Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Modifier Mandate

I would like to apply the Modifier Mandate to California State University Northbridge’s (CSUN) school newspaper, the Daily Sundial, and their recent online article “Homeschool isn’t the same as school.”  The Modifier Mandate is simple: All strong opinions should be qualified in order to protect the feelings of people who might be offended.  It was developed from the comments left from a reader of this blog who was insulted by what was perceived as a blanket condemnation of public school teachers in a previous post.   For example, it is wrong to state that “schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for teaching-to-the-test.”  Applying the Modifier Mandate to this statement, it is correct to write that some “schools are places where creativity and independent learning are stifled in exchange for teaching-to-the-test.”   The Modifier Mandate calls for fairness, and is consistent with modern teaching models where feelings are more important for academic achievement than is accuracy or facts. (1) 
It is important to note that the authors of the Daily Sundial essay felt no need to qualify any of their statements concerning homeschooling, homeschoolers, or their parents. Homeschool critics rarely, if ever, acknowledge the successes of or benefits from homeschooling. It is clear from reading the article that homeschooling parents do not have the “credential” to teach their children.  Apparently, there is only one.  Homeschooling “does not allow a child to learn and practice social behaviors and cope outside of the home with others their age.”  The absence of any qualifiers means that all homeschooling parents lack the proper credentials to teach their own children, and there are no homeschools that provide a proper socialization experience for students.   Give the authors credit where credit is due, they took a strong stance and argued for it.
Applying the Modifier Mandate to this article, several important changes are needed. 
Instead of writing that homeschooling “does not allow a child to learn and practice social behaviors and cope outside of the home with others their age,” the authors should have written that some homeschooling “does not allow a child to learn and practice social behaviors and cope outside of the home with others their age.”  To be fair, the reclusive, hermit homeschooling community remains fairly isolated from society.  Oh, they make up .0000000001 percent of homeschoolers, given that the vast majority of homeschooled children participate in activities outside of the home where they come into contact with their public schooled brethren, but the hermits should be mentioned.   
Instead of writing that “homeschooled students only interact with their parents and/or siblings that they see on a day to day basis,” the authors should have written that somehomeschooled students only interact with their parents and/or siblings that they see on a day to day basis.”   
The Modifier Mandate must also be applied to arguments made in favor of public education over home education.   The authors should have written that some “public schools provide qualified teachers, suitable learning facilities and proper social interactions between students.”  You cannot honestly argue that the Oceanside, California, school district provided a qualified teacher to students when they allowed illiterate teacher John Corcoran to teach for 17 years. (2)  You cannot honestly argue that all school districts provide “proper social interactions between students” when the Toronto District School Board of Education and the Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health reported that “33 per cent [of students] say they've been sexually harassed in the past two years; another 29 admit to having been touched or grabbed inappropriately and seven per cent have actually been victims of a major sexual assault.” (3)  The intellectual honesty that one reader believed was lacking from this blog’s last post demands that we cannot even suggest that all schools provide a safe learning environment while ignoring the improper social interactions between students and teachers as documented by the World Net Daily list of the 200+ teachers who have sexually assaulted students. (4)
Homeschooling critics like to argue that no matter how bad public schools can be, with unqualified teachers, teacher on student assaults, student on student assaults, and the all of the other problems that occur in our nation’s schools, public schools are still a better option.  They play the odds, believing that these situations are rare.  They are the exception to the rule.  I say that is like playing Russian Roulette.  You can load the gun with one bullet, spin the cylinder, point the gun at your head, and pull the trigger with good odds that you will survive the experience.  You can enroll your children in public school with good odds that they will survive the experience without harm.  They probably will.  But for those parents who do not wish to play Russian Roulette with their children’s lives, homeshooling is the preferred option.  There are no qualifiers where the health and safety of my children is concerned. 
I will not budge an inch from my defense of home education as long as there are people making unfounded, ignorant, blanket statements such as the ones written in the Daily Sundial editorial without a shred of research, evidence beyond personal anecdote, or the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that homeschooling is successful in the vast majority of circumstances. (5)  Give Linda credit in her last blog post, she documented her writing.  Her sources are available for anyone to read, support, or refute.  It is long past the time for public educators to admit the failures of the public school system and acknowledge that homeschooling works!


  1. Very good.

    ummm..... where are the other comments?

  2. I like the roulette analogy.

    I COULD have qualified my statements with regard to public schooling. However, the post was written to explain MY reasons for not sending my children to public schools. ALL the concerns I highlighted are real and pervasive, though not necessarily all-encompassing. And I am NOT interested in playing Russian Roulette with my children's lives and futures. The fact that there are some good apples in the bunch really doesn't matter to me. If there are some bad apples in the bunch, and I can't control whether my child get's one of the bad ones, I'm not going to take the chance.

    Good post, Arby!

  3. I WILL send my kids to public schools because they can and will find success there.
    In my experiences the success a student has has a lot to do with their parents. In the district I work in parents don't provide this positive role model for very many students. I believe our building provides many of these positive role models for these students and when I have kids I hope they can be a positive peer role model for these students. My main concern will be my own children first and foremost but this world is not all about me and my family. There are many struggling families and students out there and being able to teach my children how to help out and be there for these type of students is a top priority.

