No, homeschoolers are not the problem
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February 11, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Conservative homeschooling groups have “very successfully undermined children’s basic physical safety and right to an education all across the U.S.,” wrote Jill Filipovic. She is a lawyer, New York Times contributor, and the author of The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness whose ideologies are taking on new adversaries with her latest attack on homeschool families across the nation.
Her latest piece is entitled “One of the most controversial ideas in America is that children should have rights: Let's talk about homeschooling.” Essentially, her claim is that children’s rights are violated by parents who homeschool because they are not educated and their conservative Christianity acts as a facade for abuse to occur. Filipovic is speaking, not only of the abuse of a flawed education, but the physical abuse of young people by their own parents. She claims that homeschooling is a manner of covering up the crimes of these parents as well as an example of far-right Christians’ desire to indoctrinate their children in ancient falsehoods.
“It is absolutely the case that if you so much as write about homeschooling, and certainly if you try to legislate anything related to it,” Filipovic tweeted, “you will be incessantly harassed by a right-wing mob. Children's rights are as threatening to them as feminism is.” Her major claim is that homeschooling families are anti-children and anti-women. What Filipovic neglects to mention is the fact that the majority of homeschool families choose this route of education because their local school district has failed to produce both good test scores and character-driven human beings.
Parents had the pride of place in educating their children until the public school system took off in American in the 1800s. The indisputable fact is that public schools gifted the economy with more workers while it tore apart the ancient understanding that parents ought to be involved in their children’s education. The wedge was driven between familial-based raising of youth and government-crafted education.
Filipovic, however, argued that Christianity and conservatism are ruining families. “One of the most controversial ideas in America is that children have rights. And the people who are most opposed, who keep us as one of just three nations that refuse to recognize the rights of the child, are ‘pro-life, pro-family’ homeschooling advocates.” Filipovic makes out that those who say they are for the unborn and defend the rights of the family are somehow culprits who should be convicted of abuse. Homeschool families are more often Christians or conservatives, but that does not mean they are automatically ill-advised because they believe in investing everything in forming their children.
This is yet another example of how an entire population is viewed as outcasts and abusers because of their political or religious affiliation. Filipovic focused much of her time on the abuse of minors in homeschool families and how these environments protect the abusers. If the topic is the physical abuse of children then the debate often centers on the scandals in the Catholic Church regarding the abuse of children by priests. While the media always aggressively gravitates towards bashing the Church, there is much more evidence of abuse in public schools then there is among Catholic clergy.
“Think the Catholic Church has a problem?” says Charol Shakeshaft, Hofstra University researcher on abuse in the public school system and former adviser to the Department of Education. “The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.” To argue that homeschooling is child abuse is simply the creation of an empty straw-man argument that cannot stand.
The fact is that the “United States state and local child protective services (CPS) estimated that 686,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2012.” The same reports also noted that abuse by school employees is estimated to impact roughly 10 percent of children in the public school system with more than 27 percent of children being 3 years old or younger. This is not the only reason for homeschooling, but in response to the abuse accusation thrown at them we must investigate the issues with our public schools.
While somewhere between 4 and 5 million children are homeschooled in the United States each year, this number has also increased with the negative impacts on education during the pandemic. COVID has not just caused problems in education but has revealed the true state of the public school system. Teachers would rather have months off then return to the classroom, and the administrations and departments of education are more afraid of offending the teachers unions than fighting for the well-being of their students.
To state that homeschool families are ultra-conservatives and abuse their children is yet another example of outlandish rhetoric that further divides the nation. Some parents may choose to educate their children at home, that is not a crime. It is actually a right. Some parents may choose tos send their children to private school or public school which is also their right. If anything is clear, there are imperfections with all current methods of education. However, what is also the staunch truth is that parents are necessary agents in aiding their children in becoming knowledgeable and virtuous citizens.
That being said, more and more people are seeing that homeschooling is a real option that binds the family together and places more onus on the student to become all that they can be. Homeschooling is not abusive and it is not neglectful of children's rights. On the contrary, when done well it allows children to flourish and become the leaders our country desperately needs.
Thomas Griffin teaches at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife and son. He received a master’s degree in theology and is currently a master’s candidate in philosophy whose latest content can be viewed at EmptyTombProject.org