Category: Education Reform

Going Home for Christmas to Coal Mining Country

See more “misty mountain” photos from my trip here

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Tiny towns dot the landscape in rural, Eastern Kentucky.

 
These communities rely almost solely on the dying coal industry that operates mines in the Appalachia mountains throughout Kentucky, Southern Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Not only do these areas struggle with economic depression, and an aging population, the heroin epidemic has hit these communities particularly hard as well.


The mountains here have been dynamited over the years to make room for better, wider, and safer roads. Shale rock breaks easily, so “steps” and ditches have been formed to prevent accidents from falling boulders and rock-slides.

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Remains of the Sidney Coal Mining Company, now defunct. Images of the dying coal mining industry are tucked everywhere in the Appalachia mountains near Pikeville, KY.

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Bringing Back Child Labor?

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Breaker Boys of PA Coal Co., 1911

An international friend brought a horrifying article to my attention over the weekend. It did not involve terrorism, Syria, the Standing Rock fiasco, or even Harambe. It was far more subtle a subject, far more insidious, and based on many misconceptions and quiet propaganda. The article was originally called, Bring Back Child Labor, until the author, Joseph Sunde, received such backlash he changed it to, Work is a Gift Our Kids can Handle.

Posted on the Acton Institute Power Blog, I detected some hints of conservative Christian homeschooling rhetoric I remembered from a few years ago, when I was involved in that movement with/for my small children. The Acton Institute’s stated mission is, “to promote a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles.” While the rest of the About page seeks to portray an ecumenical, almost secular and educated feel (nowhere is the word “Christian” mentioned), a quick look through Acton’s bookshop* proves their exclusively Christian underpinnings.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s current pick for Secretary of Education, who recently made headlines with her trademark support of charter schools and school vouchers, is also a supporter of the Acton Institute, among others. This, in conjunction with the article in question, has deeply concerned many onlookers about the possible future of public education in America, but the rabbit hole goes deeper still.


And Now a Word from our Sponsors…

For at least the past 10 years, the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund (HSLDA) has made it their mission to reduce state laws pertaining to child labor. In the states of Missouri and South Dakota, they have successfully overturned previous child labor laws in the name of homeschool anti-discrimination. They have been working on a federal bill to the same end nationwide since 2006*. The HSLDA represents the welfare and rights of not just homeschoolers, but ultra-conservative Evangelical Christian homeschoolers in particular (more on HSLDA in another post).

It is the position of the HSLDA, that children as young as 12 should be allowed to work, if their parents view such work as beneficial to the child’s education.

“…a 12-year-old homeschooler in Illinois was manning the cash register for his family’s business after his morning schoolwork was done. He enjoyed the opportunity to earn a little money, and his parents knew that it helped him hone his math skills. Unfortunately, a customer did not feel the same way. She turned the family in to the Illinois Labor Department. After looking into the matter, the department prohibited the boy from working during school hours.” –Source

The article claims many of the child labor laws enacted by states in throughout the 1800s were necessary for their time, but are “outdated”, and suggests that all federal laws regarding child labor restrictions were and are superfluous (no question where this organization stands on states’ rights!). The article continues by outlining general laws pertaining to working children at different ages. A few key laws include:

  • No child under 16 may work during school hours, which are defined as public school hours (typically 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., depending on the state).
  • The child is limited to 3 hours of work per day during a school week, or 18 hours a week.
  • He may not work before 7:00 a.m. or after 7:00 p.m. except from June 1 to Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9:00 p.m.
  • Children may perform agricultural jobs for employers who have filed a waiver with the federal secretary of labor for exemption from the work hours and minimum age requirements for those particular jobs.
  • A child may only work during school hours if he is not getting paid. An example of such a situation is a school “work study” program, in which children gain work experience for educational purposes. –Source

The question remains: Why should some Christians seek to overturn these child labor laws?


Look how “Happy (Doc and Dopey)” are the “children” working in the mines! They exemplify proper economics and virtue!

Why would Sunde (getting back to the original article in question) feel encouraged to blithely insist the Washington Post’s recent photo montage of dirty, poorly clothed child laborers from the early 1900s, was over-the-top for (rightly) calling the pictures “haunting”. Several of those kids were smoking for crying out loud! Or does Sunde think being filthy, poor, abused, and developing lung cancer are signs of virtuous character?

