… when it comes to Creationist Home Schooling.
Two dozen or so atheists, skeptics, scientists, and secularists visited the 2010 Home School Science Fair at Har Mar Mall, Roseville Minnesota. We witnessed (if I may borrow that term) twenty six home school project posters. The presentations varied considerably in their sophistication, overall quality, and complexity of the work represented, and most of this variation is easily understood as the outcome of the wide age range of the children who produced them. Some were impressive, some were cute, some were more scientific, some were less, and each one had a quote from the bible linked somehow to the subject matter of the poster.
How good was the science? How good was the learning? Were children being indoctrinated in a religious view rather than trained in thinking scientifically? Were children being trained in a cynical view of science, so they might grow with sufficient disdain for rational and critical thinking that they might make compliant followers of fundamentalist doctrine, and vote with the anti-science Right Wing on matters of science policy no matter how stupid such a vote might be?
Well, let’s look at some of the presentations and see.
How are apes the same and different from humans? Hypothesis: there are more differences than similarities between apes and humans. Interestingly, this student discovered that humans and gorillas were more different than similar, but only by about 20% by count, while humans and orangs were more different than similar, with there being about twice as many differences than similarities. That is pretty much what evolutionary theory would predict. Evolution is true, according to this poster. Unfortunately, I do not think this is what the student concluded.
The effects of birds colliding into planes. This was one of my favorite presentations because of the identification of the cycle of life, as depicted in this picture:
Lilydale Fossil Hunt. This was about a fossil hunting expedition to Lilydale, in Saint Paul. A permit is required to collect fossils there, but it is a public fossil-rich limestone deposit. The student concluded that the deposit was proof of Noah’s flood. He found some cool fossils, mostly extinct shellfish. None of those large dinosaurs that were refused admittance to the ark were found. Oh well.
How does music affect plants? Conclusion: Rock and roll causes plants to grow poorly, classical music causes plants to be lush. I would have liked to see different results than that, but you can’t always get what you want. I just hope God buys me a Mercedes Benz.
Dinosaurs went extinct because they were too big to get on Noah’s Ark.
God made the ear. Say no more.
No, there was not very much science. Or at least, any science that seeped into these creepy presentations was entirely by accident and had the organizers of the event recognized it, they would have bowdlerized it. Yes, the projects ran rough shod over rational and critical thinking. Yes, it was indoctrination. Yes, these children are being used as tools in the culture wars by the organizers and judges of this event, by the children’s own parents, and by all involved. Yes, this is abuse.
The Twin Cities Creationist Home School Science Fair demonstrates one of the main negative outcomes of home schooling,1 and is evidence that we as a society should restrict or regulate home schooling to a reasonable degree. The mothers of these children have the same exact “mommy instinct” as the parents of other home schoolers … meaning, none … and have damaged these children socially and intellectually. Home schooling not only produces freakishly asocial miscreants but it also produces what we saw in this fair2 … a flagrant disregard for reality.
It was sad to see this. I wonder why the Minnesota Department of Education allows this sort of thing to happen. I wonder what college these children will be going to.
There are those who often point out that home schooled children are smarter, on average, or better educated, on average, than public school children. I assume that this “science” fair, being a public display of sorts, did not involve culling out the best and showing only the lowest quality outcomes. Seeing what I saw yesterday does not jive at all with the numerous assertions made by pro-homeschooling groups and pro-homeschooling activists that homeschooling is better. But if homeschooling is in part about learning to comfortably ignore the truth, why should we expect the rhetoric to match the reality?
The following notes, and a few words in the text (which are in italics) were added to clarify a few points.
1A phrase like “one of the main negative outcomes” means that there are a number of outcomes, possibly positives, possibly negatives. Among the negatives, there may be many outcomes. But one of them is … (then the rest of the paragraph happens here).
2A phrase like “X produces Y” in no way states that there are not other outcomes. A tomato produces tomato seeds. It also produces tomato flesh. If you work on this, you can come up with some other examples too.