Friday, June 27, 2008

Our challenge - to be proactive and make a difference

I like this quote from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

The world is a dangerous place to live -
not because of the people who are evil
but because of the people who don't
do anything about it.
- Albert Einstein

It is along the same lines as:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

- Edmund Burke

Technorati tags: good, evil

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

The next Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted at About Homeschool.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Only twelve hours to go

Janine and our older two daughters should be home from camp in about twelve hours!

The week has gone well. I've gotten a few things done around the house. Our foster care boy is a bit clingy. He wants full time attention. My seven-year-old is willing to help out some, but after awhile she wants a break.

It will be nice to have our family back together again.

Technorati tags: family

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Are public teacher contracts public?

Over the years I've read various articles and studies about how much teachers make, but I didn't think too much about how this information was obtained.

Several people are trying to find the retirement package for former Wheaton Warrenville Unit District 200 Superintendent Gary Catalani. The school district says "Catalani's contract isn't a public document because it's kept in a personnel file."

I have to wonder about this logic. If the contract had been filed into another folder, would that make the contract public. The tone of this article, Court may unseal Dist. 200 superintendent contract and the comments, it seems like in general, in the past, this kind of information was public. Some people are believe the school district is trying to hide the information because the salary and package was so outrageous.

Since we pay the taxes I think at a minimum we should know what the salary and package.

(Hat tip: Education Matters US)

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

Why do some teachers think it is OK to use students as lobbyists?

California Assemblyman Roger Niello in Students are unfairly, unwisely manipulated writes:

"As vice-chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, I receive many letters of concern about California's budget from across the state, which I expect and welcome. However, the current budget situation has introduced me to an alarming advocacy tactic. Some schools have discovered - and exploited - a whole new cadre of lobbyists: third-grade students."

He makes several good points. For example these children are being fed only the story from the teacher's point of view. The students are not told about some of the larger issues, like what affect higher taxes will have on their families. He is also concerned about teaching children to be scared and fearful, while they are still young children.

This kind of problems comes about because many people, teachers, principals, politicians and so on think they make the final decisions on what the children are taught. They don't believe parents are wise enough, care enough, or should have any say in what the children are taught. The schools seem to do things willy-nilly. Fads come and go, some times with children and parents suffering for years, decades, even generations later. Long after the children were never adiqutely taught a subject, even a basic subject like how to read, the child may be suffering from a poor job.

Are parents and citizens we need to draw clear boundries and tell teachers: "Teach our children how to read, write, and do the basic subjects. Don't get involved in the latest fads. Don't manipulate them into being your lobbyists."

(Hat tip: Friends of Dave)

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

Looks like another good book to check out

Dana of Principled Discovery reviews Homeschool: an American History by Milton Gaither. She writes:

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of reading Homeschool: an American History by Milton Gaither. Gaither is a professor at Messiah College in Grantham, PA who has noted that “historians of education have not paid sufficient attention to forms of education outside of the public school system.” He is working to close this gap in his book and his blog, Homeschooling Research Notes.

Check out her post for the rest of her review.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

The One-Minute Graduation

About twenty five years ago Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson wrote The One Minute Manager. This was the first of a series of One Minute Manager books designed to help managers be better managers, without wasting their time. Our society is very concern that we maximize efficiency and get the most out of every minute.

With that in mind here is the one and a half minute graduation speech:

(Hat tip: Consent Of The Governed)

Technorati tags: humor

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

What happened to the rugged individualist?

For hundreds of years people in the English colonies, and then later the Untied States, had a strong culture of self reliance. Many of the heroes in popular literature were the rugged individualist who struggled against society to do what was right. I think more than in Europe, at least until recently, we admired Don Quixote. He may have been a bit crazy titling at windmills, but at least he was trying to do something.

Joanne Jacobs writes about a recent tragic episode in California - Six-and-a-half minutes:

"For six-and-a-half minutes, motorists in central California watched a crazed man beat and kick his toddler son to death by the side of the road. Three people called 911. Two men tried to persuade the man to stop. According to the San Jose Mercury News, they grappled with him but were pushed away. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, nobody intervened physically. He kept beating the two-year-old boy till a police officer landed in a helicopter and shot him to death. It was too late to save the child’s life. The passers-by weren’t trained to deal with a madman, say police. Their hesitation was understandable. Was it?"

