Utterly Meaningless » 2004 » August
  • OT: Socializing With The Other Bloggers

    Filed on August 31, 2004 at 10:55 pm under by dcobranchi

    I don’t usually meet other bloggers in person (I’ve never even met Daryl, aside from a couple conference calls), but tonight I had a lovely dinner with Jacqueline Passey, a Seattle-based blogger who is in D.C. to scout graduate economics programs. She’s also the Libertarian Party candidate for secretary of state in Washington (the state, not the city.)

    Jacqueline’s take on our evening contained the most insightful description of the District that I’ve ever read: “[T]here are these deranged, creepy bears everywhere I go.” She also has one of the three known pictures of me in the known universe. Fairly warned be thee, says I.

    OT: They’re Recruiting Them Young

    Filed on at 4:37 pm under by dcobranchi

    I do not want to suggest the abortion debate should be decided on the basis of pictoral images, but I do agree with Reason’s Matt Welch that this pic from an RNC protest is “kinda creepy”.


    Filed on at 4:40 am under by dcobranchi

    Did the Census Bureau get a new liar spokesperson?

    The Census Bureau announced on Monday that it would no longer assist law enforcement or intelligence agencies with special tabulations on ethnic groups and other “sensitive populations” without the approval of senior bureau officials.

    …”We recognize that simply making sure we obey the law may not always be enough to ensure that people trust us,” said C. Louis Kincannon, the census director. “Perception also affects how people view and cooperate with the census. This is an interim step to restore trust.”

    I still don’t trust them and will refuse to cooperate every chance I get.


    Filed on at 4:33 am under by dcobranchi

    To open up H&OES and find several new posts. Very cool. Thanks guys- your stuff is a most welcome upgrade to the slop I’ve been serving. Time to call the Michelin reviewer?

    8-Year-Old Imprisoned

    Filed on August 30, 2004 at 10:38 pm under by dcobranchi

    Maybe hiding your children from the government isn’t such a bad idea:

    ESPANOLA, N.M. (AP) — An Espanola third-grader was handcuffed and arrested by police after hitting another student with a basketball, the child’s mother and her lawyer say.

    “The Legislature never envisioned that the law would be used to lock an 8-year-old in any jail, especially an adult jail,” attorney Sheri Raphaelson said.

    “This is the most egregious example of poor judgment by police that I’ve ever seen in my 15 years of practicing law,” she said.

    According to a juvenile citation for disorderly conduct, Jerry Trujillo was arrested Thursday and booked into the Espanola jail after he “got out of control and refused to go back to class.”

    Police Chief Richard Guillen, who was not at work Thursday, said he had few details but that officers “couldn’t deal with” the boy before taking him into custody.

    He said he had conflicting accounts of where the boy was held and for how long.

    It’s illegal to keep a juvenile at an adult facility.

    Espanola school Superintendent Vernon Jaramillo said the incident was being investigated. He expected a report from the school’s principal, Corinne Salazar.

    The boy’s mother, Angelica Esquibel, said he was sent to the school office Thursday when he raised his voice to a teacher after hitting another child with the basketball.

    Esquibel, who works next door to the school, said she was called to the office, and that Jerry began crying and saying he wanted to go home.

    She said a school counselor wanted him to return to class, and that when the boy ran outside and started crying louder, the counselor told him if he wasn’t going to be in school, she was going to call police.

    The counselor told him officers would handcuff him and put him in a cell “until he changes his attitude,” Esquibel said.

    Guillen said he’d been told the mother agreed police should be called. She said she told school officials not to call them.

    Two officers tried to tell Jerry to go back to class and told him he had a choice — class or jail, Esquibel said. When the boy got upset and loud, they handcuffed him, she said.

    The police report says Jerry was arrested, taken to jail, booked and released to his parents.

    Esquibel said that when she arrived at the police station, he was standing against a wall, crying.

    He told her he was placed “in a dark room with a window, a metal toilet and a metal sink,” and that inmates banged on the window “saying they were going to get him and cussing,” she said. He said officers told him to stop crying or they’d let the inmates get him, she said.

    If that last sentence is true, than the officers involved should be fired and prosecuted for federal civil rights violations. And the same should probably hold for the school counselor and any other school officials that were a party to this travesty.


    Filed on at 9:47 pm under by dcobranchi

    I know I’ve been complaining lately about the annual spate of “back to homeschool” stories, but this one really caught my interest:

    No one knows how many home schooled children there are in Israel today. Many people are surprised to learn that there are any at all, but there are dozens, probably hundreds and the number is increasing.

    It sounds as if the regulatory atmosphere is in flux, but — as is the case in the U.S. — those who stand on their rights are left alone:

    Home schooling is now legal in Israel but parents who wish to home school are required to apply for permission. Some do and some don’t. Those who do make the application, don’t always receive an answer, even after meetings with and visits from supervisors.


    The families’ general impression is that national and local powers-that-be only hassle those families that they perceive as being weak, such as those of lower economic standing, new immigrants and single parents. The others are left in relative peace.

    The most fascinating aspect of this piece is that most of the people interviewed are American transplants. Is homeschooling going to turn out to be our most planet-altering export?

    This Story Has No Point…

    Filed on at 8:52 pm under by dcobranchi

    In my last post, I wrote, “Unless parents aren’t filing birth certificates for their kids and locking them in the basement, I’m reasonably certain the government can ‘find’ any child.” After I reread that, I immediately thought about an old high school teacher—whom I won’t name, in case he hasn’t retired yet—who taught me everything I needed to know about public education.

    This teacher was a Vietnam veteran who got his MBA, then decided teaching was a nice easy career path. He was in it for the job security. New York, like many states, grants full tenure after three years. Once he got tenure, he became a very laissez-faire instructor. I had him for business law in 11th grade. He actually did teach for the first few months, but once he sorted out the goods students from the bad students, he slacked off the rest of the year, and made sure everyone got passing grades that more-or-less reflected actual effort. He had a very odd sense of ethics—he wouldn’t let you cheat on a test, but if you asked him for one or two of the answers during the test, he’d probably give them to you.

