Utterly Meaningless » 2003 » October

    Filed on October 31, 2003 at 7:24 pm under by dcobranchi



    Filed on at 3:34 pm under by dcobranchi

    This guy got off easy.


    Filed on at 9:58 am under by dcobranchi

    I found this one a while back through a blog long forgotten. The Astronomy Picture of the Day is a very nice site which is, as you might guess, a single photo every day. There’s always a paragraph beneath the shot explaining the picture with lots of links to more info. Many of the photos are quite topical; yesterday’s shot was of the aurora observed over Colorado due to the large solar flare on Wednesday. An excellent 5 minute excursion into the heavens.

    Here’s today’s:

    BTW, a lot of the pictures make excellent backgrounds for Windows machines.


    Filed on at 9:51 am under by dcobranchi

    A Saudi sheik was taken in by a Nigerian scam artist to the tune of ~$500,000 (Canadian). My new email address has just started getting spam. One of the first was a Nigerian letter. These guys are nothing if not persistent.


    Filed on at 5:45 am under by dcobranchi

    The authors of the Matty Trescott series of books are sponsoring a contest about “Breaking Barriers for Women.”

    In the Matty Trescott books, cousins Neely Allen and Matty Trescott break down many barriers that existed for women in the nineteenth century, defending the family farm against raiders, fighting in the war between the states, and becoming doctors and scientists. What barriers for women do you see yourself breaking in the future? What have you done in the last year that will help you achieve your future goals?

    The rules state that the essay must be approved by a “sponsoring teacher” but don’t say that homeschoolers are excluded.


    Filed on October 30, 2003 at 10:19 pm under by dcobranchi

    State-funded home-schooling becomes reality – Carroll County students enroll in ‘virtual education’

    All together now- “IT’S NOT HOMESCHOOLING!” Thanks. I feel much better.


    Filed on at 12:53 pm under by dcobranchi

    Tim Haas has a first hand account of the town meeting in Collingswood, NJ held last night. His interpretation differs slightly from the New York Times reporter who covered the event.


    I attended Collingswood’s town forum last night to gauge the community’s sense of whether homeschooling had contributed to the Jackson tragedy. There were 200 people and various media there, including a live CNN feed. This is how the New York Times website reported it this morning:

    Shocked residents packed into a community center Wednesday night to discuss the case of four starved, adopted boys, who had lived for years on a quiet block on the edge of town without their condition’s ever being noticed.

    This is a news lede? I saw concerned and curious residents, but shocked?The first question during the public Q&A was about pooper scoopers. News photographers standing on my left started grumbling about a half an hour into the meeting that nothing was going on, and wondered aloud why they were wasting their time. [Full disclosure: The version of this story in the print edition I purchased this morning omitted the word shocked. I wonder why.]

    What could they have done, people asked, to prevent the abuse? What institution should have noticed their suffering? What changes needed to be made?

    The mayor addressed all of these rhetorical questions in his opening speech, and there were perhaps three questions about different aspects of the case during the rest of the 90-minute meeting, which consisted mostly of parking, traffic, and zoning complaints. [Full disclosure: The print version omitted these rhetorical questions. I wonder why.]


    “We’re just simply distraught,” said James Maley, Collingswood’s mayor, standing in front of a full auditorium. “How could these kids have fallen through so many cracks?”

    For the Jackson boys, there were fewer cracks to fall through.

    Doesn’t the reporter mean fewer cracks to get caught in?

    They were taught at home, and not in view of anyone in the school system.

    This is false. One of their sisters was in school, in a special counseling group for children who have trouble socializing. According to the Courier-Post, “The Collingswood School District’s special services unit had the Jacksons’ name on a list of people who needed charity. Based on the appearance and eating habits of the Jackson’s 10-year-old foster daughter, the school sent large food baskets to the home on Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.” [Full disclosure: The print version replaced taught at home with home-schooled. I wonder why.]

    They did not belong to clubs or play sports. A neighbor, Peter DiMattia, said they rarely even left the house.

    “The only time I ever saw them out all together was when they were going to church,” Mr. DiMattia said. “The kids — you’d think they would be out playing, but nope.”

    Church, that is, nearly every Sunday. And other neighbors reported seeing them outside doing chores.


    Some asked about the rules for home schooling.

    Some? That would be one — one person put forward a question about the homeschooling regulations, which the mayor answered incorrectly (saying “The districts aren’t even allowed to contact families”). I was able to respond after the next, unrelated question from the floor, and informed the crowd that, in fact, if there is credible evidence of truancy or educational neglect, a district can contact a family to request information.

