Cobbling Together the Best Real Learning We Can

1 09 2009

“Learning happens throughout the entire day. Some of it counts as formal schoolwork and gets logged for “accountability” purposes. Other things don’t. Is it all pretty arbitrary? Sure, but I have to work within the constraints of the situation I’m in. Isn’t that a big part of life?”

That’s something CW said here followed by something Lori found and linked, which taken together moved me to write today for Thinking Parents everywhere, as another new season of learning begins.

Sacred or secular isn’t the big issue I see. When it comes to learning and thinking, if it’s School rather than Education then I say we can do better and we ought to get to it. Both at home and as public policy.

On the heels of examining how Sonlight’s curriculum teaches kids to think and whether that’s suitable for secular home education or just for church school at home, I hope to remind us all that Church and State have a common educational interest both public and private, in controlling how kids learn to think and inquire — indeed in preventing much of it.

And that means the hidden curriculum of both Church and State is similar in effect, thus more Schooling or even Training (shudder!) than true Education.

I’m not one for absolutes and can’t imagine any learning program could be all one, none of the other. Learning is always somewhere in between School and Education, but it’s a lo-o-ng way from one pole to the other along that continuum! So it’s well worth thinking about which we’re serving up for our kids and then regularly rebalancing along the journey — at least as often as we rebalance the tires, right?

[Excerpted from earlier Snooking around]

. . .Do you know parents struggling to balance Education and Schooling because their own children for whatever reasons, are cobbling together their learning environments between the two? Maybe you ARE one of those parents?

. . .[For just one example] this settled and happy mom faced a difficult divorce and the need to find a family-sustaining career for herself, which meant getting different kinds of educational “support” than we typically dwell on in independent unschooling circles — child care and legal advice and putting the older kids in public school after custody challenges and even “going back to school” herself. I know there were times she agonized about her kids, but not whether they mastered the state learning standards and passed algebra — it was what they were learning about life!

So I dug this post out for her and so many thinking, learning, hard-working moms we all know like her. Read at the links, know that “you are, because you think!” . . .and the rest will take care of itself, one way and another, no matter what anyone else thinks. 🙂

Institutional schooling has taught our fellow citizens so much about duty and failure and tedium, conforming their own internal life to external demands, that most inevitably become workaday parents and teachers (and voters and politicians) who simply follow and enforce and further entrench society’s rules and restrictions, rather than rethinking them.

They pass all this on in turn. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be . . .and they soldier on.

How controlling and conservative, how hidebound, what a monstrous millstone for progressives to drag behind ANY political bandwagon. Maybe that isn’t entirely School’s “fault” but public education could do much better at preparing the next generation to be Thinking Citizens. Imagine what a culture that could be, and what kind of politicians would thrive in it, rather than what we know now.

There’s even an educators’ argument coalescing around the idea that education IS democratic engagement”.

No one — not student, teacher or parent — is excited or inspired (or educated) by standardized, Bowdlerized textbook and workbook pabulum, or a student’s dutiful five-paragraph essay, any more than politics or culture can progress via poll-tested stump soundbites and dime-a-dozen American Idol warbler wannabes.

And fighting the last war instead of the next one, well, we’ve seen what disasters follow.

Message discipline is for mindless troops under orders, led by those with absolute faith in their own “right” answers. To me that fits the bones of (conservative) school and church, the military, industrial quality control and factory production. Not the supporting structures of (liberal) education and innovation, R&D, creative design, risk-taking, and social progress built on the pooled but undiluted, uncompromised wisdom of a multitude of diverse individuals.

. . .So why doesn’t our school system prepare kids to grow into adult citizens who embrace and celebrate difference, and succeed as originals rather than clones (I thought conservatives were AGAINST human cloning??)

It’s not a trick question or test question, it’s immediate and real-world: which way does your own education and intellect “compel” you to lean on the issue of school compulsion and coercion? Does school meet its own huge ideological burden anymore? Is it perhaps time that “liberal-leaning” thinkers re-think what education is and how to create it, to test our own beliefs and expert analysis under our own intellectual standards, in light of new evidence and old disappointments?

. . .Schools teach the last test. Education writes the next one. Which is better for progressive politics? The answer to that is easy, but getting activists to understand and ask themselves the question in the first place is hard.
I attribute it to too much schooling . . .

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50 responses

1 09 2009
lori

One common ground conservatives and progressives share is a lack of vision when it comes to education, if not outright authoritarianism in education. Both groups want their version of education to apply to all children. There’s really very little difference, in my opinion, in how they see it. They basically agree on just about everything except some specific content. But it’s still a one-size fits all, top-down approach from both camps.

1 09 2009
JJ

Yep. People generally think of kids that way — maybe because most of them were treated that way as kids? — and it does edge toward indoctrination or programming rather than what I value as education. Obviously it’s pretty effective too, because it’s self-perpetuating, really hard to break free from once you theoretically can chart your course as an adult.

The “de-schooling” necessary for “unschooling” is mainly for the parents imo!

1 09 2009
JJ

Dunno why but this older post is getting a bunch of hits this week, maybe because it mentions Caroline Kennedy? Anyway, I went to reread and it fits here too:

Play well, Legos! That’s what I call creation science and change theory

. . .a story with power to play with, in the real world, imagining how all the elements of man’s myth and reality can connect to build the most wondrous cities — so many colors and shapes for both lion and mouse, Disney and the Danes, dynasty from politics to toymaking, from the personal to the presidency. In thinking and feeling, learning and teaching, giving and taking, head and heart and spirit.