    Most of his classes involved him telling stories that seemed to go nowhere. My personal favorite involved his five children. He was proud of the fact that they were all home-births. When the first kid was born, he said, he didn’t know how to get a birth certificate filed. So he took the baby down to town hall and showed him (or her, I don’t remember) to the town clerk. The clerk gave him a birth certificate. When the second child came, he took that baby to the clerk. The clerk said he didn’t actually have to bring the baby. Thereafter, he simply went down to town hall and said he’d had another kid, and they gave him a birth certificate, no questions asked. He said this often tempted him to claim he had more than five kids. But again, that unusual sense of ethics seemed to stop him.


    Filed on at 7:11 pm under by dcobranchi

    Unless the hotel has WiFi, I’ll be incommunicado. Flight is at 7 a.m. (Ugh!) so this may be good-bye from me until Friday.


    Filed on at 6:34 pm under by dcobranchi

    This one is almost comical:

    “It [homeschooling] makes me sad,” said Debbie Martino, principal of Gomes Elementary in Cold Springs. “I can’t imagine keeping a child home and away from all the fun in school. School is just a healthy place to be.”

    Yeah- me, too. My kids were just miserable all weekend (in between the Faire, fossil hunting, and canoeing) knowing all the fun they were missing at the local g-school today.


    Filed on at 6:24 pm under by dcobranchi

    Don’t tell this NJ edu-crat but there are just a few more than 2,700 homeschoolers in NJ. NJ homeschoolers don’t have to register with the state.

    In the 2002-2003 school year, the latest year the numbers are available from the state department of education, Mercer County’s 53 homeschooled children were the lowest of any county across the state.

    “I think the numbers seem to be since I’ve been working about the same,” John Lally, education program specialist for the state’s office of non-public schools, said of New Jersey’s 2,700 homeschooled children. “It doesn’t seem to increase a great deal.”

    Way to go, Tim!


    Filed on at 5:35 pm under by dcobranchi

    First I’ve heard of the hyphen problem. I’m going to try to run it to ground.

    UPDATE: It was MT-Blacklist. For some reason a single hyphen was included in the list. I deleted that entry and it now is working properly. Sorry for the problems y’all had while I was playing.

    MADE IT!

    Filed on at 5:28 pm under by dcobranchi

    What a fun weekend. No TV. No ‘puter. No PS2. The kids actually played. Simply amazing. We car camped but, being homeschoolers, the activities were educational in nature. On Saturday we went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire as the kids are studying that time period this coming year. On Sunday, we went to a REALLY remote state park. No amenities at all. The attraction for us was an exposed fossil bed somewhere off an abandoned state road. That was the total extent of the directions we had. We parked the car on the highway and hiked in. Fortunately, we found the place (or at least we found some fossils).

    Today was canoeing. The kids had a great time when I managed to tip it over. Fortunately, they had all just gotten out, so I was the sole dunkee.

    Oh yeah- one other thing. We managed to do a little shopping on Saturday after the Faire. Cabela’s is simply unbelievable. If you’re ever in the area, it should be on your itinerary.

    It’s Not Homeschooling, Part XXVII

    Filed on at 4:19 pm under by dcobranchi

    Heh. In Daryl’s absence, I will take on the role of bashing the fake homeschooler:

    Well, this is it. The first day of homeschool. Right about now, all I can think is, “What am I thinking?!” But the flag is hung, the desks are set up, the pencils are sharpened and the books are in front of us. We’re ready to roll.

    We are actually enrolled in a public charter school, so the school pays for all the curriculum. The school also takes care of all the testing and attendance records so if Emily ever needs to mainstream, she actually has a real CUM. I meet with a “facilitator” (teacher) once a month for record-keeping and feedback.

    Now, I realize that to many in the homeschool community, being enrolled in a public school totally defeats one of the primary purposes of homeschooling, which is, from what I can tell, to hide your children from the government. In fact, I was talking to a colleague last week about our school situation, as he was getting ready to homeschool his kids as well. He said, “I heard that charter schools weren’t a good idea for homeschooling because they send Child Protective Serivices to your house to inspect your toilets and see if there is food in your refrigerator.” Huh?!

    See, it’s this kind of thinking that really gets under my skin and makes Christian homeschooling look just plain stupid. In our homeschool, we won’t be using any books published by Abeka, Bob Jones Publishing or with the words “creation science” in them. We will be teaching Emily that the world is a complex place, logic and the “big bang” are our friends, and that God loves scientists too. (Emphasis mine.)

    Oh, this is bad on so many levels. First, while this may not be her intent, this mother is setting up to fail. Her language is anti-homeschooling: “if Emily ever needs to mainstream, she has a real CUM” (I presume CUM means curriculum). I don’t see how you can maintain a contradictory message. If homeschooling is non-mainstream, and you think the mainstream is a virtue, then why even pretend to homeschool? She’s assuming that whatever the g-schools are doing is inherently correct (i.e., “real” curriculum).

    Second, it’s wrong to derisively state that parents homeschool to “hide their children from the government.” Unless parents aren’t filing birth certificates for their kids and locking them in the basement, I’m reasonably certain the government can “find” any child. But more to the point, is it wrong to “hide” your children from something you believe is a dangerous influence. Nobody criticizes parents for “hiding” their children from drug dealers. Many homeschoolers feel that way about g-schools. Most, if not all, homeschoolers think it’s better for a child to learn from a committed parent than a group of government bureaucrats. This woman sees the government as a partner in her child’s education. History shows that such partnerships are usually one-sided, and tend to favor the government’s interests, not the child’s.

    Finally, this woman doesn’t seem to know that there are homeschoolers who don’t accept government “help” and who aren’t evangelical Christians. I know several homeschoolers who are atheists and non-practicing Christians. And it’s not like the government doesn’t push its own ideology on schoolchildren—oh, wait, that’s okay, because it’s “mainstream” ideology. Silly me.

