Education News

Whose children are they?

The battle continues between government and parents over who should control the rearing and education of children, and not just in the United States. Should government define education and control the future or should private citizens control their own families and define their own futures?

This is a war with phenomenal portent for the future. Almost every dictator who has ever lived has recognized and acted on the importance of controlling the education and formation of children. Hitler considered his takeover of Germany’s schools vital to his success. Likewise Mao, Stalin and many others. Even less diabolical governments fear losing their influence if they don’t control education.

Government must recognize the limits of its legitimate power. Shaping the future by way of controlling the minds of children through political power is wrong and dangerous.

News articles and videos have been selected that relate to this ongoing conflict.

“The School Closures Are a Big Threat to the Power of Public Schools”
by Ryan McMaken
Mises Wire
May 14, 2020

The article begins:
“Twenty twenty is likely to be a watershed year in the history of public schooling. And things aren’t looking good for the public schools.

“For decades, we’ve been fed a near-daily diet of claims that public schooling is one of the most important—if not the most important—institutions in America. We’re also told that there’s not nearly enough of it, and this leads to demands for longer school hours, longer school years, and ever larger amounts of money spent on more facilities and more tech.

“And then, all of sudden, with the panic over COVID-19, it was gone.”

McMaken that the failings of public schools are becoming all the more evident because of the pandemic. Families who are able to might choose other forms of education when the schools reopen on campus.

Government Schools Should Get a Failing Grade

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) assessment shows that only about 40 percent of conventionally schooled students are at, or above, proficiency in reading and mathematics.

From page 2 of the report

You can read their infographic report for yourself.

NEA, AFT Give and Give

Teachers’ unions put their money where their ideology is, you can say that much for them.

Check out the statistics at the Center for Responsive Politics to see which politicians, committees and bills are benefitting from the largesse of the unions. Click on the tabs at the top of the pages for details.

National Education Association, 2019: political contributions – $1,136,595, spent on lobbying – $2,591,334

American Federation of Teachers, 2019: $7,331,561, spent on lobbying – $1,606,005

“In defense of homeschooling”

by Russell Shaw
June 4, 2020
The Catholic World Report

A few excerpts:

“A Harvard professor’s recent attack on homeschooling families illustrates the unselfconsciously totalitarian mindset underlying much that passes for secular liberalism today.”

“[I]t’s passing strange that it should be necessary to defend the right to homeschool in this day and age. Nearly a century ago, the Supreme Court, in a landmark decision (Pierce v. Society of Sisters) upholding the right of parents to send their children to parochial schools, memorably declared that a child is “not the mere creature of the state.” And, the court insisted, the “fundamental theory of liberty” on which America rests “excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children” by forcing them to attend public schools only.
“Homeschooling takes those affirmations seriously. The totalitarian mindset of secular liberalism now visible in some sectors of society should make us doubly grateful it does.”

Sex Education in Public Schools: Sexualization of Children and LGBT Indoctrination

by Cathy Ruse
Family Research Council
copyright 2020

This free, 56-page booklet documents the present state of sex ed in government-funded schools and its not-so-hidden agenda for social change. Cathy Ruse presents a well-documented exposé of things many parents would prefer their children avoid… if they only knew. This booklet seems to be written particularly to alert Christian parents and to give them some strategies.

The booklet explains how parents can request to opt their children out of sex ed sessions in school (although Ruse acknowledges that parents are not always told in advance when those will be presented). She also suggests taking children out of government schools, possibly using homeschooling or a hybrid school instead.

But Ruse’s larger emphasis is on trying to fix government schools since the large majority of children are enrolled in them. (Comment: One good thing to come out of the pandemic will likely be the shift of thousands of students out of government-funded schools. )

The Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture hosted a three-hour seminar on May 13, 2020 with some great speakers on the topic “Who Owns the Children?: Home Education in an Authoritarian Age.” The first session with Robert George laid the groundwork.

Second Session: “Nobody’s Children? On ownership and indoctrination”
Dr. Douglas Farrow
This session was even headier, but it’s worth hanging in there even if you feel like he’s over your head in the first part.

I’m skipping the third session. The fourth is: “Successes and Challenges in Home Education, Part II”
Kerry McDonald

McDonald gets into practicalities of homeschooling.

In the fifth presentation, Andrew Beckwith discusses some issues that legal issues that families, including homeschoolers, are encountering.
Successes and Challenges in Home Education
Part III” with Andrew Beckwith

The final segment, “New Horizons for Educational Choice:
the Espinoza case” with Jamie Gass
discusses the potential disruption of the domination of public schools if this case opens the way for tax credits and other assistance that can go to both private schools and private homeschools.

Let’s Talk About Education (YouTube)

Free the People

“Everybody wants the very best education for their children. In the United States, we spend more money per child on K-12 government education than any developed country in the world. Yet year after year the quality of education in the US ranks behind other developed countries. Everyone seems to agree on the goals, but our government school solutions aren’t working. The public education system is bought and paid for by the government, with your tax dollars of course, but the government is in charge. It sets the standards required to graduate, writes the tests, chooses the subjects, the books, and even dictates the schools children are allowed to attend. This is a take it or leave it, one-size-fits-all machine. Matt Kibbe asks, is there a better way?”

How a Supreme Court decision could change everything for religious and home schools (video)

Mr. Michael Gilleran
Thomas More College of Liberal Arts Center for the Restoration of Christian Culture
April 17, 2020

The case of Espinoza v. Montana involves a scholarship program funded by tax credits in Montana. The Montana Supreme Court struck down the tax credit system because the state constitution has a “Blaine Amendment” that prohibits any type of government funding for religious schools. Kendra Espinoza, who had used the program to send her daughters to a Christian school, is the plaintiff.

