Some Concerns about Home-Schooling

Is it an excuse to teach religion instead of science?

I’ve always been concerned about the quality of education kids get these days. Underpaid teachers, peer pressure that rewards bad behavior, high drop-out rates. As I reported back in November 2008, kids are graduating the local high school without knowing how to tell time on an analog clock. It’s impossible to have an intelligent conversation with most teens; they seem absolutely clueless about anything that isn’t on television or the Internet — and I’m not talking about PBS or Wikipedia here. They can’t spell because they have spelling checkers that do that for them. They can’t do math without a calculator. While I’m obviously not talking about all young people here — there would be absolutely no hope for America’s future if the problem affected every kid — it’s certainly more than half of the ones I come in contact with.

And “No Child Left Behind” just made the situation worse. It forced teachers and schools to teach just so kids would pass exams. Teaching by rote rather than ensuring that kids understand what they’re being taught is not doing the next generation any good.

These days, concerned parents are taking an active role in their kids’ education. While I personally believe that working together at the end of the day on homework and even just discussing what was learned in school each day is enough, many parents are going the extra step: they’re home-schooling their kids.

I’ll admit that I don’t know much about home-schooling. I don’t have kids; I decided early in life not to take that path. I don’t regret it. I sometimes wonder how my kids would have turned out — whether they’d be smart or lazy or interesting or dull. I’d like to think that they’d know how to tell time by the age of 18 and aspire to something more substantial than stocking shelves at the local supermarket.

I do know that if my kids weren’t getting the education they needed at school and I couldn’t help them by being part of their nightly homework routine, I’d likely consider home-schooling. After all, if you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself.

My neighbor home-schools her kids. She has four of them ranging in age from about 5 to 12. She and her husband are either Evangelical or Born-Again Christians. I don’t know which and I don’t care. The last thing I want to do is have a discussion about religion with people who scratched religious slogans into the wet concrete of their driveway.

And this brings up my concerns about home-schooling. While browsing the news with the Associated Press (AP) mobile application on my BlackBerry (while waiting for a notary public at the bank), I stumbled upon an article titled, “Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin, evolution.” It reported:

“The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians,” said Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association. “Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program.”

It went on to say that, “Two of the best-selling biology textbooks stack the deck against evolution,” according to educators who reviewed the books.

And this is the root of my concerns. I believe that science textbooks and science lessons should be about science. Evolution is a widely accepted component of the science of biology. The alternative — creationism or its disguised alter-ego, “intelligent design” — is not. There is a wealth of scientific evidence to back up evolution; there is no evidence to back up creationism.

Clearly, the failure to teach accepted science as that — accepted science — is a serious shortcoming in the home-schooling textbooks that shoot down evolution. The children being taught that evolution is “only a theory” are being given an inadequate education — one that could put them at a serious disadvantage if they go on to college or attempt to pursue careers in science or medicine.

One of the books doesn’t hide its intent:

“Those who do not believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God will find many points in this book puzzling,” says the introduction to “Biology: Third Edition” from Bob Jones University Press. “This book was not written for them.”

The textbook delivers a religious ultimatum to young readers and parents, warning in its “History of Life” chapter that a “Christian worldview … is the only correct view of reality; anyone who rejects it will not only fail to reach heaven but also fail to see the world as it truly is.”

The Christian worldview is the only correct view of reality? In whose world? I don’t think the millions of Jews, Muslims, or Hindus in the world would agree with that statement. I know the atheists wouldn’t. Does that mean that Christian children should be taught a different version of reality than the rest of the world? To what benefit? Certainly not the benefit of the children.

And what of the home-schooling parents that don’t want religion to be part of their children’s curriculum? The AP article discusses their struggle to find appropriate science textbooks.

Evolution Book(Might I suggest starting with Daniel Loxton’s excellent book, Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be? It’s not a textbook, but it’s a great introduction to evolution for kids and parents.)

So here’s my question: if a school board has to approve textbooks that are used in public school classrooms and home-schooled students have to take and pass standardized exams, who is approving the textbooks used in home-school “classrooms”?

And then I recall this, a piece of “Hate Mail” that was sent to Bobby Henderson of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find it here, but to save effort for the folks too lazy to click, I’ll repeat it here in all its glory, as an example of home-schooling gone terribly wrong:

wow you people are crazy i pray to my LORD jesus christ that you people wake up God created man in his own image and im sorry but if you look like noodles with meatballs growin out your BUTT you need to go back to SPACE or get back in the pan where you’ll be somebodys dinner!

people will believe anything!!

i am verryyy happy i was well homeschooled becuase i would be in jail for punching a teacher in the face when she tried to tell me about this so called spagetti monsterr!

i hate to be the breaker of bad news but when you look around when u die u wont be with your master meatball you’ll be burning in the pits of HELL and i am a REAL christian and that hurts to know that so many people are gonna be in hell! over a random guy that started a joke and has nothing better to do besides make up some god for fun then see how many people are loving this idea.

