Utterly Meaningless » 2004 » July

    Filed on July 25, 2004 at 8:43 pm under by dcobranchi

    Even for textbooks.

    On average, students will spend $817 on textbooks this fall, a 3.7 percent increase over last year.

    …More people are buying used books, too. Fifteen percent of books bought in the last half of 2003 were used, up from 10 percent the previous year…[T]he textbook landscape is changing as the options for buying them expand.

    There really is no reason for books to be as expensive as they are. Professors and teachers could choose less expensive texts, thus driving down the costs for all. The chemistry class I’ll be teaching this fall will cost the parents $10 (or $30 if they purchase the optional examples books). But, I knew I was working with homeschoolers and intentionally tried to keep the costs down to a minimum.

    Snakes, Simpsons, and Homeschooling

    Filed on at 7:20 pm under by dcobranchi

    I recently purchased the fourth season of The Simpsons on DVD, which includes two classic indictments of institutionalizing—er, schooling—children. In “Whacking Day,” an episode based on the real-life practice of entire towns whacking snakes and other animals, Bart is expelled from Springfield Elementary, and Marge decides to homeschool him. Marge actually purchases an inanely loud school bell to mark the start of the day. The story shows Marge motivating Bart to learn about history, whereupon he discovers Whacking Day was not started by Springfield’s eponymous founder, as the entire town believes, but rather was invented in 1923 as “an excuse to beat up the Irish.”

    Bart’s independent learning is rewarded, so to speak, with an invitation to return to school. It’s something of a mixed message—Bart does return to Springfield Elementary, but he returns to his old slacker self, reinforcing the idea that children learn better with an involved parent than in an ineptly-run state institution. (The episode also features the first appearance of the Springfield schools superintendent, who inspects the school by, among other things, counting the number of stars on the flags and tasting the sandbox sand for traces of urine.)

    The second episode, “A Streetcar Named Marge,” finds Marge compelled to put baby Maggie in daycare while she rehearses for a community theater production. Maggie ends up at the “Ayn Rand School for Tots,”—the only day care center not under investigation by the state—where her pacifiers are forbidden. This sets up a parody of The Great Escape, with Maggie working with the other babies to regain the pacifiers. For a baby that lacks conventional “socialization” skills, Maggie is portrayed as a budding leader unafraid to take chances, another testament to Marge’s mothering skills.

    The Rand homage was intentionally amusing, given her harshly negative views of “progressive” nursery schools, and government schooling in general. In the episode, the Rand-like headmistress chastises Marge for continuing to give Maggie a bottle, saying that a baby that wants a bottle sends the message, “I am a leach!” That’s probably not what the real Rand would have said, though I strongly suspect she would morally condemn mothers capable of breastfeeding who formula-fed.

    UPDATE: Daryl’s post below, about the cost of g-schools versus prisons, also brings to mind a later Simpsons episode, “The PTA Disbands,” where to resolve a teacher’s strike, Principal Skinner generates new revenues by housing prison inmates in the school’s unused coatrooms.


    Filed on at 5:10 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s one of those articles that you see every year at back-to-school time– how much it costs to “outfit” a kid for school. Not a whole lot new here but I thought this was kind of funny:

    “As a parent myself I will never complain about spending money to ensure that Will and Caroline receive the best possible education. How can a parent better spend their money?”

    That was the educrat-in-chief superintendent. I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to answer his question. (Tip credit: You know who)

    UPDATE: Deb pointed out this gem at the very bottom of the article:

    In 2003, each inmate at Parchman State Penitentiary cost the state of Mississippi about $15,162. However, the state spent approximately $3,476 per public school student in kindergarten through 12th grade.

    According to the reports on the state Department of Education’s Web site, the state spends about 450 percent more to house prisoners than to educate its youth in grades K-12, which prompted a quick response from Bounds.

    “If we spent $15,000 per child, how many fewer beds would be filled at Parchman?” he asked.

    They’re comparing g-schools and prisons. Now where have I heard that before?

    SEX ED

    Filed on at 7:14 am under by dcobranchi

    No, not that kind. Education of the sexes.

    Deb sends along note of a middle school that has been experimenting with single-sex classes. From this brief article, it sounds like the principal is really on the ball.

    The school’s sex-separation experiment will expand to include the majority of students in every grade. Ninety percent of sixth-graders, 70 percent of seventh-graders and 60 percent of eighth-graders at the 1,200-student school will be in boys- or girls-only classes.

    …Although standardized test scores did not significantly improve among the 270 students whose classes were sex-segregated last year, behavior problems plummeted. Principal Bonnie Fox said those results were so positive, including a 52 percent reduction in discipline referrals among sixth-graders, that she decided to expand the program and use it to improve academic scores.

