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The Lie: Evolution



By Bruce Shortt, Ph.D. May 27, 2011*

Three Card Monte hucksters, magicians, and politicians all know that “misdirection” is an essential part of their trades. In other words, get the rubes to look “over there” so that they don’t notice what is happening right in front of them. Misdirecting attention is also a standard tactic deployed by our highly trained education professionals, as demonstrated recently by West Virginia’s new State Superintendent of Schools and School Marm Maximus, Jorea Marple.

In a recent appearance before the West Virginia legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education, Miss Marple, displaying an exemplary grasp of the maxim “the best defense is a good offense”, warned the Committee that the West Virginia’s unusual level of educational attainment was imperiled by homeschooling because homeschoolers need “…more oversight, better standards, better evidence of progress.” Moreover, according to Miss Marple, “homeschoolers have too much flexibility.”

Miss Marple’s interest in manufacturing worry about homeschooling is understandable. Without a little misdirection, parents and legislators might start asking serious questions about what is being done to children in West Virginia’s government schools and about how much taxpayer money is being handed to West Virginia’s highly trained education professionals. What does Miss Marple have to hide? Well, just about everything.

In 2008, West Virginia’s government schools ranked 22 nd in the United States in per pupil expenditures and were reported to have spent over $10,000 per student ( ). This actually significantly understates spending per pupil on West Virginia government schools because it excludes, among other things, large amounts of money spent per pupil annually in capital expenditures. States in which forensic audits have been done to determine how much is actually being spent per pupil in government schools suggest that West Virginia may be spending 20% to 50% more than the operating cost number of $10,000+ per student per year. Bear in mind that over $10,000 per year, let alone $12,000 to $15,000 will pay the full tuition at many, many academically outstanding private schools.

And just what do West Virginia’s highly trained education professionals deliver in exchange for the vast amount of money they drain from taxpayers’ pockets? Here are a few examples of the fruit from the tree of West Virginia government schools:

  • The Department of Education’s 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress tells us that 74% of West Virginia 4 th graders can’t read at grade level, by 8 th grade 78% can’t read at grade level, and by 12 th grade, after 23% percent of West Virginia’s least promising students have dropped out, 71% still can’t read at grade level.
  • The 2009 mathematics results are even more “impressive”: 72% of 4 th-graders can’t do math at grade level. After 4 more years in the care of West Virginia’s highly trained education professionals 81% can’t perform math at grade level. By twelfth grade – and, again, remember all of the dropouts whose absence from the test improves the results – 87% cannot perform at grade level.
  • West Virginia’s 2009 NAEP science results show that 72% of 4 th-graders can’t do science at grade level, while another 4 years of West Virginia government school instruction results in 78% of 8 th-graders not being able to do science at grade level.

Even more interesting, not only do West Virginia’s highly trained education professionals produce ignorance, semi-literacy, and illiteracy in normal children on an industrial scale, they manage to produce these results that are below national averages while spending more per pupil than the national average. For those concerned about America’s ability to compete economically with China, perhaps the federal government should consider rounding up several thousand of Miss Marple’s colleagues and dropping them stealthily into China like an educational Seal Team 6.

Of course, evidence of catastrophic educational failure is always dismissed by highly trained education professionals by alternately screeching “socio-economic status” and “demographics.” These phrases are the education establishment’s equivalent of squid’s ink: When cornered by inconvenient facts, shouts of “socio-economic status” and “demographics” usually allow highly trained education professionals to create confusion and slip away quietly from embarrassing revelations about what they have done to the children entrusted to them.

Unfortunately for West Virginia’s government school establishment, no matter how you look at the performance of West Virginia’s government schools, the results are dismal. Texas, for example, has the same poverty rate as West Virginia, spends nearly $2,000 per year less per student than West Virginia, and has far more “minority” students than West Virginia. Nevertheless, Texas’ students outperform West Virginia’s. ( Idaho, to take another example, spends over $3,000 per student per year less than West Virginia and has a much higher percentage of hispanic students. Yet, Idaho’s students also outperform West Virginia’s students. (

In fact, it is apparent from looking at the data from the National Center for Educational Statistics that factors such as educational funding and demographics don’t contribute much, if anything, to explaining the below average performance of West Virginia’s students. This, of course, indicates that the source of the problem might just be the government school system that Miss Marple now superintends.