Happy History, Happy Innovation. Play well!

1 09 2009
Crimson Wife

Doesn’t the word “educate” come from the Latin roots ex (“forth”) and ducere (“to lead”). The original purpose of education was to lead children forth from darkness (ignorance and sin) into the light (knowledge and salvation). Then along came the so-called “Enlightenment” and later Romanticism, and those philosophers rejected the traditional Christian view of education in favor of a more vocational or developmental approach. And we’ve been arguing about what the true purpose of education should be ever since….

1 09 2009
JJ

It doesn’t matter which words you pick, to mean the different ideas. Not to me anyway. What matters to me is that they ARE very different ideas.

1 09 2009
Crimson Wife

The point I was trying to make is that you make a distinction between “education” and “training” that reflects your philosophical views. And I do not make such a distinction because of my philosophical views. We can debate the issue until we are blue in the face, but there’s not going to be a resolution because it stems from a fundamental disagreement of worldview.

1 09 2009
JJ

Why Education is So Difficult and Contentious

(hint: it’s not Christianity versus the Enlightenment)

1 09 2009
JJ

It doesn’t seem like we’re talking different philosophy as much as different history, not different world views so much as different world history views? 😉

Once upon a time there was no difference between the Church and anything learned, including science. Before that, there was no Christian Church at all, but there were learned philosophers. Socrates sat under a tree to ask challenging questions to fascinated students (who weren’t compelled by police force to be there thinking about how to answer.)

1 09 2009
JJ

This is from the original post:
“Church and State have a common educational interest both public and private, in controlling how kids learn to think and inquire — indeed in preventing much of it.

And that means the hidden curriculum of both Church and State is similar in effect. . .”

Do you repudiate that “educational philosophy” or do you pretty much live by it, in your homeschooling?

* * *

“To trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves…and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” – John Holt

2 09 2009
terry

How controlling and conservative, how hidebound, what a monstrous millstone for progressives to drag behind ANY political bandwagon. Maybe that isn’t entirely School’s “fault” but public education could do much better at preparing the next generation to be Thinking Citizens. Imagine what a culture that could be, and what kind of politicians would thrive in it, rather than what we know now.…..

Very, very true! I’m pretty “progressives” here is meant in the newer, political sense of the word: opposite of a conservative, which is what I happen to be. But I think what you’ve said is true here regardless of one’s political leanings.
It’s really too bad that we humans love the boxes so much, but we do.

2 09 2009
JJ

Hi Terry. Yes, meant in the HUMAN sense. 🙂

2 09 2009
JJ

Go now to read this book review at Columbia University’s Teachers College Record, because it won’t stay accessible to non-subscribers more than a few days. And/or buy the book, read it yourself.

Maybe those Thinking Parent t-shirts Betty suggested we design, should read: It’s the Citizenship, Stupid!

Advocacy Leadership by Gary L. Anderson, reviewed by Michelle Collay, August 2009.

Anderson describes the language of shame and punishment promulgated by NCLB policies, the loss of authentic teaching and learning in classrooms as teachers focus exclusively on test items, and legions of commercial providers of materials and programs.

[This btw also helps explain pushback against homeschool curriculum peddlers, most recently to Luke selling Sonlight — it’s not just objecting to how a subject is packaged and sold, but that it’s packaged and sold at all!]

Recent reform initiatives shred our belief that schools are the last, best social setting for nurturing citizenship.

. . . Anderson revisits the long battle over who controls schooling in America. Contemporary reform efforts mirror the sins of the past, as schools serve the marketplace not the democracy.

NCLB is not transformative, but devolutionary, codifying achievement and stratifying society. In the first chapter, Anderson states: “We are headed into a period in which the use of school reform language becomes a way to introduce new forms of governance.”

He describes the state moving from “being a provider of services to becoming an overseer and regulator of non-profit and for profit private service providers” . . . Anderson offers recent examples of corporatized schools and of districts taken over by newly-minted MBAs charged to standardize and economize all aspects of schooling.

School leaders can re-shape or redirect reform initiatives and must confront the relentless re-formation of schooling into a market-driven, commercial, and undemocratic venture. Advocacy leaders must understand the pervasive and taken-for-granted ways schooling is shaped by conservative, neo-liberal, and authoritarian values, and engage in establishing and sustaining a different ideology.

What is at stake in this critique is the fate of America as a civilization—particularly the condition of its democratic institutions and the citizens who are, in the final analysis, responsible for maintaining them.

. . .we must all challenge the converging political forces Anderson describes, accepting the reality that we as a citizenry accept conditions that trample the rights of all citizens, not only the urban poor. Our school leaders cannot act without our support and must not be expected to turn this tide without broad, civic engagement by every citizen.

2 09 2009
JJ

This column is by the author of a book with a title I might want on t-shirts. 🙂

Benjamin Barber, author of “Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole”

. . .With little resistance, the American public and the American President have allowed the term public to be hijacked and turned into a dirty word. In the hands of the hijackers, public is about “them” or “it” . . .