    That’s science there. Start small. Track the students. Look for statistically important differences. Heck, she even reported that test scores did not go up. Negative results are just as important as positive ones.

    Kudos to Principal Bonnie Fox.


    Filed on at 6:46 am under by dcobranchi

    It really is all about the money.


    Filed on at 6:18 am under by dcobranchi

    Backstory- a local politician is accused of (and has been indicted for) basically taking a $2M “loan” from a developer. In an attempt to cover up her first (alleged) misdeed, Sherry Freebery (allegedly) hired a law team with tax money to thwart an investigation by the Wilmington News-Journal.

    The recent developments: Freebery took a polygraph and (allegedly) passed, thus proving once and for all her complete and total innocence. She even went so far as to release the polygraph Q&A. One problem, though– she lied about the questions.

    Thompson said he did not ask the first question listed on Freebery’s document, “Did Lisa Moseley offer you a gift of $1 million for the purpose of helping you to find happiness?” Freebery’s response was listed as “Yes.”

    When asked to verify the other six questions released by Freebery, he said, “I’m not going to say anymore because I don’t want to get into hot water with [Freebery’s] attorney.” Freebery did not return phone calls for comment afterward.

    Her lips are moving.


    Filed on July 24, 2004 at 9:08 pm under by dcobranchi

    There’s a pretty good Op/Ed on the subject of teacher pay in the Rocky Mountain News. Gaynor McCown calls for increased pay for teachers, but only if it’s tied to pay for performance.

    And so the Teaching Commission proposes an ambitious bargain: our nation once and for all must step up to raising teacher pay, but at the same time teachers must offer sizable increases in quality and accountability based on student achievement – a quid pro quo that’s virtually unheard of in today’s classrooms.

    I could actually back that idea. How ’bout this for a concrete proposal? Raise the average pay of all teachers 10 percent, but the best would get 20 percent and the worst zero. That’s zero, as in the chance that the NEA and AFT would go for it. The best would know that the union was screwing them out of a 20 percent payraise. So, they’d quit the union. So, dues would go down. So, there’d be less money to devote to politics. So, they’d have less influence in statehouses and in DC. So, it’d be more likely that education reforms would pass that would further diminish the union’s power.

    A virtuous cycle. Like I said– it’ll never happen. (Hat tip: Deb)


    Filed on at 2:30 pm under by dcobranchi

    The hed (and sub-hed) from this article has me scratching my own.

    Parents who snoop

    They want to know what their kids are doing. Call it the Columbine effect.

    If wanting to know what my kids are doing makes me a snoop, you can call me Bond, James Bond.

    My kids don’t AIM much. When they do, you can be damn sure that I know exactly with whom they are chatting. And, they know if they ever break the rules, that I will delete AIM in a heartbeat. It’s only responsible parenting; Columbine has nothing to do with it.


    Filed on at 7:53 am under by dcobranchi

    A g-school teacher thinks we should all be happy paying g-school taxes. After all, “[i]t is everyone’s responsiblity in a democratic republic to support and promote the general welfare.” Does he really want to quote the Constitution in support of his argument, since it fails to mention education even a single time?


    Filed on at 7:19 am under by dcobranchi

    In Delaware.

    A suspected blister agent in a World War I-era shell found near Bridgeville injured three members of a military explosives disposal team at Dover Air Force Base this week, prompting an investigation by the Army’s chemical weapon center in Maryland.

    The shell was found in a clam-shell driveway. For y’all living a ways from the coast, in lower DE businesses dig up old clam-shell beds and sell them as top-coats for driveways. Unfortunately, the beds are in regions that were used by the military many years ago. Finding shells (the exploding kind), hand-grenades, and such is a pretty regular occurrence.

    Somebody Has to Hold Down the Fort

    Filed on July 23, 2004 at 10:12 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m becoming a prolific guest blogger. While posting here, I’m also among six guest bloggers substituting for the vacationing Eric McErlain at Off Wing Opinion.


    Filed on at 5:08 pm under by dcobranchi

    More Deb links.

    On the other side of the world, Indonesian public schools almost aren’t:

    Admission fees and tuition form the largest part of public schools’ income. At SMAN 1 Depok, for example, parents of students contributed Rp 1.23 billion, or more than 93 percent of the school’s budget of Rp 1.32 billion for the 2004-2005 academic year. Only 6 percent of the budget, or Rp 90 million, came from the government.

    94 down, 6 to go. Of course, some things are constant no matter where you are.

    Many schools still treat school committees as objects to be exploited rather than as an equal partner, and consult them only when the schools need money.

    Heh! Does the NEA send “missionaries” to Jakarta?


