NOW, IF ONLY AMERICAN TEXTBOOKS WOULD ELIMINATE REFERENCES TO "THE BRITISH ENEMY"

Interesting article about how Jordan is revising its textbooks to bring them in step with modern times, even eliminating references to the "Israeli enemy." And yet we'll withhold judgment until we see the books' new maps of the region and find out what they call the area immediately to Jordan's west.

SO WHEN IT COMES TIME TO HELP YOUR KID LEARN THE ELEMENTS, YOU'LL BE AS USEFUL AS AN INERT GAS AT A COVALENT BONDING ORGY

They're changing the periodic table on us. Elements 2.0 is more stylish than the model we grew up on, but also, on first glance, harder to follow, and we're not sold on the Milky Way model.

ALSO, THEY DEMAND ACCESS TO THE CAFETERIA EVERY FRIDAY FOR PIZZA DAY

Several weeks back, the Times ran a front-page piece on home-schooling families who demand places for their children on local public school sports teams and extracurricular groups. (Article is available here.) For us, this idea has always been wrong on its face: Parents who home-school for whatever reason, be it religious beliefs, educational philosophy, or safety concerns, have in fact opted out of the public school system. They're off the grid. They've decided they don't want public school teachers teaching or touching their kids. They don't want neighborhood children sitting next to their kids at lunch. They don't want local principals to set rules for them. And FD.com, by the way, defends any family's right to opt out of the system and home-school at any time, and we admire those families who took part in the long and bruising fight to win the right to teach their kids at home in the first place.

But then there are those like the Mellinger family of Strasburg, PA, who want - nay, demand - to have it both ways:

Mary Mellinger began home-schooling her eldest sons, Andrew and Abram, on the family's 80-acre dairy farm five years ago, wanting them to spend more time with their father and receive an education infused with Christian principles. Home schooling could not, however, provide one thing the boys desperately wanted - athletic competition. But the school district here, about 60 miles west of Philadelphia, does not allow home-schooled children to play on its teams. So Mrs. Mellinger reluctantly gave in and allowed the boys to enroll in public high school .... "We grieved about losing the time we had with the boys," Mrs. Mellinger, 41, said .... "It seems so unfair. We're taxpayers, too."

Well, senior citizens pay taxes, but they're not allowed to play JV hockey, either. The nation is simply not set up to run public school systems a la carte. Not that many don't try: Fourteen states already require schools to open activities up to home-schooled kids in some way. Fourteen others, including PA, a home-schooling center where this has long been a hot-button issue, have bills before the legislature this year which would require school districts to grant extracurricular access to home-schoolers -- who do not have to maintain the attendance records or minimum GPAs typically required of many varsity athletes; who, if they qualified for varsity teams, would by definition take spots away from kids who do show up at school each day; who may not be covered by school insurance policies; and who would bring expensive and time-consuming administrative demands which would distract school staff from serving on-site kids.

Pennsylvania's bill appears poised to pass the legislature, though Governor Ed Rendell, who sees this as a local issue, may well veto it. The Mellingers say that if the law passes, they'll bring their kids back home for classes but keep them on the public school's sports teams and music groups.

"I'd love to have them back," said Mrs. Mellinger, who is also home-schooling three of her four other children. "But I can't provide all the opportunities they need. We can practice music. But we can't put together an orchestra."

You can't put together an orchestra at home, Mary? Well, that's a little bit the idea of having a public-school system, isn't it?

September 23, 2005 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS

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