Well it isn’t. . . the public, folks, isn’t them, it’s us. It’s “we the people,” it’s neighbors united to take care of one another, it’s citizens doing together that they can’t do alone.

The public square is our common ground. That’s why in England they call it “the commons,” the shared turf where in a democracy we stand together to overcome what keeps us apart and do together those public things (res-publica) that make us a republic.

Once we allow the word public to be vilified, however, then everything associated with it becomes pejorative. Like paying taxes. See, taxes is how we pool our money to do things in common that can’t be done alone. Like building roads or educating the young or fighting wars or taking care of the poor and the sick and those with handicaps. Taxes are the common allowance we give ourselves as a national family so we can pay for the things that make us a family and keep us a family.

The attack on the term public is really an attack on democracy, on citizenship, on our efforts to come together under the banner of we the people to protect our liberties and secure our property and ensure our safety. Because centuries ago we figured out you can’t do those things alone, one by one, even if you are strong. Behind the abstract term “public” stand your neighbors, your fellow citizens, your partners in common pursuits across the land.

Those who attack the public then are attacking you and me, insofar as we want to think of ourselves as us. . . . So let’s out those who assail the term public: they are not protecting liberty, they are undermining the common goods and democratic institutions by which liberty is established and preserved.

2 09 2009
lori

CW, I think you’re onto something with your point about worldviews. Your worldview has you believing that education started with Christianity:

//The original purpose of education was to lead children forth from darkness (ignorance and sin) into the light (knowledge and salvation). Then along came the so-called “Enlightenment” and later Romanticism, and those philosophers rejected the traditional Christian view of education in favor of a more vocational or developmental approach.//

The original purpose of education was defined by Christians? The world had a long history before Christianity began, and education was a part of it (and not just in literate societies). And let’s not forget the non-Christian cultures that have existed alongside Christianity — education has been part and parcel of those cultures, too. Education — passing along one’s knowledge, skills, and values — is a human endeavor as old as humanity itself.

2 09 2009
lori

//The “de-schooling” necessary for “unschooling” is mainly for the parents imo!//

Amen, sista! It’s a long friggin’ process, too.

2 09 2009
JJ

If my own kids were young now, I’d be very concerned about home education advocacy being associated in the least with a political ideology currently doing everything it can to make itself look insane. That kind of anti-social, incoherent and WAY out of proportion logic of failure may justify and bring to pass, what leftist teacher union politics never could do: regulatory scrutiny of what’s happening in home education, to protect the public from its ravages.

I say this because as a post-partisan who has always fiercely and I think effectively argued that our citizenship was better served by individual education freedom, I personally am reexamining that case, now that it’s proving so dangerous.

2 09 2009
JJ

This morning early, I had to drive FavD to the city bus, and our local crazy-talk radio (on the station that segues into Glenn Beck, Limbaugh, then Hannity in three-hour blocks through the day) had two wannabes ranting about whether the local schools would “opt out” of some socialistic something or other. FavD turned it up and figured it out before I did. (I was completely baffled.)

Have you heard that President Obama is planning a simulcast for schools throughout the nation, direct to the students and there’s some study guide or questions that the federal DOE (I guess) put together for it. When I got home, I Googled it to see if there was any more reality to this than Sarah Palin and Betsy what’s-her-name’s death panels. Found the Media Matters posts here.

So these guys were going NUTS, the raving points MM quotes and then way beyond, about how our president is a usurper who seized power, a bully and traitor, a dangerous liar — so it’s time to take up arms against him if he dares to address the public schoolkids in school about their own civic government. I could hear the drool and knuckle-dragging as they unlocked the gun-rack and uncorked the moonshine jug . . .

2 09 2009
JJ

But they are right to be concerned, you say? He will indoctrinate the children with his evil anti-American values? Glenn Beck could be right! What if Obama’s “Chavez administration” will “seize power” with its “civilian military” ??

Well, here’s what the speech is about: education and working hard to keep America strong and safe. (It all actually sounds almost insipidly “conservative” to me.)

You can read the announcement letter and download the school resource packets at the radical ed dot gov site, tagline “promoting educational excellence for all Americans” [commies!]

In a recent interview with student reporter Damon Weaver, President Obama announced that on September 8 — the first day of school for many children across America — he will deliver a national address directly to students on the importance of education. The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning.

He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.

Since taking office, the President has repeatedly focused on education, even as the country faces two wars, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and major challenges on issues like energy and health care. The President believes that education is a critical part of building a new foundation for the American economy. Educated people are more active civically and better informed on issues affecting their lives, their families and their futures.

This is the first time an American president has spoken directly to the nation’s school children about persisting and succeeding in school. We encourage you to use this historic moment to help your students get focused and begin the school year strong. I encourage you, your teachers, and students to join me in watching the President deliver this address on Tuesday, September 8, 2009. It will be broadcast live on the White House website http://www.whitehouse.gov 12:00 noon eastern standard time.

In advance of this address, we would like to share the following resources: a menu of classroom activities for students in grades preK-6 and for students in grades 7-12. These are ideas developed by and for teachers to help engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education in their lives. We are also staging a student video contest on education.

2 09 2009
COD

//for all Americans//

This is the part that bothers them.