    Filed on at 4:43 pm under by dcobranchi

    Deb sent a link to the quiz “What type of homeschooler are you?” My favorite Q&A:

    The following items can usually be found on your dining room table:

    3 marbles, 2 dominoes, 5 Scrabble tiles, a 1/2-eaten jelly sandwich, 1 basket of unfolded clean laundry, 4 broken crayons, 3 markers (1 without a cap), a can of fish food, 2 screwdrivers, and a hammer.

    HASH(0x8aa3bd0)Salvador Dali Melting clocks are not a problem in your reality. You are an unschooler. You will tolerate a textbook, but only as a last resort. Mud is your friend. You prefer hands-on everything. If your school had an anthem, it would be Dont Worry, Be Happy.

    I’ve always liked Dali.

    Beware “Big Doctor”

    Filed on at 1:48 pm under by dcobranchi

    Today the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Justice issued a report on the state of competition in the health care industry. One of the reports conclusions should give homeschoolers and other g-school opponents pause:

    Governments should not enact legislation to permit independent physicians to bargain collectively. Physician collective bargaining leads to higher prices and is unlikely to result in higher-quality care. There are numerous ways in which independent physicians can work together to improve quality without violating the antitrust laws.

    So when can we expect the DOJ-FTC report saying that teacher collective bargaining leads to higher prices and lower-quality education?

    Since most of you are probably unfamiliar with the “physician collective bargaining” issue, here’s a quick primer: The term “collective bargaining” is somewhat misleading here. Physicians are usually self-employed independent contractors. When dealing with insurance companies, however, many independent doctors form associations and hire a management expert to coordinate their dealings with insurers. Since 1993, the FTC and DOJ (without congressional approval) have banned physicians from using these associations to actually negotiate contracts. Instead, insurers “messenger” their contract offers through the management expert to the physicians. It is considered a federal crime–punishable by ten years imprisonment–for physicians to actually speak to one another about these contracts or coordinate a counter-offer. Each physician must individually accept or reject the contract. Of course, when a large number of physicians individually reject a contract, the government is allowed to infer an antitrust violation, because “price fixing” does not require actual proof of a conspiracy (think of antitrust as the domestic version of “preemption doctrine”.)

    Today’s DOJ-FTC report basically says this existing policy is great, and even talking about changing it is wrong. In the federal government’s view, teachers and union laborers have an absolute right to negotiate contracts, but physicians are serfs of the insurance companies (and, by extension, Medicaid and Medicare) and have no right to negotiate the price for their own services.

    Of course, the DOJ and FTC argue that unions are exempt from “competition” because of “important national interests.” In the case of teachers, one suspects those interests include electing Democrats to public office.


    Filed on at 10:46 am under by dcobranchi

    The lede from this Guardian article creeped me out at first.

    Teenagers want to learn about sex from one another rather than from their teachers, according to the biggest study of peer-led sex education.

    THE “S” WORD

    Filed on at 10:42 am under by dcobranchi

    From the Globe and Mail:

    A new study shows that children without siblings are far less socially prepared to enter kindergarten.

    The U.S. study, published in the current issue of the Journal of Marriage and Family, shows that young children who have at least one brother or sister are better able to maintain friendships, get along with their peers and show sensitivity to the feelings of others when they enroll in kindergarten.

    Does that mean that homeschoolers, who tend to come from large families, would be better socialized than the average kid? Just askin’.


    Filed on at 10:33 am under by dcobranchi

    I can’t resist copying these disclaimers from a new (to me) homeschooling blog. (link via Izzy)


    Some settling may have occured during shipping. Void where prohibited. No animals were harmed during the creation of this blog. The advice contained herein is not intended to replace the advice of your medical professional. Sold by weight, not volume. Warning, coffee is hot. Don’t try this at home. Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental. No purchase necessary. Best if used by date on bottom. May cause nausea, diarhea, vomiting or even death. Contains peanuts and other nut material. See contest rules for details. Wear proper eye and ear protection at all times. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading. Please fasten your seat belts and keep your arms and legs in the ride at all times.

    Too funny.


    Filed on at 2:43 am under by dcobranchi

    Homeschooled pop star Brooke Bollea is the daughter of Hulk Hogan. How’d you like to be a 16-year-old boy trying to pick her up for a date?


    Filed on July 22, 2004 at 9:13 pm under by dcobranchi

    Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian Party presidential candidate, will be in Wilmington next Wednesday.

    Michael Badnarik schedule for July 28th

    Rich Jensen Show, WDEL, 10:00-10:40am

    John Watson Show, WILM, 11:00-11:45am

    Meet and Greet, Downtown Wilmington Market Street Mall, 12:00 – 1:00pm
    (We expect to have all of our state wide candidates at this event.)

    Delaware State Fair, Libertarian Booth, 3:00 – 4:00pm

    Ron Letterman Show, WGMD, 5:00 – 6:00pm

    Wilmington, Meet and Greet fundraiser, 8:00 – 9:30pm

    If you want more details about the Meet & Greet, drop me a line.


