In case you missed it, a Harvard professor named Elizabeth Bartholet unleashed a firestorm last week with a call to institute a presumptive ban on all homeschooling. In other words, homeschooling would be forbidden unless the parents could prove that their child needed to be homeschooled in a way that the state deemed a true need.
I decided to collect all of the information I could find regarding Harvard’s attack on homeschooling into one post because the more I read, the more I realized that these people are passionate about something of which they lack even a basic understanding. This is truly troubling. These so-called experts believe they should have the power to determine in a sweeping and total way a central part of the lives of parents and children. However, they clearly fail to understand even the most fundamental aspects of that which they seek to control.
Something stood out to me as I read widely to assemble this post. It is striking to me as a lowly blogger who writes about homeschooling (with only a B.A. from the Honors College and College of Education at Michigan State University) that these experts have no idea how many secular people now homeschool. Or if they do know, they choose to blatantly ignore that piece of information that flies in the face of the narrative they apparently desperately want to promote.
The increase in secular homeschoolers is so evident that I can see it clearly impacting homeschool blogger choices. Many Christian homeschool bloggers have stopped referencing their faith in order to attract a wider audience. They want the ever-increasing numbers of secular homeschoolers to read their blogs and so they have made that choice. It isn’t one I would make, but it has become quite widespread and discussed openly among bloggers as a development in the homeschool blogging world. Rather than Christian homeschoolers forcing their views on other homeschoolers, many are backing off in order to achieve a bigger audience.
So the idea that homeschooling is all super conservative Christians is simply ludicrous to anyone who is paying attention rather than dealing with old stereotypes and prejudices.
So on to the links I’ve assembled to put the entire situation in context and provide a lot of response pieces.
Homeschooling Parents Rights Absolutism VS. Child Rights to Education and Protection
The only thing I can say about Elizabeth Bartholet’s piece published in the Arizona Law Review is that it demonstrates a shocking and total lack of understanding of homeschooling today. Elizabeth Bartholet is fixated on something that might have been true fifteen to twenty years ago in a very small percentage of homeschoolers. But her entire paper is weak because she’s simply so demonstrably wrong in so many different ways.
You can read the paper at the link below. It’s more footnotes than actual paper, but here it is. How many gross over-generalizations and inaccuracies do you see in it? They are honestly everywhere and will be obvious to both homeschoolers and impartial non-homeschoolers alike. It’s almost like someone set out to deliberately write a caricature of homeschooling. It really is that bad to the point that it made me briefly question my life choices and wonder why I didn’t pursue the career in higher education I wanted if this can pass for scholarship.
HOMESCHOOLING: PARENT RIGHTS ABSOLUTISM VS.CHILD RIGHTS TO EDUCATION & PROTECTION (PDF of paper in the Arizona Law Review)
Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform – June 18-19, 2020
Elizabeth Bartholet is also leading the charge with the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law which is holding an invite-only conference to discuss everything homeschooling. Called the Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospect for Reform, it is laser focused on defeating parents’ rights to homeschool and even parent their children as they see fit.
From the description (emphasis mine):
We will convene leaders in education and child welfare policy, legislators and legislative staff, academics and policy advocates, to discuss child rights in connection with homeschooling in the United States. The focus will be on problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight. Experts will lead conversations about the available empirical evidence, the current regulatory environment, proposals for legal reform, and strategies for effecting such reform.
There is no registration fee for this event. This event is private and by invitation-only.
Clearly by the topics and line-up of speakers it is going to be all-in on denigrating homeschooling and homeschooling parents in any way possible.
The only reform of homeschooling they have in mind is to abolish it.
The idea that they are focusing on educational deprivation and child maltreatment in homeschooling as opposed to the appalling condition of public education in this country that impacts so many more children would be funny if it wasn’t so incredibly sad and disturbing.
