In Brief: Leave Homeschooling Alone
Just say no to one Harvard professor’s recent call to put it under government scrutiny.
James Mason is the vice president of litigation for the Home School Legal Defense Association, and he has some advice for opponents of homeschooling: Back off. Last year, he noted, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet demanded a “presumptive ban” of homeschooling. Our Louis DeBroux tackled it at the time. “Well,” Mason says, “now she’s b-a-a-a-ck.”
In 2020, homeschooling became an educational safe harbor for millions of children and parents who suddenly found themselves home together. Indeed, this past pandemic year may have permanently changed the educational landscape in America, as many of those who sought the refuge of homeschooling during a distressing time discovered the joys of seeing their child’s “eureka” learning moments as they happened.
Unfortunately, the education establishment doesn’t want competition, so Bartholet wants “meaningful regulation” of that competition.
As part of a recent interview grading the first 100 days of the Biden administration vis-à-vis children and families, Harvard Law Today asked her what President Biden should do “going forward.” Staying true to pre-pandemic form, Bartholet said, “I would like to see the Biden administration’s educational agenda expand to include reform of the current homeschooling regime.”
To be clear, by “reform,” she means that the federal government should crack down on homeschooling. “There is now no meaningful regulation of homeschooling in the United States, by contrast to the rest of the world,” she said. If by “the rest of the world” she means countries such as Germany, then she’s clearly advocating the presumptive ban that she first proposed last year: Germany, like many other nations, “regulates” homeschooling by banning it.
Professor Bartholet would ban homeschooling because she does not trust parents. “They are free to subject [their children] to the most vicious forms of abuse, away from the eyes of teachers who are required to report suspected abuse to child protective services.”
There simply is no evidence to support Professor Bartholet’s stereotype that homeschooled children fare worse than their public-school counterparts. And as the United States Supreme Court has written, “the statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.”
Professor Bartholet’s cynical view of homeschoolers is only exceeded by her incorrect view of the federal government’s power to supersede the states’ role in education. Every state requires homeschooling parents to educate their children; some do so by statute, while others do so via administrative regulation. States as culturally diverse as California and Texas treat homeschools as small private schools and regulate them accordingly. Calling on the federal government to step in to change this 50-state approach to private educational policy is wrongheaded, dangerous, and unconstitutional.
Homeschooling is a great option for many American families, and that, Mason says, is as it should be. “Many millions of children and parents have discovered that the homeschooling alternative to the public-school norm can not only provide for a child’s education during a crisis but strengthen families, too,” he concludes. “Perhaps it’s time for Professor Bartholet to set aside her negative stereotype of homeschoolers and embrace the diversity, complexity, and liberating qualities of the movement as it actually is today.”
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