    Filed on at 7:42 pm under by dcobranchi

    The L.A. Daily News has a terrific Op/Ed on the title subject. I’d never thought of it this way, but Alan Bonsteel makes an excellent point:

    If we contrast the way we treat adults in college to the way we treat teenagers in high school, our staggering dropout rates come as no surprise. One of the great strengths we Americans have is the ease with which we can return to school to advance our education or change careers. If we decide to follow that dream, we adults can choose from among a wide array of colleges and universities, both public and private. Every conceivable subject matter is open to us. We can choose the philosophy of teaching that suits us best, whether structured and guided or more experiential.

    Now, imagine a very different scenario in which, if we adults decided to go back to school, we would be assigned to a particular school based on where we live. If the classes we want aren’t offered, that’s just too bad. Many of the teachers are tenured time-servers. Our classmates range from the merely bored to the dangerously alienated.

    The problem with this scenario, of course, is that it aptly describes our current public high schools.

    Bonsteel goes on to ask John Kerry to buck the NEA and support educational choice. Not likely, but it’s a great idea. Definitely worth a click. (Hat tip: Deb)


    Filed on at 7:33 pm under by dcobranchi

    For the second year in a row, a MD school has somehow lost the answer sheets from one of the AP exams. The kids are basically screwed. They’ve been given the choice of re-taking the exam (after two months of not studying the material) or getting their money back (and losing the potential college credit). Someone’s head ought to roll over this.

    OT: Do You Want to Win the Election?

    Filed on at 2:02 pm under by dcobranchi

    I was in Arlington, Virginia, earlier today, and the streets are littered with college students recruited by the DNC to promote the Kerry/Edwards ticket. Well, actually they’re walking up to people and asking them, “Do you want to help defeat Bush?” This violates the first rule of political communication: The objective of the people-on-the-street bit is to promote your candidate or ideas, not attack the other guy. When you emphasize defeating Bush, you’re subsconsciously saying that you don’t really have anything positive to offer, just that you don’t like the other guy.

    I blame Michael Moore for this…

    Say What?

    Filed on at 1:33 pm under by dcobranchi

    Via an e-mail from the Future of Freedom Foundation comes this historical quote from a former Kentucky governor promoting his “education reform package” in the 1970’s:

    No.1, to determine what it is, at different age and ability levels, that children ought to know, believing that we can never determine if children know what they ought to know if we haven’t determined what it is we think they ought to know.

    Um, okay.


    Filed on at 11:44 am under by dcobranchi

    A Boston-area school district is requiring students to wear a white polo shirt with ”Lawrence Public Schools” printed on it. The shirt is sold in only one store and costs $9. Parents are not happy about both the cost and the way the district pulled this off.

    ”There wasn’t a public hearing,” she said. ”We as a board were not given much information about it. We did not have the time to look at all the sides of the issue.”

    I don’t have a problem with uniforms, although I don’t think they have been proven to make much (if any) difference. But, requiring that the kids provide free advertising for the schools is a bit much. I bet they rescind the policy before September.

    HOLY S***!

    Filed on at 10:47 am under by dcobranchi

    Someone PLEASE tell me that this is a joke:

    This week, a series of public forums on a program requiring all pregnant women and children through age 18 years to be tested for mental health needs is being held this week in five different locations statewide.

    …The $10 million plan for the setup of the Children’s Mental Health Act of 2003 is being considered at this week’s public forums starting Monday, July 18 in Champaign.

    …The legislation passed the House with a 107 to 5 vote, and the Senate unanimously.

    Something’s not adding up here. This is just too Big Brother even for Illinois. (Hat tip: Judy Aron)

    UPDATE: Here’s the full text. The news article is not quite accurate. These meetings are to discuss the possibility of doing something for the mental health of kids. In my quick read of the bill I didn’t see anything that indicates that the legislature authorized mandatory anything.


    Filed on at 4:06 am under by dcobranchi

    Homeschooling Parent Magazine and PBS are teaming up. A couple of lines in the PR jumped out at me:

    PBS TeacherSource (pbs.org/teachersource) extends the educational value of PBS’ award-winning television programming by helping educators learn effective ways to incorporate digital media into instruction. TeacherSource includes more than 4,500 free lesson plans and online activities – all correlated to more than 230 sets of national and state curriculum standards.

    …Cyndi Simmons, Editor-In-Chief of Homeschooling Parent said, “Homeschooling parents must under-gird the costs of teaching tools and curriculum from their own pocketbooks; unlike their public-schooled counterparts, there is no tax subsidy for the enormous costs associated with teaching children in a home-classroom setting.

    Great! PBS wants to align us with “standards” and the magazine wants to scare newbies off with money worries. Good job, folks.


