Friday, January 15, 2010

Robin L. West takes a potshot at homeschooling

The Harms of Homeschooling by Robin L. West is included in Philosophy & Public Opinion Quarterly The Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy School of Public Policy • University of Maryland (page 7) apparently no intelligence is needed to write for their quarterly.

She says
The explosion in homeschooling of the last quarter century, however, is a different phenomenon altogether. The majority of homeschoolers today, and by quite a margin, are devout, fundamentalist Protestants.

Really!!!!! I know Pagan Homeschoolers, Atheist Homeschoolers,  Wicca Homeschoolers, Catholic Homeschoolers as well as a few Fundamentalist Protestant Homeschoolers. The Fundamentalist do not dominate the homeschooling world contrary to what Ms. West believes. In fact religion isn't even the main reason most parents choose to homeschool.

The reason for homeschooling that was most frequently cited as being applicable was concern about the environment of other schools including safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure. Eighty-five percent of homeschooled students were being homeschooled, in part, because of their parents’ concern about the environment of other schools. The next two reasons for homeschooling most frequently cited as applicable were to provide religious or moral instruction (72 percent) and dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools (68 percent). ~ Parents’ Reasons for Homeschooling

72% cited religious or moral instruction but no study reveals the parents religion affiliation. Therefore there is no data to support Ms. West claims. One of my Pagan friends is homeschooling for religious reasons due to her daughter being harrassed at her former public school due to her Pagan beliefs. The majority of parents according to this study 85% choose to homeschool due to the school environment.

Ms. West also seems confused about the history of homeschooling according to her it was illegal or highly regulated until the 1980's
The short answer to how it happened is simply that in the 1980s, all fifty state legislatures, in response to massive political pressure from religious parents and their lobbyists, legalized homeschooling.

But the modern homeschooling movement was actually lead by educators.
It is difficult to peg the exact origin of modern homeschooling. Some might say the seeds were being planted in the sixties and seventies by educational reformers and authors who questioned both schooling's methods and results. Notable among them are Ivan Illich (Deschooling Society, Harper & Row, 1971), Charles E. Silberman (Crisis in the Classroom: The Remaking of American Education, Random House, 1970), and the prolific John Holt (How Children Fail, Dell Publishing, 1964; How Children Learn, Dell Publishing, 1967; What Do I Do Monday? Dell Publishing, 1970), a teacher who eventually gave up his original vision of school reform as hopeless. He began advocating instead no school for youngsters, and in 1977 began publishing Growing Without Schooling, a magazine that continues today even though John passed away in 1985. (Author's Note in 2005: Unfortunately, the inheritor no longer publishes this magazine.) ~ A Brief History of American Homeschooling

Ms West states
The main purpose of this essay is to criticize this “right to homeschool” that the religious parents and their lawyers and lobbyists have claimed, or created, over the past couple of decades. My criticism will rest primarily on the basis of the harms such a right might inflict upon the children so educated.

That's right "MIGHT" she has NO PROOF that homeschooling is actually harmful.

And talk about hypocritical she even concedes that unregulated homeschooling has been and continues to be successful.

Second, although I will be criticizing the right to completely deregulated homeschooling, I do not mean to deny for a moment that homeschooling itself is often—maybe usually—successful, when done responsibly. Passionately involved and loving parents, whether religious or not, can often better educate their children in small tutorials at home, than can cash strapped, under-motivated, inadequately supported, and overwhelmed public school teachers with too many students in their classrooms. Results bear this out, as homeschool advocates repeatedly point out (and as critics virtually never deny): the homeschooled children who are tested, or who take college boards, whether or not religious, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, do very well on standardized tests, and on the average, they do better than their public school counterparts (though it must be noted that the parents and children who voluntarily subject themselves to testing are the self-selected educational elite of the homeschooling movement). My target is not the practice of homeschooling, whether religious or secular.My target, rather, is unregulated homeschooling—the total abdication of responsibility by the states for regulating the practice.

