A Celestial Education?

July 5, 2011 | 96 comments
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Michelle Stone’s “Celestial Education” philosophy is seriously misguided and theologically dangerous.

As far as I can tell, Stone does not have much of an Internet presence, but her video (you can see it here) has been making the rounds–showing up in Facebook comments and being mentioned on homeschooling message boards.

I have the following objections to the pedagogy that she presents:

(1) It is based on many historical inaccuracies: the Pilgrims [1] did not read Shakespeare (00:02:46; they were virulently opposed to the theater), all 19th century school books were not based on the Bible (00:05:57; Euclid was used to teach geometry until the 20th century, to take just one example), John Dewey was not responsible for the Dewey Decimal system (00:11:21; she’s thinking of Melvil Dewey), John Dewey was not a proponent of secular humanism (00:12:09; he signed a statement in support of religious humanism). These might seem to be minor issues and I can easily imagine making some verbal gaffes if speaking off-the-cuff, particularly in the middle of a 2 hour and 41 minute (!) presentation.

However, she makes more serious errors as well. For example, she argues that many early 20th century education reforms were enacted under the guise of increasing literacy, but were really a Trojan horse meant to destroy the power of religion and families. She says, “literacy has never been a real problem in America, until now” (00:10:13). This is not accurate; in 1870, 20% of the population was illiterate, including 80% of African Americans. In 1979, 0.6% of all adults and 1.6% of African Americans were illiterate. (I realize 1979 was a generation ago, but it is the most recent data I could find that was both historical and included minority group members; I encourage you to look at the source for that data here.)

She also, in the context of talking about “the disobedience of our great-grandfathers,” mentions Brown v. Board of education (00:22:20) as an example. It is possible that she thinks that Brown was the case that ended school prayer (listen to that segment yourself and see what you think); the case that actually ended school prayer was Engel v. Vitale. If she said Brown when she meant Engel, that’s a factual slip. If she meant that Brown was an example of disobedience to God’s principles, well, I don’t think I can be charitable or reasonable in responding to someone who thinks that being obedient to God requires racial segregation of public schools, so I won’t say any more about that.

(2) Her premise is that tax-funded public schools are contrary to God’s will (see, e.g. 00:04:20, 00:06:34, 00:08:15 and many others); she says that “clearly government education is not God’s system” (00:09:06) and “we know that the prophets and the scriptures, God’s laws and teachers, are opposed to public education” (00:12:36) and that “the system is the devil’s” (00:25:58). She uses quotations from 19th century LDS leaders to support this position and claims that public school was only allowed in Utah “so we could have statehood.” She comes perilously close to saying that several generations of Saints have been cursed because of a decision by earlier prophets to allow public schools so that Utah could become a state. A few responses to this:

(a) The context of 19th century denunciations of allowing LDS children to be taught “by the Gentiles” was not an eternal principle, but rather involved the practice of anti-LDS Christian missionaries who came to Utah to set up schools to convert LDS children to their version of Christianity. It is no surprise, then, that people like John Taylor said that LDS children should only be taught by LDS teachers. But this is not the context today.

(b) Today, modern prophets have not spoken out against public schools. To the contrary, President Hinckley has said, “as a people we have supported public education” and “I am pleased to note that there is a public awakening to the need to prioritize our educational resources and programs” (source here). President Monson has said, “the Church has always had a vital interest in public education” (source here). And despite the voluminous counsel regarding education in recent years, there has not been counsel to avoid public schools; in the closest thing to counsel on the topic (source here), it is explained that the church has no official position on homeschooling, that the church closes church K-12 schools when local governments are able to provide adequate schools, that there is a First Presidency statement that encourages members to support their public schools, and that “the Church has not withdrawn its traditional support for a strong public school system.”

(c) At this point, Stone might seem to fit the definition of someone who prefers the words of a dead prophet to the words of a living one, but it is actually much worse than that. She states that some people will say that “we need to just listen to what the prophet is saying now, that doesn’t apply to us. It is an interesting thing that happens in the Church: when the prophet speaks, and the Saints disobey, the prophets don’t keep speaking on that topic. It’s called the lower law” (00:22:47). In other words, the reason that the Brethren stopped criticizing the public schools was not that the public schools were OK, but because the Saints were not listening, and so now the Saints must live with the lower law of public schools, although those who want to live a higher law will avoid public schools. In other words, the words of 19th century prophets reflect the higher law and current prophets reflect the lower law. (One wonders what she thinks about, say, polygamy.) This is one of the most dangerous theological positions that a Latter-day Saint can take on any topic. This is so incredibly dangerous because it allows you to disregard everything prophets are saying in modern times and select what you like from former times and claim that you are living a higher law. She states that we are losing blessing by not being obedient to the higher teachings of the prophets if we are using public schools because although “our prophets no longer talk about tax-funded schools, it is not because God has changed his mind. It is just because we are living the lower law.”

(d) I wonder if she has really thought through the consequences of living in a society without public schools. At one point (1:57:40), she addresses the objection to the elimination of tax-funded public schools that some people wouldn’t educate their children if there were no such schools. She has two answers to this objection; one is that literacy rates were better before public education (see above for a rebuttal). Her second response is to quote Thomas Jefferson as saying, “It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible transportation and education of the infant against the will of the father.” But she does not read the rest of Jefferson’s statement: “What is proposed… is to remove the objection of expense, by offering education gratis.” In other words, free public education! Even the most cursory study of Jefferson’s life shows that he was intimately involved in the advancement of taxpayer-support public schools.

(3) She also has many strange theological beliefs:

(a) She intimates that, had there been compulsory attendance laws at the time, Joseph Smith would not have had the First Vision (00:04:35). I find it odd that she thinks that the Lord’s plan to restore the gospel could have been stymied by a handful of legislators making young Joseph go to school for half the day, for half the year.

(b) She implies that Church attendance, family scripture study and family prayer are not “enough” (00:34:42) and that “celestial education” is required of the Saints. (I would assume that current prophets and apostles would tell us what is “enough” for our families.) She says that gospel education is “insufficient” if the child is taught in a secular school: “even if they come through spiritually unscathed, intact, it is still insufficient” (02:06:38). The implication is that the 95% or so of Church members and leaders who were educated in public schools and choose to (or, have no choice but to) educate their children in public schools are lacking, despite whatever commitment to the gospel and its practices (temple attendance, serving in callings, scripture study, etc.) they observe. This is flat-out wrong. It also implies that current church leaders are failing in their duty to lead the Saints since they are not teaching the “necessary” principles of “celestial” education.

(c) She argues at length (01:10:07 and following) that children under eight should be with their mothers full time (including school time). She says that if they aren’t, they are throwing away a gift (1:10:07) and that the mother is to act as the Holy Ghost for that child (1:12:30). At 1:16:27, she describe the common scene of mothers crying when their first child goes to the first day of kindergarten and a more experienced mother telling them that it gets easier with every child. She says that this crying is a prompting of the Holy Ghost that the child is to be with the mother and that the reason it gets easier with each child is that the Spirit is quieter as it is ignored. (One wonders what she would make of parents crying at the MTC–is the Spirit testifying that their children shouldn’t go on missions?)

(d) It is hard to follow her train of thought at points, but she seems to be saying that people who are enslaved end up enslaved because they chose to be wicked and that freedom is a reward for the righteous (1:56:47).

(4) Her educational theory is amorphous, but what I could glean of it seems wrongheaded:

(a) She says, “if we introduce contention into our homes by requiring them to finish their homework or whatever it is, the Spirit flees.” (1:30:33). I actually wasn’t sure whether to put this one under bad theology or bad pedagogy; it is probably a little of both. In any case, her premise is that parents should not ever force children to do academic work. Not only is this against the law for home schoolers in most states, but it is contrary to the pattern of the gospel. L. Tom Perry said this in conference: ‘”I used to think some days as I ran home from school that I was through learning for the day, but this illusion was quickly destroyed when I saw my mother standing at the door waiting for me. When we were young, we each had a desk in the kitchen where we could continue to be taught by her as she performed household duties and prepared supper. She was a natural teacher and far more demanding of us than our teachers at school and church. The scope of Mother’s teaching included both secular and spiritual lessons. She made sure none of us were falling behind in our schoolwork, which she would often supplement” (source here). Sometimes kids need to be reproved with sharpness (D & C 121:43); this is not the same as inviting contention and/or causing the Spirit to flee.