    In New Jersey, virtually no oversight or review is required for families who teach children at home, after a threat of a lawsuit in the late 1990’s caused the state to loosen the rules, said James Bathurst, superintendent of schools in Collingswood.

    There was no threat of a lawsuit, and the regulations most certainly weren’t loosened — they’ve been the same for 35 years. The state DoE put out a booklet in 1997 that badly misstated the law, and it took a coalition of homeschooling leaders three years (and countless individual homeschoolers around the state telling their districts to look at the law and not the booklet) to get the department to rescind it and issue a correct one. [Full disclosure: The print version omitted the entire second part of that sentence. I wonder why.]

    “They weren’t in the system,” Mr. Bathurst said. “If a family that is home-schooling their children moves to Collingswood, we would not even know they were there.”

    Leaving aside the fact that they did know the family existed, how have they gotten the impression that the welfare of every child in town is their responsibility? Every time someone gives birth in Collingswood, there’s another child they don’t even know is there! We should start registering infants with the district, just in case. [Full disclosure: The print version omitted this entire quote. I wonder why.]

    Others defended the practice. Robin Brownfield, a mother of five who has taught her children at home for 11 years, said: “It’s an absolutely illogical leap to blame home schooling for what happened. I just want to make sure people don’t get a skewed view based on misinformation.”

    Gee, obligatory equal-time quote. (This was said in an interview, by the way, not to the crowd — Robin and I met the reporter by the elevator on our way up to the meeting.) Thanks, NYT. Perhaps next time you’ll quote the homeschooler first and make the state defend itself. [Full disclosure: Yeah, right.]


    Filed on at 11:31 am under by dcobranchi

    This one is pretty funny. It’s short, so I won’t spoil the laugh by quoting.

    (And, I double-checked to make sure I spelled “Public” correctly this time)


    Filed on at 11:16 am under by dcobranchi

    I sense another government boondoggle coming:

    While public schools have made huge improvements in providing computer and Internet access, minority and poor students lack computer access outside of regular school hours, according to two new reports released today by the National Center for Education Statistics in the department’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES).

    “The pace of technological change is truly astounding and has left no area of our lives untouched, including schools,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige. “These reports are good news and show how much progress has been made in connecting nearly every school in the nation to the Internet. But there are still big differences in home computer use that need to be addressed before we can declare the digital divide closed.

    “We need to address the limited access to technology that many students have outside of school. There is much more we can do. Closing the digital divide will also help close the achievement gap that exists within our schools.”

    Ooo! Ooo! I know- let’s give computers and provide free internet access to all minority and poor homes. But, that wouldn’t be fair. Higher income homes will still be more likely to have broadband. OK, free broadband, then. And printers, too. Scanners? Yeah, better throw in scanners and a digital camera, too, just to make sure we can close that digital divide. *Sigh*

    Call me cruel and heartless (OK, you’re cruel and heartless) but I don’t think it’s Rod Paige’s job to worry about the computing capacity in American homes. I think Jesus said something about the poor a while back. Something about them always being with us. Does Rod Paige really think he’s going to fix this? With computers?


    Filed on at 10:48 am under by dcobranchi

    The case in NJ gets stranger and stranger. Police searched there home and allegedly found no educational materials. Now, I am not one to disparage any of the myriad forms of homeschooling but, you have to wonder what was going on in that home.

    I’m not sure, though, if this really makes any difference. The bureaucrats could just as easily point to this as evidence that homeschoolers need to be tested so that they can tell the “good” homeschoolers from the “Dan Rather homeschoolers.”


    Filed on at 8:48 am under by dcobranchi

    In a debate between three candiates for a San Mateo school board, one of the candidates was a little optimistic about the state of the budget.

    The candidates clashed over the budget. Dennis said he would only cut the budget as a last option, saying he believes the school district could rely on fund-raisers to increase revenue.

    They need to raise $2 million.


    Filed on at 7:33 am under by dcobranchi

    The teachers’ union in NYC wants to run one of 50 new charter schools slated to open. They plan to use the same contract that Joel Klein wants scrapped.


    Filed on at 6:40 am under by dcobranchi

    A MD school district ran a small experiment by using the Singapore Math program. As homeschoolers have known for years, it works. Quite well, in fact. The schools using it showed marked improvement in math test scores compared to the control schools.

