Thursday, October 18, 2007

Open Primaries

A neighbor of mine who's a history professor and an all around great guy introduced me to an interesting theory, but I'm not sure what to make of it. Open Primaries. His idea is different from the California and Louisiana (maybe more?) open primaries which were deemed unconstitutional. The idea of this one is that you still have partisan primaries, but every registered voter can vote on every primary. I'm just not sure what this would do. His thought is that someone like Ron Paul might actually be able to win the republican primary because liberals would be able to vote for their favorite republican. One major concern for this type of thing is that people would vote for the worst person running from the opposite party. My concern is that there is so little real difference between the two parties and I see this as blurring that line even more. I guess I don't know enough about the theoretical positives to be able to say much about this topic, I thought this would be a more interesting post than it turned into.

I mentioned Ron Paul earlier, I like some of his economics, and I like his foreign policy, thats about it. I think he's far far better than Mitt or Rudy but thats not saying much, I'd rather vote for the kid I'm watching chew on his shoe in the psych center than either of those psycho's. He's pro-home schooling which sounds fine till you look at the parents who home school, or worse yet the children that have been home schooled. He wants to guarantee that the kid who's mom taught him that the world was created a few thousand years After we started brewing beer get equal consideration from college as the kid who, you know, knows some shit. If those kids pass the same fucked up tests as the rest of us thats one thing, but even then there is a reason why teachers after sixth grade are specialized, no one should be forced to learn from only one source no matter how good that source is it's not as good as many sources even the bad teachers force critical thinking skills on the student. I don't like home schooling.


Byshop said...

My step daughter is homeschooled. I think it is the best thing for her. She still has a teacher, they meet once a week, other than that her mother and I, (mostly her mother) help her along. We try to impart critical thinking in all aspects of life, not just schooling.

Her first year of conventional highschool she has zero academic classes. ZERO. Since homeschooling, her grades are up, she is actually learning the material (Even though all schools in CA. conventional or otherwise are teach to test curriculums.) and is overall happier without all the highschool bullshit. After decades of diminished expectations from our schools (which is more about mandated test scores for funding than a lack of a quality school system) I can see your point that you don't want idiots teaching their kids to be idiots. This is why home schooling isn't for everyone. Paul's stance requires placing the indiviual over the society, regardless of the ability/perspective of the individual. I agree with the ideology to an extent, but the reality is not everyone has the same idea of what personal reponsibility means.

"He wants to guarantee that the kid who's mom taught him that the world was created a few thousand years After we started brewing beer get equal consideration from college as the kid who, you know, knows some shit. If those kids pass the same fucked up tests as the rest of us thats one thing"

So where do you draw the line between personal/religious freedom and conformity, standardized tests? Ron Paul is much more a libertarian than a Republican in many ways. He believes in personal freedom, freedom to starve, freedom to teach your kid whatever you believe. (interestingly though, very right wing on the abortion issue.) Myself, I am torn on the issue. Things like spelling, grammar, math, scientific principles, these should all be taught to everyone. When you get into the social elements of academia, philosophy, religion, civics etc. There is such a wide range of perspectives that the methodology gets lost and the content becomes the focus.

"no one should be forced to learn from only one source no matter how good that source is it's not as good as many sources even the bad teachers force critical thinking skills on the student."

Do they? I don't think you can really make a blanket statement like that. I think what makes a teacher bad is when they leave out all together the thinking aspect of it. The truth of the matter is you can't force someone to learn anything. As with most things homeschooling (all schooling actually) should be addressed on a case by case basis. Unfortunately that is not going to happen in the production line sytem we have.

I think a blending of voucher systems and a wide diversity of educational options starting around middle school. Teach everyone the basics, allow them to pursue individually after that. With an emphasis on thinking. Academia is but one part in the overall learning process and in this day and age a dysfuntional member of the village needed to raise a child.

Kilgore Trout said...

The exception that proves the rule. You're right there are many many problems with our public schools, and I can fully understand why parents would prefer to home school if that's a viable option for the parents.

I do not have children so I am looking at this from a general perspective not individual.

I guess my thought on the bad teachers forcing critical thinking should have been explained. I had one particularly horrible teacher in high school. It was a social studies class and I learned a lot because I would listen to the teacher (sorta) then read the material then throw in a dash of what I already knew and was "forced" to argue my answers that she claimed were wrong because its not what she had said. Then I was "forced" to prove that I was correct. This actually increased my knowledge more than anything else about the class. Of course the next year when we prepared for the two year combined final and did a quick overview of the previous year and those who had said teacher realized we were supposed to study China and never did then we were in a little trouble. Oh and the bad teacher was genuinely angry at me for getting a 98 on her final, ha.