(b) In terms of educational approach and not theological approach, my biggest complaint with her presentation is that it leaves the novice homeschooler with absolutely no idea of what to do on Monday morning (except to pray, but I’m guessing they already knew that). She is short on nuts and bolts, except that you should seek the Spirit. The one concrete example (1:32:10) of an assignment that she gives in nearly three hours of talking is this: have your child write everything that they know about a topic. Then have them pray about the topic and then write everything they know about the topic. She seems to have missed the “by study” part in D & C 88:118.

(c) Another one of the very few specifics that she mentions is an objection to having math requirements, because that would have kept C. S. Lewis out of Oxford. She mentions that a celestial study of math involves the study of “God’s favorite numbers” (2:30:45). I really don’t know how she would translate statements like “now remember all truth is spiritual. We don’t need to separate out and be fearful that our kids won’t know math” (1:05:07) into the nuts and bolts of actually homeschooling a child, but I suspect that the results would not be good. They would not be legal in most states, where homeschoolers are required to teach basic subjects. Particularly when combined with the idea that the parent must not “force” academic material on the child, I see the potential for a lot of students to, well, not reach their own potential. Although she dismisses the idea at a few points, it is worth remembering that the current counsel to LDS youth is that they get all the education they can (not all the education they want) and that they be prepared to financially support a family.

(d) She is deeply suspicious of all experts. But part of D & C 88:118 is learning “by study,” and that implies studying experts. She states that when it comes to school boards, psychologists, and education and child development experts, “almost to a man, I don’t know of any of these educational experts that share my beliefs, that have my same light and knowledge.” That is quite an insult to the many members of the Church and other good people in the world who serve in these capacities.

(5) There are, to be fair, a few good ideas hiding in here. (But they in no way justify 2 hours and 41 minutes of your life in order to find them.) I share them in the spirit of being fair:

(a) I like that instead of thinking of teens as selfish, we think of them as people who only have stewardship for themselves (1:37:02).

(b) I like her idea that we shouldn’t be capitalists or socialists but “consecrationists” (1:54:27) (Although I thought her swipe at socialists was unnecessary.)

(c) She also points to the dangerous lessons schools can inadvertently teach, such as materialism (00:45:06). (Of course, homeschooling is no guarantee against this and it is not inevitable in the schools, either.)

(d) She says that schools can foster competitiveness (scholarships, sports, GPA, etc.) and that she wants her neighbors’ kids to do as well as her own (02:35:35).

*****

If you make it to 1:12:10 where she says “ninety percent of the brain is formed by the age of eight . . . or maybe the age of two. Anyway . . .” or 1:45:51 where she criticizes “that French guy–I can’t think of his name” (1:45:51)[2] who taught a “lie” that was “a big deal” and “a satanic deception” by placing humans in the animal kingdom, you might be wondering why I would bother responding to a presentation of this quality with a lengthy and detailed post. it is because her video has been making the rounds of LDS homeschoolers.

It is harsh but true to note that new LDS homeschoolers tend to be uncertain and insecure. They may be the only one they know–the only one in the ward, the only one in the family–to homeschool. They see communities full of evangelical Protestant homeschoolers and they want that kind of support and direction, but they know they can’t quite use the evangelical version. They want “the Mormon version.” So a presentation like this seems appealing, particularly with the numerous scripture and GA quotations sprinkled throughout. Its authoritative posture seems to provide certainty and security. But the problem is, as one colleague of mine described it, “she may have taken a perfectly good idea (seeking inspiration for your child’s education) and surrounded it with a giant tangle of dangerous nonsense.” The idea of seeking inspiration will resonate (as it should!) but the bizarre spin that she puts on it (avoiding experts, not requiring anything of children, not relying on “study” but just “faith,” opposing public education) should be avoided. I wrote this post with the goal of sharing the dangers of her way of thinking.

Finally, I want to note that I am a big supporter of home education and I am deeply committed to homeschooling my own kids. But I don’t think that we need to disparage the public schools, invent a theological requirement for homeschooling, or assume that the Brethren aren’t guiding us correctly in order to support homeschooling.

*****

[1] She also says that the Pilgrims came to avoid religious persecution (00:02:22). We might let this go since it is part of the national myth that we teach all of the elementary-age students at Thanksgiving, but it is worth noting that the Pilgrims went to Holland to avoid religious persecution and they had all of the religious freedom there that they wanted. What they were concerned about was their children assimilating into the larger culture, and hence the move to the new world. They came to the New World not to escape persecution, but to escape assimilation.

[2] I think she was talking about Linnaeus since he is generally credited with developing the modern taxonomic system, but he was Swedish, so I’m not sure.

96 Responses to A Celestial Education?

  1. Steve on July 5, 2011 at 9:34 pm

    O.K.

    That was plain loony.

    I assume she finds the church universities corrupt because they teach math, evolutionary science, etc.

  2. jks on July 5, 2011 at 9:42 pm

    Very interesting. Thanks for the review.

  3. Tim on July 5, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Could she have meant Lamarck? He was French, and an early proponent of evolution.

  4. J. Stapley on July 5, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    Wow. Thanks for the review, Julie.

  5. Ben Park on July 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    This is a fantastic resource, Julie; I’ll be referring and referring others to this quite often. Thanks.

  6. MissMOE on July 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm

    Great review! YOu did what I couldn’t do–make it all the way through the awefulness!

  7. Julie M. Smith on July 5, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Tim, maybe. But the context was taxonomy, not evolution per se.

  8. Jana H on July 5, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    Thanks for this piece, Julie!

    Last week I saw a comment of yours on an LDS homeschooling blog that I read, and I was delighted to have an unexpected “blog worlds collide!” experience. Consequently, I was led to your comments on “Thomas Jefferson Education,” and I appreciated reading that — and now this!

    Thanks for being a good resource for those of us starting out on our homeschooling journey.

  9. CatherineWO on July 5, 2011 at 10:59 pm

    Thank you, Julie, for this thorough review. I will definitely be bookmarking this. It’s this kind of person who gives homeschooling a bad rap. I had heard of this approach through a relative’s blog and was just astounded. I know many homeschooling parents who spend many hours researching and planning curiculum and do a great job of preparing their children for higher education and for life, but I have one family member who is of the same philosophy of Ms. Stone and it is really quite scary. I really appreciate your rebuttal and all the references.

  10. Amira on July 5, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Julie, I’m glad you have a place like this to post about homeschooling.

  11. Jeremy on July 6, 2011 at 12:08 am

    This scares the hell out of me.

  12. MM2H on July 6, 2011 at 12:41 am

    My goodness. It’s hard to see, but if you look really closely at the top of the screen, you can see the bottom of the rock under which this meeting took place.

  13. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 12:52 am

    My question is, if you don’t trust the government to run your churches why on earth would you trust them the teach/raise your children?

    David O McKay:
    “If and when the time ever comes that parents shift to the state the responsibility of rearing their children, the stability of the nation will be undermined, and its impairment and disintegration will have begun.”

    Yes, you are right, it matters not what a prophet says, it is what the spirit tells you, so you must use the spirit and study to divine the truth of things from prophets and whatever other source you find.

    I think, in an ideal world, you could send your child to a private school that would do better than the parent at teaching but violent monopolies destroy innovations, hence, all the regulations hamper schools.

    It is also true that the best teacher of a child is the child him/herself. They only need so much education before they can start learning on their own. Yes, they continue to need guidance but they should be able to pick up a book/essay/research paper (written by an expert) and learn from it without the parent, that is the ideal, in my mind.

    Eventually though they do need to be around like minded people in their own field of choice to be able to learn better and more. At the moment, government universities are the easiest/cheapest option.

    Are you a socialist? Why don’t you dislike the capitalist swipe too?

  14. scw on July 6, 2011 at 1:05 am

    Thanks for this review. I have heard some comments about literacy rate from a home schooler in my ward and am glad to know what the source is. The sad thing is, his kids can’t read, even the scriptures, when asked to do so in sunday school.

