Creationism, education, and the state

All right, here’s a rant for you.

There’s a news story circulating about the well-known fact that homeschooling texts are ignoring or even (the audacity!) criticizing mainstream science in favor of creationism. The usual suspects have emerged to show their disgust of the benighted institution of homeschooling. There’s a poll up at MSNBC asking the question, “Is it OK for home-school textbooks to dismiss the theory of evolution?” Wait, what does “OK” mean here? Are they asking, “Do you think it’s good that home-school textbooks do this?” or “Is it healthy for society that they do this?” The ambiguity in the question itself implies that what they really want to know is, “Should the authorities allow parents to teach their kids this stuff?” The mantra among most secularists that I’ve heard on this issue is that homeschooling should be, preferably, illegal or, at very least, strictly regulated for content by the state. Thus, the following rant.

You’ll not find a stauncher advocate of teaching mainstream science in homeschool curricula than me, nor anyone who is more disturbed that homeschooling is usually used as a shelter from science education. But parents indubitably have more of a right to teach their children creationism than the state has to teach its belief systems. And don’t try to tell me that public education is not teaching belief systems: no one has the absolute truth, so whether it’s parent-approved, community-approved, or state-approved, there are beliefs and value judgments about what the truth is, some of them surely quite accurate, that are being taught. Claiming a monopoly on truth enforceable against other people’s children is nothing short of intellectual fascism, the rule of the thought police instituted by those who think better than the ignorant masses. But until the state assumes the role of deciding whether or not people can produce their own offspring and raise them from birth and as long as no ideologies are being taught that directly advocate violence or other tangible abuse, education must also be left in the hands of the parents. At least homeschoolers aren’t using taxpayer dollars to teach their agendas.

Homeschool critics often compare teaching creationism to teaching 2+2=5; I happen to think they’re not so far off. But this doesn’t mean the state has a right to stick its Cyrano de Bergerac into things. Most of the homeschooled, like me, will eventually learn better (and more’s the pity for them if their faith is tied to creationism), but even if they don’t, life will somehow go on. It really will.

Maybe one day everyone will accept mainstream science and reject creationism. No doubt by that time some subgroup or other will reject some other commonly accepted truth for some reason; it’s only human to do so (so evolution tells us). But I refuse to accept that our ruling intelligentsia should manage society like some intellectual Gestapo by the bully force of the government. Maybe we should just do our best for those over whom we have influence. Maybe we should trust that the truly better ideas will win the day. And maybe, in the meantime, we should learn to exercise a little patience with those who don’t understand as much as we think we do now.

Nah…that sounds a little too Christian.

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  • Most of the homeschooled, like me, will eventually learn better (and more’s the pity for them if their faith is tied to creationism), but even if they don’t, life will somehow go on. It really will.

    But the issue isn't whether life will cease to exist or not, in the first place. It's about what we make of our lives, and the argument from some is that we are, collectively, making it worse by homeschooling our children (on average).

    Otherwise, I agree with you that it should not be illegal to homeschool, like PZ has implied.

  • Bjørn,

    …the argument from some is that we are, collectively, making it worse by homeschooling our children (on average).

    I understand that point – I really do. But I don't think it's gotten to be quite that big of a problem, and nor do I think it ever will, no more than a lot of creationists' fear that acknowledging common descent with animals will lead to human bestial activity. Creationists are whining more loudly because they're recognizing they're an endangered species. Evangelical Christians are slowly, but more surely than ever, turning their backs on creationism. This is despite its popularity among homeschoolers.

    Homeschooling generally teaches much more about how to learn and how to think than our state schools, even if it proceeds to occasionally teach them wrong information here and there. It's a model that depends on the kids' learning to study up for themselves, and insomuch as it does so, I expect we'll see a lot more homeschool graduates like myself who abandon creationism. I have no real evidence for this conjecture, but here's hoping. (And heck – I'm usually a pessimist.) 😉

  • It could be worse —

    Judge Gives German Homeschool Family Asylum

    A U.S. immigration judge has granted political asylum to a German family who homeschooled their children.

    The Romeike family fled to the U.S. to escape Germany's harsh restrictions against homeschooling. It's the first decision of its kind involving German homeschoolers, and clears the way for the Romeike family, including their five children, to stay in Morristown, Tenn., where they have been living since 2008.

    As CBN News has reported, Germany has the most repressive laws against homeschooling in all of the nations that comprise the European Union. It is illegal most of the time in the country and homeschoolers are treated like common criminals.