    Filed on at 3:51 am under by dcobranchi

    From the Wilmington News-Journal:

    Jim Cara wanted a vanity license tag that would make people laugh.

    But when he chose “NOTAG” for the plate on his Suzuki Hayabusa, a sleek blue and silver motorcycle with a speedometer that reaches 220 mph, the joke backfired.

    The new tag arrived Saturday under an avalanche of Wilmington parking violations.

    “All the traffic tickets say, ‘Notice of violation. License number: no tag,’ ” Cara said.

    200 tickets and counting.

    More Money Down the Drain

    Filed on at 12:08 am under by dcobranchi

    The Cato Institute has published a fabulous policy paper on the federal budget. The paper, authored by Chris Edwards, Cato’s fiscal policy director, outlines $300 billion in budget cuts that eliminate “unconstitutional, unnecessarily, [and] actively damaging” federal programs. Predictably, he takes a meat cleaver to the Department of Education. Here’s Edwards’ analysis of the infamous Title I program, which provides the bulk of federal subsidies to local g-schools:

    The Department of Education’s $10 billion
    Title I program provides another example of the difficulty of targeting grants to aid poor Americans. A recent statistical analysis by Nora Gordon of the University of California, San Diego, found that, although Title I is supposed to steer money to poor school districts, the actual effect is different. She found that within a few years of a grant being given, state and local governments used the federal funds to displace their own funding of poor schools. Thus, poor schools may be no further ahead despite the federal grant money directed at them.

    Edwards also notes the Education Department currently guarantees more than $100 billion in student loans, even though Congress’ own auditors say the student loan program has been on the “high-risk list for waste, fraud, and abuse every year since 1990.” Bad loans cost taxpayers $28 billion during the 1990s (I wonder how many of those defaulters were education majors.)

    Of Pens and Pencils

    Filed on July 21, 2004 at 11:53 pm under by dcobranchi

    Steven Yates, a philosopher with the Ludwig Von Mises Institute, wrote an amusing op-ed about the overall inanity of g-schools. He cites the following example from his own 1960’s childhood:

    Some of what went on in government schools was bizarre even then. I had been writing with a ballpoint pen at home since age five. Teachers didn’t want us kids using ballpoint pens. I suppose it wasn’t in their one-size-fits-all educratic manuals telling them what little kids should know how to do. So we used pencils. Or at least, I did when I was there. When I went home, I pulled out my ballpoint pen. I recall the day my fourth grade teacher introduced the class to ballpoint pens. She made a Hollywood production out of it. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. They were ballpoint pens, not magic wands.

    I recall that I also wasn’t allowed to use a pen regularly until the fourth grade, and I attended a private school for “gifted” children. Which means the g-school kids in my area were probably pen-deprived till at least junior high.


    Filed on at 6:52 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’d really like an explanation of this one:

    Michelle Lawrence, Superintendent of Berkeley Public Schools, said there have been considerable gains for minorities in opportunities and access, but California schools continue to be racially segregated. She believes vouchers, charter schools and home schools are siphoning money from public schools and undermining integration.


    Filed on at 6:37 pm under by dcobranchi

    As if to underscore the timeliness of the discussion, this just popped in in GoogleNews.

    Montessori parents who signed up for an admission lottery for the third classroom had considered a private solution when the district earlier turned down an expansion, Catherine Fritz, vice president of Southeast Alaska Friends of Montessori, said in an interview.

    Under that scenario, parents would lease space for a classroom and affiliate with a school district that runs a cyber school. The phrase refers to home-school programs in which families receive use of a computer, and parents get a share of the state education funds their children generate for the school district.

    How the heck is that a “private” option, let alone homeschooling?


    Filed on at 6:32 pm under by dcobranchi

    An interesting item over at TCS. In an article about biotechnology and the government, Lene Johansen argues that homeschooling is anti-progressive (not that that’s a bad thing):

    The US is one of the few countries in the Western world where parents have mounted a counter attack on the progressive doctrine of community raised children through the home-schooling movement. If we recognize an individual’s right to make decisions about his or her own life and property, there is no reason the government should be involved in decisions on personal use of biotechnology.

    No villages around here.


    Filed on at 12:35 pm under by dcobranchi

    What image comes to mind when you see the name DogPoo? (From an ad on Zero Intelligence)

    What’s This “Diversity” You Speak Of?

    Filed on at 10:37 am under by dcobranchi

    Joseph Kellard, an Objectivist writer, has an op-ed calling for the complete privatization of education. He briefly mentions homeschooling — “Even with our public school monopoly, home-schooled students perform better than the national average, without professional teachers and at no expense to taxpayers.” He also takes on one of the g-school’s philisophical pillars:

    One idea that public schools preach is “diversity.” Yet these very institutions are devoid of diverse ideas. Instead of producing independent, logical thinkers, schools have descended into indoctrination. That is, before kids are old enough to grasp certain complex ideas and issues, they are nevertheless schooled in multiculturalism, environmentalism, socialization and moral relativism.