2 09 2009
JJ

Only Sarah Palin (whose husband and political littermates don’t want to BE Americans) gets to decide who’s a real American. It all makes me glad my professional responsibility was never “dictionary author.”

2 09 2009
Crimson Wife

Interesting review in the TCR, thanks for the link! I’ll have to see if my local library can get it through the inter-library loan program. They often can get education policy books since one of the participating libraries belongs to a community college offering an ed major.

I always want to ask folks like the author of the review how they think democracy existed in the U.S. for nearly a century before government-run schools became widespread. Most of the Founding Fathers were (gasp) homeschooled.

Also, if privatization really was a big force in K-12 education in this country, why don’t we have vouchers like Sweden and the Netherlands do?

2 09 2009
JJ

Except the Founding Fathers were truly “educated” to a high level both academically (including cutting edge scientific inquiry) and in practical social morals, common wisdom for the common good (citizenship responsibilities) — they were not homeschooled in the bible as the sole education for life, for growing crops, surviving smallpox and praying away hurricanes. They also quite pointedly did not set up a theocracy.

2 09 2009
Crimson Wife

The ancient Greeks, while pagans, were very much concerned with moral instruction. Their word for education was paideia, and they made a distinction between this and learning a trade (which they called banausos). The Greeks’ goal of paideia was to mold their youths to what they called Kalos Kagathos or “the beautiful and the good”. While the Greeks preceded Christ by several centuries and therefore their understanding was flawed in many respects, their view of education was in the same vein as the later Christian tradition.

2 09 2009
JJ

I’m not feeling very kindly toward what passes for “homeschooling” lately since it is purposely making itself sound so ignorant and dangerous in the public square. I’m about a half-inch from declaring that it’s proven itself a failed experiment that is endangering our nation and calling for it to be regulated, for the sake of the kids growing up less loutish than their lunatic, Beck-believing, bigoted, president-hating parents.

2 09 2009
Crimson Wife

What percentage of Christian homeschoolers use the Bible as their sole curriculum? I’d have to guess it’s less than 1%. There most likely are folks out there who do, but I’ve never encountered any…

2 09 2009
Nance Confer

What percentage use some curric that is based on the Bible though? With every subject redirected back to that one book with all the answers.

And about the whole “so-and-so were all hsed” line that so many hsers throw around.

BS.

You weren’t “hsed” if the only choice was to be at home.

And to suggest that the fraction of people who got any sort of education was a terrific system compared to ps today is a misrepresentation of both.

I’m no fan of the current ps system but it does take all comers. Even unschoolers who can’t make up their mind . . . DD may or may not go back tomorrow . . . she hasn’t made it so far this week. . . we’ll see. 🙂

Nance

2 09 2009
Nance Confer

DD’s experience so far is a good example of how the system doesn’t work very well for a lot of kids — from either D or R families.

She’s used to managing her own time and can see the total time-suck ps is. And the pressure. And the rules.

OTOH, there are nice girls to have lunch with. The personnel have all been helpful and pleasant.

I don’t see the attraction so I’m probably not doing it justice. But if they would just let her work at her own pace, she’d be much happier. And might even go back. 🙂

Nance

2 09 2009
JJ

Are you planning to let her hear the president’s address about the importance of education? I’ve heard everyone from Barbara Bush to Angela Davis at school. (Neither of whose politics I cared for.)

2 09 2009
JJ

CW, I don’t buy that anymore, not since a perfectly ordinary and even sensible woman from Tennessee surprised me after several years of cooperation on home education issues, by revealing she was a Young Earth creationist.

So okay, the rest of her own continuing “education” about the world came from FOX. Nothing we had talked about could penetrate her bible beliefs and early teaching.

There are people out there teaching their children that the president of this great nation is the Devil, or Hitler, or a giant black alien cockroach. THAT is their civics lesson. And god forbid we let him near our children, he’s not our kind (forget race, they don’t see him as HUMAN) thus can’t be trusted! You didn’t grow up in the South like I did and you’re not as old as I am, but I am never seeing that social place allowed back into public discourse and being quiet.

They do often justify it with the bible and FOX, also with laissez-faire economics, or bizarre email fraud about the constitution or whatever crap Glenn Beck and his ignorant ilk are shoveling on any given day. Other Christians and conservatives may be content to let them carry the water even when they aren’t quite so ignorant themselves, but homeschool families shouldn’t make that mistake anymore imo. I refuse to, anyway.

2 09 2009
JJ

For example, here’s how this ideology is being publicly presented in my state, for about the most moderate, least offensive senator there ever was:


Healthcare reform advocate punched by opponent

A 65-year-old man rallying in favor of healthcare reform was knocked to the ground by a man who disagreed with the call for a government-run health plan outside of a Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce meeting headlined by Sen. Bill Nelson.

Luis Perrero of Coral Gables was standing among about 40 Democratic activists and union workers when a man in a Ford pick-up truck pulled up to the rally at Jungle Island and began arguing with the crowd. The man, who only gave his first name as Raul, said Perrero called him a Spanish curse word. He punched Perrero in the face. Perrero fell to the ground and lay motionless for a few minutes.

“I’m amazed the way this has become such a politicized issue,” Perrero said, while still sitting on the ground but sitting up. “It shows that people who are against the public option will resort to anything, including battery on a senior citizen to prevent healthcare reform.”

