Utterly Meaningless » 2003 » November

    Filed on November 30, 2003 at 1:13 pm under by dcobranchi

    Homeschool grad Lara Anderson has been awarded a Rhodes Scholarship.

    When it was time for Anderson to start kindergarten, her parents considered what she would learn there and decided she already was having happy, productive days at home and might as well stay there. “She was thriving and we said, ‘Why goof up a good thing?’ ” says her mother, a registered nurse who set aside her career to teach her two children.


    Filed on at 11:35 am under by dcobranchi

    Maybe God doesn’t like g-schools, either.

    David Day, 17, experienced the “grossest experience” of his life earlier this month when maggots sprinkled on his American literature class at Fairfield High School.

    Pigeons were to blame for the larvae spillage. The birds roosted in a crawl space under the pitched roof of the portable building the literature class uses. Some pigeons died there and flies laid eggs in their corpses, said Bill Luna, director of administrative services.

    Somehow the grubs fell through the ceiling tiles onto students below.

    Day heard a little “boop” besides his desk and looked at the floor to see a wriggling maggot about an inch long.

    “Then one fell on a student on the back of his sweatshirt,” the senior said. “And one fell on his book.”

    Thanks to Andrea for ruining my breakfast.


    Filed on at 9:33 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a zero tolerance story that is difficult to get a handle on. Two kids, age 12 (female) and 14 (male) had (consensual) sex in a school bathroom. The boy kissed and told and the girl got upset, eventually telling a teacher. The school responded by suspending both and sending them to an alternative school. I’m ok with the suspension. The alternative school seems a bit over-the-top. It gets much worse, though. The boy is now under criminal investigation for sexual assault. The age of consent in Texas is 17, so how is this statutory rape? Or, how come only he would be charged? After all, both are underage. Very confusing.


    Filed on at 6:53 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s another chapter in the seemingly endless tale of students (or their parents) being offended by something in the g-schools and wanting to ban it in response. The novel uses the word “nigger” (Yes, I wrote it out. I’m not going to write “n-word” anymore. I don’t use the word. I’ve taught my kids never to say it and that only stupid folks do. But, we’re all adults here, no? Digression over) several times as part of a dialogue that took place in 1865. A couple of kids took offense and their parents are now on the warpath (I know, more political incorrectness). The parents are fighting the wrong foe, though.

    Alexander said his daughter complained and she was told she could go sit out in the hall if she did not want to listen to Dawson read. For several days, Maria left class to sit in the hall, before being given the option of reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter in the library.

    When grades for the first quarter were released at the end of October, Maria — who earned A’s and B’s in all of her other courses, her father said — had failed English for missing assignments related to A Land Remembered. Two weeks ago, Maria was told she could make up missed assignments from earlier in the fall that would erase the failing grade from her report card.

    The book should stay; the teacher should go.


    Filed on at 6:43 am under by dcobranchi

    You can’t argue with this logic:

    Alcohol abuse is recognized as the leading public health problem affecting college students. Students who drink excessively are more likely to have academic problems, drive drunk, and have emotional and behavioral problems.

    I’ve only known one tee-totaler to drive drunk. He unknowingly ate a bunch of liqueur-laced ice cream.


    Filed on at 6:35 am under by dcobranchi

    Insane housing prices abound in Boston suburb Newton, MA.

    Of the 192 single-family homes listed this week, 76 — or 39.6 percent — exceeded $1 million, according to the MLS Property Information Network. Of those, 28 have asking prices from $2.3 million to $4.8 million.

    “Experts” suggest it’s because they have great g-schools there.

    “The cost of a quality education is a home in places like Newton,” said Warren. “Families are willing to pay anything to buy their way into the best public schools, and it’s driving up home prices dramatically.”

    Riiiight! In order to get a good education in the Boston area, you have to be able to afford a million dollar mortgage? I have a suggestion- buy a smaller home in the outer-ring suburbs, live on one income, and homeschool your kids. Then, they can live in Cambridge while attending Harvard (on academic scholarship, of course). These kinds of prices are not sustainable; the bubble will pop eventually.


