Good news from Oz: parents fight back against Christian proselytizing in public schools

Source: Why Evolution is True

Author: Jerry Coyne

Emphasis Mine

This morning we have some good news and some bad news about religion. First the good news: reader John sent me a photo and this link to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently, at least in the state of New South Wales, “Special Religious Education” (SRE) is offered to students in many public schools, and it’s an education in Christianity (“General Religious Education”, GRE, is also offered). I thought that parents can opt out of either, but the report below suggests this isn’t the case. I’m a bit confused, and perhaps readers from Australia can enlighten us. Here’s part of the report:

Parents concerned about religious evangelism in public schools will launch a campaign urging families to opt out of scripture classes as a high profile minister calls for a “quality general religious education program” to replace instruction in specific denominations.

The parent-run lobby group, Fairness in Religions in Schools, has paid for a billboard attacking Special Religious Eduction classes in public schools, to be erected at a busy intersection in Liverpool on Monday.

Fairness in Religions in Schools chief executive Lara Wood said the billboard was in response to what the group sees as evangelism in public schools which they claim is poorly regulated by the NSW government.

“Scripture classes push messages about sin, death, suicide, sexuality and female submission onto children without the knowledge of their parents,” she said.

“The Department of Education has no control over the program and it is time these classes were removed or at least regulated by the government.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it works with scripture class providers to ensure the material is “sensitive, age appropriate and of a high standard.”

Screw that; this stuff doesn’t belong in public schools, whether or not it’s optional. What’s the educational point of teaching Christianity in such schools? Leave the proselytizing in the churches where it belongs.

Meanwhile, here’s the billboard designed by the parents, and it’s a good one.

Capture

See: whyevolutionistrue

Advertisements

Lawrence Krauss: Teaching Children Creationism Is Child Abuse

IFD!

IFD!

Source: Patheos

Author:Michael Stone

Emphasis Mine

Taking a stand for kids, theoretical physicist Lawrence Krauss argues teaching children

is a form of child abuse.

 

Krauss, appearing on the “The Weekly,” an Australian satirical TV news show, stressed the importance of teaching children critical thinking skills.

After that, host Charlie Pickering brought up the fact that Krauss had previously stated that teaching children creationism is a form of child abuse. Krauss doubled down on his claim, noting:

But it’s true. I mean, there are different levels of child abuse. It’s like not allowing your children to have medicine, not allowing you children to be vaccinated, for example, is child abuse, because you are doing them harm.

Krauss went on:

In some sense, if you withhold information from your children because you would rather them not know what reality is really like, for fear that it is going to affect their beliefs, then you are doing them harm.

Krauss is correct. Preventing children from learning the truth about the world, like teaching children that creationism is an acceptable scientific explanation for the diversity of life on Earth, is a mild form of child abuse.

Previously, in 2013, while appearing on The David Pakman Show, Krauss acknowledged that teaching creationism to children was not on the same level of abuse as sexual assault, but insisted it should still be considered abusive because it puts children at a disadvantage.

Krauss said:

If you’re introducing it (creationism or Intelligent Design) as reality, if you’re telling your kids the world is 6,000 years old, and they shouldn’t believe scientists because there is no way humans are related to other animals, and don’t believe any of that stuff you learned in school, or take you kids of out of school because they are learning something, then it is like the Taliban at some level, which is an extreme form of child abuse.

Earlier this year, Krauss, and another leading scientist, Richard Dawkins, advocated for the intellectual rights of children, arguing children should be allowed to develop as critical thinkers and be protected from religious indoctrination.

It seems clear to many rational people that forcing children to accept the religious superstitions of their parents can be a form of child abuse. And it follows that teaching children Biblical creationism as a legitimate scientific alternative to the theory of evolution is an example of such child abuse.

Yet if we are to accept this claim, what are the implications for social policy? Should the government step in and protect children from the religious superstitions of their parents?

Or should parents retain the right to force their religious beliefs upon their children, even when those beliefs are demonstrably harmful to the education of the child, as is the case with the teaching of creationism?

And what about religious schools, as well as homeschoolers, engaged in the explicit task of indoctrinating children?

How does society protect children from the damaging excesses of religion?

How does society defend a child’s right to a proper education, even if that education violates the sincerely held religious beliefs of their parents?

Lawrence Krauss is a theoretical physicist and cosmologist who is a professor of physics and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University. He is also the author of the bestselling book, A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing.

-See : http://www.patheos.com/blogs/progressivesecularhumanist/2015/07/lawrence-krauss-teaching-children-creationism-is-child-abuse/?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=progressivesecularhumanist_070315UTC010724_daily&utm_content=&spMailingID=49021464&spUserID=MTIxNzQwMzMwMDkyS0&spJobID=720353225&spReportId=NzIwMzUzMjI1S0#sthash.uAxQKf25.dpuf

 

How Conservative Christians Are Trying Their Damnedest to Make America’s Kids Wildly Ignorant

Source: AlterNet

Author: Amanda Marcotte

Emphasis Mine

One of the biggest obstacles for the conservative movement when it comes to recruiting new members is, to be frank, reality itself. History, science, economics are all fields noconstantly churning out information that makes right wing ideology look silly, nonsensical, and even delusional. In response, the conservative movement has launched a massive media campaign against reality that spreads out on Fox News, talk radio and the web, but despite all this, conservatives are not satisfied. The kids are who conservatives really want. That’s why the right is relentless with attempts to get into public schools, throw out actual information and replace it with their false and misleading ideology. Whether or not they’ll actually be successful in tricking kids into becoming conservatives is up for debate, but in the meantime, they are doing a lot of damage to childrens’ ability to get a decent education.