Wilhelmina Ford, another healthcare reform proponent at the rally, said, “It was totally uncalled for. The guy may have had words with him but he didn’t have to hit him in the face.”

Fire rescue responded to the scene, where a Herald reporter was present.

— TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA

2 09 2009
writestuff444

It’s bizarre to find fault with the President encouraging school children. Here is our first African American president, what a role model for so many sitting in urban classrooms, and people are boycotting their elected president.

You know I remember the hatred of the Clintons and the right focused all their hate on the sexual problems of bill and the financial wheelings and dealings of Hillary..and her “feminist” leanings..but the vile things I heard homeschoolers say about Bill Clinton have been far surpassed by these new attacks by homeschoolers on Obama. I remember a time when we respected the office, and taught our children to respect it also.

What a shame.

2 09 2009
JJ

Politifact rates the latest save-the-children demonization of the president as a “pants on fire” lie, along with those death panels and the birther birchers. Btw, for all the talk of the former president, let us note that when terrorists struck the Towers in NYC on 9-11, that newly elected president was in my state in a SCHOOL reading to young children (whose parents weren’t likely asked to sign permission forms beforehand) — in the same city where his brother would later plot to kidnap Terri Schiavo by government force against the will of her legally empowered family.

The Truth-O-Meter Says:

Republican Party of Florida
School children across the nation “will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President.”

Republican Party of Florida on Tuesday, September 1st, 2009 in a press release Republican Party of Florida says Obama will “indoctrinate” school children with “socialist ideology”

Pants on Fire!

President Barack Obama plans to speak to the nation’s schoolchildren on Sept. 8. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the speech will be about “the importance of persisting and succeeding in school,” and the department is offering classroom materials to “engage students and stimulate discussion on the importance of education in their lives.”

You might think that would be a harmless topic, and that people across the political spectrum could agree on the importance of education.

Not so for the Republican Party of Florida, though, which released a statement “condemning President Obama’s use of taxpayer dollars to indoctrinate America’s children to his socialist agenda.”

“As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama’s socialist ideology,” said Jim Greer, party chairman, in a news release.

“The idea that school children across our nation will be forced to watch the President justify his plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies, increasing taxes on those who create jobs, and racking up more debt than any other President, is not only infuriating, but goes against beliefs of the majority of Americans, while bypassing American parents through an invasive abuse of power,” he added.

“The Democrats have clearly lost the battle to maintain control of the message this summer, so now that school is back in session, President Obama has turned to American’s children to spread his liberal lies, indoctrinating American’s youngest children before they have a chance to decide for themselves,” he concluded.

The release, which we received via e-mail, told us to click a link to learn more about Obama’s speech.

That took us to the U.S. Department of Education Web site, where Secretary Arne Duncan wrote that the speech was about “the importance of education.”

“The President will challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning,” Duncan wrote. “He will also call for a shared responsibility and commitment on the part of students, parents and educators to ensure that every child in every school receives the best education possible so they can compete in the global economy for good jobs and live rewarding and productive lives as American citizens.”

We asked the Republican Party of Florida for evidence that Obama intended to discuss health care, banks, automobile companies or taxes with the nation’s school children. They couldn’t point us to anything.

A spokesman said the party was particularly concerned about the study questions the department had provided. “The goal of these materials is to tell students why they should support President Obama in his overall agenda,” said Katie Gordon.

“If the former administration had done something like this, the media would be handling this a lot differently,” she added.

We reviewed the study materials but didn’t see any mention of controversial issues, let alone any attempt to indoctrinate students in socialism. The pre-K through 6th grade materials said the main ideas of the speech would be “citizenship, personal responsibility, civic duty.” The materials for high schoolers mention “personal responsibility, goals, persistence.”

We searched previous media reports to see if former President George W. Bush ever gave a nationwide address to school children, but based on our search, it appears he did not. He did, however, regularly visit individual schools and discuss the importance of education with students.

We did learn, however, that President George H.W. Bush addressed the nation’s students in a televised speech during school hours in 1991. ”I can’t understand for the life of me what’s so great about being stupid,” Bush said, according to news reports from the time. He told students to ”block out the kids who think it’s not cool to be smart” and ”work harder, learn more.”

Democrats at the time criticized the speech. “The Department of Education should not be producing paid political advertising for the president, it should be helping us to produce smarter students,” said Richard Gephardt, then the Democratic majority leader in the House of Representatives.

Republican Newt Gingrich defended Bush’s speech, though. “Why is it political for the president of the United States to discuss education?” Gingrich said at the time. “It was done at a nonpolitical site and was beamed to a nonpolitical audience. . . . They wanted to reach the maximum audience with the maximum effect to improve education.”

But we digress.

In ruling on Greer’s statement, we wondered whether we should give him latitude for legitimate commentary on Obama’s speech. But he crossed a line when he said that Obama intended to discuss “plans for government-run health care, banks, and automobile companies” and other policy matters not germane to education.

That is factually incorrect, and the party could not offer any support for the statement. For raising the specter of socialist ideology and indoctrination, the party takes its claim to an additional, absurd level. We rate the Republican Party of Florida’s statement Pants on Fire!

