September 21, 2004

damn the estúpidos, full speed ahead

I have always found the United Negro College Fund’s famous slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”, intriguing for several reasons, not the least of which is that on the surface, it appears to state an axiom. But the UNCF has it right on a deeper level too because what indeed is happening throughout American society is a waste of mental capacity on a scale that defies the use of ordinary adjectives. “Tragic” just does not do the subject justice.

It is tempting to use this space to document the tragic magnitude of our growing stupidity, but today that is not my purpose. Experts of every political persuasion have weighed in to help quantify the situation and their conclusions as to the state of things are not pretty no matter what agenda they might ultimately espouse. I will let you dig those details out if it interests you. The more important question is to ask what then shall we do?

There are a lot of proposed answers to this fundamental query, but a few ideas stand out to me as worthy of consideration. In all seriousness I must add, however, that just about anything different than what we are doing now could (and perhaps should) be tried as it is hard to imagine what it could possibly hurt. In future blog entries, assuming there is continuing reader interest in the subject of education, I may delve into any of a number of school reforms that I would like to consider, but for today I would like to discuss one of my old favorites, school vouchers.

A great deal of discussion in recent years has focused on vouchers though there has actually been very little actual implementation of voucher programs. A not too old Brookings Institution Forum on this subject can be read here if you want some decent objective background on vouchers.

I have supported vouchers since my Junior year in High School when I read Milton Friedman’s popular book, “Free to Choose”. Friedman’s work was sufficiently inspiring to me that I wrote my Senior Thesis on the subject and was lucky enough to escape my English teacher’s wrath with a decent grade. The Free Market seemed to me then to be just the fix for what was broken in public education.

I have changed a bit since then.

I still support vouchers but my rationale has shifted. In my concept of an ideal world, education would be universal, free and of the highest quality. Sadly, I have given up hope that the current scheme can be expected to attain even a mediocre quality, much less something better. I understand clearly that vouchers are not likely to be comprehensive solutions to the problems that confront education and which reach far beyond the schools to society as a whole. What remains of my idealistic notions, however, is the realization that vouchers do offer near-term hope for the most needy among us.

I have listened to the idealists tell me how disastrous an idea vouchers are for a quarter century. In those twenty-five years of glorious rhetoric and fine speeches education has changed little yet still the politicians still tell us that we must patiently fix what we have. From the “Education President” (Reagan) down to Shrub’s “No Child Left Behind” program, every Presidential candidate and administration has touted its educational agenda often and loudly. Clinton was especially eloquent on the subject.

Listen closely.

That great sucking sound is the rushing of political hot air into children’s minds displacing the intellectual promise that once dwelled there.

At this time of my life I no longer trust the free market with the reckless abandon of my youth. I would prefer certain things, such as education, were not dictated by the market, though perhaps at times this is the best we can do. While vouchers may be a less than ideal solution, they are not in any way a choice of a lesser evil-they are a good choice. Proof of their desirability can be found in the overwhelming support shown for vouchers and charter schools among the poorest Americans. Parents are crying out for help.

Even if you are philosophically opposed to vouchers and market forces as a permanent solution, you need to examine the long term consequences of inaction and immediate benefits of giving it a try as an interim solution. Clearly, the current public system is not going to reform any time soon.

Every year that passes condemns more minds to terrible waste. It is time to quit deluding ourselves.

In order to be clear on what I am advocating, I would like to briefly describe what a voucher is and how they benefit students in both public and private schools. Vouchers are certificates issued by the government to allow parents to pay for their children to go to a school of their choice using money that would ordinarily be used to educate their child in the public school. In most voucher proposals, the voucher amount is a fraction of the annual per student expenditure for public school.

I’ll use some rough round numbers to illustrate how this would work. The national average expenditure per student per year is in the area of $8,000. The government would issue a voucher at a statutory percentage in the area of 75% resulting in a voucher amount of around $6,000. The parent would then be able to use that $6,000 for tuition payment to accredited schools. Studies have show that high percentage vouchers (60 to 80 percent) would be large enough in most areas to cover tuition at existing private schools.

There are two benefits to the voucher scheme that are not immediately obvious. The first is that new educational opportunities would emerge that target parents and students that have now have $6,000 to spend as an education consumer. The second, and perhaps most important benefit is that the public schools end up relatively better off in terms of the financial resources available per student because for every student that leaves, they leave behind $2,000 give or take depending on the exact implementation.

Typical of our dumbed down society, we never hear of these benefits because they are harder to understand than the critical sounds bites of “only the difficult students will remain” and “poor kids won’t be able to benefit”. The truth is that poor parents are the ones clamoring for the hope of vouchers and parents of low performers should be, though often their parents are part of the stupid cycle themselves.

This is not to say that the voucher criticisms are without merit. These criticisms should be fully aired in our public discourse.

Indeed, I share the same concerns. It will be difficult for poor kids to get transportation to the school of their parents choice and there probably will be a greater exodus of high performing students than low performing ones. But there are ways of addressing transportation issues if we can get it out on the table. And frankly, given the extensive tracking that is already going on in the classroom, the best students do not mix much with the low performers in any school as it is now. Unlike the status quo there is hope for those “left behind”: additional financial resources available due to vouchers can be used to increase the teacher-to-student ratio finally giving the low performing students the extra attention they need and deserve.

If you can not tell from my passionate tone, I could discuss this forever and produce a blog entry that would make for an even more effective insomnia solution than my typical offerings, so I will restrain myself. But let me return to where I started and suggest that regardless of the merits of the arguments and where we might determine to head as a long-term solution, vouchers have sufficient merit to compel their implementation NOW.

Vouchers may be flawed and imperfect, but the critics have been empty handed for the last four decades. Further patience will breed more stupidity; more dysfunctional youth; more decay in our weakened social fabric. It is time to act decisively.

Philosophical debates are wonderful. In general, I’m a chief instigator when it comes to this kind of careful deliberation, but America is drowning in stupidity before our eyes. Let us deliberate long and vigorously on this most crucial of subjects yet not forget to throw a few life preservers to the drowning.

Maybe this will buy us some time to figure out how to build a seaworthy boat.

55 Comments:

Blogger Brackenator said...

Let me add just a little to this argument.

In other parts of the country, for example St. Paul, MN, transportation is not an issue. Since the school buses area separate enterprise from the local school district they serve both public and private schools. The school buses run through every neighborhood and every child tells the bus driver which public or private school, sometimes they need to wait for the next school bus that goes to that part of town, but they get on a publicly funded school bus to go to school.

Another example local to the South is that a private school not too far from where I live arranges car pool rides for the students with parents from the same area. There are ways to make transportation work without much effort.

The point is this, if we want our schools to improve we have to give them a reason to improve. I agree with our beloved Curmudgeon that the free market may not be the best way to get public schools to improve, but the loss of monies will give them food for thought and they will learn how to spend the money they are getting more efficiently. (On a personal note, I think paying superintendents like they are movie stars is not a good use of money. The Dallas Independent School District is a $2 billion a year enterprise.)

Part of the problem with vouchers is writing voucher laws that will survive the court system as well. Some judges would have you think that it is much better for your child to suffer in an inadequate school that to use a broken voucher system.

Well, those are my ramblings for the moment.

Brackenator

3:44 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

{sniffle} I think this is the first time I have every been "beloved".

3:46 PM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

Your site looks great but I can't read it because its too dark. JMO

10:24 AM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

Ok. How are the schools going to be accredited? and what kind of standards will be used to make sure that students are getting their money's worth? What's to keep a con artist from comming into am inner city area just to get the money? What happens to the school property currently owned by school districts? I feel that if everybody gets the same amt, they should get the same education. But of course the voucher is just what they get from the govt and then the family will kick in another 4-5k and we'll have the same thing. Will the suburban private schools with higher tuition be required to take a few of the less privileged kids/ Otherwise there will be little or no diversity and we will have the Brown v Board all over again.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Andrew,

I don’t see how accreditation is in any way affected by vouchers. Perhaps since I don’t understand current practices I’m missing an issue. I wouldn’t not be surprised if accreditation practices need to be beefed up and improved without regard to vouchers.

As far as standards go, I think there are two. First and most obvious is testing. One of the reforms I would like to suggest later involves testing, but let me leave it for now at a greatly expanded testing regimen for all students. Second, is nearly as obvious is consumer feedback. If they aren’t being served, parents will move their kids on to other educational venues, such as the public schools.

The con artist problem is nothing new with vouchers. The greatest con artists of all are those in public education. I’m not talking about individuals, but rather that the system works as a whole to produce a massive con. I for one don’t think we should throw the doors open to any kind of educational institution that might pop up. There should be a some for of licensing and accountability such as what is presently done with Charter Schools in Texas.