When the academic performance of West Virginia’s government schooled students is compared with that of homeschooled students, the situation is vastly more embarrassing for Miss Marple and West Virginia’s highly trained education professionals. Recall that West Virginia’s students perform below the national average for government school students. Indeed, on the 2009 NAEP West Virginia’s 4 th-graders ranked 44 th and 46 th in reading and math, respectively, while West Virginia 8 th-graders ranked 48 th in reading and 49 th in math. In contrast, in no large scale study of homeschool academic performance have homeschooled students ever failed to outperform the government school averages by a substantial margin.

For example, in the most recent peer-reviewed, large scale survey of the academic performance of homeschooled students, it was found that homeschooled students scored in the 89 th percentile in reading, the 84 th percentile in math, the 86 th percentile in science, and the 84 th percentile in social studies. These results are consistent with prior surveys. (

Interestingly, “minorities” probably comprise a larger percentage of homeschool students than they do of the students in West Virginia government schools. In addition, surveys of homeschool academic achievement indicate that parental levels of education don’t much influence levels of academic achievement among homeschoolers and that children from families with incomes under $35,000 per year do nearly as well as children from families with higher incomes.

Which brings us back to Miss Marple. By attacking homeschool parents, Miss Marple is playing a familiar game. The goal is to distract the public's attention from the abject failure of West Virginia’s public schools, for which she is responsible. After all, nearly no government school system so thoroughly fails to educate as Miss Marple’s schools. Nevertheless, Miss Marple wants the public to believe that the same bureaucrats who daily busy themselves producing massive illiteracy in West Virginia’s public schools should have more power over homeschool parents, even though homeschooling parents are already doing a magnificent job with their children at no cost to taxpayers.

Even a little reflection indicates that Miss Marple’s expression of "concern" over homeschool academic standards is more than a little disingenuous. After all, if you really don't want your children to be educated, the most effective strategy is to institutionalize them in one of Superintendent Marple’s government schools. That obviously requires much less effort than keeping them at home.

Perhaps we can all agree with Miss Marple in one respect, however. West Virginia does need more regulation of education. Consequently, as a public service, here is my modest proposal for reforming West Virginia’s public schools: Homeschooling parents should regulate Miss Marple until the students in the government schools for which s he is responsible academically outperform homeschooled children. Unfortunately, this recommendation is not likely to be accepted, which means that most state superintendents of education around the country will continue to be able to tell parents upset about the job their local schools are doing, "Well, at least we're not West Virginia ." In the meantime, Miss Marple needs to get a clue.

Also see April 3 and August 28 items at 2011 news items and the November 27 news item.


Bruce Shortt, Exodus Mandate-Texas state coordinator and author of The Harsh Truth about Public Schools, responded to an attack against homeschooling by the West Virginia Superintendent of Schools. The Exodus Mandate-West Virginia state coordinator, Karl Priest, has been exposing the sorry state of West Virginia schools for the last five years.

As the Exodus Mandate-West Virginia state coordinator, I have been exposing the sorry state of West Virginia schools for the last five years. This alarm sounding is significant because I am a retired public school teacher/administrator.

The West Virginia situation should be of interest to homeschoolers nationally because of a potential domino effect. Also, those involved with Christian schools should be alert to this matter because if government officials gain control of homeschools they will certainly come after Christian schools next.

In 1974 West Virginia parents sounded the alarm about the war being waged against our children. Now, West Virginia is back in the forefront of the battle to control the hearts and minds of children. The side that wins this battle will win the Culture War.

Here is some related information that Dr. Shortt did not know when he composed his article. School superintendent Mrs. Marple's husband is a liberal WV Demoncrat politician. There is an obvious thread here. Consider the following excerpt from my book Protester Voices: The 1974 Textbook Tea Party.

Near the end of my career, I attended a Faculty Senate session for training in prevention of student bullying. The session was promoted by the office of the West Virginia Attorney General. An Attorney General’s office staff member was present to assist in conducting the meeting. The school principal had recruited the two faculty sponsors of the FCA as the teacher liaisons for the anti-bullying policy. The two teachers were unaware of what was under way. Early in the meeting it became obvious that the goal was to promote homosexuality. I created somewhat of a stir by pointing out the absurdity of deviant sexual behavior being considered normal. Soon thereafter, the two sponsors resigned from leading the program and the West Virginia Family Foundation fought the slick attempts to place this agenda in schools statewide. I cannot say for sure that there was a connection, but the West Virginia Attorney General cooperated with an evolutionist extremist in an attempt to have me arrested ( ) a few years later. (pg.329)

*Dr. Marple was fired on 11-15 2012. This outraged the teacher unions. “(WV Education Association president) Lee said he and Judy Hale, president of the West Virginia Federation of Teachers, will "stand together in anger" to try to make it right.

 Exodus Mandate-WV