Utterly Meaningless » 2005 » January

AND NOW, FINALLY, HE IS A MAN

Filed on January 31, 2005 at 10:25 pm under by dcobranchi

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Alex became a bar mitzvah yesterday. At his secular Jewish Sunday school, reading from the Torah is replaced by a research project into some aspect of the Jewish experience. His presentation — “If You Tickle Us, Do We Not Laugh?: Jewish Stereotypes in Comedy” — analyzed the cultural ramifications of characters from Shylock to Krusty the Clown, with myriad video clips and a couple of jokes of his own thrown in for good measure.

Adding up the four sections of his presentation, he spoke for nearly 25 minutes; you’d never have known that this was a child — excuse me, I mean young man — whose only previous public speaking consisted of telling birthday guests that the cake was ready.

His mother and I are immensely proud of him.

OUT AT FIRST*

Filed on at 6:13 pm under by dcobranchi

With a boner like this in the lede, the rest of the piece doesn’t hold much promise:

People once thought that home schooling was a result of extremist-religious groups and isolationism. Today, home schooling enrollments double each and every year in the United States and internationally. The reasons why are that the quality and variety of curriculums and programs are truly remarkable, and because virtual classrooms are the future of public and university education.

Yeah- it didn’t get any better. In fact, it might have even gone downhill, as it concludes with an ahistorical note:

It is a sad day when one realizes that being an ordinary American citizen now mandates being a government watchdog, but, in fact, it does.

When have Americans not had to keep an eye on the government? “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

*I never promised anything about baseball references.

NOTHING COULD BE FINER

Filed on at 5:16 pm under by dcobranchi

I got the job. Fayetteville here we come. NC home education may never recover.

THE END IS NEAR

Filed on at 2:54 am under by dcobranchi

Well, if not it should be. In keeping with the new name of this blog, nothing is OT. This will just be part of the “other stuff.”

I’ve got to set the stage first: Insomnia. Strange bed. WiFi in the room. So, I’m blog-hopping and eventually come across the newest dance craze out of LA– clown dancing. Yeah, they dress up as clowns. Scary makeup and everything. Sad quote of the year.

“The clowning and the krumping dance movement, it is a very positive thing because it really does keep kids off the streets,” krumping originator Thomas Johnson, a.k.a. Tommy the Clown, explained in Los Angeles recently. “Kids really don’t have too much to do around here. This is something exciting for them. To Missy and everybody that has grabbed this whole clowning, krumping, hip-hop style of clown dancing, I want to say thank you for putting it on the national scale. You’re doing it.”

Now I’ll never be able to get back to sleep.

GOODBYE AGAIN

Filed on at 1:51 am under by dcobranchi

I promise I’m not going out looking for lesbian home educators. Wait. I meant I’m not searching for stories about them. Google News is. Anyway, here’s an almost identical tale about two women raising their kids. The reporter’s bias in this one is more apparent; it’s an interesting contrast with the one from the other day.

LET’S BE HONEST

Filed on at 1:35 am under by dcobranchi

Everybody has an agenda.

This column decries the “radical agenda” that the GLBT community is pushing in the g-schools. The fact that the religious right tries just as hard to push their agenda (I.D. , abstinence only, and prayer in schools) gets short shrift.

The point is not that public schools should be teaching the biblical view of sexuality instead, and morally equivalent religious indoctrination from the right (i.e. school-sponsored prayer) is equally as worrisome.

Since this is the only sentence opposing the “radical agenda” from the right, it is evidently not quite equally alarming. Regardless, the column does make an important point:

The point is that U.S. schools have no business encroaching upon moral issues that are legitimately the province of the family. If issues of sexuality and marriage are not issues for the family, what are? It is no wonder that the popularity of home schooling and private schools has increased in recent years.

So far, the left has been more successful at pushing their agenda in the schools, and so the right complains, pushes back, and turns to home education. If the right wins and creationism is taught in the schools, you can bet that home ed will take a leftward lurch.

The real point is that everyone has a world-view, and everyone wants the near-monopoly g-schools to push it. Home educators have been preaching this sermon for 20 years. It’s one of the reasons WWHS.

