Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Regulating Homeschooling?

Talk to Action gives an excerpt from this forthcoming paper on homeschooling. Key paragraphs:
Surprisingly, the social and legal implications of this phenomenon have received almost no scholarly attention. For decades political theorists have worried and argued about what steps a liberal society must take to protect children being raised in illiberal communities. They have focused their attention
on the extent to which a liberal society must permit or condemn such practices as polygamy, clitoridectomy, and child marriage.
Virtually absent from the debate has been any discussion of the extent to which a liberal society should condone or constrain homeschooling, particularly as practiced by religious fundamentalist families explicitly seeking to shield their children from liberal values of sex equality, gender role fluidity and critical rationality.
. . . .
Legal academics have been even more silent in the face of homeschooling's dramatic rise. Most articles about homeschooling have focused on the narrow question of whether public schools must permit homeschooled
students to participate in extracurricular activities. Very few have provided any critical evaluation or assessment of current homeschooling laws more generally. None have addressed the significant constitutional questions raised by state abdication of control over homeschooling. This paper seeks to begin to fill this important void. The paper explores the constitutional limits the state action doctrine puts on states' ability to delegate unfettered control over education to homeschooling parents. It argues that states must--not may or should--regulate homeschooling to ensure that parents provide their children with a basic minimum education and check rampant forms of sexism.
I don't know a lot about the homeschooling movement, although it is interesting, as the paper points out, that this movement started as a left-wing phenomenon as a part of the free schools efforts in the 1960s. I'm not sure how one could argue for regulating homeschooling without regulating private schools (and choice schools) which seem mostly unregulated (from a pedagogical standpoint at least) in Wisconsin as far as I can tell.


A. G. Rud said...

This posting is fascinating, especially about the abdication of control over homeschooling by the state.

From a personal, nitty gritty perspective of actually TEACHING at home, I have cautious respect for folks who homeschool, but it is certainly not my cup of tea, for some of these reasons. Aside from the fact that it would have driven me crazy to teach my kid at home, I find most homeschoolers where I have lived to be religious fundamentalists or at least conservatives, and they teach their kids from a narrow, out of the box (literally, in some cases) curriculum approved by their church. I find any sort of religious literalism highly depressing, and all the more so when in education.

On the other hand, some other homeschoolers (mind you, in my experience only) think that their precious kids are too good for the public school, and they can teach them better. I just don't know where these people find the time to do this, and I question their motives, frankly. I guess too I find homeschooling to often smack of antidemocratic leanings, though I am sure someone can correct me and point out how homeschoolers learn more deeply about community involvement, etc., etc.

Dan W. Butin said...

I haven't read the paper you cite...but I'm pretty sure homeschooling is regulated. In PA, which I know a little about, homeschooling parents must submit their curricula to the state for approval; there are also visits by a State DOE representative. This doesn't address the larger philosophical argument being put forward, but at least the debate shouldn't be framed in such a stark "lord of the flies" way.


Aaron Schutz said...

As I noted, I don't know a lot about homeschooling.

I would say, however, that I know there is still a minority group of very liberal parents out there who follow a 1960s vision of what John Holt among others called "unschooling." This is different, I think, than assuming that parents can teach them better.

I've been meaning to write a post about this, and I think I've said it before, but I bet that the children of middle class professionals actually don't need much school. If you don't let them watch much TV, if they learn to read through you reading to them, mostly, and you give them some math, then they may do better just doing what they want then going to school. As someone said in Repo Man (I paraphrase) "[School] makes you stupid." Summerhill in England, among other places (some in the US) have been testing this successfully for a long time.

In other words, middle class kids get comparatively great education (along with all kinds of other expensive enrichment stuff) when they really don't need it, while poor kids get limited education even though they actually do need it.

Not that I'm planning to home school. It's a lot of work just keeping track of them all the time. . . . :)