  15. Geoff-A on July 6, 2011 at 4:22 am

    What is this with religious people, ours and others not wanting their children to go through the state supplied education system? Is it a political thing? I do not understand.

    We have members here who cripple themselves financially sending their kids to private schools (some spend $30,000 per year) and others who see home schooling as a cheaper alternative.

    All of my kids went through the public school system. None were lead astray, all except one now have uni degrees. I was even the president of the P&C for a couple of years.

    Do they have the same attitude to other services provided by government bodies, water, libraries, roads, police, roads. Could someone please explain what is wrong with the public education system that makes home schooling a necessity?

  16. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 6:46 am

    In other words, the reason that the Brethren stopped criticizing the public schools was not that the public schools were OK, but because the Saints were not listening, and so now the Saints must live with the lower law of public schools, although those who want to live a higher law will avoid public schools. In other words, the words of 19th century prophets reflect the higher law and current prophets reflect the lower law. (One wonders what she thinks about, say, polygamy.) This is one of the most dangerous theological positions that a Latter-day Saint can take on any topic.

    This is a common view among many who take the extremist Mormon view of the world. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard this, particularly in a discussion about communism, why our current prophets don’t speak out against communism. Essentially it’s because we’ve rejected their previous counsel and so we aren’t worthy of the “higher law” anymore. Utterly ridiculous. But quite common.

    by the way, who the heck is this Michelle Stone? What are her credentials that she has any sway within the Mormon community?

  17. Kirk C on July 6, 2011 at 6:55 am

    Wow…I’ve never heard of this lady or her video. However, after reading your [Julie] review, I thought I would watch it. I could not take it anymore after 30 mins. I hope this video/book does not gain popularity among the LDS people.

  18. jeans on July 6, 2011 at 6:56 am

    Can I just say that I ADORE seeing yet another crap-in-the-box homeschool curriculum get the Julie M. Smith treatment? Love.

  19. Mark Brown on July 6, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Julie, in your opinion, what percentage of LDS home educators use this approach or TJ Ed?

    I just took a look at the LDS Home Education Association site and if it is representative of our home educators as a group, we are in serious trouble.

  20. Mark B. on July 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

    Actually, if you all paid attention when you read “To Kill A Mockingbird” you’d know that John Dewey did invent the Dewey Decimal System. Scout basically said so, and why anyone would doubt her, I’ll never know.

  21. Al on July 6, 2011 at 8:33 am

    That’s a lot of words to waste on trash. Hey but those home schooling Mormons are a low breed that needs real schooling. Too bad that absolutely not one of them will read this.

  22. Mark B. on July 6, 2011 at 8:37 am

    Actually, Al, one of that “low breed” wrote the post–which you might have noticed if you’d read carefully.

    I don’t agree with Julie about homeschooling, but I suspect it wouldn’t help further the discussion if I called her stupid, or “low breed.”

  23. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I know Mormon homeschoolers who don’t believe Michelle Stone’s crap.

  24. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 8:50 am

    “Julie, in your opinion, what percentage of LDS home educators use this approach or TJ Ed? ”

    I really don’t know. In my personal experience, most LDS homeschoolers use it, but that’s purely anecdotal.

  25. Mark Brown on July 6, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Al, # 21,

    You are mistaken. There are many LDS home educators who do a superb job. It is my judgement that they are in the minority, but we ought to nonetheless make the correct distinctions.

  26. dangermom on July 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

    I’m a homeschooler in CA (I do classical) and I only know TJEdders online, not IRL. I’d never heard of Celestial Education until some other LDS classical homeschoolers brought it up as something to avoid. I suspect that she is a minority, sort of the extreme end of TJEd, but I don’t really know at all.

  27. Paul on July 6, 2011 at 9:25 am

    Julie, thanks for this thoughtful and careful review.

    My kids have attended public and private schools and also been homeschooled as we’ve lived around the world. It never occurred to us that our motivation for home schooling was to battle the arm of flesh and the false traditions of our fathers. It was to meet the particular needs of particular children at a particular time in our lives.

    I think you are kind to Stone. You do not interrogate her credentials. You are charitable about her inaccuracies (or mis-quotations). And you are far gentler than I would be in her condemnation of today’s prophets.

    Your kids are lucky to have you teach them.

  28. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 9:26 am

    “My question is, if you don’t trust the government to run your churches why on earth would you trust them the teach/raise your children?”

    The problem here is your slash: teaching your child is not the same as raising the child. According to the last two prophets specifically, there is nothing wrong with having a public school teacher teach your child.

  29. john f. on July 6, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Her second response is to quote Thomas Jefferson as saying, “It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by the forcible transportation and education of the infant against the will of the father.” But she does not read the rest of Jefferson’s statement: “What is proposed… is to remove the objection of expense, by offering education gratis.” In other words, free public education! Even the most cursory study of Jefferson’s life shows that he was intimately involved in the advancement of taxpayer-support public schools.

    Thanks for including this as part of your review. This shows that Stone is being downright dishonest by clipping off that part of the quote to make it say what she wants. This whole project of hers reeks with priestcraft. I applaud your strong denunciation of Stone and her work in this post.

  30. john f. on July 6, 2011 at 9:35 am

    Re # 21, everyone who sees promotion of Stone’s priestcraft on Facebook or in email forwards from distant LDS relations should respond with a link to this post.

  31. dangermom on July 6, 2011 at 9:50 am

    #29–”This shows that Stone is being downright dishonest by clipping off that part of the quote to make it say what she wants.”

    I would not be at all surprised to find that she lifted that quote from somewhere and has no idea that there’s more to it. Fact-checking doesn’t seem to be her thing, and there are plenty of conveniently truncated quotations floating around the Internet.

  32. Al on July 6, 2011 at 9:54 am

    Clearly many of you missed the irony in my comment. My bad for not being even snarkier. I am not a homeschooler and know many who use it as an escape but I am not opposed to it and, in fact, expect it to be much more significant in the future.

  33. john f. on July 6, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I have no idea why Julie homeschools — that’s her choice and I am not challenging or questioning it. But what I like about this post is that even though Julie herself is a homeschooler, she thoroughly debunks the idea that there is anything in the Gospel itself or in the counsel of Church leaders that free public education is evil or wrong or to be avoided. To the contrary, she points out that our most recent counsel from Church leaders (for the last several decades at least) is to get as much education as possible and that the Church supports the efforts and mission of free public schools.

  34. john f. on July 6, 2011 at 10:05 am

    I have no idea why Julie homeschools — that’s her choice and I am not challenging or questioning it. But what I like about this post is that even though Julie herself is a homeschooler, she thoroughly debunks the idea that there is anything in the Gospel itself or in the counsel of Church leaders that free public education is evil or wrong or to be avoided. To the contrary, she points out that our most recent counsel from Church leaders (for the last several decades at least) is to get as much education as possible and that the Church supports the efforts and mission of free public schools.

  35. Norbert on July 6, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Oh snap.

  36. gst on July 6, 2011 at 10:30 am

    I attended private schools, but not for any pedagogical or philosophical reason, beyond a commitment to elitism. Naturally, I look down on all of you.

  37. Rbc on July 6, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Are there really members who bother church leaders about whether or not it is okay to send their children to public, private or home schools? To me, that’s almost as crazy as the program/methods advocated by Ms. Stone. I don’t see a need to seek validation or approval from a Church leader about where I, as a parent, decide to educate my kids. The potentially misinformed zealots being churned out by the likes of Ms. Stone are just as Mormon as my own publicly and privately schooled children. Ms. Stone’s kids and mine may have diametrically opposed views on politics, education, and most importantly sports (ACC is the best college sports conference) but theres no reason they can’t be equal in the Church, though I suspect Ms. Stone might take exception to that notion.

    I don’t understand all the appeal to Church leaders for support about where to educate one’s child. That’s a parental decision and no matter where a parent sends a child to school the parent can still be a good Mormon, imo. I didn’t watch the video, so that might explain why I don’t understand.

  38. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Jon wrote, “Are you a socialist? Why don’t you dislike the capitalist swipe too?”