    WHO ME?

    Filed on at 7:14 am under by dcobranchi

    I wonder who Nancy Salvato is writing about over at EducationNews.org today:

    Although many who wrote me were sympathetic to the situation I described, or encountered many of the same experiences, there were a handful of readers speculating that I was a lousy teacher and that if I was any good my contract would have been renewed.

    She’s still differentiating between getting fired and not having her contract renewed. Fine. Ms. Salvato fails to address the real problem– tenure. Get rid of tenure and the incentive to let a teacher go in those first few years decreases dramatically.

    What’s the point of it, anyway? Tenure is granted in academia to ensure that professors will have academic freedom. Is there a whole lot of that in the g-schools? It’s an anachronism that we really cannot afford any longer. Grandfather the ones who have it now and gradually phase it out over the next 20-30 years.

    Where’s my crown?

    UPDATE: Lest anyone think I have it in for Ms. Salvato, I actually agree with a fair portion of her essay. It’s worth a read.

    UPDATE: Another thing about tenure. At universities, it is typically granted at seven years. Making even that the norm in the g-schools would go a long way towards solving Ms. Salvato’s employment problems.


    Filed on at 7:04 am under by dcobranchi

    No back-to-school clothing shopping.

    Families with school-aged children will spend an average of $483.28 on back-to-school items, up from $450.76 a year earlier, according to the study done by the National Retail Federation.

    Clothing will comprise most of the back to school purchase, although almost half the shoppers surveyed expect to buy electronics or computer related equipment as well, the NRF reported.

    Of all the horrors of the end of summer, growing up I hated shopping for clothes worst of all.


    Filed on at 7:00 am under by dcobranchi

    Across the river, Philly just added private-schoolers to its scholarship program.


    Filed on at 6:54 am under by dcobranchi

    A little more info on the NJ STARS program that promises “free” community college tuition. I’ve been told by a financial aid person at one of the colleges that the program is only open to graduates of NJ g-schools. Private-schoolers and homeschoolers need not apply. Interestingly, that information is nowhere to be found on the official NJ STARS page.

    The NJ STARS, Student Tuition Assistance Reward Scholarship proposal, ensures all tuition and fees are covered for two years at a student’s local community college. If you graduate in the top of your class, the State will make sure that your tuition at a community college is covered.

    “You do the work, you make the grades and our NJ STARS program will cover the cost,” Governor McGreevey said during his 2004 Budget Address.

    I wonder how the very strong parochial school system let that one slip by.


    Filed on July 20, 2004 at 7:49 pm under by dcobranchi

    Kim DuToit is just a tad upset about the stupid American Community Survey that I refused to fill out a few weeks ago. WARNING: The language on Kim’s site is a bit spicy, as Izzy might say.

    UPDATE: Please read Rep. Ron Paul’s LewRockwell piece on this.

    The American Community Survey is patently offensive to all Americans who still embody that fundamental American virtue, namely a healthy mistrust of government. The information demanded in the new survey is none of the government’s business, and the American people should insist that Congress reject it now before it becomes entrenched.


    Filed on at 6:00 pm under by dcobranchi

    There’s a very interesting discussion over at the AHA-Discussion board on cyber charters vs. homeschooling. Start at this post and continue down.


    Filed on at 12:26 pm under by dcobranchi

    I always thought it was a myth that reading in poor light could cause you to need glasses. Perhaps not.


    Filed on at 12:02 pm under by dcobranchi

    In the 90s it was the MBA. Now, it’s the PSM.

    The PSM is being called the MBA for scientists and mathematicians. It’s an education aimed at future managers who will be able to move comfortably in the business of science, from a meeting about enzymes to another about intellectual property rights, all the while understanding the goal is not a scientific journal article but marketable products.

    …Experts predict it will become the 21st century’s fastest ticket to the major leagues in business and government. Its growth is being fueled by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, which provided $11 million in seed money (www.sciencemasters.com). More than 900 students are enrolled nationwide. California and North Carolina are considering implementing the degrees at most campus.

    The business community remains largely unaware. General Electric Global Research employs 835 Ph.D.s for everything from nanotechnology to wind power generated by 16-ton blades. But its campus recruiters have yet to hear of a PSM.

    Who are these “experts” that are always predicting all sorts of things. If businesses haven’t even heard of the degree, what convinces the experts that there will be a demand?


    Filed on at 11:48 am under by dcobranchi

    What the heck was MoveOn.org thinking? Skip Oliva reports that the FTC rejected MoveOn’s complaint that Fox News Channel’s “Fair and Balanced” motto was false advertising.