The latest battle in the ongoing war to turn public schools into propaganda machines for the right is being fought, where else, in the state of Texas. The state is often at the center of conservative-fomented education controversies, as right wingers there keep trying to sneak creationism into the science classroom. Texas also continues to maintain its abysmally high teen pregnancy rate by pushing sex “education” that usually doesn’t bother to mention contraception. While the right has been losing some ground on those two issues, a new report from the Texas Freedom Network suggests that conservatives have been able to inject a shocking number of lies and disinformation into public school history classrooms.

And while it may be tempting to think kids getting a subpar education is a red state only problem, in reality what happens to Texas affects the rest of the country, including blue states. Because of Texas’s size, what they want in textbooks often becomes the only thing that publishers are willing to offer. Your kid may be going to school in some other state, but what they’re reading in class may be decided by what some right wingers in Texas want to indoctrinate them into believing.

As the Washington Post reports, a group of 10 scholars in politics and history examined the proposed textbooks and found that they were stuffed full of lies and distortions, intended to trick students into believing right wing myths about government, racism, and whether or not America was supposed to be a “Christian nation”.

Dr. Emile Lester, a political science associate professor at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, was one of the reviewers. The State Board of Education and “these textbooks have collaborated to make students’ knowledge of American history a casualty of the culture wars,” he writes in his report.

Dr. Edward Countryman, a professor of history at Southern Methodist University who also worked on the report, concurred, accusing the State Board of creating textbook standards that have a “combination of incoherence, poor construction, and attempted indoctrination” in lieu of actual intent to educate students.

Digging into the textbooks themselves, it becomes clear that one major theme is trying to trick students into believing that America was founded as a Christian nation and that there’s no real separation of church and state, despite the fact that this idea is found in the first amendment to the constitution. One textbook claims, falsely, that “the biblical idea of covenant” is what the nation’s founders based their concept of democracy on, even though the Bible is full of kings and princes but makes no mention of democracy. (In reality, the founders based their idea of democracy on the ideas of Enlightenment philosophers.) Another book argued that the founders drew inspiration from Moses, on the grounds that Moses created the idea of a “written code of behavior”. Needless to say, the concept that nations need laws has existed in all civilizations throughout recorded history, and, as the Texas Freedom Network points out, the constitution’s guarantee of free exercise of religion comes in direct conflict with many of the 10 commandments that require you to believe in God.

As the Texas Freedom Network report points out, “the Founders were reacting against several of the crucial elements of the moral, legal, and political tradition associated with Moses and the Ten Commandments.” That’s stating the case gently, as Moses explicitly set out to create a theocracy, whereas Thomas Jefferson argued that there should be a “wall of separation between church and state”.  The fact of the matter is that these books are lying, bald-facedly, about the history of this country for the purpose of hoodwinking students into believing that ours is not a secular county and that it’s okay for the government to force Christian rituals and beliefs on the citizenry.

The attempts to indoctrinate children into the belief that America is basically a Christian theocracy are bad enough, but that’s not the only conservative agenda item that the books are trying to trick students into buying. The books also try to subtly discredit the civil rights movement by implying that segregation wasn’t so bad, with one book arguing that white and black schools had “similar buildings, buses, and teachers”, which the researchers argue “severely understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools”.

Researchers also found that the books were playing the role of propagandist for unregulated capitalism. One textbook argues that taxes have gone up since 1927, but society “does not appear to be much more civilized today than it was” back then. It’s an assertion that ignores the much reduced poverty and sickness, the improved education, and even things like the federal highway system, all to make an ideological point. Another book argues that any government regulation whatsoever somehow means that capitalism ceases to be capitalism, a stance that would mean that capitalism has never really existed in all of history.

That these books are stuffed full of lies and propaganda is sadly not a surprise. From the get-go, the State Board of Education made it clear they were far more interested in pushing a right wing ideology on students than actually providing an education. In July, the Texas Freedom Network reviewed the 140 people selected to be on the panels reviewing textbooks. Being an actual expert in politics or history practically guaranteed you couldn’t get a slot, as “more than a dozen” Texas academics with expertise who applied got denied, while conservative “political activists and individuals without social studies degrees or teaching experience got places on the panels”.  Only 3 of the 140 members of the panel are even current faculty members at Texas universities, but a pastor who used to own a car dealership somehow got a spot.

Textbooks should provide information instead of a bunch of right wing propaganda based on lies, but such is the stranglehold on power that Republicans have in the state of Texas that they can flaunt their desire to indoctrinate your children without much worry that the voters will kick them out over it.

See: http://www.alternet.org/education/how-conservative-christians-are-trying-their-damnedest-make-americas-kids-wildly-ignorant?akid=12260.123424.NpAYiT&rd=1&src=newsletter1019767&t=2

Barely Literate? How Christian Fundamentalist Homeschooling Hurts Kids

From: AlterNet

By: Kristan Rawls

“In recent weeks, homeschooling has received nationwide attention because of Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s homeschooling family. Though Santorum paints a rosy picture of homeschooling in the United States, and calls attention to the “responsibility” all parents have to take their children’s education into their own hands, he fails to acknowledge the very real potential for educational neglect among some homeschooling families – neglect that has been taking place for decades, and continues to this day.

