A failed charter school and someone looking to start a charter school in Kansas can only look to Kansas City, Mo., and wonder what impact high-performing public charter schools may have for kids in the state.
Critics of homeschooling have long maintained that it fails to inculcate students with the civic virtues necessary to maintain our republican form of democracy. But a new study finds that when it comes to willingness to extend basic civil liberties to people who hold views with which one disagrees, homeschooled students are more tolerant than their peers:
Scholar Albert Cheng’s just-published fascinating and provocative study provides one of the first solid portions of empirical evidence about whether the homeschooled become more or less politically intolerant than others. The researcher’s purpose was to compare college students from different school types – public school, private school, and homeschool – by analyzing political tolerance outcomes. That is, are students from any particular school background more or less politically tolerant than others? Political tolerance is “… defined as the willingness to extend basic civil liberties to political or social groups that hold views with which one disagrees” (p. 49).
Cheng used an instrument (e.g., a questionnaire) called the “content-controlled political tolerance scale.” In its first of two parts, the “… scale provides the respondent with a list of popular social and political groups, such as Republicans, gay-rights activists, or fundamentalist Christians. The respondent is asked to select the group with beliefs that he opposes the most … The second part of the political tolerance scale measures the respondent’s willingness to extend basic civil liberties to members of his least-liked group” (p. 55). Participants were asked to respond to items such as the following:
1. “The government should be able to tap the phones of [the least-liked group].”
2. “Books that are written by members of the [the least-liked group] should be banned from the public library.”
3. “I would allow members of [the least-liked group] to live in my neighborhood.” (p. 60)
With this scale, he studied students at a private university in the western United States. These students came from a variety of schooling and racial/ethnic backgrounds.
The study found that “those [college students] with more exposure to homeschooling relative to public schooling tend to be more politically tolerant.”
“Public education is the fount of most problems in the United States, not simply based on content, but also on structure,” says Thomas Purifoy. “Simply put: it is economically impossible for American public education to be successful in the long-run (or the short-run, for that matter).” Purifoy offers three lessons centralized public education can learn from the free market economy of home education:
Instead of getting more centralized, educational and curricular control should be pushed down to the lowest possible level (the school and the teacher herself, with significant parental control). This would require booting out the unions (that efficient perpetuator of educational mediocrity), breaking our huge schools apart and creating a whole new market-based model of education, where size/content matches local market needs, curriculum and methods are in the hands of parents/teachers, etc.. It would also require public schools to compete with each other for students (who would likely use vouchers – although when I say this, it is a concession to a faulty principle, since vouchers are just another form of redistribution of wealth, albeit far superior to the current setup.)
What is my proof for this? Consider one fact: there are hundreds of thousands mothers who have no educational degrees, no educational backgrounds, and almost no educational experience, who spend far less time educating their children than their public school counterparts, yet their kids consistently outperform the vast majority of public school students in the nation year after year.
On Tuesday, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals said that Uwe and Hannelore Romeike along with their children were not persecuted by the German government and will not be granted asylum in the United States.
According to the Religion News Service, the Romeikes wanted to home school their children, fearing public education would discourage “Christian values.” The German government levied thousands of dollars of fines on the family and threatened to take away their children. The Romeikes fled Germany and moved to the United States in 2008, hoping they would be free to home school their children, but this did not turn out to be the case.
The UK’s Daily Mail states that an immigration judge granted the family asylum back in 2010, but the Board of Immigration Appeals overturned the ruling in 2012 bringing the Romeikes to the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The court ruled “that U.S. immigration laws do not grant a safe haven to people everywhere who face restrictions that would be prohibited under the Constitution.” According to a press release from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA):
The court said that the Romeikes had not made a sufficient case and that the United States has not opened its doors to every victim of unfair treatment. Although the court acknowledged that the U.S. Constitution recognizes the rights of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their children, it refused to concede that the harsh treatment of religiously and philosophically motivated homeschoolers in Germany amounts to persecution within our laws on asylum.