A HECKUVA IDEA

Filed on January 30, 2005 at 12:20 pm under by dcobranchi

The normally left-leaning Kevin Drum has a good post on work-readiness testing in New York. Drum wonders why the businesses don’t pay for this themselves. Good question. And of course if this test is offered through the g-schools, private schoolers and the home educated will just have one more hurdle to jump through.

Drum’s right. Let the private sector take care of this.

FHEA* CANDIDATE

Filed on at 11:59 am under by dcobranchi

* That’s Future Home Educators of America

The NY Daily News has a really good Op/Ed about what’s wrong with force-feeding our kids “education” (i.e., test prep). The column is short, sweet, and funny. Well worth a click.

UPDATE: Diane pointed out that I had the paper wrong. It’s fixed now.

HOME ED/SCHOOL UPDATE

Filed on at 9:32 am under by dcobranchi

Helen is soliciting comments over at the AHA blog, too (and you just gotta love that permalink). And Kim of Relaxed Homeskool promises a podcast on the topic sometime this weekend.

LIMITED BLOGGING

Filed on at 9:01 am under by dcobranchi

I’m on the road until Wednesday. I may be able to post some from the hotel.

MONEY FOR NOTHIN’?

Filed on at 7:38 am under by dcobranchi

The Wayne County (NC) Chamber of Commerce is sponsoring $500 grants to local teachers:

The Wayne Charitable Partnership and the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce announces the availability of mini-grants for instructional projects for the 2004-2005 school year. The mini-grants are an attempt to encourage teachers, media coordinators, and guidance counselors to originate and implement innovative projects by making funds available to them. The goal of the mini-grant program is to improve the quality of learning by supporting projects that show promise of benefiting students.

The competitive grants are open to all public and private school teachers. AND home educators.

THE DARK SIDE OF CHEMISTRY

Filed on at 7:03 am under by dcobranchi

A couple of articles on methamphetamine coincidentally crossed my desk within minutes of each other. The first from the NYT details how some states are trying to fight the “cooks” by making it harder to get one of the precursor chemicals. The second story from the Des Moines Register is a more personal look at how the drug nearly destroyed a young girl’s life (and, yes, she was being home educated for a while). Both are worth a read, particularly the latter.

I looked up the synthesis* for making crystal meth; it is scarily easy. As a parent, here are some things to watch out for: road flares or red phosphorus, iodine solution, cold pills containing pseudoephedrine (Sudafed or any of the look-alikes).

*I’m not giving away any secrets with the link to the synthetic route. Anyone with an inclination to make this could have found it the same way I did– Google.

Let’s count the ways…

Filed on January 29, 2005 at 11:47 am under by Tim Haas

…my son could have managed to get himself arrested in these schools.

At least three times in recent days, Central Florida school kids were arrested on adult felony charges for misbehaving in school.

In Brevard County, police handcuffed a 6-year-old who hit his teacher and a police officer with books, after the boy claimed he was upset because “someone’s grandmother died.”

Police in Ocala arrested two grade-school children and hauled them out of school for drawing threatening stick figures in class.

Marion County officials arrested a 9-year-old for threatening to cut off a classmate’s fingers with scissors.

“It’s pretty outrageous. It is like a virus has hit Florida — zero tolerance runs amok,” said Bob Schwartz, executive director of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia.

Kids Face Adult Charges for School Misbehavior

Just thinking back over the brief period my son was in school (two years – junior and senior kindergarten), he once whacked a kid with his backpack, he threw a block, he pushed another kid on the playground, he checked out a little girl’s underpants (after she offered to show him), and he stole another little girl’s show and tell toy. Oh yeah, and he smuggled a toy sword into school during the Halloween party.

He was a pretty hardened felon for a 3 – 5 year old, eh? Luckily, his teacher had a sense of humor. We would have pulled him out a lot sooner if anyone had threatened him with prison over this stuff.

DAMN!

Filed on at 7:29 am under by dcobranchi

SC Gov. Mark Sanford’s “Put Parents in Charge” Act (i.e., tax credits) is looking uglier all the time. The actual bill is online; it is not a blanket tax credit, but a reimbursement for expenses.

