An Opportunity to Improve Education?
As the shutdown of our nation and much of the world continues, it becomes increasingly likely that most schools won’t reopen before the beginning of the next academic year. About 25 states are keeping schools closed for the remainder of this year, and others are extending closures at least through the end of April.
Attempts to educate students despite the shutdown vary greatly among public school districts, with efforts to provide virtual instruction hit-or-miss at best. Some parents are struggling to grapple with online attendance forms and access assignments for their children. Others prefer waiting until schools can reopen.
An op-ed piece appearing in the March 19, 2020 New York Times is a case in point. A mother of third-grade twins wrote “I am not an expert in teaching third graders,” and said that at the public school her kids receive “numerous services from talented professional educators.” After opining that she is “not a parenting expert either,” she further stated: “Even when everything in our life is working the way it should, and with all the privileges we have — our solid health care, our economic stability, our whiteness [whatever that means—ed.] — we often feel overwhelmed.”
The Homeschooling Advantage
Not all parents agree. Writing in the American Family Association’s March 27 Daily Stand Email, Mission America President Linda Harvey encourages parents caught in the chaos of closed schools to consider permanent homeschooling. “There are many advantages, one being an all-around higher quality education,” she says, adding that “another is to avoid the insidious harm that too often accompanies public school attendance these days.” Harvey points out that, among the additional advantages of missing public school this spring: “Your middle and high schoolers escape the long list of planned ‘LGBTQ’ propaganda events, assemblies and promotions” and notes that parents won’t have to “opt kids out of the porn-laden ‘comprehensive sex education,’” which has become so pervasive.
Former college professor, U.S. Senate candidate, and activist Sam Clovis states in his April 12, 2020 newsletter, Impact: “Parents who are having to stay at home are finding out what is being taught to their children, and many of them are outraged at the curriculum content they are seeing.… I suspect there will be a lot more home schooling going on in the near future.”
But public-school officials seem to be stepping up their attempts to prevent parents from homeschooling. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), reported on April 7 that a parent who wanted to begin a homeschool program in response to the shut down in Palm Beach County, Florida, was stymied by a series of “bureaucratic roadblocks.” The mother said she was told she could not withdraw her children from the public school and therefore “couldn’t homeschool.” HSLDA and other homeschool organizations are now in contact with Palm Beach County district officials to ensure that this family’s children are removed from the school’s rosters. Similar instances are being reported across the country.
Brick-and Mortar Success
Of course, some brick-and-mortar schools are successfully educating students at home through the use of internet tools like Google Classroom, Zoom and Skype. The principal of a small K-8 parochial school in St. Louis County, Missouri, admits it takes dedication on the part of both parents and teachers, but his students are progressing with the help of Google Classroom and Zoom.
At the classical Thomas MacLaren charter school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, students are also using internet tools to complete their school year. MacLaren opened its doors in 2009 to students in grades 6-12 after concerned educators, many of whom were also parents, painstakingly set up the charter. The school’s rigorous curriculum created a lot of interest, and the student body now includes grades K through 12.
There are other positive options in education, including private schools that combine home learning with the in-classroom experience. Often, these schools offer a lower-cost option for families who cannot afford more traditional private schools, while providing a solid curriculum. The COVID-19 pandemic is less likely to cause these students to miss a beat because they routinely work from home at least two days each week.
If there is a beacon in the uncharted waters of the current crisis, it is that pro-family Americans may find new opportunities to improve K-12 education.
Education News Briefs
In June, Harvard Law School’s child advocacy legal clinic will host a “homeschooling summit,” not to support or encourage homeschooling but to demonize it. The summit’s “experts” will explore whether homeschooling is designed to “isolate children from ideas and values central to public education and to our democracy” and observers expect them to go so far as to claim that homeschooling “promotes white supremacy.” Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, leader of the charge to accuse homeschoolers, writes: “Homeschooling not only violates children’s right to a ‘meaningful education’ and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.” All indications are that this “summit” will result in a petition to the federal government to outlaw homeschooling. Dailywire.com 4-19-20
Although things could change in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Donald Trump’s proposed 2021 budget, unveiled in mid-February, would slash education dollars nearly eight percent. This reduction would consolidate 29 education programs, including Title I aid for lower-income students and the allotment for expanding charter schools, into a single block grant. Individual states would be able to use their share of the block grants as they see fit, which U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos says is “what we hope they will do.” Critics of the proposal include the School Superintendents Association, which claims the proposed budget is “bad for public education,” and the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which describes the proposal as “chilling.”
Justice on Trial: The Kavanaugh Confirmation and
the Future of the Supreme Court
Mollie Hemingway and Carrie Severino, Regnery Publishing, 2019, $28.99
The story of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation reads like a work of fiction, rife with false allegations, corruption, deceit, and even threats of violence at the highest levels of government.
Conservative-leaning authors Hemingway and Severino do a masterful job of covering the behind-the-scenes elements of this national circus as well as what was made public.
For many observers, the battle to confirm Kavanaugh was really about abortion. Most advocates of abortion know that the Roe vs. Wade decision was based on the constitutionally shaky premise of an implied “right-to-privacy.” They view a stricter constitutionalist makeup of the Supreme Court as a threat to abortion rights. When the Kavanaugh nomination became news, a national outcry arose and protesting mobs took to the streets. Coat hangers and threats were mailed to key senators.
Some Democrats pandered to the mobs and played to the anti-Kavanaugh media. During the Senate Judiciary Committee’s exhaustive review of Kavanaugh’s documents and lower court rulings, Senator Cory Booker contrived what he called his “Spartacus moment.” Booker announced he would violate Senate rules (and willingly risk jail time) by publicly releasing “committee confidential” emails that he claimed showed Kavanaugh’s racial bias during his stint in the Bush Administration. Booker’s reference was to a famous 1960 movie scene where a group of fellow slaves all claimed to be Spartacus to help the title character avoid crucifixion. Although Booker’s analogy was widely criticized as silly, his theatrics are a good example of the lengths to which some politicians and media pundits were willing to go to derail the nomination. And the emails merely served to show Kavanaugh’s opposition to racial profiling.
When President Trump appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the high court, it stirred up significant opposition, with only three Democrats from red states voting yes. But Kavanaugh’s impeccable reputation for making fair and constitutionally sound legal decisions unleashed a frenzy of viciousness from the left that had not been seen since the ugly battle to confirm Judge Robert Bork. Even moderate Republicans questioned Kavanaugh’s nomination, and Senators Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine became key votes in the confirmation fight.
Despite increasingly ominous attacks on her family and personal safety, Senator Collins practiced due diligence in her pursuit of the truth. In the end, she voted to confirm Kavanaugh. Murkowski voted no.
Predictably, the Christine Blasey Ford saga is detailed in the book, beginning with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s 20-day delay in delivering the accusatory letter. Ford was given five extensions in which to testify, and everyone involved jumped through hoops to ensure she got her day in court. The inconsistencies in her testimony were on obvious display, however, and the final FBI investigation could not corroborate her allegations, which were subsequently dismissed.
Justice On Trial is a fairly presented and extensively researched compilation of the unfounded attacks on an honorable man that nearly destroyed him and his family. It’s also a fascinating read. The authors provide historical context as well as the unpleasant details of what has become the all-too-familiar process of “lynching” Supreme Court nominees. They note that “as the unelected bureaucrats of the burgeoning administrative state exercise de facto legislative power, the only remaining constraint on them is constitutionalists in the judiciary.”
MALLARD FILLMORE / by Bruce Tinsley