Homeschooling: elitist and anti-democratic

The LA Times has an editorial beginning to get a little attention, not for the arguments it raises but for the blatant stereotypes it portrays against homeschoolers. Crimson Wife was right that this is little more than a grown up version of the Daily Titan article looked at yesterday. Written by two professors emeriti at Cal Poly Pomona, Walter P. Coombs (social science) and Ralph E. Shaffer (history), the editorial attempts to convince us that the California appeals court got it right: parents should be certified before teaching their own children. (All blockquotes are taken from Regulating home schoolers.)

A California appellate court has struck terror in the ranks of home schooling advocates by ruling that their children can’t be taught at home without at least some oversight.

Strong opening, almost worthy of World Net Daily. We’ll leave the supposed “terror.” I never saw any of it, with barely a discussion of the case in most of the forums I participate in. Even at that, what was the source of this concern? Not that “their children [couldn’t] be taught at home without at least some oversight.” There already is “some oversight” over homeschools, even in California. On the contrary, the concern was that in order to homeschool, parents would have to be certified. Something not even all of California’s public school teachers have to do, other private schools do not have to do and something that is earned after a great deal of time and money for negligible benefit (pdf). And certification does not mean the state would have any more oversight than it does now. It only would mean that parents had spent time and money on a degree that would probably be of little use to them.

The decision has caused anguish among families who fear that they may now be required to demonstrate that home schooling is an adequate replacement for their children’s attendance at a public institution.

Anguish? More of that hyperbolic speech. Over what? “Demonstrating that homeschooling is an adequate replacement…?” Not at all. In fact, even if the court decision is to be interpreted strictly and it means all these two say it means, it provides no additional oversight over homeschools. It only regulates who can teach their own child. Once the certificate is earned, there would be no more oversight than currently exists. And if you think that a certificate is a guarantee that someone is qualified to teach, take a look at some of the things going on in public schools. Where teachers are supposed to be certified. And they have a whole system of oversight.

The court’s decision means that home schoolers must be given some substantive instruction in social studies and not simply spend their time watching Fox with its strange assortment of oddballs pontificating on current events.

Can we say non sequitor? At any rate, statistics show that homeschoolers actually spend less time watching television than their public schooled counterparts.

Besides, if we are to take the public school system’s lead, perhaps we should watch more television. Cable in the Classroom, the national education foundation of the US cable industry, has a long-standing program which encourages the use of television in the classroom. My district had just received a rather large grant to incorporate television into our daily lessons before I left. And this on top of the thirty minutes per day we used video games to teach reading.

It’s time Californians realized that there are few regulations regarding home schooling and virtually no safeguards to make certain that subjects appropriate to the age group are taught.

This is an aside, but I wonder how it is that either of these two professors thought they were qualified to teach at the college level. After all, neither of them are certified to teach. I also wonder if they are familiar enough with education theory to realize the irony in what they just said. I’m looking for “developmentally appropriate practices,” something increasingly rare in our public schools. Driven by standards, we have left developmentally appropriate education aside, instead forcing young children to spend hours a day in a classroom working on school work that may or may not be appropriate for their age and maturity level. Not to mention that subjects such as history, even with the benefits of the so highly regarded Fox news network, have virtually been pushed out in favor of reading and math.

If home schooling forums on the Web are indicative of the views held by parents of learn-at-home kids, their offspring are getting an extremely warped lesson in civics. Typical of the shrill screed now running on the Internet are these comments: “This [ruling] is a good example of bureaucratic tyranny! Kiss liberty good-bye, people.” Another wrote: “Perhaps the judge could be impeached for incompetence. Else Christian families need to flee California.” And: “This is another example of how socialist mentality destroys our God-given rights as parents.”

Glad that “if” is there at the start. Otherwise, I’d have to question these professors’ research methodologies. Because scanning a couple of Internet forums and reading the comments is like a peek into a private conversation. It has nothing to do with the lessons their children are receiving. I wonder more about the “shrill screed” voiced in this opinion piece. What “warped lesson in civics” did these professors give their students if their entire criticism of homeschooling rests with a seemingly reflexive trust for the state? And random quotes pulled off Internet forums.

It’s evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don’t want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra.

Seriously. Can it get any worse than this?

  1. Nothing is evident from the opinions expressed thus far other than the fact that these professors have strong opinions. NOTHING is given to support their views but some selected forum quotes extrapolated to somehow represent the two to four million homeschoolers in this country.
  2. Vast majority? I hardly think they are even speaking about a significant minority.
  3. Teaching in front of the television? Again? They seem to like the picture since they have used it twice. Maybe they are hoping to start a new stereotype, but so many homeschoolers I know do not watch any television, I’m not sure it will stick.

