Homeschool advocates, please, please educate yourselves first before you “defend” homeschooling freedom in the public square, lest you make our community’s thinking skills seem inadequate and thereby bolster the regulators’ case or the standardizers’ case or the social worker-teacher union-UN case.
I can see this summer’s bloggery heating up for some self-righteous blood-boiling already. (Heck, Spunky never cooled off from last summer!)
So before homeschooling advocacy devolves into another long hot one of “who do they think they are?” and “you’re not the boss of me!” not likely to impress the president, the US Ed Dept or the general public with our maturity and superior educational philosophy 😉 I suggest we do our own homework, not because anyone can make us but because that’s who we think we are.
And seriously, you can’t win if you don’t enter. Ranting about something that doesn’t address the criticism or concern being leveled at us, is worse than useless. To win you have to figure out what the other side’s offense is and then engage them in a match, play by the rules of that game if you hope to ever beat them at it.
For example, if we hope to win against academic arguments, what academic ammunition options can we make and learn to use at home? (That’s kinda the whole point of home education, right?) And we need to keep that power dry — it’s important that we recognize and resist lowest-common-denominator peer pressure among ourselves (not just our kids!) as well as the cynically unhealthful doses of outrage and hysteria packaged like cheap fast food from WND and HSLDA.
Particularly this summer as anti-government rhetoric and lone wolf lunatic violence is spiking in the news cycle, thinking homeschoolers should redouble our commitment as good citizens to carefully reason our way through collegial public concerns, and thereby prove we can resist both the temptation to conflate every conversation into religious war, and to drag it down to tea party soundbites about socialism and Hitler and dark suspicions that our fellow citizens and elected leaders are conspiring to strangle homeschool parents with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Those of us who can home-educate ourselves and our families with higher quality food for thought sources than those, will enjoy the abundant fruits of higher quality critical thought at home and still have plenty to share freely with the neighbors.
As recommended introductory course material, here’s a virtual trip seven years back in time, to the beginning of the philosophical case against homeschooling and our challenges to that case. An intense and imo important discussion with Stanford philosophy professor and homeschool critic Rob Reich in August of 2002 took place on the list then known as NHEN-Legislative. That discussion can be read in the Files section of the list renamed as NHEN-Legislative Clearinghouse. The copied discussions are in the Files section and are stored in Microsoft Word documents titled “ReichPart1.doc” and “ReichPart2.doc.” (Hat tip Valerie Moon.)
NOTE: This is the discussion that influenced his later arguments for homeschool regulation to protect every child against the theoretical danger of “ethical servility” e.g. this in 2005 and led to responses like Nicky Hardenbergh’s Through the Lens of Homeschooling: A Response to Michael Apple and Rob Reich.
Rob Reich. “Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling .”
Paper prepared for delivery at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, August 30-September 2, 2001.
This paper discusses parental authority over education and attempts to move beyond the obsessive focus of political theorists on the Yoder and Mozert cases. I do so by examining the increasingly popular phenomenon of homeschooling in the United States. Should, and if so, how should the liberal state regulate homeschooling, the arrangement that gives parents the most control over the education of children? In the first section, I look at the recent history of homeschooling in the United States, showing that beyond its interest in purely theoretical terms, the actual practice of homeschooling also provides powerful reasons to focus attention on it.
In section two, I canvas a trilogy of interests in education — the parents’, the state’s, and the child’s — as a prelude to considering the justifiability of homeschooling. I argue here that while each party shares an interest in the development of children into normal adulthood, the state has an independent interest in educating for citizenship and the child has an independent interest in an education for autonomy, neither of which may be shared by parents.
On the basis of these three interests and a consideration of what to do when interests clash, I argue in section three that at a bare minimum one function of any school environment must be to expose children to and engage students with values and beliefs other than those they are likely to encounter within their homes. Because homeschooling is structurally and in practice the least likely to meet this end, I argue that while the state should not ban homeschooling it must nevertheless regulate its practice with vigilance. I conclude by briefly offering a few suggestions about the best means at the state’s disposal to exercise regulatory authority and by considering some problems with regulation
Date: Fri Mar 29, 2002 0:46pm
Subject: RESPONSE from academic
I notice that an essay of mine, “Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling” has been the subject of some discussion on this group. After emailing the coordinator, Ms. Nicky Hardenb[urgh], I’ve decided to post a short response. I’d welcome further discussion from the group.
Let me clarify a few points here that were perhaps not clear enough in the essay. But before doing so, I want to emphasize that the essay you’ve read is but one part of a larger project concerning the interests of the state in education, and the kinds of regulations appropriate for various kinds of schooling, public, private, parochial, and homeschooling. (If you’ll pardon the self-promotion, my full position can be found in a book I’ve recently published, entitled, Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education, University of Chicago Press).
