It’s been a few days since this was front and center, triggered by the presentation of an expert report by Dr. Michael Behe, but I wanted to write a few notes about the issue of admissions at UC and homeschooling. There’s an article ACSI v. Stearns, aka Wendell Bird vs. UC on Panda’s Thumb article here. I agree with the criticism of the textbook content. In addition, here’s an older article that contains a good summary:
Culture war pits UC vs. Christian way of teaching : Religious schools challenge admission standards in court.
My issue is not with the assessment of these textbooks, but rather with priorities and appropriate diversity in education. I was homeschooled eight out of 12 years through high school, and the four years in formal schooling were spent in a very conservative Christian school. I knew nothing about evolution except that it happened and it took a long time. My textbooks on science were deficient in all the areas noted. On the other hand, I took a GED and went on to college and graduate school. I had no difficulty with science or math courses (as in getting As with no exceptional amount of study), and when I began to study the appropriate material, I had no difficulty coming to understand evolution, at least sufficiently for my needs as a non-scientist.
My question on this issue is this: Can this possibly be the most pressing issue in admissions at UC or any university? Is there some ongoing problem with home schooled students failing out of introductory biology? I’m not saying that any university shouldn’t have standards, but I am wondering if this is more about academic culture than about standards. I’m not certain from reading what I see, but while I often deplore what certain home school parents do (lax discipline and schedules, very narrow curricular material), there are also many, many parents who home school quite effectively, and whose children are well above standards.
I was never in a situation of playing catch-up in any of my classes from the moment I entered college. I moved to upper division courses in my second semester (with some annoyance to the academic affairs committee). Any deficiencies in my curriculum were easily overcome by the fact that I knew how to study, how to sort out information, and was ready to pick up new material in a hurry.
I’m not sure of the legal aspects of this case, but to me it seems appropriate to keep the diverse options open. I oppose teaching creationism and intelligent design in high school classrooms, because I think in the limited time we should teach consensus science and do it as well as possible. Evolutionary theory is the overwhelming consensus. But in addition, I believe it’s important that people who disagree with me have options, if they’re willing to put in the time and money. Private schooling and home schooling are two of those options. They have to pay for it. They have to live with it.
If there is some evidence of home schooled children struggling with their college courses because of deficient curricula, then there’s a point here. Otherwise, I’d let the results speak for themselves.