Abundance of choice
The two stated reasons for banning homeschool teams from entering MathCounts:
- Some people pretend to be homeschooler groups
- Homeschooler teams are not restricted geographically like schools are, so they have larger pools to select from
What I hear: homeschooling makes a lot of administrative sense, so some other entities would pretend to do that for administrative flexibility. Also, pre-industrial, of course pre-information age ideas about how to group people have been discarded by homeschoolers some time ago, which provides them with an academic advantage (duh).
I also suspect there is the third, unstated reason: homeschooler teams winning disproportionally many awards. This has been true historically of certain places (e.g. Olympiad winners coming from particular communities or schools) and certain education methods and certain cultures (e.g. Asian-American). Banning these superior education places and methods and cultures from competition designed to select superior kids seems counter-intuitive to me. While I acknowledge the move from MathCounts as a badge of recognition for homeschooling, it also feels a hostile and otherwise problematic. It also begs for an alternative all-inclusive competition to start or to accept “MathCounts refugees,” which will split the user base of MathCounts.
After meeting with HSLDA (an organization that speaks for a minority of homeschoolers), MathCounts decided to grandfather existing teams. This is a strange solution, given that some existing teams are unfair and even cheaters. I do not doubt the general good will of MathCounts organizers, though. They should just invite homeschooler volunteers to help them with the logistics. Homeschoolers are used to operating on incredibly slim administrative overhead, and can be very efficient.
Diane Ravitch’s book reviews were interesting. These talks “for” or “against” this or that choice assume a pretty scary and, given where we are in history, unnecessary scarcity of choices.
Picture: PLN by Alec Couros.
The article in LA Times is highly problematic because it singled out several particular teachers, which made the story more palatable to those of us who are not autistic enough to have fun with pure data, but at the same time hurt these people. They could have spinned it differently, too, with the stress on helping. I like the quiet database version.