Editor’s note: For TheBlaze Magazine‘s June cover story, Assistant Editor Sharon Ambrose dug into the history and success of — and Progressive attacks on — home-schooling.
What she found was, despite a history of proven great accomplishment in the home-education movement, the Left continues to wage war on home-schoolers. And these attacks aren’t new.
Progressives first made the case in the early 20th century that government control trumps the rights of parents. What will the assault look like in the 21st century?
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Below are a few excerpts from the June 2013 cover story, “Government Rule vs. Home-School: Parental Guidance Not Suggested.” Get the full story only in the June issue of TheBlaze Magazine.
Angie Blad never planned on home-schooling her children.
The Nebraska mother of six sent her kids to the local public schools without a second thought. That is until her son, then in first grade, was not allowed to participate in a classroom learning game because he was winning too much. Instead of participating, the teacher had him sit in a rocking chair while the other students engaged in the competition.
When Blad contacted the teacher, she was told that, because no advanced programming was available for students until third grade, her son would have to sit out sometimes to allow other students the chance to succeed. This incident led Blad and her husband to start considering home-schooling as an option. That was three years ago. Today, while one of Blad’s children remains in a special education public school program, the other five are being educated at home.
Stories like Blad’s are becoming more common throughout the country as parents are choosing to teach their children at home. …
About 1.5 million children are home-schooled, according to the U.S. Census bureau based on information gathered in 2007. Home-school advocates like the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) pegs the number closer to 2 million as of 2010 and estimates that the population grows every year by 2 percent to 8 percent.
Despite its growing popularity, it may be surprising that home-schooling was considered illegal in most states a mere 30 years ago. The path of legalizing home-schooling in the U.S. can serve as a valuable case study as to how average Americans working together can create big changes.
MODERN HISTORY OF HOME-SCHOOLING
From the founding of the United States until 1900, child education laws were weak and rare, but starting in the early 20th century, compulsory education laws began sweeping across the country with strong public support.
School attendance laws were a natural follow up to newly enacted child labor laws. If children were not allowed to work, sending them to school made sense to parents. Urban families saw education as a way for their children to secure their positions within the middle class. And rural families already had a pro-education culture in place. Thanks to the mechanization of farming, rural families had more free time to dedicate to education. Parents in farming communities understood that their children would escape to the cities for an education or a job, so many rural towns had local schools already in place to keep their children close to home. Additionally, since rural schools were established with the norms and values of the local community, religious families tended to be some of the strongest supporters of the compulsory laws. … By 1918, every state in the union had laws on the books requiring children to enroll in formal schooling. In typical Progressive fashion, compulsory school laws and regulations expanded rapidly in scope.
EDUCATION CHOICE ON THE LEFT AND THE RIGHT
Home-schooling continued to be a rare event in America until the 1970s when the upward trend began, with growth in the movement coming from two very different groups: far-Left activists and the religious Right.
Leftist hippies disenfranchised from not being able to have a larger impact on American culture headed to communes. These small communities emphasized a life of collective living, open marriages and liberal drug use. Thanks to the influence of Leftist home-schooling advocate John Holt, children reared in these communes were kept out of public school so to avoid becoming part of the establishment. Among his many philosophies, Holt argued that children should be treated as adults and could choose the best way to learn for themselves. Holt’s argument resonated with liberals, and commune children were generally raised with few rules or expectations. Most communes faded out by the 1980s, but the concept of rejecting the “status quo” of education was an idea that Americans from both sides of the political spectrum could embrace.
Home-schooling by conservative Christians in the ’70s and ’80s was part of a larger response from lessons learned in the ’60s. Studies from the early 1960s indicated that religious conservatives were the least likely citizens to be involved in politics since faith leadership encouraged social change exclusively through the church. While radical hippies may have felt like they did not influence the culture enough, their impact on American society did frighten Christians into becoming politically active. … This new political awareness led parents to take a second look at their children’s curriculum.
CRITICS SLAM FAMILY MORALS AND BELIEFS
Independently teaching children at home does have bold critics, mostly from the Progressive Left. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s family was personally attacked by Bill Maher, host of HBO’s “Real Time.” “Rick Santorum home-schools his children because he does not want them eating that f**king apple,” Maher said on his show in 2012. “He wants them locked up in the Christian madrassa that is the family living room not out in public where they could be infected by the virus of reason.”
Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic wrote in 2012 that home-schooling is “the demented idea that children can be competently taught by people whose only qualifications for teaching them are love and a desire to keep them from the world—constitutes another insult to the great profession of pedagogy.”
Even though the radical Leftists of the 1960s helped to ignite the home-schooling trend, today’s Progressives are being discouraged from home-schooling their own. Slate’s Dana Goldstein made the left-wing Progressive stance perfectly clear in a 2012 article titled, “Liberals, Don’t Homeschool Your Kids: Why Teaching Children at Home Violates Progressive Values.” She argued that “government is the only institution with the power and scale to intervene in the massive undertaking of better educating American children.”
George Washington University Law professor Catherine J. Ross wrote in a 2010 scholarly article that “in order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine tolerance of difference.” She added, “The state can and should limit the ability of intolerant home-schoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children.”
Law professor Martha Albertson Fineman of Emory University wrote in 2009, “The risk that parents or private schools unfairly impose hierarchical or oppressive beliefs on their children is magnified by the absence of state oversight or the application of any particular educational standards. The more appropriate suggestion for our current educational dilemma is that public education should be mandatory and universal.”
Where will home education go from here? Get the whole truth on home-schooling and the Progressive Left’s efforts to undermine and destroy the successful movement only in the pages of the June 2013 issue of TheBlaze Magazine.
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