The California Homeschooling Fiasco

I have been following the homeschooling fiascos in Germany for about a year now.  I have only been following the California homeschooling fiasco for the past month.  I think the scariest part of the whole thing is not the fact that it is happening (which is pretty frightening), but the fact that people in the comments section of that article that I linked to actually think that banning homeschooling is a good idea. 

 A few things to consider:

Many people commented one way or the other, universalizing their particular experience of homeschooled children.  Some commented about child x who was homeschooled and received a marvelous education; others commented about child y who was homeschooled and received an awful education.  Of course we can all point to particular children and demonstrate that no system of education is perfect.  Nevermind the fact that homeschooled children score significantly higher on standardized tests than their public school peers. 

Secondly, yes, there are some bad parents teaching their kids at home.  But there are also some bad parents who send their kids to public schools all day so that they can stay home and watch their “soaps”.  So what?  All we have proven by this example is that there are bad parents in the world. 

Thirdly, I am told that homeschooling is essentially racist because it does not give homeschooled children exposure to other races of people.  However, this simply does not follow.  Everyone would agree that, morally speaking, the Union was right to wish to end slavery in the Civil War; and yet I’ll bet that they had seen fewer black people than people in the South had.  And yet, was it not the South–which had a greater exposure to blacks than the North–which enslaved blacks?  It just does not follow that a lack of exposure to different races will make you racist.  The key to eliminating racism is not primarily an exposure to other races.  A Klan member can be exposed to blacks all day long and not change his opinions about them.   Hence, good socialization is not sufficient to bring about an end to social problems, with racism being an example.  

However, we can also easily see that socialization is not necessary to end racism or other social problems, either.  Take for example a person who has never been exposed to black people, but a) has a good education that allows people to ponder the natural law and arrive at the conclusion that racism is not rationally tenable, and b) has a good, moral upbringing which teaches children the difference between right and wrong.  A person can have both of these things without ever being exposed to people of different races and still not be a racist.  All socialization in schools will do in this regard is perpetuate both the good and bad traits of our society:  children will learn to behave as their peers behave.  But since the education is lacking in the public schools by and large, those well-socialized kids will be unable to identify other social filth and disentangle themselves from it.   Socialization alone obviously did not do much to end racism in the South, after all.  Of course, all this “socialization” argument tells me is that this left-wing loonies are only in favor of multi-culturalism over assimilating everyone into a giant melting pot when it supports the position they defend.  I thought we wanted to give bilingual education in California so that these different cultures *wouldn’t* be assimilated?            

Fourthly, accreditation does not guarantee a quality education of any sort.  Nor, for that matter, does a lack of accreditation imply a lack of a good education.  If homeschooled children score higher on all of these tests (this despite the fact that the public schools give an undue emphasis on getting higher test scores), then the argument that teachers must be accredited is a non-starter.  Of course, this argument also fails to make the distinction between getting a good education and scoring well on tests.  I can tell you that many professionals in academia have received degrees and scored well on tests and have no idea of what they are talking about.  Public schools focus so much on testing that they fail to teach their children how to teach themselves.  While I have little experience with homeschooling myself, I have a hunch that mom does not sit down with her kids and lecture all day.  The kids probably have to learn how to learn on their own.  If this is the case, then they are at an advantage over their public school peers more than the test scores indicate.  If it isn’t the case, then all we have proven is that homeschoolers are just as bad in this regard as the public schools.  I say this because I don’t think one can get much worse than our public school system taken as a whole.

I’ve ranted on it before:  the Washington DC school district does not require that math be a graded course.  Kids can take algebra for all four years of high school and never have to learn it.  All of this talk about diversity of thought and eliminating the influence of religious fundamentalist parents is just a smoke screen for placing the government in charge of yet another aspect of people’s lives.  But of course, this little fact touches on the primary question:  is it the government’s job to systematically eliminate racism or any other moral or intellectual idea from among its people?  What if creation science were ever taught in schools with a government mandate?  How would people react then?

Perhaps the response would be that the goverment cannot dictate that schools teach what is false.  I would agree:  but by what secular standard are *ethical* questions to be judged true or false?  I’ll deal with that question in a separate post.  

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5 Comments on “The California Homeschooling Fiasco”

  1. Scott Carson Says:

    Paul

    This is a fine post, and there is much here to agree with. However, I think there is one inference that you make that relies on a fallacy. I’m referring to the argument you give about exposure to other races affected racism as an attitude. You note, quite correctly, that a Klan member can be around blacks all day and not change his attitude towards them. You then draw the inference, “Hence, good socialization is not sufficient to bring about an end to social problems, with racism being an example.” This is a little too quick, in my opinion, because you are discussing a specific sort of context here, namely, a context in which young children are the ones being socialized. While I would agree that a full-grown Klansman would not change his attitude towards blacks simply by being around them all day, I do wonder whether that same full-grown Klansman might not have had a different attitude towards blacks if he had been taught, as a child, to regard all persons as fully equal in human dignity regardless of their race.

