As the standards and tests are being implemented, it becomes
increasingly clear that the standards will not easily accommodate those
who would have their children learn a Christian worldview or any other
worldview that does not align with the dominant secular materialist
worldview reflected in the standards. Neutrality isn't an option.
Education has an undeniable cultural/philosophic/religious aspect that
is transmitted whether purposely or not. Historians Eby and Arrowood
tell us, "Education is more than the acquisition of a certain body of
knowledge; it comprehends the transmission to the younger generation of
the entire culture of a people. Now the culture of a people involves an
ideal of character and of religious faith, a system of behavior,
together with some theory of the universe, however simple it may be." [Eby,
F. & Arrowwood, C. F. (1940). The History and Philosophy of Education
Ancient and Modern. New York: Prentice-Hall, Inc., p. 589.]
The late R. J. Rushdoony wrote even more explicitly: "Not only does
education find its foundation in religion, but the educational
curriculum expresses the religious standards and expectations of a
culture." [Rushdoony, R. J. (1981). The Philosophy of the Christian
Curriculum. Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, p.4.] This holds true even
if the religious foundations are non-theistic. For example, "statism"
was the religion of the Soviet Union, so its educational system clearly
reflected the state's beliefs, philosophy, historical interpretations,
and goals. Under that system, professing Christians were typically shut
out from college admissions, and hence from all but menial jobs, since
they did not adhere to the state's philosophy and goals - its
Can We Work Around the Standards?
Some people suggest that private and home schools can work around the
standards by first teaching the required content, then adding
worldview-focused curricula to the mix. Others suggest ignoring the
standards but providing students with a solid liberal arts education
with the expectation that they will then be intelligent enough to
"outsmart" the tests.
Unfortunately, neither solution is realistic. Teachers increasingly
complain that school days are consumed with teaching to the standards
and preparing for tests. The standards have become so extensive and
detailed that teachers have no extra time to teach beyond them. [Stoskopf,
A. (2000, February 2). Clio's Lament. Education Week, XIX, (21), 38-41.]
Homeschoolers might be able to manage the time to do both, but I suspect
that most parents would see the hypocrisy and waste in teaching material
that supports conflicting worldviews.
Testing is likely to become more and more problematical. If private
schools and homeschools try to ignore the standards and implement a
classical liberal education (or any other alternative curricular
agenda), their students might test poorly as tests become more and more
narrowly focused on details dictated by the standards that would be
unlikely parts of their educational program.
As the standards movement gathers steam, pressure will be exerted
upon private schools and home schools to adhere to the same standards
and tests as government schools.
Exit exams (tests students must pass before graduating from high
school) might well have the strongest impact. Twenty-four states have
exit exams in place or in the planning process thus far. Students in
government schools must pass these tests to earn a high school diploma.
[Olson, L. (2001, January 24). States adjust high-stakes testing plans.
Education Week, XX (19), pp. 1, 18-19.]
Could "Standards" Be Forced on Homeschoolers?
Early in 2001, the Maine legislature introduced legislation (LD 405)
requiring homeschoolers to take the state's Maine Educational Assessment
exam. Although this legislative effort failed, it demonstrates that it
is not a farfetched concern for homeschoolers in general. [HSLDA News
Release. (2001, February 16). Home School Legal Defense Association,
Purcellville, VA. ] Also, as colleges and universities explore linkage
of college entry to student scores on standards-based tests and exit
exams, it is likely that they will come to expect private and home
school students to pass the same tests just as they now take the same
SAT I, SAT II, and ACT exams as public school students for college entry
Private and home schools that choose to teach a significantly
different curriculum will be faced with choices of sacrificing their own
agenda so their students can achieve high test scores, accepting the
risk of low student scores, or fighting for alternative evaluation.
What We Must Do
We might be able to avoid these dismal alternatives if we can keep
private and home education free from the standards movement. That means:
- resisting or getting rid of state and/or federal laws that require
home educators to take standards-based tests
- encouraging colleges and universities to rely on evaluation tools
other than standards-based test results
- not enrolling our children in government-sponsored homeschool
programs (which will all use standards-based tests)
- educating others about the dangers of the standards movement.
- clearly identifying our own educational goals and diligently
working to accomplish them
Only if we resist government-imposed standards will we be free to
develop our own standards of education that reflect God's purposes for
our own families.
Cathy Duffy is one of the best-known and most respected names in
home schooling. She is the author of the Christian Home Educators'
Curriculum Manuals and Government Nannies and a frequent convention
Article Copyright ©2001 Cathy Duffy. All rights reserved.
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