2 09 2009
JJ

Betty, I guess we’re just too old. The incredibly well-educated and thoughtful, loving, beautifully mannered children you and I have actually raised to be engaged American citizens, now voting and volunteering and doing “home education” proud in public — well, they aren’t real enough to count, apparently. I suppose they are traitors and Chinese communists too?

3 09 2009
Crimson Wife

There was physical violence done against supporters of California’s Prop. 8 last fall, too. The same words apply in that case: “It was totally uncalled for. The guy may have had words with him but he didn’t have to hit him in the face.”

3 09 2009
JJ

So? The point is — what, seriously? Because I got this same blithe false-equivalence response yesterday from a lively, well-educated, politically active evangelical from whom I had reason to expect (and deserved!) better. Oh, ain’t it awful but what can we do because people called Bush names.

Not buying it, no longer willing to treat that mindset with any respect.

Indoctrinating kids is lying, distrust, disrespect — for them, for your beliefs and for reason itself:

. . .here’s an evolutionary behaviorist and marketing professor blogging in Psychology Today about religion as consumerism and marketing behavior. He argues that the “brand loyalty” of religion is so effective because it’s intergenerationally inflicted on kids we protect as too young for all other consumer-message bombardment:

One of the benchmarks for determining whether it is ethical to advertise to children is to ask the following question: What is the minimal age at which children have the cognitive capacity to understand the ulterior motives of advertisers, and accordingly to build cognitive defenses against such attempts?

Finally, here is Dale’s take on the practical downside of selling even nonreligious parental answers to kids’ unthinking lizard brains as automatically correct:

Many nonreligious parents, in the admirable name of high integrity, set themselves up as infallible authorities. And since (like it or not) we are the first and most potent authority figures in our kids’ lives, turning ourselves into benevolent oracles of truth can teach our kids to passively receive the pronouncements of authority. I would rather, in a low-key and fun fashion, encourage them to constantly take whatever I say and run it through the baloney meter.”

And on the subject of lying. . .

3 09 2009
JJ

It’s everywhere and it’s bad news:
. . .These spawn of JuicyCampus are likely to give college administrators grief this academic year, and some legal experts say current laws will not help them fight back.

High-school students have also gotten into the act. A forum called Peoples Dirt hosts discussion boards aimed at students, organized by state. This year Maryland’s attorney general opened an investigation into the site, describing it in a written statement as “home almost exclusively to abusive, harmful, and embarrassing personal attacks on high-school-aged children.” Peoples Dirt recently added a few college-focused sections, including a message board aimed at students at the University of Maryland at College Park.

For those who missed the drama over JuicyCampus, that site encouraged students to talk trash about their peers in an anonymous forum. A few students sued; several student governments passed resolutions condemning the site; at least two colleges blocked campus access to it; and the attorneys general in two states opened investigations into its business practices. None of the those actions seemed to have much impact, however, and the site’s operator, Matt Ivester, remained defiant. Money does have an impact, though, and the site shut down in February citing a lack of advertising revenue.

But it doesn’t take much cash to operate such a service, and operators of newer sites vow to continue no matter what.

Some legal scholars argue that the only effective way to keep such toxic forums from emerging is to amend federal communication laws—though doing so would raise tricky free-speech issues.

In the meantime, some college administrators see controversies over gossip sites as a chance to talk about the damage that sexism, racism, and homophobia can do.
Similar to Celebrity Tabloids?

Purveyors of college-gossip sites generally laugh off criticism of their creations, painting their detractors as people who simply can’t take a joke. The forums are like a playful simulation of celebrity tabloids, they say, where people on campuses are trashed or defended like Hollywood A-listers. Plus, the owners point to threads where students talk about which fraternities have the best parties or which sororities have the prettiest members as evidence that the sites offer harmless entertainment.

That playful defense breaks down, however, when you take a look at the derogatory and nasty statements that are posted. A discussion thread on CollegeACB lists “sluts” at California State University at Chico, naming women on the campus whom the anonymous posters claim to have had sex with. A recent posting at Peoples Dirt expresses a wish that a group of girls listed in a discussion thread would “die in there sleep and everyone just forgets about them.”

In some cases, postings on the sites may cause harm to reputations, with serious impacts on students if the messages are seen by future employers or potential suitors. Unlike slurs scrawled on bathroom walls, online posts can be more public, and more lasting.

“Internet shaming creates an indelible blemish on a person’s identity,” wrote Daniel J. Solove, a professor of law at George Washington University, in his 2007 book, The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press). “It’s similar to being forced to wear a digital scarlet letter or being branded or tattooed. People acquire permanent digital baggage. They are unable to escape their past, which is forever etched into Google’s memory.”

3 09 2009
Crimson Wife

According to the Pew study last year , nearly half of all Americans have changed religious affiliations from the one in which they were raised. So it’s hardly the case that parents are forcing their offspring to remain in a religious tradition against the son/daughter’s will.

My two brothers and I were raised in the type of “progressive”/”cafeteria” (depending on one’s POV) Catholicism prevalent in suburban Massachusetts. I wound up a much more traditional Catholic than anyone else in my family aside from my 98-year-old grandma, my youngest brother decided as a teen to join my mom’s liberal Protestant denomination, and my middle brother considers himself a “Christian deist” (and can give a whole long spiel about why he feels that’s not an oxymoron). So much for intergenerationally inflicted indoctrination…

3 09 2009
JJ

CW, it doesn’t matter that you have one personal anecdote where something didn’t happen, and “so much for that.”