Here is a sampling of the current topics on the docket:
Concerns with Homeschooling
- The Overall Research Picture Including Educational and Social Outcomes, Milton Gaither
- Civic and Democratic Values, Rob Reich
- Child Maltreatment, Barbara Knox & Chelsea McCracken
Reform Proposals, Moderator James Dwyer
- Regulatory Oversight, Robert Kunzman & Rachel Coleman
- A Presumptive Ban, Elizabeth Bartholet
Political Action, Moderator Viola Vaughan-Eden
- The Current Politics: HSLDA Dominance and Tactics, Carmen Longoria-Green
- Legislative & Other Advocacy Strategies for Reform, Victor Vieth, Samantha Field, & Sarah Eagan
Litigation Strategies for Reform, Moderator Frank Vandervort
- State Constitutions as a Basis for Requiring Homeschooling Reform, Emily Zackin
- Lessons from Successful Litigation Campaigns for Educational Equity, John Affeldt & Michael Rebell
None of these sound like topics that work in the favor of parents, children, families, or freedom.
You might remember one of the speakers, Jim Dwyer, who made disturbing comments a few years ago about parents and rights. You can see a discussion of his views in “Law Professor at Major University Claims State Is “Ultimate Guarantor” of Children” (link now removed on HSLDA).
From that article we learned (emphasis mine):
Jim Dwyer, a law professor at the College of William and Mary, expresses why he believes homeschoolers need more regulations. “The state needs to be the ultimate guarantor of a child’s wellbeing,” he says in the video. “There’s just no alternative to that.”
Dwyer expresses his belief that the parent-child relationship is a result of the state bestowing legal status to parents in the United States. “That’s the state that is empowering parents to do anything with children; to take them home, to have custody, and to make any kind of decisions about that,” he said. Dwyer’s upcoming book entitled The History and Philosophy of Homeschooling will further his argument as to why he believes the state is the ultimate decision-maker in the life of a child.
Dwyer believes the state gives you the right to take your baby home from the hospital and to decide how to parent your child. He’s one of the two main people leading this summit.
Think about that. He believes the state should determine if you can take your own baby home or keep it after you give birth. Can you imagine what he would do with education if given the chance?
The Risks of Homeschooling
Harvard Magazine published The Risks of Homeschooling with the most ridiculous artwork imaginable. This is another weak and outdated attack on homeschooling written by someone who apparently has never met a cross-section of homeschoolers or even talked to a group of them in-depth.
If you are on Facebook, you can go see the plethora of thoughtful, funny, and snarky comments they received about their article. As some of the people point out, Harvard removed the original article and image. They spelled arithmetic wrong in the illustration. Ironic.
Some kind-hearted #homeschooler pointed it out. LOL! (Not sure who to credit for this. If you know, please let me know in the comments.)
Note below the homeschool child trapped inside BEHIND A WINDOW WITH BARS while the “free” public school children play outside. Who in the world thinks this is an accurate depiction? Reality is just the opposite. Recess has been severely curtailed in public schools while homeschooled children have ample time to get outside every day.
Harvard Magazine misspelled "arithmetic" in an image accompanying their anti-homeschooling article.
Some people argued the misspelling was intentional to bash homeschoolers.
BUT THEY JUST CORRECTED THE SPELLING
That proves the embarrassing spelling mistake was not intentional. pic.twitter.com/Sj5QG3dSA5
— Corey A. DeAngelis (@DeAngelisCorey) April 20, 2020
For the benefit of those not on Facebook, I’ll include some of the comments they received here.
I liked this comment:
I look forward to reading the companion piece in your magazine next month, discussing the risks of public schooling, its toll on the mental health of kids nationwide, the effects of bullying and abuse in the school system, and the systemically lower test scores obtained by US public school kids compared to homeschoolers.
And someone’s reply:
and it needs to include the massive number of public school children committing suicide over the abhorrent things happening in public schools.
