Monday, August 20, 2007

Continuing the homeschooling discussion

Some people may not be following the active discussion that was going on for a week or so in the comments section of my post about homeschooling. I've been planning to reply to johngalt666's last comment, but as I mentioned originally, it takes me a while to keep up with a long discussion while I'm also in school. Since the conversation is now buried under two months worth of posts, I thought I'd take this opportunity to start a fresh thread. Be warned, this is going to jump around a bit, as I try to organize a fairly disjointed conversation.

When I suggested that Johngalt666 was looking to replace public schools with private school vouchers, he wrote:

Here is where I get really confused. You list two issues that I am bringing up and yet I did not bring up either of the issues you name. I never said homeschooling was a superior alternative for most students. I also never said anything about vouchers. So though it LOOKS like you are responding to me, I find myself looking around for the person you are actually talking too.

I apologize for making this unwarranted assumption. I have spoken to several advocates of abolishing public schools, and most at least claim to want to put in temporary measures to fill in the gap, in the form of vouchers. Perhaps most of them do, ultimately, want to eliminate the public funding of schools entirely, but most couch the discussion in terms of private vouchers in order to mask that intention.

Johngalt666 then wrote:

But right now, where I live, there are no better alternatives to homeschooling. There are no excellent public schools near me. There are no excellent private schools near me. I know at least one school that would be an excellent choice for my children but I can not move several states over to enroll them.

Followed by:

Further, the facts remain that: (a) most parents are effectively compelled to send their children to public schools, since they are taxed to support these schools and cannot afford to pay the additional fees required to send their children to private schools; (b) the STANDARDS of education, controlling ALL schools, are prescribed by the government; (c) the growing trend in American education is for the government to exert wider and wider control over every aspect of education. Well, by now the government basically does control every aspect of education.

So now, taking all of the above into account, let me try to make sure I understand you correctly.

You don't like public schools, that much is clear. You seemed downright offended that when I presumed that you would support vouchers, which is the commonly suggested alternative. You also acknowledge that homeschooling is not the right choice for everyone. You wish that there were more and better private school options in your area, but there are not.

Essentially, your solution to the issue of public schools is to eliminate them altogether. And then you propose to replace them with...

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Your position is that "government" should be out of schools entirely: no funding, no standards, no support whatsoever. Parents who can afford private schools will send their kids to private schools. Parents who have the time, inclination, and ability to homeschool will do so. All other kids are left to fend for themselves.

Really? I want to make totally sure I'm not misstating your position, but I can't wait around for the conversation to synchronize, so let me just work with the assumption that this is what you mean.

Clearly this goes way beyond your issue with how public schools are performing. If the problem were simply the fact that kids aren't getting a good enough education, then your solution might have involved doing something to improve it. But instead, you are apparently advocating a system that eliminates many existing schools entirely, thereby ensuring that large swaths of the country have access to no education whatsoever.

By your own statement, there are no quality private schools in your area, and therefore you are forced to homeschool. So under your plan, you wish to essentially nuke funding for the public schools so that other parents who already send their kids there will now have no recourse apart from choosing from the private schools -- which by your own claims are evidently just as bad in your area -- or devoting the same amount of time that your family does to homeschooling. I suppose we'll have to assume that those people don't all have jobs or anything.

I'm just stumped about how you think this will improve the overall state of education in your area. Surely there are quite a few parents who will wind up opting not to bother with education at all -- I mean, if the oppressive government isn't to be involved in education, then there are no longer any educational standards or requirements. That doesn't worry you? Having a new generation of kids growing up who, instead of receiving below standard education, will now be completely lacking in any education whatsoever?

When you talk of public schools you seem to want to throw out studies of the nation as a whole and when you talk of homeschoolers you only seem to want studies that include the whole nation. If national studies of public schools leave you unsatisfied, why would national studies of homeschoolers be more satisfying?

I didn't throw out the studies; I accept and agree with your claim that public schools are not doing as well as they ought to be doing (and, based on the examples provided by other countries, could be doing). This is a point where you seem to think we disagree, when in fact I'm letting you know that we don't.

The problem I have is that you seem to have jumped from a premise: ("public schools are not doing well") to some kind of conclusion. Either that conclusion is: "Homeschooling and private schools are an adequate replacement for what they actually do" or: "Maybe there is no adequate universal replacement for public schools, but I'm willing to eliminate the benefit that those schools do provide so that I don't have to pay any taxes towards them." Neither of these conclusions seems to follow naturally from the premise, nor from the sparse and sketchy studies that you've provided (about which I'll say more shortly).

You said:

Look back again, Kazim. I do not state or imply that all these students would be better served by homeschooling. Later I even list four options for parents (not intending it to be an exhaustive list) and then state that ANY CHOICE can be correct.

As I read it, your four choices were:

  1. Public school.
  2. Private school.
  3. Move somewhere where there are better public and/or private schools (how is this a different option from the first two?)
  4. Home schooling.

But of those four, you've expressed a desire to sandbag one of them, so that leaves three, or perhaps two since option 3 is really just another angle on 1 and 2. Not only that, the one that you'd get rid of is the choice that most parents choose. My parents both worked, and they chose the place to live where they could get the best jobs. Roughly 3/4 of my education took place in public schools, as did the vast majority of other professional adults I have met. Why so eager to eliminate this system entirely?

Now, let me turn to your studies on homeschooling.

While I am starting to doubt seriously that any study by any source will satisfy you if it doesn’t agree with you, I will point you to some more info you may not have seen here. Though it seems you didn’t follow the link to the national studies of public schools above (based on your writing), I hope you will follow this one and read it. Google the articles sources and that sort of thing. I won’t spoon-feed it to you, as I don’t really think it matters too much. See below.

