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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Homeschooling in New Zealand

Posted by jlwile on June 9, 2011

This is typical of the lush scenery that exists all over New Zealand!

I am currently in New Zealand on a homeschooling tour arranged by the Firelight Foundation. This is not my first visit to this lovely country, and it most certainly won’t be my last. In 2006, my wife (Kathleen) and I traveled here to do our first “Kiwi” homeschooling tour, and in 2009, we came back here to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Each time I am here, I am struck by two things. First, this has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. The plant life is lush, the air smells amazing, and the landscape is truly breathtaking. Second, the people are incredible. Everyone is particularly friendly and helpful. They really give you the impression that they want to help you enjoy your stay here. Of course, working with homeschoolers in New Zealand is a double blessing, because I get to see how home education produces such stellar students regardless of the country in which it is taking place.

My first stop on this New Zealand homeschooling tour was the lovely town of Palmerston North. Situated in the Southern part of the North Island, it is New Zealand’s seventh largest city, and the venue at which I spoke was packed. I gave a total of six talks (two in one evening and four during the next day), and as you would expect from an audience of homeschoolers, there were some excellent questions. I want to discuss two of them.

One of the best questions I got was from a homeschooling teen named Eve. I had been speaking on global warming and the lack of evidence for it. I told the audience that this is particularly annoying, since we have real environmental problems that need serious attention. Unfortunately, global warming hysteria is taking money and resources away from the effort to fix those real environmental problems. During the question/answer session, Eve asked, “Since the oceans are where most of earth’s photosynthesis takes place, shouldn’t we concentrate our environmental efforts on protecting them?”

I told her that her question was really insightful. First, many students are under the mistaken impression that trees (or other plant life) are responsible for most of the photosynthesis that takes place on earth. However, that is just not true. Most of the photosynthesis on earth is done by algae and other marine organisms. Eve understood that. Second, she realized that because photosynthesis is the base of the entire food web that keeps us alive, it is crucial to protect that.

After telling her how insightful her question was, I answered it with a resounding “YES!” In fact, many of our real environmental problems are found in the ocean. Essentially, humanity has been using the ocean as its community toilet for far too long, and it needs to be stopped. A tiny fraction of the money and resources devoted to global warming could make a significant difference when it comes to cleaning up our oceans. In addition, fishing laws that are on the books in most countries are rarely enforced. This has caused a frightening loss of marine biodiversity. Once again, it would take only a bit of money and effort to simply enforce the laws that already exist and are designed to stop this from happening.

The second question I got was after my talk, “What Are They Doing Now?” In this talk, I discussed some of the amazing homeschool graduates I know and what they are doing to change the world. I discussed graduates from the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand, and in their own way, each was incredibly impressive. One of the New Zealand homeschool graduates, for example, had won the Aimes IT award three times and had already published 26 academic papers, despite the fact that he wasn’t quite finished with graduate school yet! At the end of the talk, a mother asked, “What about the students who aren’t academically oriented? Why didn’t you mention them?”

I told her that I had, indeed, mentioned one such student. I hadn’t pointed out that the young lady was not very academically oriented, because I didn’t see it as relevant. Instead, what she did with her life was relevant. Right out of homeschool, she traveled to Africa to work in an orphanage for abandoned children. This wasn’t part of an organized trip or something like that. She just felt the Lord call her to help those poor, hopeless children, so that’s what she did. That’s the beauty of homeschooling. This young lady was less academically-oriented and more people-oriented. As a result, her parents tailored her education to develop her people-oriented talents, and that allowed her to go overseas and make at least one small part of the world a much better place!

Homeschooling parents understand that each child is different, so each child’s education must be different. Academic superstars need one kind of education, while those who struggle academically need a completely different kind of education. Homeschooling can provide each of those kinds of students (and all the kinds in between) with exactly what they need!


15 Responses to “Homeschooling in New Zealand”
  1. Sherri Seligson says:

    I always knew the oceans were important! Technically, you could kill off all of the rain forests in the world and there would still be enough oxygen for everyone (though I would not recommend it!).

    I am glad you are able to minister to so many people. Have a great trip!

  2. jlwile says:

    Thanks, Sherri!

  3. Eric Leach says:

    I have always been baffled by man’s unwillingness to realize that just like land animals and resources need to be managed and protected, ocean life and health need to be protected. Our current fishing policies are much like we did with the plains bison, thinking they will always be here and grabbing as much as we can. I am unable however to come up with an enforceable solution that does not include large scale fish farming which is also polluting and reduces the nutrients in the fish. Do you have any ideas Dr. Wile?