    “FNC’s news and commentary programming is not remotely ‘fair’ or ‘balanced,’ said the complaint, filed by MoveOn.org founder Wes Boyd and Common Cause president Chellie Pingree. “To the contrary, that programming is deliberately and consistently distorted and twisted to promote the Republican Party of the U.S. and an extreme right-wing viewpoint.”

    Well, duh! Of course it’s unfair and unbalanced. That’s the whole point of the channel. I guess sarcasm is not allowed in MoveOn’s world. Skip gets a little bit sarcastic in his own response. You can read it here.


    Filed on at 6:12 am under by dcobranchi


    From an Australian Op/Ed:

    In an ideal world the state would provide all school- children with modern, comfortable buildings that are adequately heated in winter and cooled in summer, and have excellent playing and sports facilities and hygienic toilet blocks. And in this ideal world teachers and students – or at least those whose parents can afford to – would not be deserting the state education system at the rate they are.

    I guess that Australian rugged individualism is just a myth. (Hat tip: Deb)


    Filed on at 5:34 am under by dcobranchi

    The Oakland Tribune has an Op/Ed by a teacher who is opposed to the “schools within a school” model. She worries that small schools will have less diverse offerings. That’s a possibility, I guess, but I’m sure the model is not so rigid that it can’t be worked around. She then veers into touchy/feely-land:

    At a large school, adolescents can get to know other students from racial and religious groups and political persuasions that they would never otherwise meet.

    Learning to get along with many different people, even if their beliefs and philosophies are very different, teaches respect and tolerance for others.

    Learning tolerance and respect for others is one of the cornerstones of public education. It is one of the things that keeps our country vibrant and whole.

    Learning in the homogeneous environment of a small school can be supportive, but it can create an unrealistic microcosm of our world.

    Same old, same old. Finally, she worries that this means the schools will have to hire more personnel.

    Each school needs an administrator, secretary, attendance clerk, janitor, food service worker, special education services, physical plant, utilities, Internet, computers, etc. Each small school, therefore, exponentially increases the cost of education.

    That’s a big red herring, of course. If a single janitor can clean one large school, I doubt that the district will need to hire three more if it’s broken up into four smaller “schools.” She may be right, though. Who knows what stupid union rules govern this stuff.

    As I wrote not long ago, we don’t know if this model really works. It’s probably wise to go slow. Let’s just try to keep our arguments for-and-against grounded in reality, ok?


    Filed on at 5:08 am under by dcobranchi

    This one is for Atlas.

    According to this report, the NEA brought up it’s long-standing anti-homeschooling policy for debate at their recent convention.

    The most controversial vote at the NEA convention turned out to concern one word in the anti-homeschool resolution. B-69 as introduced read: “The Association also believes that unfunded home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.”

    The word “unfunded” precipitated a lively debate. Some schools provide funding for homeschoolers to participate in after-school activities such as sports. The amendment to remove the word “unfunded” was designed to put the NEA on record as opposed to letting homeschoolers darken the door of public school grounds regardless of whether or not there is money to finance their participation.

    In the end, the majority of delegates voted to delete “unfunded.” Whether or not homeschoolers’ participation in public school activities is funded, the NEA does not want them in any way to compete with students who are “with us all day.”

    The NEA thus made its animosity against homeschoolers loud and clear. The only thing this powerful and wealthy union fears is homeschooling.

    Something’s not right here. Here’s the entire resolution as reported by Joanne last year:

    B-69. Home Schooling. The National Education Association believes that home schooling programs cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When home schooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state requirements. Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used. The Association also believes that home-schooled students should not participate in any extracurricular activities in the public schools.

    The “unfunded” portion is not there. Is Schlafly writing about last year’s meeting? Regardless, they just don’t want our kids playing with “their” kids.

    Now, I recognize the utter toothlessness of NEA resolutions, and that many teachers are actually supporters of homeschooling. Teachers, per se’, are not our enemies. But, with the approval of this resolution (whenever it happened), their union is. Let them remove this resolution. Then maybe I’ll go a little easier on the NEA and the g-schools. Until then, I’ll heap all the contempt I can on the whole rotten system.

    Two Bloggers, Two Students, and a Starbucks Guy…

    Filed on July 19, 2004 at 10:21 pm under by dcobranchi

    Hello everybody. I’m Skip Oliva. You may remember me from such blogs as “the Intellectual Passivist” and “the Rule of Reason”. Daryl invited me to end my extended blogging hiatus and guest-post here for awhile. So here I am. I won’t bore you with a life history, but I’m a public policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. I’m president of Citizens for Voluntary Trade, an anti-antitrust (say that three times fast) group, of which Daryl is a co-trustee. I also freelance as a paralegal and writer, so if you need anything paralegaled or written, drop me a line at smoliva@voluntarytrade.org.