    AND
    Christian Family Threatened by UK Homeschool Bill

    Christian couple Randall and Mary Hardy have successfully home-schooled three of their six children … in Market Drayton, England.

    The parents say their family has benefited from home schooling, not just academically, but also emotionally and spiritually. Yet, a bill currently before Parliament threatens the Hardy's right to homeschool their children.

    The Children's, Schools and Families bill proposed in Parliament says home-schooling parents should be forced to apply annually for registration and mandates criminal background checks for parents who wish to homeschool.

    It would also give local governments the authority to monitor home-schooled children to check if they are safe and well. But Randall Hardy is outraged at the intrusion the legislation would cause.

    Would teaching evolutionary creationism hold off the nanny-gov wolves?

  • But, but, but… 2+2 does equal 5 for large values of 2 [smile].

    ~Luke

    • HA! That made me chortle aloud, Luke.

    • Ha! That got an audible chortle out of me. 🙂

  • Ha! That got an audible chortle out of me. 🙂

  • Tim Martin

    Steve,

    Thanks for your comments here. As a previously homeschooled student and now homeschooling father of 7 who rejects young-earth creationism, I totally agree.

    I have written in the past about the current scene regarding homeschooling and the Genesis debate. You can see one specific example here:

    http://planetpreterist.com/news-5589.html

    Those who are critical of homeschooling as a matter of principle need to understand something. As a general rule, homeschoolers tend to be free-thinkers, inquisitive, and independent. There are a few leaders in the homeschooling movement who are bent on turning curriculum into a brainwashing tool. Why do you think they want to do that?

    I do not believe they will be successful in the long term. In fact, I believe the reason they are resorting to removing even-handed discussion of the issue is because they know what happens when all of the evidence is presented. In fact, I think they understand, at some level, that their own ability to instill free-thinking, critical thinking, and inquisitive skills into homeschoolers will naturally lead to the demise of their cherished paradigm of Genesis creation.

    Here is my prediction. Over the long term, it will be homeschooled students that accomplish the most in bringing down the pathetic young-earth creationist/dispensationalist paradigm from Genesis to Revelation. It may take a generation. It may take two generations. But the homeschoolers are the ones who will get the job done. They have been given all of the skills necessary to be successful.

    Steve, you are one example of which I speak. I am another. There are many more out there. There will be a multitude in the future.

    Blessings,

    Tim Martin
    http://www.BeyondCreationScience.com

  • Christians are slowly, but more surely than ever, turning their backs on creationism. This is despite its popularity among homeschoolers.

    How do you know this?

    Homeschooling generally teaches much more about how to learn and how to think than our state schools, even if it proceeds to occasionally teach them wrong information here and there.

    Funny you should say exactly that, because one criticism of homeschooling is that the parents do it because they wish to teach (read: brainwash) them creationism as scientific fact (among other scientifically incorrect things). Critical thinking is thus anathema to their agenda.

    Those who are critical of homeschooling as a matter of principle need to understand something. As a general rule, homeschoolers tend to be free-thinkers, inquisitive, and independent.

    If you're going to generalize, please back it up with some data. Or I say the opposite: generally, homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians who can't think for themselves, don't care to learn anything but dogma, and a dependent of their pastor to tell them what to think. (Btw, I am not against homeschooling in principle – only as long as those who do it do it badly, as the case is now [on average]).

    Here is my prediction. Over the long term, it will be homeschooled students that accomplish the most in bringing down the pathetic young-earth creationist/dispensationalist paradigm from Genesis to Revelation. It may take a generation. It may take two generations. But the homeschoolers are the ones who will get the job done. They have been given all of the skills necessary to be successful.

    Again, what do you base this preposterous prediction on?

  • Tim Martin

    Well,

    I suppose I can base it on historical fact.

    I was homeschooled during the 80s. Now you can check out my website and published work on the topic at hand:

    http://www.BeyondCreationScience.com

    I am hearing from more and more homeschool grads who have come to reject young-earth creationism all the time. I believe my experience is just the beginning, just as my experience of being homeschooled took place during the “early days” of the modern homeschool movement. It's always fun to be a little ahead of the curve.

    I guess we'll see more about how this plays out in the future, won't we?

    Blessings,

    Tim Martin

  • Tim, if you are serious, then show the evidence, rather than referring me to a commercial site.

