I have no kids of my own, which makes me an automatic expert on how other people should raise theirs. (Not.) This morning the topic of home-schooling came up in a private email, and I realized I have some opinions. As the day wore on, I realized my opinions were different than what I thought at first.

My first thought was, If people home-school to provide their kids a better education, then fine. I’m aware that public schools in many parts of the country are in desperate disarray.

My first thought was, If the public schools are filled with gangs and violence, again, home-schooling would be a very reasonable choice. The idea that kids have to walk through metal detectors is appalling. I wouldn’t want my kid to go there.

But I soon realized I was kidding myself. The real reason home-schooling is wrong is this: It allows the parents who are most concerned about their kids’ education, if they’re rich enough and well organized enough, to opt out of the public school system.

The kids who are left in the public schools, then, are those whose parents (a) are working desperately at menial jobs to make ends meet, and don’t have the leisure to indulge in home-schooling, or (b) don’t care enough about their kids’ education to actually do anything about it.

If home-schooling weren’t allowed, those rich, articulate, well-organized parents would damn well have an incentive to pitch in and improve the quality of the public schools, and that would benefit all kids, not just their own kids.

There’s another facet to the question: If parents’ real agenda is to keep their kids from being exposed to ideas (such as evolution) of which they disapprove, then they’re actually home-schooling in order to keep their kids ignorant. And that’s morally wrong. Parents who inflict bizarre, irrational beliefs on their children are practicing child abuse.

And yes, failing to understand that evolution is a fact is bizarre and irrational. You can choose your own opinions, but you don’t get to choose your own facts.

I hate to see kids being victimized. When rich parents opt out of the public schools, for whatever reason, it’s the poor kids who suffer the consequences.

The core concept is this: Good public education helps everybody. Lousy public education hurts everybody, not just those who end up badly educated. Home-schooling is anti-democratic. It perpetuates a class system and class oppression.

But then, so does Harvard. And I’ll bet you’d love it if your kid got into Harvard. Striving for personal advantage is human. Not even human — it’s biological. No doing away with it. So go ahead, home-school. Nature red in tooth and claw, right?

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2 thoughts on “Home Schooling

  1. Logical fallacy. Your assumption is that “rich” or “well-off” children are consistently articulate, studious, or the product of parents who themselves are articulate, studious, or well-organized. You also paint a situation where these children will have qualities that “rub off” on the other kids when you force them all to live in the same happy box.

    If you’re going to truly force all children to attend the same public school close to them, doing away with any acadamies, boarding schools, military schools or religious schools, then people will move to where the best schools are and fund those. People have a way of doing what’s best for their kids. Your perceived poor and downtrodden children will still be left in the dust, unable to receive the learning they yearn from rubbing elbows with your articulate rich kids.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jason. But I wasn’t saying anything about the qualities of rich kids rubbing off on poor kids. I was suggesting that it’s good social policy to make sure that rich _parents_ have a strong interest in preserving a good public school system! And I’ll stick by that.

    Unfortunately, you’re right — parents will just move. But what’s this about “perceived” poor and downtrodden? There damn well ARE poor and downtrodden children in this country — millions of them!

    If you think kids learn by “rubbing elbows,” I would earnestly recommend that you not try home-schooling your own kids. Poor kids need textbooks! They need clean, safe restrooms! They need better qualified teachers! When the rich parents opt out of the system, the system fails.

    But that’s the class system in action, alive and well in the good old U.S. of A.

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