Opinion: We should be asking homeschoolers for help — instead, we attack them

by Peter Heck · Apr 20th, 2020 3:03 pm
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Harvard Magazine / Robert Neubecker

Toward the end of March, the Washington Post ran an article that got a lot of publicity for all the wrong reasons. Personally, I blame the editor who wrote its title: "Homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children."

In conservative, Christian circles, already justifiably skeptical of anything that comes from the pages of the Post, the knives were out. The article's author, former education commissioner of Tennessee Kevin Huffman, was pilloried by a lot of good people who simply hadn't read his article.

Huffman's actual point, which as a public high school teacher (who also advocates strongly for homeschooling) I agree with, wasn't that legitimate homeschooling is philosophically bad. He was actually pointing out that public schools trying to teach remotely or virtually is going to flop. Many disadvantaged kids, who are already struggling to keep up, are going to be left further behind.

As Sarah Carpenter, executive director of the Memphis Lift, a parent advocacy organization, puts it: "The lady next door has seven kids and no computers. The family up the street has no Internet. I'm afraid some families aren't going to do anything because some families simply can't do anything."

His article wasn't about diligent Christian parents not being qualified to teach their children; it was about those who have come to rely on the government to teach their kids now having a real mess on their hands. In other words, it wasn't really about homeschooling at all. It was about an attempted remote-learning venture on a monumental scale that has never even been contemplated, much less attempted, by our educational establishment before.

It's interesting though, if you think about it – who could these educational professionals be turning to for worthwhile insight into how to manage discipline, routine, and coursework in a home-based environment? Could it possibly be the multitude of homeschooling networks scattered throughout the country that have been operating effectively and efficiently for decades, turning out top-notch students?

Of course there are distinctions and monumental differences, not the least of which is that these networks boast parents who are heavily devoted to what they are doing. These parents, many of whom I have had the pleasure to interact with through the years, regard it as their God-given responsibility to teach and raise their children, and thus invest in doing so as a form of faithfulness.

Most parents of public school children who are now confined to home-based learning are also balancing careers and do not have the time, energy, or ability to engage like their homeschooling counterparts. Still, the effort to find best practices and effective strategies would benefit at a time like this from a cooperative partnership between the two entities (public school and homeschool).

Unfortunately, no such relationship exists, thanks to years of an entrenched opposition to homeschooling among the educational establishment that has consistently sought to undermine parental rights while exaggerating the authority of the state.

How bad has it gotten? Even now, as the future of public education has been thrown into uncertainty amid a global pandemic, not a humble recognition of its limitations, but a seething condescension towards the backward rubes continues to define our academic elite.

For proof of that fact, look no further than this ridiculous cover for Harvard Magazine's recent issue:

The whole thing reads like a parody:

  • Home is a prison (with bars on the windows, no less!), but mandated, compulsory public schools are liberating.
  • Religious bias on full display as the Bible forms one of the prison walls.
  • Condescension not in short supply with "arithmetic" intentionally misspelled to mock the average Joes out there "teachin' ‘em up."
  • The missed irony of government-education types picturing a captive child at home…in the midst of a lockdown ordered by, you guess it, the government.
  • A subtitle so lacking in self-awareness: "Elizabeth Bartholet highlights risks when parents have 24/7 authoritarian control over their children."
  • A bizarre, yet not-so-subtle suggestion that homeschool children aren't allowed out to play.

The most amazing thing about this is that all of these educated professionals can't seem to figure out that if anyone is demonstrating a narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant view of the world that exists outside their own rigid dogma and antiquated methodology, it isn't the homeschoolers.

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