David Barton Needs a Fact-Checker

I recently received this video via E-MAIL. The subject line of the message was “What you won’t be taught in school.” That intrigued me, so I watched the video. It is of a man named David Barton who is leading a tour of the U.S. Capitol. According to his company’s website:

David Barton is the Founder and President of WallBuilders, a national pro-family organization that presents America’s forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious and constitutional heritage….His exhaustive research has rendered him an expert in historical and constitutional issues and he serves as a consultant to state and federal legislators, has participated in several cases at the Supreme Court, was involved in the development of the History/Social Studies standards for states such as Texas and California, and has helped produce history textbooks now used in schools across the nation.

As I listened to just the first part of the video, however, something seemed off…way off. So I decided to do a little fact-checking. Now I am not a historian, but I am able to do some investigative research. When I checked the facts on just one segment of the video, I was rather disappointed.

I don’t normally do this, but I ask that you watch the video before you read the rest of this piece. You needn’t watch the entire thing. Just watch from 0:40 to 1:26. It’s only 46 seconds of video, but it allows you to see just how wrong he is, at least in that section of the video.

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An Interesting Canadian Homeschooling Study

I started working with homeschoolers because while I was on the faculty at Ball State University, my best chemistry and physics students were homeschool graduates. At the time, I knew almost nothing about homeschooling, but since it was sending me my best university students, I thought I should investigate it a bit. As I looked through the academic literature that was available at the time, I saw that the few studies which had been done on homeschooling were in accord with my observation: homeschooled students are academically superior to their publicly- and privately-schooled counterparts.

Since then, a wealth of studies have been done on homeschooling, and the results are essentially the same. In 1999, for example, Rudner showed that homeschooled students academically outperform their publicly- and privately-schooled counterparts at every grade level.1 In 2010, a nationwide study of more than 11,000 homeschooled students showed that homeschooled students score, on average, more than 30 percentage points above the national average in all subject areas tested (which included math, science, social studies, reading, and language).2 In general, when you attempt to measure academic performance, the average homeschooled student beats the average privately-schooled student, and the average privately-schooled student beats the average publicly-schooled student.

Well, a recent study of homeschooled elementary students in Canada has produced very similar results, but in a different way. In addition, it actually compared two different homeschooling styles, and the results are very intriguing.

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Homeschooling in Australia

The iconic Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia.

My international homeschooling tour ended in Australia, where I met some of the nicest people in the world. I was actually a bit worried about getting into the country, because when I left South Korea, most of Australia’s domestic flights were grounded due to an ash cloud from a Chilean volcano. My connecting flight out of Guangzhou, China was delayed for two hours, but in the end, it was able to land in Sydney.

Even though I arrived late, I still had a long layover in Sydney, so a wonderful family came to rescue me from the airport and show me some of the sights. That’s how I was able to take the picture shown above. The Sydney Opera House sits in the Sydney harbor, which is really quite beautiful. We certainly don’t have anything like it in Indiana! The highlight of my Sydney tour, however, was lunch, where I got to have kangaroo pizza. Yes, you read that right! Since my first trip to Australia back in 2005, kangaroo has been my favorite meat. Put it on a pizza, and now you have my two favorite foods! It really was wonderful.

Of course, the purpose of my trip was not food. It was to speak to homeschoolers in Canberra, Adelaide, and Melbourne. So after lunch, I went back to the airport, where all the domestic flights were back in the air again.

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Homeschooling In South Korea

Take a look at the Korean versions of two of my books.

I am now at the fourth annual South Korean Homeschooling Convention. It is at an excellent conference facility that is roughly an hour and a half outside of Seoul. The conference is organized by a company that has taken a lot of interest in homeschooling, DCTY. Although its main focus is children’s clothing, the company has been at the forefront of translating books from English to Korean to help the homeschooling community here. The picture above shows you the Korean editions of two of my books, Exploring Creation with General Science and Exploring Creation with Physical Science. I must admit that it is a bit surreal looking at a book that I wrote but cannot read!

My first talk at the conference was at 10:00 AM, and I was actually nervous about it. I haven’t gotten nervous about a talk for a long time, so it was quite an interesting feeling! Why was I nervous? Because I had to speak through a translator. Most South Koreans know at least some English. They certainly know English better than I know Korean! Some of them even use the English editions of my books. Nevertheless, for them to get the most out of a talk, it should be in their own language. So I worked with an excellent translator, whose name is June. She was so good that it took no time at all for us to develop a rhythm to our interaction. Once we developed that rhythm, it almost seemed natural to speak a thought, pause, and wait for June to translate it.

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More on Homeschooling in New Zealand

A spotted shag, which is a species of cormorant endemic to New Zealand.
Over the past nine days, I have been speaking at homeschooling conferences in New Zealand. The previous post discussed what went on in Palmerston North, but since then, I have had the privilege of speaking to homeschooling groups in Auckland, Nelson, and Christchurch. In between, I have been seeing more of this lovely country, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it! While in Nelson, for example, I got to visit Abel Tasman National Park. Although it is New Zealand’s smallest national park, it is a real treasure. The spotted shag pictured on the left was there, along with New Zealand fur seals, spectacular beaches, and lots of beautiful scenery.