    “The results from Year 2 implementation of the quarterly assessments mirror the trends seen in Year 1 implementation. For every assessment, at every grade level, students in the Singapore Math pilot schools performed significantly higher” than schools that did not have the program, the report states.

    Great news! Let’s roll out the program to more schools. Not so fast:

    Despite high praise from the study’s authors, the program faces an uncertain future in the county. The school system will not pay for the materials or teacher training after this year, forcing schools to pay for those things out of their own budgets.

    “We’ll always teach the elements of Singapore Math,” said Eileen Macfarlane, principal of Drew Elementary School.

    Drew Elementary dropped the Singapore Math program last year because the county’s new curriculum is more aligned with the state tests, Macfarlane said.

    In other words, say “Good-bye” to the improved performance.


    Filed on at 6:24 am under by dcobranchi

    This editorial from the Wilmington News-Journal wins the “No Kidding” award for obviousness. In describing video products that supposedly produce smarter babies the paper opines:

    Parents could do a lot worse than expose their infants to classical music, foreign languages and pleasing pictures. But they should not be drawn into the sales hype that promises great things, and they certainly should not abandon their babes to the tube as a substitute for the personal attention that makes all babies thrive.

    Just because programming is sold for infants does not make television a better baby-sitter than if the infant is left to be entertained by MTV or soap operas.



    Filed on October 29, 2003 at 4:22 pm under by dcobranchi

    I thought this comment (made on a post from a couple of days ago) deserved some airplay:

    Just found your website. Interested in the New Jersey case and the impact it will have on the homeschooling movement. I am not a strong partisan on either side, but I can understand why people want to homeschool and I know that mostly it is done out of love. My question is, what is a legitimate amount of oversight for the state to exercise over homeschooled children? Shouldn’t homeschooled children be required to have yearly medical examinations? What if the Jacksons had NOT been in the foster care system, what if the abuse charges were correct, and they were just an ordinary family. Why would homeschooling families with nothing to hide have any objection to demonstrating that they are taking good care of their homeschooled children? Children are not property!

    Lots of questions. I’ll try to take them one at a time.

    [W]hat is a legitimate amount of oversight for the state to exercise over homeschooled children?

    There is no legitimate amount. Zero. Homeschooling is an educational choice, just like private or parochial schools. Does the state exercise oversight over them? No. Public schools are accountable to the public because the public pays the bills. Private schools are accountable to the parents of the students because the parents pay the bills. Guess who pays my homeschooling bills. So, we’re not accountable to the government for our educational choices. What about child abuse? Well, there are plenty of laws and bureaucrats to enforce them. We see how well that worked in New Jersey.

    What if the Jacksons had NOT been in the foster care system, what if the abuse charges were correct, and they were just an ordinary family. Why would homeschooling families with nothing to hide have any objection to demonstrating that they are taking good care of their homeschooled children?

    This is a classic statist argument. The Founders were well familiar with it. That’s why they included the 4th Amendment. Hey, if you’ve got nothing to hide, I’m sure you wouldn’t mind the police coming into your home to “look around.” It just doesn’t work that way in the US. Government actors are not permitted to come into our homes and our lives just because we might be doing something wrong. Not even if IT’S FOR THE CHILDREN(tm). If there is a legitimate suspicion they can go to a judge, get a search warrant, and bring the police. Failing that, they have to leave us alone.

    CATO 1, DAN 0

    Filed on at 3:56 pm under by dcobranchi

    The Cato Institute does a nice job beating up Dan.

    The report’s thesis — home schooling keeps children away from school teachers and administrators and is thus responsible for parents battering their children — is certainly unfair and illogical. It makes no more sense than blaming the Warren’s trailer for having walls too thick for passers-by to see through. Worse, though, is the journalistic failure CBS’s report betrays.

    Worth a click.


    Filed on at 12:13 pm under by dcobranchi

    In an editorial today the Wilmington News-Journal hops on the social studies band wagon. You’ll never guess what social studies teachers (and art and music, too) need more of.


    Filed on at 10:51 am under by dcobranchi

    What the heck was this teacher trying to prove?

    According to information released by the 12-year-old-boy’s parents the social studies class was discussing the Pharaohs when they ruled Egypt. The teacher, Lisa Lox, had asked her class would there be a need for laws if there were only one person left on earth. The students all responded with a ‘no’. Then the teacher asked if there would be a need for laws if there were only two people on earth.

    All but two students, said there would need to be laws. The two students who disagreed, included the 12-year-old and another student in the class who said they would split the earth evenly.