He seems to ignore those details, opting to focus on a favorite conservative fantasy that these children were using their “creative talents” to “build enterprises and cities, using their gifts to serve their communities, and setting the foundation of a flourishing nation.”

Sunde quotes heavily and with admiration, one Jeffrey Tucker from the Foundation for Economic Education. Tucker’s article titled, Let the Kids Work, is a perfect example of someone who is disconnected from reality. He calls the Washington Post’s photos, “beautiful”, and proceeds to imagine what the children in the pictures must have experienced:

“They are working in the adult world, surrounded by cool bustling things and new technology. They are on the streets, in the factories, in the mines, with adults and with peers, learning and doing. They are being valued for what they do, which is to say being valued as people. They are earning money. Whatever else you want to say about this, it’s an exciting life.”

Tucker pretends to believe the whopper that, “it was the market, not the government that reduced and nearly eliminated full-time grueling child labor.” Didn’t he just say those abused children were actually having the time of their lives? Didn’t he then proceed to make fun of those who might protest on the children’s behalf with, “Oh, look how exploitative it is!”

While Sunde insists in a new disclaimer, “I do NOT endorse replacing education with paid labor…nor do I support getting rid of mandatory education at elementary and middle-school ages.” Yet his own essay quotes Tucker’s insane words, “If kids were allowed to work and compulsory school attendance was abolished, the jobs of choice would be at Chick-Fil-A and WalMart.” (emphasis added by me)

Sunde goes on to say,

“In our schools and educational systems, what if we stopped prioritizing “intellectual” work to the detriment of practical knowledge and physical labor, paving new paths to a more holistic approach to character formation? In our policy and governing institutions, what if we put power back in the hands of parents and kids, dismantling the range of excessive legal restrictions, minimum wage fixings, and regulations that lead our children to work less and work later?”


Our forefathers’ greatest mission was free and public education for all American citizens, so Americans would not be subject to oppression! Washington and Franklin and the others are spinning in their graves to hear such blasphemies from so-called modern educated (Christian) men.

The reality of working children due to the continued and inexcusable lack of oversight of homeschooled kids is already a current problem:

“In some cases, educational neglect may occur when a homeschooled child is expected to work rather than study. In some cases…homeschooled children may be treated as servants and expected to do childcare and housecleaning rather than completing homeschool lessons. In other cases, homeschooled children’s education may cease at age 12 or 14 as they are expected to work full time, often in family businesses or doing various manual labor. “By 11, he was working full time with his dad who did construction,” writes Miranda of her homeschool graduate husband. “By 14, he was in the woods logging, carrying the full weight of a grown man’s job, helping bring home income for his parents.” These children are frequently not paid for their labor, and are thus both deprived of an education and exploited…These children often reach adulthood limited by their lack of education, their career path chosen by their parents through their failure to educate.” –Source

It’s even more of a problem for some homeschooled girls, whose educations are often devalued as they are raised to be “keepers at home”. The Coalition for Responsible Home Education quotes from Christian leader RC Sproul Jr., ““She [a nine-year-old homeschooled girl] doesn’t know how to read, but every morning she gets up and gets ready for the day. Then takes care of her three youngest siblings. She takes them to the potty, she cleans and dresses them, makes their breakfasts, brushes their teeth, clears their dishes, and makes their beds.” Now I [Sproul] saw her rightly, as an overachiever.”

Though it hasn’t been updated in 3 years, Sunde’s blog, Remnant Culture, features a telling who’s-who* of Evangelical and Catholic leaders and organizations whose mission is to instill pure capitalism (free market/free enterprise) in order to bring back the individual freedoms of religion and democracy they believe they have lost.

It is rather shocking that the very people who give the most lip service to education, America’s Founding Fathers, the value of children, and Christian morals, are the same ones advocating for elimination of compulsory education laws, a reduction of child labor laws, and the idolization of one form of human (i.e. fallible) government. In their minds, free enterprise is next to godliness (more on that in a later post). Make no mistake, the Industrial Revolution, America’s purest age of capitalism sans legal restrictions, saw the exploitation of everyone that possibly could be exploited. It was no less than the Northern form of slavery, without the personal investment of human chattel.

*Note: the shop link on the About page appears broken.

