Never ones to see an area of life that must be run by the government, leftist elitists at Harvard and other elite universities across the country have discovered a new target: homeschooling.
It shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Over the last two months, parents have had to begin schooling their children at home due to the coronavirus shutting down schools. While schools have done as much as they can to educate the students during this time, there is no question that parents have had to undertake a large amount of the educational burden they didn’t have before, and while the vast number of parents will be glad to send their kids back to schools once this crisis is over, there will be some who see this as an opportunity to move to a homeschooling model. If the rules on homeschooling remain as is, we will see more homeschooled children coming out of COVID than we had going in. This is because parents who currently homeschool won’t suddenly stop, whereas parents who have now been exposed to it may choose to start.
This, apparently, is bad. Just ask Harvard Professor Elizabeth Bartholet, who published a paper in the Arizona Law Review entitled “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protections.” In this paper, Bartholet does an amazing job of masking her argument in a series of facts and opinions, often conflating the two. For example, Bartholet sites a study showing that up to 90% of homeschoolers are of conservative Christian families. But then, she decides to discuss how some of these people are extremists, often rejecting secularism, feminism, and atheism. GASP! Many hold the of “the importance of keeping their children isolated from cultural values.” (Remember that because it will be important later.) Bartholet goes on to explain “some” of the things these parents may believe in. However, the important thing is that when she’s listing her biases against these parents, she combines them all under the umbrella of the 90%, so you are left with the idea that 90% of those homeschooled are racist, bigoted, science deniers, who only want to indoctrinate their children to their woeful ideals.
The interesting section of the paper is where Bartholet goes into outcomes. She immediately dismisses most of the research that tend to show the positive outcomes of homeschoolers, but low and behold, there is but one piece of research out there that is trustworthy, and wouldn’t you know it? It backs up exactly what Bartholet has been preaching. Bartholet dismisses the other studies on the bases of small sample size and the inability to show whether homeschooling has an overall positive or negative effect. But when she introduces what she explains the one to “provide some basis for concern,” the Cardus Education Survey, she states, “This work tells us something, but not much, relevant to the important public policy issues at stake. It does not capture the generality of the homeschooling population, because given the absence of data, it cannot. It does not provide any basis for concluding that homeschooling has a positive or negative causal impact on academic outcomes.” So this is the study you are basing your assumptions on? Okay with me.
The paper goes through a myriad of biased examples, never shedding a possible positive reason for homeschooling, and uses a number of anecdotes to prove significant points. It should come as no shock that Bartholet gave the following quote to Harvard Magazine, in a piece entitled The Risks of Homeschooling, “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.” And herein lies the motivation. You see? Bartholet and those who think like her don’t want you to have the ability to influence your children any more than they deem necessary. It’s “dangerous” if you can educate them instead of some state-certified educator that has passed a test. It’s “authoritarian” for you to have control over your child, but not for the state to have control over all the children.
Bartholet is continuing to push this idea by having Harvard Law School host a Homeschooling Summit in June to discuss the best ways to combat homeschooling. The highlight of this summit is a debate between Bartholet herself, who will be arguing the side of banning homeschooling, and Robert Kunzman and Rachel Coleman, who will be arguing the side of heavily-regulated oversight. So in case you were interested in some deep philosophical divide, you can get two narrowly differing opinions. Oh - and the debate will be moderated by William and Mary law professor James Dwyer, who is best known for his stance that “the reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood.” Yep, you read that correctly. The only reason you have children is because the state says so. This lunacy fits in perfectly with Bartholet’s idea that it’s dangerous to allow parents to parent their child exclusively for 18 years. Now I said earlier that you have the ability to hear this debate, but you don’t because obviously, a discussion so immensely important is available by invitation only in a non-disclosed location. So basically, politicians, law-makers, academic elitists, and other people who generally think they are better than you, will meet in private to determine the future of education.
But if you think this is where the fight will end, hold on to your hats. Remember, this debate is about the right to homeschool your child, but they are actually fighting for the state to be the sole decider of what education is. This fight doesn’t end with homeschooling. They were arguing against parents who are Christian Fundamentalists, who don’t believe in modern feminism, atheism, and secularism. They loathed those who hold of “the importance of keeping their children isolated from cultural values.” (I told you it would come back.) That is Yeshivos. To a lesser extent that is the Jewish day school. One of the driving reasons to send to a Jewish day school or a yeshiva is to keep our children isolated from other cultural values. Do you think these elitists who want to keep parents from being their children’s educators will stop at the homeschoolers? Please do not be so naïve. They are coming for private schools, too. Jewish schools, regardless of the academic level, are susceptible. Catholic schools, elite private schools, and even charter schools are all the eventual target, because remember: “the reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood.” And if the state wants to educate the students, there is nothing you can do to stop them. You should be grateful that the state allows you to have students at all.
You see, according to these people, the state-controlled schools are the best way for you to get an education. It doesn’t matter that American schools are consistently behind European and Asian countries. We should ignore the drug use, teenage pregnancies, and violence that goes on in public schools. Forget the fact that not all teachers who are employed are good teachers, and are only protected by the unions to which they belong, and that the good ones are often only teaching to a test. No; what’s important is that children are exposed to the pre-approved ideas of the government - for without government, I may not even be allowed to have children to educate.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.