Peddling Ignorance? Or Pushing Knowledge?

Okay, so here’s the question: If a teacher or textbook tries to block children from getting knowledge, is that still education? Or is it instead the deliberate promotion of ignorance?

In the case of US History, conservative textbooks deliberately set out to block children’s understanding of the kinds of historical ideas kids might hear in public school. Does that count as education? How about if the textbook and teacher sincerely believe the truth of what they’re teaching instead?

Here’s why I’m asking: I’ve spent the last couple of days debating these questions with a group of high-power historians and sociologists at the annual meeting of the Social Science Historical Association in scenic Toronto. Just next to the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Our panel was convened by Winthrop University historian AJ Angulo.  It was chaired by Kim Tolley of Notre Dame de Namur University, and joined by Dan Perlstein of Berkeley and Karen Graves of Denison. Andrew Abbott of the University of Chicago offered comments. Professor Anjulo is editing a book about the historical construction of ignorance in American education. The rest of the group has contributed chapters.

My chapter, and the subject of my presentation in sunny Toronto, concerned history textbooks cranked out by Bob Jones University Press and A Beka Book. Both publishers come from the firmly fundamentalist side of conservative evangelicalism. And each of them has produced textbooks that tell a very different story than the one you might find in a public-school textbook.

a beka babel big

A Beka on where Americans came from

a beka babel detail

The Babel argument, close up

A Beka, for example, explains the origins of humanity in the Americas as the direct result of the collapse of the Tower of Babel. When that happened, people were pushed all over the earth, including into the Americas. And the BJU Press textbook asks review questions you would never find in any public-school history book: How does the early colonial history of the British teach lessons about the biblical morality of gay marriage in today’s world? What can Deuteronomy tell us about the Puritans?

No one doubts that these textbooks tell a very different history from the ones you’d find in a public school. History, in these tellings, is the unfolding of God’s plan over time. Human activity is but a scrabbling, either towards or away from the divine.

And the makers of these books have made no secret of their desire to replace mainstream historical thinking with conservative biblical interpretations. In other words, the entire point of these textbooks is to replace the histories kids might be hearing elsewhere with a profoundly biblical story.

As the faculty of Bob Jones University argued in a 1992 book, there is a “basic difference between Christian and secularist thinking about the human past.” Whereas mainstream or secular historians might hope to teach students to question sources and consider their own biases, BJU’s goal was different. The first goal of teaching history, they wrote, was to help a student “shore up his doctrinal beliefs and reinforce his Christian view of the world.”

BJU press review big

The main ideas, BJU-style

BJU press review detail

A close up: Living as a Christian Citizen

So does this count as the active construction of ignorance? Or is this, rather, simply a different version of what we usually call simply “education”? After all, kids come to public schools filled with historical knowledge, much of it bogus. Many of them get that knowledge from movies such as Forrest Gump. They think that history has been made up of Tom Hanks’ travels though time meeting famous people. Every good history teacher has to try to squeeze out those false historical notions and replace them with better ideas about history.

Activists such as Jonny Scaramanga might blast fundamentalist textbooks as near-criminal impositions of ignorance on hapless kids.  But these textbooks, we could argue, are doing the exact same thing as textbooks in public schools. They are trying to help children block out what they consider to be false knowledge with something they consider more true.

Can we call that peddling ignorance? Even if we think the history is wrong? Or do we have to admit that all education consists of an attempt to push out some kinds of knowledge to replace them with better kinds?

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40 Comments

  1. Dan Mandell

     /  November 9, 2014

    I’m already losing my hair, so I’m unable to pull much out while I scream in anguish.

    Reply
  2. Thanks for the shout-out. I don’t know that I’ve ever put my view quite as bluntly as the one you attribute to me, but that is roughly what I think.

    I think that to be involved in the active construction of ignorance, there needs to be something more than just false information at play. As you note, mainstream history education teaches students to evaluate sources and challenge their biases. The ‘construction of ignorance’, I think, would need not only a lack of knowledge, but also to create in the student an inability or unwillingness to change their mind. I think fundamentalist education quite often does have this affect, and I think that’s intentional.

