Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Senseless Deception

What are we, as Christian parents, to think and more importantly do when Godly discipline turns deadly and a little child is senselessly killed at the hand of his parents desperately hoping only to "train up a child in the way he should go"?

Nearly four years ago, I wrote about out the death of Sean Paddock at the hand of his mother, Lynn Paddock. Paddock was eventually convicted of her son's murder.

A week ago another couple, Kevin and Elizabeth Schatz, were charged with the death of their seven year old daughter, Lydia. Her eleven year old sister, Zariah, was recently released from the hospital. The parents are scheduled to appear in court in just a few days.

These two tragic events have at least one common thread - the teachings of Michael and Debi Pearl. Those that have been reading my blog for a while know that I have written multiple posts critical of the Pearls and their child training and marriage materials.

In one very lengthy and detailed post, A Switch or A Cross, I wrote about the lack of clarity in the Pearl's teachings, including methods which I feared could lead loving well-intentioned parents, especially mothers, to extreme disciplinary actions toward their own children. I wrote,
After listening to Mr. Pearl at a seminar a few years ago, I came away with a very different interpretation than what I had when I only read the book To Train Up a Child and some newsletters. As everyone does, I took my background and applied it to the material. After the seminar, I realized my idea of training was very different than Mr. Pearls. His method of training and answers to specific questions were not exactly what I thought appropriate in many areas. I began to realize that if I could misinterpret it so could others. While my misinterpretation may not be harmful some else's very well could be. I don't know what is going on in other homes.
Now consider what Laura Mather, a friend of the Schatz family, wrote about Lydia's mother,
"Elizabeth, the mother, is possibly the warmest person I’ve ever known. One of the hardest things for me, has been squaring the soft, meek woman I know with the hard cold fact of a dead child (and another who was at that time critically injured and fighting for her life).
Her feelings capture exactly why I stopped reading and recommending the Pearl's material. As parents, most of us could never imagine the possibility that within a mother we know lies the potential to harm. But the deceptively alluring promise of complete obedience and sinless perfection does indeed lead parents astray and, in the worst cases, do the unthinkable. Especially when you have an author like Michael Pearl admonishing parents in very emphatic terms not to reject his teaching,
"If you do not see the wisdom in what I have said, and you reject these concepts, you are not fit to be a parent. I pity your children. They will never experience the freedom of soul and conscience that mine do."
And just what is this wise counsel that will make us fit to parent and will liberate our children's soul and conscience? Never show mercy, not even one time.
Consistency on your part will break that habit in just a few days. Never threaten, and never show mercy. One squeak of a scream gets a switching. (NGJ, Vol 1, pg 26)
The idea that a parent is never to show mercy is absurd and leaves only the choice of a rod as the solution to childish infractions. To Schatz that allegedly meant showing no mercy to her daughter for "mispronouncing a word during a homeschool reading lesson."

However, contrary to Pearl's self-proclaimed wisdom, God's Word says clearly that mercy has a definite place and judgment is reserved for those who never show any,
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!" James 2:13
Laura's husband, Paul Mather, on his blog and in Salon pleads for the Christian church to speak up and speak out.
"I would love to see the people rise up and say no to the Pearls, that this will not stand. I would love to see the Pearl system become anathema, disgusting, and shunned by the world. I would love to see the Pearls out of a job. Before another child dies."
I said no to the Pearls years ago and will once again add my voice to the Mathers, TulipGirl, Timberdoodle, Karen Campbell, Virginia Knowles and a growing chorus that pleads, enough!

Homeschooling father, author, and conference speaker, Rob Shearer commented on the recent tragedy and summed it all up very nicely,
Every child is a precious gift from God and dear to His heart. Even when they stomp their feet and disobey – it is a misguided sense of pride to think that this in anyway impugns our position, dignity, or competence as parents.

Focus on love – not on creating an image of obedience and perfection.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Muslims Turn to Homeschooling

Because of our family's proximity to Dearborn, Michigan one of the largest Arab populations outside of the Middle East and my daughter's study of the Arabic language and culture, I did not find it surprising that Muslims are turning to homeschooling.

