Wednesday, April 30, 2008 California,

Does anyone know what happened to this idea?

Students ordered to wear tracking tags
Parents protest school mandate on RFID badges

Dawn and Mike Cantrall's daughter, a seventh-grader at Brittan Elementary School, poses at her Sutter, Calif., home, wearing the RFID tag mandated by her school.
By Lisa Leff

Updated: 8:02 p.m. ET Feb. 9, 2005
SUTTER, Calif. - The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will rob their children of privacy.

The badges introduced at Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory.

While similar devices are being tested at several schools in Japan so parents can know when their children arrive and leave, Brittan appears to be the first U.S. school district to embrace such a monitoring system.

Civil libertarians hope to keep it that way.
"If this school doesn't stand up, then other schools might adopt it," Nicole Ozer, a representative of the American Civil Liberties Union, warned school board members at a meeting Tuesday night. "You might be a small community, but you are one of the first communities to use this technology."

The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Principal Earnie Graham hopes to eventually add bar codes to the existing ID's so that students can use them to pay for cafeteria meals and check out library books.
But some parents see a system that can monitor their children's movements on campus as something straight out of Orwell.

"There is a way to make kids safer without making them feel like a piece of inventory," said Michael Cantrall, one of several angry parents who complained. "Are we trying to bring them up with respect and trust, or tell them that you can't trust anyone, you are always going to be monitored and someone is always going to be watching you?"

Cantrall said he told his children, in the 5th and 7th grades, not to wear the badges. He also filed a protest letter with the board and alerted the ACLU.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Letter to a Skeptic

The most common description of school today is "Boring." Ask anyone -- kids, parents, even teachers. There are many articles, even whole books, telling the sad tale of how school is not merely a waste of time, but is actually damaging.

While public schools are required to "offer instruction" in a few basic subjects, there is no legal requirement for children to be forced to attend classes in which they are bored silly and where they are not even given the basic skills. For example, reading instruction has been changed from learning how to read using phonics, to guessing at words using a farce called Whole Language, resulting in massive reading failure. The same is true in Math. The schools use "Fuzzy math" instead of teaching how to calculate for correct answers. The business world and the professions are appalled at the massive failure.

Some people still believe that the government schools are offering real education. They have not been paying attention to those schools for a long time. Their primary purpose is no longer (if it ever was) academic learning; it has become indoctrination with a generous helping of psycho-therapy. All you need to do is observe them in action. Today's state-run schools are still, as ever, the training ground for the military, factory work and other repetitive jobs requiring blind obedience. They are not the places to learn independent thought or creative action. Dumbing Down is not just a catchy phrase, it's the national policy.

Teachers majored in "education," a content-free course that attracts mostly those who have not been academically successful in either school or college. Thus, the staffs of public schools are crowded with people who are neither of high academic ability, but are not even academically oriented.

A study by the Thomas Fordham Foundation (and others) provides a key to why so many people are choosing alternatives such as homeschooling for their children. It is that the Standards of teaching in the public schools of America have long been poor and are steadily getting worse. What that means is that the quality of the teaching and the teachers has been falling for fifty years and continues today. (Microsoft is forced to hire 200,000 people from overseas because American high school grads cannot read or write English adequately or do simple math)

Ask Arthur Levine, head of Columbia Teachers College, the "leading" teacher and administrator mill, about the quality of the teacher colleges across the country. In his four-year study of those colleges (that did not include Columbia) he described them as "between unacceptable and embarrassing, with low standards and irrelevant curricula." Thus, we are left with mostly inferior instruction, low academic standards and inadequate administrators at best.

When parents discover those problems for themselves and are interested in their own children's education, they are voting with their feet, by looking for private schools or homeschooling. That group has always been professional people. In years past, doctors were the most likely group to send their kids to private schools. Today, they have been replaced by public school teachers as the occupation with the largest percentage of children in private schools. A recent report, also by the Fordham Foundation claimed that 21% of public school teachers send their own children to private schools. They should know why....ask them. Some are homeschooling.

