Home School, The Tea Party, and Religion

Recently I've been hearing the Tea Party speak of a bloated Department of Education. There are complaints that students are not performing as well. Questions are raised about how the Catholic Schools are performing better than public schools and for less money. So of course the Department of Education and Big Government are the problems. This, and homeschooling in general, is about religion. 


By the numbers, Catholic schools appear to cost less and get better results than public schools. In 1995, The Seattle Times did a piece that showed that Catholic schools cost 4000 per student per year whereas similarly placed public schools cost 6700 per student per year. Sure seems like the Catholics have it figured out and we have something to learn, right? If you dig further into the numbers, you'll find that the reality is that when you take away the costs of transportation ($271 per student) , the Superintendents Office ($776 per student), and food services ($231 per student) you'll find that the numbers close in to a closer $5422 disparity. So what could account for the difference? How about the education of Special Needs students at a cost of $13,700 (1995 dollars)? In the end, the closer look showed that actual costs for just the education portion were less when apples to apples were compared. Moreover, what does it cost have a parent stay at home to home school teach each year? Depending on where you live, $35,000 a year is the cost of a parent not working. Might be 200k, might be 10k. Either way, it's an added cost that Home Schoolers don't want to factor in. So don't let them tell you that it costs less for a private education. 


Citing better test scores amongst the Home School Crowd or saying that since the Department of Education came into being the test scores have dropped is another common argument. It's also a myopic viewpoint. SAT scores have moved down since before 1979 when the Department was implemented. Over the 40 year period, reading scores are down by an average of 20 points. But math is up by 10. In fact they have been climbing since the implementation of the Department of Education until the No Child Left Behind Act was implemented by George Bush when we see a drop off in both scores. Clearly the Department wasn't the cause of the problem prior to 1980 since it wasn't a cabinet position, so why call for it's dismissal? It would seem that they are holding or improving except when it's meddled with. But do Home Schoolers perform better. That all depends on the test used, which is chosen by the parents. In reality, it becomes a narrow measure as you can simply choose to test on what you taught. It doesn't measure the whole of education which is much broader than reading and math. Success in higher education and life depends on more than these two areas. Socialization, computer science, science in general, etc are all critical to succeeding in life. Higher Education recognizes this and many institutions give a preference to students whom attend traditional schools.    


 When Tea Partiers cite these standards, recognize it for the attempt to indoctrinate your child that it is. When the Department of Education asked in 2003 why parents home school, "72 percent cited "to provide religious or moral instruction" as an ...". There are other listed motivations, but when 72% say that religion and morality is the motivation, what more do you need to hear? 72% of people agreeing on something is pretty compelling. They really don't want to teach science in an honest manner. They don't want their children to evolve with society but rather to hold on to an ideal that their parents pushed on them. That's fine, but don't ask me to pay for it with vouchers or the abolition of a Department designed to standardize education in a manner that allows a kid in Alabama the same opportunities in life as a kid from Vermont. The argument is a sham and we should be openly calling it that. 


Education is changing. Math is no longer about showing your work. It's becoming about making your algorithm work in software. A parent educated 18 years ago that barely recalls finding the area of a isosceles triangle is going to be left behind. A parent strong in science, might be weak in English. A parent strong in English might know nothing about Current Events and how to tie the stories in to historical perspective. Anyone who knows anything about education will tell you that making the connections and finding relevance is critical to helping children understand importance. If you don't think that the date for the signing of the Magna Carta is relevant, why would you remember it? But if your instructor can tie that into the beginning of the building of Western Democracies and the establishment of rights, 1215 becomes a date to remember.


Home Schoolers may perform well on a few tests. If you focus on just one line item, it looks cheap. In the big picture, they are left behind socially, and with education as a whole. Be sure to speak up and stand for keeping religion out of school. These latest chants to end the Department of Education are just latest way to wedge religion into schools. Quash the speech before it gains any headway. 