    When it comes to racism I think the seeds are very much in the home environment. Most children who either are, or grow up to be, racist come from homes in which the parents themselves either were racists or were sympathetic in some way towards racist ideas. These sorts of households may not be the best in which to homeschool children, but of course one of the great things about homeschooling is that it insulates children from state-sponsored social indoctrination. So there seems to be a tension here when the state-sponsored social program is actually morally preferable to the one being promoted at home. Given that racist attitudes affect all of society, I doubt very much that a case can be made for the libertarian view of allowing parents to indoctrinate their children in this matter in whatever way they choose. We would not be comfortable, I don’t think, allowing parents to involve their children in a child pornography ring just because the parents themselves don’t happen to see anything wrong with child pornography, nor should we tolerate parents teaching their children to be racists. Child pornography and the teaching of racist principles are just two species in the same genus: harmful corruption of the young.

    I agree that government influence in education should be minimal, as I think it should be minimal in just about every aspect of our lives. On the other hand, as a conservative I believe that the principle function of government is to safeguard the common good, and the common good includes, as a matter of logical necessity, guarding society against the inculcation of racist ideas. It does not follow from this, of course, that publicly funded education is the only means for obtaining this end, but it may follow from this that homeschooling is not a viable means for obtaining this end. It may be that some degree of group schooling is always desirable. But this is fairly common among homeschoolers: there are usually opportunities for homeschooling parents to pool their resources and meet with other families; some even send their children to private schools for some portion of their education. Of course, this does not guarantee anything either, whether what one wants is exposure to other races or just exposure to anti-racist ideas, but it may be a start.

  2. phamilton Says:

    Good comment, Scott.

    Your comments about a libertarian strain in my thought is true. As a matter of fact, before I published my response I realized that my last paragraph (which I shortly thereafter deleted) contained some nasty libertarianism. I had written that the government is not in the business of legislating morality. Of course, I have said repeatedly against libertarians that the government is in such a business, and it should be in such a business for the well-being of society. Right before I hit the publish button I wondered if some of that libertarianism which I had identified only after I finished writing my post had informed the rest of my post without realizing it.

    What we lack right now (and which I hope to write about soon) is a means of distinguishing between when the government should and should not intervene in the upbringing of children. If moral propositions cannot be true or false, then at ground level they are personal preferences. Hence, when creating laws we usually get stuck with one of two extreme positions: either the government interferes with almost nothing, or the government interferes with almost everything. I reject both, the former option of course being libertarianism. I want to argue that the way to distinguish between those things which the government should interfere in e.g. child pornography, can only be distinguished from those things which the government should not interfere in through natural law theory. That’s the direction I’m heading; I just wonder if I’m going to have the time to do it with my philosophy comps coming up.

  3. Scott Carson Says:

    I’d be surprised if you had the time to do it even if you didn’t have comps coming up–it’s a big task!

    Just out of curiosity: why can’t moral propositions be true or false? (Or was that just a rhetorical hypothetical?)


  4. It was just a rhetorical hypothetical.

    And you’re right. I don’t think I’d have the time to do that much writing. But then again, I have a bad habit of not actually writing articles which I say that I want to write. It has to do with my philosophical eyes being bigger than my philosophical stomache.

  5. Joel Gamache Says:

    Thanks for the post Paul. As usual I have very strong opinions and a limited amount of knowlegde (always a fatal combination). Socialism in all its various manifestations has made a strong impact on our entire culture in America since the Sixties. Here is an interesting web page: http://www.rense.com/general32/americ.htm. It is a list of Communist goals for America presented to Congress in 1963. Almost all of them have come to pass and the result is the moral bankruptcy of America. This completely undermines the stability of our governemnt because without a strong moral base a republican form of government will destroy itself. That is the verdict of history.

    This is also diabolical. One of the reasons the Roman Empire was such a fruitfull medium for the spead of Christianity was the way information was disiminated. One of the questions that has occupied my mind for a long time and one that I frequently spoke with my father about was “What is the most effective forum for evangilization and apologetics today?” About three or four month ago I finally came to the conclussion that it is in the public school system. Exactly the place it is not allowed. That is because on Sunday mornings the priest is preaching to the choir. Radio, books, magazines, the internet and TV do the same thing, and no one listens to someone spouting off his mouth on the street corner today. The only place where a large volume of unbelievers will recieve the message today is in school. That goes both ways. Now with a bunch of debauched socialistic, communistic, athiestic school administrators running the show they don’t want to miss out on any of the good Christian kids to indoctrinate into the modernistic, socialistic ideology. I know that sounds really bad, but I don’t have a shred of doubt it is true.

    In Ancient Rome that was not true. Every man who had the least amount of education was well trained in the art of oratory. That was because absolutely everything happened in the Forum. That is where anyone could have his voice heard. That was where every nut who could run his lips could find an audience. That was where people could find an introduction to the Word of God. Now as Christians become increasingly dissatisfied with the absolute onesidedness of the philosophies being propegated in public schools the most affordable option is homeschooling. The problem with homeschooling is not that there are unqualified teachers trying to put out information and ruining the intellectual heritage of our country. Our intellecttual heritage is already gone! Kids are allowed to graduate who don’t even know how to read! Kids are not allowed to graduate without being introduced to socialistic ideology though. Homeschooling gives the parents control over what thier children learn about Darwinian Evolution and the Word of God. It gives people independance of thought about the fruits of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment Period. That is unacceptable to the left-wing-lunatics.


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