    Of course, I also think that there is such a thing as correct knowledge, so the falsehoods in fundamentalist textbooks can be condemned for what they are. Your conclusion implies a relativism that I would be surprised if you really believe.

    Reply
    • Excellent point. We could talk about these fundamentalist textbooks as “constructing ignorance” because of the attitude toward knowledge expressed in those books. Knowledge is presented as a set and finished product, not a continual process. But even that criticism requires us to imply that mainstream history educators are successful in their attempts to teach students to be critical readers. In the real world, that is not the case. We’d need to give mainstream history educators the chance to describe what they hope to do, not what they really do. And if we gave mainstream history educators the chance to use the best-case argument, to be fair we’d need to do that for fundamentalist history educators as well. My hunch is that fundamentalist educators would say that in the best case, their attitude toward knowledge INCLUDES a sense of ever-present human error, a sense that anything we think we know must be held loosely, a sense that we must avoid a sense of pride in our correct knowledge. Even if many real-world fundamentalist schools revert to a attitude of dispensing Holy Truth.
      In the end, though, I’m hoping in this chapter to sidestep that difficult argument, and to avoid simple relativism. Instead, I’m hoping to argue that the PROCESS at play in both mainstream history education and fundamentalist history education is the same: Both versions hope to displace false knowledge with better, truer knowledge. That does not imply that the “better, truer knowledges” are equivalent. Rather, we can and should argue for the better truer knowledge that we believe to be better and truer. But that’s a subject for a different paper.

      Reply
      • I think the fundamentalist best case depends on the question. If we’re talking about history of the United States, they might well show the humility you describe. Where the subject matter is related to the question of Biblical inerrancy, however, I am sure that they want to instil an absolutely unshakeable belief in the students. For the fundamentalist, no good can come from pursuing the possibility of error in the Bible.

      • Yes, right. My point doesn’t hold if we’re talking about Biblical inerrancy. As an aside, I think the study of subjects besides theology and evolution at conservative religious schools needs more attention. The way fundamentalists have approached the study and teaching of history seems to be a promising avenue for making sense of what “good” education would mean outside of mainstream circles.

      • Yeah, definitely. But unless your Google Scholar skills are way better than mine, this just appears to be a massively neglected area of scholarship. I am not aware of any currently working academics focusing on conservative Christian education besides you and me. Certainly in the UK, all the research is on state-funded education, and private faith schools are almost wholly overlooked. That’s why I got into this: I felt that if I didn’t do it, no one would.

      • James Carper at the University of South Carolina has done a lot of good work looking at conservative Christian schools in the US.

  3. “The way fundamentalists have approached the study and teaching of history seems to be a promising avenue for making sense of what “good” education would mean outside of mainstream circles.”

    Would you like to clarify that? I think the figure examples above are just plain crazy, speaking as a member of the United Methodist Church. The notion that God has some sort of unfolding world plan is just that—a theological, faith based notion. There is no historical evidence or proof for such a plan, but it is being presented as real history.

    No disrespect intended, but the exchange between you two above reads like blather to me. As far as I am concerned, the answer is to make Christian homeschooling illegal and teach all American kids history based on sound evidence and legitimate scholarly interpretation—and distinguish between what is fact and what is interpretation. Some people think George Custer was a hero. Some people think he was an incompetent military man who just happened to also be a personal jerk. Tell the kids both sides.

    Reply
    • Dover, I think historians get nervous when we hear talk about making this kind or that kind of schooling illegal, even if we personally disagree with the ideas under consideration. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that the Good Methodists and their co-religionists were convinced that Native American religion and culture were obviously false and blasphemous and needed to be stamped out. As David Adams has argued, these well-meaning educational missionaries did not see any reason not to crush the home cultures of their students.

      Reply
      • Yes. And that is precisely why Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals, if they ever get the political power necessary to do it, will outlaw homeschooling for anyone who wants to protect their children from them and their ideology. Their desire is not to be left alone so they can go to their corner and quietly pray. Their desire is to seek safety for the moment to build their ranks–then reach out in accumulated power to conquer, dominate, and control those who do not believe precisely as they do. They would call it forcing submission to Christ. Religiously, I have no problem submitting to Jesus Christ and his rule. Bring it on!!! I have a very real problem submitting to the rule of tin-horned “Christian Ayatollahs” who proclaim themselves to be the exclusive representatives of God on Earth. Human history is full of these types, and the wake from their ships is red with innocent blood. Just sayin’.

