Earlier last month, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Bartholet decided to come out and call for a ban on home-schooling.
Right in the middle of a global pandemic where millions of parents have found themselves having to do just that. To continue their children’s educational development and keep them productive during prolonged, mandated school closures.
The reasons given for this prohibition in a report published in the Arizona Law Review were, in a nutshell, as follows: potential child abuse, violation of a child’s right to a meaningful education, parents that are unfit from an pedagogic point of view to teach their own kids and exposure to religious and political extremism.
I would argue that the only peculiar aspect about this viewpoint is its timing as stated above.
But this is not the first attack on the decision of parents to homeschool their children by educational elites like Bartholet and others nor is it even the first during this current healthcare crisis.
Various articles have decried ‘a lost generation’ of children who will suffer scholastically due to not being able to attend bricks and mortar schools.
Abusing a global crisis to spread this type of fear and worry does not seem to worry these defenders of mainstream education because it suits their agenda perfectly. What is their agenda you may ask?
To impose a one size fits all approach to education, further diminish the freedom of families, to depreciate the individual, keep themselves in cushy, well-paid jobs, and impose their own politics and ideology on the entire mass of society. An extreme approach in order to combat what they see as ‘extremism’.
This has been going on for decades and the debate has only flourished in recent years as home-schooling has become popular outside of America where the modern movement originated in the 1970s.
According to statistics, between 2008 and 2018 nearly 1000 more children were registered as being home schooled here in Ireland.
In the UK, the practice rose by 40% over a three-year period.In the US, there are currently 1.7 million students being taught at home which is still only 3.4% of the K – 12 population.
Which does beg the question, if the figures for home-schooling are still relatively low and if most kids are in mainstream education, then what is the problem?
Do anti-home educators worry that numbers will continue to rise especially when Covid-19 is over and parents want more flexibility?
Are they so opposed to values they do not agree with like religion or conservatism that they do not want parents to have any autonomy over what their children learn?
Because despite what Bartholet and her ilk may espouse, the main reasons across the board why mothers and father decide to teach their children at home are mental health worries, lack of school support for students with learning difficulties or disabilities, bullying or getting in with the wrong crowd, outdated curricula or dissatisfaction with a school’s ethos (from both liberal and traditional mindsets).
The cost of a so-called ‘free education’ is also a factor. Uniforms, textbooks, school trips, insurance fees etc. It all adds up and puts a strain on the average family’s finances.
You also may find yourself paying for other people’s children to be educated as well as they are unable or unwilling to do so themselves.
At the end, when your son or daughter does graduate from compulsory education is there a return on the money you have spent?
Last year the OECD carried out a study that showed that 6% of Irish university graduates are ‘functionally illiterate‘ and only 19% reached higher levels of numeracy.
This is after spending 13-15 years being taught by qualified teachers from preschool to Leaving Cert with four elective years added on with a Bachelor’s degree.
That is before we even get into how far behind we are in investing in STEM, foreign languages and ICT as subjects that today’s learners will need if they want to become employable and self-sufficient in the near future.
Education has been all about spoon feeding and rote learning with no thought for creativity, independent thinking, or practical life skills for a long time now.
Forced socialisation, superfluous authority and a fixation on theoretical success has taken the enjoyment and reward out of learning. It certainly did in my case when I was younger.
So, I think it is safe to say that the established way of schooling is failing and families are waking up to this and choosing to eschew the status quo in favour of their children’s wellbeing with the help of modern technology (online courses) and affordable availability of materials such as workbooks (i.e. the Carol Vorderman series).
The proof is in the pudding – research shows that homeschooled children perform better than their counterparts when it comes to human interaction, test scores and skills such as reading and writing.
Are there those that keep their children out of school for nefarious and fanatical purposes? Yes, sadly there are but to paint all home educators with the same toxic brush is not just grossly unfair, but lazy and blatantly false.
Not all kids are going to grow up to be Ivy League or Oxbridge leftists living in their comfortable echo chamber of superiority. Some of them do not want to – thank God. Maybe someone should teach that to Professor Bartholet et al.