    Filed on at 6:11 am under by dcobranchi

    An interesting Op/Ed in the New York Times today. The chief economist for Morgan Stanley argues that recent productivity gains may be illusory:

    For all their wishful thinking, believers in the productivity miracle are right about one critical point: productivity is the key to prosperity.

    Have we finally found the key? It’s doubtful. Productivity growth is sustainable when driven by creativity, risk-taking, innovation and, yes, new technology. It is fleeting when it is driven simply by downsizing and longer hours. With cost cutting still the credo and workers starting to reach physical limits, America’s so-called productivity renaissance may be over before Americans even have a chance to enjoy it.

    No wonder economics is called the “dismal science.”


    Filed on November 29, 2003 at 6:22 am under by dcobranchi

    On the road again.


    Filed on November 28, 2003 at 11:49 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s an interesting article about a one-room schoolhouse in CA which currently has only two students enrolled. Of course, some “experts” worry about the lack of socialization for the two brothers. The teacher doesn’t sound too bright, either:

    Reed said it’s imperative the boys get out so they can learn to socialize with others. Time management, table manners and other conventions of society, she said, are difficult to teach in a setting that’s practically a home school.

    Funny. My kids seem to have learned all sorts of things and their’s is not practically a homeschool.


    Filed on November 27, 2003 at 7:30 am under by dcobranchi

    See y’all Friday.


    Filed on at 6:42 am under by dcobranchi

    …but not by me. A Missouri homeschooling mom takes apart the letter by the clueless Ms. Gee. And I think the editor is on our side, too. (Check out the headline) Read the other letters, too.


    Filed on at 6:31 am under by dcobranchi

    Just what the heck are homeschoolers in Iowa thinking:

    High school diploma for Home School Assistance Program at the request of home schooled parents and teachers. Students enrolled in the Mid-Prairie Home School Assistance Program (MPHSAP) may choose to participate in the home school diploma program. The diploma would be optional for all MPHSAP students, and home schooled students may continue to participate in all other functions of MPHSAP if they elect not to participate in the diploma program. Students must complete 20 credits including 3.5 credits of English, two credits of math, 2.5 credits of science, three credits of social studies and two credits of PE/Health. They may participate in honors program.

    MPHSAP students completing the requirements for graduation would be recommended to the Board of Education and would receive a special diploma documenting his/her achievement, but would not participate in the M-P gradation ceremonies. The director of MPHSAP may choose to provide a separate graduation ceremony for these students.

    It was noted that this program would provide a working format for keeping records, provide documentation of accomplishment and recognition of accomplishments of the students in MPHSAP.

    Sounds like “school” to me. It’s optional but who would want to tie their hands like this?


    Filed on at 6:25 am under by dcobranchi

    I really admire this professor. He’s reaching out to high school-age kids and getting them excited about science. His program started in the g-schools but has now expanded to working with homeschoolers, too. Only one problem, though-

    And you’re now reaching out to home-schoolers as well?

    Yes. I realized there was a huge home-school population. The Oregon Department of Education says that something like 20 percent of the students in Oregon are home-schooled. Our home-school outreach program has grown to include 300 kids taking 20 different classes taught by my science majors. They team up with students who are training to be teachers.

    No way, no how 20 percent of Oregon kids are homeschooled. I hope he doesn’t cancel his work with homeschoolers when he realizes he’s off by an order of magnitude.


    Filed on November 26, 2003 at 7:49 am under by dcobranchi

    This “caring parent” is about as clueless as any I’ve seen.

    Parents should prove they can teach

    There needs to be a stronger law in Illinois so parents have to prove they have the education to home school children like in a normal classroom. I know there are so many children who don’t get and desperately need school. How are our children going to make it in this society in years to come? They are our future, and without proper education they will not be strong enough to tackle this by themselves.

    We trust the parents way too much, instead of checking and tending to our children. A family mamber I know is doing this to her children. It’s not fair to watch the kids suffer without enough being done to the parents.

    I have no problem with parents who stick to their home schooling. It’s the parents who don’t and think about themselves and only themselves. Please help make Illinois and other states better places for our children to learn and grow.