    What historical fact are you referring to? That you were homeschooled in the eighties?

    You are” hearing more and more…”? That's evidence?

    Frankly, you being homeschooled and calling anecdotal evidence historical fact would be extremely ironic.

  • Bjørn,

    Until you provide evidence yourself of the following, I don't think Tim has much to prove to you.

    …one criticism of homeschooling is that the parents do it because they wish to teach (read: brainwash) them creationism as scientific fact (among other scientifically incorrect things).

    Source?

    : generally, homeschoolers are fundamentalist Christians who can't think for themselves, don't care to learn anything but dogma, and a dependent of their pastor to tell them what to think.

    Source?

    Now, these are blog comments, not serious journalism, a peer reviewed journal, or a laboratory, so I can understand your decision to make mere assertions such as these based upon your emotional revulsion toward religion. However, to pretend that Tim's predictions that are based upon his experience with different homeschooling groups from all over the U.S. as a result of his “commercial” endeavors need sources while yours don't is just plain silly.

  • Steve – seriously – my claims were made to emphasize that if Tim can make his claims “based on historical fact” without any reference, then so can I, in order to show how empty that is.

    But the “brainwash” criticism is easy enough to locate, and I don't really believe you think that this criticism exists is in dispute, right?

  • my claims were made to emphasize that if Tim can make his claims “based on historical fact”

    Actually, your remarks I quoted were prior to his “historical fact” comment. My point was that demanding proof for his personal observations seemed a little melodramatic. The implication of your comments was that as long as his observations remained unsubstantiated by statistics, studies, etc. that they were contradicted by your own (unsubstantiated) hunch about homeschooling. Until you provide evidence for your “general rule” beyond your personal observations, he needs no evidence beyond his personal observations. All you are demonstrating by quoting the “brainwash” criticism is that there are people who disagree with Tim. I'm pretty sure we already knew that. 😉

  • Steve, come on! Yes, Tim wrote his comment with the words “based in historical fact” after I wrote “my claims were made to emphasize that if Tim can make his claims “based on historical fact””. But do scroll up and have another look.

    Tim started making claims of generality, as well as a prediction. I asked him for some evidence, and also made a mock prediction of my own to emphasize the futility of doing such things without evidence (or, since this is after all just a friendly blog, at least just a note on what the basis he is making them on). Tim's answer was “based on historical fact.”

    Until you provide evidence for your “general rule” beyond your personal observations, he needs no evidence beyond his personal observations.

    Again, i made those statements just to make it clear that statements like that can be made any which way when one does not need to say on what they are based. He made statements of generality first, and I called him out. Here's is what he said:

    As a general rule, homeschoolers tend to be free-thinkers, inquisitive, and independent.

    That is what I reacted to. I also asked him how he knows that “Christians are slowly, but more surely than ever, turning their backs on creationism. This is despite its popularity among homeschoolers.” He answer was the one about “based on historical fact.” All I'm saying (or, intended to convey, rather), is that if you make general claims and say they are based on historical fact, then surely you could share information about the source of that data. Except, if it's his own personal observations, then do I even need to say that such anecdotal evidence counts for nothing?

  • Steve, come on! Yes, Tim wrote his comment with the words “based in historical fact” after I wrote “my claims were made to emphasize that if Tim can make his claims “based on historical fact””. But do scroll up and have another look.

    Tim started making claims of generality, as well as a prediction. I asked him for some evidence, and also made a mock prediction of my own to emphasize the futility of doing such things without evidence (or, since this is after all just a friendly blog, at least just a note on what the basis he is making them on). Tim's answer was “based on historical fact.”

    Until you provide evidence for your “general rule” beyond your personal observations, he needs no evidence beyond his personal observations.

    Again, i made those statements just to make it clear that statements like that can be made any which way when one does not need to say on what they are based. He made statements of generality first, and I called him out. Here's is what he said:

    As a general rule, homeschoolers tend to be free-thinkers, inquisitive, and independent.

    That is what I reacted to. I also asked him how he knows that “Christians are slowly, but more surely than ever, turning their backs on creationism. This is despite its popularity among homeschoolers.” He answer was the one about “based on historical fact.” All I'm saying (or, intended to convey, rather), is that if you make general claims and say they are based on historical fact, then surely you could share information about the source of that data. Except, if it's his own personal observations, then do I even need to say that such anecdotal evidence counts for nothing?