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.
Harvard Magazine has a cover story on the dangers of home schooling and suggest a presumptive ban. In the cover image they misspelt arithmetic. https://t.co/GjTzL64hEQ
— Shruti Rajagopalan (@srajagopalan) April 19, 2020
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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