** When I first read Sunde’s essay on 11/27/16, he had included a statement about ending compulsory education at 8th grade. You will not find this quote in his current essay, it has since been deleted. The following comment references this quote, and there may be others: http://disq.us/p/1dx5k74.

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Resources

The Coalition for Responsible Homeschooling

Responsible Homeschooling, “Abuse in Homeschooling Environments”

Reuters, “India Children Labour”

Homeschool Federation, “Child Labor: What’s Going On?”


Cited Sources

http://blog.acton.org/archives/89837-bring-back-child-labor-work-is-a-gift-our-kids-can-handle.html

http://blog.acton.org/archives/author/jsunde

http://blog.acton.org/

http://blog.acton.org/about

http://shop.acton.org/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/11/23/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-is-a-billionaire-philanthropist-with-deep-ties-to-the-reformed-christian-community/

https://www.hslda.org/hs/state/sd/201403240.asp

http://www.hslda.org/cms/?q=bill/hb-1132-changes-child-labor-laws-make-them-homeschool-friendly

http://nche.hslda.org/courtreport/V22N3/V22N303.asp

http://nche.hslda.org/courtreport/V22N3/V22N303.asp

http://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/abuse-and-neglect/educational-neglect/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2016/10/31/20-haunting-portraits-of-child-laborers-in-1900s-america/

https://fee.org

https://fee.org/articles/let-the-kids-work/

http://remnantculture.com/

http://www.naspaa.org/jpaemessenger/Article/VOL20-1/06_Cook%20Klay.pdf

http://www.responsiblehomeschooling.org/policy-issues/abuse-and-neglect/educational-neglect/

http://disq.us/p/1dx5k74

Great Expectations


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The heroin epidemic, the culture wars, a broken jail system, a broken education system, too much corruption in politics at all levels, too much greed, too much anger. As we face this upcoming presidential election that few average people actually want, accusations are flying: This is all the Millennials’ fault, it’s because of liberals/conservatives, it’s because of greedy politicians, it’s because of those who are uneducated/those who are educated, it’s because of sin, it’s because of religion, the arguments never end.

And yet there is a root cause, a common thread among all this: The fault lies with “The Blamers” (yes, I just blamed them), I’ll call them, and they are everywhere and of all ages. Blamers are quick to point fingers, swift to judge and condemn, and slow to apologize. Here a few examples of how Blamers work.


When a certain little boy jumped into the gorilla pen at the Cincinnati Zoo this spring, social media blew up with outrage from Blamers who, knowing almost nothing about the situation, had already tried and condemned the boy, his mother, the zookeepers, and zoo management in what amounted to an online mob-lynching.

Thankfully, there was a good deal of intelligent and thoughtful push-back-commentary from those who actually knew about parenting, and those who realized that accidents sometimes just happen. Where did the vitriol and judgement come from, lamented one popular author via Facebook. Where does it come from? From older people who’ve forgotten what parenting is like, and younger people without kids. It comes from folks with unrealistically high expectations.


The entire year of 2016 has been one diametrically opposed debate after another: guns, drugs, presidential nominees, parenting failures, religion, political parties, ethnic races, wealth status, and more. There is no middle ground allowed on any of these topics. If you propose measures for simple, common sense gun laws, you are labeled a liberal control-freak (is that a contradiction in terms?). If you believe in no restrictions, you are “clearly” responsible for every mass murder in America.

Where does it come from? It comes from people with unrealistically high expectations, either of their own superiority or the banality of others. Blamers, who seem only motivated to avert responsibility away from themselves without ever really thinking about the issues, attempting to compromise, or conceding that the other side might have a point. Whatever it is that’s happening, you need to know it’s not the Blamers’ fault! Is it possible this is a sign of a guilt complex? For, by refusing to talk to all sides, by casting the blame on others so quickly, these problems are never solved and are in fact exasperated. What is it Blamers are so afraid of?


Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:11-13, Blame: The 2nd Original Sin

I follow a few emotional abuse blogs but have become frustrated with the many 20-somethings who seem to think their childhoods were from the pit of hell because their parents were less-than perfect, not because their parents were genuinely abusive. There is real abuse, and emotional abuse is “a thing” but these young adults cannot see that people are multi-faceted, that people can be wrong in one thing and still right in another. These young adults cannot see that sometimes crap just happens and their parents did their best.