    BTW, I notice on this woman’s website that she favorably cites a column by the child “expert” whose work I cited yesterday and who I still refuse to give the name of.

    (Hat tip: Chris)

    OT: Selling the Public Interest Short

    Filed on at 1:44 pm under by dcobranchi

    Michael Copps, a Democratic commissioner on the FCC, is foaming at the mouth over the lack of network television coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions:

    Let’s remember that American citizens own the public airwaves, not TV executives. We give broadcasters the right to use these airwaves for free in exchange for their agreement to broadcast in the public interest. They earn huge profits using this public resource. During this campaign season broadcasters will receive nearly $1.5 billion from political advertising.

    What do we get in return for granting TV stations free use of our airwaves? Unfortunately, when it comes to coverage of issues important to our nation, the answer is less and less. Coverage of the 2000 presidential election on the network evening news dropped by a third compared to reporting on the 1996 election. During the last election cycle we heard directly from presidential candidates for an average of 9 seconds a night on the news. Local races? Forget it. In 2002 – the most recent midterm elections – more than half of local newscasts contained no campaign coverage at all. Local coverage has diminished to the point that campaign ads outnumber campaign stories by four to one. What coverage there is focuses inordinately on polls and handicapping the horse race.

    Let’s get one thing clear: The “public” does not own the airwaves. Property can be bought and sold. So if I, as a member of the public, own the airwaves, why can’t I sell my share to the networks. I’d be happy to do so. I don’t need the spectrum and I could use the cash.

    Nor are television stations profiting from the “free use” of the airwaves. This is akin to arguing a person’s house is profiting from the “free use” of the underlying land. The broadcast spectrum has no intrinsic value. Only when businesses develop that spectrum—at an enormous cost—can the “public” airwaves make any money at all, to say nothing of a profit. Does anyone really want to find out what would happen if the government had tried to develop the entire spectrum itself? It would probably look like the government-run schools : Every channel would air identical, “multicultural” programming designed to offend no Washington interest group. Men like Copps would dictate virtually all programming content—a position I doubt he would turn down.

    Furthermore, Copps never asks if the public really wants more campaign coverage. When networks and local stations choose not to air political programming, it’s because they believe there’s other programming more people are likely to watch. Copps’ message, however, is that the public should be forced to watch programming that he deems is in the “public interest.” I would submit the networks, while hardly infallible in their programming decisions (seriously, “Two and a Half Men”?), they are a better judge of what the public prefers to see than a career government bureaucrat.

    And why should the two major-party political conventions get free rides on the networks? The Democrats and Republicans already receive millions in taxpayer dollars—thanks to campaign finance legislation—to stage their conventions. The more the Democrats and Republicans are subsidized, the harder it becomes for third parties to enter the market. Put another way, Copps is demanding the networks air free advertising for Ford and GM, thereby putting Chrysler at a competitive disadvantage.

    Ordering Happy Children

    Filed on August 29, 2004 at 2:04 pm under by dcobranchi

    This morning I read a syndicated column by a self-styled child expert—I’m not saying who, because I choose not to give this individual free publicity—who applauded a mother’s approach to dealing with her three-year-old. The mother reported that her son usually woke up in the morning feeling “grumpy” and generally unhappy. After several attempts to cheer the kid up, the mother finally told her son that, from now on, his list of chores included “waking up happy.” According to the columnist, this simple command worked like a charm, and now the child wakes up happy every morning. The columnist said the lesson was that parents needed to exercise authority over their child’s emotions in order to avoid chaos.

    (Incidentally, do most parents have a chore list for their three-year-olds? I’m actually curious to know if that’s a common practice.)

    Assuming this story is true—and I don’t trust this particular columnist not to make this story up—the question becomes, why did it work? Was the child suddenly happy and free of whatever anxiety led him to be grumpy in the first place? Or did he receive the message that, “mommy won’t love you if you’re not happy,” and he changed his outward behavior out of fear. Neither the columnist nor the mother seemed interested in understanding the source of the child’s emotions. Instead, the columnist said the mother must emphasize her total authority over the child’s feelings, lest he become an out-of-control monster.

    The columnist said the mother’s timely action would likely prevent her son from having to see a child therapist. I suspect, however, that someday that child will seek an adult therapist.

    No Child Left With a Dirty Behind!

    Filed on August 27, 2004 at 1:46 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Wall Street Journal’s page one feature today discusses the pressure on three-year olds to toilet train before entering daycare, er, “preschool.” But on the plus side, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig may have discovered a new marketing opportunity:

    Preschool starts in September, and because of strict no-diaper rules at many schools, toilet training must end.

    In Overland Park, Kan., Kerri Heller has until Sept. 2 to toilet-train her 3-year-old son, Jack. Ms. Heller started training in earnest earlier this month, and says she has barely left the house since.

    On a Monday, she bought an egg timer and set it to ring every 30 minutes to remind Jack to use the toilet. Tuesday, her husband got a neighbor to call and impersonate Mike Sweeney, first baseman for the Kansas City Royals, and encourage Jack to keep potty training and be a “good little slugger.” Jamie Walker, relief pitcher for the Detroit Tigers (aka Lance Harshbarger, her husband’s office colleague), gave similar encouragement. Sammy Sosa (Ms. Heller’s father) called Thursday.

    Jack, a big baseball fan, has bobblehead dolls of two of the players sitting on the sink in the bathroom facing the toilet. “You lose all your inhibitions with this process,” says Ms. Heller, who rewards Jack for good performance with M&M’s and an occasional trip to Chuck E. Cheese’s. “The clock is ticking and it’s really stressful.”

    Before I go any further, I have to question Ms. Heller’s decision to repeatedly lie to her son by having people impersonate his favorite baseball players. It’s one thing to engage the child in fantasy—i.e., the tooth fairy or Santa Claus—but it’s quite another to mislead him such a manipulative manner.

