Homeschooling – in which parents teach their children (and sometimes their neighbors’ children) at home – is clearly gaining traction in America. In a society of free (or mostly free) markets, one expects industry leaders to adjust their product and service offerings to meet any form of competition eroding their market share. This applies equally to competition from “home crafts” as to competition from new industry players, or another industry. But this is not happening in our society today, in which simple inertia causes industry leaders to seek government favors instead. And that goes double for industries that, in large part, exist as public-private partnerships or total government services. K-12 education, to the regret of a once-great nation, is one of them.
Where does homeschooling come from?
Homeschooling was the rule in the earliest societies, centering as they did on simple small-plot gardening and small-scale animal husbandry. Households lived in isolation and generally provided for their own needs. Education of the next generation was one of those needs, that parents met directly.
The specialization that produced dedicated teachers is a product of cities, towns, and villages – of organized civilization. Even so, the first schools were small in scale, even in the great city-states of Western civilization. Uniformity of education is a relatively recent development, a product of the Middle Ages. Most likely uniform K-12 education developed from the same impulse as did the university movement.
The United States began with the education models that prevailed in England, which established the original thirteen colonies. Community schooling was always a part of American life, from the colonial era to American independence. Even with the Western expansion, community schooling was the rule – often in one-room schoolhouses that taught all children, of all ages, in one classroom. The predominant industrial-scale schools were parochial schools – Catholic schools, mostly, with a few Hebrew schools in the mix. Men like Horace Mann and James G. Blaine took alarm at this, believing that such schools taught disloyalty to the United States. They started the movement that created the first free public schools – and wrote into State constitutions the direct duty to provide K-12 schooling for all residents.
The atheistic foundations
But from the beginning the free public school movement was about teaching atheism. The first free public schools were not explicitly atheistic, though they were anti-Catholic – and perhaps some were anti-Jewish also. But men like Roger Baldwin and Thomas Dewey began to introduce atheistic concepts. (Perhaps the most infamous of the lot was John T. Scopes, in the town of Dayton, Tennessee.)
The United States Supreme Court, beginning in 1947, started to make official atheism the law of the land. These cases laid the foundation:
- Everson v. Board of Education of Ewing (1947), forbidding government aid to any religious institution because it was religious. (See here for further discussion of that precedent.)
- McCollum v. Board of Education of School District 71 (1948), the real School Prayer Case.
- Engel v. Vitale (1962), the “School Prayer Case” of legend. The infamous Madalyn Murray O’Hair liked to take credit for that, but she likely didn’t deserve it. The credit – or the blame – goes to James G. Blaine (1875).
- Abingdon School District v. Schempp (1963), another explicit prohibition against Bible reading in class.
- Lemon v. Kurtzman (1971), containing the anti-religious “Test” bearing the name of the petitioner.
- Wallace v. Jaffree (1985), forbidding silent prayer time.
- Lee v. Weisman (1992), forbidding baccalaureates or clergy-led prayers during commencement at government schools. (In the USA, a baccalaureate is a religious service for honoring graduates.)
- Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe (1995), essentially forbidding prayer on school playing fields.
Homeschooling as a revolt
Until recently the only way to get a religious education was to send your children to a private school. But your taxes still supported the free public schools – and mostly still do. (Charter schools are one refinement of the system; so are educational vouchers.) Private schooling is expensive, and parents who opt for it must pay twice:
- Tuition and fees at the private school, and
- Public school taxes, either directly to the school district or to a local government that appoints its Board of Education.
Homeschooling returned as an option for parents who couldn’t afford private school – and did not share the educational values of the free public school establishment. And that establishment does exist. It consists of:
- Teachers’ unions (the American and United Federations of Teachers, and the National Education Association),
- The National School Boards’ Association, and
- A loose alliance of textbook publishers and university professors who teach future teachers. (See, for example, “The Humanitarian Hoax of Pearson Education” by our own Linda Goudsmit.)
All these organizations wish to teach Marxism, and all that goes with it – and to call the sinful, acceptable. (And not sinful only: criminal as well.) Homeschooling is the ultimate parents’ revolt: it allows parents to take direct control over what their children learn.