    Your comment made me realize that my statement was unclear. She made an entirely separate swipe at socialists that I thought was gratuitous, apart from her general statement that we should move beyond capitalism and socialism. I do not consider myself a socialist.

  39. Rameumptom on July 6, 2011 at 11:24 am

    Julie,
    Thanks for sharing the low hanging fruit with us.

    I have issues with SOME state run school systems/programs. But it isn’t because the government runs them necessarily. I went to school in Montana, with some of the best public schools around. Living in a suburb of Indianapolis, we have 4 star public schools in our area.

    But you go into downtown Indianapolis and it is another story altogether, with 55% drop out rates, poor teaching, etc. I also found that to be true in Alabama, when I lived there.

    In this instance, government (at least state or local) isn’t the problem with most schools. It is the politics involved that ruins a school. Rewarding poor teachers with tenure, discouraging teachers from innovating, regulations like “No Child Left Behind” that focuses on testing rather than on kids, and other issues tend to drag the program down to the lowest common denominator.

    One thing I know is that the system has not improved in the decades since we created the federal Dept of Education (test scores remain flat, etc). To innovate means getting good teachers and parents involved. Focus on important criteria, and not on political correctness stuff. For example, sex education really has not helped stop teen pregnancy or STDs, so why spend the time, money and energy on it? Meanwhile we lag behind in math, science, history, etc.

    There are major problems with the overall system, but they can be fixed. Michelle Stone’s answers are not the solution.

  40. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 11:39 am

    Julie,

    The questions still stands. Why would we trust the government to teach our children, yet we don’t trust them to teach us at church or to run our churches. To me it seems paradoxical, since our children spend much more time in schools than they ever would at church.

    I’m not going to home school my children for political reasons, they are just an additional reason for it but not the main reason. The main reason is the quality of education. Since they child can self direct their education (to a certain extent with parental supervision, when they get old enough) they will not need 7 hours of instructional time, they can do most of that on their own and then understand the material better because of that. So those are the two main reasons, quality of education and efficiency of time.

  41. Sarah Familia on July 6, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Interesting post, Julie. Be heartened that I grew up as an L.D.S. homeschooler and am now homeschooling my children, and I know lots of L.D.S homeschooling families who are not TJED’ers. And I’d never heard of Ms. Stone. As far as I can tell (also anecdotally), the TJED’ers and their ilk are a (loud) minority. I think they have some major pockets around the country, but not a chokehold (yet).

    I also really appreciate your detailed analysis of TJED, and have been meaning to tell you so for years. I recommend it to new L.D.S. homeschoolers who ask me for advice about TJED. Thanks, Julie!

  42. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 11:57 am

    “Why would we trust the government to teach our children, yet we don’t trust them to teach us at church or to run our churches.”

    Well, we can start with the fact that our modern prophets have raised no objection to public schooling. One statement from Pres. Monson with regards to public school teachers: “I trust we shall recognize their importance and their vital mission by providing adequate facilities, the finest of books, and salaries which show our gratitude and our trust.”

    We can then add that parents of publicly-schooled children should, in fact, stay aware of what is taught in their schools. For the most part, they will find that what is taught is completely unobjectionable. If they find something objectionable, they can discuss it with their children or seek action with the school, as seems appropriate to them.

    Finally, we can step back from our paranoia about “the government” and remember that the person actually teaching your child is not “the government,” but rather a flesh and blood human being who is required to follow curricular guidelines set out by state and local governments and use books approved by the same. While there will necessarily be problems around the edges (that are then blown out of proportion by a hysterical media . . .), for the most part, our public schools do a stunningly good job of accommodating the wide variety of American beliefs and opinions and creating an environment that is respectful of all students.

  43. Sam Brunson on July 6, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    Jon (40),
    One reason may be specialization. The U.S. government has spent a fair amount of time developing an expertise in providing education; it doesn’t seem to have spent that time developing expertise in providing religious experience. (FWIW, too, the idea that the government can’t provide religion ignores huge swaths of the world and huge swaths of history.) The main impediment to the U.S. government’s involvement in religion is the First Amendment. (Would the government be more entangled with religion without the Amendment? I really don’t know.) There is no similar impediment to its involvement in public schools.

    I had a wonderful K-12 public education in a wealthy suburb. My oldest daughter is about to start what looks like a wonderful public education in a much less wealthy urban environment. There are undoubtedly problems with public education, but there are also problems with private and home-schooling educations; we have no religious mandate, however, to prefer one type of education over another.

    And Julie, I wish I had written your opening line before you did. That may be the perfect first sentence.

  44. Michael Umphrey on July 6, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    So apparently church leaders’ views on public education have changed through time, and even now their views depend partly on the quality of public schools. If public education is changing, then, we needn’t be surprised if their views of it change as well. It might even be that writers such as Stone might contribute to such a change.

    I teach in a public school. My view is that the climate there is becoming increasingly hostile to religious views, and that the teaching profession has suffered a sort of ideological capture resulting in most teachers holding views to the left of most Americans. This is manifest in dozens of ways in the classroom, and I expect it to get worse. It’s a situation that bears watching.

    Certainly nothing in our faith requires us to view public schools as necessary.

  45. Adam Greenwood on July 6, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    And yet our schools continue to stink. So if its not the teachers who are to blame–they are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, Julie S. assures us that the prophets have assured us–it must be the human material. The rising generation must stink. But they also get lauded by prophet, I’m told. The only conclusion–a horrifying one, but it must be faced–is that boosterism is still boosterism even when a prophetic booster does it. I know, Pres. Monson is the last guy you’d expect to adopt a tone of sunny optimism and blithe confidence, but there it is.

    For a number of pedagogical and philosophical reasons, my current preferred method of schooling is the Lord of the Flies method. Sort of a hands-on interaction with great literature. This can be done either publicly or privately.

  46. Sam Brunson on July 6, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    And yet our schools continue to stink.

    Except that they don’t. I know it’s common knowledge and belief that public schools are really bad, but the common knowledge is wrong. Some of our public schools stink. (In fact, a lot of them do in Chicago.) But some are incredibly good (including the ones I went to and the one I’m sending my daughter to.)

    For that matter, some private schools stink, and some homeschooling stinks. Maybe a lot, because, notwithstanding our fervent desires, it’s really hard to quantify good teaching and good outcomes. It can be done–Planet Money told me that a good teacher can cover about a year and a half of material in a school year, while a bad teacher may only cover half a year–but it requires us to use some imperfect measure of what a child has learned. But, as Julie has pointed out, the broad availability of education has increased literacy rates unbelievably, and public education has at least something (and probably more than just something) to do with that.

  47. JKC on July 6, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    It seems ironic that Jon relies on quotations from President McKay, who early in life set himself on a path towards a career in public education. I suppose the response would be that he was teaching and administering in church schools, but when you consider that the church schools were essentially filling the role that is now filled by public schools, I’m not sure that distinction is really that much of a difference.

  48. gst on July 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Ah yes, all is well in Zion, Sam Brunson. Didn’t you watch the video???!!

  49. Aaron B on July 6, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Loved this, Julie.

  50. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Quoting prophets belies the points. I guess I shouldn’t have put out the quote, I just liked how it was phrased, and when I did put it out I didn’t think he was referring to government schools, since they had those back then and he didn’t just come forward and say it. But, in reality, when the schools have our children for over 40 hours a week (school plus extracurricular activities) then is not the government raising our children? Also, do we believe every word that comes out of a prophets mouth? Do we believe that the prophet is infallible? Must I always agree with what they say? If that is what we believe then we must belong to different religions. I’m LDS, not catholic.

    As for, it’s the individual, not the government educating the children. That’s a fallacy since it is the system that is educating the child, not the individual teachers, although the individual teachers do have a certain amount of leeway, they are constrained by the system.

    As for schools being great. It is like all systems, when you monopolize schooling through ever increasing centralization and regulations innovation is lost, or at least hampered to the point that it is very difficult to know what it would look like without the monopolization of the schooling system. It is interesting to not how much success home schooling has compared to government schooling, which is a sad commentary when they are the ones that are supposed to be the specialists, it’s the system that I worry about, not the individuals.

