Homeschooling Under Attack By Harvard Magazine

Homeschooling Under Attack By Harvard Magazine

Homeschooling Under Attack By Harvard Magazine

Like millions of other parents across the United States, and across the world, I find myself suddenly homeschooling my own children.

Jokes about firing the teacher or suspending kids aside, this is a tough and tense moment for those millions of parents who are now solely responsible for their child’s education. Support varies district by district, and I won’t even get into what this has done to special needs students in this post (that’s a topic for another day). While people can have honest disagreements about what model of education is best – be it public, private, or homeschooling – the American model has mostly fundamentally agreed that parental choice is supreme. As parents, we have the freedom to choose what kind of alternative education we pursue for our children, away from the default state of public school.

Harvard Magazine decided that this moment was the PERFECT time to take a gigantic shit on homeschooling parents. Author Erin O’Donnell decided write a piece on Elizabeth Bartholet, a “professor” who knows the best way to handle child education, and that is to turn them over to the State, immediately. Her rationale? Parents are simply too stupid to educate children without the state looking over their shoulder.

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.”

“We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling,” Bartholet asserts. All 50 states have laws that make education compulsory, and state constitutions ensure a right to education, “but if you look at the legal regime governing homeschooling, there are very few requirements that parents do anything.” Even apparent requirements such as submitting curricula, or providing evidence that teaching and learning are taking place, she says, aren’t necessarily enforced. Only about a dozen states have rules about the level of education needed by parents who homeschool, she adds. “That means, effectively, that people can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves.” In another handful of states, parents are not required to register their children as homeschooled; they can simply keep their kids at home.”

This practice, Bartholet says, can isolate children. 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 goes on to cite an example of one woman, who was raised by “Idaho survivalists” and was working in the family business instead of getting an education. Conveniently, while lauding “teachers and other school personnel” as mandated reporters, Bartholet fails to cite or even acknowledge that there is plenty of child abuse that happens on school property, by school employees, and maybe there are just evil people who do evil things to children because they have the opportunity to do so. Giving someone the title of “mandated reporter” does not magically make them into an upstanding citizen and defender of children.

Bartholet – and by extension, O’Donnell – makes no rational argument against homeschooling. It’s only her gut feeling that if the nanny state isn’t over the shoulder, trying to mold “young skulls full of mush” (as Rush Limbaugh has said more than once) into educated and functional adults, then there could be shenanigans afoot! Why, these children might end up RELIGIOUS. *GASP!*
The illustration that accompanied the article contained an intentional slam on homeschooling, and an unintentional fail on the part of the illustrator and editors.

Whoops. Maybe someone spent their time drawing while they should have been learning to spell. But maybe the illustrator was homeschooled, so that would make it understandable, right?

Lazy, bigoted, and badly constructed arguments aside, Harvard Magazine ought to be ashamed of themselves. This was published in their May-June 2020 edition. Learn to read the room, people! Millions of parents right now, through NO choice of their own, are homeschooling! Public and private schools have been forcibly CLOSED by local governments, and if you think that what can be provided remotely to students via online conferences, homework packets, and websites can rise to the level of in-person teaching for all kids, then you are mistaken.

Some children can thrive in that environment, and undoubtedly some parents are learning if their child is suddenly thriving. Conversely, some kids are not cut out for independent, online school. Trust me when I say that parents are learning what they are capable of as well. Maybe this homeschooling experiment is working out okay for them. Maybe it’s going horribly. Maybe the parent is a designated “essential worker” at the same time that they are supposed to be making sure that their child is learning as well. Even teachers are struggling to educate their own kids and teach an online class at the same time! There are just too many variables, family by family, to insist that one model fits all. After this is all over, there are going to be some parents who decide that homeschooling is for them. There are going to be a lot of parents who will send their kids back to a building, be it public or private. But we, as parents, are given A CHOICE.

Right now, the homeschooling is not by choice, and those who aren’t used to it are struggling with it. So of course we need a dictatorial scolding by a “professor” about how all of this is bad, and we should feel bad about it, and then Harvard Magazine should DEFINITELY publish it in the middle of a pandemic with school closures and “stay at home orders” – which means no socializing, which Elizabeth Bartholet argues is also very very bad for homeschooled kids. Before this went to print, did Erin O’Donnell bother to ask Bartholet for a comment about the current situation, or did the editors simply decide to leave them both out to dry by printing the piece exactly how it was, RIGHT NOW? It doesn’t really matter. Bartholet’s imperiously snotty take was always going to be hot garbage. It’s just that all parents right now happen to be in the boat that she wishes to sink. Let’s all wave at her and yell two words – and they aren’t “help me.”