I did follow your studies on public school performance earlier, and my comment about them still stands. As I said, I simply don't disagree with you that public schools underperform their stated goals, but that it doesn't make the case for the argument you're trying to make -- i.e., it is worse than no public school at all.

I've now gone through the article you linked. At first glance, it appeared to contain a whole lot of references to independent studies. On further examination, it seems to me that it contains just two original studies, followed by numerous other articles that merely cite those studies. The first one was performed by the president of the "National Home Education Research Institute." The second one was published and underwritten by the "Home School Legal Defense Association," which is also the source of the original post you submitted gathering all these different studies in one place. Those are a useful place to start, but difficult to take seriously as an unbiased source.

Looking further into these articles was even more troubling. For instance I found that Lawrence Rudner's study was in fact published in the peer-reviewed educational journal,
Education Policy Analysis Archives, which is a good sign. But it was shortly followed by a related article that neatly underlines the overall issue surrounding the way these studies are conducted.

This article, entitled "Contextualizing Homeschooling Data: A Response to Rudner", looks at article published by Lawrence Rudner and points out some serious flaws in his methodology. What they agree on is the premise of the article: among students who took a test administered by Bob Jones University, the homeschooled kids who were picked for the study performed better than the private and public schooled kids who were picked for the study. However, they then go on to highlight a number of reasons why this is not nearly as relevant as it sounds:

  • Participation in the testing is voluntary. That means that the only homeschooled students who worked on the tests were those whose parents emphasized tests, while students who are "unschooled" or otherwise opposed to testing are excluded from the sample. In other words, this is a very specific and unrepresentative cross-section of all home schoolers. This point can't be understated: The author of the article admits that it wasn't a scientific sample. The response to the article highlights just how much that lack of objectivity undercuts the main point.
  • The testing was performed by Bob Jones University. I mean, come on, those guys weren't even accredited until last year, and before that point they were well known as a weird racist fundamentalist outlier. As an atheist (I think you said?), I'd be surprised if you took anything seriously that comes out of Bob Jones University.
  • As I noted before, Rudner's being paid by something called the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is a homeschooling advocacy group. That fact in itself does not make their study wrong, but it does call into question their status as a group conducting an objective, impartial study.

Interestingly enough, I tried to find out more information about HSLDA, and found to my somewhat distaste that they are themselves an explicitly fundamentalist group. HSLDA supports Christian Dominionist causes such as, for example, working to outlaw gay marriage, and they also advise parents on how to get away with beating their kids without getting in trouble. Again, this in no way invalidates the study, such as it is, but it still seems to me a poor choice to use as an authority on the efficacy of homeschooling.

Later, you write:

Personally, I don’t really care if homeschoolers outperform public schools or not. There are many indicators that they do but that is irrelevant to why I don’t want public schools.

Ultimately, this is exactly my point. You want to demonstrate that homeschooling is more effective than public schooling, but that is a side issue for you, because the bottom line is that you don't really care whether the end result is kids being better educated. That's the difference here: I do care about what is the most effective strategy for getting kids educated. That's my bottom line. It so happens that I also disagree with your political viewpoint that government involvement is nearly universally evil, but that's beside the original point that I was making.

My previous post was about the remarkable lack of serious, comprehensive, and unbiased data on how well homeschoolers perform as a whole. There is almost nothing in the way of regulation or standards when it comes to homeschooling. Some parents do a great job, absolutely, but there isn't any rigorous analysis on the success rates. Mostly, support for homeschooling just seems to take the form of public school bashing.

Please understand that I am not meddling in your business and telling you that you need to stop homeschooling your own kids. I have no reason to doubt that you are one of those families that teaches your kids well and holds them accountable for learning some amount of necessary material, and provides them with an enriching environment. But as for your belief that we should therefore apply your experience across the board and pull support away from those kids who do partake of the public school system -- which will include my son, beginning in about two weeks -- I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree.

23 comments:

  1. I'm a homeschooling mom myself but I tend to cringe when fellow homeschoolers offer up studies. I know very well that most of the time they'll be from the HSLDA's gruesome 'research' limb NHERI. Every point you made about the HSLDA is correct and as far as I'm concerned it's name should never be brought up in polite company.

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  2. My previous post was about the remarkable lack of serious, comprehensive, and unbiased data on how well homeschoolers perform as a whole. There is almost nothing in the way of regulation or standards when it comes to homeschooling. Some parents do a great job, absolutely, but there isn't any rigorous analysis on the success rates. Mostly, support for homeschooling just seems to take the form of public school bashing.

    I think there is a problem with this line of thinking. You seem to think that in order for homeschooling to continue in its present form it needs to be more heavily regulated because their are no studies which conclusively prove that it offers a consistently superior (or equivalent) education.

    However, I think that before you enter a person's home and put additional regulations on them, you need to have probable cause. The same as for any other activity. For the state to inspect what I am doing in my own home, they need to have a search warrant and something to lead them to believe that I am doing something harmful/illegal.

    There is no way to deliver the data that you are asking for so long as we want to maintain a system where parental rights supersede governmental interests.

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  3. Dana,

    I think there is a problem with this line of thinking. You seem to think that in order for homeschooling to continue in its present form it needs to be more heavily regulated because their are no studies which conclusively prove that it offers a consistently superior (or equivalent) education.