For a student taught at home pursuant to Article 1, Chapter 65, Title 59, ‘receipt’ means a document issued by the entity receiving a payment for tuition, which contains the name of the entity receiving the payment; the identity of the goods or services purchased; the date and amount of tuition paid; and, if the receipt is for personal services, the person’s taxpayer identification number.

This would be a record-keeping nightmare. And, presumably, if audited these receipts would be subject to interpretation by the South Carolina Department of Revenue. A trip to the zoo? Not allowed. Swimming lessons? Ditto.

This is not how I understood Sanford’s proposal. SC home educators ought to oppose this.

GOODBYE READERS

Filed on at 7:10 am under by dcobranchi

I’m sure this one will piss off a few folks here. It’s a very nice (and poignant) tale of two women who are raising (and home educating) four boys. They don’t come off as strident lesbians with some agenda. They’re just folks.

“All I ever wanted is this,” Appleby says as the boys romp through the living room. “A family, a home, a garden. It’s everything. I couldn’t be happier.”

But this comfortable life together did not start out without a few roadblocks.

Custody battles over whether the children would remain in the home with Hoerner and Appleby led to months of psychiatric evaluations, counseling and drug screens.

“I went through hell,” Appleby says. “We’re not freaks. We’re just like everybody else.”

They’re considering moving to Canada to be legally married, but can’t because they need to be near elderly parents and don’t want to separate the boys from their father.

Can someone tell me how keeping these two women from marrying is supporting families?

A SOPHISTICATED TWIST

Filed on at 6:51 am under by dcobranchi

It’s too bad this debate isn’t being streamed. It might have been interesting.

A new way of looking at the origin of the universe will be the topic of a live broadcast on WGTD (91.1 FM) Saturday.

“Evolution versus Intelligent Design” is the title of “Education Matters,” a program that will air live from Café 91.1, a coffee house located in the atrium of the Center for Bioscience and the Integration of Computer and Telecommunications Technology. BioCATT is located on the Kenosha campus of Gateway Technical College, 3520 30th Ave.

Guests will include Adele Weeks, a medical technologist who currently spends her days home-schooling her children, and Dr. Gregory Mayer, an associate professor of Biological Sciences at UW-Parkside and the school’s director of Environmental Studies. The host will be Linda Flashinski, director of Communication and Public Affairs for the Racine Unified School District.

The program will air from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. People may watch the program in person by showing up for the live broadcast, or tune in at the time of the show call (262) 564-8450 with their questions. E-mails will be accepted in advance and during the show at wgtd@gtc.edu

The theory of Intelligent Design is described by some as a sophisticated twist on creationism.

UPDATE: It might actually be available on the ‘net. They seem to stream their entire feed here.

A DAMN GOOD WHACKING

Filed on January 28, 2005 at 8:29 pm under by dcobranchi

That’s what the state educrats in Texas deserve for this cowardly bit of buck-passing:

A report from the Texas Education Agency on the paddling incident in late 2004 that prompted Shelley Hall to take her children out of the Groveton school district stated that the TEA “cannot lawfully intervene in student discipline matters.”

In an effort to prevent similar incidents, Hall and another parent of a former Groveton ISD student, Lynn Causby, will be in Austin Friday to tell their stories at a summit for “creating a positive school environment for student success.”

“Basically, the TEA told us they couldn’t do anything because there are no laws on the books to monitor how corporal punishment is used in the schools,” Hall said.

On Sept. 29, Hall’s son, Chris, received two “pops” with a paddle for continuously refusing to turn in his homework. The paddling by the high school principal was hard enough that it left red welts on Chris’s behind that lasted four days, Hall said. At the time, her son was 9 years old.

SHAKEDOWN 1979

Filed on at 8:14 pm under by dcobranchi

Maybe it’s just me, but this feels like a total time trip:

Cyber arcade operators who fail to check the ages of minors during school hours would face stiff fines under a new Board of Supervisors proposal intended to fight truancy caused by the exploding appeal of video games.

If it passes, the penalty for ignoring the law, which would also cover the hours between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m. before school days, could go up to $750 for repeat offenders.

“We don’t want to see young people video-gaming during the school day,” said Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who heads the City Services Committee that recommended approval Thursday.

