[guest post by Dana]
With nearly 30 million kids across the U.S. currently out of school because of the pandemic, and many parents now homeschooling their children as a result, it’s interesting that Harvard Magazine would choose this moment to call for a ban on homeschooling, and denigrate parents as well:
RAPIDLY INCREASING number of American families are opting out of sending their children to school, choosing instead to educate them at home. Homeschooled kids now account for roughly 3 percent to 4 percent of school-age children in the United States, a number equivalent to those attending charter schools, and larger than the number currently in parochial schools.
Yet Elizabeth Bartholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, sees risks for children—and society—in homeschooling, and recommends a presumptive ban on the practice. Homeschooling, she says, not only violates children’s right to a “meaningful education” and their right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.
But let’s hear from Bartholet herself, just to be sure she is this self-deceived:
She argues that one benefit of sending children to school at age four or five is that teachers are “mandated reporters,” required to alert authorities to evidence of child abuse or neglect. “Teachers and other school personnel constitute the largest percentage of people who report to Child Protective Services,” she explains, whereas not one of the 50 states requires that homeschooling parents be checked for prior reports of child abuse. Even those convicted of child abuse, she adds, could “still just decide, ‘I’m going to take my kids out of school and keep them at home.’”
Bartholet apparently hasn’t taken the time to research the rates of abuse in public schools, and doesn’t realize that sexual abuse of students does take place in public schools, and at an alarming rate in which “an estimated 10% of K–12 students will experience sexual misconduct by a school employee by the time they graduate from high school.”
Sexual abuse of students happens in public schools, and at the hands of teachers or those in charge. And it is not unusual for it to go on year after year after year, until finally the horrible deeds are exposed. Powerful teachers unions are designed to protect all teachers – even the bad apples – and it can make it extraordinarily difficult to remove said bad apples. But by all means, let’s point to home schools as festering pustules of child abuse, and ignore the magnitude of problems in the public schools.
And of course Bartholet mischaracterizes Christianity as a whole in an effort to convince readers that parents do not have their children’s best interests at heart:
In a paper published recently in the Arizona Law Review, she notes that parents choose homeschooling for an array of reasons. Some find local schools lacking or want to protect their child from bullying. Others do it to give their children the flexibility to pursue sports or other activities at a high level. But surveys of homeschoolers show that a majority of such families (by some estimates, up to 90 percent) are driven by conservative Christian beliefs, and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture. Bartholet notes that some of these parents are “extreme religious ideologues” who question science and promote female subservience and white supremacy.
Bartholet extols the state as being the only entity capable of producing sufficiently educated and well-rounded children that will grow up to be productive members of society:
She views the absence of regulations ensuring that homeschooled children receive a meaningful education equivalent to that required in public schools as a threat to U.S. democracy. “From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” she says. This involves in part giving children the knowledge to eventually get jobs and support themselves. “But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” she says, noting that European countries such as Germany ban homeschooling entirely and that countries such as France require home visits and annual tests.
Bartholet’s misguided view of the state is stunning. Yet unsurprising. Of course she believes that parents are incapable of providing meaningful education for their children, and that only the state has that capability. Stupid parents, know your place! Moreover, that she actually believes that homeschooling families live under a rock, their children-students will remain unexposed to the world around them. Parent can’t possibly impart any meaningful values to their children, especially parents of the Christian faith. So ignorant is she, that she doesn’t realize that the Christian book of guidance on how one is to live, explicitly instructs the Christian parent to actively love their neighbor while they steer and guide their children toward becoming productive members of society.
Finally, Bartholet nuttily claims that it is dangerous for parents to act with a sense of duty and responsibility toward their children 24/7 because that would be exerting too much power over them. But the all-powerful state asserting its control and influence over your children is A-OK:
Bartholet maintains that parents should have “very significant rights to raise their children with the beliefs and religious convictions that the parents hold.” But requiring children to attend schools outside the home for six or seven hours a day, she argues, does not unduly limit parents’ influence on a child’s views and ideas. “The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous,” Bartholet says. “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”
Harvard should be embarrassed to promote the dangerously misguided ideas that Bartholet espouses. Clearly she has spent no time with homeschooling families across America. Bartholet has such a warped view of parenting that it makes me hope she doesn’t have children of her own upon whom to foist this crap. And the irony is that it is precisely because of her demonstrated lack of analysis and critical thinking skills that many parents are now opting to school their children at home.
Here are a few telling comments from the article:
This is, by far, the most vapid and poorly researched article I’ve ever read. I am a public educator. Children in public schools are penned in for 8-9 hours a day with MAYBE a 20 minute recess built in with another 25 minutes for lunch. Time is constantly wasted trying to corral and transition from one arbitrary class to another. They MAYBE experience 1 or 2 field trips a year. Homeschool children, on the other hand, are often doing their school outside. They are active. They are given specialized instruction instead of a one size fits all curriculum. Field trips take place as often as they want, many once a week or more. When a child is sick, they don’t miss instruction. They are given the time to recuperate and pick up where they left off. Co-ops offer group learning atmospheres where they can learn from specialized experts in certain fields. When a child masters a concept, they can move forward instead of sitting around waiting for their peers. When a child is struggling, they can slow down without feeling like they are holding everyone back or worse being forced to just trudge ahead without the skill. Children have more time to participate in activities like 4H, music lessons, team sports, and internships since their life is not dictated by a government institution. Furthermore, homeschool students outperform public school students on the ACT, SAT, and in areas of college readiness. They are better at discussions, better at asking questions and providing analysis.This idea that homeschool children are isolated and under authoritarian rule is antiquated and shows a lack of research by this author. Public schools dictate the way a child should dress, the way a child behaves, the way a child eats, the way they play, and the way a child should learn. They dictate who gets to be successful and who gets left behind. They funnel children into groups based upon arbitrary quantifiers of potential. They dictate the number of hours a child must sit. They dictate what a child should say. They dictate what days are school days and what days are for family. The public school system literally has control of a child and his family from age 5-18. And you say they provide freedom? Absolutely tone deaf and an embarrassment to this publication.
I was homeschooled from pre-K through highschool graduation. Went to college and got double degrees. Homeschooling is amazing. The kindest, most intelligent people I know were homeschooled. I loved it. Every other homeschooler I’ve known/met loves/loved it. Way to intolerantly attack a minority group here though.
Amusingly, the illustration that accompanies the opinion is illuminating. It resorts to a manipulative and dishonest view that homeschoolers are sad and miserable as they are stuck inside their homes, enviously watching happy public school children play outside. Of course, the illustrator and editors could have benefited from being homeschooled, where unlimited time would have been provided to allow them to master any subject – including the spelling of basic words:
At the beginning of my post, I pointed out that it’s unusual timing to publish a hit piece on homeschooling, given the multitude of parents currently homeschooling their children. But really, the timing isn’t unusual – because what better time to shames parents and point out their ineptitude while promoting public education as the end-all-be-all. Ask yourself, what happens if a large number of these new homeschooling parents decide that this is working out for them, as they see that their kids are happier, less stressed, allow time to work at their own pace, and enjoying more outdoor play? What happens if these parents decide to stick with homeschooling after the pandemic is behind us? If we follow the money, who stands to lose the most if parents take this route?
P.S. I shared the article with a neighbor who has taught for 30+ years, and asked her what she thought. She was upset by Bartholet’s lack of cited research, and said: “I think it’s somebody on their soapbox, thinking that the university that they represent will carry the weight of credibility…I would probably promote homeschooling to any parent that would take it on. Back in the day, teaching [in public school] used to be a great job. Now it’s just a broken system, and a shell game at the kids’ expense.”