Friday, May 4, 2012

Homeschooling and its Threat

Homeschoolers are facing intense persecution in manycountries:

  • Despite the fact that his children passed difficult government imposed tests, and even qualified for law school at the ages of 13 and 14, homeschooler Cleber Nunes and his wife Bernadeth have been slapped with fines equivalent to a total of $3,200 for refusing to submit their children to the Brazilian school system.
In Sweden, homeschoolers are facing even more intense persecution:

  • A leader of Sweden’s Liberal Party last week called for a change in the country’s social services law so that the government can take children away from home-schooling families more easily by allowing social workers to do so.
  • The call for the change comes amidst already stringent penalties in Sweden for home schooling. The Home School Legal Defense Association and Alliance Defense Fund have applied to the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of one family whose child was abducted by the government in 2009 and have filed a brief in a Swedish appellate court on behalf of another family fined an amount equivalent to $26,000 U.S..
  • “The right of parents to choose the kind of education their children receive is a fundamental human right recognized in international legal documents including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” said HSLDA attorney Michael Donnelly. “Sweden has lost its way and is ignoring basic human rights joining Germany in repressing educational freedom. It’s important that free people stand up to governments who persecute their own people.”
Sadly, the USAseems that it might also follow the same trajectory as it pursues a greater educational role for the State at the expense of parental rights:

  • The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a lower court order Wednesday that sided with the father of a homeschooled student and forced her into a government-run school against her Christian mother’s wishes.
Although the court claimed that it wasn’t considering the “larger religious liberty and homeschooling concerns,” this claim is suspect. First of all, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) attorney John Anthony Simmons, who represented the mother, who is divorced from the father, claimed that:

  • Because no harm was demonstrated and the girl was acknowledged to be academically superior and socially interactive, even by the court, Simmons argued that the homeschooling arrangement should not have been changed.
Even more suspect is the lower court rationale:

  • In July 2009, Judge Lucinda V. Sadler reasoned that the girl’s “vigorous defense of her religious beliefs to [her] counselor suggests strongly that she has not had the opportunity to seriously consider any other point of view.”
However, there is no evidence to support the court’s claim that the girl is suffering any deprivation as a result of homeschooling. Instead, the court’s judgment reflects secular hubris - that the State is a better judge and provider of what children need than the parents. But what are the facts about homeschooling, and shouldn’t these govern the State’s decisions?

  • In 2007, the Home School Legal Defense Association commissioned Dr. Brian D. Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute to conduct a nationwide study of homeschooling in America. The study’s purpose was to develop a current picture of homeschool students and their families—capturing their demographics and educational background—and analyze the impact of certain variables on homeschoolers’ academic achievement. Dr. Ray collected data for the cross-sectional, descriptive study in spring 2008. The 11,739 participants came from all 50 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
  • In the study, homeschoolers scored 34–39 percentile points higher than the norm [50%] on standardized achievement tests. The homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math, and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading.
This strongly argues against the contention that the State knows best and can provide what’s best for the children. The study also showed that it didn’t matter if the parent was a certified teacher or if homeschooling had been supervised by the state had no significant effect upon the academic outcome. Interestingly, socio-economic family status didn’t impact academic outcomes.

In another study conducted by Ray in 2003, over 7,300 adults were surveyed who were homeschooled:

  • Over 5,000 of these had been home educated at least seven years, and the statistics in this synopsis are based on their responses.
  • Over 74% of home-educated adults ages 18–24 have taken college-level courses, compared to 46% of the general United States population.
  • Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. Seventy-one percent participate in an ongoing community service activity compared to 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages. Eighty-eight percent of the homeschool graduates surveyed were members of an organization…compared to 50% of U.S. adults…Only 4.2% of the homeschool graduates surveyed consider politics and government too complicated to understand, compared to 35% of U.S. adults.
  • 95% of the homeschool graduates surveyed are glad that they were homeschooled. In the opinion of the homeschool graduates, homeschooling has not hindered them in their careers or education. Eighty-two percent would homeschool their own children. Of the 812 study participants who had children age 5 or older, 74% were already homeschooling.
According to Wikipedia,

  • Numerous studies have found that homeschooled students on average outperform their peers on standardized tests…In the 1970s Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore conducted four federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies, from which they published their original findings in Better Late Than Early, 1975. This was followed by School Can Wait, a repackaging of these same findings designed specifically for educational professionals.[24] They concluded that, "where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten."
Wikipedia also admits that

  • While there is no specific evidence to suggest that abuse among homeschoolers is more pervasive or severe than other institutions.
Why then the opposition?

  • Stanford University political scientist Professor Rob Reich (not to be confused with former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich) wrote in The Civic Perils of Homeschooling (2002) that homeschooling can potentially give students a one-sided point of view, as their parents may, even unwittingly, block or diminish all points of view but their own in teaching.
However, if diversity is truly Reich’s concern, it would seem that he would be a champion of alternatives to the monolithic state controlled system.

  • He also argues that homeschooling, by reducing students' contact with peers, reduces their sense of civic engagement with their community.
However, this contention is invalidated by Ray’s surveys. Why then the hostility against homeschooling? Is it that homeschooling presently lies beyond the influence of secularism?

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