    A caring parent,

    Elizabeth Gee
    Davenport, Iowa

    Unsurprisingly, Illinois homeschoolers beg to differ. John Bambenek gets it 100% right:

    Parents and children need to be liberated from public school monopoly

    In the on-going debate about home schooling, one thing becomes abundantly clear. There is no concept of freedom on the anti homeschooling side. They state that they need to protect children from inadequate teachers (namely parents) by putting them in schools with inadequate teachers.

    The point is simply this: The government has little right to regulate how parents raise their children. Sure, beating kids is an exception, but seriously, how children are educated is the right and responsibility of the parents. And let’s be honest for a minute, there is quite a bit of indoctrination that takes place in the public schools.

    Parents should be deciding where their children go to school and how they are educated, and not the government. It is time that the public education monopoly was brought down so that parents can choose what is best for their kids. It is time parents had the power to choose which school their kids attended with a system of vouchers which enables that choice.

    When the government is vested with power to “protect” children from their parents, we no longer live in a democracy. The government raising children is simply not the legacy of freedom and limited government our Founding Fathers fought and died to leave us with.

    John Bambenek

    Homeschoolers 1, Caring Parents 0.


    Filed on at 7:04 am under by dcobranchi

    This lede says everything you need to know about the state of “educashun” in Wyoming.

    A straight teenager is challenging a Wyoming school district policy that bars students from bringing same-sex dates to school dances. In September, Amanda Blair tried to defy the rule by taking another young woman to the homecoming dance at Big Piney High School in Big Piney, Wyo. They were kept out by sheriff’s deputies at the request of school officials.

    Needless to say, government officials (i.e., educrats) can’t tell students who they can or can’t date. In one of its better moments, the ACLU is now involved.


    Filed on at 6:53 am under by dcobranchi

    Privacy lives (temporarily?) in PA g-schools

    A desire to discourage drug use among students is not a sufficient reason to justify “suspicionless” drug screening targeted at student-athletes, parking-permit holders, and participants in extracurricular activities, the state Supreme Court has ruled…”The theory apparently is that, even in the absence of any suspicion of drug or alcohol abuse, it is appropriate to single these students out and say, in effect: ‘Choose one: your Pennsylvania constitutional right to privacy or the chess club,’ ” Justice Ronald D. Castille wrote in a 32-page opinion.

    It was not a final victory, however, as the state Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court for additional hearings.


    Filed on at 6:32 am under by dcobranchi

    The Washington Post solicited letters from several Washington-area VIPs (and VIP wannabes) on the topic of “Which are better- public schools or private schools?” This is, no doubt, related to the DC voucher debate. There’s a pretty good mix of all three possible answers (“public”, “private”, and “it depends”). Interestingly, the pro-public school letters cited diversity as the selling point for the g-schools.

    Andrew Bennett (evidently no relation to William J. Bennett who also has a letter in the article)

    11th-grader at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda

    I’ve gone to public schools in Montgomery County my entire life, and I know people who go to private school. In my experience, public school education is better than private school education. Most public schools do offer the diversity that is so important in preventing bigotry. The teachers are equal to or better than those in private schools.



    Filed on November 25, 2003 at 4:52 am under by dcobranchi

    …to grandmother’s house we go. SC here we come. See y’all this evening.


    Filed on at 4:46 am under by dcobranchi

    An old song. Cyber charters aren’t homeschooling. Why can’t anyone seem to understand this?


    Filed on November 24, 2003 at 10:00 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m going to post this somewhere near the top. Mouseover the button for a description.
    Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!


    Filed on at 8:25 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a CNNfn article on how larger families are in vogue. Given the source, it’s not surprising that they focus on upper class families who can afford nannies. No mention of homeschooling but it’s nice to know that homeschooling families were big before big was, er, big.


    Filed on at 8:07 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s the stat of the day:

    [A] 1999 U.S. Surgeon General’s report estimates 20 percent of children ages 9 to 17 have diagnosable psychiatric disorders.