    • Donna

       /  November 16, 2014

      Dover, would you like to see all homeschooling be illegal, or just for Christians?

      Reply
      • Well Donna. When you use the word “Christian,” I assume you are using it as a classic “code word” for those people who believe only the so-called “right doctrines” you believe and that United Methodists, Lutherans, Catholics, etc. are all going to Hell because they do not believe exactly as you do. Right?

        A famous American has said, “Those who would deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” You know as well as I do that if so-called Bible-believing Christians were in charge of the government and had firm control over it, their religious doctrines would be taught in the public schools—exclusively. There is no way they would allow me (or anyone else who disagrees) to homeschool my children. If you were one of these people (and you had the power), you would insist that my child be in your classroom to absorb your religious dogma because saving his soul the “right way” is all that really matters to you and is a life or death matter in your mind. Knowing that you would do this to me and my family (and probably board up my church to boot), why do you think you deserve total freedom to homeschool your fundie child? Jesus said: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Fine. Knowing that you first would delight in doing that unto my homeschooling rights, I would equally delight in taking yours away. Fair is fair. Clear?

        The thing you have to understand is that Christian fundamentalism is totalitarian in nature. It is angry, militant, dictatorial…and ultimately—violent in nature It brooks no opposition, sees no fault in itself, and believes that everything outside of itself is in league with Satan and is an enemy of God—and the enemies of God must be destroyed. There is no way I and my United Methodist Church family would be allowed any sort of religious freedom under a system of education or government controlled by Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. I think one of the best ways we can protect ourselves and American freedom now is to oppose homeschooling by anyone—and most of all Christian fundamentalists. The last thing I want is a bunch of home-based breeding nests for people who are dead set on taking away my religious freedom and shipping my children off to a concentration camp one day—although I am sure you will call it Christian Boot Camp—while the cremation ovens send the smoke of my children up the stacks.

        No. I am not deranged. I read the literature that your religious side writes—the whole spectrum of it. I don’t see Jesus in any of it. Pol Pot maybe.

      • @dover, you have made many accusations but have not given any examples of said militant child burning Christian fundamentalism. Could you enlighten by giving some examples?

  4. Sorry Adam.. I don’t buy into the notion that history is whatever you want it to be on day x, day y, or day z. I also don’t buy into the notion that “religious imagination” about prehistory or history qualifies as actual prehistory or history. Of course, I am probably a bit jaded on this from fighting the conservative block on the Texas SBOE for the last 5 years..

    Reply
  5. Donna

     /  November 16, 2014

    Dover, I grew up in the United Methodist Church. I really don’t want to have a fight with you. You have made many assumptions about me without knowing me, which you are free to do. Thanks for answering my question.

    Reply
    • Aye Lassie. You may have grown up there, but are you one now? That’s the key question. Did you marry a Christian fundamentalist or conservative evangelical who presses down hard on your brow with his right doctrine?

      Does he demand that you homeschool your children to protect them from scientific facts, to protect them from truthful sex education, to protect them from Halloween, and to protect them from “having to associate with black children in public schools.” Does he insist on use of the 6-inch rule, and does he allow boys and girls to swim in the same water together. Are they allowed to dance? Does he believe in naturally evil musical note combinations?

      Let me ask you a question. Do you believe in homeschooling—and if you do it—then why do you do it?

      Reply
      • Donna

         /  November 17, 2014

        Yes, I homeschool for a number of reasons. I think homeschooling has pros and cons just like public and private school, and should be an option for those that want to including you. It doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that people leave my neighborhood when their kids are ready for elementary school. I like having a flexible schedule and finding materials that work for my kids. I could go on, and also address your other questions and accusations. But based on the way you asked questions about my husband and your other message, it seems to me that you are more interested in proving that you are right rather than asking out of a genuine interest. So I will stop here, except to say that I have also read plenty of literature that I don’t see Jesus in.

