Elizabeth Bartholet is a law professor at Harvard University. She is also the faculty director of Harvard Law School’s Child Advocacy Program. Nice. This means Bartholet advocates for children. And advocate means to plead in favor of.
Unfortunately, Professor Bartholet’s advocacy has taken the form of an outrageous attack on homeschooling. She recently stated that homeschooling violates a child’s right to a meaningful education. To the professor, who has long been advocating a limited ban on homeschooling, Christian conservatives who homeschool their children may be “extreme religious ideologues” who are “crippling their students’ capacities.” She so stated in an article titled “The Risks of Homeschooling,” published last month in Harvard Magazine.
After the nation’s homeschoolers erupted, the professor doubled down, this time in an interview with The Harvard Gazette. In the Gazette article she blames (my word not hers, but it fits the text and tone of her article) conservative Christians for the rapid growth of the homeschooling movement. Noting that other countries have far more restrictions on homeschooling, Bartholet asserted that the government should step in.
Her language is not guarded: “Homeschoolers are committed to raising their children within their belief system, isolated from any societal influences.” Well, yeah! So are Catholics, Jews, the Amish, Quakers and others, though “isolated” is the wrong word. Such groups simply have certain beliefs, practices, and intellectual levels which they believe they can better transmit or reach than can public education. More than protect, they wish to advance. One would think the professor just recently learned about homeschooling, unmindful that it is as old as America.
The professor continued, “Society may not have the chance to teach homeschooled children the values that are important to the larger community such as tolerance of other people’s views.”
Dear Lord! Could the Harvard professor not see that with her very own words she was showing her intolerance of homeschoolers?
My wife Nancy and I have had experience with homeschooling and are more than pleased with its effectiveness and possibilities. For his first four grades, our son Reagan attended a private school where Nancy was teaching high school English. When Nancy left the school, making Reagan’s transportation there less convenient, we decided to homeschool him since he had only one more year of elementary school left.
I might never have walked into the childhood home of Martin Luther King, had we not become homeschoolers and taken Reagan there. Or learned of the effective networking that homeschoolers benefit from, whether it’s an engineer dad teaching math to 20 or so students on Saturday morning, or a mom who offers homemaking classes in the evening. I know. Bad word, homemaking. But homeschoolers care more about reality and honest language than political correctness.
Except for Reagan’s first five years, our four children attended public schools. For her own children, our oldest daughter Christy has combined public education, private education and homeschooling. Although her four children went to a strong public high school, in their childhood years they attended a private school that required students be homeschooled at least two days a week. All four of them were well educated.
Our other daughter, Wendy, who has a degree in elementary education has homeschooled her three children ages 10, 12, and 14 from day one, even while working in their restaurant. Years ago, just after Wendy graduated from North Cobb High School, I asked her what she had enjoyed most about high school. “My teachers” was her quick reply. “What least?” I asked. “The cigarette smoke in the girls’ restrooms,” she replied. Her answer is no doubt emblematic of many homeschoolers who desire a school setting where influences are positive and discipline problems of a few don’t hold back the progress of everybody else.
Our son Jeff has a 13-year-old daughter. Why have he and his wife chosen to privately educate her? “It’s just more serious and not as many problems as regular schools,” he said awhile back. Our youngest child Reagan has two preschool children. I’m guessing he and his wife will opt to homeschool and/or privately educate their children as well.
And how does old Dad feel about their choices since he spent 37 years in public school teaching? He feels grateful for the opportunity to teach public school students and work with outstanding public school teachers. He’s appreciative of public school board members, and school staffs.
More importantly, he feels that homeschooling does not remove children from mainstream culture, that government has no business telling citizens how to educate their children, and that Professor Bartholet should stick to teaching law and try to be a bit more tolerant.