17 May, 2006

Passive Racism and the Seattle Public Schools

Check this out. (HT: Rod Dreher)

This bothers me. A lot.

Many others have dealt with the implications that the Seattle School district believes that only white people can be racist, so I'm going to skip that.

What I want to focus on is "Cultural Racism."

Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and
normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label
people of color as "other", different, less than, or render them invisible.
Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh
colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed
to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and
identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

First let me tell you what I agree with here. Identifying only whites as great writers or composers is racism. Marginalizing a culture is racism.

Having a "future time orientation" is not racism, unless these words do not mean what I think they mean. Last I checked orienting yourself towards your future goals was a good thing. I don't even see how that could be referred to as racism by even the most warped mind. Maybe it's some kind of Goals 2000 edu-speak?

And when did collectivism=non-racism? Communism is collective, and one can find some pretty racist communists. You need look no further than the Soviet Union. Just because the people in the Seattle Public Schools think collectivism is a virtue does not mean it is the repository of all virtue. I'm not really sure how being an individualist leads to racism. My definition of individualism is that I should be happy with who I am and not dependent on others. This seems logically opposed to identifying strongly with ones race and to oppressing others based on the group to which they belong.

Lastly, "defining one form of English as standard." Do I even need to say anything here? Okay, maybe they mean British English as a opposed to American English or maybe they are referring to colloquialisms, but I doubt it. The fact of the matter is that there is only one way to correctly form a sentence in English. I hate to break it to the Linguistic Establishment, but "Ebonics" is more closely related to "Redneck" than anything else. Poor blacks in the South spoke the same way as poor whites in the South. When the migration to Northern cities occurred, blacks were looked down on and discriminateded against for the way they spoke as much as anything else, but that doesn't mean they used proper English.

It's like the friend my husband has at work who is routinely called an "oreo" because he speaks "too white." Perpetuating the idea that groups can use English however they want and have it be correct leads to poor academic achievement and is a form of racism in and of itself. By insisting that blacks can't use "white English" what Seattle is really saying is that blacks can't be taught to use proper English. It's the "sure the slaves should be free, but I wouldn't want any of those disgusting people living here" racism of the North of the 1850s. The condescension of such an attitude is disgusting.

In fact it's an example of :

Beliefs, attitudes, and actions that contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence or oppression. The conscious or unconscious maintenance of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support the system of racism, racial prejudice and racial dominance.

AKA "passive racism."

[Update: I just noticed that there is evidently no such thing as standard Spanish either. Note the "Latino/as." I'm sorry folks, but in Spanish it's just Latinos, like it's just Latins in English.]

10 May, 2006

The New New SAT

The new SAT has caused a 15-point drop in student scores. This, to me, is likely a good thing. They've done so much dumbing down on that test that it's crazy. Mensa used to accept SAT scores for proof of IQ for admission. Now they don't because the newer tests aren't a good predictor of reasoning abilities. Everything now is focused on "subject tests."

That subjects are the focus is a sign we are getting near the bottom of the educational well. Education used to be about teaching you how to think, but now it's only about making sure you can regurgitate certain information.

Do I think the new new SAT is an improvement over the old new SAT? Not really. They are both too content-based. However, the least they could do is make the content college-level stuff. Maybe they are doing that, but I doubt it. The pessimist in me figures these scores are just an aberration, but I can hope the College Board is increasing the rigor. Even if this trend in scores continues (they are predicting a 4-5 point this year over last), they will likely just dumb down the test further so it looks like the scores are consistent. ::sigh::

09 May, 2006

When France Is an Improvement

A liberal proves that anyone with an ounce of sense sees the need for something better than the public schools. The scary thing is, it can evidently be found in France of all places. Since when did we let France be better than us? Granted, I don't think I'd want to see an exact replica of French education here, after all they make our societal meltdown look like a walk in the park. (See here and here.)

New home for us Trad Classical wierdos.

