Monday, April 20, 2020

Harvard prof calls for total ban on homeschooling



The estimated 56 million American children who are being homeschooled because of coronavirus-pandemic lockdowns is a growing catastrophe in the mind of Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet and other educators.

In an article for Harvard Magazine headlined "The Risks of Homeschooling," Bartholet urged the government to step in to protect children from their own parents, reports PJ Media columnist Paula Bolyard.

Bartholet, the faculty director of Harvard Law School's Child Advocacy Program, told the magazine that homeschooling deprives children of their right to a "meaningful education."

She explained it's "important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people's viewpoints."

PJ Media commented: "In other words, she knows that homeschooled children are being taught to think for themselves, and she won't stand for it."

Meanwhile, the Washington Post published an article by a former teacher and education bureaucrat, Kevin Huffman, titled "Homeschooling during the coronavirus will set back a generation of children."

Huffman wrote that the United States during the coronavirus pandemic "is embarking on a massive, months-long virtual-pedagogy experiment, and it is not likely to end well."

"Years of research shows that online schooling is ineffective — and that students suffer significant learning losses when they have a long break from school," he said.

Parents have 'authoritarian control'

The Harvard prof Bartholet acknowledged that parents have "very significant rights to raise their children with the beliefs and religious convictions that the parents hold."

But then she insists the influence of parents must be restricted

"The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18?" she asks. "I think that’s dangerous," she replied. "I think it's always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority."

PJ Media's Bolyard noted that Bartholet trotted out an anecdotal story of a child taught at home not receiving a proper education.

"What they never seem to mention," PJ Media said, "is that in the vast majority of the tragic cases used to 'prove' how dangerous homeschooling is, the victims were a) truant rather than being legally homeschooled and/or b) were known to child protective services who ignored the abuse and neglect in the home."

Bartholet insisted that parents be required to prove to the government that they are qualified to teach their children.

"I think an overwhelming majority of legislators and American people, if they looked at the situation," Bartholet says, "would conclude that something ought to be done."

Bolyard, however, pointed out homeschoolers:

  • Typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized tests
  • Score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income
  • Typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests
  • Typically score above average, on measures of social, emotional and psychological development including peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service and self-esteem
  • Go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population
  • Participate in local community service more frequently than does the general population, vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population
  • Internalize the values and beliefs of their parents at a high rate

Bartholet claimed in a recent Arizona Law Review paper, "Many homeschool because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to our democracy, determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives."

She called, therefore, for a "radical transformation in the homeschooling regime and a related rethinking of child rights" that "recommends a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool."

Bartholet is leading a June summit at Harvard to discuss regulating homeschooling.


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