And the closing paragraphs are just too full of interesting thoughts to lump together:

There has always been something decidedly elitist and anti-democratic in home schooling.

What is that supposed to mean?

Elitist? Which is more “elitist?” Homeschooling, or the bizarre fixation on credentialing as the only possible qualification for educating a child?

Anti-democratic? As in not “believing in or practicing social equality?” Homeschooling does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, or gender. And if you think that somehow it is more “democratic” to forgo an excellent education in favor of “social equality” then I would like to see how many Americans voluntarily move into poor school districts for the benefit of their social conscience.

It smacks of a belief that privileged children should not have to associate with the other kids in the neighborhood and that by staying home, they would not be subjected to the leavening effect of democracy.

What, pray tell, has homeschooling got to do with the kids in the neighborhood? A significant percentage of homeschoolers did choose this educational option based on concerns about the environment at school (pdf), which includes safety issues and negative peer pressure. This, however, does not mean that parents are isolating their children from all social contact. It means that they see a need, often from experience, to protect their children from certain influences. Something even parents of children in public schools do as necessary.

And the “leavening effect of democracy?” Just because we can string a few multisyllabic words together does not mean our thinking process is any clearer. Are we really advocating that democracy should work to subtly modify our children’s minds? Think about that for a moment. What are the implications and is that really what education is supposed to be about? It is socialization again, the “process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitation as well as group pressure.” It is the uncritical adoption of values and beliefs about what is right and wrong.

Every child is socialized, but the underlying assumption here is that this is best realized “democratically,” outside the influence of adults, and particularly outside the influence of parents.

Moreover, it is apparent from the cries of the far right that there has been a specific policy in home schooling — to teach only the ideas acceptable to ideologues who fear the contaminating influence of what is commonly known as a liberal education.

This calls to mind a previous discussion of a paper by a law student: Illiberal Homeschooling: Constitutional Constraints on Homeschooling. But what is a liberal education?

Liberal education,

    education that enlarges and disciplines the mind and makes it master of its own powers, irrespective of the particular business or profession one may follow.

And this is to be found in our public school system where? The democratic controls the professors idealize as “leavening” for our children certainly do not make the mind “master of its own powers.” Rather they have the opposite effect, subordinating the individual to the needs and desires of the group. “School to Work” and now “No Child Left Behind” have reduced education further to eliminate enlarging and disciplining minds from the curriculum, replacing it with “skills training” with a singular focus on future jobs.

By “liberal education,” I do not think the professors are talking about this definition, however. Based on the examples raised, they seem to be talking not about expanding the mind but instruction in certain social values. Certain values, I might add, which split America almost fifty-fifty while an almost insignificant number of them homeschool (from both sides of the debate). The concern is not that a homeschooled child might not learn to read or master enough history to understand trends in American thought, but that some parents might teach their children ideas and values other than those approved by the education establishment.

But what I keep coming back to in these types of articles is a very fundamental disconnect. A liberal society is nothing if it cannot tolerate opposing viewpoints. Once it attempts to regulate and control ideas, it is no longer “broad-minded” nor tolerant of the ideas of others. It instead becomes narrow-minded, judgmental and controlling, furthering a single mindset and pressuring groups to conform.

In other words, it ends up creating an educational system committed to “teach[ing] only the ideas acceptable to ideologues who fear the contaminating influence” of anyone who disagrees.


Other worthwhile discussions:

The Political Inquirer takes the side of homeschoolers.

Reflection of the Times looks at the editorial from a more biblical perspective in Liberal Fruit.

Albert Mohler also chimes in with Overt Hostility Toward Homeschoolers.

And, of course, Crimson Wife who first left the link.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anyone actually praising the editorial…just a few people I thought might be agreeing with it but they only linked to it without commentary.

[tags]homeschool, home school, homeschooling, socialization[/tags]

Interested in more from Roscommon Acres? Sign up for my newsletter and receive updates right in your inbox!

(Visited 42 times, 3 visits today)

0 thoughts on “Homeschooling: elitist and anti-democratic

  1. Thus proving it is possible to use fewer brain cells and do even less research that the kids at The Daily Titan.

    I think these guys should go up on the next space shuttle just to see what impact such an environment would have on those who already have a vacuum between their ears.

  2. With enemies like these, who needs friends? I wonder if these guys or the college kids understand just how “afraid” we are of their arguments. We should just grab a few kids from a homeschool debate club and let them set these pontificators straight. Then be done with them.

  3. In our school district, which was until recently on NCLB probation for well-below-average test scores in most district schools, math and reading instruction takes up a significant portion of the day, with the social studies, arts, and other courses that are generally included in a liberal education either cut out completely or greatly shortened. If someone considers me an elitist for wanting to enlarge my child’s learning opportunities rather than restrict her to the subjects that are tested by the state every spring, so be it.

