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Smarter, better & home schooled

By Alan Caruba
web posted June 17, 2002

As the school year comes to an end, I was reminded of the story of a boy whom the teachers complained about, saying he could not learn, seemed confused, and asked too many questions. Today, that boy would have been required to take Ritalin or some other drug. In his case, however, his parents decided to home school him. He was Thomas Edison.

Home schooling worked then and it works today. In fact, home schooling works far better than the deliberate stupifying of the children passing through what is surely the most expensive and ineffective educational system the world has ever known.

The American public education system today is not about educating students; it is about indoctrinating them. It has less to do with imparting information and more to do with instilling politically correct attitudes. It is producing docile, ignorant people who know little about their nation's history. This is imperceptibly-and some say deliberately---weakening our society.

Right now in America, public school enrollment is projected to reach a record 47.3 million and peak at 47.5 million by 2005. Private schools had 5.3 million students in the 1999-2000 school year. By contrast, between 1.6 and 2 million students were home schooled in the US during 2001-2002, taking in every grade level from kindergarten through twelfth grade. There is, though, a surprise in that number. It is an increase of 500 percent over the number being home schooled a decade ago! The growth rate of the choice to home school is estimated to be between seven and fifteen percent each year.

In numbers, home schooled children are a minority among those being shuttled through elementary, middle and high schools like so much sausage. However, when they are in competition with the products of those public schools, they leave them way behind. The headlines tell the story. Put them in a spelling or geography bee and the home schooled child usually takes top honors. It's actually news when they do not!

Home schooled students in the US score 15 to 30 percentile points, on average, above their school peers whether the subject is reading, writing, mathematics or science or social studies. The mediocre science scores of public school students were front-page news in January. In May, the news that most US high school seniors had a poor grasp of their nation's history was also on the front pages. Diane Ravich, historian and education professor at New York University called the scores "abysmal." Bad as the scores were, they had shown no improvement since 1994!

Despite this obvious problem, President Bush recently signed an education bill, dubbed "Leave No Student Behind", that allocated $49 billion to a system so broken, so useless, that is a national shame and a national sham. His answer? Testing, testing, testing. But! If you are testing only the knowledge that is mandated for the test, all the ancillary knowledge needed to actually understand the subject is jettisoned for the sake of the test score.

Currently, the US is spending about 72 percent more on education than in 1980. After more than two decades, there is no indication of any significant improvement. Instead, this huge investment of US tax dollars has produced poor reading and other subject scores, static dropout rates, declining parental satisfaction, and mediocre US student performance in international education surveys.

The home schooled student, notes Phyllis Schlafly, doesn't have to study "fuzzy math, whole math, new math, new new math, or rainforest math." They don't have to be taught "Whole Language, which fraudulently teaches children to guess at words from the pictures, skip over difficult words, and substitute any words that seem to fit the context."

In the fall of 1999, Ridgewood, NJ students, aged 11 to 18, were required to answer questions about their own drug use, sexual life, and any illegal activity in which they had been involved. The 156-question survey asked students to name how many times they had tried to kill themselves, used contraception, or made themselves throw up after eating. Parents took the school system to court and, after a two-year battle, won a victory for the First, Fifth, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

Need it be said that none of the questions being asked had a single thing to do with whether the students had actually learned anything? Today's schools are about attitudes and behavior, not facts and skills. In September this travesty begins again.

Alan Caruba is the founder of The National Anxiety Center and author of a four-part series, "The Subversion of Education in America" posted on its Internet site at www.anxietycenter.com. (c) Alan Caruba, 2002

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