  6. Emuse. I cannot do so because Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals have never had the political power to do so—yet—but they are striving for it However, Rousas Rushdoony and others (if you read their writings) have all expressed a desire to be murderous monsters on behalf of Jesus.

    Furthermore, within all fundamentalist religions on this planet, there is a seed of murder and death that pervades them. The Taliban are just one example. ISIS is another. The only thing Christian fundamentalists in the United States have not had so far is the anarchy and social upheaval (a society in total crisis) that would make it possible and even desirable for Christian fundamentalist leaders to call upon their people to reach out in violence against those who they perceive to be their enemies. I may not live to see it, but the time is coming when that will happen. The great and advanced nations of the Earth have all all cried out, “That could never happen here.” Then, as Louis XVI said, “Apres moi. Le deluge.” And so it was.

    This sums up my position well:

    Reply
  7. Thanks Donna. I apologize. I do have a tendency to go intuitive on people when I might be dead wrong. I would like to hear the whole story on why you homeschool. I will reciprocate in advance below by telling you why I do not homeschool:

    1) The small town we live in has one of the best public school systems in the United States—certifiable. The schools are nearby and easy to go to and from each day. The teachers are really nice and very competent—and one Principal is an old friend of mine. The school environment is neither violent nor oppressive in any perceptible way, the facilities are high quality and well maintained. The teachers and teaching are excellent. My kids learn a great deal.

    2) We parents get bored easily and so do our children. Homeschooling would quite likely drive all of us insane—so much so that doing it would be a very poor choice for us.

    3) I used to do curriculum development for industrial training courses, and these course included performance-based training. One of the key tenets of performance-based training is that the student learns by doing while surrounded by the environment in which he will be doing it on the job. Public school is a microcosm of the American culture in which they will have to live one day—unless they move overseas. It will help them to understand American culture better as a matter of performance-based training, and they will learn how to adapt to it. You cannot adapt well to an unknown.

    4) We like our children to be exposed to all different kinds of people. The town we live in is an international community with people from all over the world: Americans, Asians, Europeans, Africans, South Americans, Australians. You name it. We got it. Our schools have people of all economic classes—and numerous religions are represented. We also have a substantial African-American representation in the student body. The overall diversity gives our children exposure to people of all kinds. In particular, I think it is good for our children to encounter and be able to observe the occasional dishonest or emotionally unhinged person at school so they can get a sound feel for “who not to get into the car with” several years down the road—learning to identify danger signals given off by other people. A homeschooled friend of ours (age 19) was murdered this summer. I firmly believe she would be alive today if she had not been homeschooled—and would have never befriended the man who killed her because she would have picked up on detecting the danger signals he was sending out from her public school experience.

    5) I am a professional scientist, and our town is one of the world’s premier scientific research centers—so we citizens insist that our public schools provide the very best in fact-based science education: old Earth, general evolution, human evolution, the big bang, man-induced global warming, sound sex education (science-based)—the best and most up to date of everything. Our social studies textbooks and classes are rooted in sound scholarship with regard to American history, world geography, world history, sociology, anthropology, psychology, etc. American exceptionalism, right-wing-nutjob historical revisionism, David Bartonism (bad scholarship and false history), and teaching children to admire evil men such as Senator Joseph McCarthy does not happen in our social studies classrooms—praise Jesus.

    6) Administrators and teachers are not allowed to bring their personal religious beliefs into class and teach them to the students, which is probably a good thing in our town because the Christian kids would not want their Hindu teacher schooling them in Hinduism, and the Hindu and Islamic children would probably not like taking religious dictation from a Jewish teacher. Local Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals do not engage in the patterns of militant behavior they exhibit elsewhere in the United States because they know the large, wealthy, and highly educated population at large will not tolerate it anywhere in the school system. Therefore, we rest easy that our children will never come home from school with the notion that there was no death anywhere in the world before Adam and Eve (who were not real people) or that Noah’s flood covered the whole planet (also not true).

    7) There is little to no social stratification in our school system that reflects a similar stratification in the community. For example, in the school system where I grew up 50 years ago, the sons and daughters of the highly educated and wealthy people who managed and ran my old hometown (doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, businessmen, etc.) would not associate socially with the children of the people they considered to be “beneath their parents standing” in local society. It was really a caste system. It is my understanding that such harsh lines of division do not exist in our local schools—which was exemplified by the many “lovable mutt” friends my daughter used to bring home with her from school. There is more of a sense of equality and the equitable in our school system.

