Seattle Public Schools thinks math is racist and oppressive

When I first heard about Seattle Public Schools’ proposed “K-12 Math Ethnic Studies Framework” this afternoon, I was curious if the actual document lived up to the freak-out among conservative observers. Seattle, after all, is where many STEM-based corporations are headquartered. (For now, anyway – several tech companies already have their foot out the door, and not simply over taxes.) How did a city where math is responsible for substantially all of governments’ tax receipts end up with school districts that want to destroy math education? It makes no sense whatsoever. But then again, New York City is talking about scrapping gifted and talented education because it is racist, so it’s not like Seattle is the first blue municipality to consider cranking out ignorant children a political priority. (Heck, New York City put it into law that schools cannot reject a student for a diploma on the basis of having never attended class. No kidding. You no longer need to attend school to get a diploma from a public high school in NYC. The schools literally have no academic standards.)

From what I can tell, most observers have only read the article in Reason magazine, which simply paraphrases an article in Education Week. Both of these articles understate the extreme positions in Seattle’s proposal. I think most people – regardless of political persuasion – would lose their minds if they saw the proposal documents for how Seattle Public Schools might transform math education.

Here they are.

The proposal divides math instruction into four categories that math instructors need to address in the classroom: (1) origins, identity, and agency; (2) power and oppression; (3) history of resistance and liberation; and (4) reflection and action. Yes, this is their framework for teaching math.

Under the “origins, identity, and agency” category, the authors suggest that instructors address “the ways in which we view ourselves as mathematicians” and emphasize that mathematical theory is “rooted in the ancient histories of people and empires of color.”

The authors urge math teachers to “create counter narratives about the origins of mathematical knowledge” and to “see the value in making mistakes both as individuals and as a community.” Got that? It’s no longer enough that schools pass students who cannot demonstrate a proficiency in subject-matter through the system. The schools need to praise students for failing.

The document elaborates: “How important is it to be Right? What is Right? Says Who?”

I don’t know about you, but when I was in school, I was not taught to talk about my feelings about math or to see the answers according to some political rubric of authority. I was taught *gasp* proofs. Ditto for symbolic logic.

Under the “power and oppression” category, the authors … well… I’ll just let them speak for themselves:

Power and oppression, as defined by ethnic studies, are the ways in which individuals and groups define mathematical knowledge so as to see “Western” mathematics as the only legitimate expression of mathematical identity and intelligence. This definition of legitimacy is then used to disenfranchise people and communities of color. This erases the historical contributions of people and communities of color.

Thus, math instructors need to work into their curriculum a discussion of “the ways in which ancient mathematical knowledge has been appropriated by Western culture” and “identify how math has been and continues to be used to oppress and marginalize people and communities of color.” As an auxiliary, they recommend teaching about how technology and standardized testing are connected to mathematics as a tool of oppression.

But they don’t stop there. They also recommend that math teachers “explain how math has been used to exploit natural resources” (as if forests have been wronged by algebra) and “explain how math dictates economic oppression.” (For example, the fact that you do not understand how your mortgage works because you attended Seattle Public Schools puts you at an unfair intellectual disadvantage to the people at the bank who attended real schools.)

The authors then ask (I’m not even halfway through the document, hang in there) “who holds power in a mathematical classroom? Is there a place for power and authority in the math classroom? Who gets to say if an answer is right? What is the process for verifying the truth? Who is Smart? Who is not Smart?”

They recommend math teachers ask their students to name oppressive mathematical practices in their experience, “how data-driven processes prevent liberation,” and “how math can help us understand the impact of economic conditions and systems that contribute to poverty and slave labor.”

Students should be asked what is legitimate as math and what fears they have about math. Then they should ponder who in society has worked to make them fearful of math and what ulterior motives someone might have in doing so.

Next up is the “history of resistance and liberation” category, which suggests teachers cover “individuals and organizations that have reclaimed mathematical identity and agency” and how we can “change mathematics from individualistic to collectivist thinking.”

The last category, “reflection and action,” suggests that teachers encourage their students to take the gospel of the math ethnic studies framework to their communities so they can understand how math is fundamentally racist and how it has been used to oppress them all along.

