homeschooling

Journalists have to ask familiar questions, when 'religious' people turn to violence

Journalists have to ask familiar questions, when 'religious' people turn to violence

There are so many questions to ask, and all of them need asking as journalists probe the "why" question in the "who," "what," "when," "where," "why" and "how" of the Austin bombings.

First things first. As Bobby Ross Jr. noted earlier (please see that post), 23-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt grew up in an intensely Christian home and he has expressed views that can -- in some sense of this vague word -- be called "conservative." He was active in a small, racially diverse church and then in a popular megachurch.

Well, the prodigal Texan in me wants to note that quite a few people in Texas go to church, even in the Austin area. Lots of them go to megachurches, since many things in Texas -- as you may have heard -- tend to be big.

Also, lots of people in Texas are committed to home-schooling their children. As with any form of intense education, some children like that more than others.

I say all of this to make one point: Journalists need to investigate all of these religion angles because this young man's faith -- or his loss of faith --  may turn out to be crucial. Most of all, law officials seem to be focusing on finding the source of the pain, anger and "darkness" that seized Conditt's life in the days, weeks or months leading up to the bombings.

Where would you start, reading between the lines in this passage from the main Associated Press report?

Conditt’s family said in a statement they had “no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in.” ...

Jeff Reeb, a neighbor of Conditt’s parents in Pflugerville for about 17 years, said he watched Conditt grow up and that he always seemed “smart” and “polite.” Reeb, 75, said Conditt and his grandson played together into middle school and that Conditt regularly visited his parents, whom Reeb described as good neighbors.

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Why was DeVos fight so bitter? In this case the cultural warfare was totally logical

Why was DeVos fight so bitter? In this case the cultural warfare was totally logical

So how did Betsy DeVos end up being the wicked witch of the Calvinist Midwest?

That's one way of stating the main topic of this past week's "Crossroads" podcast, which was recorded a day later than normal for technical reasons. Click here to tune that in, please.

In addition to talking about the hammer and tongs warfare over the DeVos nomination to serve as Secretary of Education, host Todd Wilken and I also talked about the fact that the whole subject of alternative forms of education in America -- think charter schools, homeschooling, etc. -- is not something that breaks down into easy left vs. right categories, when it comes to politics and religion. Click here to see my earlier post on that.

But the key to the DeVos war was that there was really nothing unusual about it, for reasons that Ross Douthat explained in a column for The New York Times. The bottom line was the bottom line: It is hard to name a culture wars army that provides more muscle and campaign funding to the modern Democratic Party than the public educational elites and the unions that serve them. We are talking about millions and millions of dollars, year after year after year.

Here is Douthat, who as always is guilty of linear, logical thinking:

... Somehow it was DeVos who became, in the parlance of cable-news crawls, Trump’s “most controversial nominee.” Never mind that Trump’s logorrheic nationalism barely has time for education. Never mind that local control of schools makes the Education Department a pretty weak player. Never mind that Republican views on education policy are much closer to the expert consensus than they are on, say, climate change. Never mind that the bulk of DeVos’s school-choice work places her only somewhat to the right of the Obama administration’s pro-charter-school positioning, close to centrist Democrats like Senator Cory Booker. None of that mattered: Against her and (so far) only her, Democrats went to the barricades, and even dragged a couple of wavering Republicans along with them.
DeVos did look unprepared and even foolish at times during her confirmation hearings, and she lacks the usual government experience. But officially the opposition claimed to be all about hardheaded policy empiricism. A limited and heavily regulated charter school program is one thing, the argument went, but DeVos’s zeal for free markets would gut public education and turn kids over to the not-so-tender mercies of unqualified bottom-liners.

DeVos is the living symbol of everything the educational establishment hates, a woman with zero personal ties to public schools and years of experience in fighting for alternatives -- especially for the poor and those caught in substandard urban school zones. As I noted in the podcast, of course Democrats went to the mattresses to stop her from becoming secretary of education. Her nomination was something like proposing Elton John as the next leader of Focus on the Family.

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Information behind DeVos irony: NBC News discovers that liberal homeschoolers do exist

Information behind DeVos irony: NBC News discovers that liberal homeschoolers do exist

Back in the days of intense Harry Potter warfare, I wrote an "On Religion" column in which a very articulate mother explained why she was seriously considering homeschooling her child.

First of all, she said it was clear that her local public schools didn't take religion all that seriously. A kind of watered-down faith was OK, but she was sure that her family's intense religious beliefs and traditions would clash with the culture in nearby schools. She didn't want to have to compromise her family's beliefs in order to fit in.