The "Wild West" has a reputation of being lawless. Movies show desperados almost any where you turn. Yet the truth is from the 1850s to 1900s the West was more law abiding than big cities in the East. Pretty much anyone who survived on the frontier learned to take care of problems, not to shrink and hope someone else would protect them. The lawless knew that riding into a farm intent on stealing the little wealth tat existed, was a very risky business. Pretty much anyone over ten knew about guns. The risk to reward ratio was bad enough that most farms and ranches were left alone. Small towns had a similar ratio, there may have been more wealth in a local bank, but there could be a hundred armed men in town, carrying guns, and ready to use them.

These people were classic rugged individualist.

Today we have a paternalistic society, where many have been taught to let others protect them. We're taught that the government will provide social security as we age, that the government will protect us from shoddy products, and in all ways the government will protect us. Society goes father and discourages people to take care of problems.

The comments on Joanne's post are interesting. There were six adults who watched for six and a half minutes as a crazed man beat a two-year-old to death. The adults were a volunteer firefighter, two other men, and three women. They made a little effort to stop the tragedy, but didn't really go after the deranged man. Several people commented that the adults may have hesitated because they were afraid of being sued. Others wondered if the adults didn't feel capable of stopping the man. Some said the adults may have been paralyzed by the shock.

I wonder what six adults from the West in 1870 would have done? Would they have stood there and watched? Would they have just walked away? Or would they quickly decided to stop this man, recognizing there was some risk to themselves?

I am afraid our society today teaches too many people to play it safe, to let others be responsible, and not to stand up for what is right. As parents we have a responsibility to teach our children to be capable and to take initiative. I hope that if my daughters are ever faced with a similar situation they would be proactive and look for ways to stop such a tragedy.

Technorati tags: , ,

It looks like the rehearing went well

Ann Zeise at A to Z Home's Cool has two reports on the Rehearing of In re Rachel L. Debbie Schwarzer the HSC legal co-chair reported:

Here's the official press release that HSC and CHN (and, we hope, CHEA) will release. The arguments were long (two and a half hours in a hot courtroom) and thorough. The judges asked lots of questions, with some consistent themes. As soon as you thought you had one judge pegged as to how they were thinking, they'd ask another question that made you wonder about your prior conclusion. They were reasonably generous about letting people finish their presentations or points even if they ran over a little.
Some of the attorneys presenting made wonderful arguments that we loved. Others were potentially damaging. Most of the folks on our side did a really good job.

Karen Taylor, of CHN, reported:

The hearing began at 10:00 am and it was supposed to go for 2 hours. Instead, it went on for an additional 45 minutes, and that was at the discretion of the three judges. There were 12 attorneys who spoke and each had an agreed upon time limit. But the judges were very involved and often stopped them and asked questions. It was very interactive, and the judges were attentive. They also made references to some of the amicus briefs, and were very knowledgeable.

Check Ann's site for the full report.

All in all it sounds like things went well. Now we'll just have to wait.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

I am surviving as Mr. Mom

Janine and our two oldest daughters have been gone for about three and a quarter days. Just three and a quarter days to go!

I am happy to report that the house is still standing and the children are still alive! :-)

Our 21 month old foster care boy is doing well. He seems to have adjusted to Janine being gone. He has bonded with Janine. We joke that I am chop liver. When ever there is any kind of choice he always goes to Janine. Back in November I was the one who picked up him. He was my bud for about a week, but since I was often gone at work, he quickly decided Janine was his favorite. Maybe after a week of playing with me I'll at least be in the running. For a week, maybe two.

Our youngest daughter, the seven year old has taken on the role of being the big sister, which means in our family more work. Or as last night, a lot more work. We have a regular babysitting gig. A friend drops her two and half old daughter off on Monday afternoons for a couple hours. Our friend has used the time to take a karate class, to play in a orchestra, or just to run errands. Yesterday afternoon she called to ask if we could watch her daughter a little longer last night. She wanted to go to a birthday party for a friend. In the past our older two daughters have done most of the babysitting and our seven year old has assisted. Last night she did almost all the work. She came in a couple times and told me it was hard work, then went back to keeping peace between the two. After two hours she said she needed help. I took our foster care boy, and she only had to worry about the little girl. She was exhausted at the end, but she was very happy to be receive the full amount of the babysitting money.

There is some growth which comes from mommy and the older girls being gone for a week. I'm glad they were able to go off to the church camp. They are probably having a great time. I'll be very glad when they return Friday evening.

Technorati tags: , ,

The Carnival of Homeschooling is up

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Dewey's Treehouse.