    8) Most of all, the kids and their parents are actively involved in our school system. It is the kind of school system where kids actually want summer to be over so they can get back to school, their friends, and learning new things. The parents are heavily engaged with the school system in large numbers. The schools quite literally are OUR SCHOOLS. We feel so very happy and lucky that both of our children have matriculated through this public school system.

    Reply
    • Donna

       /  November 19, 2014

      I just tried posting something, but for some reason it didn’t work. So I will try again soon.

      Reply
      • Doggone it. I hate WordPress when it does that!!! Sometimes I type mine out in Microsoft Word and then copy and paste it into WordPress so I don’t lose it. As you can see from my discussion with Doug below, I don’t bite—and I am interested in what you have to say. God bless and have a nice day.

    • Donna

       /  November 20, 2014

      Well then, I’ll take your word for it that you don’t bite. But some of those other United Methodists, I don’t know about them….. 🙂

      I am completely swamped until Saturday afternoon, and will get back to you then.

      Reply
    • [Editor’s Note: Donna had technical difficulties posting the comment below, so I’m putting it up for her. Her words are entirely her own–unedited.]
      Thank you Dover. I appreciate your apology.

      I am a conservative evangelical.

      In terms of being angry, militant, desiring to take away your religious freedoms, having a husband that demands I homeschool and protect them from Halloween, evolution, and whatever else, then that is not correct.

      As for your comment, I like the overall vibe you describe, a small town, and a supportive, connected community. If all school aged kids could be in that kind of environment where there is no bullying and has the other factors you described, that would be great.

      I am sorry to hear about the 19 year old.
      I think it is difficult to draw a permanent line saying public school children will not fall for dangers and homeschooled children will. That provides a false sense of security since there are some girls in public school that are trafficked for sex after school. They were not aware of the dangers, or how to protect themselves. Kids can get entangled in trafficking, mostly girls in the US, no matter whether they are in public school or not.

      Other reasons I homeschool- I want to. I didn’t like giving grades when they were younger. I do not like unschooling, though that crosses over into that territory. I don’t like the amount of homework kids have, and some private schools give even more. TAG starts at such a young age, and it’s difficult to move to a different track once you’re in one. I do have other reasons that I would rather not talk about. To be clear, I’m not saying everyone should homeschool. That is just my preference.

      I’m glad my friend was able to get her 5th grader into the TAG program since his regular class was reading 1st grade material. But what if she wasn’t able to do that? What about the other students in the class that can read at a 5th grade level but are reading 1st grade materials in class? This is just an example, but if you take away homeschooling, then some parents aren’t going to have the option to educate their kids with circumstances like this. People homeschool for all sorts of reasons. If parents don’t have the option, then some kids are going to be forced to be in an environment where they don’t feel safe, or they are not learning.

      Reply
  8. P.S. Bullying, bringing guns to school, and other such nonsense is not tolerated in our school system. The administration comes down hard on anyone who might try it.

    Reply
    • [Editor’s Note: Donna had technical difficulties posting the comment below, so I’m putting it up for her. Her words are entirely her own–unedited. She also tried to post these comments before some of the ensuing conversation.]
      I understand that you have concerns about homeschooling, and I don’t want to dismiss or minimize your concerns. There are many others that do as well, including the public school teacher who was watching my kids play years ago and said, “well they SEEM normal”. Thankfully my husband was there to help answer her questions as she tried to make her diagnosis. If I have questions about what to do in my homeschooling, then I find the right person to ask and I ask them. I decided this teacher was not going to be one of those people, though I have talked to other public school teachers.

      I do know that some people have been abused in a homeschooling setting, Christian schools, Christian reform homes, and are sometimes met with a deaf ear by the people who really need to be listening to them. I have likely read some of the same literature that you have. I’m not in any way suggesting that homeschooling is perfect or that all homeschooling parents are wonderful people. There is an organization that wants to reform homeschooling, but they are not trying to make it illegal. If you don’t like homeschooling that is one thing. I hope you do understand that I do not have a home-based breeding nest designed to indoctrinate my kids to be murderous monsters on behalf of Jesus.