Muslim parents consider homeschooling for many of the same reasons other parents do - strong academics built on a foundation of religious convictions and values. Muslim homeschooling mom, Priscilla Martinez, put it this way,

"We definitely do learn from a different worldview," she said. "Everything has God as its center. We don't just study the bee, but we study what the Koran says about the bee and the many blessings and the honey. . . . We get religious studies out of it, we get biology out of it and chemistry."

The article also highlighted the story of Maqsood and Zakia Khan who decided to homeschool their kindergarten child after he was told by his teacher that "he could not refuse school food in favor of the Islamic-sanctioned food he had brought from home. "

Welcome to America, where the state is god and determined to disciple your children in the way they should eat, work, and live.

I do wonder, however, if the Muslim trend toward homeschooling continues to grow, if school districts will begin to accomodate their religious beliefs in order to maintain enrollment.

I already see the beginnings of this in Dearborn. The schools now serve Halal food at lunch time and long-time high school wrestling coach was dismissed because one of his wrestlers converted to Christianity. By contrast at a neighboring high school, students who created a sweatshirt mocking the events of 9/11 did not receive any disciplinary action.

Do you remember the second-grader in another sent who was sent for a psychiatric evaluation for daring to draw a "violent" picture of Jesus on the cross at Christmas?

Which religions are separated from the public schools and which ones are accommodated could become very interesting in the coming years.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Goals 2000 is alive in 2010

In the mid-1990's, my state legislator knocked on my door campaigning for reelection in our district. After a brief chit-chat session where he talked about roads, drains, and everything else he thought I cared about, I asked him, "Are you aware of the pending education reform in our state and many others which is modeled after Europe and will forever change the US economy?"

"No, I'm not." He replied. "But it sounds more interesting than the pot holes I've been talking about all day."

"Well, within a decade or so there will be proposals requiring students to choose their career major by the end of ninth grade, test and graduate them by tenth grade, and track them into their future career or college; all based on national standards just like the socialist countries of Europe."

"It'll never happen." He scoffed. "We're not Europe and to be honest you're sound a bit like one of those looney conspiracy theorists."

Ignoring the insult and completely undettered, I replied, "Fine. But at least give me the benefit of the doubt and read up on it before you declare me a looney and commit me to a mental institution." I handed him a short grant proposal written by someone in the Michigan Department of Ed. "If you still believe I'm wrong, please come back and say it with information that proves it."

A month later he arrived, unannounced, on my doorstep to apologize for calling me a lunatic and declared that I was indeed correct, Michigan (and the nation) is moving toward national curriculum standards and declaring career majors and graduation after tenth grade is part of that process.

Today's New York Times confrms exactly what I was trying to tell my state legislator.
The new system of high school coursework with the accompanying board examinations is modeled largely on systems in high-performing nations including Denmark, England, Finland, France and Singapore.

The program is being organized by the National Center on Education and the Economy, and its goals include insuring that students have mastered a set of basic requirements and reducing the numbers of high school graduates who need remedial courses when they enroll in college. More than a million college freshmen across America must take remedial courses each year, and many drop out before getting a degree.

“That’s a central problem we’re trying to address, the enormous failure rate of these kids when they go to the open admission colleges,” said Marc S. Tucker, president of the center [National Center on Education and the Economy], a Washington-based nonprofit.
The name Marc Tucker may not be familiar to you, but it is very familiar to me. Marc Tucker is the author of the famous "Dear Hillary" letter shortly after Bill Clinton was elected to office in November of 1992. The letter detailed a complete remake of the American educational system into a seamless structure from cradle to grave. It was called Goals 2000 or School-toWork and heavily promoted by the Clinton administration as the salvation of our students. But it was nothing of the sort. It was a bold plan to remake the American free market economy into a socialist state using our children as a commodity in their desire to fill job quotas.

Thankfully, after a protracted battle spanning both of Clinton's two terms, Goals 2000 was defeated. HSLDA rightly understanding the dangers of the program declared it "dead" in 1999.