How the practice exploded
Homeschooling represents 6.73 percent of students in the U.S. today, according to Parenting Mode. Still, homeschooling households saw a doubling in the “Year of the Plague” (i.e., coronavirus). That is no accident. When Donald Trump took Anthony S. Fauci’s bad advice to let governors lock their States down, those governors closed schools. So schools started conducting class through video teleconferencing services like Zoom®. Two things happened to make that experiment a disaster for everyone concerned. First, no pupil will ever be a conscientious about doing and bringing in homework assignments if his attendance consists only in sitting in front of a built-in or add-on camera in the privacy of his bedroom, as opposed to having to appear in person and explain his laziness to a teacher in front of the entire class. Predictably, pupil performance suffered.
And second – and more important – parents, who had to be home because the lockdown affected them, too, learned, often for the first time, the sort of lessons their children had been getting in regular school. And they cried out in three words: Whiskey, Tango and Foxtrot! Reports haven’t surfaced of parents who shut down the Zoom connection immediately in their shock and outrage. But they did start opting out of the lessons, and investigating – and embracing – homeschooling. And now that school is open again, many parents aren’t sending their children back. They are continuing with homeschooling.
Reasons to start, or not to start, homeschooling
Those parents by now are discovering that homeschooling has considerable advantages. Parenting Mode has the details. Parents might start to homeschool their children for various reasons: simple physical safety, bad academic quality at school, a desire to provide religious and moral instruction (which regular school contradicts), and because the schools can’t deal with a child’s health problems or “special needs.” (Any parent who has ever had a child come home with a tale of woe, because his schoolmates ragged on him and called him “REE-TARD! REE-JECT!” knows what CNAV is talking about. That goes double for a school that sends a special bus to transport “special needs” pupils to school. They call it “The Tard Cart.” Ask yourselves how well that will go over, and what lesson that teaches its passengers.)
Why might a parent hesitate? The parents’ own work schedules might not allow it. But homeschooling costs surprisingly little, low enough, perhaps, to permit one parent to stay at home. The biggest concern is with “social development” and existing friendships. But the passengers of “The Tard Cart” don’t have that problem – they have the opposite problem!
Once a parent does start, the advantages make themselves apparent. In addition to lower cost, pupils learning at home outperform their regular school counterparts. Parenting Mode offers six studies demonstrating that fact.
The current controversy
On Sunday (November 12), Axios published an attempt to show why homeschooling has grown so popular. Apparently The Washington Post noticed that pupils who couldn’t go to regular school during the p(l)andemic, aren’t coming back. They aren’t coming back because “Zoom School” failed them – and because their enforced dive into those waters taught them that those waters were far less dangerous than they thought. Beyond that, the Axios article covered only a small portion of what CNAV has covered so far.
So Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers (who also flaunts her Lesbian relationship on her X profile) posted the Axios article.
Notice that she did not couch her text as a question. But she also is very sensitive, and permits only a small circle to reply to her. She left this rather snide post – but in the process admitted some failings parents have noticed.
The bullying and special-needs problems are significant – but the academic failings are more significant still. Those, Randi Weingarten will never admit, and indeed dares not.
For what it’s worth, Fox asked the AFT for comment and didn’t get one.
Obviously most people didn’t understand Randi Weingarten’s post. They thought she was asking a question, and were aghast at her apparent lack of insight. But she was actually passing on an article that purported to give The Answer to what makes homeschooling so popular. In fact that article gives scant information, with none of the depth of, say, Parenting Mode.
Oddly enough, Weingarten grasps part of the truth – but by no means all. “Tard Carts” aside, “regular schools” lack academic rigor and a moral compass, and teach atheism, amorality, and collectivism. The lack of a moral compass lets schools give free rein to bullies and “pressuring peers.” And time was when the Ivy League recognized the lack of academic rigor in free public schools. (Their own academic rigor has suffered lately.)
First prize would be to restore academic rigor and explicit instruction in religion and morality to “regular school” curricula. Second prize would be to abandon the direct government schooling model and pay vouchers to all parents to send their children to schools of their choice. The Supreme Court last year forbade the government to discriminate against schools offering religious instruction. Carson v. Makin, 596 U.S. ____ (2022); Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, 597 U.S. ____ (2022).
Homeschooling could save America from defeat by the “woke,” atheist, and collectivist crowd that has taken over free public schools. CNAV can best advise Randi Weingarten to accept that outcome gracefully.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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