As to school property, it is an asset of the state. In the unlikely event that facilities fall in to disuse, they would be disposed of like any other surplus or used elsewhere in government service.

I too would wish for everyone to get the same education, but I just don’t see that happening. It doesn’t happen with public schools, so to use that as a criticism of voucher plans.

I’m not fully sure I understand the point about families kicking in extra money. But if you are looking at the disproportionate benefit to the upper middle class and rich, I agree that this is a problem. I totally support a cap on vouchers in some form. If the only way people will agree to vouchers is if the bottom economic rungs are the sole participants, I’ll even take that compromise. But, I do think that even kids in rich districts are vastly underserved as well.

As far as suburban schools taking in poor kids, I don’t see that as a problem. From all of the numbers I’ve seen, vouchers will cover most of the tuition at suburban private schools. There are of course some extremely expensive schools out there that this would not be true for. If it makes the program more acceptable, how about making a rule that if a school’s tuition is x% in excess of the voucher amount, then that school must offer a healthy scholarship program as a pre-requisite to being allowed to accept ANY voucher dollars?

I worry about a return to the bad old days before Brown v. Topeka as well. But it just seems that we are doing yet another evil with the present system by segregating based on economic class: if you can’t afford the good schools, chances are you are going to a bad one. Today we again are producing a quasi-permanent under-class and while there may be racial aspects to it, this underclass knows know strict racial boundaries. Seems clear to me, if your school accepts voucher money, you are going to have to have protections against racial and social class discrimination.

Frankly Andrew, I’m open to just about any compromise. The situation is so bleak, we have to be creative.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

Maybe you could narrow your indictment of the public school system.

1) is it mainly about carriculum and testing?
2) is it also about the quality of teachers?
3) is it about dollars spent on education by our society, including teacher pay?
4) do you accept school districts spending significant money on massive football stadiums and promoting a "jock" culture? That is obviously related to high school... but public school is all one public fund right? Can a society really ever claim to put education in the priority you demand and still promote and sponsor a "jock" culture in the same school system?
5) would you accept improvement for 50% of the nation's kids if it meant the other 50% lost ground, or even remained the same?
6) As you know, I attended public schools in Tulsa. (Patrick Henry - Elementary, Jenks High School). Looking back, I don't perceive any significant lacking in the education, other than the "jock" culture I mentioned before. Would your indictment include those schools I attended, or would they represent exceptions?
7) Do affluent neighborhoods tend to have public schools that would pass your test? If so, wouldn't it mean the problem really is a society "have's vs have-nots" problem more than a blanket indictment of carriculum?
8) How could we ever produce a high national standard of education by introducing more variables. I think putting the public school system in competition with the private sector is a terrible idea, almost a guarantee that the have-nots will do much worse. Private = capitalism = those with more $ can buy a better product. Education and healthcare can never be solely based on our free market system if we really demand the same high standard for all.

All just my anti-voucher opinions,

Common Good

9:47 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Yes. You have made the standard statement we have heard for at least 40 years. My general reply is, OK antis, take your shot. I’ll support your reform agenda if you will support mine as an interim solution.

Hey, don’t miss the fact that I was school reform to succeed. I just take the view that all of the good intentions of the anti- crowd has produced zero. Bupkiss. Nada. At a minimum, vouchers is something that should be given a shot while all of you who are so opposed wring your hands (in a very compassionate way no doubt) for the next forty years.

As to specifics:

1-3) I would like to narrow my criticism as you describe that I should, but it is impossible. All of these are a problem, and of course much more.

4) One of the things I planned on getting into later is that I think sports should be eliminated from the schools. This includes the stupidity of Physical Education.

5) No. Helping 50% is not enough. I am convinced vouchers will help 100%. As I have superficially demonstrated, the greatest benefactors could well be the kids that remain in the public schools.

6) Exceptions.

7) There are certainly some rich districts with good schools. There are also rich districts with nice buildings and crummy educations. We should not hold kids back because they have had the misfortune to be born rich. But the indictment is pretty blanket. If you go even to a rich school and are tracked into the lower echelon, your outlook is pretty bleak ...at least in terms of getting a real education at those schools.

8) I have told you how...you just disagree. And, I have not said that I want to leave education solely up to the free market. You are doing nothing but making the same noise we have heard ad nauseum. It is time that something actually be done.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

"I’ll support your reform agenda if you will support mine as an interim solution."

I do not have a reform agenda. I fall into the group that thinks public education needs to improve mainly because of economic class inequalities... i.e. not because the public school system is universally broken. I think the fact we have quality public schools in some cases proves that. Introducing a "little capitalism" is like being a "little pregnant". Your solution would make the correct solution (a 100% federally funded system) less likely, so I can't support you on vouchers. It isn't rocket science to recognize that affluent neighborhoods tend to have the good schools... i.e. local property tax funding of public schools was always a very stupid idea (who came up with that). There is a time and a place where state and individual rights should trump collective common good... public guaranteed quality education was never one of them.

I don't have kids and do not visit schools. My opinions are just based on viewing the problem logically. My logic states that any solution that is not equal for all ... or moving in that direction is not really a solution. I attended a perfectly acceptable public school system from K-12. It's a society problem that we allow inequality... not a carriculum problem. I'm not saying carriculum can't improve... in fact it should be constantly improving (i.e. driven by a nation standard, but managing local experimenting and applying the best experiments to the national standard). Thousands of different solutions for basically one problem is nuts. Public education in a very complex government service/system. The only chance to manage such a system is from the top, and the only way to achieve universal high standards is from the top.

JMO,

Common Good

11:46 AM  
Blogger David R said...

Curmudgeon,

I'll see your vouchers, and I'll raise you teacher pay, student uniforms, a return of discipline, a recognition and reward system that emphasises academic over athletic accomplishment, and a shift of the funding model from local to nationally funded primary education.

Sadly, though, I don't see any of these having a huge impact. The real problem lies at home, with parents who do not make academics a priority. Not sure how to attack that one, frankly, but I believe there is no reform or change we can make that would have a significant impact if parental attitudes do not change. I'm not real hopefull on this issue.

R

4:56 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

DavidR,

I tend to get down about this subject too. I too think that teacher pay, discipline, academic emphasis and federal funding are necessary reforms to the public educational system. I hope to go into some of these items in a latter blog dropping. Teacher pay is at the top of that list. It is beyond pathetic what we pay teachers and it has been seemingly forever. Every time a politician talks about education, teacher pay comes up and like every other educational reform idea, it goes nowhere.

One of my many thoughts on educational reform is that athletics should be totally eliminated from the public schools. It has become a distraction to such an extent that it just has to go if we are to have any hope of success.

And you are correct that the real problem lies at home. But, the truth is, that our one hope of fixing things lies at school. We either fix that, or give up altogether.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Tony,

I too first heard about vouchers from Milton Freidman’s “Free to Choose” book. However, I maintain a healthy respect for what the free enterprise system could do for education. It used to be that the United States had an incredible literacy rate of about 98-99% a couple hundred years ago, but now it is quite low. The Sept. 8, 2004 Los Angeles Daily News said that “in the Los Angeles region, 53 percent of workers ages 16 and older were deemed functionally illiterate, the study said.” If we made changes in the past and the results were unsatisfactory, at least we could undo the changes and return to the previous level of education. The changes that have take place in education in the past 100 years are centralization. We have gone from over 100,000 school districts in the 1930's to about 15,000 now. We used to have a teacher that answered to the parents. Now she answers to a bureaucracy that is insulated from parents.

I just heard this past Saturday one of our deacons, who along with his wife are public school teachers, and our pastor, whose wife is a public school teacher, lament greatly at the lack of discipline of their students and the fact that their hands are tied. Not to be too pessimistic here, but this is what I’m hearing from all public school teachers. You know, when you hear a dog bark, it doesn’t surprise you much, because that’s what dogs do. School is a government bureaucracy that gets rewarded for handling and controlling children. They are not paid on the QUALITY of education. They are paid for the QUANTITY of children the control. Paying teacher’s more will not deliver better education. However, it will cut down on the general turnover in teachers as they become frustrated and think that its just their school that has this problem. The schools basic inefficiency and lack of focus on real education is, like the dog’s bark is to a dog, a consequence of being a bureaucracy.

I think the vouchers are nice intermediate step. If it doesn’t work, you can always cancel the system. Give it 5 years. Give it a quantifiable goal. If it fails in 5 years, cut it. Implement in one region, one state or all. The public schools will do ANYTHING, including improving, in order not to loose those almighty dollars. By competing with the private schools, if allowed to, the public schools could start offering phonics and other enticements to lure parents back.

I have more radical views on the subject of education, but they are not on topic for this blog. I do thank you for creating this subject line though.

Prof. Ricardo

6:28 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Prof,

Hey, welcome to my blog!

