Communication to PTAVE from Jeff Charles
May 9, 1998

Extreme Ironies in Dobson's April 1988 newsletter

In James Dobson's latest "Focus on the Family" newsletter, April 1998, he takes on unions in education and not suprisingly advocates "school choice." He also laments teachings about the KKK and the McCarthy era and homelessness as "liberal agendas" and wants to elimiate or drastically reduce such teachings in history classes.

He sites as evidence America's low placement in the recent Third International Mathematics and Science Study, where America, arguably still the most child-hitting industrialized country on earth, placed 19th in secondary Mathematics and 16th in science, and etc...

In his parenting books and manuals he openly calls for parental support of school corporal punishment and his entire "ministry" is based on supporting hitting kids at home, and he often laments on the "lack of old fashioned discipline" and Christian teachings in school as the reason of our poor showing.

That would make some possible sense if the countries that did better than us used a lot of corporal punishment and/or had fundamentalist Christian teachings in their classroom--but the rather humorous irony is that the top countries, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, etc., not only don't hit kids in schools--they don't hit in the homes either! (A fact that either escaped Dobson when he printed the results or which he assumed his average reader would be unaware it seems). Additionally Dobson decries "left wing" teachings in schools, and once again the irony is complete as almost all of the countries that do much better than we are also much more socialistic. (i.e. for Math the higher countries were Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, France, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Austria, Slovenia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Russian Federation, Lithuania, Czech Republic).

Indeed Clinton is vilified in the extreme in this letter, and not so long ago his idea for National Health Care was similarly vilified, but which Canada and I suspect many other better countries do in fact have. Dobson decries that we spend more than other countries on schooling--but what about National health care for children, the right for them to eat and have some reasonable level of care? I suspect most of the higher achieving countries spend a much greater portion of their wealth on the well-being of children than we do. I doubt private schools account for any of the success of the better countries, and doubt that fundamentalist Christian schools make up any percentage of their success either, and doubt that the 10 commandments are on the walls of schools in France or Canada or Sweden either. Not even one of the "cures" Dobson proposes, in fact, exists to any greater degree than here, in even one of the countries that he himself sites as better achieving.

I am sure most of Dobsons followers have no idea that the majority of the better achieving countries have a much higher level of socialism and government child care than we, practice much less corporal punishment, (and in fact cp is banned in some of the best scoring countries even by parents), and that few if any of the high achieving countries have government supported private schools or balkanized school systems like the US. Moreover National Standards, which Dobson also opposes, are certainly common practice in most if not all of these other countries.

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