Time to Outlaw Homeschooling?

April 23rd, 2020 Posted by Homeschooling, Practical Parenting, Susan's Musings 37 comments

Rabbi Simcha Wasserman, an esteemed mentor of my husband’s and a revered teacher of thousands, once gave my husband an unusual blessing. He said, “May God protect you from those who believe they are acting for the sake of Heaven.” His eyes twinkled as he spoke, but there was deep sincerity behind his words.

Those who believe that their motives are entirely pure, selfless and represent the only truth are dangerous indeed. Those who deliberately use the language of morality, selflessness and idealism to bamboozle others are likely even more dangerous.

I do not know Professor Elizabeth Bartholet or whether she believes that she is acting only for the public good, but having read her essay in the Arizona Law Review warning about the potential abuses of homeschooling and recommending judicial action to counter parental authority, I do know that her thinking is dangerous indeed. As the Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program at Harvard Law School, she is in a position to do great harm.

I could nitpick with various parts of Professor Bartholet’s words. I imagine that my definition of religious ideologue differs from her when she claims that, “It is the religious ideologues who dominate the homeschooling movement,” and I certainly see bigotry hovering when she speaks with palpable dislike about “the number of homeschoolers who are religious, or for whom religion is a primary reason for homeschooling…”  I might even find it rather vague and unscientific to present a range for those homeschoolers from “over half to 90%”. Considering that America is a largely religious country, I would venture that there are many government schools whose makeup is composed of parents and teachers who also “are religious.” I certainly get the impression that she would love to eradicate religion from America (at least Christianity) in her search for an enlightened, brave new world.

However, I don’t want to focus on the details of her arguments but rather on a question that societies do need to answer. Do we pass overarching legislation limiting individuals in order to solve problems created by the aberrant actions of a tiny minority at the very lowest levels of society or do we encourage individual freedom and allow greatness to grow? We cannot do both.

Good people, among which I include myself and you, recognize that homeschooling could theoretically be used as a shield by evil and/or sick parents. Homeschooling also allows parents to pass on their values, whether or not they conform to the latest popular and politically correct notion. I’m pretty sure that Prof. Bartholet would not approve of the values and religious beliefs of millions of homeschoolers whose children are now grown, contributing and thriving members of society, including my own. Since good people can and do differ on values, let’s focus on an area we can all agree: children should not be physically abused, defining abuse as gross and criminal harm. Protecting the children of those parents is the ostensible goal of Professor Bartholet.

That goal faces two insurmountable problems: The first one is that in Professor Bartholet’s world, government and public employees are all noble, incorruptible, capable, diligent and worthy. If only that were so! Are there parents whose children need to be protected from them? Yes. Are there teachers whose students need to be protected from them? Yes. Are there parents who may have the best desires but who are not capable of successful teaching? Yes. Are there licensed teachers who are graduates of Schools of Education who are not capable of successful teaching? Yes. If the goal is to protect children, then homeschooling cannot be singled out. Too many American students who attend government schools are damaged in the course of their student years and way too many graduate while functionally illiterate and incapable of flourishing in society.

The second problem I’d like to highlight is that if we accept Professor Bartholet’s seemingly reasonable argument that homeschooling allows parents to “hide” their children away so that no upstanding citizen will see abuse, then outlawing homeschooling is not enough. After all, why should parents be able to abuse their children for five years before they reach kindergarten age? Even lowering the age of compulsory schooling to three or four leaves too much time for evil. The logical conclusion of thinking that the government must 100% protect children from evil/sick parents is that parents should not be allowed to take children home from the hospital (obviously, home births need to be outlawed) without a home inspection and other documentation. After all, we do those things before allowing for adoption or foster parenting. If we are meant to ignore the reality of government ideology and failure that allows some foster children to be tragic victims of a broken system, then why should all children not be so protected?

There are even mothers who harm their children in utero through drinking or using drugs. Perhaps pregnant women need to be isolated and under government supervision. (Obviously, in the eyes of most of the elite, if the mothers want to harm their babies by aborting them, the government should help, not hinder that desire.) You see where I am going. Either we assume that the government is not only benign but omniscient and saintly and treat all parents as if they are suspect and potential Satanic reincarnations or we form a society that trusts its citizens while trying its best to isolate dangerous individuals.

Am I taking things to an extreme? Yes. Over the years, we have seen example after example of ideas that were dismissed as far-fetched and absurd turn into legally protected mandates. “That will never happen,” is not a belief on which to dismiss logical conclusions when one follows a train of thought.

It is futile to attempt to achieve a perfect world on this earth. Yet, that is the siren song of socialism. In that worldview, children ‘belong’ to the government, not to their parents. Amherst law professor, James Dwyer expresses this idea when he says, “The reason parent-child relationships exist is because the State confers legal parenthood…” This is the system for which Professor Bartholet is advocating. Personally, I believe that my children are a blessing from God given to my husband and me, not a gift of government.