    With that said the teacher then, to possibly help prove a point, asked the girl to give her his textbooks. He did. Then the teacher allegedly told him to take off his clothes. The sixth grader, whose name is not being published on the request of his mother, did including everything but his underwear.

    Following, the boy became very upset and according to his mother “suffered an anxiety attack and passed out.”

    Where’s Dan Rather when you need him? (Thanks to Skip Oliva for the tip.)


    Filed on at 7:17 am under by dcobranchi

    Homeschoolers don’t need support from these barking moonbats.

    The Israeli spy network known as the Anti-Defamation League works night and day to erode the rights of gun owners, property owners, the rights of parents and homeschoolers, and has in effect used its very powerful influence in having police-state legislation introduced into the fabric of American life.


    Filed on at 7:08 am under by dcobranchi

    The Philadephia Inquirer has a really ugly homeschooling=abuse regulation=good article.

    If they had lived in Pennsylvania, it might have turned out differently.

    There, homeschooled children are subject to some of the strictest scrutiny in the nation: Parents must file annual affidavits with the state that certify they have not been convicted of certain crimes; students must take standardized tests and have periodic, comprehensive health exams.

    Children also have to be weighed and measured every year.

    But for the four Collingswood brothers who authorities say were so starved by their adoptive parents that even the 19-year-old weighed less than 50 pounds, an important social trip wire was missing, experts say.

    The Jackson brothers were homeschooled, and New Jersey has no requirements for such children to be evaluated. The state Department of Education does not require students to register, and does not authorize local school districts to monitor these students.

    There are no standardized tests or curriculum requirements.

    “If a family has something to hide, homeschooling is a very attractive option,” said Bonni H. Zetick, assistant professor of social work at La Salle University.

    Schools are a vital part of a child’s safety net, Zetick said.

    “At school, you can look for signs of physical abuse without a parent being present,” she said. “Schools have a long-term view; they see the child over time. These children either were being hidden or were not coming to anyone’s attention.”

    They do quote a couple of homeschoolers (including Linda Dobson) but the paper’s position is obvious. I guess this means that a new homeschooling law for PA is unlikely for the forseeable future.

    UPDATE: Tim, you might want to keep an eye on this:

    Assemblywoman Mary T. Previte (D., Camden) said yesterday that she had ordered two bills be drafted to address problems exposed in the Collingswood case.

    One bill would require adopted children whose parents receive a subsidy from the state to have annual medical examinations. Raymond and Vanessa Jackson received an average of $400 a month for each of their adopted children, who state officials said had not had a medical exam in five years.

    Previte, chair of the Family, Women and Children’s Services Committee, said one bill would add oversight of homeschooled children.


    Filed on at 3:43 am under by dcobranchi

    The New York Times has a couple of pieces on the NJ abuse scandal. The first, a background piece about adoption out of the foster care system, is pretty good.

    Have we gone too far too fast?” asks Gary Stangler, executive director of Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative, a private foundation in St. Louis focusing on getting children out of foster care. “I worry that with all the applause going to the increasing numbers of adoptions, that we are possibly putting these young people into families not equipped or prepared to handle them.”

    Experts are quick to caution that the case of the Jacksons of New Jersey may prove to be distinctly aberrant, and data concerning abuse or other problems experienced by children who have been adopted in recent years is still developing.

    Too true. But, where were these experts the last few weeks when homeschooling has been targeted? And, abuse by foster/adoptive parents (at least in NJ) may not be that aberrant:

    Case records of children in foster care in 2001, released as a result of a lawsuit against the state’s foster care system, found that in some parts of New Jersey as many as one in five children in foster care had been abused.

    More chilling, the case files also showed that, among foster homes identified as good prospective adoptive homes, 7 percent had confirmed findings of abuse or neglect in New Jersey in 2001 — 12 times the rates the federal government has set as acceptable.

    More evidence that the bureaucrats in DYFS are not doing their jobs.

    The second Times article gives more details about the family’s life than I have seen in any other paper. They interviewed their pastor and their landlord who described a seemingly “perfect” family:

    “They were the first kids to come up to me and hug me, say hello to me,” the pastor said. “Not Bruce, he was more in the shadows. But Michael, he would sit you down and have a conversation,” he said.

    The minister said the house seemed well kept, and their landlord, John Andrews, agreed. “The only thing I noticed was they were all unbelievably well-behaved,” Mr. Andrews said.