See, I knew we could agree on a few things. Funny you mention that LA Times story. I saw the same one and used it in a discussion with someone else. I attended a lecture in college that summarized the literacy rates through American history and you are correct, it is quite stunning how far we have slid. And folks wonder what is wrong with the country! Pretty simple really.

I agree too on discipline. One thing I’m dealing with in a private school right now is the whole reduced discipline problem that is permeating the schools. My Son needs a firm hand (very strong willed in some specific ways) and one of his teachers is a wish-washy type and she lets my Son push her around. In the old days, this would’ve never happened: you would shape up or ship out. So instead it has festered and now they think there is a problem. Funny how the other teacher who has a firm approach doesn’t have a problem with him. There is too much of this psychobabble (geeze, I hate to borrow from Limbaugh but a good term is a good term) out there telling people that if we all hold hands and teach the world to sing, it will all work out. Discipline desperately needs to be returned to the classroom.

As to radical views on education, I think this is the exact place to air it out. I’d love to hear more ideas. I have a few of my own as well...I’m not really holding back, just trying to create well formed postings. If there is sufficient interest, I will continue writing on this subject because it is deeply significant to me. But please, lay out an idea or two. Our society needs to be hashing that subject even in small groups such as this.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Tony,

The Bible challenged some basic worldly beliefs I once held. When I realized that the worldly beliefs failed me, I decided to trust fully in what God said through his Word, as best I could.

I use this preface to soften my radical, though I believe Biblical, views on education. First, let me contrast current day definition of education with the Biblical definition passed down through the years.

Modern:
education - n, the action or process of educating or of being educated; a stage of such a process, the knowledge and development resulting from an educational process, the field of study that deals mainly with methods of teaching and learning in schools. (Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary, 1970)

Pre-modern:
education - n, The bringing up, as of a child; instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties. (Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828)

I believe that Noah Webster captures the Biblical perspective that “education” is comprehensive in the training and teaching of children. We are to train and mold character, to know our child’s bent, and to appropriately respond and guide them accordingly. It is far more important to have a Godly child that is redeemed than it is to have a valedictorian bound for hell. “What good is it to gain the world and loose your soul?”
This character development is the major missing piece of the equation, but by no means the only problem. We constantly hear of the discipline problem. Even if public schools had a grip on the three R’s methodology, without discipline they cannot make the best of what they already have.

Public schools are ill suited to attend to character molding in this day and culture. We Christians are commanded to make disciples, and that starts at home with our own children. It cannot be accomplished in a couple hours on Sunday morning. It has to be a day-in-day-out life style.

The nature of public schools are, as other participants of this blog atest, supposed to be equal in their treatment of children with no preference to one group over another. They are organized to address the needs of groups of children, classrooms, and therefore can not address individual needs very easily. Additionally, it is apparently illegal for them to reinforce my personal perspective of faith in their classroom. How could they do that with thirty different children in one class? Currently, these classrooms are devoid of religious instruction outside of humanism.

Did I mention that we parents are held responsible for what happens to these little ones? (I hear millstones are heavy.) What happens to OUR witness TO our children when we send them into an environment 30-35 hrs/wk which either ignores or contradicts our profession of faith? And what happens when they shape our sons’ and daughters’ character every day, possibly negatively, outside of our reach or knowledge of what they are doing? What a grave decision we have made to do so.

The Bible directs parents to “train up a child.” The Bible constantly tells parents to tell your children the great works of God. In Exodus Ch.6 we are told: 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 YOU SHALL TEACH THEM DILIGENTLY TO YOUR CHILDREN, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

I’m one of these weird Christians that takes the Word literally unless the text suggest otherwise. Whom does it say “shall teach them diligently to your children?” If they are in another’s care 2/3 of their waking hours 5 days/wk, how shall we teach them as we “walk by the way?” We constantly hear the teachers and educators that we need MORE PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT. With this I whole-heartedly agree. I just believe it should be sans the secular institution.

We have been so saturated with institutional education thinking, that anything outside of that, and the consequences and benefits thereof, are unthinkable. Institutional education has brought with it now the expectation of teenage rebellion, group think, a lack of deductive reasoning, complacency, boredom, worth derived from peers, and a host of other character flaws and failures that are today considered a normal part of growing up.

I have more to say on this topic than you probably want to hear. I’ve barely scratched the surface. I think it is time for me to seek shelter, ‘cause I hear the inbound missiles drawing nigh.

Prof. Ricardo

9:15 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

For those with a bent on allocating too much time to research, a good site to get research materical on public (and some private) education is The National Center for Education Statistics located at http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/ (I don't know how to blog html links, sorry).

8:58 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Prof,

After reading your post, a question occured to me. Is there any acceptable education that could be shared with non-Christians? For example.... college. Is your point restricted to "child molding (I have another word for it)" up to a certain grade level, or does your beliefs apply to any level of education?

9:33 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

A Common-ly Good question, sir. Generally, the younger the child, the less they are grounded in their faith and the more susceptible they are to external influences that may negatively affect their world view and religious perspective. I can’t seem to find the link to the study or poll that said some significant portion of college students fall away from the faith during the course of study. Not just attendance, but beliefs. These beliefs are challenged, not only by secular colleges, but by liberal “Christian” colleges as well. Your knowledge of your child’s propensity to being swayed or lured should guide you. Some young men and women are solid as a rock in their faith and would have no problem in either college or high school. However, the temptations for drugs, alcohol, sexual experimentation, tattoos, piercing, materialism, pop culture's inappropriate music, language, immodest dress, and disrespectful attitudes towards parents and authority are always present in a peer dominated environment that lacks accountability to the parent or guardian. As a parent, you and you alone are accountable to your God for the level of exposure your child has to influences you, and God, deem inappropriate. The whole point is moot, of course, if you have no problem with many of the temptations I described above.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

A Common-ly Good question, sir. Generally, the younger the child, the less they are grounded in their faith and the more susceptible they are to external influences that may negatively affect their world view and religious perspective. I can’t seem to find the link to the study or poll that said some significant portion of college students fall away from the faith during the course of study. Not just attendance, but beliefs. These beliefs are challenged, not only by secular colleges, but by liberal “Christian” colleges as well. Your knowledge of your child’s propensity to being swayed or lured should guide you. Some young men and women are solid as a rock in their faith and would have no problem in either college or high school. However, the temptations for drugs, alcohol, sexual experimentation, tattoos, piercing, materialism, pop culture's inappropriate music, language, immodest dress, and disrespectful attitudes towards parents and authority are always present in a peer dominated environment that lacks accountability to the parent or guardian. As a parent, you and you alone are accountable to your God for the level of exposure your child has to influences you, and God, deem inappropriate. The whole point is moot, of course, if you have no problem with many of the temptations I described above.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Prof,

Well, if you are radical on this subject then so am I. I agree with everything you said. Education should involve the whole person, and we no longer do it that way because of our increasingly diverse society.

Things were much simpler back in the olden days when our society was much more homogenous. But, that America is long gone and we must adapt to the new reality. This new reality requires public schools to adapt if they are ever to serve their proper role in society. Classic Public Schools can no longer teach values because of the complex problems of teaching kids whose families have radically differing world views.

The tragedy is that parents who want their children properly educated in the complete sense that you describe have very little options open to them. Suddenly, as of yesterday, I find myself personally in the middle of that very conundrum. I simply can not afford the kind of education that I need for my child. I may well end up at the mercy of the public schools which are inadequate both on a academic level and on the whole person education level.

This is a problem for parents of any faith except for the secular humanists who have come into power and control these institutions. And much of our society, including those who are nominally persons of faith, do not even apprehend that an issue exists. The present generation of parents were raised in schools that were already largely secularized and they have a blind spot when it comes to comprehending the inadequacy of their own experience in public schools. Now why even the secularists may not understand exactly what is happening, they do have a sinking feeling that things are not right even though they can’t articulate it.

It is crucial that Christians get this point: When we speak of Truth and consistent world views, they have NO CLUE of what we are speaking. Instead, we are labeled derisively in one fashion or another or simply told to be quiet because the majority has it all figured out for everybody’s common good. Never mind that a Christian or Muslim parent might simply desire for their child quality education which is consistent with the world view that is central to their being.

And hence this is one of the many reasons I view vouchers as so essential. In our pluralistic society, it is unreasonable to believe that all of the needs of families can be met through the public schools. It is essential for parents to have some choice in the type of education they desire for their children. While the rationalists (in the broadest sense of that class) deserve the right to have their children educated in the fashion they choose, those of us who reject that world view deserve a choice as well. Vouchers are a good means of bringing education back to its roots of educating the whole man without infringing on the rationalist’s rights.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

I have come to believe that education up to, but not including college should be up to the parents. A parent should be free to raise their child in whatever value system they desire including the secular humanism that is reinforced by our existing public school system.