    Also, there is a history of government controlled religion. We didn’t trust the governments to run them. Why do you oppose the state being in charge of the churches but not the schools?

  51. Michael Umphrey on July 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    The change in public ed that I think bears watching is that since the Carter administration–and now at a greatly accelerated pace through such moves as the Core Standards–we are nationalizing public education. This will have the effect of moving those excellent public schools Sam mentions downward toward the norm. It is unlikely to have much effect on those wretched schools already near the bottom.

    This nationalizing movement weakens local school boards and parents, and it politicizes (even more) at the national level arguments about curriculum.

    The progressives who dominate public education pretty reliably oppose discussions of traditional morality, so national programs such as the anti-bullying initiative tend to strengthen the anti-Christian tone of many classrooms (the focus for many educators is upon gay students and those guilty of being mean are those with a Christian view).

    I’m frequently appalled at the ignorance and hostility directed toward Christians, pretty routinely, by professional educators. I don’t think the situation is stable, and I don’t think conclusions based on schools when McKay was round (or personal memories of 15 or more years ago) are very helpful.

    Though I’ll follow the prophet, I can also hope that at some point my own tribe takes more control of the teaching of their children. As I said, it’s a situation in flux, and it bears watching.

  52. chris on July 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Hmmm, did some googling on the Shakespeare bit, as I’m not sure why someone would just decide to invent that. I came across this…

    “Dr. Londré, the Curators’ Professor of Theatre at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (UMKC), explained that Shakespeare has been extremely popular since the earliest days of colonization. The Pilgrims, not know for any affinity for acting or theatre, still read Shakespeare’s plays, she said.”

    So, at least one person with a background in the Theatre, who is presumably more qualified than you disagrees with your quibble of a quibble. Resume quibbling.

  53. chris on July 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I will now resume quibbling… Your next point in this take down is that literacy rates are higher now than then. I think anyone who has a passing knowledge with literacy can call BS on the metric of .6% for all adults. Not a chance.

    We can’t really tell for sure what literacy was “back then” but I turned up ranges from 70-100% of white males and females were literate in colonial times.

    “Kenneth Lockridge’s study of literacy in colonial New England is
    relevant here. Lockridge found that, in 1660, 60 percent of New
    England males signed their wills; it was 70 percent in 1710, 85
    percent in 1760, and 90 percent by 1790. He estimates that half of
    those unable to sign wills could read. Thus, there was practically
    universal adult male literacy in New England by 1790.”
    source:
    THE REVOLUTION IN AMERICAN JOURNALISM IN THE AGE OF EGALITARIANISM: THE PENNY PRESS
    http://www.faculty.fairfield.edu/mandrejevic/schudsen.htm

    Now I haven’t even read or watched whatever video you are supposedly taking down here. But I recognize a mean spirited, uncharitable approach when I see it. You’d seek to push the opposing viewpoint out of the way by calling the facts presented in question, when if you were truly honest (or at least not ignorant, as maybe that’s the problem) you’d understand there are plenty of opposing views about what happened so many generations ago, let alone last year!

  54. Starfoxy on July 6, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    So I have a cousin who is a crack head. She has a son, and the father is gone from the picture. And I have to say that if she was the only thing standing between her son and a life of illiteracy then he would spend his life unable to read, write, or learn much of anything.

    There are plenty of people who are personally able to provide a better education for their kids than what the public schools could provide. And good for them for doing the work to make that happen. But as it is, all of us benefit from the fact that my crackhead cousin’s kid knows how to read and won’t be trapped in the same lifestyle his mom has led, and that is due to public schools.

    Part of me thinks that people who are so vocal about condemning the very existence of a public school system have never met any truly bad parents, or are misanthropic enough to be okay with the existence of a whole underclass of illiterate serfs, as long as *their* kids will be alright.

  55. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Starfoxy,

    You make many assumptions, and assumed most people would not step up to the plate to help people be literate, like churches, charities, neighbors, family, etc. You assume the state is the only thing that can get people to interact with each other.

  56. chris on July 6, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    ““What is proposed… is to remove the objection of expense, by offering education gratis.” In other words, free public education! Even the most cursory study of Jefferson’s life shows that he was intimately involved in the advancement of taxpayer-support public schools.”

    Next up this line….
    Hmmm…. is the speakers problem taxpayer supported schools? If so, you have a point. If not, you don’t. It would seem Jefferson was still opposed in principle to requiring a parent to do something they do not want to do. So he devised a means to overcome what was the likely objection. Now, I’m assuming the authors object is not the cost (if it is you’re correct). But I’d assume it was some kind of socializing contrary to what the parents desire. If that is the case, the reasoned principles of what Jefferson said still apply.

    So how many more points need to be rebutted? I’m not against public schools, but I’m not really for them either. I think there is so much done wrong in our educational system, even though there is much done right. I don’t have much hope we can ever “get it right” without really slashing out so much unnecessary stuff (and I don’t mean music/arts/vocational). And what’s unnecessary to one is not to another. Which is probably the main point — parents should decide what’s necessary, not you or I.

    I think you’d be on much better footing if you engaged the debate, not just knee jerk reacting and calling it wrong and dangerous and then purporting to refute it, while offering up merely your own variation of the facts, rather than accurately representing “the truth” (which none of us can do). So what you apparently dislike in the person you oppose, you seem to be merely offering up the exact same thing. Only, I just now watched the first 10 minutes of her talk to get a feel for it, and at least so far she seems to be much more charitable than you are (maybe it changes later on).

  57. Mark Brown on July 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Pres. Monson: “I trust we shall recognize their importance and their vital mission by providing adequate facilities, the finest of books, and salaries which show our gratitude and our trust.”

    Who does he think he is? I’m just glad we’ve got a real leader like Scott Walker around to lower the salaries of those greedy, anti-American teachers.

  58. Mark Brown on July 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    chris, please get some kind of schooling, public, private, or at home, anything which might help you with your reading comprehension skills.

  59. chris on July 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    Thanks for the kind words Mark. Not only are my comprehension skills satisfactory, but I can also tell a bitter-take down when I see it. Some people just don’t like others disagreeing with them and using religious principles to do so because it implies they as individuals are “wrong”. There’s a similar principle at work in religious vs. atheist (on both sides), gay vs. some christians, etc.

    It’s clear you’re annoyed by someone who disagrees altogether with the tactics employed in a heavy handed attempt to nullify anothers’ ability to persuade by seemingly dismissing their presentation of the facts with merely another viewpoint of the facts.

    As I’ve listened a little more to the presentation, she makes some good points and also some heavy handed ones. But each refutation the author here provides is insufficient, right down to the use of the modern prophets to prove her point “against” the old ones.

    There’s a certain point when the spirit is not there and usually it’s before name calling happens. I freely admit I labeled the author uncharitable in the take down, and if there’s one thing I suppose I’m uncharitable in, it’s being uncharitable with those who are uncharitable and should presumably know better. Sorry to have offended you with my beliefs. You’re entitled to your own, just as the author and I respect that fact. I just don’t like to see people ripping another to shreds, because it’s pretty easy to do if you just want to dig around for enough contradictory facts — they’re always there.

  60. Kaimi on July 6, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    Jon asks

    “Why would we trust the government to teach our children, yet we don’t trust them to teach us at church or to run our churches.”

    This is a nice soundbite, but the reasoning is unconvincing.

    Why do we treat different things differently? Because they’re different! And church and school are not the same.

    In fact, society has vastly different normative objectives. We *want* to encourage religious pluralism. We don’t want to require a single standard of religious instruction. We want to encourage a world where Sally can be Catholic, Jenny can be Protestant, and Julie can be Mormon. In fact, we’re just fine if people have no religion at all.

    In contrast, we have a variety of broad and uniform goals in education. We want every child to learn to read. We want every child to learn math. We don’t want a world where Sally learns no math and Jenny learns no writing. And we definitely don’t want to have children who get no education at all.

    The large differences between normative commitments suggest that there is no particular reason we should expect to treat religion and public education the same. (Not to mention the important legal distinctions — religion is specifically carved out in the Bill of Rights.)

    Given that conclusion, the statement that “we wouldn’t trust the government to run our churches, so why do we trust them to run the schools?” is essentially meaningless.

