fer (dogemperor) wrote in hurricane_fema,
fer
dogemperor
hurricane_fema

Katrina evacuees forced into homeschooling; my concerns

(crossposted in dark_christian)

CNN reports that due to the general confusion (to the point of malign incompetence) regarding schooling of Katrina evacuees (including difficulties in admission and school systems often being unwilling to assist Katrina evacuee children), many are resorting to homeschooling programs:

http://www.cnn.com/2005/EDUCATION/10/06/katrina.homeschools.ap/index.html

I would not be nearly as worried about this development were it not for the following:

a) In many states, especially the Southeast US, homeschooling groups (especially homeschool support groups) are dominated by dominionist groups pushing Christian Reconstructionist curricula. Also, the major group lobbying for homeschooling is explicitly dominionist and promotes *other* dominionist agendas (to the point homeschoolers not into the whole dominionist movement have expressed concern). And yes, the dominionist HSLDA is now explicitly targeting Katrina evacuees who are not only new to homeschooling in general but are not aware that HSLDA is a dominionist group.

In a brief perusal of homeschool support groups in Louisiana (per Louisiana Home Education) it appears that the majority of homeschool support groups in Baton Rouge are sectarian (one being associated with the Latter-Day Saints, one blatantly dominionist, one Catholic, one in stages of formation, and only one that is explicitly nonsectarian). The situation is nearly as bad in New Orleans' metro area itself where there are two nonsectarian groups listed and nearly *all* the other groups are dominionist. In souther Baton Rouge, most of the groups are sectarian, the majority being hard dominionist (requiring statements of faith to join). In some parts of Louisiana, no non-sectarian options are available (the Charlotte Mason method listed is a Christian homeschool program).

I have written a report as well tying into how heavily dominionist groups are dominating homeschool programs and what exactly is being taught in dominionist homeschool curricula--a subject I'll touch more on in the next section.

b) In many (if not most) states, homeschool curricula have minimal standards to follow. (Louisiana is--surprising--actually one of the *stricter* states in that the homeschool curriculum must be as strictly educational as the public school curriculum; see here. Most states that Katrina and Rita evacuees have been sent to--including, notably, Texas--are nowhere near as strict regarding educational content.)

This is extremely problematic, as (based on Louisiana's requirements, as well as requirements for some university systems--notably the University of California) the three most commonly promoted homeschool curricula--A Beka, Bob Jones University, and Accelerated Christian Education--are all dominionist, and the first two have actually been ruled in total by the University of California to be educationally unfit for purposes of admission to the university.

This is because the three curricula in question are so slanted--even in not-obviously-religious subjects as maths and English grammar--towards a dominionist viewpoint that they are less useful as curriculum for education and are better described as indoctrination materials.

Rethinking Schools, in their report on voucher initiatives by dominionist groups, has written two good articles detailing problems with the curricula; I have written a two-part series specifically detailing the problems with A Beka's curriculum (regarded, rightly or wrongly, as probably the "mildest" of the dominionist curriculum programs).

c) Dominionist-friendly legislators are doing what they can to essentially force Katrina and Rita evacuees into "separate and unequal" education via vouchers and forcing them to homeschool. The Secretary of Education as well as Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas are attempting to push through a suspension of a federal law that requires states to admit homeless children to public schools.

The solitary alternatives being offered are tax dollars for vouchers and churches.

Again, Rethinking Schools' excellent report on the problems with voucher programs explains this far more in detail why this is, in general, a Bad Idea; Texas Freedom Network also has excellent info on the subject (and also important backgrounder on whom is pushing vouchers in Texas--important, as the bill that would essentially force Katrina evacuee kids to use of vouchers or homeschooling is being pushed by a senator from Texas).

ADDENDUM FOR HURRICANE FEMA:

I should note that I am not wholescale condemning homeschooling entirely. I do realise that there are legitimate cases for homeschooling (subpar education in a public school system, for starters, or persons with learning styles that are not met in public schools).

My concern is not with homeschooling in general, but with a specific subset in the homeschool community that--in many areas, especially in the Southeast and Midwest US--has essentially hijacked most of the existing support groups for homeschooling, and is using homeschooling to promote a very specific agenda (that of converting the United States to a religious theocracy and that the US was intended as a dominionist religious theocracy where even non-dominionist Christian denominations would not be welcome).

Many of the groups that have hijacked homeschooling support forums and groups in these states (much to the consternation of people who have legitimate, secular reasons for homeschooling and may wish info on "unschooling" or open-learning homeschooling) are themselves linked to some of the same groups that are pushing things like "Operation Blessing" and "Dream Center" which are only offering help "with strings attached".

In some states, it is *very* difficult--even if you ARE familiar with homeschooling and have considered it for a while, done the research, etc.--to even *find* support groups for homeschooling that are not explicitly dominionist or Christian Reconstructionist.

In other words, my concern is far less about the fact the kids are being homeschooled (in some cases here, they really dont have a choice) but that dominionist groups are targeting folks who are essentially newbies to the whole idea of homeschooling.
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I myself have no objection to homeschool programs *in general*.

My problem is that *dominionist* operated homeschool programs may start targeting people who have no other real alternative to educate their kids post-Katrina, and that at least some *dominionist* homeschool programs are even explicitly targeting Katrina evacuees who are new to the whole homeschooling thing (and don't know what to watch out for, that there are multiple philosophies including "unschooling", dominionist homeschooling, etc.).
As an aside, I mention this because (among other things) the continued emergency mismanagement (in regards to what is going on at the Baton Rouge and Houston school systems) is being used blatantly by a lot of Bad Folks to push their own agendas.