    Then there’s the toilet training instructor who ignored her own instructions:

    Jane Hanrahan, a mother of four who teaches a toilet-training workshop at a community center in Connecticut, discourages the use of disposable training pants. Her two-hour workshop, which she offers four times a year, draws about 20 parents each session . . .

    She’s currently training her youngest son, Michael, who will be 3 in November. Despite her best efforts, he’s resisting. She recently bribed him in the grocery store with M&M’s, a tactic she strongly discourages in her workshops. “I looked around to see if any of my students were in the next aisle,” says Ms. Hanrahan.

    Preschools have a valid reason for wanting toilet-trained children: Regulations. State health and child welfare authorities often extensively regulate the manner in which diapers must be changed, making it time- and cost-prohibitive for the preschools. The Journal adds that there are legal concerns as well, and that changing diapers “often require two adults to be present . . . to prevent child abuse and forestall lawsuits.”

    And then there’s that nasty “socialization” problem, as Sara Anron, director of a nursery school in New York, told the Journal:

    [T]he school found out years ago that changing older children when some of their classmates are already toilet-trained doesn’t work. “It didn’t last two months,” says Ms. Anron. “The other children called the untrained children ‘babies.’ ”

    The needs of an individual child are, of course, irrelevant when you’re talking about any form of institutionalized care, be it a nursery school or an elementary school. This does not, however, stop parents like the above-mentioned Kerri Heller from pushing for institutionalization at the earliest possible moment: “Ms. Heller lined up a year-and-a-half ago at 6 a.m. to get Jack into a ‘pre-preschool’ program to help him get into the preschool he’s about to attend.”

    Toilet training strikes me as the parenting equivalent of running up too much credit card debt. For the first two-plus years of life, an infant is physiologically conditioned, via diapers, to completely ignore his elimination function. This is a fairly contemporary practice of western society. Many tribal and eastern cultures condition their infants to eliminate on cue (a practice sometimes called “infant potty training” in the U.S. and Europe), much as a mother breastfeeds a baby on cue. Diapering is encouraged by the medical establishment, which developed the rationale that infants have no sphincter control whatsoever until about 18 months of age. This isn’t exactly true: Infants lack voluntary sphincter control, but they can be conditioned to eliminate in tandem with a parent’s direction.

    I compare diapering to running up credit card debt because, in essence, each diaper change puts off the physiological process of elimination training until one day the entire payment comes due—with interest and late fees. Now the toddler has to be trained physiologically and psychologically to do something and, in the cases described by the Journal, to do it by an arbitrary date that bears no relation to the child’s actual needs. Add to that the pressure of social conformity, and you’re possibly ringing up a whole new set of debt that will be paid off later on in childhood.

    On a final note, I would consider the Journal story a cautionary tale on the dangers of expanding “universal” preschool mandates. Here in Washington, D.C., a city councilman once proposed lowering the mandatory schooling age to three. If such policies became widespread, it would be necessary for school boards to adopt mandatory toilet training policies—No Child Left With An Dirty Behind!—thus putting the government in charge of a child at potentially his most vulnerable period. I don’t think American society is ready for the potential horror that would unleash.

    Jane Austen, Unschooling Advocate?

    Filed on at 10:59 am under by dcobranchi

    Of a piece with my recently stated opinion that we should help the media realize we’re no longer unusual enough to write about has been the desire to prove how relentlessly normal home education used to be.

    To that end, I’ve been collecting snippets from 19th-century literature that mention education. I’m not yet done with the little series I want to make out of it, but the following was just too good not to share right away.

    In Pride and Prejudice, during Elizabeth’s first evening in the company of the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh, talk falls to the education of the Bennet girls. Lady Catherine speaks first here (and, as readers of the book know, everywhere else as well):

    “No governess! How was that possible? Five daughters brought
    up at home without a governess! I never heard of such a thing.
    Your mother must have been quite a slave to your education.”

    Elizabeth could hardly help smiling as she assured her that had
    not been the case.

    “Then, who taught you? who attended to you? Without a governess, you must have been neglected.”

    “Compared with some families, I believe we were; but such of us
    as wished to learn never wanted the means. We were always
    encouraged to read, and had all the masters that were necessary. Those who chose to be idle, certainly might.”

    Of course, the book is hardly a blanket recommendation of laissez-faire learning. The two elder Bennet girls, modest, self-assured, and quick of wit, clearly profited by their upbringing, but the younger ones are (in the words of their father) “a couple of — or I may say, three — very silly sisters.”


    Filed on at 8:01 am under by dcobranchi

    Some very strange dreams last night, including a scary one involving SAT scores. Seriously. I think I need a vacation. Today.

    We’re going camping. Skip and a possible mystery blogger may still post some stuff, so hang around. See y’all Monday.


    Filed on at 7:49 am under by dcobranchi

    This Op/Ed is one of the saddest pieces I think I’ve ever read. Sad as in disgusting, maddening, infuriating. Marlene Poggiali Greil spends most of her column inches just trashing the g-schools, and then makes the logical leap:

    Practically every day I wonder why I don’t just home-school my kids so they won’t be exposed to public education. I would home-school them so that they could actually learn in a quiet and caring environment. They could wear whatever clothes I deem appropriate, with their input of course, since I believe in the Bill of Rights. They wouldn’t have to worry about FCAT, just about content. They could move at a faster or slower pace depending on the subject and not be ruled by a clock. They wouldn’t have to tell teachers when words were misspelled on memos or when modifiers were misplaced.

    Hey! Very cool. A pro-homeschooling Op/Ed.

    Not quite.

    So why don’t I home-school my children? I want them to have a social life, and I want them to learn that not everything in life is sane or done with their best interests in mind. Some people in schools have motives other than educating. Some people want better jobs. Some people enjoy power and control. And, yes, some people actually love kids and teaching them. Those are the people I wholeheartedly support and want my kids to know.