Drew Campbell, aka Mungo, has started a new website for Latin-Centered Classical. His book _The Latin-Centered Curriculum_ is due to ship next week. I'm hoping to beg for it for a Mother's Day present. The site has a forum, info on the book, and several articles about LCE. Now you can go geek-out on Latin to your heart's content.

08 May, 2006

Talk about stuff you don't need!

Evidently raising a child is now supposed to cost $250,000 plus college. Okay, #1, scaring parents with sticker shock is a pretty mean trick. #2, you don't need all that stuff.

Here's a list of all the things mentioned in the article that we never used:

  1. Maternity leave. I wasn't working during any of my births, so we didn't have to worry about it. Hubby had vacation he could take and we streched it by him working half days or from home.
  2. Child care. I wasn't working, remember? I did work for a while when Mary was a preschooler and, it is incredibly expensive. I was paying $70/week for part time. The full time babies were like $200/week.
  3. $100/month for wet wipes? Who are these people? I think I spent $10/month. $2,000 for diapers? We used cloth for the youngest, but the older ones cost $20/month for 30 months (or s0). That's $600, not 2k. Still a lot more than you really need to spend. I think we spent about $200 total for the youngest, including the cloth diapers and a disposible here and there.
  4. Formula, breast pump, pillow? Nope. Got a manual pump from the hospital. That was plenty for us. Did own two nursing bras, about $30.
  5. Did buy 4 carseats and 2 cribs between the three (don't make things like they used to). Total: About $400.
  6. Clothing: we probably spent about $100 between the three for their first year.
  7. Baby food: Didn't buy much. Kids just nursed or ate what we were eating. I would occasionally puree something. $20 total.
  8. Attorney fees: Went to the library, got a book with boiler plate wills, combined the language into what we needed. Cost: $0. (If there's a possiblity of the will being contested, or if you have piles of stuff to worry about, a lawyer might be necessary.)

Total cost for all three:

Birth expenses-- $3000 (had good insurance at the time)
Other expenses--$1550
Total-- $4550

A far cry from the $9000-$11000 MSN thinks you need for just one kid. By not working, I saved our family something in the neighborhood of $25, 500. That's a decent year's salary. Considering that we probably spend $1000 per child per year now, and I don't see it going up much when they are older, my not working (combined with homeschooling) will have saved us something like $690,000. Over the 23 years we'll have kids at home, that's $30,000 a year, which is not a bad salary. I'll have to remember that the next time I look at our miniscule bank account.

04 May, 2006

Ah, Yes! It was poor education and the lack of peasants!

While I generally respect Susan Wise Bauer and have learned much at her feet, I really have to wonder what she and other neo-classicists think trad classical is. Tuesday in her blog she quotes Norman F. Cantor.

Cantor basically says that all the education given during the Roman Empire was grammatical and stylistic. The one and only purpose was to create orators. He mentions Quintillian in the quote, but I have to wonder if he has ever read him. Cantor goes so far as to say that "There was no room for art or music within the system;" and "They ignored the sciences, studied almost no mathematics and little history." Evidently Quintillian was lying when he prescribed studying the Quadrivium. And, what exactly was their "language and literature" study using if not historical texts? I mean, wasn't that all they had? Sure, there may have been some contemporary speeches studied for oratory, but quite a bit of their instruction was on Homer. If you go out and read any reviews of this book you will see that I'm not the only one that thinks Cantor's expertise is fairly narrow, any his charactarization of Greek and Roman societies is greatly laking.

It seems to me that Mrs. Bauer is taking a quote that fits her notions about what modern Latin-Centered Classical is, and is using the quote to justify her beliefs about it, even though the quote is contradicted by her own writings. She goes on to say, "The Romans, after all, could no longer survive as a civilization when the aristocrats no longer had artisans, peasants, and mercenaries to whom they could issue their orders." What the heck does that mean? That society can't exist without a society? That in order to have ruling class you have to have a ruled class? In order to have an army you must have soldiers? It's an absurd thing to say in the context of education. I mean, it's a completely true statement, but it doesn't have any meaning in the context of the discussion. It's a complete non-sequitur.

