Wednesday, March 12, 2008

California Homeschoolin'

California Teachers Unions are lauding a decision by the appellate court to abrogate the rights of parents in that state to home school their children. See, California law is vague on the question of whether parents may instruct their own children, so the judges did what judges tend to do in these situations... They made their own damn law.

“What’s best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher,” said A.J. Duffy, president of the United Teachers Los Angeles. Duffy failed to cite any evidence for his assertion, though what evidence could he cite when he represents a school district in which only one third of students can read at their grade level. The district also recently pissed away $13.5 million on a faulty payroll system.

Months ago I predicted that liberals, flush with electoral victory, would indulge some of their more extreme sentiments. However, their previous efforts to ban homeschooling (by way of Hillary, who opined that homeschooling was tantamount to child abuse) were met with such animosity, and had an effect so opposite to their intended purpose, that I considered the matter settled. I thought they might refocus their government-knows-best instinct on the issue of (for example) corporal punishment.

And they may yet do so. The home-schooling issue is an inconvenient albatross for a variety of reasons. First, the Democratic candidates (particularly Obama, who has yet to make his bones with the unions) are forced to carry water on this issue. Second, after Hillary's attacks in the early 1990s, a strong network of homeschooling associations developed that remain to this day.

There really isn't any reasonable argument as to why parents may not home school their children. Every statistic in the world demonstrates that home-schooled children substantially outperform their public school counterparts. There are those who claim that home-schooling can stunt a child's social acumen, but most people are antisocial and unpleasant anyway and, besides, since when is it the governments job to legislate socialization?

If John McCain is looking for an opportunity to make peace with social conservatives, he should certainly rise to the occasion here. This is one of the few issues that unites social conservatives, libertarians and moderates alike. Hopeface will be forced to smile and nod and offer preening excuses about how everyone cares about children, and that people in this country have a beautiful rainbow of ideas and charter schools are awesome and blah, blah, blah.

See, nobody thinks public schools are awesome. Even those middle-school parents who happen to live in strong school districts recognize (particulary in light of the foreclosure boom) that circumstances change, and they may someday want the option to home-school. It is the wealthy, those who can continually afford private school (think R.T. Rybak), employing ivory tower reasoning to restrict educational choice.

But it is important that conservatives DO make hay out of these issues. They give lie to the notion that progressives are family friendly, but that isn't sufficient. We must continually make the case as to why it is important to BE family friendly, lest the homeschooling battle become a salvo in a larger war.

The values movement began to unravel because the stakes became relatively minimal. Opponents were able to reduce social conservatism to abortion and gay marriage, and only one of those issue incites any sort of passion on the part of the electorate. But those are two battles in a broader fight for family autonomy.

A.J. Duffy and his band of rabid zealots need to pay for their rhetoric, or we can expect more of the same from their ilk. If the much maligned culture war was at a stalemate, the California courts just sent the game into overtime. Game on, then.


Blogger Sarah said...

Meanwhile AJ Duffy's probably singing "If I were King of the Forest" in the school play.

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Thom said...

Well, I think this is a bit to far, but I certainly would not be opposed to requiring some sort of test that grants a homeschooling certificate. I've known home schoolers that did a great job that turned out bright and hard working kids. I also have known home schoolers that were doing so to advance specific religious/political mentalities. And their kids do not turn out so bright and smart. I have a friend who home schools who has some horror stories. But there is far more than enough success stories, that there has to be a better approach than the attempts to ban it.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...


I see no evidence that a test is necessary. Any test would quickly grow into a political bludgeon (think forcing parents to take tolerance courses). We should be fixing failed systems, not successful ones.

11:57 AM  
OpenID thomwade said...

I would agree that no qualifications were necessary if "being a parent" was enough to qualify a person as a teacher. It's not. there are plenty of parents out there who are quite bad at parenting in general...and some of them want to also teach their kids? Yikes.

6:31 AM  
Anonymous Rypick said...

Thom, you're concerned that some home schoolers do so to advance specific religious/political mentalities... Duh! I would say that MOST are. Or rather, that they don't want the public school system to push a religious/political mentality on their kids. "Religious/political mentalities" are going to be mostly taught by the parents anyway, whether they home school or not. The public school system is supposed to be teaching math, science, english, history, etc. If that was what they did, there wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, they way over-step that.
So, what would be on this test? Would it ask, "what religious/political mentalities do you plan to teach to your children?" And then what... the government decides if that is okay or not? That is absolutely ridiculous.
Obviously, your concern that some parents will pass undesirable beliefs to their kids is valid, but again, they are going to pass those to their kids anyway. Do you think they will only talk about/live out their beliefs during home school time?
It would be great if we could figure out a way to keep kids from adopting harmful beliefs, however, the government is NOT the answer. Government is never the answer.
If Minnesota adopts this stance, I may buy a gun.

8:07 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

What are you going to do with the gun Ryan?

I'm 100% for home schooling. Going thru the public school system myself, I remember being bored with the curriculum because we'd spend the forst 1/2 of every year reviewing what we learned the last 1/2 of the previous year.

I'd like to homeschool my kids someday and social interaction is not only found at school. There are churches, and sports (some schools even allow home schooled kids to participate even though the kids dont attend the school), there are more and more homeschool organizations for networking and socializing.
homeschooled kids have more opportuities for field trips and real life experiences- something schools are cutting down on becuase of liabilities and costs.
I think the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the negatives.

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Rypick said...

Shoot stuff.
The gun comment was more to stir the pot than anything else. ;)
Although, when the government starts trying to tell me what I can and can't teach my children, I start to get very concerned that the government is getting too big for its britches. A couple hundred years ago Great Britain got too big for its britches too.
If it gets to a point where I believe arming myself is necessary to protect my God-given freedoms from anyone (including the government) trying to take them away, I will not hesitate to purchase one. That's the purpose of the second amendment.

9:55 AM  
Anonymous Thom said...

I was more thinking of a test to show you have some understanding and ability to impart useful knowledge like math, history, science. Some parents are very good at this, even with little education beyond high school themselves. I am not talking about getting schooling. Merely something showing you have some ability to edumacate.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Rypick said...

Why? Many public school teachers don't have that ability. :)

10:31 AM  
Blogger Adam Omelianchuk said...

The ACT/SATs are sufficient to test the knowledge of home schoolers. The real test of home schooling is how prepared they enter college and such. I don't see why another test would matter.

11:39 AM  
Blogger Kevin Sawyer said...

If homeschooling presented a problem, I could see a need for governmental interference. But it doesn't. How many illiterate parents are trying to homeschool their kids? That is not the real issue.

The introduction of any test would be for the sole purpose of asking the religious question, the answering of which would open a door for the unions to bring homeschooling to the courts, which is exactly where they want it.

1:09 PM  

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