    I don’t pray much in life — except for every August. Then I pray that my children get those dedicated few teachers who don’t really care what kids look like, how they dress or whether their shirts are tucked in. I pray that they get teachers who have ideas and who want to spark more ideas. I pray that they find themselves in a school where freedom and the Bill of Rights mean something.

    I pray that she comes to her senses.


    Filed on at 7:39 am under by dcobranchi

    Mallard Fillmore is so looking forward to the start of the school year. (via Darby)


    Filed on at 7:20 am under by dcobranchi

    Minivans are making a comeback. Judging from every gathering of homeschooling families I’ve ever been to, they never really left.


    Filed on August 26, 2004 at 10:30 pm under by dcobranchi

    Atlanta schools have declared that a town in Nassau County, LI is an illegal drug.

    Terrell Jones, a student in Gwinnett County’s Grayson High School, was weeded out of a classroom by a school administrator because he wore a shirt that read: “Hempstead, NY 516,” a reference to the Long Island town and its telephone area code.

    According to Jones’ family, which moved from Hempstead to the Atlanta suburb, the school thought the shirt referred to marijuana. Jones wasn’t allowed to return to class until he persuaded school officials to search the Internet for the town name.

    I love the “weeded out” pun.

    BTW, I would never have made that mistake; Hempstead was just down the road from my old hometown of Massapequa. (Hat tip: Diane)


    Filed on at 10:20 pm under by dcobranchi

    A HEHD does a really nice job explaining his family’s educational choices here. (Scroll down to Sale Family.) I really like this imagery:

    Homeschooling is fairly common today, but for some people it still raises red flags, with visions of reactionaries heading for the hills, children and weapons in tow. Actually, homeschoolers–who now educate perhaps 2 million children–are just bringing education back to a more manageable place.

    A side benefit– they’re in CA and appear to be real homeschoolers. I wasn’t sure there were any left.


    Filed on at 10:00 pm under by dcobranchi

    From the Education President’s platform:

    “Public education, access for every child to excellent education, is a foundation of a free, civil society.”

    I guess I’m just uncivilized.


    Filed on at 9:54 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m sorry– I can’t resist highlighting this one.

    I love the way the mom is pointing to the book. So realistic.

    Anti-Car, Anti-Family?

    Filed on at 4:49 pm under by dcobranchi

    Per Henrik Hansen, a Danish economist, wrote in June that Denmark’s welfare state policies have caused a disintegration of the family. Among the arguments he makes is one that might give advocates of public transportation pause:

    For most families with children it is a great help in their daily lives to have a car. Unfortunately it is a specific goal of the Danish welfare state to encourage people to use public transportation in which the government has invested a lot of money. People are being encouraged in many ways. There are very high taxes on cars, gasoline and car insurance. Car prices in Denmark are approximately three times the level that they are in the USA and so are gasoline prices. These taxes are in themselves preventive for many young families.

    At the same time public transportation is significantly subsidized. Other encouragements to shift to public transportation have been car traffic hampering devices such as extensive use of roundabouts, road bumps, narrowing of roads, closing down of second lanes to make more room for bicycles and pedestrians, not investing in new roads, electronic speed controls in many places, abolishment of parking spaces, huge increases in parking fees, huge increases in traffic violation fees, hiring of a lot of parking-ticket controllers and traffic police and lowering of the allowed level of alcohol in the blood when driving to practically nothing.

    Not being able to have the convenience of a car when you have small children, or if you do have a car then to be financially severely burdened and also hampered in its use adds further stress to the modern Danish family, living in a world of specialization and the division of labor, where not all activities can be expected to take place in the close neighborhood.

    Hansen also notes that 83% of two-parent families with children have both parents working full-time, and that nearly 77% of children under the age of six spend most of their days in a state-funded daycare or kindergarten (up from seven percent in 1965.) Of course, we can’t blame the parents for working two jobs—somebody has to pay Denmark’s high tax rates.

    OT: Judicial Activism In Reverse

    Filed on at 4:15 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’ve always said the real threat to our court system isn’t “judicial activism,” as the politicians would have you believe, but “judicial laziness.” The latter was caught in an unusual opinion issued on Tuesday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit:

    John Bright appeals the dismissal of his complaint. Bright’s claims arose when Charles Koschalk murdered one of Bright’s daughters, Annette. At the time of the murder, Koschalk was on probation after pleading guilty to corrupting the morals of Annette Bright’s sister. The District Court dismissed all of Bright’s claims. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and exercise plenary review over the District Court’s order.

    In his brief, Bright focused all of his argument, except for a single footnote, on the merits of the District Court opinion. That single footnote, however, raises a procedural impropriety underlying the District Court’s opinion that undermines the legitimacy of the dismissal order. The relevant footnote asserts that during a preliminary case conference, which occurred before the due date for or the filing of Bright’s response to the appellees’ motions to dismiss, the District Court indicated that it planned to dismiss Bright’s complaint on the basis of an unpublished District Court decision. At this conference, the District Court also requested that in lieu of a reply brief the appellees file a consolidated statement of position. The attorneys confirmed at oral argument that in response to the District Court’s request they submitted a proposed opinion and order of court, which the District Court adopted nearly verbatim, as its opinion and order. Therefore, Bright asserts that he is appealing an order supported by an opinion that were ghostwritten by appellees’ counsel.

    * * *

    Bright complains about the District Court’s procedure, stating that “[i]t is hard to reconcile this evident overreaching with plaintiff’s reasonable expectations as a litigant for a fair and independent judicial review of his claim.” We agree and will reverse and remand the cause to the District Court with orders to engage in an independent judicial review of Bright’s claims and the appellee’s motion to dismiss, and, should it again decide to dismiss, for it to prepare an opinion explaining the reasons for its order.

    Unfortunately, as district court dockets become more crowded, the temptation for judges to “cheat” and take shortcuts increases. Working in antitrust policy, I see this firsthand: The government will submit a “settlement” it coerced from a defendant to the district court, and the judge in turn will accept the government’s claims without question, despite a statutory duty to engage in independent oversight. The judge simply has too much on his plate to worry about an allegedly settled case.