    You might as well ask, “we wouldn’t trust the government to select our dating partners for us — so why do we trust them to train our soldiers?”

  61. Crick on July 6, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    “She says that schools can foster competitiveness (scholarships, sports, GPA, etc.) and that she wants her neighbors’ kids to do as well as her own (02:35:35).”

    I want my kids and my neighbors kids to do the best they can and I think competition often fosters the drive to do the best one can.

    As to the bigger issue: I am grateful for this and other posts by Julie M. Smith that have helped me question the stereotype of those who home school their children. While I choose the public schools for my children and have found them to be excellent, it is great to know that there are people out there who do an excellent job at home schooling and made that choice as a rational and informed one, rather than thinking that public schools were brainwashing their children into communists, Satanists, or whatever.

    I would point out that those who take the Michelle Stone view tend to be just as skeptical of the Church as they are of other institutions (the government, schools, hospitals, corporations), but paradoxically, religion fuels and informs their beliefs. That’s why short of all-out apostasy (and there’s plenty of that), they go to great and contorted lengths to ignore or twist the words of modern prophets.

  62. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    Jon,

    “Why would we trust the government to teach our children, yet we don’t trust them to teach us at church or to run our churches.”

    one trick pony

  63. Crick on July 6, 2011 at 3:04 pm

    Re: John: There are plenty of successful kids who come out of public, private and yes, home schooling and there is no conspiracy of silence about the matter. I recall seeing data in a mainstream newspaper a few years back saying that most home schooled kids hold their own on standardized tests (maybe Julie can find us some numbers). Add the explosion of charters schools to those facts and I believe you are wrong that public schools have a “monopoly”. I believe (as does Elder Perry) that the primary responsibility for teaching children resides with parents. Since pioneer days most of us parents have hired professional teachers or elected school boards to do so. I think the results have been mostly successful.

    Another advantage to public schools is socialization. If one believes that America is basically a bad country and that most youth and teachers are bad, then I can understand why they would avoid public schools. They will also want to avoid Church, seminary and the grocery store (no wonder some strident homeschoolers also embrace alternative communities). But I look at our local schools and see bright, fresh and good kids who (in Mormon areas) are reading the scriptures more and probably living better than their parents or grandparents did (President Hinckley was optimistic about the rising generation and so am I).

    The experience of learning to deal with difficult situations, social anxiety, appreciating unstated social cues, learning to be charitable and lend a helping hand are a part of public education. That’s why David Brooks calls famed “Tiger Mother” Amy Chua a wimp (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/18/opinion/18brooks.html) because Chua’s methods shield her kids from the best education they could receive about navigating life.

    If a child does not learn citizenship in the actual laboratory of the community (i.e., public school) they are going to need extraordinary parents who afford them these opportunities in different ways. (Perhaps through community sports, summer camps, etc?) . Remember also that school boards are elected locally. NCLB notwithstanding, The U.S. Government does not run education and both the features and (admittedly) quality of education varies from county to county—particularly with respect to income. But to assume that every teacher in America is a lackey of the “government” is just not correct.

    Lastly, as for the LDS belief regarding our prophets, I refer you to the notes found in Official Declaration 1 in the D&C.

  64. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Crick,

    The U.S. Government does not run education and both the features and (admittedly) quality of education varies from county to county—particularly with respect to income. But to assume that every teacher in America is a lackey of the “government” is just not correct.

    Jon is the type who is typified by Michelle Stone, who sees a “conspiracy” in everything. No matter what you say, he will always see all public teachers as lackeys for the government and “in” on the conspiracy to destroy the minds of our poor innocent children.

  65. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    @Kaimi,

    In fact, society has vastly different normative objectives. We *want* to encourage religious pluralism. We don’t want to require a single standard of religious instruction. We want to encourage a world where Sally can be Catholic, Jenny can be Protestant, and Julie can be Mormon. In fact, we’re just fine if people have no religion at all.

    We want to encourage people to follow their desires and find a profession that will add to society and make them happy and fulfilled. We want a world where George can be a mechanic and Tom can be an engineer. In fact, we are just fine with people moving to the hills and living off their own land.

    In contrast, we have a variety of broad and uniform goals in education. We want every child to learn to read. We want every child to learn math. We don’t want a world where Sally learns no math and Jenny learns no writing. And we definitely don’t want to have children who get no education at all.

    In contrast we have a broad and uniform goals in religion. We want every child to have a moral grounding. We want every child not to steal, we want every child not to kill. We don’t want a world where Sally steals and Jenny kills. And we definitely don’t want people with no morals at all.

    The large differences between normative commitments suggest that there is no particular reason we should expect to treat religion and public education the same. (Not to mention the important legal distinctions — religion is specifically carved out in the Bill of Rights.)

    There were not many government schools back then so it is hard to compare what the founders would have thought if they saw the government raising their children with different ideas than they would have liked on a mass scale like we have today. Although some of the colonies did introduce them.

    Given that conclusion, the statement that “we wouldn’t trust the government to run our churches, so why do we trust them to run the schools?” is essentially meaningless.

    So what is the purpose of comparing anything if they must be so close in nature before we even compare them? I think there is good reason for a comparison since both are really about what are children are going to grow up believing.

    You might as well ask, “we wouldn’t trust the government to select our dating partners for us — so why do we trust them to train our soldiers?”

    Some would even have that.

  66. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Dan,

    Jon is the type who is typified by Michelle Stone, who sees a “conspiracy” in everything. No matter what you say, he will always see all public teachers as lackeys for the government and “in” on the conspiracy to destroy the minds of our poor innocent children.

    That is a gross miss-characterization of my beliefs. If you understand how to read, you would see that I already said it is not the individuals that concern me, it is the organization. Oh, I forgot, you don’t know how to read, don’t know how you ever became a librarian when you can’t even understand what I’ve written. Fourier complex. There’s no reasoning with you and I would appreciate it if you would not address me any more on this blog or address my beliefs. You are very unreasonable and don’t wish to discuss the issue at hand but just want to slander the person and I’m tired of the slander. We are having an intelligent conversation, please do not turn it into a name calling match as you seem to love to do.

  67. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    @Crick,

    Add the explosion of charters schools to those facts and I believe you are wrong that public schools have a “monopoly”.

    Yes, but remember that they are only slightly less regulated than the mainstream government schools.

    Another advantage to public schools is socialization.

    Just the opposite. Normal socialization isn’t placing the same aged kids in the same setting. Socialization is having the kids interact with different aged people. If a home schooled child isn’t well socialized it is the parent’s fault but studies show that home schooled kids are more well mannered and better socialized than kids that go to government schools. They are also more civic minded, according to the studies.

    But to assume that every teacher in America is a lackey of the “government” is just not correct.

    Once again, I never said that.

  68. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    We are having an intelligent conversation,

    You cannot have an intelligent conversation with statements such as this:

    “Why would we trust the government to teach our children, yet we don’t trust them to teach us at church or to run our churches.”

    That is an unintelligent statement and reduces the intelligence of the conversation.

  69. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Fourier complex.

    And that is an unintelligent conversation.

  70. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Dan,

    Have you ever written on a blog post without name calling? Fourier complex, I tell you, you cannot seem to address me without name calling. Why don’t you just leave me alone?

  71. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 4:17 pm

    When I wrote “we”, I was excluding you.

  72. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Chris

    #52: The antipathy of Puritans to public theater is well-known; if by some chance the Pilgrims decided to abandon that and read Shakespeare’s plays, I’d be happy to be corrected on this point although I seriously doubt it is true and a statement from a theater person with no actual backing (such as a primary source reference from a Pilgrim) doesn’t hold much weight for me. And given that the Pilgrims were out of England about two decades before Shakespeare’s plays were published (First Folio) and went to the New World three years before the First Folio was published, I am most doubtful. If you have hard evidence that they actually had quarto versions or sonnets with them, I’d like to hear it and I will correct the post.

    #53: Rates of literacy for *white* *males* in *New England* are not particularly helpful here. New England is well-known for having had much higher literacy rates than the rest of the US in the early days. I think the experience of women, African Americans, and people from other regions is relevant when we are talking about “America,” however. I would agree with you that the exceptionally low rates of illiteracy that my source gave for the 1970s suggest that they are using a fairly low bar for literacy.