By the time kids are college age, they will be challenging their parent’s instruction and testing their value system regardless of their circumstance. It is at that point that a parent much step back and let their children lead their lives. As a Christian, I have a lot of confidence that our world view will stand the test and answer the big questions of life that other systems of belief fail to address.

So the short answer is “no”, I have no desire for my child to study in a classroom taught from any other world view than that which I am raising them to believe. I suspect the rationalists feel exactly the same way. Unfortunately, unless I win the lotto this week, I have no choice but to send my child to a secular school. This situation is a clear violation of the establishment clause, though the rationalists will not only fail to comprehend this, they refuse to because it challenges their own world view.

9:33 AM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Tony: “...parents who want their children properly educated in the complete sense that you describe have very little options open to them. Suddenly, as of yesterday, I find myself personally in the middle of that very conundrum. I simply can not afford the kind of education that I need for my child.”

Since 1989 I have had a desire to home educate my children. However, my wife had a career. As my son neared kindergarten age in 1993 my wife’s research lab was shut down and she was laid off. This set us up perfectly for my plan. When you cut out the extra taxes owed on the extra income, daycare, daily business lunches, commuting exp., etc, etc, etc, we lost barely $5k a year net. That loss in income has been worth every dime. Unlike the expense of private school, the loss of income is not on a per child basis. You can home educate a multitude of children for not much more than one. The prerequisite to home school is not a degree, but a desire. It pays dividends no 401k can ever match.

Unless your buried in bills and married into high incomes, its do-able. I live a very humble life to make this possible. I figured I only had one chance to raise them and I better do it the best way I knew how.

Re: Vouchers. Vouchers work purely through competition, EVEN if the competition is other public schools. Each school and district must have that almighty dollar and they wont want to give up even one child. They only effect will be to IMPROVE the schools. There will be temporary migrations from school to school as people jockey for the best place for their child. God bless them. Any inadequate school that loses students will not stay so, because they have extraordinary incentive to improve. I can’t imagine a better way to kick start these government institutions off of their pathetic rut. No person, no law, no desire, no program, no one will change these schools if they do not have an incentive to get better. The $8,000 carrot stick that is there every year in Texas has schools hunting down truant students as if there were a bounty on their heads. (There is) This voucher will provide such an incentive. Like the communist Russians used to years of being told what to do, produce, and purchase, most Americans have no clue what benefits could come from competition. In fact, they are scared of it. They mistrust the very system that blesses them daily.

Even though my children are not in the governmental school system, I still have a great desire to see it improve, because these are the people my children will be dealing with in the future, in business, political, and social areas.

Prof. Ricardo

PS I’m going out of town for 10 days so I wont be able to respond for a while. And yes, I am taking my two children with me. We are not bound to the Sept-May school year, therefore we can vacation any time.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

IMO... our society did not end up with "religious neutral public schools" because of a secular agenda, or a conspiracy, or anyone "winning". We ended up there because, as you pointed out, we now live in a pluralistic society. Public education had limited choices ... 1) provide the Christian worldview whole person education to everyone in public education 2) provide two (maybe more for other factions) public school systems... one secular, one Christian 3) provide Christian\secular electives within the same school system 4) Provide a secular (religious neutral) education in the public school system.

Our government doesn't fund religion with tax dollars, so only option 4 was left for the public school system. It's a non-starter for those desiring Christian whole person education to say their desire should trump the desire of others to have their public school system. So what's left is to keep the secular public school system, and seek ways to satisfy the needs of factions who are left out. I don't think it's as simple as taking your education tax dollars out of the public education system. For one, I can't really think of any ala carte tax provisions in our tax code to date. For example, I don't have the privilege of opting out of my fair share of our military expense. If we collected public education dollars from the federal level, you may be able to make the case it's a tax deduction like other tax deductions. But then, here's a question. I don't have kids... should I get a tax deduction from the public education system? Folks without kids pay property taxes for school systems equal to parents with kids. Was that ever fair. I never had a problem with it, because I always thought I benefited from a better society. Anyway.... Christian K-12 education seems to end up as a non-public school system choice... not because of anyone winning... just logical society decisions.

All JMO

11:13 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Prof,

Thank you for the encouraging words on the personal front. Home Schooling is certainly something we are considering. My wife is already a stay at home Mom who has given up her career, so we are in touch with the attitude you describe. Indeed, we consider the financial trade off worthy every bit, even if we do face some hardships along the way. That said, our Son is of a sort that really needs the social interaction with other kids. Academically, he is already well ahead of the curve...our goals are far more than the three R’s. We seek classroom settings not out of any other desire other than we truly think that is what is best for our Son.

Which brings up vouchers. If I had a $6K voucher (heck, even a $4K voucher), I would hardly have an issue. The schools we are talking about are in the $6-8K range and these are specialized schools. At the $8K, I could send my Son to a school that specializes in gifted children with learning differences. But paying about a grand a month is not going to happen unless my wife goes back to work. Now she wants to go back to work, but I don’t have to tell you it isn’t just that simple for all the reverse of the benefits you described on home schooling.

Where we disagree, I suppose, is our attitude toward the market and desirability of it in the educational process. I trust the market to do far better than what we have today. The thing is, I think in an affluent society such as ours, we can do BETTER than the market if we only try. No matter how well the free market works, there are always losers and when it comes to education, no child deserves to lose. So for me, vouchers is a sensible smart path that fits where we are now, but it isn’t necessarily the end point of what I desire. And regardless of what I might describe as an ideal, I have to acknowledge that vouchers is the best we might be able to do in our dysfunctional society.


CG,

While public school may have limited choices because of their institutional deficiencies, society can go outside that box and build something better. I agree with you to the extent that teaching a Christian world-view within the public schools is not workable. We have to move outside that box.

You said, “It's a non-starter for those desiring Christian whole person education to say their desire should trump the desire of others to have their public school system.” This is true enough. But similarly, the majority desire for a secular education should not trump and individuals right to the free exercise of their religion either. By demanding that I pay tax dollars to support public schools and not giving me any assistance to educate my child in a manner consistent with my world view is imposing the secularist world view on my family. That is the establishment of religion and a violation of my rights that is just as egregious as making Muslim kids attend schools that teach a Christian world view.

Now secularists will demand that this is not so. They will insist that they teach in a way that is “neutral”. But the fact is that neutrality itself is a value choice that many people, including Christians, reject. Secularists who repeat the mantra of value neutrality ad nausea do not become right or fair just because they repeat it often and loudly. Frankly, we have a right to our world view and while our ideas should compete freely in the arena, the secularist has no claim to tell me how I should do things no matter how certain they may feel. At the risk of too much redundancy, I would point out that the secularist is probably quite relieved that Christians do not have a say in how they educate their kids as well.

Secularism may have won the battle for the hearts of Americans, but an America that doesn’t continue to protect the human rights of the minority isn’t America any more. And Christians are a minority that deserve the right to bring their kids up in the light of God’s love just as surely as the secularist majority deserves the right to raise their kids in the despair of nihlism.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

"By demanding that I pay tax dollars to support public schools and not giving me any assistance to educate my child in a manner consistent with my world view is imposing the secularist world view on my family."

OK... how is that different then when your tax dollars support a war that goes against your world view? Using your logic, you would be able to whip out your world view argument to get out of many tax obligations.


As you already know, I'm the screaming liberal on this blog. It's so obvious to me that our society should cover special needs students as part of the public tax pool, it saddens me that we even have to discuss it. Bottom line is we are a society that values second homes more than common good. But safety nets are a different subject than the one you raise... the desire to opt-out of tax funding of public schools.

Again... the same society is demanding my tax dollars for education, and I don't have kids. If you get your tax dollars backs on religious grounds, what basis do I use to get my taxes back? Why should a "religious faction" get priority over a "no kid faction"? You frame this as the secularist oppressing the Christians, but I heard a stat that 90%+ of americans belive in god. Doesn't sound like Christians are a minority? Here is what I hear from some Christians ... "our views are so different from non-believers, we need to seperate ourselves from them in public education... and maybe other areas of our society". I don't know if I've ever heard one person say they didn't want to go to school with a Christian. I'm sure it happens, but if your honest you would acknowledge the seperation anxiety is primarily coming from the anti-establishment crowd (religious and others). I could imagine a society with half the population who never sees the other half until college... one half home schooled, the other in the public school system. At that point, one should consider what role public schools have in the socialization process. I find it a bit scarey to think of a society where we aren't exposed to each other's differences until adulthood.

Religion in a society treated as a private matter... good. Religion that leads to intolerance and seperation.... not so good.

All JMO

Good blogging senior Plank. Dot Net is calling me... and I am holding my nose. :)

1:33 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Tony: “That said, our Son is of a sort that really needs the social interaction with other kids. Academically, he is already well ahead of the curve...”