First, I do not advocate anywhere that homeschooling should be forbidden, or even curtailed. I consider myself a defender of homeschooling, properly regulated.
Second, nothing in my paper was meant to be a defense of the capabilities of the average public school. I agree that there are public schools that do a terrible job of education students for autonomy and for citizenship (not to mention basic academic skills). But my sense is that for many homeschoolers, this argument is a red herring. In my conversations with homeschoolers, I’ve often asked them the following: “If there were a public school in your neighborhood which was academically excellent and provided a safe, nurturing environment, would you then send your child to that school?” In almost every case the answer is, “no”. The quality of public schools is an important concern, but for many, perhaps most, homeschoolers, this is not the real issue.
The real issue is the legitimacy of state authority over children. And here, I presume, is where we disagree. I believe that, so far as education is concerned, parents must share authority with the state. The state is concerned with the education of children for two reasons. First, the state has a legitimate interest in cultivating able citizenship. Second, the state has a role in promoting the independent interests of children, which include, on my understanding, the right to live a life other than the one their parents lead. This requires a certain degree of autonomy, which can be achieved through the comparatively less intrusive vehicle of an education that engages students with a diversity of values.
I never claimed that homeschooling leads to citizens who are not interested in the public good. On the contrary, homeschoolers are often, so far as I can tell, heavily involved in both the civil associations of their communities and in democratic life more generally.
But I do claim that homeschoolers who are motivated to shield their children from engagement with competing values or ways of life may be disabled as citizens. The reason is that citizenship in a culturally and religiously diverse liberal democracy requires that each citizen be prepared to recognize that the values that guide his or her life will not be shared by all other citizens. Therefore, each citizen needs to learn to be able to participate democratically with citizens of diverse convictions. Public schools may not do a great job of this; but I am convinced they do a better job than at least some, or even many, homeschools.
May I say, finally, that I admire the political activism and success of the homeschool community. The way in which homeschool advocates have pressed for legislative reforms through grassroots organizing is in the best tradition of democratic politics. And while I don’t agree with the positions that many homeschoolers advocate, I certainly would never deny them the right to push politically for their views. In this sense, I applaud their success.
Msg # 11115
Date: Fri Mar 29, 2002 7:39am
Subject: Re: Reich Response – Discussion
> The real issue is the legitimacy of state authority over children. And here, I presume, is where we disagree. I believe that, so far as education is concerned, parents must share authority with the state.
The state is concerned with the education of children for two reasons. First, the state has a legitimate interest in cultivating able citizenship. Second, the state has a role in promoting the independent interests of children, which include, on my understanding, the right to live a life other than the one their parents lead. This requires a certain degree of autonomy, which can be achieved through the comparatively less intrusive vehicle of an education that engages students with a diversity of values.>
Thank you for joining us here, Dr. Reich, and for inviting further discussion.
I agree with your assessment of the core issue, as stated above, and it actually seems rather straightforward. Yes, both parents and the State have legitimate interests in the education of children. What interests me is whether you can offer persuasive support for your implied conclusion that the claims of the State properly outweigh the claims of parents.
Perhaps we can stipulate that the State’s interests in a democratic republic must necessarily arise from the interests of that State’s citizens? Parents then would be among those citizens whose interests collectively comprise the State’s interests?
In fact, doesn’t the State’s interest in the children themselves arise from their future status as citizens to whom the government will one day “belong?”
It would seem reasonable, then, to criticize your argument as fallacious, as long as one views the interests of parent and their children as synonymous with the interests of the State’s citizenry. To even entertain the idea that the State’s interest outweighs the interests of its own present (and future) citizens, one first must create dichotomies between citizens with competing interests — in this case, apparently, either by setting parents apart from their children, viewing each as a suspect minority requiring heightened State control, or perhaps by lumping parents and their children under 18 together as one larger minority to be regulated by the majority through the State.
But however it is done, your argument hinges on separate parents’ interests from those of the “citizenry” i.e. the State, does it not?
So, having separated parents from the general citizenry and from sharing in the interests of the State, your argument seems to consist of weighing these interests against each other.
For instance, you assert a child’s interest in living a life different than his parents lead, but you don’t factor in the child’s right to live a life different than the State might choose, or explain which interest of what subset of the citizenry is served by having the State intervene in children’s life choices or values, or indeed whether you believe the State can “better” create autonomy for growing children than parents can. (Among adults at least, the State seems much more prone to create dependence than autonomy, but perhaps I am unaware of evidence you could provide to address this point?)
For every State interest you assert (none of which I am inclined to dispute, by the way) there is a corresponding, and I believe more direct and superordinate, interest within the family — whether parent, child, or parent/child congruence. Could you address each of the interests specifically and demonstrate for us that they are in fact outweighed by the corresponding interest of the State in each case?
JJ Ross, Ed.D.