The sick thing about all of this is that people who push for this kind of content in classrooms are hurting minority children themselves. Every minute of every day that is spent on nonsense like this is instructional time and instructional resources that are not teaching the kids useful skills that they absolutely must have to compete in a modern economy. Not to mention the fact that the teachers are giving kids the impression that talking this way will do them any service in the real world. Crikey.

North Florida judge allowed a potential school shooter to go free by massaging the definition of “transmission”

When we first started homeschooling our daughter, safety was not the biggest consideration. We were mainly concerned that a traditional school would not be sufficiently challenging for her academically and intellectually. But safety is definitely one of our biggest concerns now.

Just following news stories these days, it is shocking how many school districts and other authorities deliberately conceal security risks from parents and the students themselves or outright enable troubled students.

Yesterday, I read a local article about a child at an elementary school here – the school our daughter would be attending right now if we sent her to public school, in fact – who had been arrested for bringing drugs to school. The article noted that the child already had a criminal record, and was on FELONY probation. Imagine being on felony probation in elementary school. Imagine having your child at a school where kids on the playground already had serious criminal records. And school officials said nothing to parents about it so they could warn their children.

By far the worst story I have read lately is about Baker County Public Schools in the Jacksonville area. A high school student had produced several graphic and highly technical plans to murder police officers, staff, and students at his school. He had calculated the length of time it would take for officers to reach his school and how long it would take them to make it into the school and stop his massacre. He tried to quantify which campus locations would allow him to slaughter the most people.

Another student learned about his plans and did exactly what authorities told them to do: he told a teacher. The school worked with police to charge the student, only to have Circuit Judge Gloria Walker of the 8th circuit (recently elected; she used to work for a legal aid nonprofit for low-income families in North Florida) dismiss the charges against the student and send him home free, with no accountability whatsoever. Her argument was that authorities could not prove that the student “transmitted” his plans. Because he showed his plans to another student in person and did not say, make a random threat on Facebook Live, he could not be considered a legitimate threat under the law.

How can any parent of a child at that school continue to put their kids on a school bus after that? I know I couldn’t.

Here is the full account from local news sources:

The student wrote he wanted to “kill officers and then the gate keeper — then go one by one” and that he would have nine minutes to gun down as many people as possible, considering the distance between the sheriff’s office and the school, according to Maj. Randy Crews of the Baker County Sheriff’s Office.

In a composition notebook, the student also wrote “kill the first responders first,” and “there will most likely be chaos. You kill as much as you can before the other students/teachers notice,” according to documents obtained by the News4Jax I-TEAM.

But after the student was arrested, a judge dismissed the case saying prosecutors did not prove the threat was “transmitted” under state law, Crews told the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission on Tuesday.

Crews told the commission, which was created after last year’s mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, that state law needs to be clarified to allow the prosecution of potentially dangerous juveniles, like the Baker County student.

“I am not a lawyer, but I want to make you aware of this situation,” Crews said. “If these judges make these rulings, we are moving backwards.”

The juvenile was not named during Tuesday’s commission meeting, but commission Chairman Bob Gualtieri later identified the judge as Circuit Judge Gloria Walker of the 8th Judicial Circuit, which is made up of Baker, Alachua, Bradford, Gilchrist, Levy and Union counties.

Under state law, people commit second-degree felonies if they write and send threats to kill or do bodily injury to “the person to whom such letter or communication is sent” or “to any member of the family of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent.”

Crews argued the student’s case shouldn’t have been dismissed because the threats in the notebook were unearthed after the student showed them to a classmate, who then reported it to a teacher.

Crews told News4Jax on Tuesday the sheriff’s office believes the law, Florida statue 836.10, clearly applies to the student when it states that “any person who makes, posts, or transmits a threat in a writing.”

“Prosecution plead with the judge about the case law, about the case, about the interpretation of the law and quite frankly the judge disagreed and dismissed the case,” Crews told the commission. “If it’s got a law that needs to be clarified – I’m not a lawyer. It was clear to me. It was clear to the prosecutor.”

