Tom and Jerry: Defenders of All Things Right and Good

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

This Is All Kinds Of Awesome

George Mason University economist and teacher Russ Roberts teamed up with filmmaker and armchair economist John Papola to create this amazing rap-music video, "Fear the Boom and Bust", that features Lord Keynes and F. A. Hayek.  In the video, the renowned economists come back to life to attend an economics conference.  At Lord Keynes's insistence, they head out for a night on the town and as a result we learn about why there’s a "boom and bust" cycle in modern economies and a good reason to fear it.


(You can watch it in HD here, and also view the lyrics.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When Your Research Consists Of Re-Watching "Jesus Camp"

Those parents who home-school their kids are likely used to the wariness which their endeavor is often greeted with, and are likely used to the rather insulting caricatures of home-schoolers that pop up in the media from time to time as well.  However, Robin West of Georgetown University Law Center, writing in the University of Maryland's Philosophy & Public Policy Quarterly, has provided the new gold standard by which all future insults of home-schooling will be measured: what First Thing's Joe Carter dubbed "undoubtedly the silliest, most offensive caricature of homeschooling to ever be published in a scholarly journal."

After spending a couple of pages recounting the evolution of home-schooling...

Thus, over the course of the last thirty years, "homeschooling" has gone from illegal – meaning criminal – in all fifty states, to fully legal, and from heavily regulated, when allowed, to either completely unregulated or only lightly regulated, everywhere.  That’s quite a revolution, in law and education both.  How did that happen?  Why haven’t more people noticed?  Why don’t more people care?

The short answer to how it happened is simply that in the 1980's, all fifty state legislatures, in response to massive political pressure from religious parents and theirlobbyists, legalized homeschooling.

(Remember that last sentence for later on...)

...she states that she is not attacking "homeschooling", as

Passionately involved and loving parents, whether religious or not, can often better educate their children in small tutorials at home, than can cash-strapped, under-motivated, inadequately supported, and overwhelmed public school teachers with too many students in their classrooms.  Results bear this out, as home-school advocates repeatedly point out (and as critics virtually never deny): the home-schooled children who are tested, or who take college boards, whether or not religious, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, do very well on standardized tests, and on the average, they do better than their public school counterparts (though it must be noted that the parents and children who voluntarily subject themselves to testing are the self-selected educational elite of the homeschooling movement).

(She cites no study, statistical or otherwise, to justify her above claim [in italics].)

...but unregulated homeschooling.

At this point, she could likely make a good case by citing studies, statistics, and legal analysis that show the risk of unregulated home-schooling; that is, she could write a responsible, scholarly article.  No such luck.  Citing not a single statistic, study, or even case example, she wades into a description of her targets:

The average homeschooling family may have a higher income than the average non-homeschooler, as was recently reported by USA Today.  The radically fundamentalist "movement" family, however, is considerably poorer than the population, and it is the participants in these movements – the so-called "patriarchy movement" and its "quiverfull" branch and related groups – that are the hardcore of the homeschooling movement.  The husbands and wives in these families feel themselves to be under a religious compulsion to have large families, a homebound and submissive wife and mother who is responsible for the schooling of the children, and only one breadwinner.  These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000-square-foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots.  Their lack of job skills, passed from one generation to the next, depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base.

A few points here:

1.  So the average home-schooler has a higher income than the average non-homeschooler, but within the home-school ranks is a group that is at poverty level.  If they're a large percentage, how does the "average home-schooler" have a higher income than the "average non-homeschooler"?  If it's not a high percentage, how can they "depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base."?

2.  The "quiverfull" reference is to the Evangelical "Quiverfull" movement; the "so-called 'patriarchy movement'" refers, the Promise Keepers?  The only ones who refer to them as the "patriarchy movement" are feminists like Ms. West.

3.  West provides no evidence of these exotic tarp-dwellers.  If they actually existed, wouldn’t someone in the national media have noticed by now?  Maybe that episode of "60 Minutes" was pre-empted by a Cowboys’ game or something.

4.  Love the "...under a religious compulsion to have large families" line.  Darn those religious opposed to societal and personal-interest compulsions to have 0-2 kids and then sneer with disdain at those who have more.

5.  Also love the concern over the "community’s overall economic health" coupled with concern about "their state’s tax base".  Funny how the collection of taxes is never far from some people’s minds, isn’t it?

Unsourced claims and implausible claims are not Ms. West's only problem; logical consistency seems to be something not entirely prized by Georgetown Law School.  By way of example, this passage in the article is astounding:

Fundamentalist Protestant adults who were homeschooled over the last thirty years are not politically disengaged, far from it.  They vote in far higher percentages than the rest of the population.  They mobilize readily. The "army" in which adult homeschooled citizens are soldiers has enormous clout: homeschoolers were called "Bush's Army" in 2000 and 2004 for good reason.  Their capacity for political action is palpable and admirable, although doubly constrained: it is triggered by a call for action by church leaders, and in substance, it is limited to political action the aim of which is to undermine, limit, or destroy state functions that interfere with family and parental rights.  Nevertheless, and by their own accountings, these citizen-soldiers in the "homeschooling movement" and the various political campaigns in which they are enlisted have no clout in the army in which they serve. They are as effective as they are, and as successful as they are, because they engage in politics in the same way that soldiers participate in combat.  They don’t question authority, and they can’t go AWOL.  With little education, few if any job skills, and scant resources, their power either to influence the lines of authority within their own sphere, or to leave that sphere, is virtually nil.

To review:

In the fifth sentence, Ms. West writes "The 'army' in, which adult homeschooled citizens are soldiers has enormous clout...".

Two sentences later, however, we are informed that though their "army" has clout, they themselves have no clout within it: "...these citizen-soldiers in the 'homeschooling movement' and the various political campaigns in which they are enlisted have no clout in the army in which they serve."

Nevertheless, she writes in the next sentence, they are effective and successful in political action.  In the reality that we inhabit – but Ms. West apparently does not – this would give this group enormous clout in whatever political movement they were part of.

However, two sentences later, she again asserts that they are rather useless and have no power among their political allies.  Then how did they manage – as she wrote earlier in the piece – to amass "massive political pressure" to legalize and deregulate home-schooling?

Oh, by the way, "accounts" and "accounting" are words; "accountings" is not a word.

Sweet leaping Moses on buttered toast....How many degrees do I need to acquire before I can write a paragraph as brazenly self-contradictory as this one of Ms. West's?  Somewhere in heaven, a fat 13th-century Dominican weeps...

The passage does contain a hint as to what really has Ms. West nervously envisioning the country being diluted by tarp-dwellers: the homeschoolers helped elect George W. Bush.  Is this what all this fuss is about?  Ms. West declined to illustrate why the homeschoolers' political activity is any different from that of ACORN's 'community organizers'....except for who they supported, of course.

But, hey, she's doing it all for the children, right?

...curricular review would give the state a way to ensure that the academic content is such as to protect the children's interest in both acquiring the necessary skills for active, autonomous, and responsible citizenship in adulthood, and in being exposed to diverse and more liberal ways of life.

Ah, yes, the ever-important exposure to "liberal ways of life".  Thus cause-and-effect joins logical consistency in the dustbin of Ms. West's mind, as it's these "liberal ways of life" – Condom Ed, "Billy Has Two Mommies", and a form of a rather non-scientific and non-historical secularism – being pushed in the public schools that likely started the homeschooling movement in the first place.  But we can't have a child miss out on all that, can we?