    Am I going to go find a terrible district to send my kids to just so they can be this positive influnce? NO. But in every district, good or bad, there are always dark places to shine their light.

    So yes "some" homeschooled students are socially set back and "some" public schools are not satisfactory. Should the focus be on arguing this back and forth? Or should it be doing the best with what we have and trying to influence our children to not only find personal success in academics AND focusing on helping others find success also.

    Public schools will never be fixed and there will always be "risks" to them but I know God has a plan for my life as a teacher and for my future children's lives in public schools. I find peace in that.

    Caleb (brother in law of Leanne)

    I think this post was a little over the top just to prove a point to Leanne and her comments on the last post. Her concern was not to bash homeschooling, actually she is one of the most peaceful parent/teacher you will find. Her concern and mine with this blog is that your purpose of this blog is to bash on public schools because it isn't perfect. As teachers we acknowledge this and do our best to create the best learning environment we can for our class and our school.

    Yes, we get it, adding some doesn't make it as powerful and not including some in the article you find isn't fair. Should this be our focus though????

  4. Caleb,

    Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and respond. If you took the time to read the “Why We Blog” page then you know that the purpose of this blog is to defend homeschooling and not just to bash public schooling. Homeschooling critics relentlessly bash homeschoolers. Homeschooling critics steadfastly maintain that no matter how poorly public schools perform, they are still better than homeschools. I reject that line of thinking.

    If you read the post “Active Parenting Makes the Educational Difference” you would find that we share some common ground in regards to the role of parenting in education. I do not understand how you can call identifying an illiterate teacher who taught in the classroom for 17 years “over the top.” How can you call the Canadian statistics on sexual harassment/assault in public schools “over the top?” Nearly one third of students reported that they've been sexually harassed, touched, or grabbed inappropriately during the past two years. What is “over the top” is your apparent lack of outrage over those statistics. Something is seriously wrong in the public school system, and you are more concerned with a small blog buried deeply in the depths of the website. World Net Daily compiled a list of 200+ teachers that have been arrested and prosecuted for sexual misconduct with students in this country, and your outrage is directed against two people who are willing to step up, speak out, and clearly state that public schools are dangerous. We have very different standards concerning what is and isn’t “over the top.”

    If you are comfortable enrolling your children in public schools, go for it. It is a free country. I respect your right to make the choices that you make for your family. All that homeschoolers ask is the freedom to make educational choices for our families. Unfortunately, there are a great many people in the United States who would deny that freedom to us. We absolutely must stand up for our educational freedom.

  5. So you are offended when people write blanket statements about homeschooling families/children. I was offended when you wrote blanket statements about public schools. Since I teach in a public school and my school is not like any of the school districts you metioned in the previous post, I was offended. What is the difference? My point was...why do you turn around and do the same thing on your blog?

  6. Leanne:
    If you had spent any time reading through this blog you would have read:

    “While problems exist, the vast majority of our public schools are safe. The majority of our public school teachers are dedicated professionals who truly believe in helping children. A student who attends classes each day, works attentively, completes her homework, and studies hard can receive a good education. The difference between students who fail and students who excel is often their parents. It is true more often than it is not that parents who are actively involved in their children’s lives - who instill the value of a good education and force their children to work hard at their studies - are the parents of successful students. Strong, effective parenting can mean the difference between students who do drugs and those who do not. An involved parent can make the difference between a student who distributes pornographic pictures of herself to her friends and a student who does not.”

    I wrote that. It is hardly a blanket condemnation of public schooling.
    What are you trying to accomplish by returning to this blog and the comments section? Are you looking for either of the authors to say, “Oops! You know, you are right. I stand corrected!” That isn’t going to happen. Are you expecting an apology? If you are as offended as claim to be, exercise the little “X” in the box in the upper right hand corner of your computer screen. Your life will be a whole lot more pleasant.

    If you want a dialogue, please start by acknowledging that while you may not see the problems documented on this blog in the public school where you teach, serious problems do exist in public schools in general. I hear you complaining about feeling offended, but I don’t see you arguing against the problems we’ve written about. I have seen them, first hand, in a public school where I taught. I helped two female students address the administration when they each had separate, legitimate sexual assault/harassment complaints against two school employees, one a custodian and the other a teacher. I watched as the school fired the custodian, protected the favored teacher, and reported neither incident to the authorities. So, I’ve seen these problems.

    I will most likely teach in a public or private school again, when my children are older and have left the home. I will return to the schools unafraid to say that there are serious problems that need to be corrected.

    Why can’t you?

  7. Here's a story that happened a long time ago - around 1975: My sister came home from school and mentioned that she didn't like Mr._____'s class. Why? Dad asked. She said she didn't like it when he came up behind her in class and nuzzled her neck. My dad's feet hit the floor and he was out the door.

    It didn't happen again... to my sister. I think nothing happened to the teacher either. I know if the teacher HAD done something more to my sister my dad would have personally seen to it that the matter was ummm.... "addressed" with the teacher.