Homeschooling is a potentially “dangerous” practice that gives parents “authoritarian control” over their children, if you choose to believe a particular Harvard Law School professor.
But there are almost always two sides to a story, and a school choice expert has issued a powerful refutation of the professor’s claims.
“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, Elizabeth Bartholet, told Harvard Magazine for a piece titled, “The Risks of Homeschooling.”
“I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority,” she said in an interview for the magazine’s May-June issue.
But Corey DeAngelis, director of school choice at the libertarian Reason Foundation and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, finds Bartholet’s anti-homeschooling comments to be rife with hypocrisy.
“This statement is beyond parody,” he told The Western Journal in an email Thursday, referring to Bartholet’s claim that homeschooling gives parents “authoritarian control” over their children.
“Constitutional rights protect us from government abuse of power. It’s unbelievable that she doesn’t realize that using government force to take away parents’ rights to educate their own children at home is the definition of authoritarianism,” DeAngelis said.
Bartholet also drew the ire of school choice advocates when she suggested in an Arizona Law Review paper last year that some Christian parents who want to focus more on faith-based values are “extreme religious ideologues,” and even went so far as to imply that some homeschooled children could be at risk for abuse.
“They are also at serious risk for ongoing abuse and neglect in the isolated families that constitute a significant part of the homeschooling world. Mandated reporters are key to child protection, and compulsory education has served to protect many children against maltreatment,” Bartholet wrote.
“Or maybe [parents who homeschool] just want to protect their children from the abuse and violence that too often occurs in government schools?” DeAngelis fired back.
He pointed out two federal government reports showing that abuse is all too common in public schools.
“The latest report from the U.S. Department of Education on the subject estimated that 1 in 10 children in government schools will experience sexual misconduct from school employees by the time they graduate high school,” he said.
“A 2018 report from the U.S. Department of Education found that 1 in 5 students between the ages of 12 and 18 were bullied and that 79 percent of government schools recorded that one or more incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes had taken place in the most recent school year.”
DeAngelis also took issue with the Harvard Magazine article’s “propaganda” cover image, which was meant to be a metaphorical representation of the dangers of homeschooling.
I just noticed the bizarre cover image used for the Harvard Magazine article.
It shows a sad homeschool child imprisoned in a house while the other kids are outside playing.
Notice the house is made of books, one of them being the Bible 😱👻 pic.twitter.com/IZfaVuIA0G
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) April 18, 2020
“Along with Harvard Magazine’s bizarre anti-homeschooling propaganda image of the homeschooled child stuck in a house made from a Bible, this is fear-mongering and an appeal to anti-religious bigotry,” DeAngelis said.
“Although I am not a religious person myself, I understand and respect that all Americans have the 1st Amendment right to exercise their religious beliefs even if some Ivy League elites don’t like it.”
Moreover, the school choice advocate pointed out how Bartholet “doesn’t provide any data on the prevalence of ‘extreme religious ideologues.'”
DeAngelis agrees that “of course there might be some” religious extremists who homeschool their children, but said that to punish all homeschooling families for the actions of a “few bad actors” would be wholly unjustified.
Lastly, DeAngelis responded to Bartholet’s assertions that one of the most important aspects of education is “exposing children to a variety of views and values and preparing them for civic engagement,” and that homeschooled kids are sheltered from being exposed to a diverse range of perspectives to help them function in American society.
His evidence-based rebuttal sharply contradicted the professor’s stance.
“She conveniently forgot to mention that the preponderance of the evidence shows that homeschooled children perform better academically and socially than their otherwise similar peers in conventional schools, and that around two-thirds of U.S. children are not proficient in reading. If anything, the evidence suggests it’s the government schools that are failing to prepare our youth to function in a proper democracy,” DeAngelis told The Western Journal.
“A 2019 study published in the Peabody Journal of Education examined data on a nationally representative sample of students and found that homeschoolers were more likely to engage in cultural and family activities than otherwise similar students attending government schools. Maybe being stuck in a government school building for several hours a day for 13 years is what really shelters kids from experiencing diverse perspectives?”
DeAngelis’ closing comments highlighted what he sees as the gaps in logic that fill Bartholet’s arguments. If such a small percentage of the nation’s children are being homeschooled at the moment, DeAngelis wants to know if Bartholet really believes they are actually responsible for America’s problems.
“We are living in an era of extreme political polarization right now, yet about 82% of children attend government-run schools today,” he said. “Does Bartholet really believe that the 3 percent of the population identified as homeschoolers is causing all of our problems, or could it be that the government schools are contributing to the intolerance and polarization we see today?”
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