An article from Harvard Magazine is making waves for good reason—just check out the title, “The Risks of Homeschooling.” This article features the thinking of Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program. She claims homeschooling is “dangerous” and should be presumptively banned. This means parents should have to demonstrate to the state that their case for homeschooling is “justified” before being allowed to opt their children out of public school.
Why does she think homeschooling is “dangerous”? She claims (1) it “violates children’s right to a ‘meaningful education’”; (2) it supposedly violates their “right to be protected from potential child abuse”; and (3) it “may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.”
Now, many of my supporters are homeschoolers who know homeschooling, they know the very large homeschooling community intimately, and they are aware that this professor (1) did sloppy “research” (there’s hardly any actual research cited in the article, just the author’s own imaginations about homeschooling); (2) completely misrepresented homeschooling; and (3) doesn’t know what she’s talking about, frankly. Dr. Georgia Purdom, a homeschooling mom, and Avery Foley, a former homeschooler and homeschooling mom, discussed more about the Harvard article in today’s episode of Answers News. In this blog, I want to focus on the ideology underpinning Bartholet’s argument.
All of her (very unfounded) “concerns” about homeschooling are really a contrived justification for the underlying philosophy hinted at through the article—you don’t really “own” your children: the state does.
Bartholet says, “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.” Really, what she’s saying is that governments—not parents—have the right to determine what a child learns.
She goes on to say,
The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous . . . I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.
Really, this attack on homeschooling isn’t about homeschooling at all. It’s actually about her view that parents can be the enemy of children—and that comes through clearly in the statement above. So, to save children from their “powerful” parents, we need to take them from their homes and put them in school five days a week. Now, every parent, regardless of how they choose to educate their children, should be alarmed by such thinking!
Parents are not enemies of their children. And the state does not own children. Our children have been entrusted to us by God. Fathers and mothers have the God-given responsibility to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Do some parents, including some homeschool parents, abuse or neglect that responsibility? Sadly, yes. That is a tragic reality in a sin-cursed and broken world. But that is not how the vast majority of parents treat their children. These exceptions cannot and should not be used to argue that parents are the “enemy” and the state must be allowed to ensure that children spend large amounts of time away from their parents being educated in government schools.
As Christians, we know that someday we will stand before God and give an account for how we raised our children. The state does not have that responsibility or accountability—we do. And, of course, the state does not love or know children like parents do! This should cause every Christian to do their absolute best to raise their child in a way that honors the Lord.
Parents everywhere should be concerned about this article and the insidious argument hidden within it. The government does not own our children, nor know what is best for them. Parents do, and parents should have the freedom to decide for themselves how best to educate their children. This article is just another example of the war on the family, kids, and Christianity that permeates our nations.