Much of the Katrina "recovery" effort *by their own admission* is being used as a platform for testing ideas of dominionist groups--including pushing vouchers and homeschooling (generally *dominionist* homeschooling, not open homeschooling or "unschooling"). Kids in Louisiana have a little protection so far, because Louisiana is one of the *very* few states that regulates educational content of homeschool programs, but the laws are *incredibly* lax in most states, and a lot of the same dominionist groups that are pushing things like young-earth creationism disguised as "intelligent design" have flat out hijacked the homeschool support groups in many of the states where Katrina refugees are being sent.

Kay Bailey Hutchinson is pushing regs that would allow schools to refuse admission to Katrina refugees *at all*. What then for students? In many cases, they would have *no* alternatives (especially if their mom is new to homeschooling) that were easily available; they'd either have to take vouchers for sectarian schools, or join up with a sectarian homeschool group (many of which make you sign a statement of faith that you're a good dominionist).

In the sister thread to this one on Dark Christianity, there are *already* reports that dominionist groups are explicitly targeting Katrina refugees in *exactly this manner*. Dominionist groups are targeting Katrina refugees in offering "aid with strings" in areas as far away as Los Angeles.

As a walkaway from one of these groups--who is intimately familiar with the fact that a lot of these groups embrace "bait and switch" evangelism--I am, sadly, familiar with how they would be willing to abuse parents who might just be searching for a temporary alternative until the schools in NOLA open up. :(

(I will note that the Bad Guys taking advantage of the confusion re Katrina evacuee settlement aren't just dominionists, and it goes further than homeschool. According to SPLC, racialist groups (as in friggin' neo-Nazi and Klan groups) are now using the fact Katrina evacuees have been sent to West Virginia and other historically white areas to recruit :()
A good list that expresses my concern (not about homeschooling in general, I'll note--more that *dominionist* homeschool programs are often the only widely available ones, and in some states there *are* no umbrella organisations for inclusive homeschooling (including secular homeschooling, special-needs homeschooling, "unschooling", and other non-dominionist forms of homeschooling):

http://homeschoolingislegal.info/associations.asp (This is from a site that is pro-homeschooling but is critical of the dominionist homeschool group HSLDA)

Per this site, the following states *ONLY* have dominionist options available for statewide homeschool associations (in that the only homeschool associations are associated with HSLDA, which requires a statement of faith for state representative groups):

Arizona, Colorado, Washington DC (significant as a non-negligible number of Katrina refugees are in the area), Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wyoming.

South Carolina's homeschooling regulations were, until very recently, extremely coercive; *by law* you had to either register with the county public school (in which case you had to show a compelling reason why your child would be homeschooled via correspondence course) or you *had* to become a member of HSLDA. (Inclusive homeschoolers had to lobby to get the law--which the HSLDA originally passed--changed so that non-dominionist, non-public-school options would finally be legal in South Carolina. More info here.

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That's actually encouraging to know--are these statewide organisations or city/local organisations? (I know there's one local inclusive homeschool group in Louisville, KY but it's not a statewide group--hence why I wonder.)

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In the Southeast US, the situation is rather different--here, it seems much more of a case of the dominionist groups outright hijacking most of the homeschool support groups, and any open groups tend to be local and in the largest city or two in the state. (In the case of South Carolina, it was even more extreme than that--the dominionist group flat out *shut out* the inclusive groups by law (the third exemption was only added in 2003 due to lobbying by inclusive homeschoolers; SCAIHS is the HSLDA-affiliated statewide group in South Carolina and for over a decade was the ONLY way aside from public school correspondence courses that homeschooling was legal))

Needless to say (between this and the fact that there is still *quite* a bit of prejudice against pagans in general in the Bible Belt--as in people literally being fired, run out of town and *worse* just for being an open pagan) there are not exactly a whole lot of pagan-oriented groups; if anything, there tend to be a lot of dominionist-run groups, and one or two "inclusive" groups that take all homeschoolers who aren't dominionist (often there is a Catholic homeschool group as well that operates as a correspondence school from the local archdiocese).

In some states of the Southeast US, the only way you can legally homeschool *to this day* is to either register as a private school or--more often--affiliate with a specific correspondence course run by a "church school". (This is how it works in Tennessee--to homeschool, you either have to sign up for a formal correspondence course associated with a church, sign up as a "satellite school" of a church, or you have to literally have a BA in education to homeschool above the middle school level.) The laws tend to be heavily skewed in favour of "church school" correspondence courses, and in some states the *only* legal method of homeschooling is through "church schools" (which is how the dominionists get away with it).

You might say that--as far as cooperation between homeschool groups, at least dominionist and non-dominionist ones--it's a whole 'nother country here in the Southeast and Midwest.

The Western states, I've found, tend to have a little more cooperation with homeschool groups. (The one exception to this is likely Colorado; Colorado Springs in particular has literally been overrun by dominionists, thanks to multiple dominionist groups having their headquarters there and one of the largest dominionist megachurches in the US having their headquarters in Colorado Springs as well. The US Air Force Academy has actually had recent controversies regarding extremely aggressive proselytising and attempts at coerced conversions by dominionists based out of Colorado Springs.)
As an aside, in regards to the local groups:

http://www.nhen.org is a very good resource for homeschooling (note that they include both inclusive and non-inclusive groups--including several dominionist homeschool groups) including finding resource links.

(A brief perusal of Ohio, however, isn't encouraging. There are only two or three explicitly inclusive homeschool groups in the state, and even most of the local homeschool groups are explicitly dominionist. This is the situation in MUCH of the Southeast and Midwest)