    “I have told many people that I have never seen that many kids together be so good. I never saw them fighting, and I never saw them arguing, and I said, `Wow, every family should be like that.’ “

    All good info. I have two complaints about the Times article, one picky and one more substantive. First, the picky one:

    “He always liked to lead the prayers,” said Bobbi Richardson, a sunday school teacher for Michael and Tyronne, “He prayed better than I did.”

    The use of all lower case for Sunday School seems odd. The Times’ copyeditors are particularly good; I’d be surprised if this is a typo. I’m not sure what to make of it, though.

    The second complaint involves the Times’ sole mention of homeschooling:

    [T]though the children were homeschooled, they were not hidden away.

    Geez! Just a bit of an assumption underlying that one, eh? I guess I shouldn’t complain (too loudly). At least they didn’t pull a Rather.

    Thanks to Tim Haas for the tip.


    Filed on October 28, 2003 at 5:16 pm under by dcobranchi

    More NJ stuff:

    New Jersey’s child welfare agency is re-examining its policy of allowing children under its supervision to be homeschooled, a spokesman for the Division of Youth and Family Services said Tuesday.

    UPDATE: This whole issue is just aggravating the heck out of me. Talk about misdirection! The bureaucrats in DYFS blew this one big time and are looking to make homeschooling the scapegoat.


    Filed on at 4:07 pm under by dcobranchi

    I think she’ll likely be disappointed.

    I am a reporter, seeking information about tax beaks, state or federal, that may be available to home school families (such as tax credits, deductions or Coverdell accounts) for use in an article on parent-directed education.

    Appreciate any literature, links, expert contacts, or other information you can provide on that topic, preferably in the next few days and preferably by e-mail.

    Particularly interested in hearing from anyone who knows of a family that has used such tax breaks to help defray the cost of hiring a tutor for a child who does not attend school.

    I have written many articles on all sorts of subjects, including a few on education, many of which you can find by googling me at www.google.com. My last story was “Turning to Tutors, Instead of Schools,” The New York Times (Sunday Oct. 26, 2003, Money & Business section 3, p. BU 5), available at www.nytimes.com. (http://www.nytimes.com/2003/10/26/business/yourmoney/26tute.html)

    Brigid McMenamin


    Filed on at 11:14 am under by dcobranchi

    Feeding the kids to the lions.

    Eight years ago, Kate Nicholls and her five children exchanged their comfortable, conventional life in the Cotswolds to live under canvas among lions in the Botswanan bush…[W]ith no background in education, she has schooled her children to university level around the bush kitchen table…

    “Bringing up my family in the bush has been one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life,” says Kate. “Being a mother, I was constantly worrying; are they going to be eaten by a lion, bitten by a black mamba or trampled by an elephant – concerns our ancestors would have had. But we worked as a team, the children and I – as equals learning together.”


    Filed on at 9:22 am under by dcobranchi

    Tim Haas keeps hitting home runs. Here’s his letter to a NJ listserv:

    On page 5A of the Courier-Post this morning, there are two sidebars about homeschooling in which I’m quoted. Here they are so that you don’t have to buy the paper:


    They’re not the kind of headlines we like to see: “Home-schooled boys fell through cracks” and “N.J. has little oversight of home-schooled pupils”. But remember that the main story — the one with the 60-point headline on the front page — is all about DYFS, and in fact doesn’t mention homeschooling at all.

    This is an emotional time, and friends and strangers alike might feel emboldened to challenge you about homeschooling. If you get questioned about this case, there are a number of good responses:

    * This isn’t a homeschooling tragedy, it’s a social services tragedy. There were 38 DYFS visits to this home over a four-year period. How would registering these children with the district have done a better job of protecting them than repeated on-site visits from an agency whose sole task is children’s welfare?

    * These parents weren’t using homeschooling as an excuse to hide these kids from the world and abuse them — the whole family attended church nearly every Sunday and some neighbors report seeing the kids outside.

    * There are eight other states with laws like New Jersey’s, including populous ones like Texas and Illinois. Where’s the evidence that a lack of oversight is harming children? Where’s the evidence from the 41 other states that have varying degrees of oversight that there’s a trend of homeschooler abuse?

    * “If it will save just one child …” arguments are poor supports for public policy. Random DYFS visits to the houses of all parents would probably turn up neglected and abused children, but would we want that? Banning cars would eliminate fatal auto accidents, but would we want that?

    * There were other adults in this house besides the parents — why did they abrogate their responsibility to notify someone of these horrible conditions?

    * If there are any regulations rewritten or laws passed, they should be the ones dealing with DYFS’s lack of follow-up with children once they’re adopted.