God bless you wacked out meatball loving freaks!

-christy

(I recommend Bobby’s site if you’re interested in seeing where reason and faith collide.)

Christy is right about one thing: People will believe anything. But is it right to teach it to their kids?

6 thoughts on “Some Concerns about Home-Schooling

  1. Firstly, thanks for mentioning that not all teens are clueless. I am, after all, a teen myself and I consider myself an individual with whom it is possible to have an intelligent conversation; of course, I should also note that I *do* prefer conversation with adults, mostly because of the maturity level they have.

    Am I above my teenage peers? I don’t think so. Well, I mean, yes, I do know that some of my classmates can’t read an analog clock, like you said, but I also know more than a few teens who are intelligent, mature, and polite people. I think you can tell which teens are people you’d like to associate with, and which ones might possibly be clueless. I think the issue here is is that you can’t put the other side out of your mind, therefore leaving you “concerned” about our education.

    Now on to the home-schooling subject. The thing is Maria, as a child, you and I accept the things our parents tell us about subjects like religion, creationism and morals – but as we pass the teenage years and start becoming adults, we really DO have a *choice* in what to believe in and what to refute. Despite any influence our parents and our education hase on us, we (yes, teens too, not just mature adults) have our own mind and make up our own opinions about the world.

    I’m not sure if your parents were religious or not, but even if they were, that’s not to say that you would be a religious person right now. You might have more pressure to conform, but in the end, you would probably listen to your heart and still choose to be an atheist.

    I think a more important thing is whether we are brought up in a loving and violence-free environment, giving us the freedom and the confidence to express our own opinions. Public school does not always meet those requirements. To say that it is guaranteed your child will only be exposed to the evolution theory if s/he goes to public school is quite absurd. In the end, we hear about all theories on all subjects anyway. ;)

    • Dmytro: I definitely don’t think all teens are clueless. I’ve met quite a few young folks who are really thoughtful and interesting people. You would be one of them. (I didn’t even know you were a teen!)

      I was raised Catholic, but I recall questioning religious beliefs at a very early age. My family didn’t have the answers, so I always doubted. But I went through the motions — and Catholicism has a lot of that — for communion, confirmation, etc. My mother is extremely unhappy about both my religious and political views, but I really don’t care. It’s my life, not hers, and I don’t think I should waste it by confining my beliefs to those specified by a religious organization that’s way overdue for modernization.

      I don’t think I ever said that a child would only be exposed to evolution if he/she attended public school. But I do feel pretty confident that a public school would not teach “Intelligent Design,” which so obviously supports a religious agenda for education. (The Dover School Board court case proved that.) I’m just worried that some home-schooled kids are not getting the proven scientific facts they need to be knowledgeable adults. I’m also worried that some home-schooling text books may attempt to teach children that their religious views are somehow superior to others, possibly making them superior to others. (Think “holier than thou.”)

      One of the problems we’re having in the middle east is that we don’t understand the religions practiced by the people there. Many Americans look down on them for their beliefs. That’s wrong. By understanding and accepting the differences, we can build a platform for accomplishing our mission there — supposedly stopping terrorist organizations — without becoming the enemy of the civilian population along the way.

      Just my two cents.

  2. I’m just worried that some home-schooled kids are not getting the proven scientific facts they need to be knowledgeable adults.

    But is an exposure to evolution and other scientific facts required to be a “knowledgeable adult”? Would one’s knowledge and belief of either evolution or creationism influence a person’s career or life?

    I’m also worried that some home-schooling text books may attempt to teach children that their religious views are somehow superior to others, possibly making them superior to others. (Think “holier than thou.”)

    But again, children can be taught these and other values of superiority, but in the end, it’s their choice to decide how to act and what to believe. Your own childhood story proves that, doesn’t it? You can’t really force anyone to adopt a set of values, morals, and beliefs, especially as these children/teens get closer to adulthood.

    I’m just kind of being a devil’s advocate here, since really, I do agree with your points. :P

  3. I sympathize. It happens to me as well. Think about getting a free keylogger (program that records your every keystroke) – not very secure if someone trying to find out your password, but very handy for recovery.

What do you think?