Murdering satire

Translation: “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.”

Masked gunmen claiming to “avenge” Mohammed killed 12 people at the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo, a satire magazine that made fun of Islamic terrorists.

Claire Berlinski was walking in Paris, when she saw the aftermath of the terror attack.

I also knew from the location just who’d been attacked: Charlie-Hebdo, the magazine known for many things, but, above all, for its fearlessness in publishing caricatures of Mohamed. They’d been firebombed for this in 2011, but their response — in effect — was the only one free men would ever consider: “As long as we’re alive, you’ll never shut us up.”

They are no longer alive. They managed to shut them up.

Here’s more on the murdered editor, cartoonists and writers. Two police officers protecting the office also were killed.

Here’s one of the Mohammed cartoons that Charlie Hebdo published:

All that needs to be said about Charlie Hebdo  #WeAreAllCharlieHebdo


Cartoonists have responded to the attack. But is it really true that pencils are stronger than guns?


I like this one.


From fatwa-survivor Salman Rushdie:

Religion, a mediaeval form of unreason, when combined with modern weaponry becomes a real threat to our freedoms. This religious totalitarianism has caused a deadly mutation in the heart of Islam and we see the tragic consequences in Paris today. I stand with Charlie Hebdo, as we all must, to defend the art of satire, which has always been a force for liberty and against tyranny, dishonesty and stupidity. ‘Respect for religion’ has become a code phrase meaning ‘fear of religion.’ Religions, like all other ideas, deserve criticism, satire, and, yes, our fearless disrespect.

Among the dead are editor Stephane Charbonnier, known as Charb. After the offices were fire-bombed in 2012, he said, “I prefer to die standing up than to live on my knees.”

Carnival of Homeschooling

Freedom is the theme of this week’s Carnival of Homeschooling.  Homeschooled Mom writes:  “I don’t really see a point in having the legal right to homeschool, only to check with everyone and their mother before deciding on a curriculum, event, or even a political stance.  Homeschooling is an individual endeavor, and I believe that while input and opinions are nice, they are just that.  We have to remember that as parents, WE ARE IN CHARGE.”


Rye Hewitt putting his pack basket, which he wove himself, to good use. Photo: Penny Hewitt

Horribly bored, Ben Hewitt dropped out of school at 16. Later, he earned a GED and got through two semesters of college. He writes and runs a small farm in Vermont with his wife. They’re unschooling their two boys, who are 12 and 9. Or, as they prefer to call it,  “self-directed, adult-facilitated life learning in the context of their own unique interests.”

. . . the moment we stopped compelling Fin to sit and draw or paint or write was the moment he began doing these things on his own. It was the moment he began carving staves of wood into beautiful bows and constructing complex toys from materials on hand: an excavator that not only rotated, but also featured an extendable boom; a popgun fashioned from copper pipe, shaved corks, and a whittled-down dowel; even a sawmill with a rotating wooden “blade.”

In other words, the moment we quit trying to teach our son anything was the moment he started really learning.

Both boys “learned to read and write with essentially zero instruction” when they were eight Hewitt writes. “They can add and subtract and multiply and divide.” He estimates Fin and Rye “spend no more than two hours per month sitting and studying the subjects, such as science and math, that are universal to mainstream education.” After farm chores and breakfast, the boys usually head for the woods.

Sometimes they grab fishing poles, uncover a few worms, and head to the stream, returning with their pockets full of fish, fiddlehead ferns, and morel mushrooms. Occasionally I join them, and these journeys are always marked by frequent stops, with one boy or the other dropping to his knees to examine some small finding, something I would have blithely, blindly stumbled over.

“Papa, look, wild onions.” And they’ll dig with their young fingers, loosing the little bulbs from the soft forest soil. Later, we’ll fry them in butter and eat them straight from the pan, still hot enough that we hold them on the tips of our tongues before swallowing.

Hewitt thinks his sons will grow up to be whatever they want to be.

The Lego Movie is awesome

The Lego Movie, like its theme song, is awesome, writes Boris Zelkin on PJ Media.  It’s “a paean to individual liberty” and creativity — and to “the value of collective effort.”

Emmet, our everyman mini-fig,  lives in a world where Everything is Awesome, even drinking overpriced coffee. Yet he discovers an underground resistance.

In this seeming utopia, people’s individuality exists within a very narrow framework; namely the instruction book. This book, a Lego instruction manual, clearly and vividly, through the use of simple pictograms, lays out out the required steps necessary to live a good and productive life as a citizen.  Deviation from the instruction booklet is illegal.

The society is presided over by President Business, a charismatic politician and owner of the only business in the Lego world. In our LegoTopia, it turns out that the corporation and the government are, in fact, one in the same.

The creative but quarrelsome “master builders” need to unite to fight for freedom. 

School is bad for kids

School is a prison that’s damaging our kids, argues Peter Gray on Salon. A psychology professor at Boston College, Gray is the author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self Reliant, and Better Prepared for Life.

“Children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school,” Gray writes.

The top-down, teach-and-test method, in which learning is motivated by a system of rewards and punishments rather than by curiosity or by any real, felt desire to know, is well designed for indoctrination and obedience training but not much else.