“This is a case where everything was done the way it should have been done,” Crews continued. “A kid saw something and said something, took it to the teachers, school resource officers were involved, we investigated.”

Upon learning about the dismissal of the case, members of the state commission were outraged and worried the student, who is no longer detained, could be a danger to the North Florida community.

“The judge falls outside the scope of reasonableness. I just hope they can live with themselves if something happens,” said Commissioner Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland.

In a Sept. 9 news release, the Baker County Sheriff’s Office said the juvenile admitted to detectives that he wrote multiple plans to carry out the school shooting with the specific campus locations, dates and times and the specific people he would attack. But the student denied any intention of going through with those plans, the sheriff’s office said.

Gualtieri, who is the sheriff of Pinellas County, said that while he thinks the judge’s ruling is “disturbing,” he doesn’t know what the commission could recommend lawmakers to do.

“The question is, does the statute need to be changed? I don’t see anything in statute that needs to be changed,” Gualtieri said.

Commissioner Max Schachter, father of slain Parkland student Alex Schachter, was frustrated by Gualtieri’s response and suggested the commission scold the judge in a letter for ruling against law enforcement’s actions to “prevent the next Parkland.”

“The commission should write a letter emphasizing … that releasing this person back into society — knowing how they want to kill all these people — is irresponsible and puts the community at risk,” Schachter said.

But no other commissioner agreed with him.

“For us to intervene and chastise a judge and their conduct, I don’t think it is appropriate,” said Commissioner Bruce Bartlett, the chief assistant state attorney for the judicial circuit that includes Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Instead, Bartlett said voters could vote out the judge in the next election.

“This seems to be a situation that happened in one place and a decision made by one court,” the Pinellas sheriff said. “It’s unfortunate and extremely troubling, and all we can do is hope this kid, who is out on the street does not execute his plan.”

The Baker County Sheriff’s Office said they are trying to appeal this case 

The importance of record-keeping for homeschoolers

I see a lot of homeschool blogs and social media groups that try to sell homeschooling as a lifestyle (versus a very serious commitment to educate your child) trying to downplay the effort that homeschoolers must invest in record-keeping. This is particularly true for “unschoolers,” who tend to paint homeschooling in general as some super relaxing and stress-free endeavor. Just ignore all that tedious institutional baggage! You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life!

In my personal experience talking to new homeschooling parents and grandparents, it seems like a lot of people are taking this advice at face value. I’ve met many who invest almost no effort in the daily activity log and portfolio of schoolwork that is legally required in our state. Some mothers I’ve encountered even banded together to form a private school, which was mostly to evade the record-keeping and annual evaluation requirements imposed by the state. This is why I say the unschooling fad is the biggest regulatory risk to serious homeschoolers there is – far, far worse than public school activists. They rank up there with midwives and anti-vaxxers in terms of unflattering exposes that will inevitably happen when the rest of society notices they exist. Truly, I miss the 1990s when homeschooling was mostly the domain of tiger moms.

Anyway, my advice to new homeschoolers is to ignore people who praise lackadaisical record-keeping bigtime. They are offering you very bad legal advice – and it is legal advice. While you are at it, ignore their advice on curriculum too. If they are put out by the idea of daily record-keeping, they probably aren’t investing much of their time in actual instruction either.

When we first started homeschooling, our lawyer said the number one thing we needed to do to protect our rights is keep perfect, unassailable records of what we are doing. Should your right to homeschool ever be legally challenged, he said, there is no statute that is going to protect you if you are not keeping solid records of your child’s education. At the end of the day, a judge is not going to care about your hyper-literal interpretation of the law if it seems like you are genuinely depriving your child of an education. As they say, you shouldn’t simply avoid improper behavior. You should also avoid the appearance of it.

You never have to apologize for excellence.

Moreover, from a bona fide risk management perspective, fights over education are more likely to come from a soured personal relationship than meddling government authorities. This is something a lot of social media homeschooling activists don’t seem to grok. To them, record-keeping is mostly a political issue.

I know a couple who has been locked in a custody battle over their children for most of their children’s lives. One of the biggest sticking points for them is where the kids go to school.

Try to imagine an unschooler defending their education practices in a similar context.

