mandated costs. The proposal requiring certification at the parents expense is legally known as an unfunded mandate, and has been made illegal at least here.

I also would be interested to see the progress of homeschooled scholars through degree programs. Maybe much of this concern is based on a lack of empirical data, and improper assumptions. Or maybe it is just poitical.

Stan said...

A quick google got me this:

"A survey of more than 7,300 adults who were homeschooled, conducted by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) showed that of homeschool graduates aged 18 to 24, 74% had taken college courses, compared with 46% among the general population in that same age group. Further, about 12% of those surveyed homeschoolers had received bachelor's degrees, compared with 8% of the general population. And 50% of homeschoolers had some college but no degree, compared with 34% of the general population. Almost 9% of homeschoolers had two-year associate degrees, compared with 4% of the general population."

As with all surveys, this is not confirmable by the reader.

However, US education is not really in a statistical position to crow about its ability to produce educated people. Which one reason people homeschool.

Stan said...

Comprehensive university study:

http://epaa.asu.edu/epaa/v7n8/

Table 3.3
Median Scaled Scores (corresponding national percentile)
by Subtest and Grade for Home School Students
Grade N Composite Reading Language Math Soc. Stud. Science National
Median

[table deleted due to size]

It is readily apparent from Table 3.3 that the median scores for home school students are well above their public/private school counterparts in every subject and in every grade. The corresponding percentiles range from the 62nd to the 91st percentile; most percentiles are between the 75th and the 85th percentile. The lowest percentiles are in Mathematics Total with Computation subtest (labeled Math in the tables); the highest in Reading Total. While the grade-to-grade increase in national medians is 13 DSS points in the lower grades, the annual increase for home school students is about 16 points. These are exceptional scores and exceptional grade-to-grade gains.

this includes math and science.
Comments?

Stan said...

Based on empirical data, then, I'd say that concern about the quality and results of homeschooling is misplaced.

In fact it can be shown that the quality of education via government schools is inferior to homeschooling, and that it is inversely proportional to a) amount of money spent on it, and b) the degree of government intervention.

So it is not likely that the homeschools are an issue for our position in the international market place. In fact the bigger threat to that position is government schooling, with its demonstrated lower levels of performance.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

These are exceptional scores and exceptional grade-to-grade gains.

this includes math and science.
Comments?


Nothing at the present time, other than my gratitude for providing food for thought.

However, you still seem eager to financially punish homeschool parents, who must pay for government schools as well as their own, and now extra government mandated costs. The proposal requiring certification at the parents expense is legally known as an unfunded mandate, and has been made illegal at least here.

The last time I checked public education was burdened at the federal and state level by numerous unfunded mandates, and there doesn't seem to be much that can be done about it. A couple of states have tried to litigate NCLB because of its' unfunded mandates, and they've been sent packing by the courts. So, the fact that it's not funded doesn't seem to bother the bureaucrats.

Besides, it's simply untrue that home schoolers derive no benefit from that portion of their taxes which are used to fund public education. Schools provide many basic services to communities, depress the size of the labor pool and (when well-maintained) boost property values, etc.

And the fact is, home schoolers cost their communities education dollars. Every student that doesn't attend public school effectively penalizes their local district close to $100/day in federal and state funds which are tied to attendance. This is why I think they should contribute financially to the process that would certify them if they choose to home school, because as it is they are making out like a bandit.

By the way, just to show that I'm consistent, I think parents who send their kids to legitimate private schools that hire credentialed teachers should receive a tax credit.

Stan said...

Scott said:
"Every student that doesn't attend public school effectively penalizes their local district close to $100/day in federal and state funds which are tied to attendance."

I think maybe we have hit upon the real reason for striking out at home schools: money in the pants of the school districts, due to government funding procedures.

Also, I think the community benefits from the homeschooled as well, perhaps more due their higher motivations. I suspect that trying to push these comparisons will be fruitless though.

Forthekids said...

It looks like Schwarzenegger isn't going to put up with the BS. He blasted the ruling.

Good for him...

Thanks for all the excellent information, Stan.