    We have too many laws and not enough judges. Look at the Martha Stewart trial—whatever you thought of her or her alleged crime, was it really worth the time of a federal judge and courtroom staff to prosecute the case? Cases like that take time and resources away from potentially more important matters. Certainly John Bright’s wrongful death action deserved more attention from the district judge than it apparently received.

    On a lighter note, though, you have to wonder about a judge who’s lazier than the average college student. A freshman who plagiarizes his English paper usually shows enough initiative to not make his forgery blatantly obvious. The judge could have at least stolen another court’s opinion in a similar case off the Internet. Heck, most judges do that already—it’s called “citing precedent.”


    Filed on at 5:20 am under by dcobranchi

    It’s that time of the year– when homeschooling is on the grow in xxx articles sprout like mushrooms in my front lawn. Leading off this year’s parade is Lafayette, Louisiana. The article is well-written (dumb headline, though). Worth a quick read.


    Filed on at 5:05 am under by dcobranchi

    The NYT has a piece that should pique the interest of any parent with teens. The internet has moved bullying from the schoolyard to the living room.

    For many teenagers, online harassment has become a part of everyday life. But schools, which tend to focus on problems that arise on their property, and parents, who tend to assume that their children know better than they do when it comes to computers, have long overlooked it. Only recently has it become pervasive enough that even the adults have started paying attention.

    Worth a read and then worth letting your (older) kids read it, too. Could be a conversation starter. (Hat tip: Diane)

    NOTE: Please read it all the way through before passing it along to your kids. The article digresses a bit into the file-sharing of sexually explicit videos.

    A Is For Effort!

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

    A private college in South Carolina fired two professors for—get ready—“awarding grades strictly on academic performance.” What were the professors supposed to grade? According to the school’s president, effort is more important than achievement:

    COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Benedict College has fired two professors who refused to go along with a policy that says freshmen are awarded 60 percent of their grades based on effort and the rest on their work’s academic quality.

    Benedict President David Swinton says the Success Equals Effort policy gives struggling freshmen a chance to adapt to college academics. He expects students to improve – the formula drops to 50-50 in the sophomore year and isn’t used in the junior or senior year. But he says he’s “interested in where they are at when they graduate, not where they are when they get here.”

    Students “have to get an A in effort to guarantee that if they fail the subject matter, they can get the minimum passing grade,” Swinton said. “I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”

    Science professors Milwood Motley and Larry Williams defied that policy and Swinton dismissed them. Neither had tenure, which could have protected them from firing.

    Motley, a veteran five years at Benedict, said he didn’t like concept from the beginning but went along with it grudgingly. Then he faced an academic dilemma of passing a student he thought had not learned course material. In his case, giving a C to a student with a high exam score of 40 percent was too much.

    “There comes a time when you have to say this is wrong,” he said.

    Now here’s the fun twist—Benedict is a “historically black college.” It was founded in 1870 to educate freed slaves. President Swinton told the AP that, “The school’s open admissions policy means many students arrive with poor study habits and weak high school records.”

    I don’t have a problem with Swinton’s actions. It’s a private school, and he’s free to establish whatever grading policy he wants; if the professors disobeyed the policy, then they should be fired. I’m not one to whine about “academic freedom,” as such. And Swinton makes a plausible argument in support of his policy. Benedict presumably does not attract the top high school students in South Carolina, and Swinton wants to keep the students he does get around long enough to have a shot at graduating. This is no different than the NCAA Division I schools that provide special accommodations to help star basketball and football players stay in school. Swinton’s grading policy at least treats all students, not just athletes, equally.

    On the other hand, this is not the type of grading policy a school should adopt if they want to attract and retain quality faculty. Most professors would justifiably balk at Swinton’s centralized, “effort-based” grading system. It’s nice that Swinton wants to retain his students, but if he’s going to surround them with professors hired for their ability to obey orders without question, I’m not sure how useful a Benedict College degree will be to anyone.

    (And if I were the regional accrediting body overseeing Benedict, I would probably be convening some sort of committee right about now to examine Swinton’s grading policy. Other universities might rightly decide they don’t want to give their sanction to such a radical departure from established norms of academic decentralization.)

    But what genuinely annoys me about this is the fact that Benedict is a “historically black college.” I put that phrase in quotes because that is the description assigned to Benedict by the U.S. Department of Education. In 1981, President Reagan established the “White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Basically, this is a $220 million slush fund for majority-black colleges, be they public or private (the administration has requested $240 million for next fiscal year.) So the taxpayers are financing special grants to Benedict above-and-beyond whatever the school might receive from the general higher education slush fund.

    The idea of grading for “effort” would seem to contradict the Bush administration’s vaunted “No Child Left Behind” ideal. Or maybe this is a “faith-based initiative.” Sometimes the White House’s ideological contradictions confuse me.

    (Hat tip: David Beito)

    UPDATE: The State newspaper in South Carolina does mention potential accreditation problems with Benedict’s grading policy:

    Benedict is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Such accreditation is a must for Benedict credits to be transferable. It’s what makes Benedict degrees worth more than the paper they are printed on. Of grave concern is the fact that Dr. Swinton’s new policy flies in the face of a number of tenets in the accreditation policies.

    SACS requires that credits be awarded for learning outcomes. Those are the outcomes that have been reduced to 40 percent of freshmen grades under SEE. Accredited institutions must prove that their students are attaining college-level competencies in their courses, not merely trying hard to do so. The voice of a school’s faculty is given great weight in accreditation. Allowing such academic freedom as the fired professors claimed is a specific requirement for accreditation.


    Filed on at 8:42 pm under by dcobranchi

    Darby is all wound up about daytime curfews. And she didn’t even know about the latest. Battle Creek’s curfew apparently doesn’t even make allowances for homeschoolers or anyone whose school doesn’t folow a traditional schedule.