Judge: So he wants to send the kids to public school and does not want you teaching them at home any more. You argue that you have been homeschooling them for five years and it would be disruptive for me to change that. Tell me about your homeschooling program. I don’t see many records here.

Unschooler: Well, I believe that play is the work of childhood. We spend a lot of time at the park and on nature walks.

Judge: So you pulled your kids out of school to play all day? Really?

Unschooler: I want my kids to be critical thinkers and not mindless institutional cogs. The children tell me what they want to learn. It’s called self-directed education, see.

Judge: Please explain to me what you are actually working on in your homeschool. All I see in your portfolio are pictures of you and your kids playing on the beach.

Instead of husband, substitute in an acutely concerned grandparent or meddling neighbor who decided to take their NextDoor gossip-fest into the real world. These are the very real problems that some people are going to face. And the outcomes are going to hinge on their record-keeping.

Record-keeping is not a chore. It’s a way for you to document true academic progress, which is something you will likely be proud of years down the line. It’s also a way to protect your kids. Don’t shrug it off just because folks in a granola mommy chat group told you it was okay.

Who’s who in classical education

There is an unbelievably good essay by Ian Lindquist in National Affairs on the movement among homeschoolers, private schools, and charter schools to revive classical education.

What makes it incredibly useful to classical homeschoolers (like us), or folks seeking an independent classical school, is that it explains the history of the movement and provides something of a who’s who of people involved in running clusters of classical schools and producing classical education curriculum.

For the uninitiated, I think this excerpt describes classical education well:

Classical education tends to emphasize rich, canonical works that have stood the test of time. Not all schools read the same works but, by and large, classical schools hew to Matthew Arnold’s notion that culture, and therefore a sound education, is comprised of “the best which has been thought and said.”

These works are usually part of a core curriculum, which all students must engage with to matriculate to the next level. Classical schools tend to think that there is a body of work with which all students should come into contact. This is not the same as a body of knowledge or a set of facts — though some things do simply have to be known. Instead, it may be better to say that students should be familiar with a body of works that suggest certain questions about what it means to be human and the nature of the world. Classical schools tend to hold that human experience is severely truncated when students do not have the opportunity and vocabulary to ask these questions. This comes as a welcome antidote to the notion, commonly held today, that education can impart facts in the hard sciences and give students an “appreciation” of disciplines such as literature and philosophy.

A corollary of holding that there are certain questions one must ask to be considered an educated person is that students and teachers are open to mystery and transcendence. Students at classical schools tend to be familiar with words like “goodness,” “beauty,” “truth,” “justice,” “virtue.” For many graduates, these are not impenetrable concepts even if they are mysterious. Mysteries excite wonder and elicit inquiry. Graduates of these schools tend to be at home in a disposition of wonder and a mode of inquiry.

Many classical schools expect their teachers to be models to students when it comes to practicing a sense of wonder and inquiry. The teacher is a model of personal ethical conduct as much as an expert in asking questions and prodding students to ask them too. School leaders, for their part, are usually considered not simply bureaucrats who manage a budget and the operations of the functional equivalent of a small business, but are drawn from the ranks of the faculty and tend to have had extensive teaching careers. They act as instructional leaders and coaches to their teachers, in addition to being able to articulate the vision of the school to parents of students.

Finally, classical schools tend to emphasize a coherent school culture as vitally important to the life of the students. Rather than encouraging teachers to develop their own practices and procedures within their classrooms, classical schools tend to encourage faculty to coach and mentor students in the same habits and dispositions throughout the school day. The school is therefore not a series of “island” classrooms but rather a unified whole.

I highly recommend reading the whole essay from the link above if this is something you are interested in for your child.

Is dual enrollment worth it for gifted children?

Dual enrollment programs are all the rage in education now. With dual enrollment, high school (and even middle school) students take college courses (most often community college courses) and receive both college credit and credit toward their high school diploma. In many cases, kids graduate with both a diploma and an Associate’s Degree.

Dual enrollment is an alternative to Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in high schools. It started off as an idea to keep high performing students in public schools rather than losing them to private schools or homeschooling. Now homeschooling lobbyists have fought to have the opportunity extended to homeschoolers as well.