  4. Angela says:

    I am very much looking forward to hearing you in Nelson. Enjoy your stay here, I hope you have a wonderful time.

  5. jlwile says:

    Thanks for your comment, Eric. I agree that large-scale fish farming has a lot of problems. I would not consider that an integral part of the solution. Actually, I think there are some very good means by which we can regulate fisheries to reduce their effects on biodiversity. We can impose quotas on fishing companies and allow for quota “trading” among fisheries. The quotas can be dynamic, changing to reflect the relative strength or weakness of each species’ population. A similar thing was done to curb sulfur oxide emissions 20 years ago, and it worked really well.

  6. jlwile says:

    Thanks, Angela. I am already thoroughly enjoying my time. Abel Tasman National Park is breathtaking!

  7. Vivielle says:

    NZ looks/sounds beautiful! I have a question about what you think about environmentalism/ the “green” effort, more specifically how you think Christianity should respond. I am Eastern Orthodox, and our current Ecumenical Patriarch is often called the Green Patriarch, because he is very concerned about the environment, and says that abuse of the environment is wrong because it’s God’s creation etc. Specifically

    ” The word “ecology” comes from the Greek “eco” and “logos,” where “eco” (oikos) means our home. In order for this to be understood, we first need to appreciate that we are not owners but managers of the world, which God has entrusted to us. Therefore, we should take care of this world in order to hand it over to the next generation. ”
    (Quote from )

    I guess what I’m not saying very eloquently, is that while I know where I, and many other Orthodox Christians stand on this matter, I’m curious to know where other branches of Christianity stand.


  8. Elizabeth says:

    Hey Dr. Wile!

    I first came to your blog several months ago to debate the Ken Ham controversy and I still don’t fully agree with your position but that’s not mainly what this commetn is about.

    Since that time, I’ve been periodically reading your posts as well as the comments and I have to say I have learned SO MUCH!! I do have a science background (heavy evolutionary indoctrination) and had no idea about creation science until after completing my degree; I have been intrigued ever since. Sometimes I end up in debates about intelligent design/creation science/evolution and the information I have gleaned from your posts as well as the comments arguing the opposite view has been invaluable. Most recently I was helped an older post discussing similarities (and differences) between the chimpmpanzee and human genomes. I learned a lot from the comments, particularly that genetic information – new base pairs, codons — has never been observed to be added through mutation or natural selection. I never thought of it that way before but it is so true.

    Let me ask you this though – what about “insertions”? Those would be considered additions to the body of DNA, correct?

    Keep in mind that the debating in the comments is very valuable to those of us trying to learn about all this. We need to hear the “con” arguments. You really want those people to come back, even though they can be nasty. If I may be so bold as to offer any constructive criticism to your approach, it would be this: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. – Ephesians 4:2 NIV.” If we are to treat Christians this way, how much better should we treat non-believers?
    It appeared as though, especially in that chimpanzee post, that you were returning insult for insult and you don’t need to. “Shooter” helped me even though I don’t agree with him at all! These people are a blessing to you. Return evil with good. Jesus had the harshest criticism for hypocritical Church people, not the unbelievers whom you can really expect to operate below the belt.

    I also heard you at the Cinci Homeschool Convention and your talks were excellent!! My kids are too young for your science curriculcum yet, but I am very much looking forward to using it in a few more years. I listened in on one of Peter Enns talks as well. Somehow he went an entire hour summarizing God’s One Big Story (or something like that)… without ever talking about man’s rebellion. He talked lots about wrestling with judgment: (I quote) “God got mad and killed a bunch of people” (Enns reflections on Noah) but not much on what those people did to deserve it (they were about “only evil all the time”-NIV). Were they murdering, stealing, raping, plunering constantly? No reflection there. Enns did seem like a liberal theologian.

    In any case, Dr. Wile, you are a HUGE blessing to me and many others out there, no doubt. Keep fighting the “good fight”!

  9. jlwile says:

    Vivielle, that’s an excellent question. I strongly agree with your Patriarch. God gave us a wonderful gift in this creation, and it is an affront to Him if we do not take care of it. I am not sure that all Evangelical Christians would agree with that, however. Some would say that God gave us dominion over the earth, so we need not take care of it. Instead, we should rule over it. However, I think that God gave us dominion over the earth in the same way He gave the kings dominion over Israel. He wanted the kings to care for Israel, not just rule over it. I think He wants us to take care of the earth, not just rule over it.