    Mmmmm, no. That's not really what I'm saying. I do think there probably ought to be some kind of minimal standards for homeschoolers to live up to. Right now there's a huge (in my opinion, bloated) emphasis on standardized testing for public schools, but essentially no standards at all for homeschoolers in many places, not even basic reading abilities. I think it is in society's best interest to expect that SOME kind of education is happening.

    That's not really the focus of this post, though. What I'm saying is that when it comes to respecting standards, homeschoolers seem to want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to tout examples of testing as long as it appears to support their case, but are then completely dismissive of requests for scientific rigor.

    There is no way to deliver the data that you are asking for so long as we want to maintain a system where parental rights supersede governmental interests.

    If you guys think it is impossible for any kind of data to prove the efficacy of homeschooling, then fine. We'll restrict the discussion to whether or not it's a good idea to subject kids to an educational system whose performance cannot be even nominally measured. But now, having accepted the idea that homeschooling cannot be measured, let me never again hear about these "studies" from HSLDA that "prove" that homeschooling is, in fact, better than public education. Either homeschooling performance can be measured and tested effectively, or it can't. If somebody does a bad job trying to measure their performance, then that doesn't mean that the performance is bad. However, I reserve the right to point out that their measurement is useless.

    However, I think that before you enter a person's home and put additional regulations on them, you need to have probable cause. The same as for any other activity. For the state to inspect what I am doing in my own home, they need to have a search warrant and something to lead them to believe that I am doing something harmful/illegal.

    I'm not really sure I agree that the issue is a crime being committed. As far as I'm concerned, parents do not own their kids; their kids are wards. The issue is not the right of the parents to do whatever they want, but the right of the kids to get an education. This applies even to kids who get saddled with parents who make dumb parenting decisions, like keeping their kids out of school and letting them do nothing but watch TV for 18 years. (Note the use of a deliberately extreme example: this is not a intended to describe most homeschooling parents.)

    Since kids are minors, they aren't in control of their own decisions, and aren't necessarily in a position to recognize the harm of being stuck with bad parents. This goes way beyond the homeschooling issue. When HSLDA advocates that beat up your kids and then teaches you how to hide it from CPS, they are doing much more than merely informing you of your fourth amendments rights. They are advising you to do something which is actually illegal and causes real harm to an innocent, but then learn how to cover your tracks so that you won't get caught.

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  4. Personally, I don’t really care if homeschoolers outperform public schools or not. There are many indicators that they do but that is irrelevant to why I don’t want public schools.

    And this is a perfect example of why I am so disappointed by and disgusted with (some) libertarians: they beleive, promulgate and, as far as they can, enforce unquestionable dogma

    They have this principle that government is "bad" and must not be allowed to exist, and then, when they find that the real world does not always conform to that, instead of changing their principles, they spend inordinate amounts of time trying to rationalize their failure, denying the reality that contradicts them, and badmouthing those who would point it out.

    The parallels with fundamentalist religion are endless...

    Now, since I know what that sounded like, I'll say that I know that not all those who call themselves Libertarians (and those who lean toward similar ideas but do not place labels on themselves) are like this. As a matter of fact, I said I am disappointed with Libertarianism because I myself find the idea of small government attractive, but not to the point of becoming a denialist!

    I like the idea because it seems to me that that will give the best results, which is all that matters.

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  5. I apologize if I may have missed the following reference in a previous post, but I believe ACT scores provide some of the best objective data regarding the positive outcomes of home education when compared to other education options.

    ACT Inc., producer of the ACT college entrance exam, reports once again that homeschool students scored an average of 22.6 for 2003. This compares with 20.9 for public school students for the same period.

    This is similar to past years. According to the 1998 ACT High School Profile Report, 2610 graduating homeschoolers took the ACT and scored an average of 22.8 out of a possible 36 points. . . . This was higher than the national average, which was 21.0 in both 1997 and 1998.

    The 1996 ACT results showed that in English, homeschoolers scored 22.5 compared to the national average of 20.3. In math, homeschoolers scored 19.2 compared to the national average of 20.2. In reading, homeschoolers outshone their public school counterparts 24.1 to 21.3. In science, homeschoolers scored 21.9 compared to 21.1.

    Since ACT scores are widely used by Colleges and Universities for admission criteria, this is one of the better sources when looking for reasons to educate at home.

    There are also many reluctant home educating parents, choosing to do so only after being repeatedly ignored by their public school beauracracy to effect change from within. After choosing the home education route, they find comfort in reports like the one above that their children will have at least the same if not better chance when seeking higher education opportunities.

    Thanks for continuing the discussion Kazim.

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  6. To valhar2000,

    First of all, I am not a libertarian.

    Second of all, where is this dogma you are talking about? I simply stated that whether or not home schoolers outperform public schoolers is irrelevant to why I don't want public, i.e. government schools. I then went on to explain my position on government schools and my solution to the problem.

    Nowhere did I state that government is bad and must not be allowed to exist. I quoted the principles of the founders of this great country and and explained how they were relevant to the discussion.

    You should perhaps read fully before showing your ignorance. Follow that link Kazim provided and read the full context of what I wrote. But then it is clear from your comment that you are a pragmatist and all that implies. So perhaps I expect too much from you.

    PS, To Kazim, my reply to your post will be along shortly.

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  7. TR,

    Thanks for your contribution, and that is indeed an interesting point about ACT scores. However, like the previous study presented, relying on this figure requires you to leave out a fairly crucial bit of information.

    For reference, here is a link to the 1998 report you mentioned. As you said, home schoolers do somewhat better on average that public schooled kids. However, equally interesting to me is that home schoolers account for just 2,610 test takers, compared with a total of 995,038 students who took the test. That means that as a whole, homeschoolers account for only about 0.26% of all ACT test takers.