It’s like the health care debacle, with some people saying hey, I’ve got what works for me so the rest of you must be doing something wrong or lying. No. See the logical fallacies.

I have no idea exactly how you developed it — what mix of Church and School with your natural inclinations and any early trauma, etc. — but regardless, you do seem to have a marked linear and dogmatic way of approaching everything. You don’t wonder and inquire. You pronounce. Can you put that on and take it off, or are you stuck with it?

3 09 2009
JJ

Conservative media take note: Reagan preached tax cut gospel to America’s students

September 03, 2009 1:09 pm ET by Matt Gertz

Putting aside possible ulterior motives, the conservative freak-out over President Obama’s planned speech to students urging them to stay in school and work hard is due to fears that Obama will use his platform as an opportunity to push his agenda on unsuspecting students. Ironically, that’s exactly what President Reagan did two decades ago.

On November 14, 1988, Reagan addressed and took questions from students from four area middle schools in the Old Executive Office Building. According to press secretary Marvin Fitzwater, the speech was broadcast live and rebroadcast by C-Span, and Instructional Television Network fed the program “t o schools nationwide on three different days.”

Much of Reagan’s speech that day covered the American “vision of self-government” and the need “to keep faith with the unfinished vision of the greatness and wonder of America” but in the middle of the speech, the president went off on a tangent about the importance of low taxes:

Today, to a degree never before seen in human history, one nation, the United States, has become the model to be followed and imitated by the rest of the world. But America’s world leadership goes well beyond the tide toward democracy. We also find that more countries than ever before are following America’s revolutionary economic message of free enterprise, low taxes, and open world trade. These days, whenever I see foreign leaders, they tell me about their plans for reducing taxes, and other economic reforms that they are using, copying what we have done here in our country.

I wonder if they realize that this vision of economic freedom, the freedom to work, to create and produce, to own and use property without the interference of the state, was central to the American Revolution, when the American colonists rebelled against a whole web of economic restrictions, taxes and barriers to free trade. The message at the Boston Tea Party — have you studied yet in history about the Boston Tea Party, where because of a tax they went down and dumped the tea in the Harbor. Well, that was America’s original tax revolt, and it was the fruits of our labor — it belonged to us and not to the state. And that truth is fundamental to both liberty and prosperity.

During the question-and-answer portion of the event, Reagan returned to the topic, this time telling the students that lowering taxes increases revenue:

Q My name is Cam Fitzie and I’m from St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia. I was wondering if you think that it is possible to decrease the national debt without raising the taxes of the public?

PRESIDENT REAGAN: I do. That’s a big argument that’s going on in government and I definitely believe it is because one of the principle reasons that we were able to get the economy back on track and create those new jobs and all was we cut the taxes, we reduced them. Because you see, the taxes can be such a penalty on people that there’s no incentive for them to prosper and to earn more and so forth because they have to give so much to the government. And what we have found is that at the lower rates the government gets more revenue, there are more people paying taxes because there are more people with jobs and there are more people willing to earn more money because they get to keep a bigger share of it, so today, we’re getting more revenue at the lower rates than we were at the higher. And do you know something?

I studied economics in college when I was young and I learned there about a man named Ibn Khaldun, who lived 1200 years ago in Egypt. And 1200 years ago he said, in the beginning of the empire, the rates were low, the tax rates were low, but the revenue was great. He said in the end of empire, when the empire was collapsing, the rates were great and the revenue was low.

The students probably didn’t know any better, but this is an idea that has been rejected by virtually every economist not named Larry Kudlow.

Do Sean Hannity and the folks at NewsBusters think President Reagan was engaging in Maoist indoctrination? Do Glenn Beck and WorldNetDaily think Reagan was pulling a Mussolini or attempting to assemble his own Hitler Youth? Or is it possible that the conservative media has decided that if Obama is for it – whether “it” means “universal health care” or “stay in school” – they’re against it?

4 09 2009
Nance Confer

And, once again, the media springs to cover the wingnuts.

Nance

4 09 2009
JJ

Instead of just once, covering real education issues and how important educated public thinking is, to everything that’s important to America.

4 09 2009
JJ

Now here’s what I consider some real perspective in news media commentary! Seriously.

************

We tell people not to mess with Texas but that’s because we reserve the right to mess it up ourselves, which we are doing quite effectively. This latest hypocrisy, though, is almost beyond imagining, but is a logical next de-evolutionary step for progressive thinking under the Lone Star.

During the campaigns and administrations of both Presidents Bush and Ronald Reagan, speeches and public appearances were almost mandatory for students and the religion of those leaders was forced on the crowds gathered in the taxpayer built gymnasiums. I cannot count the times that I attended political rallies as a journalist during school hours where students were told to leave class and come provide a crowd for the Republican candidates. Invariably, at many of these, I was standing next to my friend, a Pulitzer-winning journalist who is Jewish, as a Christian prayer was offered and the name of Jesus was invoked.

Nobody saw the contradictions and hypocrisies.

In Texas, we see this as a positive attribute, taking kids out of classes for candidate rallies and force feeding them the candidate’s religion. Hell, we’re doing even better than that in our school system. A number of boards of education have voted to begin teaching the bible in public schools. A statement from a school board in Central Texas indicated that the class will be optional and will teach the bible as “an historical document.”