The average college graduate is both more intelligent and better educated than the average public school teacher. Parents who choose to homeschool their children -- and I mean all but a negligible percent -- are, in my considerable experience with them, not only the most knowledgable about their own children's needs, but are far more dedicated to their children than the strangers that public schools employ. My wife and I were teachers; she in public school and I in private schools. She calls her certification a joke. We both saw the mediocrity and waste.

One thing we learned from our years of involvement in our own son's self-education (we call it unschooling -- no schooling at all unless requested by the learner) and with families is that whatever schools offer is available to everyone -- more easily, more quickly, with better quality, and on our own schedule -- in many other places. Yes, homeschooling is a form of protection of children -- from stupidity and mediocrity, bullying and coercion, boredom and time-wasting. Life is a good teacher; homeschoolers learn from real life, not in artificial, synthetic second-hand teaching environments.

We have also learned that the public schools are huge government jobs programs for adults at taxpayer expense. Their true (social and economic) purposes have little to do with either education or children. They are run today for the benefit and convenience of their employees, not for the community, not for the students who trustingly show up but who are, in droves, left behind. They are driven by political agendas, silly teaching fads, and controlled by teacher union rules.

Next time you knock homeschooling, spend some time in a public school first. Judge the secrecy, deception and corruption for yourself and then consider whether you would put your own children in there. Just don't look too close or ask too many questions -- they'll throw you out. And to your question about whether or not the schools would change "if we just hang in there and work for reform," life is simply not long enough. Sadly, the schools are working perfectly for their employees and show no signs of improvement, or even listening.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Ideal VS the Reality

Not so long ago, when towns reached a population with fifty children and its people wanted to start a school, they got together and hired a teacher. A teacher would be expected to teach up to about fifty children of different ages and abilities. In those days (until the early 1800s), America's literacy rate was the highest the world had ever seen.

But a strange thing happened. The federal government, in about 1840, started its push to bring universal schooling to the entire population. It was begun with forcing the people of Massachusetts to send their children to government-run schools. There was much protest there and in many other places that lasted well into the 20th century, but the feds finally gained control over the great majority of our children. The goal was never education, but it was uniformity and docility in the creation of a dependent "workforce" to serve industry and the military. Plain and simple: the government wanted slaves. It still does.

Today, in government schooling, the schools hire approximately ten employees for every fifty students, and the literacy rate is far below earlier levels, even though the children attend the school for more hours a day and more days per year than in earlier times. What is going on?

Not only is public school designed as an indoctrination program, primarily teaching children to be obedient to authority, but it is also serving as an employment scheme, hiring millions of not-well-educated people in dozens of capacities, only a few of which are educational. In the process, the academic part of schooling has been all but eliminated, resulting in what today is called "dumbing down."

Thus, public school has taken on its true purposes: baby sitting, social engineering, job training, and a hiring kingdom, with its goal: an entire society working toward government control over society. Yes, that is the dream of Socialist planners in the last century. It is coming true. And the truly remarkable part is that the planners have, all along, sent the bill to us. The tab is now over ten thousand dollars per year per child.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Kids Are Smart; School Is Stupid

Luz and I subscribe to Life Learning Magazine, edited by Wendy Priesnitz. In her article, Challenging Assumptions In Education, she gives many reasons why public school is bad. In the Introduction, she tells us, "Schooling impedes learning and enslaves children." (how's that for starters...?)

She then lists several false assumptions that are made about government schools.
The main false assumptions she lists are these five:
1. Education is something that's done to you.
2. Knowledge belongs to a cult of experts (teachers); therefore, schools teach us to be emotionally and intellectually dependent, not independent or self-assured.
3. Others know best what children should learn. (Here, Priesnitz quotes Einstein: "It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty.")
She adds another false assumption schools teach: Others know better than we do how we should spend our time. She recommends this: education must be organized around learning rather than around teaching.
4. Schools provide effective training. Simply not true; the experience is totally synthetic/artificial.
5. Schools have a noble purpose...such as, social justice, tolerance, democracy, equal opportunity, etc.