A society can have freedom and greatness or succumb to the false promise of utopia. Despite all my imperfections as a homeschooling mother, I choose to raise my own children, and I want to live in a country where I trust most of my fellow citizens to do the same.

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Al Hoffman says:

Yes, Thank you Mrs. Lapin,
Caution on all sides.
Presumptiveness based upon a thesis, ar like, “Let them eat cake.” Grew around those trained in multuple backgrounds, and too often there is deep error. Basus skills overlooked or overshot by lesser goals.

Michele McFie says:

Unfortunately, I’m not convinced that you are taking it to the extreme. You’ve only magnified the possible directions that could be taken (some of which have been taken in other cultures and periods of time.)

Susan Lapin says:

Exactly, Michele. There is quite a bit of dystopian literature depicting this scenario, but in history socialist regimes (including the Nazis) had women designated for breeding. They weren’t having their own children, but the States’.

Thalin says:

Correct but under US policy, every citizen is the employee/ franchisee of the federal corporation. It was established after civil war, 1872 I believe, because United states of America were no longer united . Parents are tricked at the birth of their children. My oldest one’s birth certificate says informant instead of mother. Thus a corporation is established in the child’s name. In corporate law, corporations can not enact laws that pertain to a man or a woman. Period. Our children are considered goods. Property of the state.

joy says:

Wow! Beautifully stated!

Susan Lapin says:

There have been a number of excellent responses, Joy, some from Harvard homeschoolers and I think it is important that this does not stay in the academic shadows.

William Waterman says:

This is very good. Thank you

Susan Lapin says:

William, what scares me is that some people who find this scenario scary have still bought in so heavily to the hate Trump camp that they will vote for people who will try to make this happen.

Mark Z says:

Thank you Susan. I think this musing is one of the finest.

Susan Lapin says:

I appreciate that, Mark.

Bonny Fish says:

Amen and Amen! Keep up the good work! The world ideology doesn’t even make sense logically. Taking all freedoms away creates robots! (Lest we forget!) We must fight this with G-d’s help!!! Love to you and the Rabbi! ❤️ From a Christian with a kindred heart.

Susan Lapin says:

Bonny, I hope you and all of us are vocal Jews and Christians with kindred hearts.

Terry Sterling says:

Thank you Susan. Wonderful! Although I did not homeschool my children, they have gone to a Christian school which has its faults as well because they still have to follow some of the government rules. How do we stop this ridiculousness? Shall I call my senator, governor or attorney general?
Blessings to you!
Terry Sterling

Susan Lapin says:

Terry, I don’t have the answer as what the best thing to do is, but voting, even in small local elections, being knowledgable and vocal and letting our schools know that we are paying attention are all important.

Terry Sterling says:

One of the problems even in a private school, there is no PTA. But believe me I put as much input on what they are doing as possible. And I always exercise my right to vote. So wonderful to have met you and Rabbi Lapin!
God Bless,
Terry Sterling

Susan Lapin says:

The private schools I know are always asking for parental involvement whether it be for fund-raising, chaperoning trips, volunteering in class or whatnot. That gives parents a chance to see what is going on and have input. I guess not all do.

Mike says:

@Ms. Susan,
Thank you very much for your thoughtful and sincere post. As an educator, I believe the South Koreans have it right when they call their teachers “nation builders.” Seeing the gains that tiny nation made in (1) overcoming nearly 50 years of colonization by the former Empire of Japan, (2) the most destructive war in their nation’s history, (3) transitioning from aid recipient to aid donor, (4) becoming a technologically-advanced nation, and (5) an Asian Tiger economy (Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong are the other Asian Tigers) is remarkable. The expectations the Korean people place on their educators and their young is much higher than anything I’ve seen in the states. The key difference is that the Korean teachers I knew (or even Korean military/government officers I worked with) are not filling their kids’ minds with garbage.
Thanks again for writing this, it is such a good point for further discussion and dialog?
Best wishes,

Susan Lapin says:

Mike, this Musing actually displaced another one I wanted to write, either as a Musing or a Practical Parenting column, that highlights exactly the point you are making. I still hope to write it. Thanks for reminding me.

Rabindra Kitchener says:

What a powerful and impacting thought process you have!
i agree with everything you said and am outraged at these liberal professors who are blind to the decline of our society because of their postmodern thinking and advocacy.
Your article I hope will give the power of discernment to our citizens which I think they desperately need.
God Bless
Rabindra Kitchener MD

Joanne says:

Brave writing…thank you for writing because silence is not golden!!!

David Hastings says:

Very well put! The idea of homeschooling should not be religious based. The homeschoolers that I know do it as a preferred method of raising children. It happens to be a luxury for those families not to be able to infuse as much love and knowledge into their kids on their own…after all, they brought the kid into the world! Send children to school should really be seen as a backup option for parents who cant afford not to work, or are not literate enough themselves to teach their own. How ironic that the utopia has reversed!