With school on hold for the summer, many of us are looking at vacation trips. Mama Squirrel fold the entries this week around a theme of Homeschool Campers.


Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

The next Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted at Dewey's Treehouse.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Our blog just got our 300,000th hit!

Sitemeter reports that we just got our 300,000th hit!!!

It came in from Capital Heights, Maryland. The reader used Google to search for peters questions. The reader didn't stay very long. For over two years now this posts draws severals hits every day. Some times we've gotten over a dozen hits just from this one post.

To be completely open, we passed our 300,000th hit probably on Thursday, maybe Wednesday. We put Sitemeter on our blog fairly quickly after we started blogging. My guess is Sitemeter missed the first couple hundred hits, maybe the first thousand hits.

It is fun to have this kind of traffic, but to put it in perspective, Instapundit averages about 210,000 hits a day.

Technorati tags: blog, blogging

Wish me luck

My wife left this morning with our older two girls for a church camp. They'll be back in 151 hours, the target is Friday evening around 7:00 PM. I'll be home most of the week with our seven year old, and the 21 month old foster care boy.

The seven year old isn't much work. Mostly I need to make sure she is fed. She is fairly self suficent.

The foster care boy is a lot more work. He is a poor eater. He can be hungry, but you have to almost trick him to get him to eat. He pester people to play with him. It is hard for me to get any work done. And he is still scratching people at times. He is a pretty good guy in general, but Janine has been carrying about 95% of the load. It will be different for me to carry 100% for the next 151 hours.

Technorati tags: , ,

Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books is up

Semicolon is hosting her weekly Review of Books.

The Review of Books starts off with this quotation:

"A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”
G.K. Chesterton

It is easy to join her review of books. If you have blogged about books recently consider adding your post to the review.

Technorati tags: ,

Friday, June 20, 2008

Book review: The Laughing Cavalier by Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel is one of my favorite movies. Since first watching it in the early 1980s I've watched two to three dozen times. I am working to indoctrinate my daughters. My oldest says she has seen it five time!

In the late 1980s I saw the play in London. They did a great job. I burst out laughing when they went in to rescue the prince and a game of rugby broke out.

Recently while reading at the Percival Blakeney Academy blog I realized that I had never read any of Baroness Orczy's books. In doing a bit of research I found there were a whole series of books on The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy.

I decided to start at the beginning, with The Laughing Cavalier. This is the story of one of Sir Percy Blakeney's ancestors. Diogenes, our hero, is an Englishman in Holland in 1623. He is asked to kidnap a young woman, who you soon realize will be his future wife.

There is a lot of intrigue against the Prince of Orange. The villain is planning an uprising. The woman's brother has been taken in by the villian. The brother is the one who hired the cavalier. It was kind of funny, later the father offers to pay Diogenes to find his daughter. And at one point the woman tries to pay Diogenes to warn the Prince of Orange. Diogenes declines the offer but still manages to warn the prince.

I enjoyed the story. It was pleasant, fast moving, and interesting. I enjoyed the historical background. The book was very descriptive in how people lived.

If you have enjoyed any of Baroness Orczy's stories, I'm sure you will enjoy "The Laughing Cavalier."

It is probably about time to watch the movie again!

Technorati tags: Scarlet Pimpernel, Laughing Cavalier, Baroness Orczy

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Low doses of radiation may be good for us

I found this fascinating - Radiation for health:

Luckey, an emeritus professor of the University of Missouri, was the nutrition consultant for NASA's Apollo 11 to 17 moon missions and has spent the last several years developing the concept of improving health through exposure to low-dose radiation.
"When beliefs are abandoned and evidence from only whole body exposures to mammals is considered, it becomes obvious that increased ionizing radiation would provide abundant health," Luckey explains. He suggests that as with many nutritional elements, such as vitamins and trace metals it is possible to become deficient in radiation. "A radiation deficiency is seen in a variety of species, including rats and mice; the evidence for a radiation deficiency in humans is compelling." In the first part of the twentieth century at a time when our understanding of radioactivity was only just emerging, health practitioners began to experiment widely with samples of radioactive materials. Then, exposure to radiation, rather than being seen as hazardous, was considered a panacea for a wide variety of ailments from arthritis to consumption.


Some of Professor Luckey's research is reviewed in a recent edition of the International Journal of Low Radiation.

Don Luckey's findings show that a low dose of radiation is good for us. Maybe this will solve our nuclear power waste disposal problem. Maybe we just need to place a few ounces around our houses.