    “Now I haven’t even read or watched whatever video you are supposedly taking down here.”

    I would strongly encourage you to do that before commenting further.

    #56: “Hmmm…. is the speakers problem taxpayer supported schools? If so, you have a point. If not, you don’t. ”

    Here’s what happened: she anticipates an objection to her position. The objection is: What about people who wouldn’t educate their children if we didn’t have tax-funded schools? Her answer (in addition to the literacy argument) is the TJ quote. Given that the larger context of the TJ quote is an _advocacy_ for tax-funded schools, her use of the quote to advocate _against_ tax-funded schools is not appropriate.

    Crick in #62 asked for stats on homeschoolers and testing. You can find them, but I don’t think they are worth much. Some people home school because their school experience was disastrous, so we shouldn’t be surprised that their test scores (even a few years later as homeschoolers) are awful. On the other hand, many homeschoolers have the kind of parents who would be sure that their children did well in any setting, so their high test scores don’t mean much–presumably those same kids would have rocked the SAT if they had gone to a school. My personal sense is that there is an enormous variability in outcomes for homeschooling; I strongly disagree with the “homeschooling is always better” notion that you sometimes hear.

  73. JKC on July 6, 2011 at 4:49 pm

    “When the schools have our children for over 40 hours a week (school plus extracurricular activities) then is not the government raising our children?”

    No.

    Unless, of course, the parents do nothing with their children when they are not at school. What kind of a deadbeat thinks that having their kid at school is “raising” the kid? Also, to believe that my kids are so easily swayed by every stupid thing they hear at school would require me (1) have no trust in their own ability to understand right from wrong (2) assume that my wife and I will never discuss anything they learn at school

    Also, the 40 hours thing is probably an overestimation, especially to the extent that you are suggesting that that estimation applies throughout a child’s entire 12 years of education. At least around here, there really are no extracurricular activities to speak of until at least seventh grade, and even after that, nobody says that putting your kids in public schools means that you have to participate in extracurriculars every day for the entire school year.

    There are 168 hours in a week. Assuming nine hours of sleep each night, that leaves 105 hours. Let’s generously assume two hours of play seven days a week outside the home. That’s still over 90 hours each week that children are with their parents (unless they are in day care or something, but if that’s the case, chances are that homeschooling is not happening either). Since 90+ is still more than double even your overly generous 40 hours/week assumption, I think any reasonable person would say on the basis of the time spent in school alone (the only basis that you have articulated) that children are not “raised” by public schools.

  74. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    And of course, there’s actual evidence that time in a social environment as a school is highly beneficial for a child, particularly pre-K.

  75. JKC on July 6, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Also, to the extent that public schools do have some input in “raising” our kids (a questionable proposition), let’s not forget that we as parents have the ability to influence how things are done (without, of course asking schools to do stupid things that violate the First Amendment). My kids are not old enough to be in school yet, but I don’t plan on being passive about what they are being taught.

    The church encourages us to be involved in the political process, and I take that to include local school elections, which obviously have the most immediate impact on what our kids experience in school.

  76. Kaimi Wenger on July 6, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Jon, your logic depends on steps that you aren’t taking.

    Your argument is this:

    1. There is minimal government involvement in religion.
    2. This is beneficial.
    3. Therefore, there should also be minimal government involvement in primary education.

    The problem is that (1) and (2) do not actually imply (3). There are missing steps.

    You can see this by substituting in other ideas

    1. There is minimal government involvement in dating.
    2. This is beneficial.
    3. Therefore, there should be minimal government involvement in the armed forces.

    or, in general,

    1. There is minimal government involvement in A.
    2. That is beneficial.
    3. Therefore, there should be minimal government involvement in B.

    What’s missing is a reason why we should treat A like B. The logic doesn’t work unless you connect the dots between A and B. That is:

    1. There is minimal government involvement in A.
    2. That is beneficial, for the following reasons: The benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks, in the important areas of X, Y, and Z.
    3. A is like B in the areas of X, Y and Z.
    4. Therefore, there should be minimal government involvement in B.

  77. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 5:01 pm

    Dan,

    http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=5544

    Even a government study showed it didn’t work. It showed that by the time 3rd grade came along there was little to no difference, AKA, it doesn’t work.

    Let’s see something for older kids. Doh! Studies show otherwise.

  78. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Jon,

    1. If you don’t want me to address you, don’t address me.

    2. You cannot claim civilized discussion when you namecall someone “fourier complex”.

    3. That CATO piece is from 2000 and does not address the study I shared from 2009.

    4. Not sure exactly what you are arguing with your last paragraph, or even the general tone of your comment. You’re arguing that “it” didn’t work without specifying what “it” is. You also don’t specify what “studies showed otherwise” for older kids.

  79. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    JKC,

    Average of 6.7 hours at school (much of the time is with a teacher), if a child does extracurricular activities add 2 hours, plus 1/2 hour to get child to/from school (if it’s close, for rural areas it would be more like an hour). Unless you ban TV add 2 hours TV/computer games. Actual time with parents? Dinner? At a game with a child but no actual interaction? How much time do parents actually share with their children where they interact?

    What is the definition of raising a child? Wiktionary says to cultivate, what does it mean to cultivate? “Advancement or refinement in physical, intellectual, or moral condition”. Is this not raising a child? Maybe not full time but raising nonetheless.

    I don’t want you to think that I think government schools have all sway over the children, it isn’t all or nothing (unless the kids are actually extracted from the parents – which the supreme court ruled against Oregon for doing that). Just a proposition that it isn’t necessarily wise to give control to the government something that can be taken care of by the private sector.

  80. Paul on July 6, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    #59 (and others) Chris: If I read you right, you believe Julie has been harsh, inaccurate, uncharitable and wrong in her review of Stone’s video. You cite a number of specific examples that Julie has refuted.

    I don’t get your suggestion that she has been anything but critical (in the academic sense of the word).

    Stone herself wanders all over the place. On the one hand she complains that schools force children to be at the same level and on the other she indicates that schools should not foster competition (highlighting the differences between children); she frets that a child cannot reach her true potential, but also that her self esteem will be harmed. I just don’t get Stone’s arguments.

    And Stone’s selective reading of prophetic pronouncements and scriptures in an I-know-better-than-you, holier-than-thou, if-you’d-just-pray-you-would-see-that-I’m-right, today’s-prophets-are-teaching-the-lesser-law attitude is repugnant to me.

    I am a fan of home schooling if that’s right for a particular family (some of my children have been home schooled), but Stone’s zealotry is misplaced, misguided and dangerous. That her DVD is now for sale on the internet is priestcraft. As I said in #27 above, I believe Julie is far more charitable than I am.

  81. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Jon,

    Just a proposition that it isn’t necessarily wise to give control to the government something that can be taken care of by the private sector.

    1. The private sector does not educate every student because every student’s parents would have to have money to pay for their education. This is why we pool together as a society under “public” education, paid by taxes taken from everyone in a society.

    2. This kind of position is why I harp on you, Jon. It is a ridiculous argument.

  82. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Dan,

    http://books.google.com/books?id=ydiQh0MjLVsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=everything+homeschooling+book&hl=en&ei=Ud8UTpPTGsbniAKg4JWgCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-preview-link&resnum=1&ved=0CDUQuwUwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

    Starting on page 58.

    So you are aware of the study that showed head start had no effect by the time they got to 3rd grade. How far did this other study go? Just through kindergarten?

    I don’t mind correspondence as long as you don’t digress the conversation to name calling/slander.

  83. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Dan,

    Society can provide an education for children without the state. I bet they could do better than the government does. Not all children are created equal and shouldn’t have to go through the same type of learning. Some would do better for themselves going straight into a profession rather than go through all of schooling. I think education is good but you can’t fit square pegs into round holes. That’s what compulsory education does.

  84. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    Kaimi,

    So why do we not want a government sanctioned religion?

  85. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Jon,

    I think education is good but you can’t fit square pegs into round holes. That’s what compulsory education does.