What dual enrollment seems to offer is a way of skirting taking high-stakes tests for college credit. Instead, the kids are taking classes from people who themselves probably do not have a PhD and who likely pass everyone who is enrolled through the system.

The main difference to me – in terms of the actual quality of education that a child is receiving – is that with IB or AP, a student is getting a traditional liberal arts education rather than taking random classes alongside the stoners and teenage mothers in their town. I’m not saying this to look down on anyone who is trying to turn their life around by continuing their education. But let’s get real here. You are not talking about an even marginally competitive academic program. You are talking about programs that have historically been directed at individuals who have fallen through the cracks. That’s why the government is okay with putting a 6th grader in the room as well. AP and IB classes are probably far more competitive and stimulating academically.

I’ve met a number of homeschoolers who think their child is exceedingly special for participating in dual enrollment. There are social media groups devoted to pushing homeschooled children into dual enrollment programs at ever earlier ages, when the children would probably be better served by their parents investing in high-quality curriculum developed for gifted and talented kids that will genuinely prepare them for enrollment at a better university. It strikes me that is the quiet trade-off being made here. Their education is cheaper because it genuinely is worth less in the long run.

The number of kids in these programs has been growing exponentially, as state governments push dual enrollment as a way of getting a college degree without mountains of debt (in reality, the cost is usually pushed to state taxpayers – and you are a taxpayer):

In all 50 states, a growing number of high school students are taking what are known as dual-enrollment or dual-credit classes. They’re single classes that earn students both high school and college credit. Ten states now make it mandatory for districts to offer these classes.

And the number of students under 18 taking college courses has skyrocketed. It went from under 300,000 in 1995 to over 1 million in 2015. 

If over one million high school (and even middle school) students are doing this, does it lose its signaling power to colleges and universities (if it ever had it in the first place)?

Do elite colleges and universities even care if you have an Associate’s Degree, which is something no academic would put on their own curriculum vitae because it carries zero prestige?

“But dual enrollment demonstrates that your child can handle college-level work,” folks say. I’m not sure it does that either.

While some folks may think their 12-year-old is profoundly gifted for taking courses at a community college instead of being in 6th grade, a college professor would likely adamantly disagree. More likely, it shows how low academic standards are for these institutions now. Colleges are teaching concepts that should have been mastered in K-12 coursework instead of treating them as prerequisites. It’s not that your kid is high performing, but that some colleges are now low performing. This is not a good thing in our society.

All but the top tier of US universities have essentially started selling college degrees. It is a myth that college in general is exclusive. Only the top tier of universities do not accept nearly everyone who applies. Virtually everyone who graduates from high school can find some institution that is willing to take them, if they in turn are willing to shoulder the cost. This is what turning the federal government into a subsidized student loan machine that will loan unlimited amounts of money to teenagers has done to higher education. We borrow endless amounts of money in the US Treasury market from China and Japan, and use the proceeds to make student loans so every Starbucks barista can have a graduate degree and teach 6th graders part-time at the local community college. This is how broken our education system is. Heck, that’s how broken our federal budget is.

And having middle-schoolers enrolling in college courses is arguably diluting the value of a college degree even further.

This is not to say that enrolling a child who is legitimately profoundly gifted in a traditional four-year university that fits their research goals is a bad idea. But turning community colleges into de facto K-12 public schools seems like objectively bad policy.

As a parent, I almost think using those years to have your child do independent research projects with a carefully selected professional mentor might be a better idea. It will help them mature, build professional connections, and decide if they really want to follow a specific path or consider other alternatives. I don’t know, I am on the fence. But the more I look at dual enrollment programs, the more it seems like everyone is simply agreeing to say the emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

Rampant fraud at a National Blue Ribbon School

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about school districts in Florida that were allowed to post near-perfect graduation rates because they were fraudulently classifying high school dropouts as homeschoolers and even falsifying official records on their behalf.