I had an image of going through the local grocery store next year: "Hmm, I'll pick up some apples, a multi-vitamin, and a couple of nuclear tablets. Consumer Reports reported that the Diablo Canyon tablets have just the right mixture of low radiation."

Technorati tags: radiation, health, nuclear power

Spot the homeschooler's bookbag

Can you spot which is the homeschooler's bookbag?

We don't always fill it!

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education

A good way to help others

I like this quote from Dan Galvin's Thought For The Day mailing list:

"We can often do more for others by trying to correct our own faults than by trying to correct theirs."

-Francis Fenelon

Technorati tags: thought, Dan Galvin

Some people must be from a different reality

Mirror Mirror is a Star Trek episode where Kirk and three other crew members are thrown into an alternate reality. In this other reality the Federation is a ruthless dominating government. People try to kill each other to rise in the organization. Kirk challenges the alternate Spock to be a force for good. Then our heros are able to return, safe and sound.

A recent event from Canada makes me wonder if I'm in an alternate universe.

Board use of psychic blasted - Allegation of sex abuse stems from 'vision' of letter V:

The mother of an autistic girl says the public school board was "completely unprofessional" to formulate a theory that her daughter was being sexually abused based on a psychic's perception.
Barrie resident Colleen Leduc wants an apology from the Simcoe County District School Board, which called in the Children's Aid Society (CAS) to investigate.


An education assistant saw a psychic. The psychic said a "youngster whose name started with "V" was being sexually abused by a man between 23 and 26 years old." The austic girl's name starts with "V."

Based on this the school reports the family to the CAS.

Dr. Lindy Zaretsky, a school board superintendent whose portfolio includes special education, said the school was just following protocol, adding the board is bound by the same legislation (Child and Family Services Act) as the CAS when it comes to suspected neglect or sexual abuse.
"It is clear in all cases that this (information) must be reported," Zaretsky said.
The local CAS won't comment on specific investigations, but said the legislation stipulates that all cases of suspected abuse be reported "if there are reasonable grounds."

I'm confused. In my universe a vague "psychic" vision is not reasonable grounds.

(Hat tip: Homeschooled twins)

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Carnival of Education is up

This week's Carnival of Education is up at Pass The Torch.

If you would like to submit to the next Carnival of Education, go here.

Technorati tags: education,

Lorenzo - the flying frenchman

My father's parents had an Arabian horse ranch. They raised horses as a side business. I think they probably turned a profit, but given the amount of hours they put it, it was probably like five dollars an hour. Still getting paid to do something you love is a blessing.

Once my family moved to California we spent many weekends at the ranch. My grandmother loved to tell us there was "something we hadn't seen before." It might be a baby horse, baby chickens, another new animal, or something new they had done to the ranch. We'd ride the trails near their place. As a teenager I could ride bareback for miles.

I am totally blown away by Lorenzo the Flying Frenchman:

You can find the same video with larger resolution here.

Just amazing.

Technorati tags: horse, Lorenzo, Flying, Frenchman

The new improved light bulbs

I had not realized that the new improved light bulbs had so many problems:

Technorati tags: light, bulb

Another book documenting the decline in public education

My favorite book on the state of public education is Inside American Education by Thomas Sowell. The book covers many problems in our government schools. Over the years Janine and I have loaned this book to dozens of our friends. (We bought four copies with the expressed purpose of loaning the book.)

World Net Daily is publishing a book by Steve Baldwin and Karen Holgate to meet the same need. Currently the book is number 209 on Amazon. The authors of From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth about America's Public Schools document many of problems with public schools. From the World Net Daily book review:

American schools are "not just rife with bizarre, inaccurate textbooks and failed teaching practices – they encourage classroom activities that produce dangerous, even deadly results," they say.

I love the question the authors ask: "The educational bureaucracy is willing to tolerate failure for and from our children ... The question is: Are we willing to tolerate their failure to educate our children, and will we continue sacrificing our children at the altar of experimental education."

It appears that the book will do a good job of opening eyes to the many problems with government schools.

I agree there is a great problem; I disagree with the authors on the solution. The authors seem to feel that public schools are salvageable in their current state. They hope parents, after reading their book, will work to reform education. I've made this point before, over the last several decades tens of thousands of people have tried to fix public education, while it has only gotten worse. These are smart people, people who care and are concerned. I have little faith that the system can be fundamentally improved. I think the solution for now is for parents to homeschool their children, or put them in private schools.