Oddly enough, we aren’t teaching about the Koran’s historical impact and power and that might be a handy piece of knowledge in the future for our children. I think the constitution is as clear on this matter as it is on the right to keep and bear arms. Church
and state are to be separated. No damned religion of any kind or any of its texts should be taught in public schools.

But this is Texas and the long, proud march backwards presses on; except we may soon begin dragging the nation with us into the 18th century. Because so many textbooks are published for our vast public school system, the curriculum standards adopted by the Texas State Board of Education have great influence beyond the Red and Sabine Rivers.

Annually, while the rest of the world has acknowledged science, our textbook committee has to debate creationism and intelligent design and including religious faith in science books. When science rears its little head we have the bludgeons to whack it back into a hidey-hole, and when politics moves away from progressive, free-thinking, historical analysis, we teach the Rovian Revisionism of great events and personalities.

The newest effort by our school board is designed to make certain our students know that McCarthyism wasn’t all that bad and that students need to be able to identify significant conservative organizations and leaders. This is coming out of the textbook committee’s latest hearings and, even though board members want Texas children to learn about conservatives, whom they identify in their recommendations, they make no point to mention progressive groups or personalities.

According to Talking Points Memo, one of the board members griped about “too much emphasis on multiculturalism” when it was noted that World War II led to greater female and minority employment. Another member, scribbling in the margin of a critique of the textbooks notes that, “…if McCarthyism is noted, then the Venona papers need to be explained that exonerates
him.” (Fabulous grammar from a Texas public school grad risen to
political prominence.) There was also a note suggesting that Charlton Heston’s speech on the culture war, which made conservative hearts pound with joy, was a good topic for a textbook’s section on “effective leadership.”

The standards on Richard Nixon say that the text should
“describe his role in the normalization of relations with China and the policy of détente.” Maybe, just maybe, we can squeeze in a line about Watergate and resignation in disgrace and nearly destroying the constitution with corruption but be certain you cover China and détente.

So this is Texas, folks, created by god 10,000 years ago with all fossils and fossil fuels in place, where black presidents are not allowed to encourage our children, there are two sides to every story,
even McCarthyism, Richard Nixon is the man that saved the world, and the bible is a text book, and Fox News is on every TV screen in every airport and public place in the land.
I suppose I’m obligated to mention that our governor is aligned with a secessionist group and appears at rallies citing our constitutional right to secede and, oh, I forgot to tell you about how we voted three to one in 1975 to ban gay marriage.

Y’all come on down.

4 09 2009
JJ

Another jaundiced view of how what happens in Texas, doesn’t stay in Texas. Cock of the snook to Daryl for this one:

Washington Monthly’s Political Animal: Speaking of Indoctrination

. . .And let’s also not forget that these indoctrination efforts may have broader implications. As we talked about in July, what happens in Texas doesn’t necessarily stay in Texas. Textbook publishers are reluctant to create different materials for different states, and when one big customer makes specific demands, the frequent result is changes to textbooks nationwide.

Dana Goldstein adds that this reinforces the value in national curriculum standards, an idea pushed by the National Governors’ Association and supported by the Obama administration. “If 46 states can come together around core standards, it means a populous, outlier state like Texas will have less influence over textbook manufacturers,” Dana noted.

As for those deeply concerned about the politicization of America’s classrooms, I’m sure the right-wing critics of the president’s stay-in-school message will be quick to denounce the conservative efforts in Texas.
Any minute now.

4 09 2009
Nance Confer

If our own Republican state chairman wasn’t making a complete ass of himself, Texas would be winning for stupid this week. But, no. FL pulls ahead. Once again.

Nance

4 09 2009
JJ

That’s true — FavD and I saw him on one of the cable news shows yesterday and said he looked and sounded like one of those doughy comic sidekicks (on Dharma and Greg or some other sitcom) —
Sigh.

4 09 2009
JJ

Do you ever think the people who declare so forcefully they don’t want the burden of any social compact nor care about anybody but their white hunting buddies, ought to just go? Let them secede and be on their own and be sure to build a REALLY big fence (at their expense) to keep them away from the rest of us and especially the impressionable children.

I always thought that about the War Between the States, that the South lost either way but would’ve been even worse off, the Biggest Loser, if we’d been cut off as we demanded instead of kept in. It would likely be a belligerent theocracy, thus third world.

I guess the same rationale that applies to Pakistan now, was in play then to prevent such a thing next door, for American security?

5 09 2009
COD

There is a reason that FL is the only state (so far) to earn its own tag on Fark!

5 09 2009
Nance Confer

But then I’d have to move back to NJ, JJ. And I’m pretty settled here. 🙂

Ugh. I assume that is a bad thing, Chris. Figures. . .

Nance

7 09 2009
JJ

“It’s flat-out STUPID!”

— Tom Friedman on Meet the Press today, about objections to the president’s speech to schoolkids

31 12 2009
Sunday School Science Teacher Costing Schools Credibility and Cool Half-Million « Cocking A Snook!

[…] gift, together while free from church or state politics, the one gift that truly keeps on giving: Cobbling Together the Best Real Learning We Can Possibly related posts: (automatically […]

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