    Now, I'd really like to know how many total homeschoolers there are, just for a rough back-of-the-envelope comparison. So, while I am still generally wary of information coming out of homeschooling advocacy groups, I'll use the estimate from this homeschooling group:

    "Though it is hard to track a movement that remains partly underground, advocates say that 1.5 million children nationwide are being taught at home; independent researchers put the figure closer to one million. The federal Education Department estimated the total in 1996 at 700,000 to 750,000; it expects to issue a revised count soon. In any case, home-schoolers far outnumber the 400,000 students attending charter schools, a more mainstream alternative. Total public- and private-school enrollment in the U.S. is about 50 million."

    Okay, so. Let's suppose that the advocate are right and there really are 1.5 million homeschoolers compared to 50 million kids who go to school. If this is accurate, then just a shade under 3% of all eligible kids are being home schooled. (If we go with the most conservative number, it's only 1.4%.) And yet the proportion of homeschooled kids taking the ACT is 0.26%. I think this qualifies as not just an underrepresented group, but MASSIVELY underrepresented.

    Let me put it in another way. Roughly 2% of all students nationwide take the ACT exams, but only 0.1% of all home schooled students take it (or 0.2% if we accept the Education Department's number). That means that students who aren't homeschooled are about 10 to 20 times more likely to take the ACT tests than those who are.

    What does this all mean? To me, it kinda reconfirms what I've been saying about homeschooling. If you are very good at your job of teaching -- if you are the kind of parent who makes a solid effort to work your kids hard, emphasize test-taking abilities, and drive them to shoot for a goal such as a college entrance exam -- then good for you! Odds are pretty good that you'll accomplish your goal more effectively than public school teachers, and that's not surprising.

    But, and this is a VERY BIG BUT, if you manage to pull that off then you are a marked exception to the rule. Most homeschooled kids apparently aren't driven to take these college entrance exams, and this is far more common an occurrence than those kids who are well served by responsible homeschooling.

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  8. Kazim,

    First of all, I do not accept your apology for making an unwarranted assumption. Not when you go on blatant misrepresentations and outright lies.

    You say you want to make totally sure you are not misstating my position, but that is exactly what you set out to do deliberately. This can be no accident or misunderstanding.

    You say:

    “Essentially, your solution to the issue of public schools is to eliminate them altogether. And then you propose to replace them with… Nothing. Nothing at all.”

    This is nothing but a bald face lie. Most likely because you had no answer to what I did propose to replace them with: Free market schools. Schools liberated from the control or intervention of government.

    An honest man would have acknowledged my free market solution and then pointed out any perceived flaws in the idea. Or asked questions about how it would work, or how to transition to it. But you, Kazim, are not an honest man.

    You say:

    “the bottom line is that you don’t really care whether the end result is kids being better educated.”

    An honest man would not have ignored the fact that I explicitly state that education is CRUCIALLY IMPORTANT. That there is an urgent economic need for education. Kids needing to be better educated is the whole point of my previous post. You missing that fact is not an accident. It is dishonest.

    When I listed the four current choices that parents faces in regards to their children’s education, you said:

    “But of those four, you’ve expressed a desire to sandbag one of them …. Why so eager to eliminate this system entirely?”

    Obviously, on even a cursory read of my solution, you would notice that elimination was not the point. Transitioning the government schools into the free market was what was stated. And yes, I am eager to eliminate the government involvement in the school system.

    What I find more interesting even still, is what else you ignored from my previous post. Not only the solution as I have mentioned before, but also the principles behind it.

    You, Kazim, believe that the government should be permitted to remove children forcibly from their homes without the parents consent.

    You, Kazim, believe that children should be subjected to educational training and procedures of which parents do not approve.

    You, Kazim, believes that citizens should have their wealth expropriated to support educational systems which they do not sanction and to pay for the education of children who are not their own.

    You, Kazim, are not committed to the principle of individual rights. You are a collectivist.

    Individualism holds that man has inalienable rights which cannot be taken away from him by any other man, nor by any number, group or collective of other men. Therefore, each man exists by his own right and for his own sake, not for the sake of the group.

    Collectivism holds that man has no rights; that his work, his body and his personality belong to the group; that the group can do with him as it pleases, in any manner it pleases, for the sake of whatever it decides to be its own welfare.

    The basic principle of the United States of America is Individualism. The practical rule of conduct in a free society, a society of Individualism, is simple and clear-cut: you cannot expect or demand any action from another man, except through his free, voluntary consent.

    The government school system currently in place violates this principle. It is un-American. As are you, Kazim, in so far as you support it. You cannot claim ignorance; this has all been pointed out to you in my previous post.

    Your personal solution, Kazim, is to apply honesty. Try to honestly integrate what you know. Try to honestly read, think, and discuss topics and not just look for clever tricky ways to “win”. You cannot win by being dishonest, Kazim. You can only lose.

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  9. The more I read over these last several posts the more I feel you (Kazim/Russel) have nothing to apologize to JohnGalt for at all.-- You seem to have summarized his true positions only far too well. In a nutshell-- I think he's been reading too much Ayn Rand (then again, the whole 'John Galt' nick name should have been a give away there :P. There's nothing wrong with liberterian objevtivism as an ideology... until it starts to clash with reality...

