Dr. Duke Pesta received his M.A. in Renaissance literature from John Carroll University and his Ph.D. in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature from Purdue University. He has taught at major research institutions and small liberal arts colleges, on a wide variety of subjects at the graduate and undergraduate level, including classes on Shakespeare, Renaissance literature, the Bible, Russian literature, and C.S. Lewis. He has been active in educational reform, and was instrumental in developing and implementing an elective Bible course that is currently available for public high-school students in Texas. He is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, and the academic director of FreedomProject Education, an online school dedicated to providing students a classical education delivered through state-of-the-art technology. He was interviewed for The New American by Gary Benoit.
The New American: What are the benefits of homeschooling?
Dr. Duke Pesta: Besides the obvious advantages of convenience and the comforts and flexibility of the home environment, perhaps the biggest benefit of homeschooling is the ability to manage the message, so to speak. It is impossible to be an informed participant in the culture and not recognize the increasingly volatile politicization of American institutions, especially Hollywood, the media, and of course, academia. Homeschooling provides parents a level playing field, a safe place from which to interact with their children about the proper way to distinguish between important and unimportant information and identify the often one-sided methods by which information is delivered.
Before 1980 there was no U.S. Department of Education. Before 1964 there was relatively little federal involvement in education at all. But let a few Republican presidential candidates suggest that maybe Washington’s role in schooling ought to be scaled back somewhat, and the New York Times, reliable barometer of establishment opinion, finds cause for concern. Why, “even Mitt Romney,” the paper frets, “now says, ‘We need to get the federal government out of education.’”
“For a generation,” the Times writes, “there has been loose bipartisan agreement in Washington that the federal government has a necessary role to play in the nation’s 13,600 school districts, primarily by using money to compel states to raise standards.”
Of course, many observers note that the bipartisan consensus on any subject can be — and usually is — wrong. Constitutionalists point out that there is also a bipartisan consensus in favor of Social Security, Medicare, and an interventionist foreign policy — all of which, like federal involvement in education, are both unconstitutional and unwise. There is no shame, they say, in challenging Beltway orthodoxy.
We’ve all heard about the tactic of using children as human shields, as practiced by Saddam Hussein, the Taliban and others. The idea is that you place civilians — preferably women and children — at military targets to reduce the chances that your enemy will attack and so that, if he does, he’ll look like a heartless miscreant who targets the least among us. Morally, it’s the least of tactics.
Yet while we Westerners have made the practice illegal under the Geneva Convention, it’s not unknown in the United States — in our political battles. In the 1990s especially, it became common to claim that all and sundry must support a given statist policy “for the children.” As an example, when Republican-backed welfare reform was instituted, Ted Kennedy called it “legislative child abuse.” And when President G.W. Bush threatened to veto an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) in 2007, Democrats brought children to a press conference on the matter and later had a 12-year-old SCHIP recipient read a heartstring-tugging Democrat radio address about the program.
The latest use of this tactic was by Texas Governor Rick Perry in the Florida Republican debate when he invoked the welfare of the children to justify his granting in-state tuition benefits to illegal aliens.
One of the evil fruits of the tree of evolution is the idea of eugenics, the notion that human beings can be bred to perfection by the same methods used to breed perfect cattle. Since evolution itself reduces man to the level of animal, it is not surprising that eugenics was adopted by many leaders among the educational elite as the means of solving man’s social problems. But eugenics itself poses a problem: what does one mean by human perfection, and whose definition of perfection should be adopted?
The founder of the eugenics movement, Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911), cousin of Charles Darwin, found his model of perfection in the British elite. But he was painfully aware that the birthrate of the elite was far lower than that of what he considered to be the inferior classes. In this he saw a great danger to civilization. He concluded that ways had to be found to encourage the fertility of the superior stock and to discourage the fertility of the inferior stock.
In order to determine which individuals had superior traits, Galton created an anthropometric laboratory in 1884 for the measurement of man, with the hope that by means of tests he could single out those individuals who should survive. However, Galton realized that physical measurements alone were not enough to determine the criteria he needed. He began searching for ways to investigate psychological differences.