      When you mentioned your comment about the Christian boot camp and I got over my initial shock, what I heard you saying, correct me if I’m wrong, is that ideas can lead to certain consequences. You are concerned about the consequences of the ideas that may bring harm to your kids and you don’t want to let it get to that point. This is exactly what I think about some of the accusations directed towards Creationists. There are things being said that make me wonder what the possible consequences could be down the road.

      Speaking of people that I have talked to about my questions, I contacted Dr. Laats (knowing that he does not agree with me as a Creationist) because he had some insights that I found surprising and interesting. What he told me (in many emails), along with everything I have read, has helped me to see the big picture of culture war issues. I have studied this whole realm of evolution, creation, and beyond for several reasons. One is, so I know what to teach my own kids.

      Reply
  9. “Can we call that peddling ignorance? Even if we think the history is wrong? Or do we have to admit that all education consists of an attempt to push out some kinds of knowledge to replace them with better kinds?”

    Adam. In direct answer to your question, I think the fundies are peddling their ignorant beliefs along with historical facts—and calling the beliefs portion facts for all practical purposes. Any interpretations of historical facts that they include are likely to have a strong religious spin on it, which adds another layer of belief taught as fact. The example I would give is famous in fundie curriculum materials—the “God made George Washington bullet-proof claim.” No proof. They just want children to accept it as a fact of history. They are indeed peddling ignorance as truth.

    I am not willing to buy into the notion that all education is pushing out bad old knowledge to replace it with better new knowledge. From dealing with my own kids, my experience has been that kids recoil from historical information. While we all might pick up some untrue historical information during our cultural sojourn, I think American history (from a bulk knowledge standpoint) so overwhelms what the kids already know by its sheer bulk that it is functionally more like writing on a blank slate than replacing bits of incorrect knowledge with better knowledge—the key words there being “overwhelm and bulk.”

    Basically, I think the key issue is whether beliefs or articles of faith with regard to history should be taught as fact, which is the key issue in the science classroom as well. Just because a person believes in something really strongly and sincerely does not make that something a fact or make it true. People believe all kinds of crazy things for all kinds of crazy reasons. A number of people believe strongly that George W. Bush designed and implemented the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Should we teach that as historical fact just because some nutcase feels it or believes it so strongly?

    Reply
  10. dover – what is your opinion of ‘unschooling’ which seems to be more appealing to the left?

    Reply
    • Hi Douglas. I am not familiar with the term “unschooling,” and I do not have a habit of reading and absorbing leftist ideological literature, which may be why I missed it. Whatever beliefs and thoughts I have on assorted subjects are pretty much my own conclusions from years of personal study, thinking, and inquiry rather than things some person or group has handed to me on a platter and said, “You should believe this.”

      If you would like to define “unschooling” for me, I could examine it some and determine what I think or feel about it. Would you be willing to do that for me? Thanks!!!

      Reply
      • dover – will do. I learned about this via a younger colleague who is all gung ho about unschooling. I would say that it is a form of home schooling, but is pretty much free-form, doing whatever the kid finds interesting. Probably an overstatement, but read more here:
        http://unschooling.com/ and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unschooling

        thanks – doug

      • Thanks Doug. I am not totally sure what I think about it. It might be good for some people who are very mature, responsible, and capable of extraordinarily wise self-direction. That is not most small kids I have known. I could do it because I learn wherever my nose and interests lead me—but I am 62 years old and have spent a lifetime doing it. It sounds to me like something that would work best for very mature and responsible teenagers and adult learners.

        Perhaps I am too much of a traditionalist. A friend of mine who is a clinical psychologist says that part of the process of education for children is the civilizing of little creatures who are naturally and inherently barbarians—kids. It occurs to me that this sort of job for most would require a great deal of structure, inculcated self-discipline, and direction—the word “direction” meaning a point in the direction to go with something rather than telling them what to do—although that would be part of it too.