Those darn kids — pretty soon they’ll be reading comic books, chugging malteds, and dancing! With girls! (Well, actually, if they’re gamers …)

TIM’S RIGHT

Filed on at 12:30 pm under by dcobranchi

I give up on “homeschooling” (the word, not the concept). I’ll still write LttE when a reporter misuses it (because of potential legal ramifications) but I’m going to use “home education” and “home educators” here at cobranchi.com. That means I’m going to need a new name for the blog. Nominations from the floor are open.

ET TU, IZZY

Filed on at 8:05 am under by dcobranchi

From HomeschoolRev:

Electronic Classrooms of Tomorrow

An article about an Ohio lad who does the bulk of his homeschooling through ECOT and whose “classroom” abuts the tattoo shop his parents own.

From the ECOT website:

Welcome to the online information center for the national leader in online K-12 education, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow!

The Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is an online public community school sponsored by the Lucas County (Ohio) Educational Service Center (LCESC).

I’m tweaking Izzy (who’s a friend) a bit, but it really isn’t her fault. I fear the cyber charters have successfully co-opted the word “homeschooling.” I’ll keep reminding the reporters every chance I get that cyber charters aren’t homeschools, but I’m beginning to feel like Don Quixote.

TOO CUTE

Filed on at 6:52 am under by dcobranchi

by half.

I’m not sure what Steve Yingling thought he was accomplishing with this throwaway line:

Lauren is home-schooling all of her children still in the household, even though Jamie escaped for a year at South Tahoe Middle School.

The article is about a family who have been very successful in snowboarding.

Like most world class athletes, the family find that homeschooling gives them the flexibility to train when they need to. In fact, it’s hard to find a top notch athlete isn’t homeschooled.

ONE THING AT A TIME

Filed on at 6:42 am under by dcobranchi

This sounds dangerous:

[D]uCharme produces art with fused glass while homeschooling her two sons.

ONE FOR THE ABJ?

Filed on at 5:45 am under by dcobranchi

When the ABJ does their follow-up piece, I suggest the reporters Google “home schooling” AND “bomb threat.” I’m sure they’ll come up with some terrific evidence that we’re raising the next batch of Unabombers.

EDU-CRATS THE WORLD OVER

Filed on January 27, 2005 at 9:03 pm under by dcobranchi

Apparently Sweden has it’s own problems with the education establishment and “facts.” The mises.org blog has a post about a study that showed that Swedish private school students outperformed their g-school counterparts. The study has disappeared from website of their Education Ministry and is no longer available in the dead tree version. Intressant, nej? (Tip credit: Skip Oliva)

SILLY SEASON: VA

Filed on at 2:44 pm under by dcobranchi

When all the homeschooling bills are in bloom. These are out of Virginia.

HB 1767 and HB 1770 will help home-schoolers obtain information about standardized tests required for their children and will help them obtain information about PSAT and AP testing opportunities.

1767 seems innocuous. I’m not so sure about 1770. Here’s the new sentence:

The Department of Education shall maintain a list of achievement tests, evaluations, and assessments that satisfy the requirements of clauses (i) and (ii) of this subsection.

Maybe Chris can answer this: Are parents currently allowed to choose any nationally normed test? Because this one sounds as if the edu-crats will get to choose from now on. VAhomeschoolers.org doesn’t seem to have anything on their website about this.

SNOWBALLS IN VERMONT OR HELL?

Filed on at 2:23 pm under by dcobranchi

I really don’t know anything about VT politics, so I have no idea if this bill stands a chance. Given other states’ experiences with voucher proposals, though, I’d bet that the odds are long:

H.19, a bill that proposes to allow parents to send children to any public school, and that school must accept the student(s) as long as their is space in the classroom. It would also require the state to pay $5,000 for students in grades 9 through 12 and $2,500 for students in grades K-8 to attend secular or sectarian independent schools once the student is accepted. In the case of home schooling, the state would have to pay $1,000 for students in grades 9 through 12 and $500 for students in grades K-8 for a year’s worth of education. The bill is sponsored by Carolyn Branagan (Fairfax, Georgia) and is currently in House Education;

HEAR! HEAR!

Filed on at 9:14 am under by dcobranchi

Self esteem may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Kevin Drum’s got the link and lots of comments.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

Filed on at 7:24 am under by dcobranchi

Actually the school got this one correct. It’s the physics teacher who is out of bounds.