    At the same time, however, in order to truly care for the earth, we must use real science to determine what problems exist and how to fix them. Unfortunately, many people who call themselves “environmentalists” don’t use science. Instead, they use emotion and scare tactics. This is why nonsense like “Global Warming” gets promoted over real environmental issues, like the loss of marine biodiversity.

  10. jlwile says:

    Thanks, Elizabeth. It is good to have you back commenting again. I appreciate your constructive criticism. I think you are quite right that the “con” view is helpful. That’s one reason I allow all comments (once I edit out the curse words or pornographic references). It is important for all views to be heard. If I fall into insults myself, that is quite wrong, and I should try to keep from doing that.

    In answer to your question, there are a lot of genetic insertions that occur, but that doesn’t really add information. Sometimes, for example, an entire gene is duplicated, producing two identical genes when there was only one before. That’s not adding new information, however. It is simply copying information that is there. Sometimes, one or more nucleotide bases are randomly inserted. However, that tends to destroy information. If the insertion occurs within the gene, it will either break the gene or cause it to code for the wrong amino acid. Either way, the information content of the genome is reduced there. The best that could probably happen is if the insertion occurs in a non-coding region and doesn’t affect any regulatory processes controlled by that section of the genome. That would be a completely neutral change, however. Thus, I don’t see how an insertion adds new information.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    Excellent Dr. Wile. Thanks for your response!

  12. Vivielle says:

    Thanks for your reply Dr. Wile. I was actually going to say something in my first comment about how fake environmentalism like global warming isn’t what I, or the Patriarch, was talking about. About humans being given dominion over the earth, it’s always been my opinion that when one is given dominion over anything, it becomes one’s responsibility to care for it and not abuse that power.

    On another note, re your reply to Elizabeth’s comment: What about insertions into a bacterial genome? Bacteria are able to take up DNA and insert into their own DNA, and can become different enough from the original bacteria to be considered a new type of bacteria. (Although, the bacteria never, ever evolve into anything but bacteria… something that many in the evolution camp seem to not notice. )

    Also, I’m a little confused by this : “However, that tends to destroy information. If the insertion occurs within the gene, it will either break the gene or cause it to code for the wrong amino acid.” In my opinion, coding for the wrong amino acid is adding new information into the genome. Wrong information, yes, but it is now different from what was coded before*, which (at least in my opinion) is new information. Similarly, breaking the gene is still causing damage, but it is altering the genetic information in the organism, which is new information. Am I maybe misunderstanding what you meant by adding new information into the genome?

    *I do realize that silent mutations exist, so that a point mutation may not actually result in a change in amino acid sequence.

    Sorry to write so much- I read that part I wanted to clarify what you were saying because I have this feeling that I don’t quite “get” what you meant there. I would go back and read the article that Elizabeth talked about, but I don’t have the time this evening to sort through the archives and find it.


  13. jlwile says:

    Excellent points, Vivielle. Bacteria can, indeed, scavenge DNA from dead bacteria or receive it from a living bacterium and then incorporate it into their genome. However, this is not really new information. It might be new for the bacterium that takes it in, but it is a gene that already exists in another bacterium. Thus, the information is not being created. It is being copied.

    When a chemist talks about “information,” the meaning is related to the chemical structure of the molecule involved. So in the case of a protein, we are talking about the structural and chemical characteristics that allow the protein to do its job. The more ideally-suited the protein is to its job, the more information it contains. If something happens to its structure or chemical characteristics to reduce its ability to do its job, from a chemist’s point of view, information is lost. A mutation will typically do that. For example, sickle-cell anemia is the result of one mutation in the gene that produces hemoglobin. As a result of that mutation, the hemoglobin cannot carry oxygen as well, so a chemist would say that the mutated gene has less information than the unmutated gene. I understand what you are saying – you see the mutation as new information that is “wrong.” To a chemist, however, wrong information is not an increase or a lateral move in information. It is a decrease in information, as the protein can no longer do its job as well.

    Please do not apologize for asking questions. I am happy to help when I am able. I think the article Elizabeth is referring to is here.

  14. Vivielle says:

    Thanks for answering my questions. That makes sense about wrong information being a decrease in information.

  15. jlwile says:

    My pleasure, Vivielle.

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