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On Talking to Heather Doney and Rachel Coleman About Child Abuse, the Quiverfull Movement and Homeschooling Policy Reform

This is wonderful! I'm a (very distant) Facebook friend of Rachel's and so I've heard her talk about some of this stuff before, but it's so cool to read it here.

But like some of the other commenters, I wonder if they're asking too little. Teachers in public and private schools need to have certain credentials and certifications; homeschooling parents don't. Why not? Is it important for teachers to be trained as teachers, or not? OTOH, a lot of homeschooled parents teach their kids just fine; some don't, but the difference between the good and bad ones probably isn't a teaching certification.

Also, one of the most popular arguments against homeschooling - and I'm not sure how much water this holds - is that children don't learn social skills if they are homeschooled and not regularly interacting with children outside their own families. Most formerly homeschooled kids I know say they did get some interaction through homeschooling group activities, church, etc. but usually not on an everyday basis. I haven't seen any clinching evidence that homeschooled kids are at a disadvantage socially, once they enter the "real world," but it's hard to find good studies, since the Google searches tend to return homeschooling advocacy or how-to websites.

Do Heather and Rachel know of any research on homeschooled kids' social skills? Since they want annual monitors for homeschooled kids, would they want these monitors to check on the children's social exposure and development as well as their academic lives?

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 12:35 am 1

On Ask a Psychic

@Blushingflwr "The part of me that wants to believe the best in people believes that there are at least *some* practicing psychics out there who really believe that they have some special perception."

I think this part of you is correct! After reading this interview, I looked up the Wikipedia page on cold reading for kicks, and I found a Skeptical Inquirer piece from Karla McLaren, a former psychic/current skeptic who said she had unconsciously absorbed, developed, and refined the techniques of cold reading, and she was good at it, and that's why she used to believe she was psychic. I suspect Pat Bruckmann is probably like that, too.

Posted on February 28, 2014 at 4:18 pm 0

On Ask a Psychic

@mistersister Not sure I am a strict materialist, actually. Sometimes I seriously consider the Platonist view of numbers as non-material objects. The difference is that numbers don't causally interact with the world, whereas psychic perceptions show up in your brain and come out of your mouth. And a psychic's predictions are about things that we can detect empirically: people's actions and words and personalities. So evidence matters here. If psychic perception is a physical phenomenon, how does it fit in with the things we already know from science? If it's (all or partly) non-physical, is there an intelligible, let alone convincing, account of how non-physical phenomena interact with the physical world?

I don't believe in God, but since you already decided I was a "strict materialist", I'm not sure why you bothered to ask. Anyway, the interviews with religious people aren't like this, if you look. They're respectful, sure, but the Jesus Feminist interview (for instance) has questions like, "Has Christianity always been the driving force in your life?" and "Why do you think Christians struggle with the term 'feminist'?" This one leads with "When did you realize you were psychic?". I get that you need to have a friendly, respectful tone in order to get someone to talk about who they are and where they're coming from, but this is a bit much.

You say there's no need to get angry that people disagree with me; I'd say there's no need to assume those who disagree with you are angry. I enjoy refining arguments, talking to people, and deploying the odd bit of sarcasm in the process. I don't enjoy having strangers pass judgment on my emotional states, so please stop doing that.

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 7:57 pm 0

On Ask a Psychic

@CaitlinRenee Sorry, I was trying to reply to @noReally so she could tell me about Mary Roach. But since you're incorrectly ascribing emotional states to people, I do want to say this: not everyone who vocally disagrees with you is "unsettle[d]" by "other ways of knowing". I don't usually give in to my "someone is wrong on the internet!" impulses, but I like the Hairpin. I recommend it to my sisters and my friends; I tell them it's silly but smart. So I was pretty disappointed in the credulity of this interview, and I expressed that disappointment via sarcasm. That's why I'm here.

As for "there is much more to the universe than our limited animal-based perceptions allow": yes, this is very true, and that's why it's so cool that we have microscopes and X-rays and ultrasound and telescopes and infrared photography! They open up scales and frequencies and spectra that we can't see or hear by ourselves. I think all skeptics and sciencey types believe in what they see through microscopes or on X-rays.

Maybe you think something like this could someday happen with psychic phenomena? But nobody seems to be able to explain what kind of things psychic phenomena might be. Either people don't give an answer, or they resort to quantum hand-waving because nobody understands quantum physics anyway. Since the mind is involved in "psychic" perception, a good explanation must either be compatible with our current understanding of psychology, neurology, and biochemistry, or it should have enough evidence to overturn that understanding. I don't really see that happening, and I find the voluminous literature on cognitive bias a much more compelling explanation.

Posted on February 27, 2014 at 5:40 pm 1

On Ask a Psychic

@CaitlinRenee This reminds me why I need to read more Mary Roach! I heard Spook was kind of smug and self-satisfied, but entertaining. (I'm on her side as a skeptic.) What did you think of it?

Anyone else think it would be cool to practice cold reading, but is way too shy to talk to random strangers all the time? I would get such a kick out of saying generic things like, "You are usually calm and steady, but sometimes you let out all your emotions," and have people be like, "OMG YOU TOTALLY KNOW MY DEEPEST SELF."

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 10:18 pm 1

On How to Date Your Plants

@discombobulated all this, of course, is to say that I totally agree with Helen Yoest about bananas, and I giggle like a twelve-year-old whenever I think about them too hard

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 5:11 pm 0

On How to Date Your Plants

I wish I had something more substantial to contribute than banana jokes, but everyone should watch this video about why bananas are perfectly, divinely designed to fit in the human hand and mouth. THE ATHEIST'S NIGHTMARE

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 5:10 pm 0

On Ask a Psychic

@The Baxa If you were trying not to seem credulous, "When did you realize you were psychic?" is a pretty odd question to lead with.

Posted on February 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm 2

On Elsa’s Coming Out Party

@pamb Let's leave aside that neither Ester Bloom nor Dana Stevens has expressed an opinion about this anonymous Mormon mom. Are you saying anyone who thinks this blogger overreacted is opposed to freedom of speech?

Also: why do you feel the need to tout your Friend Of The Gays bona fides while saying this?

Posted on February 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm 2

On A Short History of the Really Bad Valentine Missive

This is so, so good. Why am I not surprised that the overwrought but basically mass-produced romance of Valentine's Day is the Victorian era's fault?

Posted on February 11, 2014 at 11:32 pm 0