Erika Vogt-Nilsen, 17, stirred controversy at the school’s Winter Art Show with a digitally manipulated photograph showing a sinister-looking puppeteer with strings attached to an image of a crucified Christ.

A teacher and six students who thought it mocked Christianity expressed their displeasure to the administration after the show came down. Then the teacher sent a letter to local newspapers objecting to the work.

…”From the Christian world view, this is the ultimate sacrilege,” said Mountain Pointe physics teacher Philip Moon who objected to her artwork. “Whether she intended it or not, it means God is dangling at the hands of man.”

…”It has absolutely no place in the high school setting. Do I think it should have been banned? Absolutely.”

Kids do not lose their First Amendment rights when they walk in the g-school doors. Just as the physic teacher had a right to protest the art with a letter to the editor. Why is this so hard for folks to understand?

ONE FOR DELANEY

Filed on at 6:08 am under by dcobranchi

That’s Delaney O’Donnell.

Happy birthday and here’s a story for you to raid your dad’s wallet with.

Phil Peterson of Port Orchard, WA, has been elected as president of the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) for the 2005–2006 term.

Peterson is Camp Director at Miracle Ranch in Port Orchard, WA. For the past 20 years, he has hired and trained the staff for the summer weekly and off-season weekend horsemanship camps, developed new programs for college apprentices and homeschoolers and has planned and completed two major buildings-–a full service dining and meeting facility and a complete horsemanship education facility.

H&OES NEWS FLASH!

Filed on at 5:53 am under by dcobranchi

This is big news in Hollywood!

WILL AND JADA OPT TO HOMESCHOOL THEIR CHILDREN

Hollywood couple WILL and JADA PINKETT SMITH have decided to homeschool their children, because they’re unimpressed with America’s educational system.

The ALI co-stars have six-year-old son JADEN, daughter WILLOW, four, TREY, 12, Will’s son from his first marriage and Will’s nephew KYLE, 15, in their care. And all children but Trey are currently homeschooled.

Jada tells ESSENCE magazine, “(They are homeschooled) for flexibility, so they can stay with us when we travel, and also because the school system in this country – public and private is designed for the industrial age.

“We’re in a technological age. We don’t want our kids to memorise. We want them to learn.”

We now return to our regular programming.

LETTER OF THE DAY

Filed on at 5:45 am under by dcobranchi

Probably both sides of the evolution/ID debate can agree with this one:

In theory, people think rationally

In the creation/evolution debate, keep in mind that rational thought is a theory, not a fact.

Richard Rowan, Middletown

CONGRATS!

Filed on at 1:43 am under by dcobranchi

Izzy reports that The Calvert School has recognized Kay Brooks, Chris Klicka, and Jessica Sara Halpern, 12, Sherman Oaks, Calif. for their contributions to homeschooling. Way to go, y’all!

FAILING CYBER SCHOOLS?

Filed on at 1:34 am under by dcobranchi

According to the Denver Post, kids in that state’s cyber schools are held back four times as often as kids in regular g-schools. Does that mean that the cybers are doing a poor job? Not necessarily.

[O]nline school operators say the cyberschools draw a high number of students who switch to online after failing in traditional schools…. Nelson Ricker, site manager for VILAS Online, said most of his students come with challenges. The Vilas School District has an 18 percent repeater rate, the worst of the state’s 178 school districts.

“They’ve been kicked out of school, expelled, been truant,” Ricker said.

I think a hint may be buried in here:

Educators say online students need discipline to succeed because they typically work on assignments on a home computer without the face-to-face prodding of a teacher.

These are kids who had been previously in the regular g-schools. And they’re just set down in front of a computer with little guidance? Heck, how many times have we told newbies about de-schooling? It seems to me that going from the regimentation of prison school to the near-total freedom of a cyber would require some time to adjust. Like maybe a year? (HT: Izzy)

ZT RUN AMOK

Filed on at 1:15 am under by dcobranchi

I tipped off Jim to this absurdity, and then Lynn forwarded it to me. Jim pretty much says it all. Good comments, too.

