Thursday, April 23, 2009

A mind is truly a terrible thing to waste

I was driving around town the other day with Anna in tow in the back seat and we came across a billboard for a local Christian School (see the link to the school above). From a distance, I thought it might be an ad for the amazing Binder Park Zoo in Battle Creek, as they often use cheeky animals to catch your eye on the road. One of my favorites from past years showed a giraffe with its tongue stuck on a pole with the copy saying: Closed for winter, for a good reason. As we got closer, I realized that it was not for the zoo, but for Jackson Christian School. The ad is certainly provocative and will appeal to a number of folks in this gun n’ God lovin’ town of ours, but it bothered me to think that this school was using one book to teach their students: the bible. While I have nothing against the good word, I do have issue with it being the only text in the education of their students in regards to science.

I also have nothing against religious or other private schools, as long as they prepare the students for REAL LIFE and an education beyond what they can offer to the student in K 12. I have had plenty of students come to me from the various private schools (both religious and not) with no art background what so ever. I begin to discuss the Renaissance and start dropping common names like da Vinci and Michelangelo and they know nothing beyond the TMNT. And don’t even get me started on home schooling.

That is child abuse, plain and simple.

I have had many students come to me at the college who were home schooled and couldn’t handle the rigor of a regular classroom. Their work was unprofessional and their social skills were usually in the toilet. I remember taking one of my first classes at JCC to the library for orientation with one of the librarians. She was talking to the students and getting to know them, asking where they went to school and the like, and it came out that one of the students was home schooled. The librarian nodded and went on with her talk. She then asked who in the group had a library card. She immediately put her hand out in front of the home schooler expecting him to drop one in her hand. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. She became indignant with him and began yelling at him in front of the other students. “What do your parents use for textbooks?” “How do you do research?” and a whole host of other queries. It became apparent that his Mom was his sole educator and she relied on what she could find on line and with what help their church offered. He was apparently a graduate, but had never done anything in the way of chemistry, music, or art. And, did I mention he was socially retarded?

Now, we go to weekly tumbling lesson with Anna at a local park with a rec center and we get to see what is going on with the home schooled kids in the way of phys ed. Basically, the gym is open with some equipment out and they go in and stand around. Some of them actually play, but most of them keep to themselves and their book/Ipod/or imaginary friend and go about their business. And, did I mention they were socially retarded?
And the parents? They are not there. I can only assume that this their prep hour and they are at home busy working on lessons and handouts. I talked with one of the Moms who is home schooling her entire family and asked her what was done for art and art history for the kids and the kids in the local home schooling association. She sighed and said it was hard to do all that in the course of a day and that with all these kids, it was tough to do ANYTHING. But somehow they managed to get out of the house for playtime and tumbling. And, did I mention they were socially retarded?

So some may say that I am being too harsh, but when I asked the Mom what her educational background was she laughed and said that she depends on the local home school group for help and that was IT. Great. She can’t handle her own kids at home let alone teaching them all at their various levels. While some may get all nostalgic and reference the one room school houses of yore they must realize that these were usually taught by actual trained teachers from one of them there university type places and not some Mom or Dad with little or no education or pedagogy experience.

So why am I so pissy about this issue?

As parents, we need to do whatever we can to prepare our children for the real world, and that includes their education, both religious and secular. If a parent puts their own beliefs first and limits their child’s education to either bible-based curricula or goes at it on their own, they are putting their child at risk in the future because of THEIR beliefs and that is child abuse. There are those that equate LGBT parents with child abuse, as they feel that we will raise a kid that will eventually be Gay. This twisted logic is behind many ballot initiatives and ridiculous legislation prohibiting LGBT adoption and foster care. “It’s for the kids!” is the typical whine from the right, so I am adding my voice to this never ending chorus. “It’s for the kids, dammit!” We need to prepare and arm our kids with knowledge and the skills to compete in an ever-evolving society.

While I have no hard evidence (only theory) to support my belief in evolution, I also have no proof that the world was created in 6 days by some dude with a beard and a mauve robe (if you know the work of Michelangelo, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about). But I will teach Anna the wonders of science and watch gleefully as she trots off to Sunday School each week for a more biblical perspective. It takes a village for sure, and I am glad that Tod and I are not in this alone and that we can rely on the amazing machine that is known as public education… with all its good and bad points. Yes, we’ll do our best to supplement what Anna learns at school with our own perspective, but we won’t be the only voices she hears in her quest for knowledge. Nor will we limit her exposure to books other than the bible. There is much out there in the world, for all children. The misedumacation of a children is inacceptable.

Just look at the past 8 years.