And yet it was unregulated homeschooling that allowed my kids to succeed. We NEVER did testing of any sort until they were ready to enter college and then they took the ACT. My eldest son started college at 16 based on his ACT scores. He now has a Bachelors of Science Degree in Computer Science and is working on his Masters. My youngest son has just completed his first semester of college as a full time student. Homeschooling's success is due to the freedom the parents and students enjoy to move at their own pace and study what is of interest to them, instead of being forced to follow some bureaucratic regulations.

She claims
First, children who are homeschooled with no state regulation are at greater risk for unreported and unnoticed physical abuse

Not true. Child abuse is NOT a Homeschooling Problem.  Child Abuse Laws apply to all parents and Child Protective Services are tasked with protecting all children not just public school students. See Homeschooling and Child Abuse: A Response to Recent Media Reports

Second, there’s a public health risk. Children who attend public schools are required to have immunizations. 

With all the controversy surrounding immunizations it is not necessarily in a child's best interest to have them receive immunizations. Also as homeschoolers are not crowded into classrooms with sick children they are less likely to contact  diseases. Some states even offer exemptions to public school students.

Children are loved in a family because they are the children of the parents in the family. The“unconditional love” they receive is anything but unconditional: it is conditioned on the fact that they are their parents’ children. School—either public or private—ideally provides a welcome respite. A child is regarded and respected at school not because she is her parent’s child, but because she is a student: she is valued for traits and for a status, in other words, that are independent of her status as the parent’s genetic or adoptive offspring. The ideal teacher cares about the child as an individual, a learner, an actively curious person—she doesn’t care about the child because the child is hers. The child is regarded with respect equally to all the children in the class. In these ways, the school classroom, ideally, and the relations within it, is a model of some core aspects of citizenship.

Baloney and hogwash. I had public school teachers who bullied me and verbally abused me. I had other public school teachers that adored me and made me the class favorite. All the children in a classroom are not treated equally. And it seems daily I read about some public school student being sexually involved with a public school teacher or bullied by classmates. Public Schools are anything but safe havens.

Fundamentalist Protestant adults who were homeschooled over the last thirty years are not politically disengaged, far from it. They vote in far higher percentages than the rest of the population. They mobilize readily.

I thought being politically engaged was a good thing. Apparently Ms. West only wants those people who share her beliefs to vote. (BTW I am not a Fundamentalist Protestant Homeschooler, but I believe they have as much right to vote their beliefs as I have to vote my Liberal Secular beliefs.)

Child-raising that is relentlessly authoritarian risks instilling what developmental psychologists call “ethical servility”: a failure to mature morally beyond the recognition of duties of obedience.

So public schools aren't authoritarian, public schools students are allowed to do whatever they wish? Hogwash! Homeschool parents are not all relentlessly authoritarian and I dare say there are some public school teachers and parents who are relentlessly authoritarian too. And why do I get the idea that Robin L. West would not have the slightest problem with public schools students being obedient to the state and her political beliefs.

Finally, the economic harms. The average homeschooling family may have a higher income than the average non-homeschooler, as was recently reported by USA Today. The radically fundamentalist “movement” family, however, is considerably poorer than the population, and it is the participants in these movements—the so-called “patriarchy movement”and its “quiverfull” branch and related groups —that are the hardcore of the homeschooling movement. The husbands and wives in these families feel themselves to be under a religious compulsion to have large families, a homebound and submissive wife and mother who is responsible for the schooling of the children, and only one breadwinner. These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000-square-foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots. Their lack of job skills, passed from one generation to the next, depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base.

One can only wonder where Ms. West gets such garbage.

While half of private school students have family incomes of $75,001 or more, public and homeschooled students families are approximately equal in falling into income brackets of up to $25,000, $25,001-$50,000, $50,001-$75,000, and $75,001 and up. ~ Homeschool Statistics

So the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that homeschool students and public school students families are pretty much equal in income even though homeschoolers often only have one parent working.

