Monthly Archives: December 2017

A Look at Public School Education in 2017

With regard to public schools, there was much to be dismayed about in 2017, but much that was positive as well. The positive stuff usually slid under the radar, so let’s take a backward look at 2017 and see what we can feel good about.

Teaching the Bible as History and Literature
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin signed a Bill into law that allows Kentucky public schools to teach courses on the Bible. The law does not force schools to teach the Bible, but rather gives schools the option of providing a Bible literacy elective course for students to voluntarily study. The law permits students to learn the role the Bible played in the history of western culture. As one saying goes, it will be “teaching, not preaching.” Similar legislation has passed in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Texas House Bill 1287, if passed, will permit public schools to offer “elective courses on the bible’s Hebrew scriptures (Old Testament) and New Testament and their impact on the history and literature of western civilization.”

Other similar bills are waiting action in Missouri, New Mexico, and Oklahoma.

Evolution and Climate Change
Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Dakota introduced bills that would protect teachers who “teach the controversy” on global warming and evolution as long as it is not taught from a religious standpoint. (The bills were defeated in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota.) Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have already passed such laws. In mid-November two bills were pre-filed in Florida that would require “controversial theories and concepts” to be taught in a “factual, objective, and balanced manner.” In Texas similar legislation died in committee when a legislative deadline passed without action on the bill.

Betsy DeVos, the new secretary of education under President Trump, was criticized in an early 2017 article. It read:

Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick as secretary of education, has funded groups that champion “intelligent design,” a sophisticated outgrowth of creationism. Science educators worry that she could use her bully pulpit to undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools.

The article mentioned a question posed to DeVos asking if she would promote “junk science.” She responded that she supports allowing “students to exercise critical thinking.”

Improving Textbooks
Florida Citizens Alliance, a group that states it is motivated because: “Our establishment education system is failing America’s students academically, civically and morally. Florida children are being indoctrinated in a public-school system that undermines their individual rights and destroys our founding principles and family values.” Their goal is to improve K-12 education in Florida. Their efforts, along with others, have resulted in many improvements, the latest of which is a new state law that makes it easier for Florida residents to challenge books used in public schools. It could get overhauled next year so those who dislike certain texts could also suggest replacements they find more appropriate. Read more.

Another organization, Truth in Textbooks (TIT), based in Texas, has almost 200 volunteer citizen reviewers of social studies textbooks. It hopes to have 500 in the near future. It will assist twenty-two states with textbook review and selection for grades K-12. In past reviews, TIT has been able to identify a massive number of factual errors, many of which the publishers corrected after being notified of them. One publisher was discarded from the acceptable list when it did not respond to TIT’s requests for changes.

TIT says in its Mission Statement its goal is:

To provide the children of America the most accurate and informative social studies books possible.

To accomplish this mission TNT has set these goals:

  • 100% accuracy in identifying errors and corrections
    Identify misstatements of fact, notable omissions, imbalances  and/or opinions disguised as facts
  • Provide the correct information based upon scholarly, recognizable references and research
  • Provide feedback to public officials and publishers
    Inform the public of our findings
  • Recruit, select, train 300-500 citizen volunteers to be certified social studies textbook reviewers. [Want to be a reviewer?]
  • Provide a website for others to post  reviews of social studies textbooks in order to have a single depository of these reviews

Get Involved
There are a lot more positive educational advances that occurred in 2017 and more still developing, but for now thank God there are people who take the instruction of our kids seriously. If you have the time and inclination, I’m sure your help will be appreciated. If any of you know of other positive happenings in your public school, please let all of us know.

“Hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

Facebook: A Planned Attack

Did you know Facebook and a host of other social media sites were designed to mess with your mind? And not only your mind, but your kids minds! That’s not just some far-out theory. That comes straight from the mouth of Sean Parker, former president of Facebook. He admitted that the developers of Facebook and other social media sites recognized “a vulnerability in human psychology” and built the sites to take advantage of that weakness to get its users addicted.

Parker was speaking at an event sponsored by Axios, a news and information website founded by Politico, and was not hesitant in saying he and the team that launched Facebook tried to figure out “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”

Thumb up . . . The consequences
They decided on a “social-validation feedback loop . . . exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with,” said Sean Parker. That means—and you know this—that users want people to “like” what they post. Give a thumb-up. And when they get “likes,” they want to post more so they get more “likes.” There are now more than two billion people liking each other. That sounds good, doesn’t it? We all want to be liked, and it’s better to like people than to hate people. Ah, and all the “friends” we have. This is wonderful!

However, Sean Parker continued with his admission of knowledge of the consequences of a website such as Facebook.

It literally changes your relationship with society, with each other. It probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.

Think about that!

We did it anyway!
Sean Parker continued:

The inventors, creators—it’s me, it’s Mark [Zuckerberg], it’s Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it’s all of these people—understood this consciously. And we did it anyway.

