One effect of the Corona Virus pandemic is the interruption of public education for 55 million students. At least 34 states have shut the doors for the rest of the academic year.

A second effect is the brisk expansion of American home-schooling. Home-schoolers of Maine (HOME), a non-profit organization founded in 1990, is offering a free HOME unit study to new subscribers. Those subscribers will have access to informative news and updates from HOME via email. Their web address is https://www.homeschoolersofmaine.org/ HOME exists to preserve, protect, and promote homeschooling in the State of Maine. It defines homeschooling as home-based education that is parent-led and privately funded.

A third effect is increasingly aggressive attacks on homeschooling; at a time when it has become the only realistic option for most parents.

Elizabeth Bartholet, faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, has stepped up to lead the attack for the moment. She has explained that homeschooling deprives children of their right to a “meaningful education.” She does not explain where she discovered this “right,” but she has clear ideas that meaningful education includes exposure to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination, and tolerance for other people’s values.

This list will surely be welcome to the High Mandarins of the teachers’ unions and colleges of education. Prof. Bartholet’s omission of reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic offers relief from those boring subjects and the repeated failure to clarify the distinction between “its” and “it’s” among many other laborious tasks.

“The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18?” Bartholet asks. “I think that’s dangerous,” “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”

Put that way her objections sound reasonable enough, but she grows murky and elusive when we try to find where this authority migrates to if it’s removed from parents. It’s clear that she doesn’t expect the kids to discover community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination, and tolerance for other people’s values on their own. It seems to follow that the public education apparatus must take charge of inculcating these lovely, if undefined, “values.”

Bartholet has pointed out in a recent article that “Many homeschool because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to our democracy, determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives.”

This passage shows us the distinction between common sense understanding and theoretical academic understanding. She appears to believe that it’s possible in the twenty-first century to isolate children from ideas that originate outside the home and that parents exercise iron control over their whelps. Here I’m thinking about one of my brightest former student. He was an avowed atheist who decided that his children should have a parochial school education so that they would have exposure to viewpoints out of sync with our increasingly secular culture. That was about as much as a parent can do to promote an “autonomous” viewpoint.

Bartholet allows that some parents capable of giving an education that’s of a higher quality and as broad in scope as what’s happening in the public school.

Nevertheless she argues that parents should be required to prove that they are qualified to teach their own children. This will requires a “radical transformation in the homeschooling regime and a related rethinking of child rights” that “recommends a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool.”

Some will be swayed by the argument that home schooling may cover physical abuse at home. She shows no concern that compulsory public school attendance would expose students to the estimated 962,300 violent incidents and 476,100 nonviolent incidents occurred in U.S. public schools nationwide during the 2017-2018 school year.

John Frary of Farmington, the GOP candidate for U.S. Congress in 2008, is a retired history professor, an emeritus Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United, a Maine Citizen’s Coalition Board member, and publisher of FraryHomeCompanion.com. He can be reached at [email protected]


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