    Your point would have validity if it were not for actual reality. Or maybe it’s just that Americans suck at running a government, because the rest of the world seems to do just fine educating their children through government funded and government run schools. Maybe the real problem is that Americans are just terrible. Because your argument that “government sucks” just fails when you have to face with the fact that the best educated children in the world are educated under government run and financed school systems. South Korea’s educational system (best ranked in the world) is run by the government. Is it that South Koreans do better at running their government? Are South Koreans simply better people? What is it about South Koreans and their ability to educate their children so well with their government run educational system? What is so different from America? It can’t be “government” because both use government run educational systems. It can’t be lack of political freedom as both are democracies. Maybe in the end, Jon, your argument is simply this: America, you suck at educating yourself.

  86. Paul on July 6, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Jon, Germany’s public education does just what you suggest — it tracks students to apprenticeships or university. As I recall, my state-sponsored education did the same thing back in the 1970′s in that many more vo-tech alternatives were available.

    Do you have evidence that society could do a better job educating kids than the government? (By the way, I elect that government, so I have assumed it is part of my society.) In my neck of the woods, charter schools have universally poorer performance in objective measures than public schools, despite the fact that they can select out “undesireable” students.

  87. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    oh and in your anarcho-libertarian paradise, Somalia, their educational system is pretty atrocious.

  88. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 5:56 pm

    Dan, you know that Somalia isn’t what I would call a paradise. That’s like saying your paradise was Hitler’s Germany. Just doesn’t make sense, I thought you were going to hold back on the name calling/slander? Couldn’t stop yourself could you? Even though it isn’t entirely untrue and this is about the 10th time I’ve told you that. Do you have brain cells in the bird-sized head of yours? If you do then please stop the name calling/slander and I’ll take back my name calling/slander, I would really like a civil conversation here.

  89. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    I thought the purpose of home schooling was to provide a better education than was available in one’s public schools, not to avoid education. I speak specifically to the statement that the advocate in question does not support mathematics education. That amazes me.

    Mathematics is half of modern literacy. The less math you understand, the more restricted you will be in your ability to comprehend issues in the economy that affect you, as well as issues involving public policy. You will be excluding yourself from many of the new jobs in the future economy, including anything that has to do with technology.

    The notion that avoiding public schools is necessary to avoid indoctrination in false beliefs, whatever merits it may or may not have, is contradicted by the idea that mathematics education is not important. A lack of math understanding leaves a person susceptible to all sorts of false ideas, because they are rendered incapable of making their own analysis of quantifiable issues, and have to rely completely on the word of other people, making credibility judgments not on the accuracy of their quantifiable statements, but on extraneous factors.

    It seems to me that this kind of position, that you can leave ouot whole subject matter arteas of traditional education, tends toward the kind of narrow “education” that is given students in certain Islamic madrasas, and will produce adults whose only skills place them in competition with illegal aliens for jobs.

    When it comes to curriculum issues, we Latter-day Saints should remember that the Brethren have shown us how broad an education they want the Saints to have, by underwriting BYU curricula covering science, business, law, history, music, art, etc. Additionally, the training given to future public school teachers is a significant part of the BYU program. If the Brethren didn’t think public school education was important, why would they support it with Church funds?

    Let me also emphasize that I am not an enemy of home schooling. My two sons’ children attend public schools in Utah, though one sent his son and daughter to a private pre-school. Our daughter has been homeschooling three school age children since the oldest was school age. Last year as a test on how well she was doing, and in response to interest expressed by the kids, whose friends at Church mostly attend the local public school, she had all three attend the elementary school across the street. Her oldest won the school award for most books read on his own, and on the standardized state tests scored in the 98th percentile for math and 99th percentile for reading. Her second oldest child was a candidate for the gifted education program. There are no visible signs of educational impairment from home schooling.

    The kids “socialize” with adults (parents, grandparents, and neighbors), with peers (at church, Scouting, and judo classes and in the neighborhood), and with kids of other ages. On the other hand, some of the “socializing” experiences that many kids have is being bullied, ridiculed or excluded, something that happened at times to some of my own children in their public schools, especially the year we were in Virginia and at my oldest son’s junior high school in Nebraska. I utterly fail to see any value in children and teens being immersed in an environment where they are made to feel defenseless against intimidation, and where the only way to escape bullying is to make their own violent response, since many teachers seem to think that hazing is a natural part of the curriculum and do not intervene.

    Since we LDS are taught to be wary of the abuse of authority by those given any power over others, we should also be wary of the potential for abuse and the exercise of personal pride by those who have charge of our children. One of my older son’s elementary school teachers was clearly having severe emotional problems, and was taking it out on her students. Public schools can only be as good as the individual teachers.

    And sometimes school policies don’t let the teachers be as good as they can be. I have known of some public schools that adopted a policy of making the most successful students into assistant teachers, responsible for bringing the poorer students up to standard, in effect punishing them by denying them opportunities for more advanced learning, and grading the students as a group to destroy any rewards for individual excellence. While group projects and grading might be reasonable in limited ways and for limited times when part of the educational experience is teamwork toward a common goal, at the level of the personal learning process it seems to aim for destruction of personal initiative and excellence (being better than others at something).

  90. Dan on July 6, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    Jon,

    see here, comment #55. Don’t tell me you don’t extol the virtues of Somalia. That comment was made on July 1, 2011, just six days ago.

  91. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Dan,

    There your peon sized brain again. All I said was that it was better than the other comparable countries. There you go lying again. You are like the devil, a little truth mixed with many lies. Will you stop the name calling/slander.

    Why do the moderators even let you comment on these blogs? You stray from the topic at hand by name calling and slander. Does this make you feel good to attempt to hurt others? You must be a sadist or something. No wonder why you like the idea of socialism and kings and you don’t care if people die.

    Dan, I exhort you once again, to come unto Christ and put away your hatred and embrace love.

  92. Tim on July 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I think some homeschooling parents do an excellent job teaching their children. Many of my cousins were/are being home schooled, and for the most part I think it’s perfectly fine. I have two big reservations, however.

    First, I think many home schooled children miss out on the regular social interactions that public and private schools offer. Many of my cousins are socially awkward, and remain socially awkward into adulthood. I myself was socially awkward as a teenager, but the social interactions I made during school, especially high school, helped me develop out of that stage. Perhaps extracurricular activities and/or a part-time job where the child is interacting with other children can help compensate for that deficiency.

    Second, and more importantly, very few parents are qualified to teach every subject, especially more advanced high school classes. I took physics, chemistry, geology, and calculus in college, yet I would not feel comfortable teaching any of those classes to my children–I’m simply not qualified to do so. I could introduce them to the subject, but not teach an entire full-year class. None of my homeschooled cousins are receiving a half-decent education in biology (despite what their parents believe). I know because I know what they’re teaching–and I myself taught high school biology for a couple of years, so I know what they should be teaching. The parents don’t understand ecology, evolution, or genetics. Their homeschooled children will walk into Biology 101 entirely unprepared (assuming they don’t attend Bob Jones University). In my experience, many homeschooling parents are entirely clueless as to their ignorance in certain subjects, and their children suffer for it.

  93. Tim on July 6, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    And Jon, knock it off. Your name calling and juvenile comments are worse than that of anyone else here.

  94. Jon on July 6, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Tim,

    What do you suggest I do to get this guy to stop harassing me? I’ve tried being nice about it but he doesn’t stop. So I feed it back to him. If you have a good idea than I would like to read it. The guy is a sadist and won’t knock it off, I already asked him to be kind and if you trace the comments he has not, after commenting on over 20 posts and having this guy not stop it over a lengthy period of time, I’m fed up with it. Yes, I know sadists enjoy when they get a reaction out of their prey, but I really have gotten tired of it. Isn’t there supposed to be moderators for this type of thing?

  95. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 7:13 pm

    Tim (#92), I agree with your two reservations about home schoolers. I know some home schoolers who handle these issues very well and others who don’t.

  96. Julie M. Smith on July 6, 2011 at 7:16 pm

    Well, we have a custom around here of shutting down threads at around 100 comments, so I will go ahead and do that now. Thank you all for all of the comments. If you have something to add to the conversation, you can email me at my first name AT timesandseasons DOT org.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.