        Bringing the leftist-rightest thing into it that you mentioned and religion—if I may—I see two things of interest:

        1) The original sin, as presented in Genesis 1, is not disobedience to God as many pastors have said across the years. That is just an initial symptom of a deeper root cause. If you read closely, the actual original sin is the internal urge within Eve (sin coming from the inside to the outside as Jesus said) to BE GOD. The leftist atheist type would probably rejoice in unschooling because it allows the learner to be the God over his own learning universe.

        2) The rightest would complain that too much formal structure and direction in traditional education is like government regulation. It makes the school and its “system” be the God over the child learner and the learning process. Somewhat akin to the leftist, many rightists over the years have impressed upon me that their baseline definition of TRUE FREEDOM
        is the absolute ability to do whatever a person wants to do, whenever a person wants to do it, and wherever a person wants to do it—no matter who else gets hurt in the process. For example, I live in an area where rightists are bitter about state laws that prevent them from smoking in their favorite restaurants. Their position is that all restaurants should cater to smokers until the air looks like a dense fog—and if anyone nonsmoker is afraid of lung cancer from second-hand smoke—well they best eat at home and leave them alone. It occurs to me that a rightest with this mindset about freedom might also like unschooling because it escapes the rigid regulation and regimentation of a public school system and provides a great deal of free-wheeling freedom for the child learner to do whatever she %$#& well pleases.

        What do you think Doug?

      • Well, these issues really require a couple of craft brews and several hours of discussion – but – although I see many areas of public education that need improvement, I must confess that I am not a big fan of home-schooling. I think that many of the goals are worthy, but I also think that a significant number of parents are not equipped well enough to properly educate and socialize their children and to prepare them for the next stages of their lives, be it further education or entering the workplace. Of course there are many successful home schooled students, but my purely anecdotal observation is that they are the exception rather than the rule. Most of the home schoolers that I know are fundamentalist Christians, often evangelical and charismatic, and predominantly young earth creationists. Many end up at institutions such as Ozark Bible Institute and College – http://www.obicollege.com/ – I find reading through their material dispiriting.

        I believe that unschooling is one level beyond the typical home school program. Again, I see some merit to the approach, but an additional concern is that the entire process appears to be founded on whatever the child and parents find interesting. There is certainly merit in fostering the natural inquisitiveness of children, but I am not convinced that unshooling is the right approach.

        Time for an Upslope ale.

  11. Thank Doug. If you are ever in the Knoxville, Tennessee, area, look me up and we can get together for some of those craft brews. Bring Ken Miller along if you like, and we can have some really interesting discussions about education, evolutionary biology, and related matters.

    Reply
    • You are welcome. Your Knoxville suggestion sounds like a plan; we could also probably swap tales about Oak Ridge and Los Alamos since I worked there for a while sometime in the last century 🙂 I don’t know Ken personally, but do know Collins, Giberson, Falk and other BioLogos folks – however, they might choose cider over the beer.

      Reply
  12. Thanks Donna. Truth be known, I hated the school system I grew up in—which is a different one from where I live now. I would have probably been much happier as a homeschooled child. In fact, I suffered from clinical depression as a child (not diagnosed and not treated) and felt bad almost all of the time. I missed about 40 days of school per year—some of that just not feeling up to coping with difficult school days. Teachers and administrators did not know about things like clinical depression in the old days and were not on the lookout to help kids. I severely question whether they are today. They just assume a kid missing school is engaging in criminal activity or playing. I actually studied on the days I stayed at home and read classic novels such as Anna Karinina by Tolstoy.

    I missed a God-awful number of days my senior year in high school. My American history teaher (old Mrs Hendrickson) was really upset about it and about to sic her husband—a state education official—on my parents. She never did and was flabbergasted to see me make A’s on her history tests. On one of my report cards, she wrote, “I cannot in good conscience give an “A” to a student who has missed so many days of school—but she did anyway because I aced all her tests. Truth is, I have a natural talent for history and social studies and can suck in information like a vacuum cleaner, retain almost all of it, and manipulate what I know to create new historical knowledge and insights. Old Mrs. Hendrickson never did figure out that I was making those A’s because I was light years more talented at social studies than she was and that I studied at home by myself on those sick days off.. I guess you could say that I homeschooled myself part-time.

    Yeah Adam. I would have been deadly competition in graduate school if I had majored in history—but i liked prehistory better—a lot more challenging.