    Filed on at 11:32 am under by dcobranchi

    Not the kids, but the parents.

    An interesting lede in this WaPo column:

    Karen Budd is one of those parents that school administrators try to avoid.

    To begin with, she understands math, having a bachelor’s degree in the subject, plus some graduate work in engineering, from the University of Pittsburgh. Every school superintendent who has ever attended a PTA meeting knows the math-savvy parents are the worst. They often have complaints about the way teachers are handling the subject. And the average administrator, having like me successfully avoided taking any math since high school, knows he is ill-equipped to defend himself.

    The rest of the column falls under the category of dueling data but is interesting, nonetheless. Saxon Math figures prominently.


    Filed on at 10:56 am under by dcobranchi

    Those who can, do. Those who can’t, cry?

    Burnout is literally driving public school and health-care workers to tears, suggests a study commissioned by a Quebec public sector union.

    About 40 per cent of the study’s respondents, most of whom were teachers, said they’ve cried on the job, mostly because they have too much work, or are too stressed out, author Angelo Soares said.


    Filed on at 7:38 am under by dcobranchi

    Hope springs eternal in the edu-crat breast:

    In Illinois, home schools are not regulated by the state because they are classified similarly to private schools.

    Still, state officials encourage home-school families to link up with districts to align their curriculum “in case the parent wants to re-enroll their child into the regular mainstream,” said Harry Blackburn, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Education. “[But] the state hasn’t been given the mandate and the authority to supervise these schools.”

    Encourage? Yeah– that’ll work.

    The Textbook Approach to Home Education

    Filed on August 24, 2004 at 2:09 pm under by dcobranchi

    Izzy Lyman linked to a new website—HomeSchoolerNetwork.com—so I thought I’d take a look. The site bills itself as, “packed with over 5,000 innovative lessons, activities, and inspirational articles to help you in your homeschooling life.” I immediately smelled a trap.

    The site contains suggested curricula for home schooled children of all ages. I checked out the “social studies” section. Four-year-olds are offered, “Ready to color pictures of objects that contribute to pollution with fill in the blank vocabulary words.” There’s an obsession with all things Native Americans, from reservations to canoes to animal-skin clothing. Six year olds are taught to “create their own flag.” There’s coloring pages of various black historical figures (but none of white figures.) There’s an article that tells pre-teens, “The passage of Title IX was supposed to guarantee equality for women in amateur sports, but . . . that has not been realized – either in the amateur or professional sporting worlds.” There’s a lesson plan on “Women and World War II,” but no lessons on the war itself. And, finally, there’s an article on how “one in four fathers” are forced to care for their preschool-age children while the mothers work, because of a lack of “quality” daycare.

    What’s not in this curriculum? The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and anything resembling political science or an integrated study of history. The “HomeSchooler Network” expects children to grasp history only as a series of unrelated concretes without any conceptual framework—beyond the notion that Native Americans and a handful of black leaders are very important, and not enough women play soccer.

    So who’s behind the “HomeSchooler Network”? Pearson PLC, one of the world’s largest textbook publishers. The Network’s “educational partners” include the National PTA, the National School Boards Foundation, the National Public School Public Relations Association, and other textbook publishers.

    As I said, I smelled a trap. The same textbook publishers behind the g-schools’ failed approach to “social studies”–I hate that term–are now trying to convince home educators that the same failed approach will work for them. This is almost as bad as cyber charters masquerading as home schools.

    UPDATE: My colleague Tom, who works for a medical publisher, offered these thoughts:

    In defense of book publishers (which I have to do,
    since I take their money), they don’t know how to deal with homeschoolers. If they can’t send a sales rep to a campus, they honestly have no clue what to do. Right now, sales reps go to campuses, get feedback from teachers, and give that feedback to acquisition editors, who sign authors who write what those teachers are looking for. Homeschooling parents are so individualized that it’s too costly to cater to each of them. So publishers slap the words “homeschoolers edition” on the cover of the texts homeschooling parents are trying to keep their kids aways from in the first place.


    Filed on at 7:43 am under by dcobranchi

    Somebody’s been smoking something. Kimberly Swygert has the dope on some color psychologists (I kid you not) who think that grading in red is threatening, but purple is “serene.” Kimberly’s back up to speed after her brief blogging hiatus:

    This is why I don’t drink while blogging – I’d spit my mead all over my keyboard laughing. It’s nice to know that a deep purple pen can make it all better for a student who received a D-minus. Yes indeedy. And now the teacher can feel better about herself, too, because she’s not being “over-the-top” in her “aggression”, which is what touchy-feely types define as “grading objectively” these days.

    Click on over- the whole thing is just too funny.


    Filed on at 6:39 am under by dcobranchi

    Of the unnecessary War on Drugs.

    The two Philadelphia firefighters who died on the job Friday night are to be buried this week at Forest Hills Cemetery in Philadelphia.

    …Philadelphia District Attorney Lynne Abraham says the fire began in a tangle of wires and high-powered lamps that 35-year-old Daniel Brough set up for a marijuana-growing operation.

    The FD says that the fire burned particularly quickly because the wood in the closet was dried out from the heat lamps.


    Filed on at 6:30 am under by dcobranchi

    Thanks a lot for confusing the nation.

    Not a desk or chalkboard as far as the eye could see — only open river and overcast skies.

    For Chrysalis Charter School, that was the idea. Monday was the first day of class for the Redding charter school situated in Turtle Bay Exploration Park and instead of getting a locker or finding an assigned seat, students at the school floated down the Sacramento River.

    …Because the school combines home schooling with classroom curriculum, parental involvement at the school is high. Many joined their children on the river float.

    It has nothing to do with homeschooling. It’s a public school! Time to write another letter, I guess.


    Filed on at 6:12 am under by dcobranchi

    Yesterday, Lydia and I were watching an interview with Michael Phelps. The questioning turned to his decision to give up his spot on the 4×100 medley relay to his teammate. Very classy. Our discussion then segued to Paul Hamm’s apparent decision to keep a gold medal that he really didn’t earn. Apparently, the New York Times editors have been thinking along those same lines.


