Harvard prof issues ‘warning on homeschooling’ and ‘extreme’ ideologies like Christianity after calling for ban

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With the new-found attention to homeschooling thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, critics of those who home educate by choice have come out with outrageous claims recently.

One Harvard University law professor warned just last week that “extreme” ideologies like Christianity can be used to indoctrinate students who are homeschooled. The same professor raised eyebrows last month when she actually called for homeschooling to be banned in the U.S. as it allows parents to impose “authoritarian control” over students, in this case their own children.

(Image: Harvard Law School screenshot)

Elizabeth Bartholet issued a “warning on homeschooling” during an interview with The Harvard Gazette, which recognized her as a “nationally renowned child welfare expert.”

The faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program argued last month against the “detrimental” isolation of children who are homeschooled and stripped of a “meaningful education.” In an article titled “The Risks of Homeschooling,” Bartholet was interviewed about her controversial Arizona Law Review paper, titled “Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection.”

She ignited a firestorm of backlash after she blasted the “unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling” and ranted about how it is “dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless,” failing to address how the same could be said about children being controlled by teachers, institutions and the teachers’ unions in public education settings, something Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appeared to refer to at the time.

Bartholet added to her anti-homeschooling argument in the interview with the Gazette last week, now adding that it is “the growth in the conservative evangelical movement” that is responsible for the growing homeschool movement, not the fact that the nation’s public education system is generally failing students.

“Conservative Christians wanted the chance to bring their children up with their values and belief systems and saw homeschooling as a way to escape from the secular education in public schools,” she said in her own version of history.

Asked what “evidence” she had to support her premise that homeschooling “represents a danger to both children and society,” Bartholet trashed Christians in a string of outrageous generalized observations linking them to white supremacy and racial segregation and saying that “many homeschooling parents are extreme ideologues, committed to raising their children within their belief systems isolated from any societal influence.”

“Some believe that black people are inferior to white people and others that women should be subject to men and not educated for careers but instead raised to serve their fathers first and then their husbands,” she claimed.

“The danger is both to these children and to society,” Bartholet added. “The children may not have the chance to choose for themselves whether to exit these ideological communities; society may not have the chance to teach them values important to the larger community, such as tolerance of other people’s views and values.”

She acknowledged that it was necessary to shut down schools due to the pandemic but suggested there are more cases of abuse likely going on in homes now that school staff are not available to report issues.

“The evidence is growing that reports to Child Protective Services (CPS) have plummeted nationwide, because children are removed from the mandated reporters that schools provide,” she claimed, adding that “school staff constitute the largest group of reporters to CPS.”

Meanwhile, the Catholic League noted that during the 2017-18 academic year, “there were 429 cases of sexual misconduct reported in the Texas public schools, a jump of 42% from the previous year,” adding that in 2015, “65 teachers in one Los Angeles school district were in ‘teacher jail’ for accusations of sexual misconduct or harassment.”

Bartholet was asked about the legal aspects of homeschooling and who “makes sure children are being educated.”

“Nobody. There’s a shocking lack of regulation in this area,” was her outrageous response, blaming the “homeschooling lobby” which she warned, “may be even more powerful than the gun lobby today.”

The Institute for Family Studies recently countered Bartholet’s “anecdotal” evidence in a report that looked at data from surveys of homeschooling families.

According to David Sikkink, a professor of sociology at the University of Notre Dame:

Bartholet seems to take the “home” in homeschooling too seriously, as if their windows have prison bars. In actual practice, homeschoolers are “organized for instruction” in complex networks with educational organizations, civic, religious, and cultural organizations, informal personal and virtual support groups, friendship circles, extended family, and so on. The weight of bonding and bridging social capital matters for children, and the actual practice of homeschooling has many strengths on this score.

 

The study also noted that only about 16% of the families surveyed said that they are homeschooling mainly for religious reasons and only 5% cited moral instruction, while “80% mention the school environment in other schools and 61% are dissatisfied with the academic instruction at traditional schools.”

poll released last week indicated that 40 percent of the families surveyed “are more likely to homeschool or virtual school after lockdowns” due to the pandemic.

A June summit “to discuss child rights in connection with homeschooling in the United States” featuring Bartholet was postponed by Harvard Law School due to COVID-19. It was supposed to have addressed “problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight.”

“I see more willingness among homeschool parents to let their children raise questions that challenge their parents’ beliefs than I do on many college campuses where very few … seem to be willing to tolerate students or faculty members expressing dissent from … doctrines that are held as sacred,” Professor Robert George of Princeton University said at a virtual conference last week.

“Actually, if I’m looking for violations of free speech or freedom of thought, I wouldn’t think to look at the homeschool movement so much as I want to look at the Yale campus or the Oberlin campus or one of the University of California campuses,” George added at the meeting at the Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. “There’s where I see the real concerns about free speech and authoritarianism.”

Frieda Powers

Senior Staff Writer
[email protected]

Originally from New York, Powers graduated from New York University and eventually made her way to sunny South Florida where she has been writing for the BizPacReview team since 2015.
Frieda Powers

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