We need to sort of give you a little dopamine hit every once in a while, because someone liked or commented on a photo or a post or whatever. And that’s going to get you to contribute more content, and that’s going to get you … more likes and comments.

The thought process that went into building these applications . . . was all about: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?”

Watch Tucker Carlson’s evaluation of Sean Parker’s comments about how social media is destroying both America and our kids.

Is this affecting your kids? Perhaps more than you realize. I recently read about a girl who told a friend she was unhappy because no one talked to her anymore. Her friend responded that she felt the same way. The sad, pathetic, irony of that interchange was that the two girls were sitting in the same room texting each other!

A former Facebook vice president for user growth, Chamath Palihapitiyahas, also turned his back on the medium he helped develop and expand. At a talk given at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, he said that he and the company’s founders “have created tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” His own kids don’t have profiles on the social network. Palihapitiyahas admitted he feels “tremendous guilt” for the kind of impact Facebook has had on the world. His own kids are “not allowed to use this [expletive].”

What would Steve Jobs do?
Back when the first iPad was hitting the market, an Apple employee asked Steve Jobs what his kids thought about the tablet. Jobs said, “They haven’t used it. We limit how much technology our kids use at home.” The author of the book about Steve Jobs told that same person some homey details about life in the Jobs family. “Every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things,” he said. “No one ever pulled out an iPad or computer. The kids did not seem addicted at all to devices.”

Some of the possible effects on young people spending a lot of time on the social media sites (at least four times a day) include:

  • Low self-esteem leading to poor health
  • Lower grades
  • Less time studying
  • Procrastination
  • Distraction
  • Poor time-management
  • Looking for a sense of “belongingness”
  • Symptoms of anxiety
  • Insomnia

You can read more about the consequences in a Forbes article dated June 30, 2017 titled “6 Ways Social Media Affects Our Mental Health.” says 17% of teens say they’ve been contacted online by someone they didn’t know in a way that made them feel scared or uncomfortable, 30% say they’ve received online advertising that was inappropriate for their age, 39% admitted to lying about their age to gain access to websites. In addition, another study showed 9 out of 10 teens post photos of themselves online or use their real names on their profiles; 8 out of 10 reveal their birthdates and interests; and 7 out of 10 post their school name and the town where they live. Actions like this can make kids easy targets for online predators and others who might want to cause them harm.

Let me know if your kids use social media. If so, how much? What, if any, are your rules? Are you surprised at the confession of Sean Parker?

Parental Rights: Yes. But . . . (follow-up to blog post of November 6, 2017)

In my blog of November 6 I told you about an effort to add an amendment to the Constitution of the United States designed to provide parents with explicit rights concerning the upbringing of their children.

The Parental Rights Amendment was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL 14), the lead sponsor of the resolution, and joined by 15 original cosponsors when he submitted the Amendment. The Amendment has been numbered HJ Res. 121. The Senate version, SJ Res. 48, was introduced in August by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). So, impossible as a constitutional amendment seems, it appears to be moving along.

On the surface it seems like a good idea—parents should not be denied rights concerning their children. (Remember this paragraph from my previous post? “The claim is made that ‘Laws in a majority of states limit or entirely deny to parents any ‘right’ to be present on school grounds where their child is in attendance.’ Check out the status of parental rights laws in your state.”)

However, as the title of this blog says, “But . . .”

I read the Amendment, along with the “Dig Deeper” sections, and emailed about a concern I had. I wondered if the right to choose your child’s education included sending them to a Muslim school that taught Sharia law. I want to share with you the email back-and-forth that ensued. In “Dig Deeper” under Section 3 it reads:

Whenever discriminating against speech on the basis of its content, the government “must show that its regulation is necessary to serve a compelling state interest and that it is narrowly drawn to achieve that end”), and invidious discrimination against religion (see Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc., v. Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 546 (1993): “To satisfy the commands of the First Amendment, a law restrictive of religious practice must advance ‘interests of the highest order’ and must be narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.” In all these cases, the government must prove that it has a compelling interest, before the fundamental freedom at stake can be limited.

(If you don’t understand this, you are not alone. Legalese is difficult.)

The answer I received from Maggie McKneely, Director of Administration and Development stated:

Section 3 is actually designed to ensure that the government can still get involved in the case of parents who are abusive. It does not address education. However, the amendment (specifically section 2) would make it so that if a school is promoting a faith that the parent does not want taught to their child, the parent has a right override the school’s curriculum. The education that a child receives will be ultimately up to the parent and not mandated by the government. Let me know if that doesn’t answer your question!