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  • Politically Ambidextrous says:

    I’ve always considered the objectives of education are 1) to teach our kids how to succeed in the world, and 2) how to contribute to making the world a better place (even if that just means avoiding the mistakes of the past). All parents have this responsibility to their children. The wise ones make use of all available & suitable resources. The world and its opportunities & dangers are far greater than any single person’s (or family’s) experience.

    Homeschooling, private schools, and public schools each have their own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations. The opportunity they have in common is the most important, and that’s to teach children how to continue to learn. The world is forever changing.

    As to curriculum and associated priorities, that’s much trickier to address. So much depends on how a parent defines ‘success’ and what a ‘better world’ means.

    “Indoctrination is just education with which I disagree.”

    • LP says:

      I know many families who are now aware of the garbage their kids are learning in public school. Some families were even pro common core in the beginning but are very opposed to it now. They feel their kids haven’t learned a thing even remotely productive. They sure have learned some other garbage they weren’t emotionally ready for though.

      I homeschool to give my children the chance to become free thinkers. They will not be taught to become radical Marxist who are supposed to blindly believe what they are told they are capable of. My kids are not blind sheep! My kids will have the freedom to think what they want because it is their own thoughts and feelings. When I was in K-12 school, we were encouraged to be free thinkers. Now a free thinker is shunned and made to feel stupid because they are not blind sheep.

      Yes, our family is born again Christian. If my children in the future want to investigate another religion, then I wouldn’t stop them. They will become their own pepole one day and need to decide for themselves at one point how they want to live their lives. My job as a parent is to educate and guide as best as I can and trust them to become independent, free thinking individuals as an adult.

    • GWB says:

      So much depends on how a parent defines ‘success’ and what a ‘better world’ means.
      Not really so much. Basic education is very simple to define and to achieve.

      “Indoctrination is just education with which I disagree.”
      Baloney. “Teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically.” “to often repeat an idea or belief to someone until they accept it without criticism or question.” Yes, the older definition is often “To instruct in the rudiments or principles of learning.” But the former are what we mean when saying that public schools are often centers of indoctrination, instead of actual learning.

      • Politically Ambidextrous says:

        “Basic education is very simple to define and to achieve” – I agree, the challenge is that different people define it differently – primarily because of the “values” and “societal” elements. Few folks disagree with the “mechanical” elements, e.g. arithmetic (despite the disastrous lack of proficiency of many current students & graduates). Science is a frontier.

        “They accept it without criticism or question” – Some religious traditions consider their holy books in exactly this way. And some of those are homeschoolers.

        (I wish I knew how to do the cool formatting, e.g. italics that you do.)

        • GWB says:

          Few folks disagree with the “mechanical” elements, e.g. arithmetic
          That’s sorta my point.

          Science is a frontier.
          Huh? Based on the next bit, all I can figure from this is that you’re repeating the trope that bunches of Christians are anti-science, and they homeschool so they can keep their kids away from those dangerous evolutionists.

          Sorry, but that’s just not true. The number of people homeschooling who are anti-science is minimal. And those folks still exist in public school. And, of course, there’s the fact that most graduates of public institutions nowadays seem to not understand science and end up treating it as a religious totem (instead of a method for finding out answers to certain questions). I (and others) call that “scientism”. Which – despite all the blather about freedom from religion – IS the official religion of most state-run schools.

          If that’s not what you meant, then I apologize.

          And some of those are homeschoolers.
          And the rest of them are in public and private schools. Because pretty much every religion treats their holy books that way*. And there really aren’t any who are truly without religion..

          (* While some religions do allow or encourage critical thinking concerning their doctrines, not a single one actually allows for heretics to upend things. At least not without forcing them out into a separate denomination or branch. Not on the doctrines that matter to them. Rationalism is no exception.)

          As to the formatting: simply place the desired formatting inside standard html alligator brackets (< and >), and a closing tag (with a “/”) where you want to stop the formatting. Italics is “em”, bold is “strong”, and a big block of indented text is “blockquote”. (Blockquote renders differently depending on the version of browser and the framework a website uses. I no longer use it since WordPress decided it needed a LOT more vertical room than it used to. It makes my long rants even longer.)

          So, <em>italics</em> should render as italics.
          (There’s a cheat for getting the brackets to show up, but I’m keeping that one to myself. 😉 )

        • GWB says:

          One other interpretation I see of “Science is a frontier,” is the idea that only a competent science teacher can keep up with what’s going on in the realms of science as they constantly change.

          Well, that’s baloney, too. What is taught in K-12 science is almost never cutting edge science. It’s basic, fundamental stuff. So, still not an issue with defining what needs to be taught by homeschoolers.

          One last note: if it’s that hard to define what should be learned, then how do public schools determine it? Easy – it’s determined by bureaucrats. Most states have published learning benchmarks. Every single homeschool curriculum I’ve seen documents their learning benchmarks. Every standardized testing scheme has published benchmarks. They’re all pretty similar. (Most disagreements are over which bit of history should be learned in what grade, and how early algebra should be introduced.)