Academic fraud and other bad behavior are often used by public (and private) schools to attain special status within the education system – being an “A-rated” school in their state, a National Blue Ribbon school, etc. Local officials (and even parent organizations) who fully understand there are serious problems at a school often will go along because highly ranked schools are big business in local government and recruitment in economic development programs. The fastest path to higher real estate values (and thus higher local government tax revenues to spend on political priorities) is a top-rated school. There’s zero political or economic incentive to look under the hood or kick the tires.

Grade-fixing and test score-fixing schemes are something to seriously consider if you find yourself in the position of moving to a specific neighborhood for top-ranked schools. If the statistics look too good to be true, they probably are.

The New York Post has done a series of shocking articles this week about academic fraud at Maspeth High School in Queens, which is now under investigation by the District Attorney’s Office. From the first piece in the series:

At highly rated Maspeth High School in Queens, students know they can play hooky, skip course work, flunk tests — and still pass.

They call it the “Maspeth Minimum,” meaning everyone gets at least the minimum grade or score needed to pass or graduate, no matter what.

Whistleblowers call it fraud. The secret to the school’s 98% graduation and 90% Regents pass rate, they say, is simple: “Cheat!”

Four teachers told The Post that the 2,100-student high school — awarded a prestigious National Blue Ribbon in 2018 by the federal secretary of education — has an unwritten but iron-clad “no-fail policy,” even for kids who repeatedly don’t do the work or even show up.

“Teachers are not allowed to fail students,” a staffer said.

One recent Maspeth graduate posted on Instagram about taking Mandarin in 11th grade, writing, “there was no way I should of passed that class.”

But in the end, someone raised the student’s failing grade just high enough to earn a credit.

“At the time, I didn’t believe in the ‘maspeth minimum’ thing but I almost never showed up to class and vividly remember having multiple 0’s on quizzes I never took,” the student wrote. “My average was a 45 and then magically turned into a 65 when my report card came in.”

Teachers at the school explained that they faced retaliatory action from administrators for not passing all students, even students who *never physically showed up for class*. Students fully understood this, and blew off make-up work.

Some of the “classes” were scheduled during phantom periods 00, 9 and 10, records show. Students didn’t attend the nonexistent sessions, but got credits toward graduation, the teachers said. Pachter and Singh did not reply to emails.

Last school year, at least four students were marked absent all day for four to five months, records show, but were allowed to join the June 26 commencement ceremony.

The school brokered arrangements with children that were regarded as “hard to handle” to allow them to graduate early and get them out of administrator’s hair.

This even included teachers helping students cheat on standardized tests:

They accomplished this in different ways. For instance, kids with special-ed plans can have the questions and answer choices read aloud to them, but some proctors signaled the right answers by their tone of voice, teachers said.

One student wrote in a statement that Maspeth teacher and dean Danny Sepulveda reread the questions at the end of the exam.

“But while he was reading it he was only saying the right answer choice, and this made me uncomfortable because it showed he didn’t believe in me to pass the exam,” the teen wrote.

In another statement, a student wrote that during the math Regents exam in June 2018, Sepulveda and math teacher Chris Grunert “helped me and other kids in my room with answers.” ….

“I’ve seen teachers literally change answers on a Regents exam,” one said.

In other public schools in New York City, you have teachers pressuring families to opt out of standardized testing because tests are racist. At a nationally ranked school in Queens, they just give kids the answers. And you thought Felicity Huffman was evil? This is a whole school and it’s school administrators who are doing it. And of course, the parents here knew as well.

Unsurprisingly, kids at the school rampantly cheat on classroom and homework assignments, turning in work done by others with zero consequences.

In another article, the Post interviews a former student who says he never attended class and spent two years of high school drunk or stoned in the school library. The school approached him with a plan to help him graduate early:

Thomas Macalaran Creighton admits he spent most of his junior and senior years at Maspeth High School in Queens drunk and stoned out of his mind, often asleep in the school library. He rarely attended classes and completed no homework assignments his senior year.

How did school administrators handle his chronic misbehavior and truancy?

They promoted him to the head of the class and let him graduate — six months early, in January 2015.

“They handed me a few work sheets for each subject, and told me if I completed them in a week, I could graduate six months early,” Creighton, now 21, told The Post. “I knew I didn’t deserve it but I thought, ‘Why not?’ I had another kid fill in the work sheets, and they gave me a diploma.”

