Monday, July 29, 2013

The Limits of Home Schooling Rights

Josh Powell wanted to go to school so badly that he pleaded with local officials to let him enroll. He didn’t know exactly what students were learning at Buckingham County High School, in rural central Virginia, but he had the sense that he was missing something fundamental.

By the time he was 16, he had never written an essay. He didn’t know South Africa was a country. He couldn’t solve basic algebra problems.

“There were all these things that are part of this common collective of knowledge that 99 percent of people have that I didn’t have,” Powell said.

Powell was taught at home, his parents using a religious exemption that allows families to entirely opt out of public education, a Virginia law that is unlike any other in the country. That means that not only are their children excused from attending school — as those educated under the state’s home-school statute are — but they also are exempt from all government oversight.

School officials don’t ever ask them for transcripts, test scores or proof of education of any kind: Parents have total control.
Read the rest here.


Matthew Petersen said...

Because families are much smaller than schools, we should expect the best home schooling families to be far better than the best public school, and the worst homeschooling family to be far worse than the worst public school--from a purely statistical standpoint. On average they are probably relatively comparable, but the standard deviation would be much higher for home schooled students.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

The idea that the State has a compelling interest in educating your child is a very recent phenomenon in human history, and we still seem to have managed a Renaissance and an Industrial Revolution without it.

As primary thru secondary education has become "free" and compulsory, it has also become devalued to the point where numerous rote service-sector jobs require college degrees. Which serves largely just to extract rents and impose barriers to entry.

Chris said...

Ah my friend, you will be happy in Germany! come over if you don't like Virginia!

Germany has draconian anti-home schooling laws ...

BUT it also has incredible vacation times, insurance and benefits for EVERYBODY plus the best debt free economy in the world.

I guess I'll stay in Virginia for now, but germany is tempting. ;-)

Maybe I'll retire there after I've homeschooled my children in Virginia ;0)

John (Ad Orientem) said...

I don't think the argument is against home schooling so much as against home schooling with no minimal standards or supervision. If you are going to home school your kids, that's great. I applaud that. But if they are coming out functionally illiterate then we have a problem that needs to be addressed.

David Dickens said...


As a long time homeschooler, I must point out that there is nothing you can do about these cases without regulating the private activity of homeschooling families in harmful ways.

You could just as easily say, "Hey some folks beat their kids, so the government should have the right to come in and interview your children randomly from time to time to make sure you aren't beating them."

Simply because people misuse the freedom doesn't inherently mean that government regulation should be mandated (heck, I doubt you could prove it was useful).

There are many approaches to homeschooling, some of which are very unconventional and have eccentric results. Some of these eccentric results are astounding (some are just weird), but would violate any number of rational attempts to regulate them.

This case, as far as I know it from the limited published version, is no worse than the experience of about 50% of those students imprisoned within the Los Angeles Unified School district.

As Matthew Petersen suggested, mathematical outliers are expected in both systems.

C. Dominica said...

I agree with David Dickens. As a whole homeschooling families provide a better education, at a fraction of the cost, than both private or public schools. There is no government oversight on private schools (at least in TX) to ensure a student is learning, yet homeschooling is the method that is most frequently brought forward for government regulation.

Jason said...

AG and others may find this quote interesting.

From Pope Pius XI in 1929:

"The State should interest itself in education, but the State is not made to absorb and annihilate the family...for the family comes before society and before the State. The State should perfect the activities of the family in full correspondence with the desires of the father and mother, and it should respect especially the divine right of the Church in education.

"We cannot admit that in its educational activities the State shall try to raise up conquerors or encourage conquests. What one State does in this line all the other States can do. What would happen if all the States educated their people for conquests?...

"We can never agree with anything which restricts or denies the right which nature and God gave the Church and the family in the field of education. On this point we are not merely intractable, but we are uncompromising..."

Pius made this quote after Mussolini's fascist government began to claim children as belonging to the State, and as such should take over their education. Fascinating that now, there is overwhelming support to give children over completely to the State to be educated. What a culture we have now...