        • Politically Ambidextrous says:

          The frontier I was referring to was where science becomes probabilistic, and the associated uncertainty transcends into the religious domain. I see this frontier as something that is constantly changing. Various belief communities engage this frontier differently. Some consider their beliefs as a means to accept or explain the uncertainty, others as a means to influence or control the uncertainty, and many switch-hit, depending on the circumstances. This is why I wrote that science is a frontier.

          In K-12 science this comes up in biology (or life science), in genetics as I remember.

          Sure, there are a few people who consider “fossils are puzzle pieces placed by Satan to confuse and tempt us”, just as there are a few people who consider “people are no different than animals (if not worse)”. These two groups likely will always consider the other’s “education” as “indoctrination” and anything in the middle as an “unacceptable compromise.”

          The challenge to the rest of us is to teach our children our approach to this frontier while respecting the different approaches others choose for themselves and their children. Freedom of religion is not freedom from religion.

    • Mom5Boys says:

      I agree with you, Politically Ambidextrous….Homeschooling, private schools, and public schools each have their own strengths, weaknesses, and limitations.
      Furthermore, I am appalled at the mere opinions reported in the Harvard article. I am a proud homeschool mom of 12 years now. We have 5 boys. While some kids have suffered unfortunate conditions from negligent parents, it is far from legit to assume all or most of the homeschool community falls into this “at risk” category. As a homeschool mom, I have had the awesome opportunity to observe and learn how each of my children learn best and am able to accommodate their individual learning styles in ways no traditional school would be willing or able to. I believe children can and should be able to learn by playing and interacting with the world around them. Far more opportunistic than the traditional “sit at a desk or computer for 8 hours every day”. My children are allowed to learn through movement instead of being forced to sit at a desk all day. There are parts of our day where they have to sit still but for the most part, children need to be able to express themselves through movement and should be allowed to learn by (safely) exploring their environment. Prior to the pandemic, we had weekly library outings and monthly field trips, park visits, etc. We have continued our at home morning exercise program throughout the pandemic. I am extremely thankful for my God-given and constitutional right to learn along side my children as I fulfill my duties as a Christian parent to protect my children from the potentially harmful material pushed by public schools while giving them the tools they need to become strong, independent, thoughtful, courageous and full of Godly character adults. As far as parents being incapable of teaching their own children… I was an average student, graduating highschool with a 3.8 GPA but in all honesty, I h as ve le as rend far more teaching my children st home than I can even remember learning in my own grade school years. In paraphrase, the Bible says we should never become unteachable. To become unteachavle is foolish. Our home school motto is: Learn to love & love to learn. So to say the parent or guardian who God entrusted the child to in the first place is typically incompetent and should not be allowed to teach their own child is just absurd. I pray continued protection over our rights as parents to train our children in the way they should go for when they are old they will not part from it.

  • Old NFO says:

    Excellent points, and one that is NOT raised in the article is that parents are now finding out what the kids are actually being taught… Which is NOT going over well from what I hear from friends with high school aged kids.

  • Lloyd says:

    Generally, I choose to ignore anything coming out of Harvard. Harvard elitists are generally completely out of touch with real Americans…!!!

  • adomeir says:

    When I was growing up, I learned how to spell arithmetic which in today’s society would cast me to the wolves – “A Red Indian Thought He Might Eat Tobacco In Church”.

  • bevo says:

    Just what we need another lawyer messing with something she does not understand.

  • David says:

    Coincidentally, the “skulls full of mush” quote comes from the film The Paper Chase, a story of first year law students at, you guessed it, Harvard Law School. Full circle.

  • This is the tip of the Left’s attack on marriage, the nuclear family, and parental custodianship of minor children. It’s been going on since Marx himself. Only when Junior Citizen is “educated” entirely by the Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnibenevolent State, safely isolated from any competing sources of moral guidance, will the Left’s Utopia take its ultimate form. Homeschooling is the antipodes of that vision, and thus represents the Left’s worst nightmare. That homeschooled kids tend to excel over their State-schooled coevals is only icing on the cake.

    • GWB says:

      One – here’s the source – even suggested that it was only the gov’t that put parents in relationship to their kids, in the first place. Yeah, leaving out that whole “made them” and “birthed them” bit. (BTW, that’s also related to Harvard and homeschooling.)

      These people are too damn educated to be left out in the general populace. I suggest we find somewhere we can lock them all up together so they can combine their brain power and show us all the way………..

  • Bandit says:

    They’ve got it assbackwards – it’s the home schooled kid who’s not in prison.

  • Timmy says:

    Best 2nd grader I ever had was homeschooled for K-1. And she started 5 weeks late due to family vacation.