I will check this new book out and see if it is worth loaning to our friends.

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The thought police are taking away more children

The whole FLDS fiasco seems to be motivated in large part by Texas CPS being concerned about the possibility that a few young girls may have been pregnant before sixteen. A bigger concern seems to be the CPS was upset by what the parents were teaching the children. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of young girls in Texas who are pregnant before sixteen, but the CPS doesn't go in and take away whole families of children.

Eugene Volokh reports that Canada may have a similar problem with the thought police feeling like they have the right to take away children based on what the parents believe and what the parents teach their children. Eugene concludes with:

Nonetheless, the article -- and other press coverage I'd seen -- does suggest that a big part of this matter turns on what the parents are teaching the children. (According to the CFS, "Religious (and) political practices that would be harmful to children and cause them to be at risk would be one of the considerations when assessing risk to a child," and CFS's definition of harm seems to go beyond imminent danger of physical harm, such as when a religious practice leads parents to refuse to treat their children's illnesses.) And while I agree that children can indeed be harmed by their parents' teaching them bad ideas, it strikes me as very dangerous for the government to be able to take children away from parents on these grounds. Imagine whom the government might decide to turn against next.

I agree it is a very dangerous line to cross, to take away children from parents just because what you think the parents are thinking.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Technorati tags: Texas, Child, Protective, Services, abuse

How do you pick a college?

Our oldest daughter turns 14 next month. I expect in four years she'll be getting ready to off to college. We think, now and then, a little about to which college she might go. Thomas Sowell cautions parents not to mortgage the house to get their child into the most expensive colleges. In Is Prestige Worth It? he writes:

The obsession of many high school students and their parents about getting into a prestige college or university is part of the social scene of our time. So is the experience of parents going deep into hock to finance sending a son or daughter off to Ivy U. or the flagship campus of the state university system.
Sometimes both the student and the parent end up with big debts from financing a degree from some prestige institution. Yet these are the kinds of institutions that many have their hearts set on.
Media hype adds to the pressure to go where the prestige is. A key role is often played by the various annual rankings of colleges and universities, especially the rankings by U.S. News & World Report. These rankings typically measure all sorts of inputs-- but not outputs.
The official academic accrediting agencies do the same thing. They measure how much money is spent on this or that, how many professors have tenure and other kinds of inputs. What they don't measure is the output-- what kind of education the students end up with.


He explains that a group at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity ranks colleges based on what the students go on to do in life. Thomas Sowell strong encourages parents to check out Choosing the Right College as being the best guide for helping a son or daughter select a good college. I'll get it from the library, and maybe later I'll buy it.

Technorati tags: college, university, tuition, education, rising, cost, online

Why so many children get tagged as needing special education

People often say "Follow the money." when there are questions about why certain events happen. This is clearly true on why so many children get labeled as Special Ed. Joanne Jacobs reveals in Disability on the bounty:

When the federal special education law went into effect in 1976, 8 percent of students were considered disabled; by 2000 it was over 13 percent. Nearly all the growth has come in the subjective “learning disability” category. About two-thirds of The Special Education Epidemic is a result of financial incentives to label more students as disabled, write Jay Greene and Greg Forster on Pajamas Media. Some officials call it “the bounty system.”

I doubt that children fundamentally changed over the last 24 years, yet we've seen a huge growth in the number "disabled" children.

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

Do you want an estimate on how tall your child will be?

My mother found an interesting web site - an Adult Height Predictor.

I used it on my seven year old. The prediction seems reasonable.

Technorati tags: children, height

This week's Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival is up

The 9th Edition of the Canadian Home Educators Blog Carnival is up.

And last week's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at Adventures on Beck's Bounty.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education, , , Charlotte Mason

Improving public schools by changing the school size

Last week I blogged about a recent study in Oregon designed to see if smaller high schools improved the education experience. Bill Gates funded the study. After $25 million the study found there was little difference between small schools and large schools.

Since the post I have been pondering the study. Before jumping to some conclusions, I’d like to review a bit of Algebra. (I made these graphs via Polynomial Functions.)

Algebra and local maximums

Early in Algebra students are asked to graph equations like y = -x2 + 4

Later in their math experience students may be asked to find the largest value. For in the above graph the largest value y ever gets is 4, at x equals zero. For any other value of x, y is less than 4.

