When HSLDA went to the Kremlin

On September 10th and 11th of 2014, leaders of various right wing family organizations from around the world gathered at the Kremlin for what was to have been the “World Congress of Families VIII – the Moscow Congress.” The conference was a “pro-family” event that blended a mix of quiverfull, homeschooling, anti-abortion, and anti-LGBTQ organizations together. Facing press questions on the wisdom of holding an event in Moscow after the Russian annexation of Crimea, as well as Concerned Women for America’s decision to withdraw lest they, “appear to be giving aid and comfort to Vladimir Putin,” the World Congress of Families canceled the event in March. Or rather, they officially canceled it, as the meeting went forward under the auspices of the local sponsors, with several World Congress of Families leaders acting as organizers in an officially unofficial capacity. The International Forum: Large Family and Future of Humanity opened with the reading of a personal greeting from Vladimir Putin praising the conference. As documented by BuzzFeed, the conference was funded by a number of close Putin allies. Both Michael Farris and Michael Donnelly of HSLDA were originally slated to speak, and until now it was believed that HSLDA was one of the organizations that had pulled out of the convention because of the Crimea situation. It turns out that’s not what happened. Other than a single reference in an article about the German Wunderlich family that Michael Donnelly, “was in Germany on his way to an international family forum in Moscow, Russia,” HSLDA has made no mention of the Kremlin conference. I have now been able to document that Michael Donnelly was not only in attendance at the forum, but that he participated as a speaker. I suspect that given how difficult it was to track down evidence that an HSLDA[…]

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How bad homeschool research and statistics hurt homeschoolers

When I was in college, I was one of the participants who answered the NHERI/HSLDA/Brian Ray survey of homeschooling graduates. I don’t remember how I got the survey, probably via email forward from my mom, but what I do remember is sending an email to my family after taking it in which I said something about how I wouldn’t believe a thing from the eventual study results. Aside from the fact that an email forwarded among homeschool groups asking people to take an internet survey is a lousy way of getting a representative sample (especially when we’re talking more than a decade ago, when we were nowhere as close to ubiquitous computing as we are now and computer access was still largely along socioeconomic lines), the survey itself was rife with methodological problems. My memory is of a survey where I could tell exactly what answer they were looking to find, based on both the questions asked and the possible answers given for those questions. It was a survey that, even as a college student who had a positive experience and didn’t have the criticisms of the system that I do now, was so bad that I wondered why anyone would design it the way they did unless the goal was not usable data but a certain set of predetermined results. If I got anything out of being homeschooled for twelve years by a math teacher, it’s a healthy appreciation for numbers. Numbers explain the world, or at least they can explain the world if they’re used correctly. Without good numbers, you might as well be stumbling around in the dark bumping your shins into the furniture. Bad numbers are even worse than no numbers; they’re like spreading Legos on the carpet while stumbling around in the dark with bare[…]

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