And this one:
As an alumna of Harvard, I am disappointed that you would stoop to publish something so ridiculous. Stop and think for a moment what is being proposed: the state gets to decide who should be schooled and what the content must be because parents are enemies of the state and cannot be trusted to indoctrinate children properly. That sounds like a totalitarian dictatorship, not at all like a democracy. The parents must prove that they have their children’s best interest as an intent. Guilty of child abuse until proven innocent, in other words. How is that even Constitutional? As many of my homeschooling colleagues have pointed out, home schooling is not a risk factor for child abuse. Singling out home schooling families is a waste of precious resources that are desperately needed by children who are truly at risk. The home schooling community has seen this argument used time and again and it is honestly an attack typically used to gain political points, not one that truly helps abused children.
And this one:
How disappointing, Harvard Magazine, that you would print such a one-sided opinion on a matter like homeschooling. It is clear that Ms. Bartholet has not spent time with a wide range of homeschoolers. Perhaps a better issue to be discussing is why so many people are choosing to homeschool. Or even more urgently, how about a panel on overcrowding and underfunding in the public schools, the dismantling of the arts, the epidemic of bullying and child suicide, and prejudice against minority communities within the schools. Unfortunately, many children do not thrive in the current system, while they do thrive in a personal home environment. I’ve seen my kids do nothing but blossom at home, and they have a rich social life and both academic and real-world learning. Private schools are not necessarily a better option, and many are only available to the elite who can afford them (probably not a problem for the people who will be on this particular panel). I would invite Ms. Bartholet to speak with some actual homeschoolers, and perhaps include some other opinions on what appears to be a very one-sided panel, before judging the community as a whole.
Cool story about “the Risks of Homeschooling.” Now, do one on “The Risk of Public School.” I’ll save you the trouble: Sir Ken Robinson has done extensive work in the subject, something Erin O’Donnell clearly has not.
I see that Harvard Magazine has blocked comments on the actual article. Nine comments got through, all taking Bartholet to the woodshed for her offensive and ill informed article. I suppose that is all the “tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” Harvard can stand, at least when the viewpoints are those in support of homeschooling.
same. closing and deleting comments and disallowing homeschoolers from the homeschooling summit sounds like the democracy of WW2 Italy under Mussolini. but they are afraid that homeschoolers can’t engage in a democratic society and diverse discussion?
Harvard’s Lazy Attack on Homeschooling
From Forbes we have Harvard’s Lazy Attack on Homeschooling.
It’s tough not to start with the image that Harvard Magazine chose to accompany the piece. The child behind bars at home while other children frolic happily outside, the Bible used as part of the framework of the house, it’s like a royal flush of innuendo and lazy stereotypes. Hilariously, “arithmetic” was also misspelled in the original. It has since been corrected.
Have any of these people actually talked to a homeschooler? First off, they are much more likely to be the ones running around the house than those in traditional schools. Second, they’d probably spell “arithmetic” right on the first try (they do dominate spelling bees). But beyond that, this stereotype of the insular conservative homeschooler has never been an accurate picture of homeschooling in America.
Lazy stereotypes of insular religious homeschoolers are also easily disproven by a cursory look at the data. In 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics published results from a survey of homeschoolers who found that the number one reason for homeschooling was not “a desire to provide religious instruction” (that came in third) or even “a desire to provide moral instruction” (that came in seventh), but rather “a concern about school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.” Number two was “dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at other schools.”
The Real Reason Why a Harvard Professor Thinks Homeschooling Should be Banned
Here’s a response piece from Zero Hedge. In The Real Reason Why A Harvard Professor Thinks Homeschooling Should Be Banned, the author hits the nail on the head that this is about one thing and one thing only: control and indoctrination.
The real issue is a lack of indoctrination.
Ironically, the real problem Bartholet has with homeschooling is this:
Many homeschool because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to our democracy. (source)
Let me rephrase that. Homeschooled children can’t be indoctrinated five days a week, eight hours a day, by an education system that emphasizes political agendas. (And incidentally, our form of government is a constitutional republic. Shouldn’t someone from Harvard who is worried I might not have the knowledge to educate my child know something as elementary as that?)