    1 in 5 kids? Of course, the DSM IV-R can include all sorts of “disorders” that really aren’t. We have a copy of the DSM III somewhere but I can’t put my hands on it. I’d bet that it includes ADD/ADHD.


    Filed on at 6:46 am under by dcobranchi

    An old Brad Edmonds column has stirred up the hornets’ nest of teachers’ wrath. Mr. Edmonds was not impressed with his opponents’ arguments. I, on the other hand, am impressed with Edmonds’ parting shot:

    The more they write to me, the more confidently I can recommend that you get your children out of there now and begin home schooling.


    Filed on at 5:56 am under by dcobranchi

    John Kennedy at No Treason has a really good essay about marriage in general not being a matter of public policy. He mentioned it it the comments here but I thought it deserved a TrackBack.


    Filed on November 23, 2003 at 7:02 am under by dcobranchi

    …for this generic homeschooling in MA article. One quote worth, er, quoting:

    A far cry from the more intrusive oversight of past years, home-schooling parents in districts like Franklin must only submit an education plan, which is reviewed and approved by administrators.

    The plan, usually only a few pages, is “really just an outline,” said Nancy Sprague, director of instructional services, and is often approved in a day or two.

    Students submit progress reports at the end of the year, which may take the form of a letter, test results or even portfolios showing student work over the year.

    And this is the “relaxed” law. I can’t imagine how awful the previous version was.


    Filed on at 6:54 am under by dcobranchi

    about a “cursed” boat and the families that have called her home. Homeschooling rates a very minor mention.


    Filed on November 22, 2003 at 1:44 pm under by dcobranchi

    Diana at Beyond the Whispers doesn’t like the new Tenn. HOPE scholarships at all, particularly the discrimination against homeschoolers. Let’s hope the legislators fix this in January, as promised.


    Filed on at 1:13 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s a libertarian who’s opposed to same-sex marriage. (via Isabel Lyman)


    Filed on at 8:34 am under by dcobranchi

    An OR paper asked its readers how the educrats could make the budgeting process easier for the public to understand. My favorite response:

    Biggerer letters, possibly in crayon.

    Justin Reynolds, Age 8, Salem

    Sounds about right.


    Filed on at 5:46 am under by dcobranchi

    An 11-year-old homeschooler has won the National Junior Horticultural Association award for her science project on the chemistry of pond water. Very nice. BTW, does she look like she’s only 11? I guess they grow ’em big out West.


    Filed on at 5:21 am under by dcobranchi

    David Brooks, writing in the NYT, has a fine essay on why conservatives should “insist” on gay marriage. He doesn’t make a libertarian argument, but a moral one. Well worth the free registration.

    ONLY 187?

    Filed on November 21, 2003 at 5:10 pm under by dcobranchi

    Here’s some truly useless information. The federal government has released a study that reveals the 187 rules to follow in designing a successful website. Your tax dollars at work.


    Filed on at 5:04 pm under by dcobranchi

    Prince William Co. (VA) educrats are patting themselves on the back for providing “school choice.” Of course, they have yet to approve a single charter school; the only choices available are all standard g-schools. Somewhere, Henry Ford is smiling.


    Filed on at 6:58 am under by dcobranchi

    If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you’ll appreciate Chris O’Donnell’s reviews. Start here and scroll up. Lots of good stuff.


    Filed on at 6:45 am under by dcobranchi

    Some details in the Jackson starvation case are beginning to emerge. The boys evidently were being homeschooled (contrary to earlier reports). In addition to filling in the details, this article includes some of the most statist, self-serving bureaucratese I’ve seen in a long time:

    “We believe he needs us to be his guardian and to provide services,” said Ralph Siegel, a spokesman for Human Services…”An entity beyond goverment needs also to be protecting Bruce’s interests,” he said…Tom Blatner, a child welfare consultant and former head of DYFS, said the state owes the 19-year-old every chance for “the best possible life.”

    Remember, these folks are the same group that failed to notice that the kids were starving to death during 38 visits by social workers.


    Filed on at 6:36 am under by dcobranchi

    Vermont legislators held a hearing to look at the annual school-funding problem. One homeschooling mom suggested that g-school superintendents should encourage homeschooling in order to save money. I’m sure that will happen.


