Can We Use Our Reason, Please?   Leave a comment

My heart went out when I heard about the egregious case of alleged child abuse by a California family charged with starving and torturing their children in a so-called “private school”.

In the aftermath, I’m not surprised to hear some commentators call for greater regulation of all homeschooling families. In an Op-Ed article in the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Coleman suggested “abuse in homeschool settings is all too common,” and she recommended strict homeschool regulation. She stated:

Force contact with mandatory reporters. States could require annual assessments by a certified teacher and annual doctor’s visits…

AA006063Of course, this ignores the fact that data shows that homeschoolers excel in academics and in adulthood.

To use this outrageous example of abuse to attack homeschooling families and suggest that they need more oversight is reactionary and inappropriate.

The vast majority of the more than two million homeschoolers in the United States live in nurturing homes with caring parents who are overly attentive to their education and well-being. Most children thrive in a homeschooled environment that allows for flexible instruction, tailored curriculum, community immersion, and interest-based learning and public and larger private schools, by their vary nature, struggle to provide those benefits.

Data shows that homeschoolers excel in academics and in adulthood. U.S. News & World Report reports that a majority of homeschoolers “who go on to college will outperform their peers.”

Child abuse of any kind should bother us, but we shouldn’t target an entire population of families because we are worried about a few bad apples. Crimes against children by public schoolteachers are appallingly common throughout the United States; yet, we don’t stereotype all teachers as potential predators. In 2014 alone, there were 781 reported sex crimes by teachers and other employees. That is an average of 15 students per week who were sexually victimized by school personnel.

An article in the Des Moines Register calls for an end to the private homeschooling option, stating: “Licensed educators are mandatory reporters of child abuse, are held to high standards for preparation and professional conduct, must be fingerprinted, and undergo background checks. Yet Iowa allows anyone to ‘teach’ their own and up to four unrelated children.”

In March 2017, the Des Moines Register reported on a case of a long-time Iowa public high school teacher charged with a sex crime against a student. In September, the 61-year-old teacher was sentenced to prison for repeated sexual assault. He had been a licensed Iowa school teacher since 1978. What good did not high standards of preparation and professional conduct, fingerprinting and background checks do his victims? Should we outlaw public schools based on this one case?

Children are vulnerable and should be protected. For most children, parents are their best protectors and the ones most able to ensure their well-being. We must do our best to try to protect children while also not infringing on the privacy and freedom of law-abiding citizens. What is needed is public policy based on reason — on what is best for a broad range of children and their families, rather than on a singular examples (both in homeschooling and public schools) that should both enrage us all.

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