    The key is not to get defensive about homeschooling. Homeschooling is not at fault here, and we shouldn’t act as if it is. We have to remain calm while the emotionalism burns itself out, and then deal with regulatory repercussions if they manifest.

    Tim Haas


    Filed on at 6:12 am under by dcobranchi

    I understand why the article blogged below seemed so strange. It was a companion piece to this.

    “I understand there is not a statutory requirement and there are arguments against parents who home school their kids having contact with the school district,” said Maley, who knows of a number of families in the borough who home school their children. “But this would just give children another chance to keep from falling through the cracks.”

    But the co-founder of the New Jersey Homeschool Association says the mayor and others are overreacting. He said plenty of home-schooled kids get a good education, while kids in public schools are also abused at home.

    “It’s a horrible thing for histown and a horrible thing for these kids,” said Timothy Haas, an Audubon resident whose two children are home-schooled.

    “But I don’t think home-schooling has to prove itself. If the mayor wants to look look anywhere for blame, he should look to the state and DYFS.”


    UPDATE: Sorry ’bout the temporarily abbreviated post. I was on battery power and was about to lose it.

    UPDATE: Tim Haas sent the quote that didn’t make the paper:

    “Without knowing more about family, I’d be reluctant to call them homeschoolers. We have a statutory duty to give our kids an education. If you don’t do that, you’re not a homeschooler, you’re a lawbreaker.”


    Filed on at 6:09 am under by dcobranchi

    The Cherry Hill (NJ) Courier-Post has a somewhat strange article in follow-up to the starvation abuse case. It’s all about homeschooling in NJ. Or, more specifically, it’s about the lack of “oversight” NJ homeschoolers have compared to those two gems, NY and PA. The article never comes out in favor of more regs but it’s certainly implied. Interestingly, way down at the bottom, we find a quote from a co-founder of the NJ Homeschool Association:

    “We feel very fortunate in New Jersey that we have more freedom in how we educate our kids,” said Timothy Haas, an Audubon resident.

    Yes, that Tim Haas. Cool.


    Filed on at 6:02 am under by dcobranchi

    Now it’s my old hometown paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, banging the Dan Rather drum.


    Filed on at 5:17 am under by dcobranchi

    My collection of do-it-yourself advanced weaponry is growing. Here’s the latest- a .50 BMG rifle “kit.” And it even comes with a “standard NY Yankees butt pad.”


    Filed on October 27, 2003 at 8:44 pm under by dcobranchi

    What in the world is this (cake)?PA270001.JPG


    Filed on at 7:56 pm under by dcobranchi

    A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent this:

    “State officials said evaluations of the four children, who were home-schooled, showed they were personable and could read well even though they were malnourished.”

    Please forgive me this bit of gallows humor, but — homeschooling works!

    Yes, I am a little ashamed of myself.

    My kind of humor!


    Filed on at 6:51 pm under by dcobranchi

    This should have been my response to Dan Rather.


    Filed on at 6:35 pm under by dcobranchi

    Anyone care to guess why this museum in Estonia is among this month’s top referring sites to H&OES?


    Filed on at 1:07 pm under by dcobranchi

    A couple of interesting (to me, anyway) articles in the Wilmington News-Journal. The first is kind of a whiney story about how social studies doesn’t get respect (read, “money”) and how important it is (read, “needs more money”).

    The second story focuses on the Ommelanden gun range, a state-run hunter and shooting education facility. It’s located a few miles south of my home in New Castle in what used to be a fairly isolated area. In the last few years, homes have sprung up all around the range. Now, the neighbors are complaining about the noise. Geez! What’d they expect? Do they want the cops (who use this facility for training) to whisper “Bang! Bang!” as they pretend to shoot at targets?


    Filed on at 10:17 am under by dcobranchi

    Potential fallout from the starvation case from yesterday.

    In downtown Collingswood yesterday, Mayor Jim Maley said he has had conversations with school district officials making tentative plans to revamp the district’s home-schooling policy.

    The Jacksons’ sons were home-schooled, Maley said, which required little contact between the school system and the family.

    “We’ve looked internally to see if there was some way we could have picked up on this sooner,” he said.

    Maley said he would use a town forum scheduled for Wednesday to remind residents of their obligation to call DYFS about any suspected abuse.

    New Jersey has some of the best homeschooling laws in the country. I hope the bureaucrats don’t use this case to tighten up the regs.