I’M SPEECHLESS

Filed on January 26, 2005 at 8:41 pm under by dcobranchi

Traci forwarded four local stories in the news today. I’m just going to give the lede from each. I really don’t need to add anything.

DOWNINGTOWN, PA (AP) A veteran teacher who worked as a reading specialist at three Chester County schools was arraigned Tuesday on charges that he viewed and transmitted child pornography on his personal computer at his home.

A Marion T. Academy kindergartner who fell asleep on a school bus Tuesday morning awoke to find himself alone after the driver apparently neglected to check that the bus was empty before parking at an Ogletown industrial park.

Authorities have issued arrest warrants for a 35-year-old Capital School District employee after a federal child pornography investigation that revealed allegations he had been having sex with two 14-year-old girls for the past nine years.

CAMDEN, N.J. — A New Jersey middle school principal is accused of offering money to a 14-year-old male student to take off his clothes.

LETTER TO THE GOV

Filed on at 7:18 am under by dcobranchi

Here’s what I just sent to Gov. Minner:

Dear Gov. Minner,

I listened with interest to your SotS address yesterday, particularly the education proposals. I applaud your dedication to education and your SEED idea. I do have one concern, though. You mentioned that these scholarships would be “tied to attaining our standards.” I hope that does not mean attaining some cut-score on the DSTP. As you are no doubt well aware, approximately 20 percent of Delaware kids are outside the public school system and do not take the state accountability tests. Even allowing private schoolers and homeschoolers to take the test is problematic, as it would essentially force these non-public schools to follow the public school scope and sequence.

You said SEED would be modeled on Georgia’s HOPE scholarship. Good. That program uses GPAs and SAT scores to determine eligibility. Private schools and homeschools do not have to change their programs in order for their kids to be eligible.

I ask that when you send your proposal to Leg Hall, you remember to allow the non-public students to compete on a level playing field.

Thank you.

Comments?

COMPETITION WORKS

Filed on at 5:35 am under by dcobranchi

Joanne Jacobs points out that Detroit may have to close nearly one-half its schools because so many kids are leaving for charters or just plain leaving the city. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of folks.

DAMNED WITH FAINT PRAISE

Filed on at 5:07 am under by dcobranchi

I think this WND column is supposed to be a defense of the g-schools. I really don’t know what to say. It’s all anecdote. She lived next to a homeschooling family once. She knew some kids who had gone to private school. BFD. It ends with this:

Only when I became an adult did I encounter folks whose middle-class or working-class parents had sacrificed “everything” to send them to non-public schools rather than risk “ruining them” in city schools. Grown-up, I dated a preppie – his preppie friends dissed my ethnicity and I decided I was thankful for my public education which had exposed me to every kind of person, even those I’d rather not meet.

Awful as they may be, I believe public schools actually represent the Law of the Jungle: If you can survive there, you can survive anywhere! Somehow, we must make them better! [emphasis in original]

That’s it? That’s the best she can do? Is this supposed to make me want to send my kids there? She must be an agent provocateur.

MORE DEVIL, NO DETAILS

Filed on at 12:14 am under by dcobranchi

I think we’ll really need to see the details here, but DE Gov. Minner’s “State of the State” address already has me concerned:

I propose the creation of a program to guarantee a college education for those who want it and work for it. Our promise to our children should be this: if you do well in school, we will pay for you to obtain a college degree.

Modeled after programs like Georgia’s HOPE Scholarship, I propose to work with our education community and the General Assembly to create the Delaware “Student Excellence Equals Degree” Scholarship.

The Delaware SEED Scholarship will be based on two principles. First, that the level of achievement necessary to access this scholarship be tied to attaining our standards. And second, that the scholarship be geared toward achieving an associate’s degree from our state’s most affordable and accessible higher education institution: Delaware Technical and Community College.

I sincerely hope that “attaining our standards” does not mean achieving some score on the state accountability tests (the DSTP). The private and parochial system in DE is probably the strongest in the nation. It’d be a terrible shame if the state used the prospect of potential scholarships to bribe them into administering the DSTP.