    Filed on August 23, 2004 at 7:52 pm under by dcobranchi

    I just love honeysuckle. I shot this one yesterday up in southeastern PA. The sky really was that blue.

    UPDATE: More flower photos here. These are pretty raw. You get what you pay for, I guess.


    Filed on at 6:55 pm under by dcobranchi

    Chris Long is making available to homeschoolers a free PDF copy of his soon to be released text on Asia history to World War II.

    I am currently working on a book titled “Pearl Harbor to Coral Sea: Pacific Campaigns” and thought it may be valuable to some of your homeschoolers. Here’s why: the text has a massive backgound section on Southeast Asia that traces the rise and development of all of Southeast Asia from 300 B.C. to 1941 A.D. including China and Japan.

    Included with that history of Southeast Asia is a comprehensive account of the rise of Colonialism and traces the involvement of colonial powers in the pacific.

    The text also traces the rise of Islam and Christianity in Southeast Asia. It also covers American involvement in the Pacific.

    The reader gets a comprehensive account of the economics of much of Europe and colonialism and colonial administration of Southeast Asia. Included is much background on the major European powers.

    I have done all that because when the reader transitions to the WW II section, every factor of the cause of the war makes perfect sense and any reference to what are usually mysterious Asian countries during the war have a familiarity.

    And the first 6 months of WW II are covered comprehensively.

    The text can function on many levels, in whole or in part…one book covering 2240 years of 70 % of the world.

    Students with an affinity for history can, literally, learn the history of the region for over 2000 years. It’s illustrated liberally with maps, charts, tables and pictures.

    The text is being published online at Militaryhistoryonline.com

    I am willing to give this to homeschoolers FREE.

    Will have PDF copies of the first half available soon.

    Chris Long

    Chris is hesitant to post his email, so if anyone would like a copy drop me a line and I’ll forward it.

    It’s All Just a Bad Dream!

    Filed on at 2:29 pm under by dcobranchi

    Apparently New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey is not gay. According to this WorldNet Daily column, “No one is gay.” I guess it’s all just a big conspiracy to piss off Christians.


    Filed on at 1:29 pm under by dcobranchi

    Reporter Cathy Snyder responded to my email from the other day:

    Mr. Cobranchi,

    I appreciate your response to my article. In regards to the distinction
    between a virtual school being a public school or a home school option, I
    was basing my article on the information given to me by Mrs. Paige. She
    considered her son’s virtual schooling to be home schooling and that is why
    I wrote the article the way I did.


    Cathy Snyder

    See what happens when we get confused about what is and isn’t homeschooling?


    Filed on at 12:14 pm under by dcobranchi

    Some students in Texas are buying textbooks, photocopying the whole thing, and then returning the book for a refund.

    An employee at Papeleria La Espanola in Matamoros said it costs 3.5 U.S. cents per page to copy a book. Pasting or binding the book costs $2.36.

    That adds up to less than $13 to copy a 300-page book.

    …Josefina Ruiz, a recent graduate of the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College, said copying textbooks is wrong but is sometimes justified. She said the government and university don’t provide enough money for the average student to pay for classes.

    “And to top this off, $100 books per class,” Ruiz said.

    I guess they don’t teach ethics at UT-Brownsville. And when did it become the government’s and the university’s (redundancy alert) responsibility to provide enough money to pay for everything? Don’t UT students have any pride?


    Filed on at 12:02 pm under by dcobranchi

    A pretty good article on the topic. And not once is homeschooling mentioned! The biggest drawback I see to these programs is that they are still lock-stepped:

    School officials at Primavera Online High School say virtual schooling is the wave of the future, and not just for a niche audience.

    Primavera sees both high achievers and those struggling in school enrolling in online high school courses, Lester said. As in traditional schools, students move through the lessons at the same pace in a block schedule. They take two courses a day for six weeks. Lester said block schedules allow students to dive into a subject and spend time on it, not rush through six courses in a day.

    When they can figure out that all kids do not learn on the same schedule is when they’ll really start to be useful.


    Filed on at 9:25 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a nice piece on the way dads are contributing more than just bringing home the “beans” (I guess homeschooling families can’t afford bacon).


    Filed on at 7:41 am under by dcobranchi

    I actually agree with the first part of this letter- a pedestrian bridge would be appropriate. The part that caught my eye is the concluding sentence. It sure sounds like a case of blaming the victim.

    Pedestrian warning on highway is stupid

    The brain trust at DelDOT has again demonstrated its mental muscle with the placement of temporary signs stating “Caution: pedestrians crossing roadway” at various points along U.S. 13 between Hares Corner and the U.S. 40 split, in response to recent pedestrian traffic fatalities.

    The deadly problem of pedestrians crossing the roadway is not new. It is impossible for drivers to see people crossing the highway in the dark. And is it even legal to cross an eight-lane highway anywhere one chooses?

    Wouldn’t a pedestrian cross over, like the one on Route 13 in Wilmington Manor, or a fence or wall placed in the median to deter pedestrian traffic, be more effective? These signs serve no purpose other than to inflame drivers who spend inordinate time battling traffic while trying to traverse New Castle County.

    Rebecca Panichelli, Llangollen Estates

    You mean we have to slow down for all these pedestrians?


    Filed on August 22, 2004 at 2:05 pm under by dcobranchi

    I have it on good authority that lust, when directed at a gun, is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins. That’s good because, after going to the pistol range twice this weekend, I’m just going to have to get a pistol to play with. And, right now, here’s the object of my lust.


    Filed on at 7:13 am under by dcobranchi

    AstroPic of the Day does it again: The Earth at Night


    Filed on at 6:56 am under by dcobranchi

    Actually, it’s the sub-hed that really confuses things:

    Schools nervous about grades

    Annual state report cards now carry tough penalties for buildings that haven’t made mandated progress

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