Liberal educators fear parents might get involved in countering leftist brainwashing.
By S.T. Patrick
What we now know is that when a country is in the midst of creating pandemic policy, all issues, new and old, are back on the table. While some look to regain what has been lost for months in America, others strive to create their own new world order of sorts, a world mirroring their own political ideologies and pet causes. Elizabeth Bartholet, a public interest law professor at Harvard, has taken up the charge to put homeschooling in the deep pocket of government-controlled activities. She is advocating for an immediate ban on the practice, with every parent then having to re-justify to the government their reasons for homeschooling. The government will then decide if the parent is justified and competent to homeschool.
Bartholet, whose paper “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education and Protection” was published in the Arizona Law Review, laments the idea that “parents can now keep their children at home in the name of homeschooling, free from any real scrutiny as to whether or how they are educating their children.” Bartholet claims that homeschooling isolates children from ideas and values important in democracy. The parents’ aim, then, is to “keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives.” In short, Bartholet is claiming that parents homeschool their children to create a permanent dependence upon and adherence to the parents’ own lifestyle and ideology, to brainwash the children into becoming miniature versions of their parents.
What are these dangerous ideas that the parents are hoping to pass down to their children? According to Bartholet, “Many [parents] promote racial segregation and female subservience. Many question science. Abusive parents can keep their children at home free from the risk that teachers will report them to child protection services. Some homeschool precisely for this reason.”
Bartholet is appalled that children are not in an environment where reporting their parents to authorities is encouraged. In an interview with Harvard Magazine, Bartholet explained further, “Teachers and other school personnel constitute the largest percentage of people who report to Child Protective Services.” How can we depend upon children to report on their parents’ questionable activities and forthcoming abuse if the teachers don’t have day-long access to the children?
Bartholet strongly believes in regulating the practice of homeschooling, thus creating a structure by which a state or federal department of education will control the lessons, as well as the ideology. Freedom from regulation, she argues, is anti-democratic. “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. I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.” Bartholet does not seem to have an issue with a state or federal government serving as an authoritarian over education, however. That is a fear of Kerry McDonald, the author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom.
“She is concerned with families having this power, while I worry about giving that power to government,” McDonald wrote in a response to Bartholet’s paper and the Harvard Magazine interview. McDonald also criticizes Bartholet’s claim that 90% of homeschoolers are “driven by conservative Christian beliefs.” Bartholet has a faith in the current mainstream culture that many conservatives do not share. That is true. Some do homeschool as a preference to educate from outside the current cultural standards and fads. Mc-Donald argues that the correct number of homeschooling parents identifying as Christian hovers somewhere around 65%, which is closer to current societal numbers than Bartholet’s claim of 90%.
Bartholet’s real issues—beyond favoring government control of society— are that she believes homeschooled children will turn out to be the epitome of cartoonish conservative stereotypes: racist, sexist, intolerant, snake-handling Pentecostal Trump supporters. Not only does that not consider the large number of left-leaning homeschoolers who favor the popular trend of “unschooling” (educating through life experience and travel rather than classroom settings), studies also show that it’s an inaccurate premise.
McDonald wrote, “Research on homeschoolers finds that they are tightly connected with their larger community and may have more community involvement and participation in extracurricular and volunteer activities than schooled children due to their more flexible schedules and interaction with a wide assortment of community members.”
Homeschooling has transformed from a practice employed by parents with an axe to grind against the local school district to a valued and well-organized alternative to public education. In many states, homeschooled students outperform publicly and privately educated students and begin college sooner. Of course, every parent and every child is unique, as are every teacher and every public school. No two situations are exactly alike. Homeschooling is a valuable part of the American education system, especially compared to the more standard, rote educational practices that are encouraged in the classrooms by state boards. It is because of that freedom that parents can now be what great classroom instructors used to be—constructors of curricula that fit their own regions, needs, economic backgrounds, interests, and personalities.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected] He is also an occasional contributor to TBR history magazine and the current managing editor of Deep Truth Journal (DTJ), a new conspiracy-focused publication available from the AFP Online Store.