I’m doing some housecleaning. I threw a bunch of links and other crap into my drafts (so I wouldn’t forget about them) and then forgot about them for a few months. I’ve looked them over and still feel like writing about them so now I’m taking the time to do so.
Sadly, the Google link to an AP article I had about evolution and homeschooling has died. At least the memory of the point of the article makes it easy to find elsewhere:
Home-school mom Susan Mule wishes she hadn’t taken a friend’s advice and tried a textbook from a popular Christian publisher for her 10-year-old’s biology lessons.
Mule’s precocious daughter Elizabeth excels at science and has been studying tarantulas since she was 5. But she watched Elizabeth’s excitement turn to confusion when they reached the evolution section of the book from Apologia Educational Ministries, which disputed Charles Darwin’s theory.
“I thought she was going to have a coronary,” Mule said of her daughter, who is now 16 and taking college courses in Houston. “She’s like, ‘This is not true!'”
Christian-based materials dominate a growing home-school education market that encompasses more than 1.5 million students in the U.S. And for most home-school parents, a Bible-based version of the Earth’s creation is exactly what they want. Federal statistics from 2007 show 83 percent of home-schooling parents want to give their children “religious or moral instruction.”
I don’t have stats for the home school atmosphere in Canada, sadly. Hopefully we’re not this bad off. Part of me kind of likes the idea of home schooling. I think it’d help in terms of math and language arts (vocabulary, reading and writing), as those are both areas where kids can benefit from one-on-one instruction and fare better that way. It also allows a parent to build the home curriculum around what the kid has interest in, rather than pushing so soon into stuff of no interest whatsoever. It has to be easier to want to learn when you can learn about stuff you like while you’re at it.
I think that’s part of the reason teachers sometimes fail – they fail to pick up on disinterest in the topic and interpret the lack of attention to attention disorders or rebellion. Given class size, it’s not hard to see why that may be a common first assumption, either. They simply don’t have the time to notice because they’ve got so much they’re expected to accomplish per semester. Some kids are going to drop behind their peers anyway..what difference will the reason for it make in the long run?
For me in school, my suckass class was history/social studies. Hated every year of it that wasn’t about colouring maps or archeology. Grade 9 was my favourite school year ever, simply because we finally got to learn about ancient history. I’d adored the story of Troy since probably grade 6 or so when I fell upon it while bored at an aunt and uncle’s place to the point where even ten minutes with the encyclopedia was worth trying. Getting to finally learn about Mesopotamia and Egypt and the like..well. Heaven on earth for me.
Also worth pointing out – Cyrus the Great gets a mention in the bible. As one who always approached that set of books as badly written fiction, it was something of a shock to discover the guy really existed. I learned about him in history class and that’s what made him real. It didn’t make the bible any more real, but at least then I understood that some parts of it had a basis in history.
But let’s get back to the article. The trouble with religiously inspired home school texts is that they skip over stuff that kids probably ought to be learning about the world, but can’t because they aren’t biblical enough to pass muster – like evolution. If these kids are always surrounded by other kids learning the same limited science, and all go to a university where more censorship of scientific theories is going on, where can they go from there, seminary school? It will severly limit their choices of jobs should some of these kids actually have a brain that could wrap itself around the complexities inherent in some of those scientific fields. They’ll waste their intelligence playing apologist and think they’ve still mastered the art of critical thinking in the process.
A mind is a terrible thing to waste. Again, I’m not saying home schooling is a terrible idea; it’s not. But parents have to be willing to also give their kids stuff that will challenge their thinking. Even if parents don’t believe evolution is a real event in our history, at least tell the kids that it is for other people, and why. Let the kids decide what direction to go with it after. Maybe they’ll be satisfied to be as scientifically vapid as mom and dad. Maybe they’ll be intrigued to the point where they’ll want to find something by Dawkins before they read any more bible verses.
The whole point of education is to teach kids to enjoy learning, isn’t it? Show them how to learn and show them how to take what they learn and apply it in life. Shouldn’t that be the overall goal? Teach them to challenge themselves and their preconceptions. Show them how to be critical thinkers and how to do the research necessary to find the best answers to their questions. Most of the time the bible just won’t have those answers, no matter how much you might try to interpret it.