  • Henry says:

    “one woman, who was raised by “Idaho survivalists” and was working in the family business instead of getting an education.”

    You mean, she wasn’t spending her allowance getting her skin perforated, agonizing over which rest room to use, and accruing a respectable juvenile record, all the while learning the truth about how evil all people are who share her skin color?

    What shocking child abuse!

  • […] An article in Harvard Magazine draws heavy fire from people who do not automatically demand to speak to the manager: […]

  • GWB says:

    the American model has mostly fundamentally agreed that parental choice is supreme
    Not really. The progressive model (which is the basis of widespread public education in the US) is most assuredly NOT,/em> one of parental choice. It’s why truancy laws exist. It’s why homeschooling is very seldom an act you can undertake without some sort of notification of the school system (and often requiring their permission).

    children’s right to a “meaningful education”
    Ummmm… where might you point to that that right is enumerated?

    right to be protected from potential child abuse
    And, if your answer is to ban children from the places where they might be potentially abused, then… well, you’re going to have to kill them in the womb. Oh, wait….

    may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society
    Well, I expect homeschoolers to 1) not use “democratic society” as shorthand for a free society and a republican form of government unless they designate it so, 2) understand civics better than almost any public school student, and 3) provide a more positive contribution than 90% of public school students.

    an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling
    Except in maybe one or two states that is an unmitigated LIE. Even in Virginia* we were required to report standardized test results to show that our child was actually getting an education, or a portfolio evaluation. (Most homeschoolers without special needs score up in the 90th percentile on everything, iirc, with I think a 60th percentile required.) Most require some sort of curriculum approval. Some require that you make yourself a private school, licensed by the state. So, that’s a particularly vile untruth, only fit to be spread about a garden with gloved hands.

    aren’t necessarily enforced
    That isn’t a problem with homeschooling, but with the government whom you desire to be in charge of schooling. Hmmmmmm….

    who’ve never gone to school themselves
    Given the requirement for school attendance in every state for the last 50 years, how are you going to find those parents that have never gone to school themselves? And most states do require a modicum of schooling: in VA you have to be a high school graduate, OR you have to get approval. And, honestly, if you graduated HS, why couldn’t you teach elementary through high school topics to your own kids? Part of the “professional” lie the education establishment has fed the public for decades.

    In another handful of states, parents are not required to register their children as homeschooled
    I think “handful” is an exaggeration.

    can isolate children
    Time for that hoariest of homeschooler jokes….
    Homeschooling dad speaking with neighbor dad, and the neighbor dad says “Aren’t you worried about socialization?”
    Homeschool dad replies, “You know, I used to. Then I started beating my son up and taking his lunch money before I left for work each day. I don’t worry about the socialization anymore.”
    All the homeschoolers in my area were very well socialized through co-ops, sports, and neighborhood friendships.

    required to alert authorities to evidence of child abuse or neglect
    And that never gets abused, right? *eyeroll*

    not one of the 50 states requires that homeschooling parents be checked for prior reports of child abuse
    That is another bald-faced lie. Patently untrue.

    could “still just decide”
    Again, only in those very few states that don’t require any sort of notification or approval. Otherwise, that’s a lie.

    plenty of child abuse
    Wow, and that’s without even touching on all the women teachers having sex with their (mostly) male students. That seems to be an epidemic in the last several years.

    The illustration that accompanied the article
    I laughed SO hard at that! (Instapundit says they’ve now fixed the illustration, btw. Hah!)

    if you think that what can be provided remotely to students via online conferences, homework packets, and websites can rise to the level of in-person teaching for all kids, then you are mistaken
    Amen. However, the amount of time needed for personal attention is not as huge as some parents think. Kids are pretty good learners if you actually encourage them, give them good things to learn, and learn to combine areas of study (such as bundling math, science, writing in a fun experiment).

    parents are learning what they are capable of as well
    Unfortunately a lot of them are probably stressed beyond imagination because they’ve swallowed the lie that they’re too stupid or lack the proper education to school their child. That’s the biggest obstacle homeschool evangelists have to overcome: the idea that you need a professional advanced education to teach your kids readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmetic. A lot of those parents are capable of more than they think.

    But we, as parents, are given A CHOICE.
    This, along with squelching the lie that “Parents are too stoopid to educate their kids”, is what has to happen.
    I’m hoping the newly invigorated distrust of experts extends to “educators” and more parents figure out “Hey, maybe I don’t need the village government to raise my child!”

    (* Virginia does have a “religious exemption” for homeschooling. If you state that your religious beliefs actually prevent you from placing your children in public school, you have the rules waived for you. But, they will want you to show that your religious beliefs actually require that. And yes, they get pushback on “requiring” that.)

    (Hoo boy, another really long comment by me. Sorry. But her lies about homeschooling just really chap my hide.)

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