However, even if we assume that the benefits of homeschooling when done well are quite substantial, and even if the harms of public school when done poorly are equally so, nothing follows regarding the wisdom of deregulating homeschooling.

Really!!! It is the very deregulation of homeschooling that allows homeschool students to flourish. If homeschoolers are required to meet the same regulations as public schools then you have destroyed homeschooling and just created mini public schools in the students homes.

Annual standardized testing is not the bane of all existence it is often made out to be, and it would give rightly proud parents and children alike a record—and evidence—of their accomplishments. It would also make clear where they had slipped, and where there is need for correction.

And who would pay for the expensive annual standardized testing? Where would the testing take place? Annual standardized testing is unnecessary in a homeschool environment as the parent teacher knows if their child student comprehends the material and is ready to advance to the next level. Also one of the chief criticisms being leveled at public schools is that valuable learning time is being wasted teaching to the test in order to improve test scores. Why would anyone want to force homeschoolers to teach to the test like public schools do?

Mandatory testing would give the states, and the parents, a way to ensure that the students are performing at a level consistent with their own abilities, and consistent with the abilities and performance of their public and private schooled peers. It would give the parents and the state a way to ensure that the children who should be college bound are being prepared for that path, or at least, it would ensure that the parents are aware of their children’s capacity for college level work. Periodic visits would open the door to college and career counseling, of benefit to both the children and their parents. They would give the state a window into the quality of home life, and a way to monitor signs of abuse as well as immunizations. The sanction for failure to comply with minimal curriculum, content, visitation, and testing requirements would simply be enrollment in a certified private or public school.

So homeschoolers should have their learning time disrupted by some bureaucrats visit to make Ms West happy. And who is going to pay for all the "parental monitoring" Ms. West wants? Lets leave raising children to the parents and keep the government and those of Ms. West ilk out of it.

Apparently Ms West inspiration for this diatribe against homeschooling is anti - homeschooler  Robert Reich.

For further reading
How Fundamentalist, Patriarchal, Uneducated Homeschoolers Who Live on Tarps in Parking Lots with Their Eight Kids are Harming America by Joe Carter at First Thoughts


  1. Excellent critique along my own lines of thinking. I'm glad you took the time to take the article to task point by point!

  2. I'm glad that you deconstructed this article!! As I was reading I was noticing all the conflicts in some of the things she said where she was blatently contradictory. Wow!

  3. OT, but is there a reason why you changed your blog format to have a bright green background? I find it very hard to read now since there's not as much contrast between the type & the background. Please consider using a lighter shade of green to make it easier on folks' eyes.

    You always have such great content, you don't want the format to take away from it :-)

  4. P.S. I like the redesign otherwise, the wallpaper is very cute!

  5. 你所貫徹的形象,你喜愛它有多少百分比,你就幸福多少百分比........................................

  6. Thanks for the feedback Crimson Wife. I don't like the green either. Personally I prefer a white background. I downloaded it because I liked the wallpaper. It got rid of everything in my sidebar :>( which irritated me NO end then I was stuck with the green which looks much darker then when I picked it. If I can't change the green I think I'll switch to something else. Glad to know it bothers someone other then ME. I thought I was just a fuddy duddy because a lot of blogs seem to be using colored backgrounds and I assumed I was the only one they annoyed.

  7. I wish I had had time to do a better job. I couldn't challenge everything as it would have taken forever and some of it was just plain stupid.

  8. If you would like to let Ms. West know how you feel about her article, you could send her an email at

    It was listed at the bottom of her article.

  9. A friend of mine had also critiqued that article. I admit, it's a fun one to critique, as full as it is of contradictions and unsupported "facts." If you want to read what my friend had to say about it, let me know and I'll send you the link.

    Peace and Laughter,

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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