    In this particular case Mr. "JohnGalt" misses one crucial point-- sure 'the free market' (i.e. charter schools/private schools/ and GOOD homeschooling -recognizing that not all homeschooling is inherently good) tends to trump your AVERAGE public school scenario

    HOWEVER--- for numerous reasons options beyond public schooling do not always exist... and will not simply appear by 'allowing the market to provide' --- and recognizing this reality-- average schooling, and often even VERY POOR public schooling... still trumps the results of a population WITH NO EDUCATION

    --- somehow this point seems pretty basic-- yet utterly lost on Mr. Galt... cie la vie

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  10. Um... Mr. "JohnGalt"-- I just went back and read some of your earlier posts that inspired this particular discussion... and my biggest question for you has to be-- How and why do you try and claim NOT to be a libertarian?
    Either there's something about libertarian politics that I'm confused about (I rather doubt it)-- or there is some great negative stereotype that you believe people tend to hold about libertarians which you are trying to distance yourself from.

    -- just curious

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  11. Al42 said...
    "There's nothing wrong with libertarian objectivism as an ideology... until it starts to clash with reality..."

    Where does it clash with reality?

    "'the free market' (i.e. charter schools/private schools/ and GOOD homeschooling)"

    The free market would be completely free of government influence. As such, charter schools and private schools do not currently qualify. And in most states there is too much government influence into home schooling for it to apply either.

    A free market school system would be like any free market. If you wanted to start a school business based on your educational philosophy, you just go ahead and do it. Market your school properly and attract students. Grow your business. etc. If not enough parents agree with how you teach students your numbers of students will dwindle and you will have to close your school. In other words, schools would be created to fill a need.

    The schools that fill the need of the public the best will succeed. They will attract the best teachers. They will become the most prestigious. All without government interference. Grants and scholarships will inevitably be available for those who have trouble affording school.

    The options for parents will be many and they can pick the one that they agree with.

    Al42 said... "How and why do you try and claim NOT to be a libertarian?"

    Simple.

    Libertarianism has no philosophy to uphold uncompromisingly.

    Libertarianism rejects the need for a consistent, objective, philosophic defense of liberty and regards politics as primary.

    They are not defenders of capitalism. They’re a group of publicity seekers who rush into politics prematurely, because they allegedly want to educate people through a political campaign, which can’t be done.

    Further, their leadership consists of men of every persuasion, from religious conservatives to anarchists. All kinds of people today call themselves “libertarians,” It’s a mockery of philosophy and ideology. They sling slogans and try to ride on two bandwagons. The issues are so serious today, that to form a party based in part on half-baked ideas, and in part on borrowed ideas—I won’t say from whom—is irresponsible, and in today’s context, nearly immoral.

    They are perhaps the worst political group today, because they can do the most harm to capitalism, by making it disreputable.

    Ayn Rand was a defender of reason and recognized that political freedom requires a philosophy of reason and egoism. That is why Rand repeatedly condemned the libertarian movement, regarding herself, instead, as a "radical for capitalism."

    The Libertarians aren’t worthy of being the means to any end, let alone the end of spreading Objectivism.

    And as for "reading too much Ayn Rand", perhaps you have either not read enough or understood enough of her writings. Ayn Rand created a complete philosophical system, not just an "ideology". A system that includes metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics and esthetics. A system based on reality. Learn about what you speak.

    Al42 said... "HOWEVER--- for numerous reasons options beyond public schooling do not always exist... and will not simply appear by 'allowing the market to provide' --- and recognizing this reality-- average schooling, and often even VERY POOR public schooling... still trumps the results of a population WITH NO EDUCATION
    --- somehow this point seems pretty basic-- yet utterly lost on Mr. Galt... cie la vie"

    You have already admitted in your next comment that you had not read my comments on this. So now that you have this should already be cleared up for you. But just in case, I will point out that you have been influenced by Kazim's lie that I want no education. As you should have seen by reading back, I offered alternatives in our current educational system, which included our poor government schools. And then I explained a better alternative to what we currently have. So this point is not "utterly lost" on me. Just your quickness to speak without any knowledge seems to be the basic problem.

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  12. Johnglat666, it's not all about you. Fine by me if you are not a libertarian and your bizarre stance has a different origin. The general point I made, with its qualifiers, is still valid. So, why don't YOU read fully as well?

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  13. I'm mildly curious to see whether Kazim bothers to comment further on this thread...

    As for JohnGalt -- I don't see the point in further conversation (he believes I don't understand him....and I believe that I understand him just fine... but simply disagree with him-- nothing he has said -- either previously or in response to my posts leads me to believe otherwise)

    for anyone who cares to know why I think I'm qualified to comment on JGalt and his ideas:
    yes-- I have read Ayn Rand
    the Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, Philosophy- who needs it?, and other writings

    politically I do consider myself a libertarian

    btw-- I find it amusing that Kazim tends to be critical of Libertarians for having too little use for government (a valid criticism) while John Galt is critical of Libertarians for being too political/accepting of Government organizations

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  14. In other words, Kazim, johngalt is accusing you of not branding him radical enough.

    Objectivism is a fundamentally autistic philosophy: it only works if you assume that humans can kill all empathy within themselves.

    Yes, that makes us collectivist, to an extent. (You really have to look to the Asian cultures to see what is traditionally meant by the term, but I'll wear a limited subset of that term gladly.)

    America's social contract has, since the late 19th century, included a strand that understands that it is to our collective benefit that we guarantee a minimally educated workforce. Even as a single man, it is to my benefit to know that the workers at the fast food joint at which I eat can perform math to make change, for a simple example.

    The fundamental problem with privatizing education is that the consumer will never be able to afford the appropriate level of education. How do you propose that the orphan, or the child of drug addicts receives an education? The brilliant handicapped child of parents with modest means who must both work?

    Yet these arguments are appeals to pathos. Let's work on logos. (To account for all the branches, I'd have to use more time than I care: let's pull the main line of reasoning here.)