    Filed on at 6:24 am under by dcobranchi

    The New York Times has an interesting piece on the possible link between the use of “moisture-cure urethane” and childhood asthma. This particular sealant is popular among the Hasidim of NYC. Health officials say the product releases toluene diisocyanate which is correctly described as a “very bad actor.” I’m somewhat surprised, though, that they found TDI as it reacts instantaneously with water.

    Even more OT in this OT story- I had to smile at the NYT’s use of one of my favorite Yiddish words, “noodge” (meaning a kind of gadfly). I use it frequently but don’t believe I’ve ever seen it in print. Oh yeah, the double “o” is pronounced as in “wood.”


    Filed on November 20, 2003 at 9:10 pm under by dcobranchi

    I’m just catching up so y’all may have already seen this Illinois Leader editorial. It’s written by a homeschooling mom and is a terrific response to Dan and his buddies at the NYT.

    And, here are some letters to the editor in response.


    Filed on at 5:54 pm under by dcobranchi

    Michael Lopez had a good post yersterday about the price one pays by becoming a “victim.”

    IT IS ALIVE!!!

    Filed on at 4:30 pm under by dcobranchi

    Yes, I’m back and blogging. I’ve been at the Eastern Analytical Symposium all week. The hotel claimed to have free WiFi access but they apparently lied. We never did find a hotspot. EAS is a great meeting (I’m on the Governing Board, so I might be a bit biased). Putting on a big meeting (several thousand attendees) is a lot of hard work, but we get to play hard, too. Last night a group of us went here for dinner and some very light gambling ($2 per race split between 25 of us). What a gorgeous place! 60 feet above the track with a birds eye view through the glass wall. This picture doesn’t come close to doing it justice.

    The rest of the week was just about as good. That being said, though, I missed my family. It’s good to be home.


    Filed on November 15, 2003 at 8:47 am under by dcobranchi

    Net access will be sporadic at best until Thursday.


    Filed on at 7:43 am under by dcobranchi

    Here’s another abuse case that is being tied to the “need” to increase supervision of homeschools. It’s very confusing. Apparenly, the 10-year-old girl was chained to her bed when a fire broke out. She was unable to escape.


    Filed on at 7:28 am under by dcobranchi

    Texas appears all set to allow for alternative teacher certification whereby experts (such as scientists, mathematicians, etc.) can teach withoug going to Ed School. Needless to say, the g-school teachers aren’t happy.

    Teacher groups maintain that certification without training in classroom technique will dilute teaching quality and that improving pay and working conditions is a better way to reduce chronic teacher shortages.

    Who knows? That’s why they call it an experiment (I learned that in grad school).


    Filed on at 6:39 am under by dcobranchi

    The New York Times has issued (on the Editorial page) a call for increased regulation of homeschooling in states with “lax regulation.” Even worse:

    While parents have a right to decide how their children will be educated, the state most certainly has an obligation to ensure that every American child is learning basic skills. The schooling laws fly in the face of compulsory education statutes that have been on the books throughout this country since the early 20th century, not to mention the new national push to raise standards and improve student achievement.

    The state certainly does NOT have that obligation, nor the power. The state can compel attendance, not education. Otherwise, private schools could not exist. That issue was settled by Pierce v Society of Sisters (1925).

    This hands-off approach is especially problematic for disabled children, who are particularly vulnerable to neglect. The federal Individuals With Disabilities Education Act requires the states to seek out disabled children to ensure that they get the services and education they need. Under the act, the children in New Jersey were clearly entitled to help. The shock over this case will cause New Jersey to revisit its home-schooling law. States with similar laws should do the same.

    Anyone homeschooling a “special needs” kid should keep their eyes open. < /rant>

    OK, I’m feeling better now. Homeschooling is not in any particular danger, despite the NYT’s call. Any new regulations will have to come through the states and we know how to fight those battles. If you’re not already involved in your state-wide inclusive organization, get involved (in Delaware that’s DHEA; in NJ, NJHA). Be prepared to contact your legislators or even to visit if necessary. It makes for a great civics lesson for all those kids we’re abusing and leaving ignorant.