  4. Wow, those men are professors? What am I saying? Of course they are professors, only a professor could say so much and yet so little.

    I just want to comment on the TV deal real quick, I would like to meet the homeschoolers that use TV to teach their children. Most homeschoolers I know, restrict the use of, or have no TV at all. Logic says that the “evil TV” would be teaching whatever it is they say homeschoolers are attempting to protect their kids from.

  5. But it is Fox, Christy! AndI agree…homeschoolers I know are stricter with television time, and tend to view it as entertainment, not education. Edutainment is for the schools. : )

  6. I think I missed a couple of homeschooling memos…

    MEMO #1

    (Oops. We don’t have cable.)

    MEMO #2

    (Oops. I’m an Episcopalian.)

    MEMO #3

    (I’m registered independent.)

    MEMO #4


  7. (Dana, your comment section is evil.)

    MEMO #4

    (I live in what could only be described as a blue collar neighborhood.)

    I got one memo, though…

    MEMO #5

    (Yeah, got that one.)

  8. Oh…and I tried to do something really cool with my comments, but it didn’t work. I’ll have to ask someone who knows what they are doing…I was happy I was able to restore my comments after making them all disappear, however.

  9. Actually, it was probably an error on my end. I got a new laptop over Christmas, and I am still getting used to the keyboard.

    However, like CA college professors, I prefer to blame my own failings on others.:)

    I could have a future in academia.

  10. I want threaded comments. So you can reply to comments and it will appear under the comment you are replying to. Wouldn’t that be the coolest?

    Too bad the result was an error message and the sudden disappearance of all my comments!

  11. Have you submitted this piece as a response to that editorial? I would strongly suggest you do.

    I am reading stories of special ed teachers aides stealing money from their students, while under the influence of drugs in the same paper that is writing such editorials… yet nobody seems to be picking up on it here in the LA Times.

    And then there is our budget crisis in California that is insisting upon tax increases to protect the 10% proposed cuts in education. Homeschooling is bad and yet public schools want more of your money to sustain over crowded schools that are not doing so well.

    All in all education in California seems to be in a bit of a muddle.

  12. Yes, all those talk show watching couch potatoes out there are real elitists, don’t you think?

    I thought professors stressed using actual research to support a thesis? At least mine did when I was in graduate school.

  13. ***Standing and Applauding***

    Awesome, rational response to the mad ramblings of a couple of dingbats.

    Now to the “learned” professors (in the words of Festus to Paul in Acts 26): “You are insane…too much study has made you crazy!” (NLT)

  14. Well done!! I read this. I had problems getting past the TV thing. That is a new idea about homeschooling that I had never heard before and wondered how it had occured to these two men.

    Then, I still have not figured out how socialization has come to mean diversity of color, worldview, etc. Every conceptual definition I read about socialization talks about conformity and not diversity.

  15. Dana and all, you do know at least one unschooling family who doesn’t restrict screen time and doesn’t bother a moment about whether something is entertainment, or edutainment, or how to grade or quantify any learning that could be happening.

    More to this main point, we’re not trying to keep out the big, bad culture around here. And we might be even more progressive than these professors! I often think “conservative Christian homeschooling” could simply put families like mine front and center, to make liberal critics of home education hush up and go away — alas, instead the usual strategy is geared more toward how to make ME hush up and go away! 😉

  16. For the record, I don’t think anyone should “hush up and go away.” : ) Even these professors. But it would be nice if they’d spend some time actually researching their piece rather than cranking out a few stereotypes.

  17. I don’t these mental midgets could handle the idea of radical unschooling. They are already apoplectic at the idea of parents home educating at all, much less using such free and out-of-the-box methodologies.:p

    I don’t know very many conservative Christian homeschoolers who are trying to keep out ‘the big, bad culture’, but rather teach their kids how to evaluate fads and fashions and ideas and weigh them critically instead of floating down the culture stream like a dead fish.

  18. Dana – more EXCELLENT commentary here. You are my go-to-girl for homeschool legal news. I’m serious! I second the suggestion that you submit this as rebuttal – it is fantastically written. I’m sending this link to a number of my hsing friends. Good stuff.

  19. My 14 year old, who enjoys reading your blog over my shoulder, had this to say about the professors: “It’s because their creativity was squashed while they were young!”

    They do sound a bit bitter and jealous, don’t you think? Maybe they wanted to watch more TV when they were little.

    I’m still trying to figure out how TV watching connects with “don’t want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra.” Huh? Have they seen what’s on television lately?

  20. Well, it is just Fox. Somehow they had to stick a jibe in at Fox although it was wholly irrelevant. : )

    I think I agree with your daughter…

  21. Pingback: hotm test
  22. Pingback: (6) « HOTM test 2

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge