[Guest post by DRJ]
What is the point of public education? Is it to learn basic skills like the old-fashioned “3 R’s” — reading, writing, arithmetic — or is it to learn how to get along with people, to be tolerant of different backgrounds and cultures, and open to other beliefs?
That seems to be the issue in a New Hampshire case involving Amanda, a 10-year-old girl who is being home-schooled by her mother and is described as “well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising and intellectually at or superior to grade level.”
However, Amanda’s divorced father and a local judge think she needs a public education — and the judge seems to think Amanda is being brainwashed by religion:
“In a court order issued in the case, the local court reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”
Got that? It sounds like the more articulate and vigorous Amanda is in expressing her opinions, the more the judge believes she needs public education. However, the father’s attorney says the case is about Amanda getting along with other people and not about her religion:
“Kurowski’s attorney, Elizabeth Donovan, said the ruling was based on the girl’s isolated learning environment, not on her mother’s religion. She said the girl’s home schooling consists of “sitting in the corner of her mother’s bedroom,” where she receives her lessons on a computer screen.
Kurowski “is concerned because of the isolation that is borne of that and the lack of exposure to the broader culture at large,” Donovan said. “People of different heritage, people of different culture, tolerance, group problem-solving, making friends, losing friends — all of the things that come with a public school education.”
The New Hampshire Supreme Court has agreed to hear Amanda’s case but it’s hard to view it as an anomaly given a recent story about the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities College of Education and Human Development. Through its “Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group,” the College plans to enforce what F.I.R.E. calls a “political litmus test for future teachers” and students based on their predispositions, beliefs, and “cultural competence.” The educators at U-Minn believe “both academic preparation and particular dispositions or professional commitments are needed for effective teaching.”
That sounds a lot like what the New Hampshire judge thinks Amanda should be learning in school.