Fantastic. The problem with home schooling is not lack of social interaction, but too much. There is so much to do out there. So much to learn. So many people to learn it with and so many ways to enjoy. You're not locked into a classroom or Pavolved by a bell. Home school support groups are organized everywhere. We interact with numerous families on a weekly basis. The big misconception of home schooling is that children are sequestered away in some cave.

Our routine:
Monday - once a month we have history club. Three families, including 10 children meet for the day studying some previously chosen history subject. Last week my daughter wrote a paper on child labor laws, my son on Garfield’s assassination. The other Mondays are “normal” school days.

Tuesday - Scripture memorization, language arts, critical thinking, math/algebra, and much reading.

Wednesday - Same as Tuesday, but both children are enrolled in drama/acting/improvisational classes. They both have been assisting with or starring in plays this year.

Thursday - 8:15, 7 other students join my son as my wife teaches Chemistry for 90 minutes in our home. We use professional lab equipment for experiments. The class is hard but entertaining and is taught from a Christian perspective. At 10:15 all bolt across town for PE Club Where a vast multitude of families (I think 45?) in three different time slots, 8:30, 10:30, & 12:30 meet to stretch, exercise, and compete in the President’s Health Fitness challenge in a huge church gymnasium. After class, the families go to some cheap fast food place where the mom’s share and the kids play and clown around. Afterwards, my wife’s second class, biology starts at 2:30 and 10 kids show up then. They get to dissect and experiment and take the best biology course I am aware of. Since neither of my kids are in biology this year, they sometimes are reading or off playing sand lot with other families during this class.

Friday - A normal day like Tuesday, except when they are not doing field trips, skate day with the other home school families, etc.

When family members were in the hospital locally and across the state, my children could take their books with them and study on the road or in a hospital waiting room. My kids love their life. We are able to tailor their education to them and not average them in with the 30. Because of that, they are in different “grades” depending on the subject. If they are excellent in one area, let them take off and do college level work if they wish. If they are slow in other areas you can take the time necessary to establish rock solid foundations. God made each child an individual. We have gotten into thinking of “where is my child on the bell shaped curve?” Screw the curve. Nurture the child that is there, not the assembly line, cookie cut child the averages seek us to compare them to.

If your wife is already home. You’re 90% of the way there. Next May, right before Mother’s Day, at the Arlington Convention Center, they are having the best run Home School Book Fair in the nation. Even if you decide not to home school, go anyway. For $10 you have access to two days worth of seminars on child rearing, home education, excellent books to read, learning disabilities, etc. They change every year so I’m not sure what’s on the menu in 2005. They also have well over 100 vendors selling Christian education and reading material. Its so awesome to have a 9 year old girl check you out at the cash register. You have to see what education could be...

Prof. Ricardo

2:04 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Common Good said: “Again... the same society is demanding my tax dollars for education, and I don't have kids.”

I love this so much I can’t stand it. That is the FAIRNESS of FREE education. Public education is supposed to be FREE. We know its not free because we are all taxed to pay for it, but we just don’t have to pay directly for it. A disconnect. However, when those families with a quiver full have all 6 children in the school system, they don’t appear to be paying their fair share. And when WE don’t have any children (or they are grown) and we have to keep paying those taxes, it doesn’t seem fair. Why? Because fairness and common sense dictate that those who consume should pay for what they consume, and those that do not consume, should not pay. It’s only fair. You feel it in your gut. It is self evident. But if we alter this taxation to correlate with usage several things will occur. 1st - It will cease to be FREE education and will become FEE education. 2nd - People upon realizing that education now has a cost, will seek to get the best return on their dollars since there is now a correlation between money spent and education received. 3rd - Schools upon realizing #2 would have to improve, thus proving that once again, the free enterprise system and the freedom it brings will cause all participants to better themselves to compete for the almighty dollar, thus restoring true fairness to the system whose FREE-ness so troubled your sense of justice, and so many others for so many years.

Prof. Ricardo

2:06 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Ah, where do I begin?

First, I’m not asking to opt out of the funding. (Perhaps the Prof would be of that opinion?) I am asking that all parents have the flexibility to help determine how the dollars are spent to educate their own child when it is their turn. I don’t have a problem with using my tax dollars for public education, per se, because education is the bedrock of our society. While I am sad that our country has gone rationalist on me, I still think we all have a vested interest in having the best educated kids we have. Even people such as yourself who have no kids benefit from a well educated society. I think all you have to do is look around you at how our society is falling apart to understand that if your tax dollars had been spent better, you world would be a better place.

There is a huge difference between education and other things which we tax for. Education shapes the lives of our kids. Humanist curriculum imposes a world view on those who are opposed. Participation in most our government activities does not happen in such a way as to trample my human rights. While I do object to my tax dollars being used for excursions like Iraq, I don’t see how that interferes substantially with my fundamental rights. I’m not totally disagreeing with you on this point, but I am suggesting that in the areas of freedom of religion and the raising of our children, you are dealing with something a little more fundamental than most of the areas that government touches on.

And I don’t want those dollars back on the basis of my world view. I want them on the basis that it is my right to make education decisions for my child. I especially want poor parents to be able to seek better opportunity for their children. The religious aspect of things is but an important sidebar of a larger issue.

As to separatism: the last thing I would want for my child is to separate from the world. I have no problem with my child going to school with atheists, Muslims and secular humanists. I just don’t want them taught from that perspective. The challenge of being a Christian parent with a child in a Christian school is how to get your child a healthy balance on interacting with the rest of society. Some Christian schools get this, some do not. There is a difference between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists.

You said, “Religion in a society treated as a private matter... good. Religion that leads to intolerance and separation.... not so good.” Understand that those two things do not have anything to do with each other. I am still not sure what you mean when you say that religion be a private matter. If you are saying that I should put my world view in a box and only bring it out when there is no chance that it might challenge somebody, I utterly reject that mindset. My world view is part of who I am. If you don’t want to tolerate my world view, then who is intolerant now?

Christ was the ultimate teacher of toleration. Sadly, many Christians do not get it. Jesus hung with the most loathsome of his society...he did not separate from them. Christian tolerance means a far different thing that what the diversity crowd call tolerance. Christ taught tolerance of the form of every individual’s inadequacy to judge because or our personal falleness. Our righteousness should have no pride because it is imputed not earned. The diversity crowd goes another step and says everything is equal and we need to accept all belief systems as valid. That notion, however, is folly because accepting everything results in rejecting everything-Truth is swallowed by reason.

3:02 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Prof,

Thank you for the info on Home Schooling. I certainly will try to check out the book fair next year. Seems like I remember hearing that advertised on The Word.

It is hard to explain the place we find ourselves with our Son’s education without going into a lot of detail. But, we are pretty confident that he learns best in a traditional classroom situation at this point in his life. Home schooling is fantastic...I’m not deriding it. I just think every kid is different. We aren’t afraid of it...my wife and I have plenty of formal education to bring to bear on the matter if we decide that is best for my Son. We are just doing our best to find the environment that is right for him. It may ultimately be home schooling, but we are looking at all options.

I do agree that education can be far more than what it is. I think it can be that for ALL children too. We have too many people that think inside the old box. We need to blow the lid off this thing and see what our children really can do.

Thanks for all the excellent comments Professor! When you return, I hope you will continue to post comments here. I have truly enjoyed it!

3:11 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Prof,

I thought you were gone already. I'm not a fan of the home schooling concept, but after reading your post I am impressed by how you tackle it. The problem I think is you and your wife probably represent the exception in being skilled in taking on the task. Many kids would be faced with inferior teachers/parents. Also, I would question how a parent could match the pooled skills of many teachers (i.e. expert in math, expert in science, expert in history). Seems like the teacher/parent is likely to be average at everything... and maybe highly skilled/knowlegable in a few areas. However, I commend you on sticking to your beliefs and following through.

I don't think you realized my statement about "why should I be taxed for school since I don't have kids" was more sarcasm then anything else. Tony understands I use that argument to make my point that I don't believe any faction (religious or otherwise) should have preferential tax treatment. In truth, I don't even believe in the tax free status of churches... I'm sure that would upset some folks. I truly believe in Common Good, and any discussion of an ala carte tax system is not grounded in reality (at least not at this point of our economic evolution). We pool tax collection across society for common good... we don't provide opt-in and opt-out choices for folks who disagree with the collective definition of common good government services. Prof... we certainly already are self-interest absorbed in this society... nothing like an ala carte tax system to put the final nail in the common good coffin.