It was gone on the radar of Congress and homeschoolers breathed a sigh of relief, but it was not dead in the heart of Marc Tucker and many others. Reformers abandoned the name, Goals 2000, but continued to press forward with their agenda through the National Center for Education and the Economy and funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Gates is determined to see common core standards brought to the fifty states and eventually around the world.

Now that Obama is in office, Tucker and Gates see an opportunity to more boldly promote this reform agenda; an agenda built on the desires of the state not the dreams of our children. Obama's education secretary, Arne Duncan, has already declared that national standards benchmarked internationally a goal of the Obama adminstration.

Consider the article in today's New York Times article about early graduation another wake up call. Telling students they can graduate two years early is nothing new and homeschoolers are taking advantage of early college enrollment, but national board exams to prove proficiency will be problematic for every homeschooler, even if we are exempt from them.

Remember...what is tested, is what is taught, what is taught is what is thought. College admission and career placement will be based on tests based on national standards and board exams. The federal government's standard for what every tenth grader should know, isn't my standard and shouldn't be in a free country.

Homeschoolers should work just as aggressively to defeat the proposals in 2010 as we did in the 1990.

Update: Speaking about education reform in today's Washington Post, Melinda Gates wrote,
In short, there is strong evidence that the key players are ready to cooperate and innovate. If all the stakeholders -- the federal government, state governments, school districts and teachers -- continue to coalesce around the goal of having an effective teacher in every classroom, then public schools will start to deliver on their core promise. They will prepare every single American to succeed in college, their careers and their lives.
Notice which stakeholder is missing? Parents. One "stakeholder" wonders out loud if educators really want involved parents. He cites some an educator who argued that parents were unnecessary in the reform process because doctors don't ask patients for their opinion.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mom's On the Computer (or not)

Some readers are wondering if I've once again fallen off the face of the internet. Not really, I'm a bit more active on Facebook, but even that is sporadic. Perhaps the best way to explain my is to post a song I recently rewrote (with apologies to Harry Chapin) as an intro to my upcoming workshop, iHelp for the eHome - learning to stay focused and use electronics and the Internet responsibly in an era that makes it all too easy to twitter our time away.

Mom's on the Computer (to the tune of Cat's in the Cradle.)

My computer arrived just the other day,
It came on the porch in the usual way
So many blogs to read and games to play
My child learned to walk, while I twittered away
And he was talkin’ for I knew it, as my friends list grew
He’d say I’m gonna be like you mom
You know I’m gonna be like you

And mom’s lost on the computer, lettin' dinner burn
Little boy wanders, he just wants to learn
When you getting off mom?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
we're gonna have a good time then

My son turned ten just the other day
He said "thanks for the wii, mom, come on let’s play"
"Can you teach me how it works?" I said “Not today”
"I got a blog to write" he said “that’s okay”
And he walked away while the computer never dimmed
He said, “I’m gonna be like them, yeah”
You know I’m gonna be like them

And mom’s lost on the computer lettin' dinner burn
Little boy wanders, he just wants to learn
When you getting off mom?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
We're gonna have a good time then

Well my son came home just the other day
iPod in his ears, while he texted away
"Son, I'm proud of you, can you sit for a while?"
He shook his head and he said with a smile
"I'd really like to Mom, but talkins' not my thing"
"Check my status, for what's happening"

And mom’s lost on the computer lettin' dinner burn
Little boy wanders, he just wants to learn
When you getting off mom?
I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then
You know we’ll have a good time then

Well my blog's retired and my Facebook out-of-date
My son texted, “Hey mom, I just can't relate"
I said, "I'd like to see you if you have some time."
He said, "I'd love to mom but skype if you don't mind."
"You see my website's down and my workload just grew."
"but it's nice texting with you, mom"
It's been sure nice texting with you."

And as I typed “c u later” it occurred to me
He'd grown up just like me
My boy was just like me

I'll be giving this workshop at the Midwest Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati April 8 -10 and an upcoming webinar with The Old Schoolhouse.

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