    Filed on at 7:06 am under by dcobranchi

    The New York Times has a good piece on the Free State Project. Amazingly, the reporter plays it straight with no snarkiness. Worth a read if you’re interested in this libertarian experiment.

    UPDATE: I’m jealous. Isabel Lyman is pulling up stakes and moving to NH. You go, girl!


    Filed on at 6:54 am under by dcobranchi

    Faithful reader Andrea sent me a link to this over-the-top zero tolerance story. I just hope the judge has a bit more sense than the educrats.


    Filed on October 26, 2003 at 1:22 pm under by dcobranchi

    Not one state mandates that parents have a degree from a culinary school before feeding their kids at home. No wonder they’re obese.


    Filed on at 8:34 am under by dcobranchi

    This one is way OT.

    Is Paul Wolfowitz being just a bit disingenuous here? His hotel in Iraq was hit by several rockets. It seems likely the attack was aimed at him.

    “This terrorist act will not deter us from completing our mission which is to help the Iraqi people free themselves from the type of criminals who did this and to protect the American people from this kind of terrorism,” Wolfowitz told reporters three hours later.

    Sorry, Paul, but this ain’t terrorism. Wolfowitz was (is) the architect of the war in Iraq. If Saddam was a legitimate target, so is he. The Bush Administration undermines its credibility every time they try to expand the word “terrorism” to include something that they don’t like.


    Filed on at 5:51 am under by dcobranchi

    The New York Times writes about parents who are giving up on homeschooling in favor of paid tutors.

    Three years ago, Carolyn Scott, who with her four daughters raises and trains show ponies in Mukwonago, Wis., gave up on home schooling, she said, because she found it hard to be both mother and teacher. And while she thought that an experienced professional could do better, she did not want to send her children to schools because that would cut into family time.

    So Mrs. Scott and her husband, Jay, who runs a family foundation, hired their own teacher. With the help of Ellen Sternig, owner of Learning Exchange, a for-profit tutoring and test preparation center in nearby Brookfield, they found a tutor who charged $20 an hour to teach the girls at home for four hours on weekday mornings.

    $20 an hour seems pretty cheap to me. And in NY, no less.


    Filed on at 5:41 am under by dcobranchi

    I haven’t seen too many of these “homeschooling is great” stories lately. This one from SC is a nice change of pace. The obligatory educrat quote makes SC’s homeschooling law sound most unattractive.

    Parents who teach their children at home must register with an accountability group, said Jim Foster, spokesman for the state Department of Education. Such groups include the local school district, the South Carolina Association for Independent Home Schools or any other home-school association with 50 or more members. Accountability groups set their own requirements for submitting reports and grades and must report the number of students and their grade levels to the school districts in which the students live.

    The rest is good, though. Worth a click.

    UPDATE: Joanne (aka The Happy Homeschooler) took exception to my classifying this as a “positive” article. On re-reading it, she’s probably right. In my defense, these past two weeks have been so negative that it seemed good by comparison (at least at 5:41 a.m.)


    Filed on at 5:34 am under by dcobranchi

    From the Arizona Republic:

    CBS report blasted

    Freshman Arizona GOP Rep. Trent Franks was one of 33 House members who signed a letter last week saying they were “deeply offended” by a CBS Evening News segment that aired Oct. 13 that focused on a murder-suicide involving a family that was educating children at home.

    Their letter to Andrew Heyward, CBS’ president of news, criticizes the “Eye on America” segment as implying the rural North Carolina tragedy was evidence of a dark side of home schooling, justifying further government regulation of home education.

    “The tenuous connection between this 2-year-old tragedy involving a single family, which happened to home-school, and millions of law-abiding mothers and fathers who successfully and safety educate their children at home is absurd,” the letter states.


    Filed on at 5:23 am under by dcobranchi

    The Philadelphia Inquirer has another really horrible abuse story. Youth Services dropped the ball. Again. To its credit, the paper downplays the homeschooling angle.


    Filed on October 25, 2003 at 2:29 pm under by dcobranchi

    Original DHEA Yankee TraciE discovered this throwaway line at the bottom of a local story about a 15-year-old who shot and killed himself:

    The victim lived with his parents and a 21-year-old brother. He had been home-schooled for several years by his mother, according to police.

    The parents might have been just a bit wacko:

    Police found several guns owned by William Lindewirth, 56, in the boy’s room, including a Sten submachine gun. Both parents allowed the teenager to store the guns and ammunition in his bedroom, according to court records.