Tony: sorry, but your attempt to make a distinction between taxes for a war against Iraq against your world view and taxes for public schooling against your world view was very weak indeed. Again, you point to a constitutional violation. If so, where's the supreme court case? And again, if you can whip out that basis of argument for school, why can't you whip it out for any tax policy that comes up against your world view? Seriously... what's more risk to your son... a civil war in Iraq or a Jenks schools system education? I would say it simply ... under your reasoing ANY tax policy that you didn't approve of based on your world view could be subject to opt-out. If Education is a special right of parents in the constitution, why isn't written there?

Just busting your chops... I know you live for this stuff. :)

Go code something for cryin out loud. :)

4:03 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Calling my arguments weak is like Shrub calling just about anybody stupid. (Harsh, but I’m in a testy mood.)

OK. Maybe I don’t understand your point. Is it not a significant distinction that I’m not asking out of the tax burden? Indeed, I’m arguing it is a good thing. The two things just aren’t the same. How we wage war doesn’t affect me and my human rights in any direct fashion. At best, it would be an argument on Property rights.

I can think of no other area where the government dictates unilaterally what we believe. But for some reason, you think that is no different that other far less personally significant government activity? And I’m the one who is weak?

And honestly, do I need a Supreme Court case to back up the obvious point that teaching my child that all belief systems are equal is not a interference with my free exercise of religion?

You asked, “Seriously... what's more risk to your son... a civil war in Iraq or a Jenks schools system education?” Seriously? I’m not sure you can handle the Seriously! The answer is that I can think of no greater threat to my Son than his being mired in educational mediocrity and a nihilistic world view. That is a double whammy which damns him to failure in this life as well as the next. Yup. That is much bigger than Iraq.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Public school systems do not teach belief systems. That's the parent's job.

5:06 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

CG said: “Public school systems do not teach belief systems. That's the parent's job.”

Of course they do. If you teach, you teach a belief system. Everyone brings a set of suppositions to the table when they teach anything. It is revealed in the content, their methodology, their expectations, what they avoid teaching. Even the “pure” science of mathematics is taught with a perspective (see Mathematics: Is God Silent by James Nickel). Yes it’s a parents job, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that whoever the teacher is, they are imparting A belief system. I think it was Plato that said paraphrased “The great political question is who teaches the next generation.” Think about it.

Prof. Ricardo

11:17 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Hey, thanks for proving my point for me. Yesterday I said:

But the fact is that neutrality itself is a value choice that many people, including Christians, reject. Secularists who repeat the mantra of value neutrality ad nauseum do not become right or fair just because they repeat it often and loudly. Frankly, we have a right to our world view and while our ideas should compete freely in the arena, the secularist has no claim to tell me how I should do things no matter how certain they may feel...the secularist is probably quite relieved that Christians do not have a say in how they educate their kids as well.There are two points here. First, you are completely incorrect that a value system is not taught. You can not analyze anything in a meaningful way without bring your world view into play. Even the simplest thing such as “an apple falls due to gravity” imply a world view. Are apples and gravity real? Are the laws of the universe knowable? How do we know that we know? The issues become more apparent and immediate when you look the teaching of Social Science topics such as history.

Second, your opinion does not count. Last I checked freedom meant that we decide these matters for ourselves. It doesn’t matter how convinced you are that I am wrong. This is the central crux of what Liberty is about. Unlike the secularists, I believe in Liberty. I want rationalists to be able to send their kids to secular schools. I want Muslims to be able to send their kids to Muslim schools.

Again, who is the intolerant one now?

8:50 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Hey Prof,

I'm reading Plato's "The Republic" currently. I haven't seen that quote yet, but I've only finished 3 or 4 chapters. I have just read the chapter where they are debating how society should refer to Gods. They were making the point that only the positive and strength attributes of Gods were to be referred to. It would be wrong for poets and authors to write anything that represented a weakness in a God. It looks like Plato was a proponent of brainwashing a society. That does seem to be exactly what the Christian community is saying. If you aren't brainwashing (not using this as a derogatory word) the children with Christian beliefs during academic education, you are teaching another belief system. Maybe said another way... if you don't start out your Chemistry lesson with "God made all of this... now let's do our experiments", but rather just learn Chemistry, you are teaching another belief system. I will just have to agree to disagree with you and Tony. I recieved quality public education from K-12 and was never taught a belief system. Why should public schools be involved in brainwashing. They should teach academics, the ability to think/reason, tweak the intellectual curiosity, prepare for adulthood and earning a living, yada yada yada. I learned all of that (well, some of that :) just fine without someone telling me every 5 minutes "I am nothing without God". Now, as an adult, I am free to follow my logic and heart on religious matters. I don't feel handicaped because I wasn't brainwashed as a child. I'm still capable of thinking it through as an adult and making my own decision.

You mentioned you teach a Christian version of Chemistry. It was folks like me (maybe actually me) Tony was referring to when he said I am incapable of understanding what you are talking about with your "Truth and World View". Maybe so, but I haven't quit trying. Maybe if you explain your Christian Chemistry class I may just get it.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Hey, this is great. A debate is so much easier when the other side makes your case clear and convincingly for you.

You said: “I received quality public education from K-12 and was never taught a belief system.”

Of course you were taught a belief system. Where else did your convictions on secularism get so strongly reinforced that you can’t even bridge the gap to see what the Prof and I are saying? Of course it was school. A child spends an enormous amount of time at school and for better or worse, the secular world view will have a significant impact. Parents are not powerless to overcome this impact, but it is unfair to ask them to deprogram their kids from the dangerous ideas that they are building the whole curriculum on.

I’ll give you an example my wife and I hit on just yesterday. A school she toured was teaching an art curriculum that included Picaso. Now at a First Grade level, I am not terribly concerned that my son will be damaged in anyway by that exposure in a non-Christian setting, but as kids get older, if you are to discuss Picaso in an instructive way, you must deal with philosophical underpinnings.

I too think the focus should be on academics. I personally don’t desire extensive religious instruction for my son at school. That said, I want academic topics taught from a Christian world view so that things will be coherent until he reaches an age that he can start sorting things out on his own. Just because schools try to avoid the big questions of life, it does not mean that children do not ask these things themselves. And the very act of totally avoiding the big questions, in a part of a child’s life that is so centrally important, sends a message that is obnoxious to my world view and which should be obnoxious to rationalists as well.

In sum, it is unsurprising that a person who learned and internalized the secular humanist world view would take the view on education which you do. You are being consistent with your world view. I would only ask that you give me the same respect and allow me to raise a kid in a way consistent with our family’s world view.

9:38 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

" Now at a First Grade level, I am not terribly concerned that my son will be damaged in anyway by that exposure in a non-Christian setting"

Talk about making the case for me. At the end of the day, you feel the need to seperate from non-Christians, even to the point where your son's exposure to art needs to what... only be Christian art? I really do not understand your charge of not being tolerant of your world view. The context of these discussions has been public education. As a reminder you are the one doing the name calling (Nihlist, humanist, rationalist) AND you are the one who wouldn't want your kid going to school with ME? Who exactly is intolerant. If I had a kid, I would be thrilled to have him taught by the Plankster... and your religious beliefs would have nothing to do with it.

Look, at the end of the day, if I had your faith, what happened here on earth (including getting along with each other on this earth) would be way down the list of concerns. I mean, once you have the eternal life thing covered, the rest is just details. But I will leave you with this thought. Your world view has you seperating yourself and your kid from others. I don't think I have a world view no matter how many names you call me.. but if I do, it doesn't make me want to seperate from the Christian community. Which behavior do you think is going to be detrimental to society going forward? I was listening to Arthur Schlesinger Jr on C-Span the other day. He was selling a book in which he predicts that the 21st century will prove to be a much less satisfying experience for the US citizens than the 20th century. He listed several reasons, but among them were religious fanaticism. I viewed the term fanaticism not as a measure of right or wrong (you could be 100% correct in your Christian beliefs) ... but more a measure of society turmoil and seperation based on religious beliefs. Maybe this is the way it's suppose to all play out... self-seperation by the religious community, and then turmoil between the factions. I don't know... that's above my pay grade. All I know is if we continue to seperate by factions, we will become a mere shell of a society which just houses parallel universes.

Disclaimer: I love Mr Plank and his family... have for a very long time. It doesn't mean jack that I pound him relentlessly.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

First, pound away. I can take it. The day I can’t have serious disagreements with people and still not come out the other side with relationships in tact is the day I quit living because debate such as this is the only way to get to the bottom of anything important.

I knew you would seize on that statement regarding Picasso as significant, but it is not. The important point that perhaps I did not get across is that you can not discuss Picasso in any educational sense without discussing world view. I suppose you can look at Picasso, but you can’t learn anything about Picasso. Hopefully, that is more clear.

As far as name calling, I don’t think some attempt on my part to classify your perspective is name calling. Please correct me where I’m wrong. Rationalist is a noble label in Rationalist circles. In my opinion, it is an accurate label for describing the dominant world view of American culture. There is little doubt that the secular mindset is closely tied with Rationalism. I’m not hurling labels capriciously.