The origin of the war against Christianity in the United States can be traced back to the early days of the public school movement when Unitarians, Owenite socialists and atheists, and Hegelian pantheists vehemently rejected the God-centered worldview of the Founding Fathers and sought to secularize education and substitute salvation through scientific education than by salvation through Christ .
However, it wasn’t until the turn of the last century and the rise of the progressive education movement that the war in America took on the militancy which characterizes it today. The progressives were, for the most part, members of the Protestant academic elite who no longer believed in the religion of their fathers and transferred their faith to science, evolution, and psychology.
The lingering institutional wisdom when it comes to education is that increased spending will bring about improved results — even as history continues to reveal otherwise. For example, recent reports indicate that though education spending has increased 64 percent since the inception of the federal No Child Left Behind program, there has been little improvement in America’s test scores. Meanwhile, American schools continue to make little progress against other industrialized nations.
These days, with the rise of email, text messaging, and word processing, it seems to be more important to learn how to use a keyboard than a pen. As a result, the teaching of handwriting has a low priority among educators these days. They believe that handwriting is passe and that in the future everyone will be using a keyboard to do their writing. But students still have to use handwriting in taking notes in a class or lecture hall, although the more affluent students are using laptops for note-taking. But handwriting will still be required for signing things, jotting down ideas in a pocket notepad, writing postcards, birthday greetings, thank-you notes, and other minor communication chores.
But have you noticed how easy it is to make errors when writing an email? Indeed, emailers use all sorts of spelling shortcuts that save time and effort. As long as the email makes sense, no one, except us seniors, seems to care about accurate spelling. Yet, spelling is still considered very important. Remember what happened to Dan Quayle when he supposedly misspelled potato? He added an e, which was not technically incorrect, but archaic (The Oxford English Dictionary lists potatoe as a variant form, the most recent usage cited being from 1880: "She found the parson in his garden … making a potatoe pie for the winter.") but he became the butt of every comedian on television. It literally ruined his political life. And, of course, there are still spelling bees in which young students show off their spelling prowess. But there are no penmanship contests. I wonder why.
It's amazing that most of the presidential candidates manage to find time to run for president when they're so busy running for national superintendent of schools. Republican candidates typically tell us in one breath they want to get the federal government out of education and in the next that they have some really swell ideas for educational reform they'd like to implement (impose?) once they're in charge of the federal government.
Take Mitt Romney, if you can. (I know, he can be pretty hard to take at times.) At Thursday night's (more of less) debate in Orlando, Mitt was his usual glib and sure-footed self as he danced around the question of what to do about Washington's reach into classrooms all across this great land of ours. The question, presented in a video clip, came from a teacher in Atlanta who offered the following observation and question:
I see administrators more focused on satisfying federal mandates, retaining funding, trying not to get sued, while the teachers are jumping through hoops trying to serve up a one-size-fits-all education for their students. What as president would you seriously do about what I consider a massive overreach of big government into the classroom?
Texas Governor Rick Perry defended his policy of allowing illegal immigrants to obtain in-state tuition for Texas state colleges in the Fox News/Google debate September 22.
Perry faced withering criticism from former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who said of the Perry-backed Texas policy of granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants:
It's an argument I just can't follow. I've got be honest with you, I don't see how it is that a state like Texas — to go to the University of Texas, if you're an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That's $22,000 a year. Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien go to the University of Texas. If you are a United States citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn't make sense to me. That kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense.... We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 tax credit — or, excuse me, discount for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn't be allowed. It makes no sense at all.
An honors student at a Fort Worth, Texas, high school was sent to the principal’s office after he told a fellow student that he thought homosexuality is wrong. Fourteen-year-old Dakota Ary was in his German class “when the conversation shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany,” reported Fox News. “At some point during the conversation, he turned to a friend and said that he was a Christian and ‘being a homosexual is wrong.’”
A short time later Dakota’s mother, Holly Pope, received a call from an assistant principal at Fort Worth’s Western Hills High School informing her that her son would be serving an “in-school suspension,” along with a two-day full suspension, for his offense. “Dakota is a very well-grounded 14-year-old,” Pope told Fox News, adding that her son is not only an honors student, but plays on the school’s football team and is involved in his church’s youth group. “He’s been in church his whole life and he’s been taught to stand up for what he believes,” she added.