While the practice of homeschooling is new to many people, my own interest in it was sparked nearly 20 years ago. I was a socially awkward adolescent with a chaotic family life, and became close to a conservative Christian homeschooling family that seemed perfect in every way. Through my connection to this family, I was introduced to a whole world of conservative Christian homeschoolers, some of whom we would now consider Quiverfull” families: homeschooling conservatives who eschew any form of family planning and choose instead to “trust God” with matters related to procreation.

Though I fell out of touch with my homeschooled friends as we grew older, a few years ago, I reconnected with a few ex-Quiverfull peers on a new support blog called No Longer Quivering. Poring over their stories, I was shocked to find so many tales of gross educational neglect. I don’t merely mean that they had received what I now view as an overly politicized education with huge gaps, for example, in American history, evolution or sexuality. Rather, what disturbed me were the many stories about homeschoolers who were barely literate when they graduated, or whose math and science education had never extended much past middle school.

Take Vyckie Garrison, an ex-Quiverfull mother of seven who, in 2008, enrolled her six school-age children in public school after 18 years of teaching them at home. Garrison, who started the No Longer Quivering blog, says her near-constant pregnancies – which tended to result either in miscarriages or life-threatening deliveries – took a toll on her body and depleted her energy. She wasn’t able to devote enough time and energy to homeschooling to ensure a quality education for each child. And she says the lack of regulation in Nebraska, where the family lived, “allowed us to get away with some really shoddy homeschooling for a lot of years.”

“I’ll admit it,” she confesses. “Because I was so overwhelmed with my life… It was a real struggle to do the basics, so it didn’t take long for my kids to fall far behind. One of my daughters could not read at 11 years old.”

At the time, Garrison was taking parenting advice from Quiverfull leaders who deemphasized academic achievement in favor of family values. She remembers one Quiverfull leader saying, “If they can do mathematics perfectly but they have no morals, you have failed them.”

The implication, she says, was that, “if they’re not doing so well academically, well, then they can catch up on that later. It’s not such a big deal. It was a really convenient way of thinking for me because I wasn’t able to keep up anyway.” This kind of rhetoric, Garrison notes, provided a “high-minded justification for educational neglect. I would not have gotten away with that if I’d had to get my kids tested every year.”

Over time, Garrison lost faith in her fundamentalist ideology and became aware that her children’s education was being neglected. Eventually all but one of her six younger children ended up entering and excelling in the public school system.

Why did she stick with homeschooling for so long, despite her difficulties? “We were convinced that it would be better for our kids not to have an education than to be educated to become humanists or atheists and to reject God,” Garrison says. “We became so isolated because the Quiverfull lifestyle was so overwhelming we didn’t have time or energy for socialization. So the only people we knew were exactly like us. We were told that the whole point of public school was to dumb down the children and turn them into compliant workers – to brainwash them and indoctrinate them into this godless way of thinking.”

Garrison believes that homeschooling has become so popular with fundamentalist Christians because, “there is an atmosphere of real terror among some evangelicals. They are horrified by the fact that Obama is president, and they see the New Atheist movement as a vocal, in-your-face threat. Plus, they are obsessed with the End Times, and believe that the Apocalypse could happen any day now…They see a demon on every corner.

“We homeschooled because we wanted to protect our children from what we viewed as the total secularization of America. We listened to people like Rush Limbaugh, who told us that America was in the clutches of evil liberal feminist atheists.”

*

Just how common are stories like Vyckie Garrison’s? Unfortunately, it’s hard to know. The federal government only maintains very broad demographic statisticsabout homeschoolers in this country; federal data only keeps track of what kinds of people are homeschooling and why. You can find plenty of information about homeschoolers according to race, family income or highest education obtained by the parents. But as regards neglect related to homeschooling? The government cannot tell you — and there is no systematic state-by-state record of the percentage of truancy convictions (possibly the best measure of educational neglect at present) that involve homeschooling families versus those involving enrolled students and/or their parents.

Capturing that kind of data is essential to understanding the scope of this problem, but getting real numbers will always be complicated by the fact that many homeschooling families choose not to comply with the law by submitting to state homeschool regulations, or even report their homeschool activity to the state. While it’s possible that some forget, others intentionally fail to report because they fear too much government intervention in their lives. For many conservative Christians, this is a key aspect of their decision not to report.

Given the scarcity of numbers on this issue, the best one can hope for at this point is anecdotal information about the problem. But because homeschooling is such a highly politicized issue, it is often difficult to get a clear sense of what is happening from homeschooling parents themselves. And because many parents see themselves as advocates of homeschooling, they are not always very eager to discuss potential gaps in homeschooling education.

Luckily, more than a few adult homeschool graduates are eager to talk. And as I talk to more and more people who recount first-person stories of homeschool-related neglect, it becomes hard to write off what homeschool advocates would call “exceptions” simply as fringe outliers.

Erika Diegel Martin’s story is particularly haunting. A homeschooling graduate of the mid-1990s, and an ex-Quiverfull daughter I have known for many years, Diegel Martin was pulled out of public school at 14. Because she was old enough to remember several years of public schooling, she says she never really believed her parents’ dire warnings about it. Her younger brothers were another story. “When the school bus would come by, my youngest brother would go, ‘There goes the prison bus.’ Our parents had them believing that public schools were these horrible places, just dens of iniquity.”

The narrative about public schools, she says, went something like this: “How would you like to get stuck in a building with no light – and secular, godless, atheist teachers for seven hours of the day without even being able to see your parents or go out to play?” As a result, she says, “My brothers were terrified of the public schools.”

