Kommissar Bartholet of Harvard Casts Her Jaundiced Eye on Homeschooling
Not unsurprisingly, a Harvard law professor has recommended banning homeschooling. Elizabeth Bartholet recently called for a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden of justifying this method of education resting on the parents, who would have to obtain the permission of the state. She says homeschooling gives parents absolute power over their children, which is against state laws and the Constitution and violates children's human rights. What is fascinating is how she attacks the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their beliefs, savages conservative Christians who have refused to kowtow to liberal shibboleths that these parents wish to protect their children from, and disparages the quality of education the children receive.
Bartholet contends that the parental right to educate children at home allows parents to deny children a meaningful education and leads to abuse and mistreatment. Rational and normal individuals, including parents, agree that children do need an education and should not be genuinely abused or malnourished. It is here that definitions matter, because the education she desires that all children receive is steeped in secular liberalism, while her examples of abuse extend so far as to spanking.
The education and moral upbringing of homeschoolers is her real concern.
The United States system of public education is barely adequate in most areas, excellent in a few, and abysmal in others. Charter schools and homeschooling provide avenues for parents to obtain the rigorous education they desire for their children. However, Bartholet wrote in her article that when parents homeschool:
Society loses out as well. Homeschooling presents both academic concerns and democratic concerns[.] ... Even homeschooling parents capable of satisfying the academic function of education are not likely to be capable of satisfying the democratic function.
To summarize, homeschoolers pose a threat because they are not forced to obtain social skills and mainstream values.
It is a common misconception that homeschoolers do not have opportunities to socialize with others. They are able to do so by participating in numerous church activities, the local 4-H or Future Business Leaders of America, and the local parks and recreation sports teams. Many homeschoolers join homeschool cooperatives for speech and debate, science and math classes, etc.
Bartholet's concern with homeschooled children's exposure to the larger society is not so they may attain a familiarity with how people live on the farms of Kansas and Nebraska, the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, or the ranches of Big Sky Country. No, she is afraid that parents want to raise their children to have "views and values that are in serious conflict with [the] culture." The views she has in question include looking to the Bible to explain the world, which she invidiously coupled in the same sentence with a disbelief in the scientific method. Perhaps she is unaware that people who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture at the same time think God created a rational universe that operates according to the laws of nature and that these laws are discoverable through man's reason (science). Faith in Scripture does not preclude the use of reason to understand the world around us. Bartholet's view of education is entirely secular and mainstream.
It is staggering how Bartholet overestimates the success of public schools in teaching students social skills, how to work as a team, and how to attain academic or professional success.
What Bartholet really disapproves of is not the different level of participation in the community or the academic success of students, but the thought that somewhere out there, a mother who has given up a second career is staying home to teach Johnny not only how to read and write, but that God created him with a purpose and that therefore he will have to live his life a certain way in order to honor his Creator.
The reality of homeschooling is that most families strive to provide a quality education in a safe environment. This usually requires the mother give up her career and the family a second income (goodbye, fancy vacations). They must also pay taxes for a public school education they are not receiving, and on top of this, must then pay for their own school supplies as well as any athletic or enrichment activities they want for their children. The reality, contra Bartholet, is one of sacrifice.
Bartholet's solution (a presumptive ban on homeschooling) is a threat to parental rights, religious liberty, and pluralism. Her solution denies parents' right to raise their children in a manner consistent with their beliefs while destroying any area for thought that does not comply with the mainstream culture found in public schools. The fact that she turns to Europe, in particular Germany, with its long history of autocratic and bureaucratic rule, as an example for America should be troubling.
Bartholet's proposed ban is an affront to parental rights and children's well-being. It should be resisted by those who wish to protect their children, their liberty, and their ability to attain a quality education in a safe environment for their children consistent with their most cherished beliefs.