Views: 66

Tags: Education, Home school, Religion, Tea Party

Comment by Morgan Matthew on February 27, 2011 at 9:24pm
Great post as always Gaytor! I am going to assume you have already read this post about not wanting to be a teacher any more.
Comment by Gaytor on February 27, 2011 at 9:32pm
I hadn't. How in the world did teachers go from being nearly universally recognized as under-paid to being a financial burden? I've had some discussion on FB recently that led to this. Home School advocates... all deeply religious friends of mine. Good luck having the average housewife explain physics in a meaningful way.
Comment by Skycomet the Fallen Angel on February 27, 2011 at 10:44pm
Homeschool is a dumb idea if there ever was one! Specialized schools in the case of disabilities would be appropriate... but the idea that parents can teach as well as professional educators is a fantasy. And there is one thing about religious private schools that statistics don't mention... they are laden with dogma, virtually diversity-free, and hostile toward students that don't believe the taught religious dogma. Also, they are not protected from creationism. You couldn't PAY me to send a child of mine to a religious private school!
Comment by JerBear on March 17, 2011 at 2:47pm
To many generalizations in this post. The term "Tea-Partiers" for one. Some people that associate themselves with the Tea Party movement are religious and conservative. Some are not religious and consider themselves libertarian rather than conservative. There are differences. I don't associate with the Tea Party movement but I am sympathetic to many libertarian ideas. There are lots of people that go the home school route that are not religious. Some of the most intelligent and independent thinking people I know were home schooled. It took me a good 10 years to deprogram myself of all the propaganda I was force fed in public school, so let's not be so quick to dismiss the value of alternate venues of learning.
Comment by Gaytor on March 17, 2011 at 6:50pm
The Tea Party not having a platform or anything coherent isn't my fault. I'm left with nothing but the ability to generalize. It encapsulates are large demographic and picking out the points they have pushed actively is all that can be focused on until they can form coherent ideas. Let's be honest, there isn't a coherent idea of what to do. It's simply a mob pushing through one issue at a time without a sense of direction or any particular goals.

Homeschooled kids will soon have no chance in the world. Propaganda aside (I agree with the point), does having your mom teaching you Algorithms, Computer Science, Political Science, History, English, Physics, etc sound like a good idea? Education is changing quickly. Taking your time to show your work in math will leave you behind tomorrow. We are no longer a country focused on manufacturing but one that deals in complex business and technology. No parent could possibly effectively teach on all of those subjects. We all know that the best teachers focus on only one or two subjects.
Comment by JerBear on March 17, 2011 at 8:41pm

This is the problem with speaking about people in collectivized terms, you really lose a lot of clarity and everything ends up sounding like stereotypes. The Tea Party, as you have pointed out, does not have a clear and consistent platform. It is nothing more than a label for a group of very diverse people who have a wide range of beliefs. There is a tendency towards a sort of conservative/libertarian-ish bent, and many may very well be religious, but if you are going to criticize people on an issue, you should try to be more specific. At it's worst, speaking in collective terminology leads us to the place where people say things like "black people are uneducated" or "white people are greedy". Those things may well be true for some people, but in the end, each individual should be judged on their own merits, not lumped into some abstract grouping that panders to people's bigotries. Basically, I'm saying when it comes to Tea Partiers (whatever that means), don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. As with any large bucket of people, there are some that are ignorant and cowardly, and there are some that are wise and brave.


Home schooling might not be the best solution for education, but our public school system isn't doing too good of a job either. And unfortunately, that failing enterprise has a bit of a hegemony on education in the US. The internet is changing things though. We don't have to rely on just parents or teachers to help us learn anymore. It is infinitely easier to pursue a topic of interest and find other people with similar interests than it was a decade or two ago. We are in the midst of a revolution. Don't discount how that will effect how people are educated. The future holds great possibilities, don't get stuck thinking that the old way will always be the best way to do things. We are atheists precisely because we find dogma to be what traps people in ignorance and stagnation.

Comment by Gaytor on March 18, 2011 at 12:50am

Collectivized terms. It's not like I'm making this up or it's a one off position. Many, many Tea Partiers hold this anti-DOE position. It's not like I'm assigning this to them. They are choosing it. Not just random Tea-Party folks, but name Tea-Party politicians. Here's a screenshot of Tea Party and Department of Education Google search.



855,000 results. Rand Paul, Sharon Angle... Who would you have me name and I'll look up their position on it? 


Comparing politics to race is a good emotional ploy. If I said that Korean's eat Kimchee, I can't imagine someone taking offense. Sure, there are exceptions, but it doesn't disprove the generality. The Tea Party has enough people to get a general sense of where they are going. To say that I have to interview each person in order to speak about the group is non-sense. Ron Paul abhors war, but he's still a Republican. Does that mean that I can't say Republicans are Hawks? If you don't like what is being said but it's demonstrably true, then you should be asking if they are the group that you want to speak for you.


What old ways are you talking about getting stuck in? Are they the ones where capitalism is the solution to everything? Are they the ones where our laws came from the founding fathers so we should stay just like they hoped forever? They created the most liberal and fluid government that had ever existed but they wouldn't want anything to change... ever. I'm actually the guy saying let's change and it's the Tea Party that is saying let's go backwards. We have been a virtually Libertarian Country before. We had a small government which allowed mistreatment, have & have nots (supply side economics has brought us back to that) Monopolies, no workers rights, etc, etc. I'm not interested in that worldview. As an aside, I'm not an Atheist because if found dogma to be trapping people in ignorance.