Like Garrison, Diegel Martin recounts notable educational gaps in her own family, where there was little academic encouragement. One of her brothers decided to quit school at 16 and faced no parental opposition. The youngest, Diegel Martin says, ceased his formal education at the age of 12, when she left home and was no longer available to teach him herself. And though she was fortunate enough to receive sex education before leaving public school, her siblings were not so lucky. Their parents never taught the three other children about sex, and Diegel Martin remembers giving her 21-year-old sister “the talk” the week before she got married. She also had to intervene to ensure that her younger brothers learned about sex.

As for herself, when she completed her schooling, she says her parents did not allow her to obtain her GED as proof of high school graduation. Their reason? “The girls weren’t allowed to get a GED because we were told we wouldn’t need it. It would open up opportunities that were forbidden to us. We would work in the family business until we got married, and then become homemakers.

“When I talked about wanting to go to college, my parents said, ‘Well, you’re a girl. You don’t go to college.’”

Melinda Palmer, 29, is another homeschool graduate who is forthcoming about the problems she encountered as a homeschooled child. She had no experience of public education, and quickly came to fear it. Her father cast the local school as a corrupt example of the dangerous world outside the home. The family’s isolationism created an environment in which everyone was so terrified of the outside they saw no choice but to submit to her father’s abusive rule for many years. She says they had come to believe that the tyranny of their father was preferable to what might await them on the outside.

The oldest of eight children, Palmer grew up in an extremely conservative family that ultimately went entirely off the grid. They lived in a rural country home in Vermont without running water or electricity. Though she says homeschooling started out with good enough intentions, it ultimately fell by the wayside, in part because of the sheer amount of work it took to subsist in Vermont without basic amenities while also maintaining the large family’s produce and livestock. It took so much time and energy to complete each day’s chores that they rarely had enough time to study.

Though she says all of the children in her family are literate, she tells me that, in math, she never made it past the start of pre-algebra, and that she has not yet obtained her GED. Since leaving the Quiverfull movement, she has found success as an artisanal cheese-maker, but many opportunities remain unavailable to her because of her upbringing. She speaks hopefully of continuing her schooling at some point, but feels self-conscious about working toward the GED at 29, when some of her younger sisters have already earned theirs. “I study and read things all the time,” she says, “but I haven’t done anything official yet.”

Palmer insists that her family was not alone in homeschool neglect. Among the various fundamentalist families that ran in her family’s social circles, she says, “I knew several families whose children were not very literate.” Moreover, she points out, education is “more than just learning math and science and the facts of history – it’s learning how to interact with the kids around you, and figuring out what different kinds of personalities bring to life.

“You can do homeschooling right if you’re very careful,” she acknowledges. “Know all the ways it can go wrong and guard against these; have outside interaction; get help with what you need help with and use a decent curriculum.” But most homeschoolers, Palmer points out, “are woefully lacking in every area” of their education.

Palmer sends me a note after we talk that reads, “I know of a family right now in pretty much the exact same situation we were in back then. They reported [their homeschooling status] to the state once, eight years ago, and never after that, to my knowledge. The state never caught on… They are one of the families I know whose children are functionally illiterate. Their 18-year-old daughter can read, but can barely write a paragraph… and the education goes significantly downhill from there. Her youngest brother, almost 11, has barely learned to read.”

I follow up to find out if anyone has reported the family to social services. She says they have been reported, but very little has changed.

*

Still, this is not to say there aren’t many homeschooling parents who are doing an excellent job of ensuring that their children receive a quality education. Most parents realize they are taking on a tremendous amount of responsibility when they commit to homeschooling a child, so I am not surprised to find many – secular and religious – who are doing well by their children.

Maria Hoffman Goeller is one of those. A lifelong family friend, Goeller is a homeschool graduate raised in a conservative Christian home, where she never lagged behind in academics. Now she has a son with special needs in the California public school system but educates two other school-age children at home. “Part of the reason we homeschool is because I’m choosing what worldview or what subjects I want to introduce my child to,” she says. But she understand the limits of her own skill, which is why she placed her special-needs son in public school. “While I can teach my children reading, writing and arithmetic, I am not trained in special education,” she says. “I want my child to have the best education he can get, which at this time is public school.”

Though she considers herself conservative, Goeller does not demonize public schools as some families do. And contrary to stereotypes about Christian homeschoolers, Goeller is adamant that she will not sacrifice academic rigor, or shield her children from views different from her own. In fact, she says she would welcome more opportunities for them to interact with public school students, for example, in sports and even in certain classes now and then.

Certainly, Goeller is not alone in the care and thoughtfulness she takes with her children’s homeschool education. But in light of what Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer tell me, it seems irresponsible to assert, as many homeschooling parents do, that homeschooling neglect is just a fringe element in the homeschooling world. And getting a straight answer about the scope of the problem from people who champion the cause is difficult at best.

Take Kelly Hogaboom, a secular “unschooling” mother who maintains a popular homeschooling blog called Underbellie, and boasts of having “two terminally truant children.” Hogaboom is an advocate for homeschooling and “unschooling,” a type of homeschooling that often foregoes curriculum in favor of more child-directed education. She is dismissive of the cases of neglect that I bring up, saying, by way of shutting down my inquiries: “Like yourself, I too had…a deep fear of religious fundamentalism and an erroneous belief state institutions could and should stamp it out.”