His mother said the school became her nemesis in trying to stabilize her son’s extreme behavioral issues. (This has become something of a theme in public education, actually: Parents having to fight schools, even take them to court, over their kids participating in high-risk behavior at school. In California, it is now the law that a school must provide cover via attendance records for minors seeking an abortion, sexually transmitted disease checks, mental health treatment, or drug treatment. This has been spotlighted in recent cases where kids wanted to transition to a new gender against the authority of their parents.) The mother would try to discipline him, but then he was going to a school where anything goes:

Instead, her son — known to his friends and family as “Mac” — spiraled downward, addicted at first to alcohol then a medley of different drugs. He hung out with about five friends who were constantly stoned and ran away from home. His mother said he was mostly homeless, at times living out of an ATM lobby and a beer can-strewn flophouse in Ridgewood.

“He stunk like a homeless person and only went to school to hang out with his friends,” said Annmarie, an office manager and mother to two older daughters. “I kept expecting a truant officer to show up at our door. But nothing happened. My husband and I were stunned when he graduated early.”

Creighton transferred to the school in the fall of 2013. He had already been expelled for carrying a knife from Xavier High School, an elite Catholic high school in Manhattan where his father, a civil engineer who works on projects for the MTA, was an alumnus. He briefly attended Newtown High School in Elmhurst before enrolling in Maspeth.

“He had friends who were going to Maspeth, and he told us he would kill himself if we forced him to stay at Newtown,” his mother said. “By the time he got to Maspeth, all hell broke loose.”

Some of the teachers tried to help her son out, by bringing him food and clean clothes. Another teacher gave her son a pot pipe as a “graduation” gift, as if his addiction was something to be encouraged.

(Imagine how you’d behave if a teacher at your kid’s school gave your kid drug paraphernalia as a gift. Would you ask more questions about their relationship?)

In a third article, the Post highlights comments from teachers on a platform for NYC educators. They suggest this sort of behavior is commonplace at all NYC public schools.

It’s not difficult to believe that what the teachers are saying here is true, either. This sort of culture cannot succeed for generations of students without widespread participation, not just in the school or neighborhood, but in the system that created it and credentializes it.

Outliers are not audited before they are rewarded. Why? Ultimately the same behavior that is taking place within the school is taking place within the school system. The Department of Education likely does know where the crappy schools are. They don’t care that the problem schools were promoted to the head of the class any more than the folks at this high school cared that problem children were treated as being at the head of their class.

Shirking genuine accountability makes everyone’s life easier in the end.

The lonely generation

Early every morning, a group of women in our neighborhood gets together to walk several miles. It doesn’t matter if it is gorgeous outside, with sunshine and the tradewinds, or the brutal peak of a Florida summer, the group still gets together. The number of women walking on any given day fluctuates, but I have seen as many as twenty women participate. Some women gossip, some talk about gardening or what they are reading. Taxes and politics come up. Everyone is a charitable audience. Vive la différence.

The entire gang greets everyone they see outside – other walkers, people leaving for work, construction crews – by name and make pleasant conversation. It’s very…. Southern. But it also seems somewhat anachronistic in the age of social media. This is not something most people do anymore.

Since some members of the group are retired schoolteachers, I get a lot of questions about how we homeschool our daughter. We talk about curriculum, about resources for gifted and talented children. We talk about different education philosophies. We talk about what’s going on in the public schools in our area. (The latter inevitably evolves into a conversation about school violence or Common Core.)

Yesterday, one of the women asked me about our daughter’s friends. Homeschoolers are accustomed to folks asking about “socialization,” as it has become something of a cliché. How will your child meet people and make friends if they do not attend a traditional school? Gee, I don’t know, through playing in the neighborhood, church, extracurricular activities, camps, park days with other homeschoolers, future jobs and internships…. Pretty much by being anywhere other people also exist?

I try to politely detail the various opportunities for meeting people, but I rarely confess the truth:

It is really, really, really difficult for homeschoolers to develop genuine friendships.

But that’s also true for all good kids these days.