Most students “lose their zest for learning” — especially in math and science — by middle or high school, he writes.

. . . people of all ages learn best when they are self-motivated, pursuing questions that are their own real questions, and goals that are their own real-life goals. In such conditions, learning is usually joyful.

Children’s “amazing drive and capacity to learn” is turned off by coercive schooling, Gray argues. Our schools teach children “that learning is work, to be avoided when possible.”

When children direct their own learning, their “natural curiosity and zest for learning persist all the way through childhood and adolescence, and into adulthood,” he writes.

Cover edit 3

More homeschooling families are encouraging self-directed learning, he writes. Others are turning to “democratic” schools where children educate themselves, while having opportunities to socialize. For example, the Sudbury Valley School in Framingham, Mass. lets students, who range in age from 4 to about 18, do what they wish all day, as long as they don’t break school rules designed to keep peace and order.

Sippican Cottage agrees: Public schools are “reeducation camps for people that weren’t educated in the first place, maybe, or little prisons, or pleasure domes for creepy teachers, or places where tubby women work out their neuroses about eating on helpless children at lunchtime — but there’s not much schooling going on in school.”

When a California principal told students to drop to one knee before being dismissed, parents protested and the policy was abandoned. What some called “taking a knee,” others saw as kneeling before the principal.

Schiller ‘in the deepest dungeons’

German writer Friedrich Schiller was educated in a military academy dedicated to French Enlightenment education reforms, writes Michael Lipkin in the Paris Review. Schiller, who became a noted playwright, poet and literary critic, absolutely hated it.

The Hohe Carlsschule was founded by Carl-Eugen, Duke of Württemburg, “to create a bureaucratic class free of the aristocracy’s tangled family loyalties,” writes Lipkin.

From a young age, the students learned Greek, Latin, French, philosophy, and were set on a professional path as doctors, lawyers, or civil servants—all extremely enviable positions. They studied rhetoric and contemporary literature and learned, through style exercises, to write poetry. The teachers were scarcely older than the students, and instead of lecturing held informal chats in which the students were invited to participate. The Carlsschulers were encouraged to look on them as their friends and confidants, to whom closely guarded secrets could be trusted. Schiller enjoyed a particularly close relationship with Jakob Friedrich Abel, a philosophy teacher only seven years his senior. He credited Abel with the deep moral and aesthetic convictions that would run through his plays and his poetry, even as Abel reported on Schiller to the duke.

. . . classes were given regular essay assignments like “Which student among you has the worst moral character?” Time was set aside for the students to write detailed studies of another’s characters and habits. The first existing piece of Schiller’s writing is one such essay, written when the poet was fifteen years old. Asked to analyze an older student named Karl Kempff, the young Schiller pulls no punches. With an astonishing mix of eloquence, astuteness, and coldness for a fifteen-year-old, Schiller accuses Kempff of mediocrity, egotism, crudeness, envy, malice, and false modesty.

Isolated from their families and from women, the boys were encouraged to look on the duke as their father and his young mistress as their mother.

Schiller’s writing was obsessed with “rape, patricide, the abuse of power, betrayal, imprisonment, and suicide,” writes Lipkin. In a letter to a critic, he wrote, “it’s in the deepest dungeons that the most beautiful dreams of freedom are dreamt.”

Carnival of Homeschooling

For the Memorial Day edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling, hosted by Why Homeschool,  Crazy Homeschool Mama contributes F is for Freedom.

Indiana OKs broad voucher bill

The nation’s most sweeping school voucher program — with tuition aid for low- and middle-income families — is now law in Indiana. Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill today, along with another bill expanding charter schools.

Parents can choose to use vouchers at private schools that accept state regulation, including religious schools. As family income rises to $60,000 for a family of four, the voucher’s value will go down.

Other voucher systems across the country are limited to lower-income households, children with special needs or those in failing schools.

Indiana’s program would be open to a much larger pool of students, including those already in excellent schools. Indiana’s program will be limited to just 7,500 students for the first year and 15,000 in the second, a fraction of the state’s about 1 million students. But within three years, there will be no limit on the number of children who could enroll.

Indiana will save money on voucher students: Vouchers for elementary and middle school students are capped at $4,500 and no voucher will equal funding for public-school students.

According to Rick Hess, 60 percent of Indiana schoolchildren will be eligible for a voucher worth up to 90 percent of public education costs. The student must attend a year of public school to qualify for a voucher.

The bill also gives a $1,000 tax deduction for private-school tuition or the costs of homeschooling. That’s expected to cut revenues by $3 million.

While most choice advocates are celebrating, Cato’s Adam Schaeffer argues the law is a “strategic defeat for educational freedom” because it greatly expands state regulation of participating private schools.

To qualify for vouchers, schools will have to administer state exams and submit data on students’ progress, admit students by lottery and “provide good citizenship instruction” that stresses respecting authority, the property of others, the student’s parents and home, the student’s self and “the rights of others to have their own views and religious beliefs.”

What does this mean for religious private schools teaching that one can only be saved by belief in Jesus Christ?

Private schools that refuse to be regulated will risk losing most of their students,   Schaeffer writes.