Of course, her response misses the mark; the issue of “stamping out” religious expression isn’t the point here. The issue at stake is educational neglect — which is, as the anecdotal evidence shows, an actual problem. My hope is that by looking to homeschooling parents for insights, they will be able to provide an honest assessment of their own successes and failures — in order to paint a more textured picture of the actual potential for neglect.

But in the end, Hogaboom declines to discuss the topic at all, urging me instead to read alternative theories of education she thinks I may have missed. And just in case I don’t understand that she has dismissed the concerns I raise, she concludes our email discussion by saying: “I get a laugh [at] how many grownups enjoy talking amongst themselves about what’s best for children” – and following it up with a smiley emoticon.

Though I am frustrated by her failure to engage with me, on some level, I understand her irritation. Homeschooling parents are probably called upon to apologize for neglectful homeschoolers quite a bit. But apologies are not what I’m looking for. I want to know about their experiences – positive and negative — as a way of understanding how to better prevent neglect.

Of course there are parents who are qualified to teach their children at home, and who do an excellent job of it. And there are children who excel in homeschooling environments. These families may well constitute a majority of homeschoolers. But this does not mean that all children do so well, and just as public schools are obligated to educate children who fall behind, so are parents who opt out of the system.

*

Kathryn Joyce, author of Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, confirms that there are legitimate reasons for being concerned about a lack of oversight among homeschoolers. She acknowledges the diversity of the homeschooling movement, but notes, for example, that, “among the Quiverfull community, there are families that homeschool in such a way that education begins to diverge between boys’ education and girls education around the time they hit puberty.”

Sometimes, Joyce says, girls, “stop receiving the same education as their brothers and are trained instead to fulfill the role that they’re going to have, which is to be a Quiverfull mother and a submissive wife.”

She recalls an anecdote from Quiverfull leader Geoffrey Botkin, who suggested that girls should be taught to use the tools of the laboratory they will inhabit: the kitchen and the nursery. Girls’ education should prioritize “learning how to be mothers, learning in the kitchen, helping their mothers – not merely as chores that are a part of growing up. Rather, the point was that this should be a key part of their education because this was going to be their chief role.” Though Joyce says many homeschoolers go on to do exceptionally well once they go to college, she has also encountered problems with basics like literacy.

Given these sorts of issues, I am unconvinced when Rachel Goldberg, a secular homeschooling mother from Charlotte, North Carolina, echoes what I hear from homeschooling parents of every stripe on the subject of government oversight. “I don’t think there should be any regulation of homeschooling,” she says. “I’m not a libertarian or a conspiracy theorist, but I am fiercely protective of my kids and my choices about how to raise them. It’s none of the government’s business how I teach them. Just as I wouldn’t want the state to require me to submit menu plans and quarterly nutritional assessments (even though I believe nutrition is vitally important), I don’t want the state to require curricula plans, portfolios, etc.”

According to Joyce, among extremist Quiverfull families (quite unlike Goldberg’s) there is often “a sense of persecution” when it comes to oversight; many families that refuse to report their activities do so because they fear state intrusion. But their fear may have very little basis in fact. “Often, people have to look outside the United States, to countries like Sweden, where homeschooling is much more heavily regulated, to make this argument,” Joyce notes. “There isn’t as much evidence that persecution is happening here, but I think they get a lot of organizing value and activism mobilization out of the argument that they’re persecuted.”

Erika Diegel Martin, whose parents were anti-government extremists, agrees. Her parents did not report their first year of homeschooling to the state out of fear, but because she lived in a small New Hampshire town, the neighbors eventually noticed when the children weren’t in school. Finally, a truancy officer showed up to inquire, and as a result, the family reported their homeschooling status. “Look, any other parents [in] a public school would be charged with truancy if their kids didn’t show up at school,” Diegel Martin points out. “Why should it be any different for a homeschool family that isn’t reporting their children? It’s our government’s responsibility to make sure that our children are getting a proper education.”

My old friend Maria Hoffman Goeller is a bit more cautious about the need for oversight. With one child in the public school system and two learning at home, Goeller insists that she has not experienced over-regulation in California, one of the more tightly regulated states. But she is always on the alert, she says, for any government mandate that might try to determine “what I can and cannot teach.”

Goeller tells me that her apprehension about over-regulation stems from the arrests of homeschooling parents she knew during childhood, before homeschooling was well-understood in the United States. She remembers at least a couple of parents being arrested for truancy, and she remains unconvinced that they deserved this. Some families she knew opted not to report because of these cases. For those children, this meant not answering phones and hiding in the house if a stranger knocked on the front door.

No one I speak to who is homeschooling today mentions that this sort of oppressive regulation is a reality for current homeschooling families. Instead, they say that today’s regulation consists mostly of bureaucratic paper-pushing – hardly the kind of homeschool persecution some fear. It may be annoying, but so far as I can tell, it’s not trampling on anyone’s rights – though that doesn’t keep homeschoolers from worrying.

*

Ultimately, the women who report neglect in homeschooling want their experiences to serve as a warning that either greater restrictions on homeschooling are needed, or states need to do a better job of enforcing existing regulations.

For 18 years, Vyckie Garrison says, she continued homeschooling even though it became increasingly evident that “we should not have been homeschooling. It was a really bad idea for us, but we believed firmly that it was our obligation, that it would be sinful to send our children to public schools, which we called ‘Satan’s indoctrination centers.’” She tells me that yearly testing requirements “would have made a huge difference for our family. It would have either convinced us to quit homeschooling, or to do a much better job of meeting those minimum requirements.”