Bartholet defames homeschoolers for wanting to encourage their children toward a particular belief system while touting the belief system that the school system wants to instill. So it’s okay for the public school system to do it, just not for the parents to do it.
While Bartholet scorns parents who indoctrinate their kids, she praises the school system for doing so. The American education system is wholly responsible for raising a generation of perpetually offended people who think they’re open-minded but who actually are only accepting of those with the same beliefs.
Harvard Attack On Homeschooling Has Nothing To Do With Children’s Best Interests
Harvard Attack On Homeschooling Has Nothing To Do With Children’s Best Interests from The Federalist
Toward the end of the article, Bartholet admits she considers homeschoolers’ academic excellence irrelevant. She simply wants a homeschool ban to indoctrinate all children into what she calls the “majority culture.” The professor unfairly, inaccurately, and irrelevantly attacks faith-based homeschoolers when she presumes that religious parents will not sufficiently expose their children to a “range of viewpoints and values.” Of course, she does not propose that children in public schools diversify their viewpoints and values by learning about religion or minority cultures.
How does such intolerance pass for legitimate academic study?
Harvard law professor against home schooling forgets to check her class privilege
Harvard law professor against home schooling forgets to check her class privilege from Washington Examiner (emphasis mine)
A Harvard law professor argues that home schooling is a form of authoritarian control but believes forcing all children to go to a government-run school is not.
I wish this statement was a strawman. But it is not. Elizabeth Bartholet, professor of law at Harvard University, advances this exact argument in an interview in the May-June issue of Harvard Magazine.
“The issue is, do we think parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous,” she contends. “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”
Let that settle in: A professor of law at Harvard University (endowment $40.9 billion) is deeply concerned about giving the “powerful ones,” everyday parents, “total authority.”
The Attack on Homeschoolers Is an Attack on American Ideals
The Attack on Homeschoolers Is an Attack on American Ideals from National Review
Listen carefully to the progressive Left and you may discover that when they say “democratic values,” they mean “I get to tell you what to think.” It’s nothing new to argue that the people must be forced to conform to the preferences of the cultural elites. It takes a certain mental flexibility to do this in the name of democracy.
I refer to the Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s stated case for why it should be illegal for you to homeschool your children in her “something must be done” cry in Harvard Magazine. Bartholet wants the state to ride in on horseback and break up all those sinister gatherings in which families go through the multiplication tables together. Or discuss the Constitution. Or — sharp intake of breath — even study the Bible.
Bartholet makes some half-hearted noises about opposing homeschooling because it supposedly leads to child abuse, or because homeschool parents are unlettered troglodytes who don’t know which end of the pencil the ink comes out of. (“People can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves,” she claims.) These are just warmup arguments, though (dismantled here and here). Even Bartholet doesn’t really seem to believe them. The crux of her case against homeschoolers is that they might grow up thinking thoughts Bartholet does not agree with. That’s the “risk” of homeschooling.
Harvard Law Prof Calls for Ban on Homeschooling, Saying It’s ‘Dangerous’ to Leave Children with Their Parents 24/7
Harvard Law Prof Calls for Ban on Homeschooling, Saying It’s ‘Dangerous’ to Leave Children with Their Parents 24/7 from PJ Media (emphasis mine):
Bartholet slanderously claims in a recent Arizona Law Review paper that “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.” Make no mistake: by “values central to our democracy” she means her enlightened (ahem) values. If your family’s values come into conflict with hers, Bartholet’s must prevail.
Therefore, she argues, there must be 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.” In the view of Bartholet and others of her illiberal ilk, parents should be presumed guilty and must prove to the government that they’re not a danger to their own children. Many homeschoolers, after all, “promote racial segregation and female subservience,” says Bartholet.
Harvard Smears Homeschooling Parents and Their Children
Harvard Smears Homeschooling Parents and Their Children from The Daily Signal
Beyond all of this nonsense is the article’s single largest flaw, which is so obvious it’s hard to believe the thesis passed the inspection of a decent editor: These Harvard elitists don’t bother to hide their disdain for traditional family, parental rights, or the topic of homeschool education, which has increased in popularity in the United States over the past decade.