The Romeikes and the HSLDA plan to appeal to the Supreme Court. Back in February, Joe Carter profiled the Romeikes and their fight for religious freedom on the Powerblog.
Over 100,000 students in Texas are on the charter school wait list—and with the number of charter schools capped at 215, they have a long wait ahead of them.
But state senator Dan Patrick—a self-described “education evangelist”—is attempting to implement a radical educational reform. Patrick is sponsoring two consequential school choice proposals. One would remove the limit on the number of licenses Texas issues to operate charter schools and created a special board to oversee the new charter applications he expects will follow. The other is a voucher plan that would allow businesses to earn tax credits for donations that help poor and at-risk children leave public schools for private or religious ones.
If we assume that the institutions of civil society, like churches, recreation centers, fantasy football leagues, and book clubs are essential for a flourishing society, it becomes very important to determine how such institutions are developed, maintained, and promoted.
For thinkers as varied as Alexis de Tocqueville, Abraham Kuyper, and Pope Paul VI, the realm of civil society provides an indispensable area of connection and protection between the individual person and the political order. In Quadragesimo anno, Paul VI writes of the need for “the reform of institutions,” necessary in part because of “the evil of what we have termed ‘individualism’ that, following upon the overthrow and near extinction of that rich social life which was once highly developed through associations of various kinds, there remain virtually only individuals and the State.”
It is at this point that Paul VI invokes the principle of subsidiarity, which is dependent upon and recognizes the rich variegation of human social life, which consists in human identity not only in terms of the individual citizen and the political order, but also in the human person as friend, co-worshiper, family member, co-worker, neighbor, and so on. One of the things most pressing for Paul VI was the idea that these institutions of civil society needed to be strengthened, not only for their own good but also for that of the political order itself and even more broadly for the common good: “for, with a structure of social governance lost, and with the taking over of all the burdens which the wrecked associations once bore, the State has been overwhelmed and crushed by almost infinite tasks and duties.”
How do we reinvigorate civil society once it has declined? How do we help build up what has atrophied? These are questions that are vital for moving beyond a false dichotomy of market and state or individual and state, not only conceptually but practically. As Matthew Kaemingk writes, “Their importance is often ignored by politicians, but sociologists tell us that a flourishing array of non-profits and free organizations consistently leads to measurable declines divorce, poverty, violence, obesity, depression, chronic illness, illiteracy, dependency, homelessness, and political apathy.” But if associations of civil society help lead to these outcomes, what helps lead to associations of civil society?
Melissa Steffan reports at Christianity Today this week on some research that bears on aspects of the necessary answers to these questions. Steffan writes, “Parents considering whether or not to send their children to private school can now weigh more than just tuition and curriculum. According to a new study from professors at Calvin College, the affiliation of a high school student’s school significantly impacts his or her sense of civic duty.”
She is referring to a new article from Jonathan Hill and Kevin den Dulk, “Religion, Volunteering, and Educational Setting: The Effect of Youth Schooling Type on Civic Engagement,” which appears in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.
One of the major focuses of On Call in Culture is to remind Christians that discipleship doesn’t end when Sunday service concludes. Yet in going about our daily work, we should also be careful that we don’t neglect the important role the church can fill when it comes to matters of vocational stewardship and daily cultural engagement.
Over at (re)integrate, Dr. Amy Sherman, author of Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good, offers ten suggestions for how the church might encourage whole-life discipleship and vocational stewardship:
1. During corporate worship services, pray for members by vocation. This could take a variety of expressions:
- pray aloud for a different occupational group (e.g., educators or businesspeople) each week
- invite congregants who are facing difficulties on the job to come forward during or after the service for prayer
- pray for individual members by name and vocation
2. Visit church members at their places of work.
3. Recognize vocational achievements and awards of congregants in the church’s newsletter or on its website.
4. Offer an adult education class that helps participants discern the dimensions of their vocational power (skills, networks, etc.) and gets them talking about how to deploy that power to advance Kingdom foretastes in and through their work.
5. Encourage the church’s small groups to incorporate regular times of discussion and prayer focused on members’ work lives.
Read the rest of her suggestions here.