The three conferences were as different as the cities in which they were held. The conference in Auckland was the largest, and it began with a variety show put on by the homeschooled students there. It was a lot of fun, and there were some seriously talented performers. For example, one of the students did a ballet number, and while she was performing, all I could think was, “This young lady could be a professional.” Well, after her performance, the audience was informed that she has won scholarships to study ballet in France and the U.S. I wasn’t surprised at all. That wasn’t the only excellent act, however. There was a very young girl who gave precious readings of two poems, there was a talented clarinetist who played a great number that I later learned was completely improvised, the daughter of the conference organizer sang a song that showed she has a stellar voice, and so on. The show ended with a rousing rendition of The Gumboot Song. Then I had to get up and speak. Talk about a letdown for the audience!

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Homeschooling in New Zealand

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.

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Advice on How To Succeed In College from a Homeschool Graduate

A colleague of mine passed on an E-MAIL she received from a homeschool graduate who is now in college. As is typical for homeschooled students, this young man did very well in his first year, receiving a grade point average (GPA) of 3.95 out of a possible 4.00. My first-year GPA was quite a bit lower than that! What I found really fascinating about the E-MAIL, however, was that he gave a list of 14 “tips” on how a person should approach college life. The tips are insightful and full of an enormous amount of wisdom.

For example, his first tip compared home education to college:

College is very similar to homeschooling, in that they expect you to put in a significant amount of effort and will not spoon-feed you material…

This is one of the many reasons homeschoolers are so successful at the college level. They have been forced to develop the ability to learn on their own.

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Homeschooling and Creationism: A Recipe for Stellar Students

I saw this story on The GeoChristian some time ago, but then I got distracted (probably by something shiny) and forgot to post about it. However, I had occasion to remember it because I got an E-MAIL from a homeschooled student regarding his first year at college. I hope to turn that E-MAIL into a separate blog post. For right now, however, I want to concentrate on the story that was originally posted at The GeoChristian.

The story is based on the most recent results of the ETS Proficiency Profile. It is a test given on 261 college campuses nationwide, and it supposedly measures the abilities of students when it comes to critical thinking, writing, reading, the humanities, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and mathematics. Colleges and universities participate in the test strictly on a volunteer basis. The elite schools don’t see themselves as benefiting from the test, so Harvard, Yale, etc., do not participate. Other less rigorous schools are concerned about what the results might be, so they don’t participate, either. Nevertheless, there are enough colleges and universities participating that it allows for some reasonable gauge of the academic prowess of students on any participating campus.

I haven’t seriously looked at ETS Proficiency Profile results for quite some time, having left my university faculty position in 1996. Nevertheless, my recollection is that in general, an institution whose students have the highest overall score on the test rarely captures first place in every subcategory. Thus, a college’s students might score well enough in math, the natural sciences, and critical thinking to get first overall, but other colleges will take first prize when it comes to their students’ abilities in writing, the humanities, or the social sciences.

This year’s results, however, were a clean sweep. One college received the highest score in all categories. That college was Patrick Henry College.

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Another Homeschooled Superstar

Evan O'Dorney, a homeschooled superstar
(picture courtesy Intel)
I have met a lot of really impressive homeschooled students over the years. Some of them have won spelling bees, geography bees, debate tournaments, and the like. Some of them have risked their lives going as missionaries to countries where they could have been killed for sharing the Gospel. Some of them have sacrificed greatly to help others in need. Some of them have dedicated themselves to raising another generation of homeschooled students. Some of them simply radiate the love of Christ to all who have the privilege of meeting them. I am usually not surprised, then, when I read about a specific homeschooled student and his or her special accomplishments.

However, I have to admit that I was shocked to open up the March 25, 2011 issue of Science and read a short interview with Evan O’Dorney, the winner of this year’s Intel Science Talent Search. If you aren’t familiar with this program, it is the nation’s most prestigious high school science competition. Students from across the nation submit their original science research, and the winner receives a $100,000 scholarship to the university of his or her choice. There 39 other awards given out, ranging from $75,000 to $7,500. I was privileged enough to work with a high school student (Alexis Michael) who ended up receiving an award from this competition back in 1993, when it was named the Westinghouse Science Talent Search.

It didn’t surprise me that Science ran an interview with the winner of this prestigious competition. They generally do that each year. What surprised me was that the article actually mentioned that the winner is a homeschooler.

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The MassHOPE Convention

Last weekend, I spoke at the MassHOPE convention. I have spoken there many times over the course of the past 15 years, and it is one of my favorite conventions. It is held in a great facility, and it is very well-organized. Also, while I was young, I used to spend a lot of time in Massachusetts because my father grew up there. It is always fun to go back and listen to people who talk like my dad.

I gave five talks while I was there. Two of them were on homeschooling. I dealt with elementary science in one of the talks and junior-high/high-school science in the other talk. In my elementary science talk, I stress how important mathematics is for science, and I tell the parents that while science is important, during the K-6 years, mathematics is even more important. Thus, if you want to stress anything during the K-6 years, stress the math. That will pay off huge dividends in science later on. As a result, while you should do some science in the K-6 years, you should do it only from time-to-time. You should be stressing mathematics, reading, and writing during that time in your child’s life.

What I find interesting is that most parents seem to instinctively know this already. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me after I give that talk and tell me that they have been doing just that for quite some time. However, they have always felt vaguely uneasy about only doing science from time-to-time and are glad that someone like me has validated what they are doing. I think this is an example of how parents really do know what’s best for their child’s education, even when they don’t have the benefit of advice from an “expert.”

My other three talks were on science. I talked about the scientific evidence for Christianity, about the prophecies in the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in both history and in the life of Christ, and about the amazing science that you find in the Bible. I got two questions from that last talk which are worth covering in this post.

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