    1. The consumer of education is the individual receiving that education.

    2. For primary education (that is, ages 5-12) the median income of the education is minimal. (5 dollars a week for basic household chores? I don't have a study here.)

    3. Homeschooling has opportunity costs not born by the consumer of the education. To ask another to school their children is asking an individual besides the consumer of the education to sacrifice for another, the same issue the Objectivst condemns in public education.

    4. The quantity of education supplied for 5 dollars a week is minimal.

    By 1-4: 5. the market cannot supply primary education directly to the consumer.
    ___

    If we can accept 5, then we accept that education is fundamentally an issue decided by social contract, not by market forces. You suggest that the burden of the social contract be leveled on the parents instead of the society. Yet, the benefit does not extend to the parents! What does the parent get out of education other than the fulfillment of the social contract? What is the fundamental difference of society burdening the parent and not the society? They all draw to collectivist motives.

    Does the parent expect future benefits such as a better retirement home from the kids? That's collectivism.

    Does the parent expect bragging rights on the basis of the consumer's achievements? That's a collectivist attitude.

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  15. Al42, I did write kind of a tongue-in-cheek reply in a new post this morning. Most of what I think about John Galt's latest outburst is pretty much written between the lines there.

    But to be a bit more serious, JG says:

    "Essentially, your solution to the issue of public schools is to eliminate them altogether. And then you propose to replace them with… Nothing. Nothing at all."

    This is nothing but a bald face lie. Most likely because you had no answer to what I did propose to replace them with: Free market schools. Schools liberated from the control or intervention of government.


    Well whoopty-doo, "John." Are YOU planning to start one of these schools? It doesn't sound like it to me. Now I understand your brilliant strategy that will show how much you care about education: Sit around and wait for somebody else to handle it. That's it. That's your "free market school" solution.

    Maybe people who are smarter and/or more honest than I am can grasp the fine distinction between "do nothing" and "wait for the market to provide a solution," but I'm afraid I just can't manage to pull it off.

    You know, I like to think that I'm generally a patient guy when it comes to discussions like this. I believe that when people go back through the homeschooling posts here, they'll recognize that, until now, I've gone out of my way to be cordial to you. I made an honest attempt to understand your point of view, avoided making the arguments personal at any time, and gave you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you're the very model of a capable homeschooling instructor. I may have made some mistakes in interpreting your position, but they were mistakes rather than a deliberate effort to mislead.

    But I have to admit that I get a bit irked by people who hijack a reasonable dialogue and convert it into a hysterical tirade in which they call me names like "dishonest" and "un-American". So okay, although I don't particularly like it, from here on out I'm going to play on YOUR terms.

    I do not give a damn whether you "accept my apology." In fact, I'm now also re-evaluating my earlier assumption that you aren't primarily interested in keeping your kids in a bubble. If your automatic reaction to disagreement with your political beliefs is to scream "LIAR!!!" at people, then I have every reason to expect that you are passing those same values along to your own children.

    Furthermore, I think you are bordering on delusional when it comes to both US history and the scientific method. You've split hairs to a hilarious degree regarding the difference between "do nothing" and "let the market handle it." I doubt you can come up with a single example of a time or place where your total "down with government meddling" Randist utopian ideals have been applied successfully to bring about a more educated populace than what you find in today's first-world countries, ALL of which have strong public education infrastructures. And for fuck's sake, your only serious attempt to prove the effectiveness of home schooling turned out to be based on a couple of poorly conducted studies that were financed and executed by fundamentalist Christians. And when I pointed out the specific major flaws in those studies, you changed the subject, declared that homeschooling performance was irrelevant to the topic at hand (say, did you notice that both this post and the last one had the word "HOMESCHOOLING" in the title?) and then started in with the ad hominems.

    I know you discovered me through Fiery Ewok's blog, and since she and my wife are sort of online friends, I regret for her sake that I am responding to you in this way. However, I think few people can read this thread and not think that you've earned it. You aren't interested in a real discussion, and the speed at which you turn disagreement into name-calling has been breathtaking.

    So in closing let me say, from the bottom of my heart: Fuck off, Galt.

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  16. Ibsulon,

    I've pointed out in the past that there are no positive child characters in any Ayn Rand book that I've ever heard of. Rand didn't have children herself, and didn't want any.

    While I fully support people not having children if they don't want to, I also think your post makes an important point about the role of children in the Randist belief system. Namely, there isn't any. Raising children is an altruistic endeavor, except to the extent that you consider the Darwinian-based emotional impulse to pass on your genes and therefore love your kids.

    Unlike people who love each other in Rand fiction, the love of a child is not based on a mutually beneficial pragmatic arrangement, nor on admiration of the other person's mental prowess and abilities. It is a freely given donation of time and resources to a helpless person who cannot return the favor.

    Therefore, I've always felt that having kids is generally anathema to Randist principles.

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  17. Now that the back and forth from objectivist diatribe to reaction and back is (hopefully) over-- let me throw in my 2 cents about the original topic-- home schooling

    FOR 99% OF ALL STUDENTS-- at least those who actually learn anything... the question -- who is responsible- the public schools or the parents -- IS NOT an EITHER OR proposition

    As a former 1st grade teacher in the Austin TX school system one of the biggest lessons I observed was that of parent involvement.... there was A STARK and ... to the best of my recollection, unwavering connection between the attitude and scholastic performance of every single student and the relative involvement of the parents with the the child's schoolwork and school (communication between the parent(s) and teacher or other school officials.

    on the flipside--- "home schooled" kids are rarely 'just homeschooled'. When I was growing up I knew several home schooled kids because they played in the YMCA soccer league and participated in other community events. Likewise on the academic side... it isn't unusual for parents of homeschooled kids to consult with the local schools and even the same teachers the children would have (if they were in public school) for testing materials, reading lists, etc...