    Filed on November 14, 2003 at 9:39 pm under by dcobranchi

    This post addresses a particularly annoying (and growing) problem- blog-comment spam. Adam Kalsey has declared war on the spammers. Follow the link to see how you can help.


    Filed on at 8:02 pm under by dcobranchi

    HSLDA is at it again. They held a press conference today in the U.S. Capitol to protest the Democratic filibuster against four of Pres. Bush’s judicial nominees.

    It focused attention on the fact that utilizing the Senate filibuster rule to prohibit votes on judicial nominations is unconstitutional. A simple majority is all that is required, not a super-majority of 60 votes, to appoint judges to the federal bench. The Senate debated this issue for over 38 hours straight to call attention to the problem.

    HSLDA is involved with this issue because we care about the Constitution. Homeschoolers know first hand that our liberty as Americans depends upon our adherence to our Constitution – even its seemingly mundane procedural aspects. Unconstitutionally blocking the consideration of judges, because they are conservative, politicizes judicial appointments in a destructive and dangerous way, and undermines respect for the rule of law.

    Bull! First, it’s not unconstitutional. If it were, wouldn’t the GOP have taken this to court by now? The Dems are following the Senate’s rules- the same rules that the GOP used to block several Clinton-era nominees. That’s the way the game is played. Doesn’t the “L” in HSLDA stand for “legal?” All those lawyers over there know that this claim is specious.

    Second, HSLDA cares about this because they care about the Constitution? What a hoot! Would Farris be out there if the GOP were blocking liberal nominees? Not bloody likely. So, whoever wrote this little press release managed to lie twice in four short paragraphs. Not bad; maybe Farris does have a future career in politics.


    Filed on at 7:48 pm under by dcobranchi

    Wheaton College will allow its students to dance (on campus!) for the first time in its 143-year-old history. Students are taking lessons so they don’t make total fools of themselves on the dance floor.

    “They had a lot of fun, but they kind of approached it from almost an academic standpoint,” said Rich Nickel, a local dance instructor who helped get the students ready for the Rhythm Rockets’ lineup, which will feature such standards as “Sentimental Journey” and “Sunny Side of the Street.”


    Filed on at 4:33 pm under by dcobranchi

    Capitalism Magazine has a terrific column about how businessmen (the column uses the masculine form) can learn from homeschoolers. The example he wants emulated is how we fought back against CBS after the “Dark Side” stories. He likens businessmen to homeschoolers in that they, too, are unfairly linked to some dark side of human endeavors. They just haven’t fought back yet. Well worth a read. (Thanks to Skip Oliva for the tip. BTW, Skip, when are you going to blog again?)


    Filed on at 8:41 am under by dcobranchi

    Howard Dean has proposed a federal program that would provide teachers and other “public servants” with some very generous student-loan terms. The loan payments would be capped at 7% of their salary and the balance would be forgiven after 10 years. To see how generous (with your tax money) this really is, consider this scenario: A prospective teacher borrows $25,000 in Stafford loans during the course of her undergraduate studies. Upon graduation, she accepts a position with a starting salary of $35,000 per year. For the sake of this simplistic exercise, I will assume that her salary increases steadily at a rate of 3% per year and that the student loan interest rate holds at its current 3.2% (highly unlikely). At the end of 10 years, she’d have $1,685 in “forgiveness.” If, instead, she borrows $30,000 we’d eat $8,568 of the loan. If she borrows the $46,000 maximum, $30,593. Sense a pattern here? Above a certain threshold (around $23,800), her payments are fixed no matter how much she borrows. That’s a gift of $22,200 from the US Treasury. And, she doesn’t have to use it for educational expenses. Student loans can be used for anything. Howard Dean just bought every new teacher a Taurus SES with your money.


    Filed on at 7:39 am under by dcobranchi

    The National Assessment of Educational Progress (aka “The Nation’s Report Card”) results are out. Math scores are up across the board, continuing a decade-long trend. Reading scores have hardly changed during that same period.

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