San Diego State University psychology professor Jean Twenge made a name for herself studying the loneliness and depression of generations raised on social media versus those who came before the technology. (She wrote a well-known piece in The Atlantic, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?)

Among her findings published elsewhere:

The percent of high school seniors who said they often felt lonely increased from 26 percent in 2012 to 39 percent in 2017.

The number of 12th graders who said they often felt left out also increased, from 30 percent in 2012 to 38 percent in 2017.

The data and study, published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, are from nationally representative surveys of 8.2 million U.S. adolescents between 1976 and 2017. 

The increase in loneliness might be due to how teens spend their leisure time, Twenge says. When compared to teens in earlier decades, Gen Z are less likely to “get together with friends in person, go to parties, go out with friends, date, ride in cars for fun, go to shopping malls, or go to the movies,” she reported.


Other statistics from Twenge’s study: 

• In the late 1970s, 52 percent of 12th graders said they got together with their friends almost every day but, by 2017, only 28 percent did.

• In 2017, teens got together with their friends 68 fewer times a year than they did in the early 1990s and high school seniors went out on dates 32 fewer times a year.

• Gen Z 10th graders went to approximately 17 fewer parties a year than Gen X 10th graders did.

The fact of the matter is that “socialization” isn’t happening at traditional schools now. Kids aren’t learning to negotiate complicated interpersonal relationships with their peers because Zuckerberg & Co. have reduced their peers to avatars – fantastical and impermanent representations of themselves, who live in realms devoid of accountability and consequences, that sometimes devastatingly collide with the real world. It’s making a lot of kids mentally ill, and it’s starting in elementary school. It makes some kids physically violent. It makes some kids harass and emotionally goad others. It makes some kids turn into hermits. It makes some kids objectify and mortify themselves. It makes some kids turn to substance abuse. It makes some kids invent weaknesses and seek out deviant lifestyles for attention in a culture that fetishizes “struggle.” Is that the sort of “socialization” homeschooled kids are supposed to covet? The opportunity to have a kid who is looking for a father figure on 8 Chan as a lab partner?

As homeschoolers, we see this unfolding from a strange vantage point. I want our daughter to enjoy the company of children from diverse backgrounds. But it’s difficult to find any children that do not have extreme behavioral issues now. The number of children with absentee parents is off the charts. And schools sort children into discrete spheres of “accommodation” now, meaning that children get to train adults to behave the way they want instead of the other way around.

Our daughter was riding bikes with a little girl her age recently, and I told them both to avoid riding their bikes into a busy street. Our daughter nodded that she understood. The other girl said “blah, blah, blah, blah” and did a mocking dance. She wasn’t upset with my suggestion. This is just what she does. There is not a single adult in her life that cares to discipline her behavior. Rude is her baseline. Rude is the baseline of almost every child in her orbit. I wish I could say this is an outlier in our encounters with other kids, but it’s actually closer to the rule.

For homeschoolers, adults and not other children are the people they see the most on a daily basis. This is especially true for our daughter, who is an only child. She spends her day with her parents, listening to her parents talking to clients and other professional relationships. She tags along on errands and eats out at restaurants. She gets personal instruction on horseback riding, and so on.

Because of this, homeschooled children generally start to carry themselves like adults very early on. They have large vocabularies. They speak strategically, trying to be persuasive and make sound arguments instead of emoting. This can create a considerable rift between them and peers who spend their days in a traditional school environment where adults often endeavor to put themselves on a child’s level. But it’s even worse now, with children being outright rewarded for immaturity or ignored altogether. There’s basically no common ground whatsoever.

I do worry about our daughter being so alienated from other members of younger generations. But I also want her to behave nothing like them.

It strikes me that the single best thing a parent can do for their children now is persuade them not to have social media accounts and to try to make that case to their friends’ parents. Learn to go through the day without asking other people what you should think about yourself or about other people. Spend your day doing something you love or expanding your knowledge or doing something spiritually valuable instead of passively shitting on the lives, beliefs, and appearances of others.

If people did this in herds, a lot of things about our society would improve, with the most important among them being a return to safe schools and bona fide friendships.