If you don’t want to be called a Rationalist, that is fine. You get to choose your own label as far as I’m concerned. But, I think it is a label fairly applied to the majority of people that hold the general viewpoint you are espousing. What would be a fair label for the purposes of discussion? Do I need to say every time “people-who-generally-agree-with-your-world-view”? I can do that. But Rationalist superficially seems to do exactly that without the complex sentence structure.

Next, you keep accusing me to be a separatist. I have explained that I am not. I suppose that you define a separatist as someone who wants their child taught according to the Western Civilization traditions that everyone agreed to up until fifty or so years ago. If that is your definition, I guess I can live with that, but I have no desire to isolate my child from those of other beliefs. I desire to educate him according to the world view I choose. Any separation that results from that goal is unfortunate.

I agree that Americans will find things less satisfying in the future. This is the expected result when a society abandons its foundations and rejects its traditional values. While I would never advocate imposing beliefs on anyone, I do not share society’s surprise at this result. The dominant world view does not answer the great questions of life, isolates the individual from the community and results in a desperate and unsatisfying existence. This is to be expected and why I as a parent must act to prevent the imposition of this faulty outlook on my son.

10:58 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

If one teaches reasoning under the constraints of traditional values and beliefs, in reality, aren't you teaching a form of reasoning-lite?

9:01 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Hardly!

One pernicious myth, that ironically is often perpetuated by Christians themselves, is that the Christian world view is at odds with reason. Christianity is rational, though not rationalistic. Irrationality is more characteristic of more modern belief systems such as existentialism.

While it is true that there is a significant element in the Christian community that eschews reasoning and says “just believe”, this approach is at odds with Orthodoxy and in the view of most apologists, inconsistent with the teaching of the Bible. Any world view that can not be tested by reason and experience is not worthy of your or my adherence.

In fact, Christianity has stood the test of critical reasoning down through the centuries. The Bible itself contains some of the best quality critiques and analysis of how a Biblical world view addresses the “big questions”. The books of Job and Ecclesiastes in particular illustrate how the Judeo-Christian approach to these questions is to confront the hard questions and deal with them directly. Anything less would be just a worthless pile of platitudes and moral lessons.

Ironically, where I tend to find “reasoning-lite”, at least in more educated circles, is among those of a rationalist bent. So often I have met people that state with vigor their adherence to atheism, humanism or nihilism yet have not followed their reasoning to its logical conclusions. This is a most sensitive thing to discuss because we speak here of topics of great seriousness and profound personal impact. One must not discuss these matters flippantly.

Yet, the truth is that all rationalist systems work through to a personal situation that is one of desperation. Knowing this, I often hesitate to push people to follow through on their ideas. As Schaeffer has keenly observed, if you push a person to follow their reasoning to its logical end point, then you are liable to leave that person in a much more desperate situation in which you found them.

So, I remain outwardly uncritical of those people who do not follow their thinking through as it is clearly a difficult thing for the minds of men. That one might hesitate to approach these conclusions is something with which I have sincere and substantial personal empathy.

The Christian world view is in fact liberating to the rational man. I want nothing less for a child of mine than the willingness to stand toe-to-toe in the arena of ideas and win those small battles of life wherein other world views are defeated on the merits. This then will be a faith that will stand the trials of life and not fail him when he is inevitably suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

All of this is not to say that Christianity is purely rational in the sense that there is no element of faith, however, if one scrutinizes rationalist systems, there are always elements of faith that under gird rationalist approaches no matter how sincerely its adherents may deny it. And that, I think, is a truer expression of a world view characterized by “reasoning-lite”.

11:15 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"One pernicious myth, that ironically is often perpetuated by Christians themselves, is that the Christian world view is at odds with reason. "

I did not say that. I implied that if you constrained reasoning education to ANY world view, then you would be teaching reasoning-lite.

The question that would follow is "does someone have to pick A world view to learn to reason?". I would say not.

12:13 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

First, I think I was responsive to your post. Perhaps you desired a different discussion, but saying that I missed your point is revisionist blogging. :-D

You can not teach without a reference to a world view. You can not think without a reference to a world view.

If you believe that one’s world view does not matter, then that is a world view.

So, it isn’t a matter at all of “constraint”. And, because you use one analytical framework for organizing your thoughts, it does not mean that one can not understand other world views and how those who approach things in that way think and organize their thoughts.

In my experience, it tends to be the rationalistic type thinkers that dismiss other world views without examination. This is not universal, but so often you will find that a rationalists dismiss non-rationalistic belief systems with a huff and a waive of their hand. So again, I would say that the Christian world view is liberating and therefore conducive to better education and clearer reasoning.

Of course a non-Christian be intelligent and thoughtful as well, but it is a fiction of modernity that Christianity limits one’s intellectual development.

If you imagine that the Christian world-view is constraining, maybe if you give me an example, I’ll try to work through why it is not so.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"First, I think I was responsive to your post."

Not at all. You went off on a rant defending Christian world view as rational... which I never challenged (in that post :).

You more or less answered it this last time when you said "you can't teach without a world view".... i.e. setting preconceived contraints on the education process. To me that would be equivalent to teaching US politics, but only teaching conservative ideology.

Maybe you would give me a definition of what you mean by world view.... in particular your world view. Then we might understand better your premise that you can't be taught anything without it.

1:10 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Your attempt to restate my position was an abysmal failure when you said:

‘You more or less answered it this last time when you said "you can't teach without a world view".... i.e. setting preconceived constraints on the education process.’

I don’t know how to define the term “world view”. I purposely am using the broadest term I can. A definition would be something like, “every aspect of one’s intellect and philosophical belief system”. So to have me define a specific one is a bit daunting. Do you have a few years?

I see no constraints on the educational process that are implied by adopting a Christian world view. I perhaps I am biased because I do not see how it has encumbered me and my ability to learn. I am far more limited by my own intellectual resources than by my world view. But obviously, since you are the one that keeps mentioning it as a “constraint” on education, you must have some idea what you think might be constraining, so what don’t you just lay it out there?

Now, lest you accuse me of ducking your question the way you ducked mine, I’ll try to explain what I mean by my world view, or at least one aspect of it. I have told you this repeatedly, but you do not seem to hear it. The core of the problem with secular education is that it teaches from a world view which asserts that all belief systems are equally valid. Christianity teaches that there is only one truth.

Apply this to learning about the American Revolution and you will quickly see what I’m talking about. You can’t get around the world view. I might be able to envision a way of teaching facts and dates that avoids any substance, but that would not be an education. Not to mention, the act of avoiding specific topics which are near and dear to all of creates conflict and problems of its own.

As far as responsiveness to the post from a bit back, lets go back a second shall we? You said: “If one teaches reasoning under the constraints of traditional values and beliefs, in reality, aren't you teaching a form of reasoning-lite?”

Now, you were asserting through a rhetorical question that teaching Christian beliefs is reasoning-lite. And then you harsh me for my “rant” about Christianity being rational at its core. For all your spinning, I don’t see how I missed the topic at all--though I did address later what you said the topic really was, though I am hard pressed to find it in the post I was originally responding to. And that was no rant: if you want to see a rant, lets talk about education in America some more.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

I really think you need to lay of the Vioxx. :)

"I don’t know how to define the term “world view”. "

Then how in the heck can you require it as a basis for education?

If we extrapolate.... "I can't define my world view, but you can't teach anything without adhering to it". Those poor, poor teachers... I hope they see you coming. :)

What exactly are you referring to about history education that you can't include in a Jenks education?

Jeeze... you have given me a headache. I would gladly take Vioxx instead. Even Dot Net isn't this painful.

btw... Kerry is back in the game. Go Kerry/Edwards.

CG

2:32 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Well, I don’ know what drugs you are taking, but clearly, mine interfere far less with cognition.

I can define my world view very clearly. In fact, I have given an extensive description of aspects of it. Am I using words that are too large? Surely not, as here is what I said in my last post: “Christianity teaches that there is only one [T]ruth.” I’m trying to figure out how exactly I can make that any more plain. As a bonus, I threw in a contrast: “secular education...teaches from a world view which asserts that all belief systems are equally valid.”

Obviously, you continue to hear what you want to hear, though I am totally uncertain what it is that you want to hear. Check this most perplexing statement of yours in which you try to summarize my position as: “I can't define my world view, but you can't teach anything without adhering to it”.

Not only did I never say I can’t define my world view, I can, I do, and I will continue to elucidate it though future Disenfranchise Curmudgeon posts, I also never said that “you can’t teach anything without adhering to it.” What I have said, with regard to the last clause of that dubious sentence, is that one can not teach without involving their own world view. Take out even the word teach: one can not communicate without resting on certain assumptions about world view. This is definitional.