This case will be a test for both tax credits and Blaine Amendments that exist in Montana and many other states. The case should be decided by late June 2020.

Gilleran concludes with a warning that this will become a huge political fight within six months (of April 17, 2020). He expects that Espinoza will win and that this will be the beginning of the end for Blaine Amendments. That will then allow more tax credit programs like Montana’s to spring up in more states. The teachers’ unions will certainly mobilize to stop that from happening.

[This speaker in this video is long-winded, but the principles at stake are important to understand.]

The Risks of Homeschooling

by Erin O’Donnell
Harvard Magazine
Posted May-June 2020

This article repeats some of the disproven concerns about homeschooling, trying to create an alarmist view that a large number of homeschooled children are subject to abuse and educational neglect. Referring to Elizabeth Bartholet, the Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, the article says,

“Bartholet maintains that parents should have ‘very significant rights to raise their children with the beliefs and religious convictions that the parents hold.’ But requiring children to attend schools outside the home for six or seven hours a day, she argues, does not unduly limit parents’ influence on a child’s views and ideas. ‘The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous,’ Bartholet says. ‘I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.’”

Neither O’Donnell (the article’s author) nor Bartholet seem to recognize the irony that putting the powerful people in government and government schools in charge of children for most of the day, five days a week, might be equally or more dangerous.

There were some great responses to this article pointing out that much of the information about homeschoolers is inaccurate or out of date.

The following two articles are responses to O’Donnell’s article:

Harvard vs. the Family

Max Eden
City Journal
April 24, 2020

Max Eden challenges Bartholet’s assertions on a number of fronts: the percentage of homeschoolers doing so primarily for religious purposes, academic performance of homeschoolers, the potential for child abuse, and lack of structure.

Eden points out that both Bartholet and James Dwyer, the co-organizer of the upcoming Harvard event, seem to believe that children belong to the state, and parents should not have control over their won children. 

Is homeschooling ‘dangerous’? Parents, former students respond to Harvard professor 

by Mary Farrow
Catholic News Agency
April 23, 2020

“Denver Newsroom, Apr 23, 2020 / 03:00 am (CNA).- Mary Ellen Barrett, a mom living on Long Island, has been homeschooling her children since before coronavirus made it cool (read:necessary) to go to school at home.

“She started 18 years ago, when she decided that her oldest son Wyatt, who had autism, was not being served well in his public school. At the time, she had Wyatt, a first grader, a toddler, and another child on the way. She decided to try homeschooling….

“Barrett has thus far graduated two of her children from high school via homeschool, and is now teaching five more at home. One of her children has special education needs, and homeschooling has allowed her to tweak the curriculum for him. Barrett also works with Seton Home Study School, the Catholic homeschooling program she uses, as a consultant helping other parents using the program.

“While coronavirus is forcing most families to make school at home work whether they want to or not, Elizabeth Bartholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law at Harvard University and faculty director of the law school’s Child Advocacy Program, has argued that homeschooling is ‘dangerous.’  Her views were featured in the May-June issue of Harvard Magazine.”

The article goes on to counter many of the issues raised by O’Donnell, and it raises the question as to who ultimately decides what’s best for children: parents or government.

The following book review is pertinent to current events because James Dwyer was working with Elizabeth Bartholet on the now postponed conference that was to be held at Harvard to promote restrictions on homeschooling.

Review of James Dwyer’s Vouchers Within Reason: A Child-Centered Approach to Education Reform
by Cathy Duffy
Ideas on Liberty, republished on
April 2003

James Dwyer has resurfaced as the co-organizer of a closed conference at Harvard, a conference being held to advance the idea that government needs to exert more control over homeschooling. In her review of Dwyer’s book, Duffy points out:

“In Vouchers Within Reason, James Dwyer tells us, ‘The great promise of school vouchers is that they provide a mechanism for accomplishing what some states once tried to do but ultimately found required more effort and resolve than they were willing to expend—namely, to rein in the practices of the worst religious schools, whose operators and parent clients vehemently and forcefully resist involuntary imposition of regulations.’ An animus toward religious schooling and parental influence over their children’s education resides at the heart of Dwyer’s argument.”

Suddenly, An Opportunity to Rethink Government Education

by Terry Kibbe
Freedom Fest
April 21, 2020

This article begins: “At least 33 states have ordered or recommended that government schools stay shut down through the end of the year. This sweeping decision, like others in the Great Coronavirus Suspension, will cause problems seen and unseen. Many grandparents, for instance, will become childcare providers of last resort, exposing a very vulnerable population to the threat of infection.

“Whether or not this is a good strategy for fighting COVID-19 remains to be seen. But parents across the nation have suddenly been left wholly responsible for the education of their children. They have also been thrust, headlong, into a regimented government school system of dictates, procedures, and curriculum. It doesn’t make much sense. Many are waking up, asking: Is this really the best way to teach our children?

“Is this an opportunity to have an important conversation about the failures of government schooling? We think so.”

Homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic: A few thoughts from a veteran homeschooling parent
By Dave Van Manen
The Pueblo Chieftan
March 28, 2020

An experienced homeschooler shares advice for those “forced” into homeschooling by Covid-19.

“I’ve been reading all sorts of stories and comments about the homeschooling challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Much of it has been how hard homeschooling is, how ill-equipped parents feel, and how it is not going so well. When I heard that one parent was ripping the “my child is an honor student” bumper sticker off her car, I thought I’d share a few thoughts.”

He goes on to share practical tips for a relaxed and enjoyable homeschooling adventure.