OT: THE PARTIAL PERSONALIZATION*

Filed on January 25, 2005 at 11:48 pm under by dcobranchi

This one is really interesting in an Inside Baseball kind of way. Social Security “reform” is heating up as an issue, but what’s perhaps more interesting is the way it’s being described. The terms “privatization” or “partial privatization” were scrapped in place of “private accounts” because the former polled badly. Now, the White House has apparently decided that “private accounts” is out and “personal accounts” is in. Esmé Squalor, anyone?

*With apologies to Lemony Snicket.

UPDATE: Tim pointed out that I mis-spelled Mrs. Squalor’s first name. That’s what I get for listening to the books instead of reading them. The spelling is correct, now.

THE HUNTER AND THE HUNTED

Filed on at 11:34 pm under by dcobranchi

I know that, as a free market kind of guy, I should appreciate the deeper meaning of this kind of initiative:

The Mounds View public school district has spent $15,000 to produce an infomercial to attract students to its schools.

Such marketing is not unusual among private schools, but it is a sign of changing times among public school districts with declining enrollments as they compete for students and the state money that follows them.

“If we can recruit three students, we have recovered the cost,” said Colin Sokolowski, the district’s public relations director.

While it’s refreshing to see public school officials essentially admitting that their system is really just one choice among three options, I … wait, did you hear a click?

[Mounds View School Board Chairman Mark] Kimball says the district wants to retain its current students and recruit nonpublic students in the district as well as students from out of the district. Charter-school and home-schooled students, too, are targets.

Why is the hair on the back of my neck standing up?

MORE DECEPTIVE INNUMERACY

Filed on at 9:36 pm under by dcobranchi

OK, I’ve got to believe this was the reporter screwing up:

Local and state public health officials are reminding the public about the importance of immunizing children to prevent the spread of highly contagious diseases such as whooping cough, which is increasing in Montana and North Dakota as a result of children not being immunized.

“People need to know these diseases still exist. We know immunizing works, so there’s no reason not to immunize children. In 2001 there were 285,000 deaths in the United States from Whooping Cough,” Richland County Health Department R.N. Kathy Helmuth said. “The development of immunizations is the greatest public health accomplishment of the past century; there’s no reason to not vaccinate your child.”

And what does CDC have to say?

Whooping Cough

Morbidity
Number of new whooping cough cases: 9,771 (2002)
Cases per 100,000 population: 3.4 (2002)
Source: Health, United States: 2004, table 51

Health care use
Percent of children ages 19-35 months with DTP vaccination: 80% (2002)
Source: Health, United States: 2004, table 72

Mortality
Number of deaths: 18 (2002)
Source: Deaths: Final Data for 2002

So there was either a big, BIG drop in cases between 2001 and 2002, or somebody’s going to get yelled at by the assignment desk tomorrow.

But what drew me to the piece in the first place was this:

“There is a growing anti-immunization movement which I think is related to the increase in reported numbers of whooping cough,” Helmuth said. “Even if you live in the middle of nowhere and homeschool your children, sooner or later they are going to come into contact with the public whether it’s at church or in the grocery store or library. They will be exposed to other people.”

Such subtlety.

Why Johnny Won’t Read

Filed on at 7:55 pm under by Tim Haas

From The Washington Post today…

From 1992 to 2002, the gender gap in reading by young adults widened considerably. In overall book reading, young women slipped from 63 percent to 59 percent, while young men plummeted from 55 percent to 43 percent.

Placed in historical perspective, these findings fit with a gap that has existed in the United States since the spread of mass publishing in the mid-19th century. But for the gap to have grown so much in so short a time suggests that what was formerly a moderate difference is fast becoming a decided marker of gender identity: Girls read; boys don’t.

The article goes on to place the blame squarely on the schools’ choice of literature and it identifies clearly the problem (too many books about fuzzy social issues, and an overwhelming lack of strong male characters). Unfortunately, it then ends on a weak note by calling for more study of the problem.

We don’t need “some ideas on what needs to be done to get boys reading again.” We already know. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t particularly PC. ;-)

I’M VIRTUALLY CERTAIN …

Filed on at 7:08 pm under by dcobranchi

this guy’s numbers are way off:

Monroe Virtual High School director Dan Bauer wants to see the school bursting at its virtual seams.

