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Homeschool-bashing - it never stops

Via Daryl, we find yet another homeschooling detractor taking his shot via the old media. This time, it’s University of Dayton Professor William Bainbridge in an article for The Columbus Dispatch entitled, Home-schooling data need close look. You may wonder why some of us get so agitated about this stuff, but hey, I need to have some inspiration to write. And there’s lots to have fun with in this article.

The Professor starts out by revealing he has a political axe to grind:

The neoconservatives managing the federal government have created for public schools an anomaly of requiring testing while, at the same time, encouraging parental autonomy through home schooling, vouchers and charter schools.

Neoconservatives! First they make us invade Iraq, and now they want to dismantle public schools! What next?

Bainbridge continues with a brief historical anecdote about life in 1971 (I didn’t see the point - oh, well), and then continues by providing some data from a recently released Department of Education study (this must be the data that need a close look). Don’t worry; while he doesn’t go into detail, he provides us with what he thinks are the nuggets in two bullets. The first begins:

On any given day in America, about 1.1 million children are being educated outside of a school, and about 2.2 percent of the total school-age population is homeschooled.

The “(o)n any given day in America,” seems a gratuitous construction to me. Is this written to make the data seem more ominous? After all, they’re being educated outside of a school! I have news for the good professor: all children are educated outside of a school. Does he think education stops at the doors of the classroom?  What happens on Saturday and Sunday.  Oh wait! I guess he’s using that old-fashioned narrow definition of education.

This bullet’s my favorite, though:

About 77 percent of homeschooled children are white; 81 percent are from two-parent households, most of them where only one parent works.

I went up to check on my daughter, and sure enough, she’s white! There seems to be no reason to include the race information in this piece (it probably deserves a closer look!).  It doesn’t appear to figure into any later context of his column. As for the “where only one parent works” comment, my wife (a stay-at-home mom) and my mother (a longtime stay-at-home mom) might wish to dispute his characterization of “work.”  I believe the politically correct phrase is “works outside the home.”

Later comes the research (as Daryl points out, his “appeal to authority”):

Researchers disagree on whether home schooling is academically advantageous. Research has not determined whether students of similar abilities would perform worse or better in a classroom or at home. Experts also disagree about whether home schooling hinders social development, but homeschooled children spend less time with their peers.

Likewise, researchers will probably disagree for some time to come on the meaning of “academically advantageous” and “peform better or worse in a classroom.” As for spending less time with their peers, Bainbridge fails to explain why this is a bad thing. Whatever.

And Daryl wonders who these “experts” are. I do, too.

But Bainbridge occasionally makes a point I can agree with:

Not surprisingly, education groups believe home schooling needs more-rigorous regulation.

Indeed! I’m not surprised at all. Education groups feel threatened by home schooling. Every homeschooled child is one less customer. And even as Professor Bainbridge admits:

Many educators are offended by an attitude among some parents of home schoolers that untrained, and sometimes uneducated, parents can do as well or better teaching as professionally trained educators.

But of course, homeschooling parents wouldn’t be offended by being referred to as uneducated.

Doesn’t professionally trained educators have sort of an oxymoronish feel to it? “Don’t try this at home, I’m professionally trained!” Should educators be trained? Shouldn’t they be, well, educated?

In case you don’t buy the concerns about uneducated parents, there are also concerns about deceitful parents.

One other valid concern is that many people claim to be homeschooling children who simply might be truant.

That’s a might big number, many. In the end, though, there’s an appeal to the common good:

While home schooling appears to meet the needs of some familes, society must consider whether it erodes support for public schools.

“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Quite frankly, I’m not sure homeschooling is the major cause of eroding support for public schools. OK, that’s not honest. I’m sure it isn’t.

Still, it’s nice for this guy to finally lay his cards on the table. It’s all about the public schools.

2 Responses to “Homeschool-bashing - it never stops”

  1. Robert Says:

    I have a rule of thumb about reading editorials: The moment the writer starts using pseudo-epithets like “neoconservatives”, stop reading — because the writer is using stereotypes in place of an argument. So it’s especially bad that the name-calling starts at the beginning.

    At least he things the kids are actually being educated outside of public schools; he might consider whether the same could be said for kids inside public schools.

  2. suni Says:

    The only thing that is eroding the public schools is the government. I don’t believe that my choice to deal with my child at home rather than to leave him to the wolves in public school is going to make that big of a difference in public schooling. Education is the main point and if there is no education to be had in public school, then I would rather keep him home where I can be SURE that he is learning.

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