Despite this increase, by the way, fewer than 5% of children are homeschooled in the United States. From reading this article, though, you’d think homeschooling was the predominant model of education because it’s painted as such a pervasive threat.
Children do not belong to the state, at least not in America. Parents have the right, an inherent gift from God, to care for their little people until they are old enough to care for themselves.
It is the parents’ responsibility, nay, privilege, to teach their children everything from how to use the bathroom to how to do long division to how to process emotions and how to drive a car.
Parents can and should do everything they can to instill their values and pass down their beliefs, whether they choose to send their kids to school, educate them at home, or a mix depending on the year and season of life.
Harvard Law Professor Attacks Homeschoolers, as She Envisions Them
Perhaps the most troubling thing found in this article is a clear display of bigotry by Professor Bartholet.
She argues that a chief evil at hand arises from the fact that as many as 90 percent of homeschooled children live with conservative Christian parents “who seek to remove their children from mainstream culture.” Such people are “extreme religious ideologues” who “question science and promote female subservience, and white supremacy.”
Any form of bigotry coming from one of its professors should cause Harvard trustees to be concerned. Religious bigotry may be fashionable in some circles, but Harvard expresses commitments to the contrary.
Harvard professor wants to ban homeschooling because it’s ‘authoritarian’
Harvard professor wants to ban homeschooling because it’s ‘authoritarian’ from The New York Post
A Harvard University law professor has sparked controversy after calling for a ban on homeschooling.
Elizabeth Bartholet told Harvard Magazine that it gives parents “authoritarian” control over their kids — and can even expose them to white supremacy and misogyny.
“The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous,” Bartholet said. “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”
Homeschooled Harvard Alumni: Excuse Me, Professor . . .
Homeschooled Harvard Alumni: Excuse Me, Professor . . . from Homeschooling Now
By publishing an article highlighting Professor Elizabeth Bartholet’s call for a presumptive ban on home education, Harvard Magazine may have actually done the homeschooling movement a favor.
Though it listed the alleged “risks of homeschooling,” the piece didn’t bother to quote anyone involved in home education. Homeschoolers have remedied this oversight by announcing in various media just how wrong Bartholet’s claim—that homeschooling isolates children, violates their rights, exposes them to abuse, and makes them bad citizens—is.
The Disinformation Campaign against Homeschooling
The Disinformation Campaign against Homeschooling sponsored by Harvard Kennedy School. It appears to be an open Zoom meeting (as opposed to a secret invitation only “summit” to discuss the evils of homeschooling parents).
- Speakers will discuss the dishonest attacks on homeschooling that have been pervasive in the media and academia and also address the failures of public education.
- May 1, 2020 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Harvard Magazine Calls for a “Presumptive Ban” on Homeschooling: Here Are 5 Things It Got Wrong
As a Harvard alum, longtime donor, education researcher, and homeschooling mother of four children in Cambridge, Massachusetts, I was shocked to read the article, “The Risks of Homeschooling,” by Erin O’Donnell in Harvard Magazine’s new May-June 2020 issue. Aside from its biting, one-sided portrayal of homeschooling families that mischaracterizes the vast majority of today’s homeschoolers, it is filled with misinformation and incorrect data. Here are five key points that challenge the article’s primary claim that the alleged “risks for children—and society—in homeschooling” necessitate a “presumptive ban on the practice”
Harvard Law School Calls for Ban on Homeschooling; Homeschooled Harvard Graduate On Why This is Wrong
I graduated from Harvard with honors. In fact, Harvard was the very first school I ever set foot in. The first 12 years of my education, I was homeschooled, from kindergarten to 12th grade. I was proud of my school, until last night, when I read Harvard Magazine’s article on the so-called “risks” of homeschooling. In essence, this article is not an attack on a form of education some might view as lesser quality. In essence, this article is an attack on the fundamental rights and freedoms that make our country (and until recently, institutions such as Harvard) what they are.