Monday, March 10, 2008

Californicating Homeschoolers

Teachers’ unions are pro-choice on abortion, but not on education. They use their enormous political capital with the Democrat Party to block voucher initiatives in whatever state or municipality proposes them, including in California. Consequently, many parents homeschool their children at their own expense, even though they still have to pay local property taxes which are spent mostly on public schools their children do not attend. Right now, about 166,000 California children are taught at home. Last week, an California appeals court declared that all children must be taught by a “credentialed” teacher. That means most homeschooling parents without teaching credentials would be violating California law and subject to prosecution. That is going to touch off a political conflagration.

The teachers’ unions love it. "We're happy," said Lloyd Porter, who is on the California Teachers Association board of directors, to the San Francisco Chronicle. "We always think students should be taught by credentialed teachers, no matter what the setting." A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling. "What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Teachers’ unions would like to stop being embarrassed by home-schooled kids who continually outperform those taught by “credentialed” teachers in national contests. According to a 2002 article by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy: “Only 2 percent of U.S. students are home schooled. Yet, in the [National Geographic] geography bee, 22 percent of the national finalists and 40 percent of the final 10 students were home schoolers. Such a showing is nothing short of phenomenal.” Home-schooled kids dominate the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee as well. In 2000, home-schooled kids took first, second, and third place. Last year, home-schooled kids won both the National Geography Bee and the National Spelling Bee.

Meanwhile, we learn that those “credentialed” teachers so prized by California courts and teachers’ unions compare very unfavorably to people credentialed in other professions. To become “credentialed,” teachers have to major in education. According to economist Walter Williams: “Students who have chosen education as their major have the lowest SAT scores of any other major. Students who have graduated with an education degree earn lower scores than any other major on graduate school admissions tests such as the GRE, MCAT or LSAT. Schools of education, either graduate or undergraduate, represent the academic slums of most any university. As such, they are home to the least able students and professors with the lowest academic respect."

Clearly, too many “credentialed” teachers don’t know much. Or, to paraphrase Maine humorist Tim Sample: “They don’t even suspect much.” The slow ones - and trust me, there are a lot of slow ones in public education - don’t want any light shining on just how slow they are. That’s why they fight standardized testing for teachers. The first time Massachusetts forced new teachers to take a basic competency test in 1998, an astonishing 59% of them failed. These were college graduates (education majors) taking a test that Massachusetts House Speaker Thomas Finneran said: “a reasonably educated ninth grader could pass.

Former Boston University President and Massachusetts Board of Education Chairman John Silber wanted to eliminate teacher certification, or “credentialing” as California calls it, because it was keeping really bright people out of the teaching profession. Teachers’ unions blocked him however. Why would unions favor credentialing when they disdain standardized tests? Because it’s easy to pass college education courses and difficult to pass standardized tests which cannot be fudged. I’ll bet a lot of the 59% who flunked the teacher test graduated with honors from their college education departments. Grade inflation there is rampant.

Silber knew there were many mature, successful, college-educated professionals from other fields who wanted to teach and he didn’t want to discourage them by requiring they take two more years of largely useless education courses in order to be certified or “credentialed.” My school district participated in the University of Southern Maine’s “Extended Teacher Education Program,” or ETEP for several years in which aspiring teachers described above could become certified with only one year of coursework and student teaching. I was on teams interviewing promising candidates for whom I might serve as “mentor teacher” during part of that year. As the teams discussed candidate suitability, a disturbing pattern emerged. Several of the above-described “mature, successful, college-educated professionals from other fields” were naturally confident, competent, and bright - as you would expect. But, as such, they were threatening to the insular academics from the university cloister who would have to supervise them. Some interviewers came right out and said the candidates were “too sure of themselves.” They were not typically obsequious, worshipful, college students enthralled by anyone with a Ph.D who calls himself “doctor” and so they were passed over.

There are still excellent public school teachers out there, but mediocre ones are increasing and so are the downright terrible ones, thanks to teachers’ union protection. They may be happy now, but California’s decision on homeschooling will touch off a firestorm the unions are going to regret.


Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Barriers to entry in all fields are a bad thing - for choice, competition, consumers, workers, quality, and most of all for liberty.

Let people compete. If the "credentialed" teachers are really better, they have nothing to worry about from competition.

Anonymous said...

You hit it right on the head as usual, Tom.

I wouldn't have a child of mine in public school today. I am glad the grandkids are going to the best private school in the Manchester, NH area!

Harvey in North Baldwin

Anonymous said...

Tom hits another HOME RUN!!!
Great article that exposes the truth. As a supporter of homeschooling, having homeschooled our kids for a couple of years, I really appreciate what is being said here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your well written article. Mom used to say, "The public schools are dumbing down our kids so they can someday rule them with a socialized government." Mom is now gone, but her prediction appears to be accurate. We need private schools and homeschools to train future leaders. Our public schools are training socialist.

Sweating Through fog said...

Thanks for a well written and informative article. I don't home school, but I certainly sympathize with the parents that this order affects.

Anonymous said...

Well said. Dumbing down of our public schools so they can someday rule them with a socialized government is only a small part of the plan. It includes indoctrination to the leftist views on the environment, socialized health care, anti-capitalism, anti-private property rights, anti-gun ownership, and secularism, to name a few. This is yet another example of liberal judicial activism.

Anonymous said...

Great posting. It said and scary to think the same kids educated and indoctrinated by many sub par teachers will be voters soon. They won't be able to understand what they're voting for or for whom. My heaven's! Shades of Kennett High School!

Anonymous said...

enjoyed this article tom. homeschooling is done by motivated parents who have motivated kids

Anonymous said...

This is one of many examples of how the teacher's unions have done damage. These problems reach further in to the University system. My son, who had high sat's really wanted to be a history teacher. He graduates in May from UMF. He has changed to a business minor. He was fed up with the liberal brain washing that comes out of the university of maine system. It has soured his teaching asperations. This is my first blog ever, I guess this subject really bothers me. Any child with any smarts knows to get as far away from the teaching profession as possible.

SeanPatrick said...


Great post. Are teachers unions really pro-choice on abortion? my assumption was that they would be neutral on the issue, since it has nothing to do with education.

I understand why they are anti-choice on vouchers, homeschooling, etc.; even though I disagree with them, they only care about their own interests.

Your point on certification is spot on. The people reading this blog should also check out Nicholas Kristof's NY Times column from 2 years ago calling for the abolition of teacher cert.:

Sean Pidgeon

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks for the kind words everyone.

Sean: The NEA supports "reproductive freedom" which is a code word for abortion used by NARAL, NOW, and others. There's a pretty good summation of NEA's abortion smokescreens here:

Anonymous said...

Great post. We need home schoolers and those who attend private schools. They are our future leaders. We also need public school because someone has to flip our burgers.

Look at the dems running for office now. Neither went to public school, yet they advocate for the flawed system.