Wednesday, May 26, 2010

State Superintendent of Public Instruction

Jack McConnell is being "termed out" as California State Superintendent of Public Instruction this year, and the field of potential replacements is large. Education is, rightly, an area where folks tend to have strong emotional preferences, and this particular slate of candidates is no exception.

While Uncle Woody is busy priming the pump for the inevitable "Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters" in support of the June primaries, allow me to share with you the thoughts of one particular candidate for SSPI this year, Leonard J. Martin. He wrote the following to Michelle Huele, a homeschooler in Yucca Valley:
Home schooling's appropriate for children who have special difficulties that make it impossible for them to participate in traditional schooling. But under California law, a parent has the right to home school provided the parent is qualified to offer instruction. Personally, I believe nearly all kids would benefit more from being in traditional schools. Many parents home school for religious reasons, because they still hold outdated views on race or ethnicity, or for what they consider to be moral reasons. Since we have provisions for students to attend a school outside of their local community when there are legitimate reasons to do so, home schooling as an alternative to "unsafe" campuses is hardly a legitimate alternative. For the most part - overwhelmingly - the public schools of California are not only safe but are providing a high quality education. Yucca Valley should be no exception. If it is, as Superintendent I would like to hear the complaints.

There has also been a tremendous amount of fraud connected with home schooling. Corporate organizations have sprung up to drain precious taxpayer dollars from the state budget to "supervise" home schooling. That has been to the detriment of those children, who by necessity, must be home schooled.

My advice? Send the kids to a traditional public school.

Best Regards,
Leonard J. Martin
Home (661) 297-4815
Cell (661) 400-0059
If McConnell was no friend to homeschoolers, he at least had sense enough to not try to enforce a liberal interpretation of the "law" mentioned by Mr. Martin in his letter. The real problem with that law is, of course, that the label "qualified" is highly ambiguous and, of greatest interest to homeschoolers, does not include the word "credentialed." McConnell made some noise early on as he "fretted" over the unregulated masses of homeschoolers infesting the Golden State, only to back down under pressure from numerous homeschooling support groups and the Home School Legal Defense Association.

I bring attention to Mr. Martin, however, because his statements are quite typical of public education elitists, and reflect the fear-mongering approach that such politicians (and political hopefuls) always enlist when discussing the vastly complex issue of homeschooling.

Note that his very first statement brings up the taboo of homeschooling only being appropriate for kids with "special difficulties." This is particularly telling of Mr. Martin's predisposition to anti-homeschool bigotry. We instantly understand that homeschooling is something to be sneered at; a mess on the sidewalk over which we carefully step. Only "disadvantaged" children would ever "require" homeschooling; the rest must submit themselves to Dickensian workhouse-like apparatuses where the collective will of the children can be better molded to a carefully state-approved curriculum.

Let us never forget that, however well-intentioned and altruistic the concept of public education may have begun, it has over the years become nothing more than a union-run autocracy, sponsored by the state, and dominated by liberal think-tank elitists. This is why our schools have become the sorry ghosts of what they once were. Mr. Martin's attitude strongly suggests maintenance of the status quo, so far as political exigency is concerned. He will not rock the union boat, except to threaten to "fire bad teachers."

His bigotry is further revealed in this statement: "Many parents home school for religious reasons, because they still hold outdated views on race or ethnicity, or for what they consider to be moral reasons." Now, having raised these "reasons" for homeschooling, you might think that Mr. Martin would then address them. He does not. Instead, he focuses on school safety. Not only does he pooh-pooh the idea that schools may be unsafe (they are "overwhelmingly" safe, he believes), he also uses the canard of being able to attend a school "outside of their local community" where "legitimate reasons" exist. This is patently absurd. Anyone who has tried to get an exception just to attend another school intradistrict can tell you that the local education bureaucrats tightly control those movements, and "unsafe" schools are not one of the politically correct reasons for granting such a request. The moment you threaten one school's per-child budget, they start digging the moat and raising the drawbridge.

The final shaft in his quiver is to decry the "tremendous amount of fraud" in homeschooling. He brings up something he calls "corporate organizations" that have sprung up that "drain precious taxpayer dollars" to "supervise" homeschooling.

Huh? To what organizations does he refer, and why haven't I heard about these things before now? Certainly such corrupt corporations would be big news in a money-starved state like California! More amusing to me is the idea of supervising homeschoolers. The only possible reason I can even think of for supervising a homeschool family is where that family chooses to participate in a school district-sponsored homeschool program where supervision is the trade-off for having use of district resources and district-sponsored testing. Would those school districts qualify as the "corporate organizations" being vilified by Mr. Martin? Even were that so, it wouldn't affect me or my subversive academy because we answer to no one. We file our little Private School Affidavit form every October, in return for which the Great State of California valiantly ignores us. Every other effort to supervise homeschoolers necessarily fails because, as I have mentioned before, homeschoolers are the most unorganized bunch you'll ever come across. (Caveat: there are, Uncle Woody admits, some fabulous homeschool organizations in California. They tend to be aberrations.)

At the end of the day, even a politically dangerous candidate like Mr. Martin will have his hands full if he wins the election. Our public schools are undoubtedly in a serious decline. Whoever takes that office will be so busy balancing the needs of a voracious union with the seriously under-regulated public school cuisine requirements that there will be precious little time available to go after those seditious homeschoolers.

He won't be getting my vote, though.

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