In trying to find an optimal strategy people will vary one or two factors looking for the “best” results. Depending on the environment the researchers might end up with what is called a local maximum, for example with y = -x4 –x3 + 3x2 + x + 1

There are two maximums here. If researchers find the one maximum at x = 1, then they may stop looking and never find the better maximum near x = -1.6

The above math focuses on what happens when one variable changes. It gets more complicated with you have two or more variables.

Should we be looking for the best school size?

Studies like the one in Oregon assume the best thing to optimize for is test scores, but there other factors to explore. For example best test scores for the amount of money spent. If having smaller schools costs more money, then even if we spent 50% more money and got a 2% raise in test scores, is that an optimal solution?

There are many other factors to consider. Some students might do better in a small school, while other students might learn better in a large school. Likewise some teachers might do better in small schools and others in large schools. Is it “best” to look for the one true school size?

For me the bigger question is should we even be worrying about the size of the school? There are many factors we could investigate. What order of topics works best? Should we teach phonics? How much exercise should children have during the day? All of us could come up with many factors that affect education to some extent.

We could be a bit ridiculous and ask questions like: Does the size of the desk matter? Do children learn better with red pens or purple pens? Should they be facing East, North, South, or West? What is the optimal time to start school?

What is important in a good education?

I assert that two of the more important factors in education are the students and the teachers.

If the students are in the wrong environment, they won’t learn. They are often asked to learn material that is too hard for them, or too easy. The students may not be motivated to learn a particular topic. Our current government schools pretty much lump all the students together from kindergarten to fifth or sixth and then allows a little variation as they progress through middle school and high school. But if a student doesn’t master a subject the school normally has pushes the poor child into the next grade.

When a student is in the wrong environment not only does the student suffer, but often other students and teachers suffer. The phrase “One bad apple spoils the barrel” applies to our current government schools. One bored student is often disruptive, causing many other students to learn less.

Everyone knows good teachers are key to really learning. The current public school system doesn’t give good teachers any special reward, so many good teachers are not motivated to go the extra mile. And those that go the extra mile often get burned out. Another big failing with government schools is just how hard it is to fire bad teachers. Way too many students have suffered major and serious abuse from teachers, and yet year after year the bad teachers continue to teach.

Some of the biggest problems in public schools today are due to not being able to get rid of bad teachers and finding appropriate ways to deal with students. Studies like the recent one in Oregon are like trying to make a block of wood fly by trying different colors rather than adding an engine and wings. There may be some color that makes a slight different, but it really doesn’t matter.

If Bill Gates really wants to improve government schools he would be better off working to make it easier to fire bad teachers and to allow parents to work with the schools to find better places for their children.

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

More thoughts on protecting children from risk

Early this year I linked to Gever Tulley of Tinkering School talk about 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do.

Tom Hanson of Open Education explores the topic in greater depth - Risk Taking - Part of Growing Up, Part of the Learning Process. His opening paragraph:

A paper released at the thirty-eighth Hawaii International Conference on System Science in 2005 challenges some of the conventional thoughts about the level of risk acceptable in our society today. The paper, Understanding the Effect of Risk Aversion on Risk, suggests that “the attempt to eliminate all thinkable risks in our society may be setting us up for even larger risks.”

Tom makes several good points.

I remember reading a decade or two ago that the United States and the United Kingdom handled risk in different ways with their people stationed in Antarctica.

The UK had a class to teach people how to handle the ice, watch for the storms, avoid crevasses, and so on. Once the people took the class they could go out and explore on their own.

The US didn't allow people to explore on their own.

I like the UK approach better. It treats people like adults, capable of making their own decisions.

By allowing our children to take some risks now, they will be able to make better decisions as adults when faces with possible risks.

Technorati tags: children, education

This week's Carnival of Homeschoolling is up

The Tutor takes us to the movies for this week's Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted at Apollos Academy. She has a ton of movie quotes setting off the posts for the carnival. It is a lot of fun.

Carnival of Homeschooling

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Monday, June 16, 2008

So much for the three Rs

This story comes out of the UK. I wonder how long it will be before most American government/welfare schools follow suit.

Schools to open sexual health clinics to hand out contraception and abortion advice without parents' knowledge

Sexual health clinics are to be opened in secondary schools to hand out contraception and help arrange abortions.

Pupils as young as 11 will be able to drop in for free condoms, contraceptive pills, morning-after pills, pregnancy testing and screening for sexually-transmitted diseases.

Parents will be made aware of the clinics but will not be told if their children have attended.