My main concern was probably clear, the vast majority of home schooling (nationally) is not parents who want to teach critical thinking it is parents who want to teach that the bible is the only truth. They do not want there children exposed to any ideas they disagree with. Those are the parents that scare me, when their children know no other way it makes me sad for the children.

Finally as much as high school sucks it is important for the socialization of children to interact with other people their age. You might be able to sway me on vouchers and the idea of different school options, except that small towns will not be able to support multiple school so this will only affect those in and around larger cities, but I have never seen a viable way to replace this in a home school environment. As much as I dislike home schooling for other reasons ultimately this is the one I don't think can be resolved.

As for Ron Paul's libertarian leanings, I don't doubt it, and while I understand where libertarian ideals are coming from I cannot endorse them. If we all started life on an even keel then I might be a libertarian but until we can start truly equally I cannot.

To come full circle I suppose everyone starting equal in every regard in an absolute libertarian society might solve (probably not solve but maybe help) our evolutionary dilemma.

I respect your reasons for wanting to home school but from a general perspective I think that curing the problems with our public schools is a better long term solution than home schooling or even the voucher programs.

Thanks for all the thought provoking comments of late.

Rob the Granola Guy said...

As someone who teaches that odious two year social studies course, I lament my lack of opportunity to teach it at a level deep enough to evoke critical thinking. The more emphasis we put on high stakes test scores, the less critical thinking we'll see in public schools.

I applaud BYSHOP and the Ms. for home-schooling. I've had kids that were home-schooled pass through the public school system who've been on both ends of the spectrum you mentioned.

As long as the parental units aren't born-again whack jobs, they're tend to be my best thinking students.

Kilgore Trout said...

Wow, on my site of all places I've found two defenders of home schooling, isn't it ironic, don't ya think?

The two with experience in the matter are promoting, or at least defending, home schooling while the person with the least experience is against it. Some would count that against me. The problem comes from the fact that while obviously there are parents who are better teachers than those available in the schools, plus obviously very small class sizes, a huge bonus. Unfortunately there is a significant body of evidence that the school environment is important for a child's socialization and no matter how great the parents are at teaching they cannot replace the other children. I do not have the links to those studies but if you really really want to see them I can ask my friend if he still has them saved, but it might be tough as he is very very lacking in time. Finally, while I'm sure there are some great parents doing a wonderful job of teaching their kids, and making sure they get the necessary socialization (and I don't mean just with organized sports), as I would guess Byshop does. But this is also an important wing of the far right evangelical movement. This is a group that scares me, they want to turn the land of the free into a theocracy and to bust out another set of lyrics for Byshop, "theres no fun in fundamentalism." If you've seen Jesus Camp you'll understand why I feel these children cannot be allowed to be in the presence of their parents at all times. As Dawkins would say, this is child abuse. If it weren't for the fundies I would probably think that homeschooling was a bad idea but wouldn't be against it. I think children are better off being around other children and there is evidence to back that. Unfortunately the evangelicals have ruined the party. I am firmly against homeschooling because of what they have done to what was originally a reasonable alternative to traditional schooling. Oh and having another teacher come in once a week is a great move if you can afford it, I should have pointed that out earlier, again exception that proves the rule.

This turned into a way better discusion than I expected when I wrote it. Maybe I'll have to do a whole thing on homeschooling at some point.

What do you guys think about Open Primaries?

Byshop said...

We should discuss the home school issue in greater detail but on to the question at hand...

My stance, the public is confused enough already, having to be up on ALL the people running is almost laughable for the average Joe. In my opinion a direct reflection of what I find to be the single largest flaw in this Constitutionally Limited Democratic Republic of ours, the honus on every citizen to engage in the process. I don't think it would change much anyway, it would remain divided largely among party lines with each party voting for the best of their party and the worst of the opposition. I expect the net result to be about the same.

Kilgore Trout said...

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." - Churchill

Yeah that was pretty much my view on the Open Primaries idea, but I have a great deal of respect for the guy who was arguing for it so I'd like to talk to him more about it. I don't see it affecting things much, although it might bring the "fringe" candidates on par or close to the top tier. And wouldn't it be fun to see right-wingers voting for Kucinich because they hate Hillary?