    Getting down to business, the Northern Virginia Journal has this somewhat encouraging op-ed on HS:

    Virginia is the only state in the union that requires parents to have a four-year college parents to have a four-year college degree to home-school their children. This year the General Assembly voted to join the other 49 states that permit home schooling by a parent with at least a high school diploma. But the bill, sponsored by Del. Rob Bell, R-Charlottesville, was vetoed by Gov. Mark R. Warner.

    Since home-schooled children are tested to make sure they are learning and their parents are put on probation or disqualified if they fail to pass the state examination, the governor’s veto was more about massaging the education lobby than upholding academic standards.

    The fact is that home schooling makes public educators look bad. Far from being societal misfits, children taught at home consistently score 20 to 30 points above the national average no matter what their parents’ level of education, and are increasingly being admitted to the most prestigious colleges and universities in the nation.

    This last argument jars me a little. Why should the “prestige” of a college determine the effectiveness, or the legality, of HS? When I was in high school, the guidance counselors would rate themselves by the number of “their” kids who went to Ivy League schools. Narcissistic garbage, if you ask me.

    But that minor quibble is only the appetizer for what the Journal printed below its op-ed—a man on the street question asking, “Should home schooling parents be required to have a college degree?” Three people were quoted: two students and a Starbucks employee. I was particularly amused by the Starbucks guy’s answer:

    “I would say yes. We’re preparing our students for the real world and they need a serious education background for college. The parents can prepare them for life, but they need to know how to teach children how to retain knowledge.”

    (1) Anyone who works at a place where they charge $4 for coffee should not be lecturing folks about the “real world.”

    (2) How can parents be capable of preparing their kids for “life” but not the “real world”? The two aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re pretty much the same thing.

    (3) Parents can’t teach their children to retain knowledge? Tell that to a parent who has taught their baby to eat solid foods, toilet trained a toddler, or, y’know, taught their kid to talk. In terms of quantity, kids learn a lot more from their parents from ages zero to five then they do in all of elementary school.

    The two student answers weren’t much better than the Starbucks guy. One said parents that HS are “basically taking the place of a certified teacher.” One could argue that it’s the teacher taking the place of a parent, but hey, why quibble over semantics?

    The other student was apparently reading from the stock anti-HS book: “I don’t think they should teach them at home at all. They should teach them at high school. They shouldn’t take kids out of school and isolate them from society.” Floating pronoun alert—who is the they in this paragraph? Is she saying the parents should teach their kids at a high school? That’s a new argument.


    Filed on at 5:27 pm under by dcobranchi

    I owe an apology to the Detroit teacher’s union. They’re right that the charter controversy is all about money. Except it’s the g-school educrats who are the greedy ones.

    “The school receives the foundation grant of $7,000 per student,” Gilliam said, outlining the school’s state funding. “Unlike the local public school district, which also receives millage funds for facilities, they are required to pay for their facilities out of their foundation grant,” Gilliam said.

    Livonia Public Schools get approximately $8,100 per student from the state. School officials are concerned because students who attend the charter school instead will take that money with them.

    So, the g-schools will get $1,100 per child that they’re no longer educating. Yet, they’re still complaining. Perhaps this was a projection?

    “What they’re doing is not about educating students,” Garrison said. “What they’re doing is about making money off our children: greed.”

    (Hat tip: Deb)


    Filed on at 5:04 am under by dcobranchi

    Dollywood’s Annual Home School Day gets under way at 9 a.m. Aug. 27. The day offers an outdoor classroom experience where students and their families can participate in craftsman activities.

    Home Parenting Magazine awarded the day its Homeschooling Stamp of Approval, an award that recognizes family travel destinations, colleges, products and curriculum for their efforts to support home-schoolers.

    Some of the activities will include leatherworking, woodcarving, stained glass classes and soap- and candy-making. The classes range in price from free to $10 each and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Class sizes are limited. Home School Day student admission is $21.75, and adult admission is $33.35. For those who register before Aug. 13, a picnic will be provided.

    Students’ picnic meals are free with the purchase of an adult picnic meal for $9.31. For more details or to register, go to www.dollywood.com/Groups_HSchool.asp or call 1-888-428-6789.


    Filed on at 4:51 am under by dcobranchi

    This storytelling homeschooling family looks like they have a lot of fun.

    Dennis, Kimberly and Zephyr Goza left their home in San Francisco 11 years ago to perform professionally at schools and libraries across the United States as “The Act!vated Storytellers”. They are notorious nomads – rarely staying in one place for more than two days. They relish exploring America, touring across the country year-round to ambitiously seek out new experiences that enrich their homeschool studies.

    They have a travel-blogue of their recent activities. (Hat tip: Diane)

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