The decay of the Roman Empire is a complex historical phenomenon. I'm pretty sure "lack of peasants" is not very high on the list, though.

[Update: Hubby would like to point out that the Empire didn't really have peasants persay. Slaves, yes, but not peasants in the way of a permant free underclass.]

Call me a pessimist, but....

"You can't talk about what is probably an irreversible decline, accelerated by technology, in our ability to read and think."--Mere Comments (HT: Mungo)

Let's face facts people. Our society is in decline. Whether we are going to go the way of the Roman Empire or the Tribulation is up for debate, but something is going to happen, even if it isn't completely catastrophic. We are in the midst of decadence, and not of the "Wow, that chocolate-on-chocolate cake looks yummy" variety. Assuming we aren't going to see the Lord coming in the clouds any time in the next seven years or so (which is not something I'd bet money on at this point), classical homeschoolers are going to be the life boat that education escapes in.

Much like the monastics of the 400's we set ourselves apart from the mainstream and are self-dependent. We are attempting to preserve a mode of learning thought to be useless by the "experts" responsible for much of the decline in the first place. Call me an elitist or an alarmist, but that's how I see it. I'd love to be wrong, but I just can't trust my children to a system in obvious decline.


This is the first I've mentioned it, but Hubby has been offered a position in Afganistan. It's a year contract, but we've decided that, if he goes, the most we could do is 6 months. The pay is 6 figures, even for the 6 month stint. Boy is that a lot of money. I mean, there is a lot we could get done with that. We could get all of our non-mortgage debt paid off, pay a significant amount on our mortgage, and still be able to travel to Europe. He would get 2 months paid vacation (taken 1 month at a time) while he's there, so we could go to Europe as a family twice. It's awfully tempting.

Hubby has been regretting not doing enough for the war. He's a member of our state guard (the Ohio Military Reserve), which is kind of like the junior National Guard. They rarely leave the state and mostly provide back-up for the NG units that are called up, as well as funeral honors and chaplaincy support. He joined that because he never had a good chance to join the military. He graduated college just after Desert Storm, and they were turning away most applicants then, trying to demobilize. Then there were the Clinton years, with more military down-sizing and not much opportunity. At this point he's just too old. They keep raising the age they'll waiver you in at, but he just keeps getting older as well, so never the twain shall meet.

Going to Afganistan would be a way for him to actually do something for the war effort. Also, the project he would be going in under is to teach Afganis how to do business in the global market, especially ethics, he would be doing something that would directly benefit the people there while supporting the war and helping to stabilize the region. Very win-win. He would also have the added benefit of the personal growth that comes from living in a very foreign place under challenging circumstances.

Of course there's that whole death thing. Afganistan is a lot safer than, say, Iraq, and he would be going in with experienced people that he is used to working militarily with, so it's not as big a concern as it might be. But, it's still there. Also, that leaves me dealing with the kids on my own for two months at a stretch. I don't know if I could do that. I guess it would be a bit of personal growth for me as well. Not to mention that I would just plain miss him. The longest we've ever been apart is 3 weeks, and that was B. C. (before children).

His current contract is up in about a month and a half, so we need to make a decision soon. We're just not sure what to do.

02 May, 2006

Election Day Musings

The craft show this weekend was held at the local high school. When this happens, two things are sure to follow:

  1. I will have to remind Mary *again* how one behaves in a school, to not run down the halls and do gymnastics.
  2. I will meet some of the unfortunate inmates and feel sorry for them.

I met a really interesting girl Saturday. She was this freshman, fish-out-of-water, proto-goth girl. She reminded me of myself at that age, feeling like a geek but trying to carve out her own identity. I knew I'd like her when I saw her. Black shirt and pants, red goth tee shirt, green neck tie. She had the same outlook on fashion I did at that age, be unconventional in an unconventional way. The difference being, she dresses that way every day, while I was not courageous enough to do it more than occasionally.