    Reply
    • Donna

       /  November 25, 2014

      Dover, ( I hope this actually posts when I push post comment). I wanted to make sure you saw both of my comments Dr. Laats posted for me before I respond. I only saw one of them before, so I wasn’t certain you saw my second comment before you wrote this. Let me know if you saw the other one, if you are still reading this thread. Thanks.

      Reply
  13. Hi Donna. Yes, I read both of your messages. So, what is this creationist thing you have going?

    “What hast thou done? Thy gear is in ye olde reverse.” Notice the King James English. The United Methodist Church teaching is that Moses was not the author of the first several books in the Bible. The reason is because they are written in the form of Hebrew common in the times of King David rather than the form of Hebrew used in more ancient times—the difference being just as profound as that between King James English and modern English. Biblical scholars believe that the scribes of Davidic Israel were ordered to go out among the Jewish people, collect all of the ancient Jewish legends that had been handed down orally from one generation to the next, and write them down for the very first time so they would be preserved on parchment for future generations. There are two different creation stories in Genesis because the scribes came back from their collection efforts, thumbed through their notes, and discovered that two different creation stories were floating around among the people. Not knowing which one was correct, they decided to write down both in what would later be the Book of Genesis.

    Did you know that atoms could not be seen at one time? (They can be seen with very powerful scanning electron microscopes today.) Before anyone had ever seen an atom, scientists figured out what they were, how they were put together structurally, how they behaved under various circumstances, and what the atoms of different elements would look like—if they could be seen—which they could not be at the time. In science, you do not always have to see something with your eyes, hold it in your hands, or be watching it directly to know FOR CERTAIN what it was like and what happened with it.

    Those of us who are both scientists and Christians know a number of things FOR CERTAIN. They are not what we believe. We know FOR CERTAIN:

    1) The Earth and universe are billions of years old—-not 5,000 years old.

    2) The origin of life on Earth at the cellular level is not known by science or anyone else.

    3) Physical death was present and widespread on the Earth millions and millions of years before people were present on Earth.

    4) Evolution is a process that has occurred on Earth for many millions of years, created new species, and is still operating today.

    5) Adam and Eve were not poofed into existence by a spoken word or modeled from soil and ribs. They evolved from a common, ape-like ancestor of great apes and humans.

    6) Noah’s worldwide flood never occurred because something that massive leaves behind tell-tale evidence—and there is no such evidence. Clams don’t swim to the top of Mount Everest, and the Grand Canyon is not a flood erosion gully. We know this.

    Millions of scientists who are also Christians know and understand all of this—FOR CERTAIN. All of that creation science nonsense on all those Internet sites and in the “A Beka” books has been debunked for decades. It is old, worn out, and just plain not true. Christian fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism—not evolution—I believe—are the biggest atheist and agnostic makers on this planet. This is because Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals are required to believe things that are just plain factually NOT TRUE…and people eventually figure that out and leave these faith traditions behind—not because they hate Jesus—but because they KNOW FOR CERTAIN
    that the things they are being taught by their denomination, pastors and Sunday school teachers are just plain not factually true. Watch the videos:

    But…but…but… If there was no fall in Eden, then what is Jesus saving us from?

    Reply
    • Donna

       /  November 26, 2014

      I will write back after the holiday. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving!

      Reply
      • Hey Donna. Happy Thanksgiving to you too. We have much to be thankful for in this troubled old world.

    • Donna

       /  December 3, 2014

      I agree that especially years ago and even today people aren’t necessarily on the lookout for students that are clinically depressed, and likely miss some of the warning signs. The fact that you were so motivated to homeschool yourself part time while clinically depressed is pretty amazing.

      We are both Christians separating ourselves from other Christians we disagree with. I think at the end of the day, we would need to agree to disagree. I have made an effort to understand more about evolution, the criticisms directed towards creationists, BioLogos, Hugh Ross, and really just understanding things I didn’t know much about before.

      I had a longer answer, but in the end, decided it is not something I preferred to share. I think it’s better that I refrain from saying some of my thoughts.

      Reply
  1. Ignorance: The Heart of Education | I Love You but You're Going to Hell

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