    Those choosing to distance themselves more from the "government"/public school system nevertheless are often dependent on a network of other parents, family, friends, and possibly church contacts in the process of homeschooling (still certainly not a demonstration of the rugged 'objectivist/individualism' Galt was apparently so fond of :P )

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  18. Al, I'm sure the back and forth isn't quite over, since Johngalt is undoubtedly scheduled to deliver an equally cutting reply in return. It's the rules of engagement, don't you know. I probably won't answer it when it comes... unless of course I do. :)

    I could not agree more about parental involvement. Although as I recall from reading "Freakonomics," it's not necessarily a parent's background or behavior that directly affects a child's academic performance, but mostly a passing on of values by example. If the house is full of books and the parents read all the time, the child becomes a reader. And so on.

    Ben is starting kindergarten on Monday. I'm really excited about it. He and Ginny are out on a road trip, but I went and met his teacher myself yesterday, and she seems great. I can't wait to see how his first school experience will develop.

    And I agree with the homeschooling perspective too. One of my biggest concerns that I expressed in the first HS post was simply that I was concerned about kids not interacting with their peers enough. One thing I've noticed in these conversations is that homeschooling parents tend to be extremely dismissive of the notion that there is value in spending time with kids their own age. Sometimes it's stated in the form of "socialization is a myth" and at worst it's a belief that peers only have bad interactions with each other unless they're constantly monitored by the parent (peer pressure, drugs, etc).

    I certainly am not ignorant of the fact that bad stuff goes on in school, but I think that above all, parenting is about staying in touch with your kid and making sure he's smart enough to make the right decisions on his own.

    So I think it's great to hear about homeschooled kids getting involved in activities alongside their schooled friends. It makes me feel a lot better about the process in general.

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  19. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about homeschooling, Kazim. I hope I'm one of the people Ginny thinks is doing a good job unschooling with my children ;-) And I hope Ben enjoys kindergarten!

    I don't often respond to blogs, but I wanted to question your calculations regarding the ACT exams.

    I accept the assumption that there are 1.5 million homeschooled students but I think we should not assume they are all of an age to take the ACT exams! In fact, I would guess that there are more homeschoolers in the elementary age group than the high school age group.

    Since we can't know this is true, however, let's assume that of the 1.5 million homeschoolers 1/13th, or 115,385 of them are the appropriate age to take the ACT. Thus an estimated proportion of homeschool students taking the ACT would be 2610 out of 115,385 = 2.3%, comparable to the 2% of public school students in the statistics you found.

    If I am right about there being more elementary than high school homeschoolers, then the proportion of homeschool students taking the ACT is even higher.

    Furthermore, I have seen quite a few homeschool students choose to skip pre-college testing by earning a community college degree before applying to a 4-year university or college.

    If my calculations are correct, I think you may want to adjust your expectations of homeschooled children and their college aspirations.

    In my experience, almost all homeschooling parents, like almost all other parents, are very interested in ensuring that their children manage to achieve their highest goals. For some that will mean a college education. Here's a link of colleges and universities which have accepted homeschooled students: http://learninfreedom.org
    /colleges_4_hmsc.html
    Some universities actively recruit homeschooled students: http://www.newsroom.ucr.edu/cgi-bin
    /display.cgi?id=1177 (sorry - I don't know how to make the links work - feel free to edit)

    I doubt homeschoolers will ever become more than a vocal minority in the educational realm, but I don't agree that the stats on college admissions testing indicate that homeschoolers in general are achieving less, or aspiring to less, than public school students.

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  20. I accept the assumption that there are 1.5 million homeschooled students but I think we should not assume they are all of an age to take the ACT exams! In fact, I would guess that there are more homeschoolers in the elementary age group than the high school age group.

    Since we can't know this is true, however, let's assume that of the 1.5 million homeschoolers 1/13th, or 115,385 of them are the appropriate age to take the ACT. Thus an estimated proportion of homeschool students taking the ACT would be 2610 out of 115,385 = 2.3%, comparable to the 2% of public school students in the statistics you found.


    Yes, but that doesn't really tip the balance in favor of homeschooling very much, because the statistics for the schooled kids also don't take into account which kids are of appropriate age to take the ACTs. So if you filter out the younger homeschooled kids, you have to filter out the younger schooled kids as well.

    The ACT is recommended for students who are juniors and seniors, so that's a two year window, but the years don't really matter. Students who take the ACT will, with few exceptions, take it only once in 12 years. Certainly first graders aren't taking it.

    So if we reduce our sample space to one out of twelve students, that means that not 2%, but 24% of schooled students take the test, compared to (as you say) 2.3% of homeschooled students.

    I'm willing to tentatively grant the point that many students do not continue to be homeschooled into their high school years. Maybe they get schooled up until high school age, then enroll in a regular high school. How many wind up in high school? Half? That brings the number of ACT takers to 4.2%. 2/3? That brings it up to 6.3%. Even then, it's still very far short of the schooled numbers. What is the real number? I don't have any idea -- again, no statistics available.

    What also makes it hard to draw additional conclusions is that there probably won't be any figures indicating how homeschooled students perform after they enter high school, compared to the rest of their class. I suspect those numbers are unattainable.

    Furthermore, I have seen quite a few homeschool students choose to skip pre-college testing by earning a community college degree before applying to a 4-year university or college.

