Almost overnight, millions of American parents discovered that they are what they never planned to be—homeschoolers.
It is ironic, therefore, that Harvard Magazine decided to run an article entitled, “The Risks of Homeschooling.” The author of the article is Erin O’Donnell, but the main figure behind the ideological thrust of the story is Elizabeth Bartholet, the Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Faculty Director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program.
At first glance, the article would be expected to address “risks” involved in homeschooling. As it turns out, that is not really the aim of the story at all—instead, it launches a full broad side against homeschooling, basically calling for its abolition. It recommends a complete transformation of American law and morality, and the effective nullification of parental authority in the name of “children’s rights.” This chilling argument deserves our attention.
O’Donnell begins the article, “A rapidly increasing number of American families are opting out of sending their children to school, choosing instead to educate them at home.” To be clear, the generating force behind this increase is not the COVID-19 crisis. Instead, O’Donnell argues that, all things normal, there has been an increase in the number of children being homeschooled—an increase she views as a threat. She writes, “Homeschooled kids now account for roughly 3 to 4% of school aged children in the United States.” That number is equivalent, she tells us, to the number of children attending charter schools and larger than the number of children enrolled in parochial schools.
Then she introduces Professor Bartholet, who, “sees risks for children—and society—in homeschooling and recommends a presumptive ban on the practice.” O’Donnell, in summarizing Bartholet’s argument, stated: “Homeschooling not only violates children’s rights to a ‘meaningful education’ and the right to be protected from potential child abuse, but may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society. We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling.” O’Donnell also commented, “All 50 states have laws that make education compulsory and state constitutions ensure a right to education”—but, according to Bartholet, “If you look at the legal regime governing homeschooling, there are very few requirements that parents do anything.”
Professor Bartholet argues for the importance of children to go to school so that, “mandated reporters, teachers in particular,” can observe their development. She states, “Teachers and other school personnel constitute the largest percentage of people who report to Child Protective Services.” The most important issue she cites, however, is ideological. As O’Donnell tells us, in a recent paper published in the Arizona Law Review, Professor Bartholet “notes that parents choose homeschooling for an array of reasons. Some find 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%) are driven by conservative Christian beliefs and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture.” The next statement by the professor is key, as she argues that many homeschooling parents are, “extreme religious ideologues,” who apparently question science, promote female subservience, and also white supremacy.
O’Donnell summarizes, “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.” Professor Bartholet indicts homeschooling as a sector of American culture threatening the American experiment in democracy.
Indeed, Bartholet says that homeschoolers have become an incredibly powerful political force. That is undoubtedly true. Bartholet states that parents do have, “very significant rights to raise their children with the beliefs and religious convictions that parents hold.” But, she also argues that “requiring children to attend schools outside the home for six or seven hours a day does not unduly limit parents’ influence on a child’s views and issues.” Professor Bartholet argues, “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.” The professor went on to say, “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless and to give the powerful ones total authority.” Don’t miss what the professor is arguing. She’s stating that our democratic values are endangered by a nation that respects parental authority, where parents actually exercise authority in the lives of their children.
Indeed, the forces behind a revolution of Western societies know that the natural family stands as its greatest obstacle. Any attempt to reshape society must capture the hearts and minds of children and subvert the role of parents within its society.
Yet, even within public schools the forces of secularization meet at least three major barriers that thwart their agenda. The first is local control over schools, which means that individual communities have had a lot of say in the curriculum of schools and hiring policy. The second major obstacle to the progressivist agenda in public schools comes from the teachers and administrators, who are drawn from the local community. That means that a school in Alabama will have teachers who reflect Alabama. The same goes for teachers in Manhattan and anywhere across the country.
The largest obstacle for progressivists in the public schools comes from the significant parental rights exercised in the local school system and in deciding where their children will go for their education.
The bias against Christianity and Christian parents is reflected in this article not only in the text and timing, but also in the art that accompanies the article, illustrated by Robert Neubecker. It shows children outside of home shaped like books for the wall and an opened book on top as the roof. The spines of the book that make up the exterior wall of the home say, “reading,” “writing,” “arithmetic,” and “Bible.” Outside of the book-shaped-home are children playing joyfully and having what appears to be a good time. Pictured inside the house, however, is another child who, with a solemn face, looks outside from behind a window with prison bars. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
A. Mohler, Jf