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Education Reporter

From Crayons to Condoms: The Ugly Truth about America's Public Schools, editors Steve Baldwin and Karen Holgate, WND Books 2008, 264 pages, $25.95

"You're the only parent who has ever complained." That's the refrain running through the stories of faddish methods, biased curricula, pornographic assignments, and invasive surveys related in From Crayons to Condoms.

Public school administrators sometimes try to shame parents out of their efforts to change the system for the better. Students, too, who raise objections end up ostracized by teachers and peers. But as this book shows, you are not the only student or parent with complaints against these trends. Parents, students, and teachers all speak up in From Crayons to Condoms about their worst experiences with the public school bureaucracy.

Only a few of these dozens of stories have ever appeared in the media. They are the experiences of average people in average school districts, and as such, they reveal the extent of the problem as well as the prevalence of families' frustration.

"I send my children to school for an education, not for social programs, risk surveys, or 'preventive maintenance,'" writes Linda Rice, a parent whose children were subjected to invasive surveys, endless group work, and one ineffective prevention and awareness program after another.

The book affirms there are many good teachers in the public schools, and many teachers and administrators who don't attempt to overstep their role in students' lives. Others, however, repeatedly infringe on the integrity of the family by taking over as children's amateur psychologists, preachers of a secular world view, and the deciders of what children need to know about sex, death and suicide, and other sensitive topics.

"Legislators have given schools this power," the editors remind us. "They assume that with the breakdown of the family, all students are at-risk and in need of government intervention." Many legislators and educators believe that "they are the ones that need to step in and make all these sick children well."

The book concludes with a chapter on "What Can Parents Do?" Especially useful is the "school checklist" of almost 100 questions to ask about a school's instructional practices and philosophy. Most of these questions apply also to private school instruction and even homeschooling, and can help parents discern the strengths and weaknesses of their children's school.

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