After rereading my post today, it seems to me I was a lot harsher than I should have been. I apologize if my tone was nasty.
This is a very current concern for us. For the past three years (ever since we got reported to the school), my wife has been nagging me to move out the neighborhood. At the time, I was pretty seriously pissed. But she was actually scared. She comes from communist China where at one time people reported on each other regularly. Everyone's activities were everyone else's business. She just doesn't want to be around people like this. I sympathize with her ... in fact, I agree with her ... but I'm not ready to move yet. But every night after I'm done reading, she's still up reading brochures about places she wants to move to. And I don't want to move. Aside from this incident (and one where some pissants spray-painted "chink" on our lawn and mailbox and one kid nearly putting my daughter's eye out) and a few other very minor things, this is a pretty good neighborhood.
Besides, unless one lives in a very small community, the odds are high one will have at least a few idiot neighbors. We have only a very few idiots. We know the idiots. The idiots know us. The idiots we know are less dangerous than the idiots we don't know. (But as I keep telling my wife, I agree 100% that people who use the school system like this should get the crap kicked out of them - physically and not metaphorically.)
A few odds and ends.
True story. One of my friends in college was another strong atheist. His view of religion was even lower than mine at the time. His father was also a strong atheist. Louisville benefitted and suffered from forced busing and my friend was one of its victims. He was getting beaten up every single day at school. (I strongly sympathize with this, because until I bulked up, I endured a similar fate.) Life was horrible for him, because the school wouldn't do anything about the bullies. They had already far exceeded their quota of black detentions and suspensions and so the bullies were given less than a slap on the wrist and sent out to beat him up again and again and again. He was verging on a nervous breakdown and was considering suicide. He broke down in front of his parents finally and told them he just couldn't go back again. His parents knew what was going on, but couldn't get the school to do anything. As a last ditch effort, they got him enrolled in Walnut Street Baptist Church's school. (I can't remember the exact name, but it's owned and operated by the church.) This is a big church in Louisville and their services are (or were) broadcast in Louisville every Sunday. He finishes school there, gets a national merit scholarship, goes to UL, gets a masters, goes to work for IBM in Lexington and earned a number of patents. Now my friend thought the minister at walnut street was a hypocritical lowlife. And his view of religion kinda grates on me at times - it's not enough that he doesn't believe, but he has to continually ridicule it. All the same, in rare moments, he'll admit he's grateful to that school. They saved his life, he says. And I believe him. I don't believe they got any vouchers. But they should have, imo.
Now there is a worry here that our private schools could turn out like the Madrasses in Pakistan. That's a legitimate concern. In fact, there have been a few like that to arise here in the states already. I'm not entirely averse to having some kind of standard for what is minimally taught, although I'm not sure we would agree on what should be included in a mandatory curriculum. Take evolution and creationism. Now, I'm not too keen on people being taught creationism with "public" funds, but I don't think it's *that* harmful for kids to not be taught about evolution - especially since I can think of at least one subject that's much more important that is given short shrift. Probability. Not one kid should get out of school without knowing something about this subject. It has immediate practicality regardless of how much further one goes with it, and its knowledge has lingering consequences to the long term understanding of other subjects (like evolution). Now, I came to this conclusion a long time ago on my own, but I read somewhere in the last year or two that S. J. Gould also touts prob and stats as an important part of the young student's diet (although I don't know his view on the relative importance of this versus evolution).
For as much evolution as kids are actually likely to get in K-12, they could easily spend a few weeks on their own learning at least that much. Note: I'm not making an argument to not teach evolution in PS. My argument is that no one should be forced to learn it.
Before I say another word, though, I will confess to something. I'm entirely unprincipled. (It's not that I don't have them, it's that I don't bother articulating them. Other people have told me that's the same thing as being unprincipled and I frankly have better things to argue about, so I'll just accept up front that I'm unprincipled.) I'm not going to let my kids be denied an education while people argue over things that are on the whole irrelevant (imo). And so, I'm not at all annoyed, for example, that they have this moment of silence thing in VA schools. In fact, I'm pretty happy about it. I will be very pissed if they get rid of it - not because I want my kids praying during that time, but because there are so many more important things for these guys in the capitol to worry about (budget shortfall in some school districts) that they shouldn't be wasting a single second of time on a side issue. Also, the moment of silence is a compromise and I'm all for compromise. There's just no need to draw lines in the sand or on the school playground.
What I would like to see more of is this: "We mandate as little as possible. We facilitate as much as possible." These parents who are homeschooling and private schooling (not talking about the filthy rich we all love to hate, but the borderline people we're merely envious of) and parochial schooling actually *care* about their kids AND are willing to do something about it. They're making an effort of some kind, which is a lot more than what some parents do. (They had a math night at school a few months back. I looked around. The only families that were there were the ones that didn't need to be. Tragic.) These parents have a lot to give, not just to their own kids, but to other people's kids if they're allowed to. We shouldn't be pushing these people away, we should be asking, "How the heck can we get them to harness all that energy for us?" We should try to embrace them, not by force but (for lack of a better term at the moment) by the continued exercise of good will.
I don't believe PSes fail because of home schools or private schools. I think there are a multitude of reasons for these failures, partly bureaucratic and partly parental indifference. (Complaining a lot does not disqualify one from being indifferent.)
For the time being, I realize this is just fantasy. It's easier to lay down the law for the dissenters than it is to compromise one's principles (one's own principles being infinitely more important someone else's principles).
Well, I've got more to ramble on about, but I find I've went over my time allotment. Heck, I'm not even finished divigating!