When she found out I homeschool, she stayed to talk, and when she found out that I disagree with the concept of the public school, I was her new best friend. So, we chatted about why the school system is the way it is and about politics. She self-identified as a liberal, and asked me what I thought of Bill Clinton. I told her I didn't like him because I didn't agree agree with his politics, but even if I did I still wouldn't like him because he's self-centered and has no respect for women.

I have a theory about whom to vote for. I refuse to vote for any candidate I wouldn't invite into my home. The person has to be generally decent and honest. I can put up with a little prevaricating or ego, as long as it is not the overwhelming aspect of the person's character. It's also why I could never vote for Clinton, Kerry, or Bob Taft (our beloved governor). As a matter of fact, I voted for Hubby for governor as a write-in last year, just because I couldn't bring myself to vote for any of the candidates. (If there'd been a libertarian on the ticket I probably would've voted that way.)

Back to the girl. When I said that she just looked sort of thoughtful for a moment and then nodded her head in agreement. I hope I struck one more blow for Truth and Justice and got that girl to see beyond the politics to the person. If the person isn't any good, it doesn't matter what his politics is, they will be corrupted. Now, we're all flawed people, so we're all going to corrupt our ideals to one extent or another, but my money is on the guy whose flaws are less egregious.

So, Ohio, go out and vote today. My vote for governor will be Ken Blackwell (because he's a stand-up guy), but, whoever you vote for, make sure it's not Jim Petro. He's just Taft Jr. I think I'd rather see Strickland than him.

01 May, 2006

Such Is the Stuff of Life

This has been a week of ups and downs. Hubby's grandfather died and we had the funeral Thursday. Being twice-orphaned, I am no stranger to death. My first grandparent died when I was 7 and the last when I was 23. My father died when I was 12 and my mother when I was 18. I've seen traumatic death, quick death, and the slow, lingering death from illness. I've seen small, little-remarked funerals, and huge affairs with a receiving line blocks long. I've seen quiet, dignified, almost distant mourning, and I've seen people prostrate with grief. I've been both of those people.

Whenever someone dies, I'm brought back to that little girl who lost her daddy, and that big girl who lost her mommy. My mother-in-law (whose father it was) told me she was trying to bear up at the funeral to "make you proud." I wasn't sure what to say to that. I mean, it's not my father who just passed, and it's not my place to judge whether another's grief is appropriate in some way. I just told her that it was about her, not about me. I told her that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown when mom died, cast alone out into the world with a troubled teenage brother to take care of that no one else wanted to deal with. The horror of those days, wondering how we were going to pay the bills, dealing with the huge piles of paperwork and the government bureaucracy. I'm amazed that we made it through relatively unscathed. That is the great miracle of my life (so far at least), that Jesus Christ is faithful and that He truly cares for his children.

Death is not something that I shield my children from. They know the circumstances of my parent's deaths and we make sure to include them in our daily lives. My daughter went to her first funeral (for a beloved family friend) last fall. She seemed to take his death with a strange stoicism. But, I remember being very pragmatic about my papaw's death when I was her age. So, when she started crying uncontrollably at Grandpa's funeral, I was quite surprised. She said that she was sad that she would never get to be friends with her Grampy. I think it may be that the weight of death I carry with me just got to be too much for her little shoulders to bear. She wasn't just mourning Grampy, but all the members of her family that she only knows only as pictures, stories, and momentos. Is it possible to mourn for that which you never really knew? Thank God that this is not the end, that those for whom we now mourn not knowing we will someday get to know.

Hubby delievered part of the eulogy and I am always amazed at what a powerful speaker he is. He evoked parts of his grandfather's life in such a vivid way that those who were only present to comfort friends were openly crying. Grandpa has been laid to rest, but his wife is still with us. Her health and mind are failing, and my mother in law is staying with her and caring for her. Please keep them in your prayers.

On the upside, the garden is nearly in, the strawberries are in bloom, and I had my first craft show of the year. It was a resounding success, by far the best day I've ever had money-wise. Such is the stuff of life.