Harvard University is a curious place. It represents the best and the worst of American tradition. Its red-brick buildings and well-manicured lawns are the symbols of the highest American intellectual traditions. At the same time, Harvard has made a kind of cottage industry of condescension. The May-June 2020 issue of their magazine of the same name, carries a heavier load of that lesser tendency.
Titled “The Risks of Homeschooling,” the article interprets the ideas of Elizabeth Bartholet. Many such articles assert that homeschooling has its disadvantages. This one goes further – alleging that homeschooling is a form of child abuse.
The Harvard Professor
Elizabeth Bartholet’s ponderous title is “Morris Wasserstein Public Interest Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, and Faculty Director of the Child Advocacy Program.” She is a product of the Ivy League school. Her B.A. came from its sister institution, Radcliffe. She earned her Juris Doctor from Harvard in 1965. She joined its faculty in 1977.
Between graduation and her appointment to the faculty, Professor Bartholet honed her leftist credentials. Her “Long Biographical Narrative” on Harvard’s site mentions that, “She served from 1968-1972 as staff counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., and then founded the Legal Action Center, a public interest firm in New York City focused on criminal justice and substance abuse issues.”
The Quest for Equality
Like most modern leftists, Elizabeth Bartholet sees the world in terms of suppressing inequality. Her attitude on homeschooling quotes her as saying, “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.”
In a longer article that she wrote in The Arizona Law Review, the professor examines the idea of parental rights as the foundation of the homeschooling movement. She dismisses it as “inconsistent” with young peoples’ ability to create an “open future.” She defines this “open future” as “the right to exposure to alternative views and experiences essential for children to grow up to exercise meaningful choices about their own future views, religions, lifestyles, and work.”
The next inconsistency involves the State’s role. Professor Bartholet posits that “It is inconsistent with our legal and cultural history. From early on, our law recognized that the State has a role to play in child-rearing and that parents have responsibilities and not just rights.” Even the most cursory glance at the state of American education will reveal that it is the schools themselves that have abandoned their historical responsibilities. Grades have become inflated to the point where they have no basis in reality. Behaviors that would have been seriously punished are barely noticed. In fact, it was the abrogation of these standards that created the homeschooling movement.
The professor indulges in the idea that “the legal claim [of parents’ rights] stands in contrast with human rights treaties and with the constitutional law of most other nations.” In other words, Americans should not tolerate homeschooling because the nations of Western Europe don’t allow it. It hinders the drive toward “one world government.”
Twin Horror Stories
In the Arizona Law Review Article, Elizabeth Bartholet tells a horror story that she proposes is a trend in homeschooling, not an exception. She paraphrases the story of Tara Westover, author of the book Educated. The book tells the story about a childhood dominated by a violent and abusive father who isolated himself and his family from society. The children were denied any substantial education – and even proper medical care. This is the nightmare that Professor Bartholet presents as a warning against homeschooling’s potential abuses.
However, Professor Bartholet’s warnings might easily be turned against her educational establishment. Much more numerous examples of abuse can be found in the world of public education. Some schoolchildren are so badly treated by their peers that suicide appears as an option. Other students have been abused in all manners by teachers and administrators – even in places like Harvard. At the same time, far too many students walk across a stage to receive a diploma that they cannot properly read.
While abuses can exist, this is far from the rule. Indeed, rare and fortunate are the children who can spend most hours with loving parents. Their educations are designed to suit their unique God-given talents and abilities. There is no “standard” homeschooling experience for the same reason that there is no standard home. Just as each home is unique, so too is the experience of each homeschooled child.
“Standardization” – the Goal of Leftist Educators
This lack of standardization is a problem for egalitarian leftists. The National Education Association’s 2019 resolution B-82 displays this tendency. “The National Education Association believes that homeschooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience. When homeschooling occurs, students enrolled must meet all state curricular requirements, including the taking and passing of assessments to ensure adequate academic progress.… Instruction should be by persons who are licensed by the appropriate state education licensure agency, and a curriculum approved by the state department of education should be used.” (Emphasis added.)
In other words, homeschooling is wrong because they might do things differently.
The Real Threat of Homeschooling
The NEA does not go so far as to call homeschooling “child abuse.” The NEA’s verbiage is cold and bureaucratic. The shift to Prof. Bartholet’s more heated rhetoric is typical of the current social and political scene. Leftist ideologies are always the same as they have always been, but their modern true believers express themselves more overtly and intensely.
Progressive academics like Prof. Bartholet reveal their real goal of leveling society to the lowest equality. They want to tell parents how children should be raised. They want to tell society what children should learn. In their perfect world, all children will be thoroughly indoctrinated into their egalitarian, secular, and materialistic ideology without God or morals.
Homeschooling is a thorn in their side. Parental care and education subvert their bureaucratic goals and ideological objectives. Some children thus escape their social indoctrination.
As the leftists increase their shrill vocabulary, it is important to meet these challenges. So much is at stake.