14577371037_80362ef8e0_zWhere does it come from? These young adults are not “spoiled”, they have been drilled to think that anything less than perfection (as outlined by their parents/celebrities/authority figures) is simply not trying hard enough. Accidents don’t happen, they are made. These young adults are understandably angry that, after having been held to impossibly high standards by their parents (and often failing and then believing their failures to be an ineptitude of their own selves), they see their parents gave themselves slack when humanly necessary, while never giving their children that same grace.


I have seen first-hand the pressure, the high expectations, the workload of so many students. They are expected to be Straight-A students, scoring high on standardized tests, while also striving to be an athletic or music or science star, while also being in several clubs, while sometimes also holding a part-time job, while also staying positive in mind and healthy in body. These poor kids are crushed under this load, which is meant to pave their way into college, which then in turn is meant to pave their way to a successful (read: money-making) career and easy (read: materialistic) lifestyle.

At the same time, if these kids are not able to handle so much (and who could?) parents turn to labels and/or legal hoops to get their kids out of actually learning. They search until they find a doctor who will affirm a made up “disability”, they hold kids back in school so Johnny will be more competitive as an older child, they push kids forward so Suzie will be more impressive as the youngest child in her grade. If those tactics don’t work, parents can always use their favorite whipping boy: teachers and/or administrators.

Where does it come from, this drive to be “perfect”, the perverse need to be razor-sharp no matter who gets hurt or how deeply? Where does it come from, the arrogance of “knowing” you’re right without having to actually consider all sides, or the  hypocrisy of squeezing kids into college so they can be educated, and then promptly dismissing that education with the words, “dumb college kid”?


Claims of police brutality and racism are running rampant, with few actually evaluating each case, preferring instead to draw blanket and sometimes wild conclusions about “the other side”. Two years ago, in a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio, a young man was shot by police after a 911 call was made. While verbal shrapnel and blame flew, the long and short of that particular incident was that everyone was wrong, with the exception of other shoppers, one of whom died from fear. The result was protests for months outside Walmart, coupled with fear of retaliation from all parties, anger, and resentment on all sides.

Where does it come from, the fear and anger? Surely there is some truth on both sides, but those great expectations have reared their ugly heads once again, telling lies and causing strife, inciting violence and more agony, where there should be unity and a resolve toward peace.


There are Blamers in every generation and in every culture. At the same time they condemn others for a seeming lack of hard work, Blamers don’t want to do the hard work of taking on proper and personal responsibility for their problems. They just like to watch the world burn, it’s entertaining and invigorating for them. It’s time we stopped listening to the Blamers, and started fixing our country.

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The Department of Education is Out of Line

Read these first:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/education/wp/2015/12/03/under-federal-pressure-illinois-school-district-allows-transgender-student-to-use-locker-room/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/schaumburg-hoffman-estates/news/ct-transgender-student-district-211-vote-met-20151202-story.html


little rock nineI don’t believe the ACLU actually cares about the ethics of this case, they were paid big money to win with a potential windfall of new cases and big money from other wealthy, activist parents.

But the so-called Department of Education ought to be ashamed of itself. It outright threatened the ability of school district 211, which covers five high schools near Chicago, Illinois, to provide an education for its students and that’s the bottom line. The DOE extorted, and I do mean extorted, their desired result from this district in an unprecedented move.

“OCR’s [Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence” Source

Let’s pretend the DOE had only focused on the high school in question, rather than the whole district, and let’s further pretend that the DOE was looking out for the welfare of 50 students, in a population of 300. The bottom line is the DOE still threatened the education of every student, and the employment of every teacher there.

What does it mean when the United States Department of Education cares more about where one (or fifty, or even one thousand) teen changes clothing a few times a week, rather than whether those students and hundreds more have access to quality education?

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This was not a case of a student being discriminated against or denied the right to an education based on skin color or sexual preference (see photos for examples of actual discrimination and prevention of the right to an equal education). This was a case about where and how a student should change clothes at school, although the student in question had already been assigned a private bathroom for changing. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is completely out of line.

Contact them here to share your thoughts with them.


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racist boySide Note: It is a potentially interesting tidbit that the lady in charge of the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights, worked for 10 years at the ACLU in Southern California.