    Both parents are charged with several crimes including “giving a firearm to a person prohibited and unlawfully permitting a minor access to a firearm. ” I’m going to have to research the gun laws in DE as I was thinking it was time for Anthony to learn to shoot. I got my first gun (a .22 semi-auto which would now be classified as an illegal assault weapon) when I was 14 or so. Anthony just turned 12.


    Filed on at 9:00 am under by dcobranchi

    A Christian student group at the Univ. of Minn is suing their school because it has a non-discrimination policy for membership. The students require a statement of faith for leadership positions, in violation of the school’s policy. The big problem here, though, is that the policy has not been enforced. The kids weren’t being pressured to accept it. It was a total non-issue. This lawsuit is entirely preemptive in nature.

    The federal suit, filed Friday in Minneapolis, is a preemptive strike, Larson said.

    “We want to make sure the same sort of thing doesn’t happen here,” he said.

    I think Chris said something about flying under the radar.


    Filed on at 8:41 am under by dcobranchi

    An enterprising group of students(?) at Boston University are buying and selling class notes. BU wants to shut down the business, equating it with cheating.

    But at the center of the question is a phenomenon that some college officials say is growing on campuses: organized efforts to skirt the line between studying and cheating. Like online term-paper mills, the company offers to perform work students are expected to do themselves, as a fundamental part of their education.

    Not even close. There are all sorts of legitimate reasons why one might be interested in purchasing class notes.

    Beantown Notes is not trying to help students too lazy to go to class or take their own notes, but ”people who do go to class but want something else,” Herr said. ”Maybe they have a hard time following the professor, they’re not a good note-taker, or they don’t know which are the most important parts. Everybody falls into that category at some point… What’s the worst that could happen?” he asked. ”Someone could actually learn something and do well on the test. Is that such a bad thing?”


    Filed on at 8:24 am under by dcobranchi

    Kids at this soon-to-be-opened school have learned their PC lessons quite well:

    In February, student council members from schools that will feed into Lehman chose to make the Huskies the mascot for the school.

    But buyers’ remorse is sinking in. The same student leaders who picked the Huskies are wondering whether their teams should be named for an animal with few ties to Texas, Hinojosa said. Also, she said some of them are concerned that the mascot could be used to harass students who are overweight.

    Who says g-schools can’t teach?


    Filed on at 8:08 am under by dcobranchi

    A CO school district has put on hold plans to force homeschoolers to take unwanted classes so the district could collect extra money from the state.

    But, in the interest of preserving the relationship the school district has with parents who choose to home school their children and because the potential revenue was minimal, board members decided Thursday night to leave the policy alone. Members decided to allow home schooled students to enroll in as many or as few high school classes as they choose.

    “I’ve heard waves from the home school realm on this,” said Robin Lambert, mother of two home-schooled students.


    Filed on at 6:27 am under by dcobranchi

    This piece on making a gingerbread house should lighten the mood around here.


    Filed on October 24, 2003 at 11:49 pm under by dcobranchi

    Diane Patterson pointed me to a post at Crooked Timber about homeschooling. CT seems to be in the parallel edu-blog universe that Joanne Jacobs discovered via the Hubble Space Telescope (just kidding).

    Chris at CT takes the position that “[i]n an ideal system no child would be home schooled, but faced with the prospect of unacceptably poor schools it might well be the right thing for a parent to do.” The discussion that follows is reminiscent of Rob Reich’s autonomy paper against homeschooling.

    My big problem with all of this education theory is that it has very little to do with education- at least my idea of it. In my mind, education teaches the basics really well and fosters a love of learning, so that the kids, when they are grown, will have the tools to master whatever subject matter interests them (perhaps even education theory). The theorists seem to view the goal of the g-schools to be some sort of antidote for parental indoctrination.

    Schools function not just as purveyors of information about maths, physics and geography but also as social environments in which individuals learn to rub along with others and get exposed to a wider range of social influences than they would at home (or perhaps than their parents judge desirable). That’s a good thing, and is a reason to be opposed to home schooling.

    Perhaps in that ideal world that Chris yearns for, schools would actually be, first and foremost, purveyors of education (not information). When they get this primary mission accomplished (Hah!) then we can re-visit the need for homeschooling. Right now, in the real world that my kids live in, the schools stink. Joel Klein wrote that the NYC school system fails to provide even a basic education to over half the kids imprisoned there.

    Every day I read nightmarish tales about what goes on in the g-schools. I don’t understand why any parent would send their kid there. It’s not a matter of autonomy but of survival.

    UPDATE: Brian Micklethwait has a somewhat related post here.

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