I don’t believe the answer is to end homeschooling altogether, and neither do any of the women I talk to, no matter what their experience with homeschooling. But neither is it acceptable to allow more homeschooled children to fall through the cracks. And since no one should be deprived of an education, we have a duty to listen to those who were overlooked.

Melinda Palmer has become a vocal critic of homeschool neglect since leaving her home about six years ago at the age of 22. She cites “the grace of God” as the reason for her survival, as well as the support of her mother and siblings. She is still a Christian, but says her family believed in a “warped understand of God.” Today, she is no longer a fundamentalist and no longer afraid of living out in the world. She has also gotten involved in advocacy on behalf of better homeschooling regulation.

Of all my sources, Palmer has the most concrete ideas about what needs to change in order to make homeschooling safer for all kids. “First,” she says, “we should not reduce the oversight. Second, we need to make sure every child who is not in a public school is either on a private school roster or is on the homeschool watch list. I know of many in Vermont right now who are not even registered as homeschoolers, and no one pays attention…When kids are far below grade level, it should raise red flags, and someone should be looking into it.”

Furthermore, as a sister to several children with cognitive disabilities, Palmer highlights the particular attention that homeschooled children with special needs deserve. “If kids have disabilities, the government needs to make sure that the disabilities are being addressed either by the parents or by an intervening agency.…A child with disabilities,” she notes, “has as much right to an appropriate education” as any other child.

Just before we hang up the phone, she makes a final request: “Please spread the word that it is really necessary for the government to make sure children aren’t being robbed of an education… Kids have rights too, and one of them is the right to an education appropriate to their age and ability.

It’s an important point, and I conclude with it because it is one of the more incisive analyses I’ve heard on this topic yet. There is simply no justification for allowing cases of educational neglect – wherever it exists – to go unchecked. We need not imprison more parents to make sure this happens, but improving state and local oversight of those who opt out would be one step in the right direction. As Garrison, Diegel Martin and Palmer acknowledge, better checks on their own home education would have made a vast difference for them. This is why, they say, they will continue to speak out.”

Kristin Rawls is a freelance writer whose work has also appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, GOOD Magazine, Religion Dispatches, Killing the Buddha, Global Comment and elsewhere online.

Emphasis Mine

see:http://www.alternet.org/story/154541/barely_literate_how_christian_fundamentalist_homeschooling_hurts_kids?akid=8417.123424._5-AR3&rd=1&t=2

Crisis Averted — U.S. Motto Still “In God We Trust”

From Care2, by Robin Marty

N.B.: why would anyone trust in something that Does Not Exist?

Everyone can now breathe a sigh of relief — the United States Congress has come to our rescue and solved the biggest issue facing our nation.

No, not unemployment.  Nope, not the housing market’s tumble.  And no, not income inequity, rising cost of living, climate change, depleting oil reserves, rampant speculation on commodities, the crumbling infrastructure, the cost of health care and unaffordable insurance, our declining schools, the growing problem of unintended pregnancy, the increasing spread of STIs, growing numbers of extinct species, deforestation, air pollution, carcinogens in our water, e coli and salmonella outbreaks, rising crime rates and the growing number of food insecure residents in the country.

Nope.  But “In God We Trust” has been reaffirmed as our national motto.

The House voted 396 to 9 to confirm that the phrase, which was first passed as the national motto in the 1950s, was still the motto.  According the bill sponsor, Republican Congressman Randy Forbes, the vote was necessary to “firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come.”

Politico adds, “Passing the resolution ‘provided clarity amidst a cloud of confusion about our nation’s spiritual heritage and offered inspiration to an American people that face challenges of historic proportion,’ said Forbes in a statement released after the vote.”

It also cost over $200,000 in floor costs and lawmaker salaries, according to Roll Call.”
see:http://www.care2.com/causes/crisis-averted-u-s-motto-still-in-god-we-trust.html

Meet the Christian Dominionist ‘Prayer Warriors’ Who Have Chosen Rick Perry as Their Vehicle to Power

from AlterNet, by Rachel Tabachnick

“Since he announced his candidacy on Saturday, Texas Governor Rick Perry has been hailed as the great GOP hope of 2012. Perry’s entry into the chaotic Republican primary race has excited the establishment in part because he does not have Michele Bachmann’s reputation for religious zealotry, yet can likely count on the support of the Religious Right.