Here's the research:

According to their report, the 16 clinics, catering for 11,805 pupils, received around 500 visits a month from pupils, most aged between 14 and 16 but some as young as 11.

The researchers tracked 515 youngsters over 15 months and found that nurses gave 55 girls the morning-after pill, with one receiving it three times.

Nurses also carried out 213 pregnancy tests for 137 girls and found that nine were pregnant.

One girl became pregnant three times and was referred each time to an abortion advisory service.

More than 100 girls were given the oral contraceptive pill or long-acting contraception injections, with 29 being referred for contraceptive implants.

The study also revealed that nurses advised just 26 per cent of youngsters in the sample - 136 - to consider delaying sex.

More research.....

However, David Paton, professor of economics at Nottingham University's Business School, said: 'Pretty much all the research on school-based family planning clinics suggests they have little or no impact on teenage pregnancy rates.

'There is a possibility that such services change the behaviour of some young people and may increase risk-taking sexual behaviour.'

And here's the kicker....

Chris Gardner, head teacher at Ashton Park School, one of the schools involved, said: 'Every parent I have spoken to has been nothing but supportive.'

I wonder if they talked to the parents whose daughter took the morning after pill three times or the parents of a 11 year old on birth control. Ahh, but then they don't know that it was their daughters.

Some of these girls are very likely victims of violent crime and the school is helping to cover it up.

If you are one of those who thinks a teen that has three abortions and a 11 year old on birth control are somehow liberated, don't even bother posting a comment.

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My children are a minority in another way

After Father's Day this was very sobering:

"The extent of the problem is clear. The nation's out-of-wedlock birth rate is 38%. Among white children, 28% are now born to a single mother; among Hispanic children it is 50% and reaches a chilling, disorienting peak of 71% for black children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly a quarter of America's white children (22%) do not have any male in their homes; nearly a third (31%) of Hispanic children and over half of black children (56%) are fatherless.
This represents a dramatic shift in American life. In the early 1960s, only 2.3% of white children and 24% of black children were born to a single mom. Having a dad, in short, is now a privilege, a ticket to middle-class status on par with getting into a good college

The article continues with:

"The odds increase for a child's success with the psychological and financial stability rooted in having two parents. Having two parents means there is a greater likelihood that someone will read to a child as a preschooler, support him through school, and prevent him from dropping out, as well as teaching him how to compete, win and lose and get up to try again, in academics, athletics and the arts. Maybe most important of all is that having a dad at home is almost a certain ticket out of poverty; because about 40% of single-mother families are in poverty."

I've always viewed my life as a fairly normal, typical, middle class life. It is sad that so many children grew up not knowing both their parents.

(Hat tip Joanne Jacobs)

Technorati tags: father, children

One reason for population decline

Many of the industrial countries in the world have a big population problem. They are imploding. A country with a static population size has what is called a Total Fertility Rate (TFR)of around 2.1 to 2.2. If every man and woman married and had two children, the population would be stable, but because of people dying before they have a chance to have children, and some people not having children, the replacement rate needs to be a bit higher.

Over the last hundred years the TFR of Europe has dropped. It has gotten to the point that many countries have a TFR of 1.5 and lower. This list of countries by TFR says Poland is down to 1.23. With low numbers like this a country is imploding. In one generation the number of people can drop to half or less. (As in interesting side note with the current trends the United States will have more people than China around 2060.)

There has been a lot of debate on the causes of the decling birthrate in industrial countries.

I found this possible factor fascinating - Soap Operas may lower birth rates. A study found:

"Using census data from 1970 to 1991 and data on the entry of Rede Globo into different markets, the researchers found that women living in areas that received Globo's broadcast signal had significantly lower fertility. (And yes, the study did control for all sorts of factors and addressed the concern that the entry of Globo might have been driven by trends that also contribute to fertility decline. I'll spare you the gory econometric details.) Additionally, people in areas with Globo's signal were more likely to name their children after novela characters, suggesting that it was the novelas specifically, and not TV in general, that influenced childbearing."

As soap operas became available, people stopped having children. Amazing. It happens so gradually in much of the rest of the world it would be hard to pick up on. In Brazil they could check from one year to the next and see the drop.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Technorati tags: population, TFR, soap, opera

Bloggers vs. Main Stream News

Associated Press (AP) recently announced they would sue the Drudge Report:

"Last week, The A.P. took an unusually strict position against quotation of its work, sending a letter to the Drudge Retort asking it to remove seven items that contained quotations from A.P. articles ranging from 39 to 79 words."

