CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts, April 20, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) ― Parents are up in arms over an attack on homeschooling published in a Harvard magazine.
A conference at Harvard University’s Law School for people opposed to home education will take place in June.
“The risks of homeschooling,” written by Erin O’Donnell, is an interview with Elizabeth Bartholet, described as the “Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the [Harvard] Law School’s Child Advocacy Program.” Bartholet is concerned that home education is not regulated and that it is practiced primarily by conservative Christians who wish to shield their children from “mainstream culture.”
“…Surveys of homeschoolers show that a majority of such [homeschooling] families (by some estimates, up to 90 percent) are driven by conservative Christian beliefs, and seek to remove their children from mainstream culture,” O’Donnell wrote.
“Bartholet notes that some of these parents are ‘extreme religious ideologues’ who question science and promote female subservience and white supremacy.”
Bartholet, who pointed to a memoir of a woman brought up in isolation by survivalists as evidence of the evils of homeschooling, believes that home education threatens American democracy.
“From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society,” Bartholet told O’Donnell.
“But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints.”
Bartholet believes that parents should not have an automatic right to homeschool their children but should have to prove their case to get “permission to opt out of schools.”
Her views on homeschooling provoked ire in readers, some of whom observed that the pandemic means that more parents than ever are homeschooling.
Senator Ted Cruz, highlighting the article’s advocacy for a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling, said it was “barbaric, myopic, and unconstitutional.”
Dr. Joseph Shaw of Oxford University told LifeSiteNews that the anti-homeschoolers’ assumptions are fascist.
“The assumption seems to be that the State owns children, and then lends them to parents to wash and feed,” he said.
“It is ironic that people with this view claim to be concerned about parents inculcating their children with right-wing ideology, since their own view comes straight out of Fascism.”
“The elites are terrified that families are figuring out they can educate their own children at home,” tweeted Corey A. Deangelis, director of school choice at the Reason Foundation.
“Elizabeth [Bartholet] says the burden of proof should be on parents to get permission to homeschool from the government,” he continued. “She has it backwards. Our children don't belong to the government.”
Deangelis also brought attention to an “invite-only anti-homeschooling conference” to be held at Harvard Law School in June.
The “Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform” conference is sponsored by the Harvard Law School Child Advocacy Program, in cooperation with the Academy on Violence and Abuse, American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, the Institute for Human Services, the New York Foundling, the William & Mary Bill of Rights Institute, and the Zero Abuse Project.
According to Harvard, it is scheduled to take place on June 18 and 19, 2020.
A blurb for the conference stated that it would “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.”
Speakers include Bartholet and Dr. James Dwyer of the William and Mary School of Law. Dwyer is also opposed to Catholic and other Christian education. In his 2001 book Religious Schools v. Children's Rights, Dwyer argued that “common pedagogical practices in fundamentalist Christian and Catholic schools may be damaging to children.”
Darren Johnes of the Home School Legal Defense Association, which is mentioned in the Harvard Magazine article, has suggested that the line-up of speakers looks “fascinating.”
“The summit looks like a fascinating line-up of speakers, and HSLDA would love to attend. Alas, it’s invitation only, and the exact location is undisclosed,” he wrote. “However, we know that many parents homeschool to protect their children from abuse, so if you have questions about the summit, the website states you can contact Crisanne Hazen ([email protected]) or call 617-496-1684.”
Twitter-user Mark Bailey wrote that people like Bartholet inspired him to homeschool.
“People like her [are] exactly one reason we homeschooled,” he tweeted.
“We didn’t want our kids to be raised by other kids or nut jobs with an agenda…the result? Our kids act like adults, more so than most adults.”
Richard Bailey tweeted that the article had inspired him to donate money.
“What she is politi-babbling about is the right of parents to raise their children away from her viewpoints.”
Melba Pearson, a homeschooler who graduated from Harvard with honors, wrote about her disappointment with the article on Medium.
“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,” she stated.
“The idea that a government, already so inefficient and inadequate in so many areas, can care for and educate every child better than its parent is wrong.”
Another reader, writing in the Harvard magazine’s comments box, said that Bartholet’s take on homeschooling was “fascinatingly out of date.”
“I would urge the author and professors to do some research and homework and check their internal inconsistencies,” said “bdbaugus.”
He wrote that homeschool students “do better academically,” are more “politically aware,” are more likely to be involved in the arts and politics, and are more likely to become entrepreneurs.
“This is nothing more than a desire for government to extend its reach into the family and home, an area it has proved incompetent to manage as various public relief programs have destroyed families over the last 50 years,” he declared.
Cait Blakely, aslo responding directly to the article, said, “This article and others like it stun me and show a true lack of understanding of what homeschooling is. It's sad to see such a one-sided, uninformed article on Havard's website.”