Another advantage for Perry is support from an extensive 50-state “prayer warrior” network, organized by the New Apostolic Reformation. A religious-political movement whose leaders call themselves apostles and prophets, NAR shares its agenda for control of society and government with other “dominionists,” but has a distinctly different theology than other groups in the Religious Right. They have their roots in Pentecostalism (though their theology has been denounced as a heresy by Pentecostal denominations in the past). The movement is controversial, even inside conservative evangelical circles. Nevertheless, Perry took the gamble that NAR could help him win the primaries, a testament to the power of the apostles’ 50-state prayer warrior network.
While it may not have been obvious to those outside the movement, Perry was publicly anointed as the apostles’ candidate for president in his massive prayer rally a few weeks ago, an event filled with symbolism and coded messages. This was live-streamed to churches across the nation and on God TV, a Jerusalem-based evangelical network.
There’s little doubt that Perry is NAR’s candidate — its chosen vehicle to advance the stated agenda of taking “dominion” over earthly institutions.
The Prayer Warriors and Politics
Perry’s event is not the first time NAR apostles have partnered with politicians. (See previous AlterNet articles by Paul Rosenberg and Bill Berkowitz.) Alaskan Apostle Mary Glazier claimed Sarah Palin was in her prayer network since she was 24 years old and Glazier continued to have contact with Palin through the 2008 election. Prior to running for governor, Palin was “anointed” at Wasilla Assembly of God by Kenyan Apostle Thomas Muthee, a star in promotional media for the movement. The Wasilla congregation is part of a Pentecostal denomination, but it’s leadership had embraced NAR’s controversial ideology years before and has hosted many internationally known apostles.
A partial list of those who have made nationally or internationally broadcast appearances with apostles includes Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann, and Jim DeMint. Numerous others, including Rick Santorum, have participated in less publicized apostle-led events.
The list of state and local candidates partnering with the apostles’ network includes Hawaii gubernatorial candidates James “Duke” Aiona, a Republican, and Mufi Hannemann, a Democrat. The conference call that got U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris in hot water with Jewish voters back in 2006, was led by Apostle Ken Malone, head of the Florida prayer warrior network.  Apostle Kimberly Daniels recently won a seat on the Jacksonville, Florida city council — as a Democrat.
Why would Rick Perry take the risk of partnering with such a controversial movement? The apostles’ statewide “prayer warrior” networks link people and ministries online and also includes conferences, events, and training. Many of the ministries involved have extensive media capabilities.  The “prophets” of the NAR claim to be continuously receiving direct revelation from God and these messages and visions are broadcast to the prayer warriors through various media outlets. For instance, in the 2008 election, prophesies concerning Sarah Palin, including one from Mary Glazier, were sent out to the prayer warrior networks. Palin repeatedly thanked her prayer warriors during and after the election.

The prayer warrior networks could work as an additional arm for Perry’s campaign in early primary states. South Carolina’s network is led by Frank Seignious, a former episcopal priest who joined the movement and was ordained into “apostolic ministry” by Apostle Chuck Pierce of Texas. Seignious has incorporated the spiritual warfare and prayer network under the name Taking the Land. His network is under the “apostolic authority” of  the Reformation Prayer Alliance of Apostle Cindy Jacobs and the Heartland Apostolic Prayer Network, led by Apostle John Benefiel. Both Jacobs and Benefiel endorsed Rick Perry’s prayer event.