One of the key points in this issue is copyright law. AP is trying to have tighter rules than the law gives them. Fair Use allows people to quote a limited amount of material. Fron the Wikipedia entry on Fair Use:

"Fair use is a doctrine in United States copyright law that allows limited use of copyrighted material without requiring permission from the rights holders, such as use for scholarship or review."

For decades people have quoted snippets from books, news articles and so on. This has been established as legal.

Bloggers have become very upset because the same logic to stop the Drudge Report could be used to sue them. Many are planning to stop linking to AP stores:

"So here’s our new policy on A.P. stories: they don’t exist. We don’t see them, we don’t quote them, we don’t link to them. They’re banned until they abandon this new strategy, and I encourage others to do the same until they back down from these ridiculous attempts to stop the spread of information around the Internet."

AP recognizes that bloggers are critical to AP getting lots of traffic, and so they changed their tune:

"The Associated Press is backing down on its attempt to use the Digital Millenium Copyright Act to stop the Drudge Retort from using short excerpts of its content after a major backlash in the blogosphere."

For now I think I'll try to find news article via Reuters, United Press International or Google News. I'm not worried. I'm sure that the law will continue to allow bloggers to quote some text under "Fair Use" but I don't plan to help AP by linking to them.

Technorati tags: News, AP, Reuters, UPI

The Carnival of Family Life is up

This week's Carnival of Family Life is up at On the Horizon.

To submit to the next carnival click on this carnival submission form.

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Reminder - send in a post for the next Carnival of Homeschooling

The next Carnival of Homeschooling will be hosted at Apollos Academy.

As always, entries are due Monday evening at 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. You have twelve hours to send in your entry.

Here are the instructions for sending in a submission.

Technorati tags: homeschooling, homeschool, home school, home education, parenting, children, education,

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Lessons learned at a public school

This is slightly old news:

On a Monday morning last month, highway patrol officers visited 20 classrooms at El Camino High School to announce some horrible news: Several students had been killed in car wrecks over the weekend.
Classmates wept. Some became hysterical.
A few hours and many tears later, though, the pain turned to fury when the teenagers learned that it was all a hoax - a scared-straight exercise designed by school officials to dramatize the consequences of drinking and driving.


I saw the headline a couple days ago and thought "That was stupid." and moved on.

Instapundit mentioned it, and I chased the link. I found the comments interesting. Here are a selection:

Just teaches students not to trust authority
Posted by: Leigh Thelmadatter at June 13, 2008 9:22 AM

Dunno. Knowing that authority figures will lie to you is a valuable lesson. Altho it's probably not the lesson they meant to teach.
Posted by: rosignol at June 13, 2008 9:44 AM

Perhpas the lesson would have been more effective if the students in question were never heard from again?
It takes, small, cruel, and deluded minds to call emotional abuse like this "education." All invloved should be fired and never allowed to hold a position of public trust and authority ever again. Their judgement of propriety is proved beyond redemption.
Posted by: Sarge at June 13, 2008 10:02 AM

Agreed. To never trust authority is a most valuable life lesson. Perhaps THE most. Valuable.
Posted by: Richard Blaine at June 13, 2008 10:05 AM

I wonder if not trusting authority was the big lesson students learned that day?

The voting is currently about 9 to 1 that this was inappropriate.

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education

An interesting way to see how the popular blogs compare

Vanity Fair has a fun graphic showing how the popular blogs compare.

(Hat tip: Instapundit)

Technorati tags: blogs

Interesting - small school experiment does poorly

Joanne Jacobs reports on a disappointed experiment with small schools:

Oregon’s experiment with small high schools, which started four years ago, has produced disappointing results.
"Armed with $25 million from billionaire Bill Gates and other education reformers, backers of small schools heralded the academies as the best way to curb high dropout rates, forge connections to keep teenagers on track and prepare every graduate for college."
None of that has happened. Large high schools were cut up into smaller schools that produced similar test scores and dropout rates.


One of the problems with government schools is many people are looking for a silver bullet to solve all the problems with public schools. But there is no panacea. There is no simple solution. Government schools have become a Gordian Knot. People lurch from program to program trying to finally "fix" the public schools, but things have only gotten worse over the decades. This is yet another attempt to find the "magic" solution that will once and for all fix the schools.

And the children in government schools continue to suffer.

Technorati tags: government schools, public school, public education, education