Friday, November 28, 2008

Quote of the day

"The public-school system should be kept healthy by the absolutely free possibility of the competition of private schools and Church schools, and the State should refrain from such regulation of these schools as to make their freedom illusory."

-- J. Gresham Machen

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Don't know much about history

In a letter to the editor published in the state's largest newspaper Sunday, a mother in Yukon lamented:
My 5-year-old attends pre-kindergarten at a public school. While telling him about the first Thanksgiving, I told him that the Pilgrims were having a special day to thank God. He quickly responded, "No, Mama, my teacher said they were thanking the Indians for their help.”

If policymakers would give parents the ability to choose whatever kind of school they want for their 5-year-olds, then parents would be empowered to avoid schools which teach bogus history.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Obama supporter urges school choice

Democrats "have to get serious about school choice," Stanford political scientist Terry Moe writes in The Wall Street Journal.

How to improve Sidwell Friends School

Education reporter Mike Antonucci wants to know "why the Obamas would choose Sidwell Friends, a school sorely lacking in many of the elements we are told are required for educational excellence."
It would be a shame if the Obama kids were to miss out on all these benefits, so we humbly submit these additions and subtractions to make Sidwell Friends the type of school the experts want all schools to become:

* Add a unionized workforce and a collective bargaining agreement. ...

* Add geographic enrollment boundaries. ...

* Subtract weak teacher benefits. ...

* Add diversity. ...

* Subtract religion. ...

* Add to the curriculum. ...

Read the whole thing here.

'The essential ingredient'

"School choice -- especially universal school choice -- is not some boring cop-out that dull folks reflexively whimper about because they've got nothing better to say," Cato's Neal McCluskey writes today. "No, it is the essential ingredient to getting an education system that actually works."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving thanks for Pilgrim homeschoolers

Perhaps you've heard the argument that Christian parents should send their children to a nonreligious school in order to be "salt and light" there.

The Pilgrims didn't see it that way. I'm reading a fascinating new book, Homeschool: An American History, by education professor Milton Gaither. Neither hagiographic nor hostile, this is a serious, scholarly history of home education -- the only one I'm aware of -- covering the period from 1600 to the present. Gaither writes:
Generations of Americans have learned in elementary school of the Mayflower, Squanto, Thanksgiving, and the other tropes that make up the romance of Plymouth Colony, but it has not often been noted that one of the driving motivations behind the endeavor was the education of children.

When the first Protestant separatists left Scrooby, England, in search of religious toleration in Amsterdam, Gaither explains, "the cosmopolitan air and Dutch culture were a bit of a shock to the Scrooby people, so much so that they feared for their children's futures." They resettled in the smaller, more rural town of Leyden, but still, as William Bradford wrote,

many of their children, by these occasions and the great licentiousness of youth in that country, and the manifold temptations of the place, were drawn away by evil examples into extravagant and dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and departing from their parents. Some became soldiers, others took upon them far voyages by sea, and others some worse courses tending to dissoluteness and the danger of their souls, to the great grief of their parents and dishonour of God. So that they saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and be corrupted.

Thus, Gaither writes, "throughout their sojourn in Holland, the Scrooby families taught their children at home rather than send them to schools where they would learn Dutch grammar and manners." Eventually these Pilgrims set sail for the New World, and "for the first forty years of Plymouth Colony's existence there was no school at all. ... Most learning occurred in the home, as mothers and fathers passed down values, manners, literacy, and vocational skills to their offspring."

The Pilgrims were doubtless aware of the dangers of keeping company with fools. I can't help but wonder if they also thought of Elimelech, who left Judah with his wife and two sons and went to live among the heathens in Moab. His sons, of course, ended up disobeying God by marrying Moabite women who worshiped false gods. As Matthew Henry commented,

Little did Elimelech think, when he went to sojourn in Moab, that ever his sons would thus join in affinity with Moabites. But those that bring young people into bad acquaintance, and take them out of the way of public ordinances, though they may think them well-principled and armed against temptation, know not what they do, nor what will be the end thereof.

This is a good sign

The weekly newspaper of the Communist Party USA appears really hostile to school choice.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

You knew it was coming

"President-elect Barack Obama and his wife have chosen a private school for their two daughters," the Associated Press reports.
Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, will be attending Sidwell Friends School, a private Quaker school ...

"A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now." ... Lelyveld said that while public schools were considered, the Obamas felt that a private school was in the best interest of their children.

Friday, November 21, 2008

New Senate leader favors school choice

In an interview yesterday with the Associated Press, Senate President Pro Tem-designate Glenn Coffee said he favors scholarship tax credits for children in failing schools.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ah yes, 'arrangements would be made'

"Concerned by estimates that half of Oklahomans are overweight, a state legislator said Tuesday he will file legislation requiring students to be checked annually to identify possible weight problems," Michael McNutt reports today in The Oklahoman.
All students 16 years and younger would be required to have a screening to check their body mass indexes, said state Rep. Richard Morrissette. Students would be weighed and measured, and the BMI data would be used to determine whether they have excess fat or are underweight. ...

Students in public schools would be checked during the school year. Arrangements would be made for homeschooled students also to be screened, Morrissette said.