Priesnitz states: "The chief function of state-run education has never been to empower citizens...the purpose of schools has been, at its most benign, to imprint a social script or, at it worst, to achieve mass social control."

I have a few more ideas for the list:
* Public schools operate for the benefit of their employees, not the children or their families or society. The rules are made by the teacher unions; therefore, the schools need children; not the reverse.
* School does not prepare us for life, but only for more school. It is a culture unto itself.
* Schools operate on the principle that says, children's experiences, opinions, interests, and thoughts are of no value.
* Schools also try to convince us that parents are not capable of providing adequate instruction for their own children, even in basic skills.
* A resident of my town, Armand Fusco, a former superintendent of two districts, is author of the book, "School Corruption, Betrayal of Children and the Public Trust". In it, he says, "...Public school is a culture of corruption and deceit." The more I learn, the more I agree with him.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Makers and the Takers

When the government established its school system -- gradually, state by state in the 1800s -- its goal was to provide a minimum of academic learning while training children to be obedient to authority and predictable as consumers in a "mass market." Government wanted soldiers and factory workers. It also wanted a market for the products of the industrial revolution and political support from the masses for its policies and candidates. The school system provided both.

Nothing has changed, except that academics have been dumbed down while the indoctrination has expanded by new techniques of psychology and new goals of social engineering.

The schools now believe they can get away with almost any outrage, because, as we discover every year at budget time, they have the votes. The people who work in real world jobs -- producing goods and services that society needs and wants -- earn the money and produce wealth. They are called the Makers. Those who work inside the government system produce nothing, and (together with their families) are called the Takers. The number of Takers has now reached critical mass whereby they can vote for whatever they want, and get it.

The big trick was that, long ago, the public were convinced that it was our duty to pay for this system of education.

"Private enterprise maintains and expands itself by continually offering people things they want. Government maintains and expands itself by depriving people of things they want, by means of seizing their goods (taxation) and preventing them from trading and living as they choose (regulation). Thus, private enterprise continually increases the prosperity and well-being of its customers, while government continually decreases the prosperity and well-being of its citizens." *

*from the book, The Market for Liberty, by Morris and Linda Tannehill

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Freedom Is Not Free

note: this post is taken from our book, Smarting Us Up (see sidebar)

There are only two ways that people can interact. One is voluntarily; the other is by force. Either we are free, or we are someone's slaves. In our relations with “authorities,” we are either free to interact with them and associate with them, or we are not. If they create laws that force us to educate our children by their methods and/or rules, then to the degree they do that, we are their slaves.

Granted, homeschooling is merely a part of our lives, and therefore, we are not true slaves, and homeschooling regulations do not comprise total slavery. But the distinction is only a matter of degree. The regulations are backed by force, and it's the force that we need to acknowledge. Force is what takes away our freedom and our choice and our sovereignty as individuals.

If we are forced to homeschool our kids according to the dictates of anyone else, then to that degree, we are their slaves. On the other hand, if a friend persuades us to UNschool or to use another method, that is our voluntary and free choice.

The word ‘slavery’ naturally brings to mind the most drastic deprivations of freedom, so it makes people uneasy when we refer to certain state homeschooling regulations as slavery. But that is what it is -- the opposite of freedom to live as we choose.

Freedom is not free. If we are not vigilant and ready to stand against tyranny -- no matter how small or how ‘reasonable’ its demands may seem, we will move further down the slippery slope to slavery. In order to be a truly free people, we need to eliminate all the little rules of enslavement (rules backed by force) that control our lives.

Luz and I are libertarians -- yes, members of the Libertarian Party ( That means that we believe in liberty: Unless we harm someone or take advantage of someone or use force against others, then the foundations of this country declare that we are free to choose how we live our lives. We need to keep it that way. Nobody said it would be easy.