There’s a piece going around on Facebook; a link to this blog post by a guy named Matt Walsh about home schooling, specifically about a ridiculously misguided piece of legislation (since withdrawn) proposing that all homeschool parents undergo background checks and social services investigations. I find myself wanting to respond more extensively than would be possible in a comment trail.
Let’s start with where we agree: the legislation is outrageous. Homeschooling parents should not be singled out because of their choice to educate their children at home. Most people who homeschool their children are intelligent, conscientious, caring, and are not trying to cover up blatant child abuse.
However I do have issues with some of his other points. It starts near the top:
…[W]e don’t have any rights at all if we don’t have the unquestioned and absolute right to teach and raise our own children.
No sir. You do not have any “absolute” rights to your children. They are not your chattel. They are citizens of this country, entitled to the same protections as any other citizen. They also have the right to an education, which is where much of the kerfuffle ensues. What “should” a child be learning? Obviously each homeschooler’s answer to that is, “What I’m teaching them.” It turns out that even outside the realm of the homeschoolers, the “ideal curriculum” is a chimera. There’s ridiculously little agreement on what people, let alone kids, should know. It’s no wonder that local school board meetings are so contentious.
The vast majority of parents love their children, and take very seriously the job of seeing to it that they are protected, cared for, and educated. Nevertheless, the rest of us/society/the government have an obligation to watch out for those (hopefully) few children whose parents aren’t up to the task. This surprisingly thankless job has been relegated to the poorly paid field of Social Services, whose failures never fail to make the front page, and whose successes are invisible to the general public. As they should be. But just because you never hear about these overworked, underpaid professionals when they do their job right does not mean that they don’t serve a vital role in our society.
Here’s a question for all you homeschoolers: What constitutes “educational abuse”? Would you recognize it if you saw it? What would you do about it if you did? And don’t go trying to tell me it never happens. That’s just naivete on your part.
What about the kid who wants to be a doctor, but whose parents refuse to teach him anything but creation science because anything else “conflicts with our religious beliefs.” Does that count?
Oh, but none of you would do that, would you. Nor take your kids out of school so your boyfriend could beat them to death. Oh no. It’s just “other people” who do that. The problem is that you can’t always tell who “the others” are.
Imagine the following scenario: A father regularly brings his three homeschooled sons to the library. They don’t go to your church, but they do go somewhere; they’re good, God-fearing folk, just like you. You frequently exchange pleasantries with them. You’ve never seen the mother, but that doesn’t seem strange. She’s a busy home-schooling mom, probably grateful to Dad for taking them out so she can get stuff done around the house. One day you notice that there are only two boys there. No biggie; kids get sick. Except that when the father takes the 8-year-old to the bathroom, the 10-year-old mentions that the 11-year-old isn’t there because he’s being punished. That’s okay; withholding a privilege is reasonable. Except then the kid tells you it’s because his brother was caught teaching his sisters to read. Turns out there are four little girls at home as well, whose “home schooling” consists entirely of cooking, cleaning, and other “womanly arts.” Dad doesn’t believe girls need to know how to read or write. Mom can’t read very well either. Dad hits her when he catches her sneaking a look at the newspaper.
What do you do?
In Matt Walsh’s world of “Family Sovereignty” those kids are shit out of luck.
I am NOT saying that government always gets it right. And one manipulative homeschooling parent is not an indictment of homeschooling by any means. The default assumption should always be that everything is fine, but circling the wagons and refusing to cooperate with any government effort to “check in” on homeschoolers is similarly unhelpful. Some may say it makes you look like you have something to hide.
Just because you’re not abusing your kids, and just because the “system” is flawed doesn’t mean we don’t need it.