    Some students of regular school graduate early and earn a college degree as well. What's the proportion? I don't know.

    Here's a link of colleges and universities which have accepted homeschooled students: http://learninfreedom.org
    /colleges_4_hmsc.html


    That list unfortunately doesn't tell me anything, other than the fairly obvious fact that many universities have accepted at least one homeschooled student in their history. It would be surprising to me if they never accepted any. The question that remains is, how many?

    That site says "Homeschooled Children Can Get Into Good Colleges". Nobody has made a page saying "Children Who Go To School Can Get Into Good Colleges." In fact, if my local high school had a sign saying "Children From XYZ High Can Get Into Good Colleges," I'd have huge cause to wonder about their success rate, since it very much strikes me as damning with faint praise.

    Some universities actively recruit homeschooled students: http://www.newsroom.ucr.edu/cgi-bin
    /display.cgi?id=1177 (sorry - I don't know how to make the links work - feel free to edit)


    I don't doubt that some universities do that -- but 100% of universities actively recruit schooled students.

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  21. The discussion regarding homeschoolers taking the ACT is further confounded by the fact that we have no figures for the SAT. It could be that sans high school counselors to tell them any differently, homeschooling parents have their kids take the SAT in higher numbers because they are still operating under the assumption that the SAT is more widely accepted. You can parse any statistic until it is essentially meaningless, but the fact remains that those who do choose to take the ACT aren't simply matching, but exceeding the scores of their public school counterparts. No one expects this to be definitive proof, but the point remains that homeschooling success is supported by this unbiased statistic.

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  22. Barb,

    The discussion regarding homeschoolers taking the ACT is further confounded by the fact that we have no figures for the SAT. It could be that sans high school counselors to tell them any differently, homeschooling parents have their kids take the SAT in higher numbers because they are still operating under the assumption that the SAT is more widely accepted.

    Perhaps, but in the complete absence of data, I don't think you can justify making that assumption. It's far more likely that the proportions of homeschooled kids taking the SAT are similar to those taking the ACT -- that is to say, one tenth as many as schooled kids. Of course that can't be demonstrated either.

    You can parse any statistic until it is essentially meaningless,

    Sure you can, but only for a gullible audience. Statistics mean something, but there are all kinds of issues about context that need to be addressed. I think it is kind of a copout to suggest that "any number means whatever I choose it to mean."

    but the fact remains that those who do choose to take the ACT aren't simply matching, but exceeding the scores of their public school counterparts. No one expects this to be definitive proof, but the point remains that homeschooling success is supported by this unbiased statistic.

    It isn't supported at all, because the number also shows that very very few homeschooled students take this college entrance exam at all, compared to schooled students. You're not dealing with a representative sample, which is one of the biggest reasons why statistics are easy to fudge unless you consider the context correctly.

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  23. I'm with you, Russell. I feel a bit torn on the homeschooling issue.

    I went to public school for kindergarten through second grade, then was homeschooled 3rd grade through 8th grade, and went back to public school for grades 9 through 12.

    I was always bright as a kid and in my first three years in public school I never really felt challenged in any of my classes. In second grade I was put in an advanced reading and writing class which I loved, and there were talks of letting me skip a grade. I was very outgoing, energetic and creative.I had some bad experiences with being picked on or having teachers I disliked, but I also had a lot of friends and a lot of fun.

    Then my parent bought a house in a neighboring town and decided to start homeschooling my brother and I after we moved. I was not too thrilled with the idea.

    I was one of the "bubble" homeschoolers. I was taught from a christian curriculum and my only socialization was at church. I had 3 friends in my neighborhood, but they were literally the only children I had any contact with for the majority of my homeschooling years. For 3 of the 6 years I was homeschooled, we didn't even go to a church that had any other kids my age. And when we DID go to a church with kids my age, I still only saw them once or twice a week.

    When my brother and I started going to a public school again, it was painfully obvious how socially stunted we were. I'm still dealing with the repercussions of it.

    My mom was a SAHM, but she was not very involved in our schooling. She would give me and my brother an assignment with however many pages we were supposed to read in our book that day, and then we were basically left to our own devices. We never got to do anything like science experiments or field trips or play sports.

    My mom was also much much MUCH too lenient on us when it came to grades. If the book told us to write a multi-page report on something, she'd only make us do a paragraph and pretty much as long as we wrote something that was somewhat relevant to the topic, we got an A on it. This caused both of us to do just enough to get by, and not really put any effort into it at all. And this attitude carried on into high school.

    Oh and also my parents were high school dropouts.

    Homeschoolers have a reputation for being smarter than kids who go to public school, but I don't think that's necessarily the case. It's true that when I went back into a public school for my freshman year of high school, my classes came pretty easy to me and I did a lot better than the other kids. But I was like that before homeschooling too. And my brother got about average grades when he went back to public school....about the same as he was doing before being homeschooled.

    And there was actually a lot of stuff I learned about in public school that I'd never heard of when I was homeschooled, but which the other kids seemed to be very familiar with. I was shocked to find out that I *wasn't* a complete idiot at math, and that I actually caught on really quick when I actually had a math teacher who knew what they were talking about. I went from getting C's in math as a homeschooler, to getting easy A's in public school.

    So...I mean, I think homeschooling could be fine if the parent was willing to put insane amounts of time and devotion into it, or in circumstances where there aren't any decent schools nearby. But it can also be a huge disaster.

    Either way, I think that an eye needs to be kept on homeschooled kids, to make sure they are getting the education they need and none of them are slipping through the cracks or that they aren't just being brainwashed by their parents all day. I don't think there are really any easy answers for it.

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