Comment by JerBear on March 18, 2011 at 2:59pm

Sure, generalizations are generally true. I can't argue with that. You were making an argument that says homeschooling = religious tea partiers. I think this is far too much of a generalization. Many people home-school for a wide range of reasons, some religious, some political, some philosophical. All of these factors could mean a lot of different things. Your argument doesn't have any hard facts about specifically what religions or what political stances these homeschooling people have. They are certainly not all people that associate themselves with the tea party movement.


Our public (aka government) education system is a failure because socialized systems always fail in the long run. The incentives are backwards because the government can always squeeze more money out of the taxpayers citing the poor performance of the education system. In fact, the worse the education system gets, the more money they claim they need - all for the children of course. It's a total sham. Look into the history of our government education system. Read some of John Holt's work and read about how the US education system was copied from the Prussian model of schooling - the education system that created good obedient citizens willing to follow someone like Hitler when he came along. Our public education system was not created to make smart, well informed, independent thinkers. It was created to make people that follow directions so the country could have a generous compliant workers and soldiers that won't rock the boat.


When I was talking about getting stuck in the old ways of doing things I was referring to how people are still educated in schools. 150 years ago school was 20-30 students at desks, a teacher, and a black board. Here we are 150 years later with schools that have, you guessed it, 20-30 students at desks, a teacher in the front, and maybe a whiteboard instead. Wow, public school has really progressed!

Comment by Gaytor on March 20, 2011 at 10:49pm

Here is the irony though. You say that I'm generalizing too much, they you say "socialized systems always fail in the long run".

Germany- Bismarck Health Care Model. The Health Insurance Act of 1883 still exists today.

Canada spent the last decade erasing debt even as a socialist state.

China has 9 trillion dollars in savings and has huge socialist programs. Some estimate that the                                majority of the economy is ran by the government.

It would seem that there are actually plenty of examples of socialist countries doing better than we are for their people. 


I don't see education failing us. I see a Taxed Enough Already party member complaining that schools are failing while trying to de-fund them. The fact is that over time, SAT scores are about even and they have been rising until No Child Left Behind students started to take the test. Education is an investment, and we aren't making it. The failure is in the anti-tax attitude that doesn't allow change to happen rather than of the system itself. 

If you want to save some money, and you don't like socialism, maybe the military is a great place to chop some budgets. It creates generational dependency as we have to care for soldiers for the duration of their lives. Effectively, WWII isn't paid for yet. Germany only spends 3.3% of it's budget on the military. Do you think that Germans are scared? Few European countries spend more than 5%, so let's take on something truly effective that can be deeply changed and have no ill effects.

We aren't going to get anywhere on education. I think that education through college should be free, so clearly there isn't going to be a middle ground in that area. I'd pay to put books in the hands of 20 year olds, whereas others think that there is a good historical practice of putting guns in them.  

Comment by JerBear on March 21, 2011 at 3:58pm

The U.S. education system has been failing for years and years. Test scores have flat-lined while funding has drastically increased. Here is the spending:

So we are spending 5 or 6X what we did 40 years ago, but without any significant improvements. As you pointed out, test scores indicate that there has been little change. This is even with the "teaching to the test" BS that goes on. Where is all that extra money going? Probably to the NEA (teachers union), and into buying politicians that will keep the goodies flowing to them. The education system that we have in this country is a dirty dirty racket, run by thieves and liars, and those willing to look the other way.


I agree with you that cutting military spending is a good idea, but raising that issue is just a distraction to the issue here. I'm against socialized systems (whether military or education) because they are immoral, not because they are generally ineffective in the long run. If you build a society around the idea that it's OK to use coercion and violence to achieve desired ends, then you have a very unjust world where the same rules don't apply to everyone. And that's where we are today.


You think that education through college should be free. Allow me to point out that nothing is free. Someone always pays. If you went to your neighbors house and told them to give you $1000 for education or else something bad might happen to them, I don't think they would take too kindly to that. I also doubt that you would personally be very comfortable doing it. Why is it that you (and most other people) feel OK allowing someone else (government) to do it in your place? That's what taxation is.


If you want to pay to put books into the hands of 20 people then do it. Nothing is stopping you. Why do you feel that it's OK to force other people to do so as well? Are there not many generous people in the world that also value helping provide others with education? Why must we resort to coercion instead? After all, this system of coercion is the same mechanism that puts guns into people's hands and sends them to the other side of the world to kill poor people.



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