This legislation is egregious on several levels, of course, and I will be surprised if it's anything other than DOA at 23rd and Lincoln. Nevertheless, when legislators wander this far off the reservation (state Sen. Jim Wilson was last year's poster child), homeschoolers need to act decisively. Please let your state representative know what you think about this proposed legislation.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Another school-choice success story

Here is a Georgia mom who feels like she won the lottery:
William, you see, is developmentally delayed and has attention deficit disorder. His public school experience has been a disaster the past few years. It takes him much longer to learn concepts than other children his age. As a result, he was called "retarded" by his peers. He didn't make friends and dreaded going to school. ...

We were at the end of our rope, praying we could find some solution. I even considered taking two jobs if that's what it took to find him another school that could meet his needs.

But now, William's life is turning around. ... We were very fearful that William would become a statistic -- a dropout or be kicked out of school before earning a high school diploma. But thanks to the Georgia Special Needs Scholarship, we believe he is now in a learning environment that meets his needs.

I never saw him with a smile on his face in school when he was in public school, but he smiles most every day at Hope Christian. We are truly blessed.

Monday, November 17, 2008

'They're still going to hurt you'

"During 2006-07 there were more than 12,000 incidents in state schools of bullying or harassment," Dawn Marks reports today in The Oklahoman.
[A] seventh-grader, who didn't want to give his name, said bullying happens frequently in his school in the Oklahoma City area. The student ... said he and other students don't report it.

"What's the point of doing that if it's not going to change?" he said. "They're still going to follow you, hurt you. ... I don't know what to do, so I just stay to myself."

Here's a bullying story with a happy ending -- thanks to school choice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Power to parents

"School choice would return power to parents and remove party politics from our classrooms," Phillip W. Smith writes in a letter published in the Muskogee Phoenix. "It would also spur innovation, competition and true accountability."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Okla. criminal justice professor: 'Schools are frightening'

"With more than 1,000 people in Oklahoma identified as gang members," the Associated Press reports, "and some of those members as young as 8 years old, teachers and school administrators have become important players in prevention efforts, an expert said Monday.
Michael Wilds, an attorney and associate professor at Northeastern State University's Broken Arrow campus, told those attending the State Superintendent's 10th Annual Safe and Healthy Schools Conference that awareness and alternatives are keys to keeping children from going into gangs.

"Schools are frightening, and I can't say any other word to describe it. It used to be seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders were approached when it came to gangs and/or drugs," Wilds said.

"Now we're seeing gangs approaching the second- and third-graders, even in some cases -- due to grandpa and dad being in the gangs -- kindergarten. They're acutely aware of the gangs, they’re very susceptible at that age, very impressionable."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Need a speaker?

Looking for a speaker for your local political or civic organization? The newly formed School Choice Speakers Bureau, of which I'm a part, is a joint effort of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Alliance for School Choice, the Black Alliance for Education Options (BAEO), and the Hispanic Council for Reform and Education Options (HCREO).

Monday, November 10, 2008

Yes, inherent contradictions can tend to be 'complex'

Wendy K. Kleinman reported yesterday in The Oklahoman ('Some Oklahoma students shirk school') that the Tulsa Public Schools have reported "no truancies to the state for any grades for at least the last two years, according to state data."
Sharolyn Sorrels, the district's director of educational indicators, said it's a "complex issue."

Tulsa abides by the state's definition of truancy, under which students with unexcused absences are only counted truant if their parent, guardian or school doesn't know where they are when they miss school, she said.

"Tulsa has a process in place where each absence is verified with a parent. We don't have any children that we don't know where they are," Sorrels said of the district's 42,000 students. Still, Sorrels also said district high schools last year had 731 dropouts -- adolescents who would have had to be truant before they became classified as dropouts."

Let parents choose

Our friends over at The Alliance for School Choice have launched a major campaign to recruit 10,000 school-choice supporters from across the country. If we really want to see school choice become a reality in Oklahoma, it is important that we build the necessary grassroots infrastructure. I strongly encourage you to support this national campaign by signing up today. You will receive a free bumper sticker, a free school choice handbook, school choice magazines, and more.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Remind me again why this mom doesn't deserve another option

Reporter: "When you send your kids off to school every day, do you worry about their safety?"

Mother of Capitol Hill High School student:
"Every day."

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How to get parents involved

A frequent complaint of the government's education monopoly is that too many parents are uninvolved in their children's education. To me that complaint has always rung hollow. It's like the fellow who whacks you on the foot with a hammer then chastises you for walking with a limp. How can parents be expected to be involved when the government gives them virtually no control over the who, what, when, where, why, or how of their child's education?

Well, as my friend John LaPlante points out in a new article, school choice is one way to get parents more involved.

Do 'public' schools serve the 'public' interest?

No, as our friend Andrew Coulson points out, government schools serve the government's interest.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Competition boosts student achievement

In a new multinational study published by Education Next, Martin R. West and Ludger Woessmann demonstrate that competition from private schools improves achievement for both public and private school students -- not to mention increasing productivity.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Close-knit communities that shape people's values

I enjoyed Berry Tramel's column today ('Bob Stoops, Bo Pelini reunite') about two men who hail from Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown, Ohio.
"It's a close-knit community," Pelini said of Cardinal Mooney. "Shaped my values. So many things it did for me carried over for a long time." ... Hard-working, sacrificing people. Men who didn't make a ton of money but found ways to send their kids to Catholic schools.

Here's hoping politicians will help men find more ways to send their kids to Catholic schools.