Then there those omnipresent books about a certain young wizard. She told me: 

"The whole Harry Potter thing has just taken off and glamorized everything. It makes it seem like all of this is about spells and magic. ... It can be hard to get children to remember that what we're about is faith and spirituality. ... Many pagan parents consider Harry Potter a mixed blessing."

This mother, you see, was part of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and the author of a book called "Pagan Parenting." And she was preparing for life as a homeschooling mom.

I thought about this anecdote when I read the NBCNews.com piece that ran with this headline: "DeVos Backlash Sees Parents Threatening to Homeschool Kids."

All kinds of people were passing this URL around online, laughing at the irony of that statement. However, it quickly became clear that reporter Jon Schuppe not only saw the irony, but understood it. Here is the overture on this surprisingly nuanced piece: 

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'Thank u Lord for the game of baseball' -- A religion ghost in LaRoche exit? You think?

'Thank u Lord for the game of baseball' -- A religion ghost in LaRoche exit? You think?

Here is a heart-strings tugger for you as we move closer to Opening Day in major-league baseball (an event that should receive Upper-Case status as a cultural holy day, as I am sure our own Bobby Ross Jr. would agree).

So Adam LaRoche walked away from his Chicago White Sox contract worth $13 million rather than yield to demands by management -- as in team president Ken Williams -- to drastically cut the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spent with him and the team during workouts and in the clubhouse.

Sports fans, you have to be blind as a bat not to see the religion ghost in this one.

I suspect that many sports-news scribes see the religion element, but they are hesitating to suggest that it may have been a factor in this buzz-worthy clash between this dad and the leaders of his team. Here is a chunk of the relevant report from the frequently faith-lite ESPN team:

LaRoche, 36, announced his retirement Tuesday, hinting at the reason behind his decision with the hashtag #familyfirst in a tweet posted that day.
When news of the reason became public Wednesday, Williams addressed the issue with reporters and said that kids are still permitted in the White Sox clubhouse, but they shouldn't be there every day, saying no job would allow that.
"Sometimes you have to make decisions in this world that are unpopular," he said.
The White Sox have always encouraged players to bring their kids into the clubhouse and onto the field, according to Williams. But he said he thought Drake LaRoche was there too much.

That #familyfirst tag is a clue, don't you think? And this tweet referenced in the ESPN report?

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Generic, very modest Christians walk across America for some vague reason

Generic, very modest Christians walk across America for some vague reason

This is one of those posts where readers really need to be able to see the art that ran with a specific newspaper story, but that isn't possible because of copyright issues.

So let's start off by saying that you need to go take a look at The Denver Post story, the one with this headline: "Family ends hike across America at Union Station on Saturday."

OK, so you surfed over and looked that the photograph. What did you see?

With that in mind, here is the top of the story:

With 45-pound packs on their backs and a lifetime worth of tales, an Alabama family strode in front of Union Station on Saturday afternoon, marking the end of their walk across America.
Cheerfully sporting a broken collarbone, Jennifer Sunde said it was her idea to embark on the American Discovery Trail with her husband, Chris, and 18-year-old daughter, Katlyn.
The trail is more than 6,000 miles long and connects cities like Washington, D.C., and Colorado Springs with national and state forests, parks and historical sites. The motive of the trek was to spread love and encouragement to whomever they met along their journey while enjoying the sites.
"We are Christians," Sunde said. "We're told to love one another, so we wanted to show everyone that someone out there loves you no matter your religion, social status, class and so on."

Once again, think about the photo. Again, what did you see?

Describing the family, The Post team went with this:

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New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

New York Times misses a ghost: Why some Christian parents don't trust Common Core

As the parent of a third grader, I had my run-ins with Common Core while my daughter was in Tennessee schools. Their standards were impossibly high for her and some of the bizarre ways they recommended that math be taught turned me off. Common Core’s math standards want students to explain how they arrived at the answer rather than memorize sums; sounds good on paper, I know but in reality, it doesn’t work.

Now Common Core is a set of academic standards in mathematics and English language arts/literacy that outline what a student should know and be able to do at the end of each grade. They were introduced in 2009 and 43 states have adopted the standards, lured, no doubt, by millions in federal funds given to those that complied.

A recent piece in The New York Times tells about those who are opting out.

GetReligion readers, can you guess what they missed? I predict that you can.

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