Saturday, March 29, 2008

Legality: hot topics, part 2b

Today were published several letters concerning the CA homeschooling editorial about which I wrote here. For your reading pleasure (bold parenthetical material mine):
Regarding your March 22 editorial "Certifying Parents" criticizing the California court that ruled that parents cannot "home school" their children without government certification: I am conservative enough to reflexively balk at most attempts by government to force fiat compliance. Yet I have no such dread of requiring some standard of excellence for anyone seeking to teach, regardless of their venue. (Hmph. That sounds like the way socialism all starts...slowly and innocuously.)

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While I would never claim that our public schools provide the best hope of a more moral and just society, I do understand the corrosive effect bad teachers can have on this dimension of human development. So let me go further. I not only advocate for the certification of home-schooling adults, I would require that all public teacher evaluations have ground in the deceptively ephemeral educational outcomes of their students' citizenship, their societal commitments and the paths they take to live a meaningful life....

A teacher can provide the door through which students, our not-so-far-away citizens, find the love of learning. (So can a parent, and even more so.) Their passion makes real the life of the mind and the responsibility that comes with inquiry and questioning....It should not matter if one is a talented newcomer, a gloried veteran or a caring parent who has grown rightfully sour on our most misunderstood institution.

~Neil J. L. in Salem, OR. (The author is a teacher with 12 years' experience in a public school, now on the faculty at Willamette University.)

What beautiful prose nonetheless! Now for a somewhat less flowery, but even more powerful, letter. Writes Vicki E. Murray, Ph.D. in Education Studies and Senior Policy Fellow at Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, CA:

"Certifying Parents" aptly describes the failure of California's public-schooling monopoly, and why so many parents want out. Thanks to a handful of State Assembly members, a record-setting five parental choice bills are being introduced this legislative session. (Now THAT is surprising and very heartening news for me! Parental choice!)...

The proposed measures would free California children from unsafe schools...and failing schools.... They would also provide parents of private and home-schooled children with tax credits...and let parents of special-needs children choose another school if they wish...without having to hire an attorney or jump through endless bureaucratic hoops. (Could this be true? Let's wait and see.)...

Finally, Marcel L. in Ridgecrest, CA, takes apart the unfortunate decision:

...The first test [of logic] asks: Are there enough "unqualified" home schoolers to warrant a program of government regulation? As your editorial noted, the standardized test performance of home-schooled children suggests the answer is an unqualified "no." It's easy to understand why. Home schooling requires parents to forgo a second income and to incur significant expense for books and materials, effectively paying a very expensive tuition to educate their children. Few parents would incur these costs without serious preparation.

The second question asks: Does the state have a more compelling interest than parents in the education of children? Again, the answer is clearly "no." Although a well-educated citizenry is in our society's best interests, professional educators face little accountability and few compelling deadlines when their efforts fail to produce satisfactory results. Schools will always have next year's students to "fix" what ails them. (Guinea pigs? I thought only Uncle Andrew from The Magician's Nephew used them that uncaringly!) Indeed, this has been their approach for the past three decades. Parents do not share this luxury; in each child there is only a very small, finite period of time in which to achieve results. (Measure twice, cut once, so to speak.)

Hundreds of thousands of parents in California have taken their children's education into their own hands. The onerous and illogical regulation promoted by California's courts won't force home schoolers back into the state's failed school system, just to a different state.

Keep up the good fight!

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