Susan Lapin says:

David, I have heard of more than one case now where parents are finding their children happier and families running more smoothly with their children home. The problem is both a societal push to school and an economic one. What will they do when they have a choice again?

Tom M says:

Have you forwarded this column to Professor Bartholet?

Susan Lapin says:

No, Tom, I’m not sure what that would accomplish and I’m pretty sure she would never see it.

Johnson Eng says:

Bravo Mrs. Lapin! Thank you for putting such thoughtfulness into words. You hit the nail on the head and have expressed so eloquently what is in my heart. God bless you & Rabbi Lapin!

Susan Lapin says:

I appreciate your writing, Johnson. (I hope that is your first name – I apologize if I am getting that wrong.)

Bill Loughman says:

Your comments regarding homeschooling and the aspirations of statists to control it, or eliminate it altogether, are trenchant and beautifully expressed. I have been following this issue for many years (i.e., ever since my son’s 7th grade history teacher in Berkeley’s public school system LITERALLY never said a single word to the students about history — she simply referred the class ever day to the ‘reading assignment on the blackboard,’ and then immersed herself in her own dime novel — and then, after about ten minutes, fell asleep at her desk for the remainder of each class. When I complained to the principal about this outrageous lack of teaching, the principal told me that he and the school district had been trying for ‘many years’ to have the teacher in question fired, but that that seemingly simple and obviously warranted remedy had proved impossible, both politically and financially, because of various provisions in the teachers union-dictated collective bargaining agreement with the school district.) Aside from absurdities such as this one, the two most pervasive problems with the public schools are 1) the alarming percentage of public school teachers who are not intellectually competent to teach anyone much of anything; and 2) the extent to which even the otherwise competent teachers are teaching children WHAT to think, instead of HOW to think. It is all too common for control-oriented elitists such as Professor Bartholet to be obsessed with criticizing natural realities which they can’t control —and should not be able to control—, while assiduously and hypocritically ignoring the glaring and impoverishing deficiencies of the public school system. I can’t help but conclude that persons such as Professor Bartholet — and leftists and socialists in general — put their own emotional need to control the world around them ahead of any real and deep concern for the wellbeing of children. Kudos to you for a superb ‘musing.’ Keep up the good work.
-Bill Loughman

Susan Lapin says:

That is a pretty horrifying story, Mr. Loughman, and I wish it were completely atypical. It is, of course, in some school districts, but all too typical in others. (I did pass on your regards but removed them from the public comment.)

Lyna says:

The quote, “May God protect you from those who believe they are acting for the sake of Heaven.” reminded me of this one:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C. S. Lewis, English essayist & juvenile novelist (1898 – 1963)

Kristin Grose says:

The last vestige of pretense is gone. The left feels emboldened enough now to dispense with euphemisms to hide ideology that otherwise would be a hard-sell. Professor Bartholet’s story is a good example of that. Sends shivers up my spine. God bless, Susan.

Deborah Leyde says:

Thank you for writing this piece, Susan. Beautifully argued on all points.

Susan Lapin says:

Deb, we both know how devoted and capable most homeschooling parents are. I wonder if you knew the couple in the Northwest that wanted to temporarily foster a child from overseas so that they could oversee some medical work he needed (that was the husband’s specialty) and were turned down by social services unless they agreed to stop going to church while the child was with them.

James says:

Thanks for a brilliant and timely Musing. Your thoughts are echoed this morning in The Daily Signal by Jarrett Stepman (The Heritage Foundation), who also subjects Bartholet to a critical eye. He points out that Bartholet is ‘perpetuating a malicious and lazy stereotype.’ Furthermore, she believes public schools are an essential tool of the state toward ‘progressive social engineering;’ that all young people must be indoctrinated to accept the left’s views on sexuality, religion, or rewritten American history. Thus, public schools are her mechanism to “veto” any beliefs of parents that do not fit the Leftist mold. Quite ironically, Bartholet claims that home schooling is the parents’ means to exert ‘authoritarian’ control over their young. Pardon me? Who is the authoritarian here? The State with its mandatory indoctrination and suppression of religions to which IT objects is the authoritarian. And dear Ms. Bartholet, home-schooled kids I have known are knowledgeable, capable, motivated and cannier than one might expect. Also they are much more cheerful, not having to wade through the behavioral swill that their dysfunctional classmates produce in the schools.

Susan Lapin says:

I will look up that piece, James. I certainly agree that this is an attempt to indoctrinate all kids with an anti-God and Leftist agenda.

Liz says:

The essay you discussed is very alarming! Thank you for bravely encouraging families to remain strong and raise their own children.

Susan Lapin says:

Many parents are getting an inside look at their children’s world for the first time in a long time, Liz. I hope that has lasting effects.

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