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  • Rick LoPresti

The war for our children

There is a war that has been raging for many years. It is the war for the minds of our children. Make no mistake. There are people that are dedicated to seeing our children adopt a set of values that by and large they are not being taught at home by their parents. This war is being fought on several battle fronts, including the courts. Another front is the public schools. Some people just want to ignore what is going on, frankly don’t care, or are even OK with it. Regardless of our politics or positions on issues, we must realize that our children are in the crosshairs of a war of values and beliefs. This war is being fought in the public schools. John Dewey was a major influence in the secularization of public schools in the early 20th century. He was the chief author of Humanist Manifest I published in 1933 which declared that “the time for theism has passed”; and that humanism should be “in the place of the old attitudes of worship and prayer.” The January 1983 edition of “The Humanist” magazine stated that “I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won, in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: the religion of humanity…utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values…the classroom will become an arena of conflict between … the rotting corpse of Christianity together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism.” The U.S Supreme Court ruled in June of 1961 in the case of Torcaso v. Watkins that secular humanism is a religion. Humanist counselors have the same privileges as ministers and qualify for 501C3 tax exemption. Does so called “separation of church and state” apply to them? Their ideas do not belong in the public school based on their own arguments against religion and in favor of supposed neutrality.

Regardless of religion, is anyone satisfied with the performance of the public schools? The Unites States ranks last among highly developed nations in education. The more they spend, the less results they produce. After 45 years of “reform” what improvement has there been? Teacher unions are more concerned with politics than education. The NEA is the largest union in America, and spends 1/3 of its money on influencing politics, according to “The Worm in the Apple” by Peter Brimelow (Harper Press). In 1993, NEA President Keith Geiger admitted that 40% of urban public school teachers send their own children to private school. Instead if increased performance, we see lowering the bar to simulate results. Schools are now either eliminating valedictorians, or in one ridiculous example, making every graduate one. Teachers don’t use red ink to correct papers for fear of traumatizing a child into realizing they need to improve. How safe are public schools? What about student to student, and even teacher to student, immorality? What about tobacco and drug use? What about the 30% drop out rate overall, and 50% for urban minorities? We could go on and on. What are we to do? Should we just ignore it or accept it? Should we just pretend that the government or the teacher unions are going to suddenly come up with a fix after decades of failure to do so? Are there any alternatives?

Some parents would love to send their children to private school where they get better results for half the money spent per child; but by the time they get done paying their property taxes for the public school, they can’t afford the tuition. Some support vouchers, which would cost the government no extra money, and give parents the right to choose how their education money is being spent on their own children. The teacher unions will have none of that. They have appointed themselves the only ones who know what’s best for our children. So in response many parents have turned to homeschooling. It is estimated that there are almost 1.5 million homeschooled children in the United States, and that number is growing. This is more than the total public school population of 41 individual states.

Some parents are interested in homeschooling, but have questions. One of the most popular questions is, “What about socialization?” Here are some questions in response. Is there a difference between socializing and social development? How much time do children spend developing social skills at school? Studies have shown that children who spend more time with people their age than their parents develop peer dependence. What kind of socialization are kids getting at school? Even John Dewey said that school had been artificially set apart from society and had become “so isolated from the ordinary conditions and motives of life” that it was “the one place in all the world where it is most difficult to get experience - the mother of all discipline worth the name.” He observed that “where the parent is intelligent enough to recognize what is best for the child, and is able to supply what is needed, we find the child learning.” Secular government run education was not the norm during the colonial or early American history until the 20th century. Kids grew up just fine without it. Patricia Lines in “The Public Interest no. 140” states homeschoolers scored “well adjusted” on social skills tests, have fewer behavioral problems, and “the hard evidence suggests that the vast majority of home schooling families are far more active in civic affairs than public school families.” She states, “The great majority of home schooling families are not separatists and isolationists but active members of society.” The National Household Education Survey states that home school and private school families demonstrate higher levels of participation at almost every level of civic activity than do families who send their children to public schools. In the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections turnout among 18-25 year olds was below 40%. According to the 2004 National Home Education Research Institute 76% of home schooled adults 18-25 years old had voted. Thomas Smedley of Radford University did a study which shows homeschoolers score in the 84th percentile on social skills compared to the 27th for public schoolers. Research by Dr. John Wesley Taylor of Andrews University on 45,000 homeschoolers’ social skills shows them at the 91st percentile, or 41% above the average public schooler. 69% of homeschoolers go on to higher education, and have very low unemployment rates. Do you think people like Susan B. Anthony, Pearl Buck, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, Charles Dickens, Ben Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, William Penn, Claude Monet, George Washington, John Quincy Adams, James Madison, James Monroe, Abe Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, C.S. Lewis, Douglas MacArthur, Patton, Churchill, Mozart, Florence Nightingale, Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, the Wright brothers, Daniel Webster, John Marshall, Stephen Douglas, the Wesley brothers, LeAnn Rimes, and Miami Dolphin Jason Taylor were or are socially functional? They were all homeschooled.

Some parents wonder about the financial considerations. It costs the average home school family less than $600 per year on each child. That much can be spent at the public school. Yes, there are some financial adjustments to be made for one parent to stay with the children, but the sacrifice is well worth it.

Some parents don’t think they are smart enough, educated enough, or capable of doing it. Studies have shown the education level of the instructor has little bearing on the success of the student. This is not meant as an insult to public school teachers, but college graduates who go into education tend to come from the lower end of their classes. 10% of Chicago Public School teachers failed an 8th grade level student skills test. 8% of Chicago Public School teachers failed certification. 42,000 students were taught by these teachers in 2002. Don’t feel like only “professionals” can do it. There are state and local support groups for homeschoolers all over the country.

Some parents wonder if it is legal. It is legal in all 50 states, although regulations vary from state to state. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association provides information on state regulations on their website. They also provide legal guidance and representation to all their members, as well as monitoring of legislation throughout the country.

You can win the war for your children’s minds. You do have options. Have the courage to face the issues, do the research, get involved with your children, take full responsibility for their upbringing, and make informed and wise decisions about what is influencing them. Family and education are essential elements in keeping children out of trouble. Consider home schooling. It provides for customization, individualization, adaptation, innovation, and flexibility. There are so many curriculum options and resources. It may be one of the best decisions you ever make.

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