Jacobs announced in March that the movement hopes to mobilize 500,000 prayer warriors or intercessors to “prayer for the nation for the 2012 elections to shift this  nation into righteousness and justice.” She made this statement while speaking at Alaska’s Wasilla Assembly of God, the church where Sarah Palin was anointed by Thomas Muthee in 2005.
Ideology of the New Apostolic Reformation
The leaders of the movement claim this is the most significant change in Protestantism since Martin Luther and the Reformation. NAR’s stated goal is to eradicate denominations and to form a single unified church that will fight and be victorious against “evil” in the end times. Like many American fundamentalists, the apostles teach that the end times are imminent, but unlike most fundamentalists, the apostles see this as a time of great triumph for the church.
Instead of escaping to heaven in the Rapture prior to the battles of the end times, the apostles teach that believers will remain on earth. And instead of watching from the grandstands of heaven as Jesus and his warriors destroy evil, the apostles believe they and their followers will fight and purge the earth of evil themselves.
This includes taking “dominion” over all sectors of society and government, which, in turn, will lead to a “Kingdom” on earth, a Christian utopia ruled from Jerusalem.  The end times narrative of the apostles is similar to that of the Latter Rain movement of the late 1940s and 1950s, which was considered heretical by traditional Pentecostal denominations.
Prerequisites to bringing about the Kingdom on earth are: the restructuring of all Charismatic evangelical believers under the authority of their network of apostles and prophets; the eradication or unification of Christian denominations; and the total elimination of competing religions and philosophies. Their mandate to take control over institutions of society and government is similar to the dominionism of Christian Reconstructionism, founded by the late Rousas Rushdoony, but NAR’s version has been wrapped in a much more appealing package and marketed as activism to “transform” communities.
The apostles have a number of sophisticated promotional tools used to market their agenda for taking control over society, including the Transformations movies, Transformation organizations in communities around the country, and the Seven Mountains campaign. The latter is about taking control over the mountains or “power centers” of arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media and religion. The apostles who lead in areas outside of church are called Workplace or Marketplace Apostles.
The apostles teach that the obstacles to their envisioned Kingdom on earth are demonic beings who hold control over geographic territory and specific “people groups.” They claim these demons are the reason why people of other religions refuse to become evangelized. These demons, which the apostles address by name, are also claimed to be the source of crime, corruption, illness, poverty, and homosexuality. The eradication of social ills, as claimed in the Transformations media, can only take place through mass evangelization; not through other human efforts to cure societal ills. This message was repeated throughout Perry’s prayer event, although it may not have been apparent to those unfamiliar with the movement’s lingo and narratives.
The apostles teach that their followers are currently receiving an outpouring of supernatural powers to help them fight these demons through what they call Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare (SLSW). They have held ceremonies to “divorce Baal” and claim to burn and otherwise destroy icons and artifacts of other religious belief systems.  These unique SLSW concepts and methodologies, previously unknown in the evangelical world, include spiritual mapping to identify and purge both demons and their human helpers. The humans are often identified in training materials as witches and their activities as witchcraft.
Many of the evangelical “Reconciliation” programs popularized over the last decade are an outgrowth of the apostles’ SLSW efforts to remove demons, including “generational curses,” which they claim obstruct the evangelization of specific racial and ethnic groups. These activities have political significance not apparent to outsiders. Kansas Governor and former Senator Sam Brownback worked extensively with leading apostles in pursuing an official apology from the U.S. Senate to Native Americans. However, NAR has promoted this apology as part of Identificational Repentance and Reconciliation, an SLSW method to remove demonic control over Native Americans and evangelize tribes. Curiously, this apology is also viewed as a required step in their spiritual warfare agenda to criminalize abortion.
Apostle Alice Patterson and Pastor C. L. Jackson stood with Rick Perry as he addressed the audience at his Houston prayer rally. This went unnoticed by members of the press, but sent a strong message to those familiar with Patterson and Jackson’s activities in convincing African American pastors in Texas to leave the Democratic Party and become Republicans. This is done by outreach to African Americans through “reconciliation” ceremonies. They also utilize David Barton’s revisionist American history,  which ties Democrats to racism and civil rights to conservatives and Republicans. Patterson has written that there is a “demonic structure behind the Democratic Party.”
History of the New Apostolic Reformation
A wave of religious fervor swept through the U.S. in the early 1900s resulting in Pentecostalism and the establishment of  denominations emphasizing supernatural “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” including speaking in tongues. A second wave swept through other Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism beginning in the 1960s, producing pockets of Charismatic believers. (“Charismatic” is usually used to describe those who embrace the belief of supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit but are not in Pentecostal denominations.)
Some remained in their respective churches while the remainder left to join other nondenominational Charismatics in what would become the largest single (and largely overlooked) block of Protestantism in the world — Independent Charismatics, also called neo-Pentecostals or the “Third Wave.” By the late 1980s, Independent Charismatics began to be networked under the leadership of self-appointed apostles and prophets who view the reorganization of the church as crucial to preparation for the end times. C. Peter Wagner, a prolific author and professor for 30 years at Fuller Theological Seminary, became the primary force behind organizing one of the largest and most influential of apostolic and prophetic networks. He dubbed it the “New Apostolic Reformation” (NAR).
Wagner and other NAR pioneers refined their unique Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare training and demon-hunting methods through the latter 1980s and 1990s. Due to Wagner’s international reputation as an expert in “Church Growth” (his most famous pupil is Rick Warren) and Wagner’s leadership role in the frantic rush by international missions to evangelize the world prior to the year 2000, these unusual techniques gained surprisingly widespread acceptance in some evangelical circles.
Wagner had a major role through the 1990s in the Billy Graham-endorsed AD 2000 and Beyond, working closely with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and Independent Charismatic groups in what they would dub as the “world prayer movement.” Ted Haggard, who would later become president of the National Association of Evangelicals, claimed that the effort involved 40 million people worldwide. As 2000 AD and Beyond was winding down in the late 1990s, Wagner left Fuller Seminary and resettled in Colorado Springs.  Wagner partnered with Haggard and continued his international networking from the World Prayer Center adjacent to Haggard’s mega-church.
Wagner claimed that the New Apostolic Reformation, a new era in church history, began in 2001 and organized several hundred apostles with their own networks into the International Coalition of Apostles (ICA). In addition, Wagner oversaw: an inner circle of prophets (ACPE or Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders); demon deliverance experts (ISDM or International Society of Deliverance Ministries); faith-healers (IAHR or International Association of Healing Room Ministries); an international training network (Wagner Leadership Institute); and their own educational accreditation system (ACEA or Apostolic Council for Educational Accountability, now called the Association of Christian Educators and Administrators).
Transformation is the movement’s buzzword for taking control over communities. The Transformation entities usually begin as prayer networks of pastors and individuals that are advertised as nonsectarian.  Charitable activities are emphasized as a way to gain a foothold in financially strapped municipalities and they provide faith-based services from emergency response to juvenile rehabiliation. Today NAR has “prayer warrior” networks under the authority of their apostles in all 50 states, some now organizing by precincts.
The movement has had a widespread impact, spreading ideology to other Charismatics inside Mainline Protestant denominations and Roman Catholicism, although non-Charismatic Roman Catholicism is viewed as controlled by a powerful demon named “The Queen of Heaven.” Over the last few years, the apostles have taken visible leadership roles in the Religious Right in the United States and numerous nations in Africa, Asia, and South America and claim Uganda as their greatest “Transformations” success story and prototype.
After years of political activity and increasing power inside the American Religious Right, NAR has suddenly been propelled into national press coverage by presidential candidate Rick Perry and his supposedly nonpartisan and nonpolitical prayer rally. Now that he has been chosen and anointed by the movement’s apostles, the prayer warriors across the nation can be mobilized on his behalf.

Emphasis Mine

see: http://www.alternet.org/story/152034/meet_the_christian_dominionist_%22prayer_warriors%22_who_have_chosen_rick_perry_as_their_vehicle_to_power?page=entire

Accepting Evolution Based On One’s Religion

When will the Enlightenment return?  According to a Pew Research Poll: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1105/darwin-debate-religion-evolution, there is a correspondence between one’s religion in America, and whether one accepts Evolution.   Buddhists, Hindu, and Jewish at the top; and evangelical prots, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses at the bottom. No surprises there.

The article also contains some definitions and graphs.

On local boards of education setting science standards: would you choose treatment at a hospital where the staff, procedures, budget, and equipment were selected by a group of local non-medical people, who were elected by popular vote?

I wonder what acceptance vs education level would produce?  The Wiki article states that only about 48% of those polled could identify the correct definition of Evolution from a pick list.

see also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_of_support_for_evolution#United_States

N.B.: the poll uses the word ‘believe’; I use ‘accept’.