In a Harvard Magazine article, Elizabeth Bartholet, faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, makes a number of pretty outrageous – and demonstrably false – claims about homeschooling.
There is a huge false assumption in this story that needs to be addressed upfront. Just because parents everywhere are schooling at home right now due to COVID-19, does not mean they are really truly homeschooling. Neither the writer, Erin O’Donnell, nor her interviewee, Bartholet, makes that distinction and the article.
Here’s an excerpt from Paula Bolyard at PJ Media:
Out of one side of her mouth, Bartholet says that parents have “very significant rights to raise their children with the beliefs and religious convictions that the parents hold. Out of the other side, she says there should be limits to the influence parents have over their children.
“The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18?” she asks. “I think that’s dangerous,” she answers. “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”
Left unsaid, but clearly implied, is that it’s ok to put powerful government bureaucrats in charge of powerless children because, obviously, they know better than the parents what a child needs. It takes a village to raise a child, we’ve been lectured for decades.
Bolyard does a fine job of disassembling the breathtaking cognitive dissonance in Bartholet’s remarks but stops short of identifying this for what it is: an offensive strike in the defense of the public school system.
Homeschooling is a long-standing form of school choice and parents nationwide are getting a taste of it and what it means to connect with their child. Parents are also seeing in real-time the kind of education their children are getting – or are not getting from public school.
The outrageous description in the Harvard Magazine article of the “risks” of children spending time with their parents culminates in Bartholet calling for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling. That recommendation drew the attention of Senator Ted Cruz, who called it “barbaric” and “myopic.”
Attacks on homeschooling and other forms of school choice are cyclical and tend to resurface when the public education status quo is threatened in some way.
Back in 2013 when an increase in school choice options was creating a mass exodus from public schools, Professor Glenn Reynolds noted in his USA Today column that homeschooling represented a threat to public education.
His column resonates today and it’s not just Reynolds’ use the famous Buffy the Vampire Slayer line that homeschooling isn’t just for “scary religious people” anymore.
Although, it’s worth noting that Harvard Magazine included that outdated smear while misspelling arithmetic in the article’s imagery (right).
“Traditional public schools haven’t changed much for decades (and to the extent they have, they’ve mostly gotten worse). But the rest of the world has changed a lot,” Reynolds wrote. “The public who eagerly purchased Henry Ford’s Model T (available in any color you want, so long as it’s black!) now lives in a world where almost everything is infinitely customized and customizable. That makes one-size-fits-all education, run on a Fordist model itself, look like a bad deal.”
Don’t forget, Reynold’s wrote his column just as one-size-fits-all Common Core was being spread like cement across the states. And things are even more customizable seven years later.
Heck, these days folks can order an entire meal for delivery or pick-up, pay their bills, read the news, send emails and take shots of their kids to post to social media just using cell phone apps. Where is that kind of personal customization, flexibility, and choice in education?
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