Then, amazingly, you ask, “What exactly are you referring to about history education that you can't include in a Jenks education?” What I have said, again repeatedly, has nothing to do with content. What I am speaking of is presentation. In fact, this Curmudgeon would pretty much blow the lid off of the existing content restrictions that are a misguided attempt to do the impossible-attempt to satisfy every different world view within the public school setting. What is problematic in a secular setting is a discussion of human rights as the whole topic is rooted in Western Monotheism. And the process of explaining this in a “value neutral” presentation renders that content sterile and the hearer undereducated and probably confused.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Oh... I see... you couldn't define the term "world view", but you could define your world view. Interesting.

“secular education...teaches from a world view which asserts that all belief systems are equally valid.”

No it doesn't. The assertion is that we can do some things (academic education and democracy) regardless of the meaning of life. I certainly don't think all belief systems are equal... I think your's is whacked for example. :)

3:59 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Um, specifically what I said about defining world view was:

I don’t know how to define the term “world view”. I purposely am using the broadest term I can. A definition would be something like, “every aspect of one’s intellect and philosophical belief system”. So to have me define a specific one is a bit daunting. Do you have a few years?That doesn’t sound like failure to define to me.

I don’t doubt for a second that YOU do not assert that all value systems are equal. However, there is no doubt that the secular/rationalist world view that is predominant in our culture does assert the equality of different belief systems. Even if for the sake of argument you were correct, then the next problem is that a secular presentation implicitly asserts the equality of different belief systems. You don’t escape the problem even if you are right, which you are not.

You said, “The assertion is that we can do some things (academic education and democracy) regardless of the meaning of life.” Here is the crux of our disagreement. I would suggest that this statement is not one that a person who knows the meaning of life would make.

4:19 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

"Even if for the sake of argument you were correct, then the next problem is that a secular presentation implicitly asserts the equality of different belief systems."

There is no secular presentation... lay off the Vioxx.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

The confusion going on in your world is truly one of the wonders of the modern world.

If you present things in a value neutral manner, that is BY DEFINITION a secular presentation. Of course, a value neutral presentation is pretty much impossible for many topics, but you don’t like to hear about that problem. You would rather simply tell me I’m crazy for asserting this ordinary idea.

BTW, I am quite glad when people find my views “whacked”. That means I have something right if I am completely out of sync with the rest of the world.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What's the deal? Did you both get killed from the nuclear fallout?

12:39 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Anon,

First, I'm a bit puzzled why you asked that question anonymously. No big deal...I just think handles are good so that we can address each other with some clarity.

Second, to the best of my knowledge, CG and I are still alive. I think we both had mutual instinct that this topic had run its course. If you fell strongly about it, however, I'm sure I can do a little name calling and stir up the pot.

Or perhaps you could choose a handle, then stir the pot yourself :-D

1:10 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Anon,

Tony's blogs die a natural death once you have shot his theories full of holes. This last one now looks like swiss cheese... so we are in a holding pattern waiting for the next one.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

I cede no ground on this discussion. Don't make me Blog-slap you.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

Hi C.G.!

It’s killer being gone for 10 days and trying to catchup on all the blogs. I realize this is old material, but I thought I might take a stab at clarification.

I don’t think you understand what Tony and I refer to when we say a “world view.”

Did you ever wonder how it is half the U.S. is democrat and the other republican, both sides think they are right, both diametrically opposed on numerous critical issues, and both are a (relatively) coherent system of ideology or perspective. Your world view is the rose colored glasses you put on every day to make sense out of the world. You were wanting the Gubment schools to teach academics and not be involved in “brainwashing,” or the insertion of some additional “belief system.” Your world view, based upon past experience, teachings, and reason have given you this perspective and other beliefs, even though you man not see them as such.

In teaching, it is impossible to teach with out a perspective, a belief system, or world view. The act of teaching introduces so many presumptions and value judgements, it staggers the mind. When I teach history, the mere inclusion of it as a subject presupposes that subject is worth studying. Are we learning history to memorize facts, dates, persons, and events in a vacuum with no value other than to occupy class time and win trivia games? Or do we see the actions and events to be of value in studying the history of man in the greater scope of God’s plan for man? One perspective might find political gossip and technological advances interesting. The other might try to weave society’s movement on a spiritual level together with events to put events into perspective.

The inclusion of some events and the exclusion of other events evidence a value judgment on those events. We used to teach President George Washington’s farewell address to our children because of the incredible insight and guidance he provided. Now we think that Britney Spears and Madonna are more valuable and they have displaced W-1.

At critical points in our American history, our leaders have called the nation to prayer. Do you include that? Its history. If you choose to exclude it or not reflects your belief system.

You asked about Christian Chemistry that I had previously mentioned. That science is less affected than others by perspective. But in covering the material, we do not tell the students every 5 minutes “I am nothing without God.” However, since God created the universe and everything in it, including matter, and the laws of nature, a Christian perspective (world view) would be to mention or reference that fact. A non-Christian perspective would omit mentioning or referencing that fact because they do not even identify that God created matter and the laws that govern them. The omission of God from history, science, literature, or any other instruction is not neutral, but is a belief system in and of itself. Call it Humanism or whatever you like, it’s a perspective that shapes how subjects are taught.

Most of the time there is no pure belief system. Christians come in an infinite number of spiritual maturities and past experiences and exposures to other belief systems that have influenced or corrupted their world views. Even though many Christians lament the passing of overt Christian teachings that did not shun the teaching of God in public schools, much of Judeo-Christian thinking and perspective still permeates the schools. However, those looking for a more pure world view environment with which to “brainwash”/indoctrinate/ train students to see history from a correct world view have, mostly since the 1970's, looked for alternative schooling.

It is hard to tell when you are just being sarcastic or you really do not see that world views necessarily always do exist. I am afraid that if you don’t see that, that you are suffering from a world view that has inadequately served you in seeing that world views do exist.

Prof. Ricardo

8:33 PM  
Blogger Prof. Ricardo said...

CG,

Thomas Paine addressed the issue of teaching a world view of sorts in Public School. Here is an article from: http://www.wallbuilders.com/resources/search/detail.php?ResourceID=17
---------------------------
Thomas Paine Criticizes the Current Public School Science Curriculum

by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine concerned about the content of our current science courses? Definitely!

In a speech he delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797, Thomas Paine harshly criticized what the French were then teaching in their science classes-especially the philosophy they were using. Interestingly, that same science philosophy of which Thomas Paine was so critical is identical to that used in our public schools today. Paine's indictment of that philosophy is particularly significant in light of the fact that all historians today concede that Thomas Paine was one of the very least religious of our Founders. Yet, even Paine could not abide teaching science, which excluded God's work and hand in the creation of the world and of all scientific phenomena. Below is an excerpt from that speech.

(While Benjamin Franklin was serving in London as diplomat from the Colonies to the King, Franklin met Englishman Thomas Paine (born 1737, died 1809). Franklin arranged for him to move to America in 1774 and helped set him up in the printing business. In 1776, Paine wrote Common Sense, which helped fuel the separation of America from Great Britain. He then served as a soldier in the American Revolution. He returned to England in 1787, and then went to France in 1792 as a supporter of the French Revolution. In 1794, he published his Age of Reason, the deistic work, which brought him much criticism from his former American friends. Upon his return to America in 1802, he found no welcome and eventually died as an outcast.)

Thomas Paine on "The Study of God"
Delivered in Paris on January 16, 1797, in a
Discourse to the Society of Theophilanthropists

It has been the error of the schools to teach astronomy, and all the other sciences and subjects of natural philosophy, as accomplishments only; whereas they should be taught theologically, or with reference to the Being who is the author of them: for all the principles of science are of Divine origin. Man cannot make, or invent, or contrive principles. He can only discover them; and he ought to look through the discovery to the Author.

When we examine an extraordinary piece of machinery, an astonishing pile of architecture, a well executed statue or a highly finished painting where life and action are imitated, and habit only prevents our mistaking a surface of light and shade for cubical solidity, our ideas are naturally led to think of the extensive genius and talents of the artist. When we study the elements of geometry, we think of Euclid. When we speak of gravitation, we think of Newton. How then is it, that when we study the works of God in the creation, we stop short, and do not think of God? It is from the error of the schools in having taught those subjects as accomplishments only, and thereby separated the study of them form the Being who is the author of them. . . .

The evil that has resulted from the error of the schools in teaching natural philosophy as an accomplishment only has been that of generating in the pupils a species of atheism. Instead of looking through the works of the creation to the Creator himself, they stop short, and employ the knowledge they acquire to create doubts of His existence. They labor with studied ingenuity to ascribe everything they behold to innate properties of matter; and jump over all the rest, by saying that matter is eternal.
----------------------------------
Not bad for a deist, eh?

Prof Ricardo

1:21 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home