I replied:

Thanks, Maggie, for your quick response. But no, that doesn’t answer my question. Sharia law is in conflict with the laws of our state and federal governments. If it is taught to children in school as the law(s) that should be followed, it is teaching students to act in opposition to the laws of the United States. I don’t think that is a decision that should be left to parents. All children should be taught to conduct their lives in accordance with U.S. and local laws. It should not be a “parent’s right” to educate children in this country to act against our laws. Does your proposed amendment address my concern?

Apparently my question was now above Maggie’s pay-grade as my next response came from Michael Ramey, Deputy Director of He said:

No, the Parental Rights Amendment will not prevent parents from teaching their children laws or teachings that may disagree with the laws of the United States. This freedom of religion is a fundamental freedom that already exists in the Bill of Rights, and we do not have any desire to overthrow this fbasic [sic] American value.

Consider that if the government has the power to prevent Muslim parents from teaching Sharia law (as a theory, knowledge, ideas), it also has the power to prevent Christian parents from teaching the Bible. The law of the land now includes homosexual marriage, yet countless Christians still teach their children that marriage is between one man and one woman. Do we want a Parental Rights Amendment that will prohibit those Christian parents from teaching that because “it is teaching students to act in opposition to the laws of the United States?”

What remains protected in our Amendment, however, is the children who could be harmed by those parts of Sharia law that call for abusive actions against the child. This is because the beliefs are one thing while actions are another. Parents can teach Sharia to their children, but if the child or parent acts in a way contrary to our laws, they can be prosecuted, and this especially applies to child abuse in the name of (any) religion. The Parental Rights Amendment preserves the current role of the State in preventing and prosecuting instances of child abuse or neglect.

I am sorry if this answer disappoints you, but I think if you will look at it from all angles you may come to recognize that this is the only balance that preserves our mutual American ideals.

Remember that what is “in conflict with our state and federal governments” can be changed with a simple majority vote of Congress (or your state legislature) at any time.

If the government can legislate all that people can learn, it can legislate what they think. And if it has the power to legislate away Muslim ideas, it has the power to legislate away Christian ideas, or atheist ideas, or pagan ideas, or whatever other ideas are out of favor under a given administration. We do not want our nation to operate that way, and I hope you don’t, either.

I truly appreciate Mr. Ramey’s long and considered answer. This alone creates in me an attitude that they are trying to do what they see as necessary and beneficial in establishing the rights of parents over the various areas of the lives of their children.

But . . .

Mr. Ramey’s comparison to parents’ right to send their children to a Jewish or Christian school where they would be taught principles of that religion is specious. First, how would the government know that Sharia law was taught only as a theory, knowledge, or idea, rather than the law that must be observed by all true Muslims? Sharia is in direct opposition to the laws of our country. They are incompatible. Would children in a Muslim school be taught that?

In comparison, our Constitution is based on Judeo-Christian principles. The Supreme Court ruling he referenced regarding marriage no longer being solely between one man and one woman does not preclude such a marriage, nor does it force marriages to be between other than one man and one woman. While Jews or Christians may not agree with the decision of the Supreme Court, they have the right to try to have it overturned, and they can still live their own lives in accordance with their own religious beliefs. This is far different than would happen if Sharia law were imposed on all people.

And just to clarify Mr. Ramey’s claim that “The law of the land now includes homosexual marriage,” same-sex marriage is not a law written and approved by Congress and signed by a president. As I stated above, it has been declared a fundamental right under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by the Supreme Court. It is a decision that can be reversed by a subsequent Supreme Court. “The law of the land” is a figure-of-speech for a matter that has been given approval by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Heritage Foundation in a report dated January 25, 2013 titled “The Constitutionality of Traditional Marriage” stated:

Because the institution of marriage is the principal manner in which society structures the critically important functions of procreation and the rearing of children, it has long been recognized as “one of the cornerstones of our civilized society.” The Supreme Court itself noted more than a century ago that “the union for life of one man and one woman” is “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization.”

Keep in mind that the acknowledgement that “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization” was overturned by only five people (the vote in favor of same-sex marriage was five Justices to four) out of a population of approximately 314 million.

This blog has gone on longer than I intended, but you need to know the background of my concern. Before going to the extreme of a Constitutional Amendment, we should all give the impact of such an action considerable thought. On the surface, it sounds like a really good idea to have parents in control their children’s lives, but the possible “unintended consequences” could be significant and far-reaching. If Muslim children were taught year after year that our country should be ruled by Sharia law (and how would that be known), soon those children who were so indoctrinated would be elected to positions of political power. How many generations would it take to overturn our Judeo-Christian principled laws and put Sharia in their stead?

Basically I believe what is contained in this proposed Amendment is good and helpful. But one overlooked principle could cause tremendous damage. What do you think? Pass this information on to your friends and ask them their opinion. Let me know. The time to investigate this amendment thoroughly, with all its ramifications, is now before the boulder starts its roll downhill and can’t be stopped.