Bauer told the Monroe school board Monday the virtual school began and grew largely by word of mouth by students and graduates but the Monroe school district could benefit from becoming more aggressive in marketing the school. To that end, the board gave Bauer approval to begin an advertising campaign

“There are 87,000 home-schooled students in the state of Wisconsin,” Bauer said. Those students as well as students who have dropped out of school and want to return for a high school diploma and students who have been suspended from other districts can add to the number of students getting online diplomas from Monroe, he said.

Wisconsin’s school-age population is a little more than a million kids — you’re trying to telling me more than 8 percent of them are homeschooled? Methinks someone has inhaled too many fumes from his own marketing. Or maybe it just looks like that many kids with the special goggles on.

DON’T PANIC

Filed on at 5:43 pm under by dcobranchi

Is HSLDA channeling Douglas Adams? You make the call.

UPDATE: For the HSLDA-phobes among us :-)

The California Department of Education has indicated on their website that they will no longer receive Private School Affidavits after December 31, 2004. In fact, they have removed the Private School Affidavit from their website. This is not the first time that the CDE has taken this action since the affidavit was also removed last year. There is no need for panic. No laws have changed.

…The bottom line is that there is no reason to panic over this action by the CDE.

I thought HSLDA telling folks not to panic was newsworthy.

HEFT

Filed on at 11:50 am under by dcobranchi

Home Educator’s Family Times January/February issue is up. Here’s the pdf version.

PRE-SCHOOL IN NC

Filed on at 6:47 am under by dcobranchi

The Charlotte Observer has a surprisingly balanced piece on the “need” for kids to go to jail pre-school.

Experts estimate that at least 75 percent of all children will have some sort of preschool experience, including day care, before they start kindergarten.

But is it all worth it? Is preschool even necessary? Does it provide a jumpstart to kindergarten?

…Indeed, there’s little research showing whether attending preschool or staying at home with mom makes a long-term difference in how well children do in secondary school. Any advantage a preschool child may have in kindergarten — understanding circle time, knowing how to sit quietly, socializing in a large group — usually vanishes by second grade, experts say.

…The pressure to enroll in preschool is intense. “In this area, if you don’t go to preschool, people think you’re insane,” said Shelly Ramminger, a University City mother with four children, ages 4 to 14. “I really think mothers in this area put way too much pressure on themselves to put their children in the right preschool.”

I guess homeschooling is not so common in Charlotte.

TEXTBOOK PRICING

Filed on at 6:38 am under by dcobranchi

Most “solutions” to the problem of high prices for college textbooks amount to little more than economic demagoguery. A Virginia Delegate, though, may actually have a workable idea.

His proposal, now in the House Education Committee, seeks to prohibit publishers from giving inducements to public-college professors or other employees for requiring students to purchase specific textbooks.

It also would require colleges to post assigned textbooks on their Web sites as soon as professors decide on them, so students could search elsewhere for books.

Wow– professors get payola for placing book orders? I never even got a review copy for any class I ever taught.

A question- why not use the power of bulk purchasing to compel textbook publishers to slow down edition creep? For instance, if you want to sell a calculus text to UVA, you agree that the current edition will remain in print for 5 years. Professors could still choose their texts; they’d just be limited to those publishers who agreed to the rules.

WWHS

Filed on at 2:37 am under by dcobranchi

Kimberly Swygert is all set to homeschool the daughter she hasn’t had yet. No wonder– if this is what passes for a prom dress these days (barely work safe).

UPDATE: Evidently, The NYPost scammed the world; they had the model wear the dress backwards. Here’s the real deal (via a comment at Kimberly’s blog).

THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS

Filed on at 2:22 am under by dcobranchi

I’m not sure what to think of this:

Home schoolers and private school students would be allowed to take online public school courses under changes a Senate committee made Monday to a bill backed by [Georgia] Gov. Sonny Perdue.

…He said the state’s school funding formula would pay for non-public school students just as if new students had enrolled in Georgia schools.

…The virtual courses would count as class credit toward graduation, but the Virtual School itself would not issue diplomas.

OK– homeschool kids could take g-school classes via the computer. Are they still homeschoolers? Do they have to take the state accountability tests? Are there other requirements? Or are they just being granted access to a bunch of html?

I’m generally inclined against this kind of blended “homeschooling,” as I think it becomes all too easy then to regulate homeschooling.

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