Saturday, September 05, 2009

once again, evidence that John Edwards was right

I very rarely read the newspaper. After this morning, I don't know if I'm going to hurry to change that habit at all--although I am darn glad that I now know the story of Amanda Kurowski.

On the Washington Times front page today was an article, titled "Home schooler ordered to Attend Public School--Mom's religious views ripped by Court".

Well how's that for a wake-up call?

Now I'm all about source documents to help me avoid getting duped by somebody's spin. SO enjoy this. . .but in case you don't want to read the whole kit and kaboodle, here's a summary:

Divorced parents of a 10-year old disagree about her educational plan to date, which has provided for her to be home-schooled by her mother. The curriculum the mother teaches Amanda (the 10-year old at the center of this debate) is not in question, as it includes everything that the local school district teaches; the effectiveness of the home-schooling is not in question, as Amanda is performing at or above grade level; AND Amanda participates in several classes every week at the local school, so she is not a shut-in that is afraid of other kids (as evidenced by statements collected from her teachers at that school).

As per the agreement in place between mother and father, the fact that they did not see eye-to-eye on Amanda's education meant that a mediator (in this case a Guardian Ad Litem, henceforth referred to as a GAL) would get involved and help the situation come to resolution. Remember what this is: a third party representative of the state, with no relation to the young girl, who suddenly gets a say in the education of this young girl just because two divorced parents don't see eye to eye. Oh, and by the way, it appears that the Mother and the GAL don't exactly have a great relationship, either. Please keep that in mind as the saga unfolds below:

Earlier this year, Mother sought to change the custody agreement in place between herself and the father (the situation between the parents is ugly--and I mean ugly!); coincident to that request, the GAL recommended that Amanda see a counselor. That counselor interviews Amanda, and according to the court order, the counselor "found Amanda to lack some youthful characteristics. . .the counselor concluded that Amanda would likely benefit from frequent contact with her similarly aged sibling (Mr. Kurowski's other daughter, age seven), and in the community." There was a religious element to the counselor's findings as well, but they don't play much into the "actionable" recommendation forwarded from the counselor.

Based on that report, the GAL concluded that Amanda's interests--particularly her intellectual and emotional development--would be best served by exposure to a public school setting in which she would be challenged to solve problems presented by a group learning situation and by the social interactivity of children of her age.

Let's recap what just happened there: a representative of the state took a report from a counselor--a counselor that only entered the fray because the state representative wanted her to--that said an eldest child was mature for her age and would benefit from more contact with her half-sister, and used it as a club to say that the academically advanced Amanda would benefit intellectually and emotionally from being exposed to the social strata of a public school, specifically against the wishes of the student's mother, who happens to have a strained professional and personal relationship with this particular state representative. The GAL's recommendation ignored a specific element of the counselor's report, favoring additional exposure to children of Amanda's age rather than just more contact with Amanda's half-sister. And at no time in the proceedings to this point had insufficient exposure to children of Amanda's age even been "professionally" identified as a deficiency that needed to be remedied!

SO the judge gets to chime in on this circus play-by-play. In her decision, Judge Lucinda Sadler declared that education is "by its nature an exploration and examination of new things, and . . . a child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings." The judge then defines this debate as centering "on whether enrollment in public school will provide Amanda with an increased oportunity for group learning, group interaction, social problem solving, and exposure to a variety of points of view." In light of that definition, the judge concludes that it would be in Amanda's best interests to attend a public school.

So AGAIN to recap: an intelligent, congenial 10-year who is unfortunate enough to have two parents that don't like each other is told by a Judge--that has no relation to her and may have no experience in education matters--that the successful (by all indications) education system she's known since first grade is deficient because it doesn't resemble the Judge's opinion of a proper educational environment, which, it should be noted, is heavy on group-think idealism and awful short on deference to success. The judge, in her decision, describes Amanda as "generally likeable and well liked, social and interactive with her peers, academically promising, and intellectually at or superior to grade level". . .and yet the judge STILL can't help but upend the education system that helped make Amanda all those things.

Oh, and the judge can't help but REALLY step out of bounds. She writes: "Despite Ms. Voydatch's (Amanda's mother) insistence that Amanda's choice to share her mother's religious beliefs is a free choice, it would be remarkable if a ten year old child who spends her school time with her mother and the vast majority of all of her other time with her mother would seriously consider adopting any other religious point of view. Amanda's vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to the counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view." (emphasis mine) I'm sorry, but where in the world is it a judge's business to write about a child's religious beliefs, or, more importantly, to suggest that parents have any responsibility whatsoever to expose them to "other points of view" with regards to religious faith? And is it really so remarkable that a mature, intelligent pre-teen is able to express THEIR religious beliefs clearly? And what the heck is the judge saying here--that one of the reasons she supports sending Amanda to public schools is because the girl needs to consider other points of view on that issue, and that the school's religion-free curriculum is going to somehow improve her knowledge of faith-based issues? But EVEN MORE TO THE POINT: is it a bad thing that a child adopts the beliefs of her closest parent? Really??? 'Cuz this appears to me to be a solution in search of a problem. . .and I wouldn't even call it a solution. (Of course, I'm not after the destruction of religion in this country. This is a solution ONLY if your intent is to increase the influence of the state in the affairs of faith).

I swear, I don't know what the heck is happening with my country.

But to the point of the title: John Edwards' famous Two Americas is very true. . .just not in the way he advertised. No, this country is split into two along the following lines: those who want the government to keep out of DECISIONS that most of us consider to be personal in nature; and those who just can't wait to put ALL decisions under the control of the government.


Post a Comment

<< Home