Homeschooling and State Education

Bill Muehlenberg

5 January 2011

Modern, universal, secular education is largely taken for granted today in the West. But it has not always been in existence. Up until relatively recently in history, most schooling was done at home or by the churches. Mass, public education conducted by the state is a somewhat recent development.

I have written before about the various dangers which may lie in public education. Mass education could simply be about the three R’s, which would be fair enough, but often it becomes a means of indoctrination and the promotion of various agendas.

And this has not occurred by accident. Many have viewed mass education as a means by which the state can indoctrinate students and enforce its ideology. Consider some of the leaders in the French Enlightenment. Rousseau for example wrote much about education. But his was a very elitist view.

He did not think the poor needed to be educated. But for those who did need education, he wanted the state, not mere parents, to do the job. He made this clear in his various writings on the topic. As Gertrude Himmelfarb says in her important book, The Roads to Modernity (2004):

For Rousseau, education “was too important to be left to the ‘understanding and prejudices’ of mortal fathers, for ‘the state remains, and the family dissolves.’ Thus, the public authority had to take the place of the father and assume the responsibility of imbuing children with ‘the laws of the state and the maxims of the general will’.”

Charles Francis Potter, signatory to the Humanist Manifesto I, said this: “Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-schools, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

Many more such quotes can be provided by those who stated how they perceived the role of public education to be. As Thomas Sowell remarked in his 1993 volume, Inside American Education, “Advocates of Secular Humanism have been quite clear and explicit as to the crucial importance of promoting their philosophy in the schools, to counter or undermine religious values among the next generation.”

That is why so many with pro-faith and pro-family values have been suspicious of public education, and have sought alternatives to it. They have recognised that if they want their moral and religious values passed on to their children – instead of being attacked and rejected – they may have to consider alternatives to public education. That is why so many are turning to homeschooling.

Two new articles can be mentioned in this regard. The first speaks to the growing number of those being homeschooled in America. Here is how the article begins: “In a new study released today the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) estimates there are over 2 million children being homeschooled in the U.S. in 2010.

“‘The growth of the modern homeschool movement has been remarkable,’ said Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defence Association. ‘Just 30 years ago there were only an estimated 20,000 homeschooled children.’ According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008) there were an estimated 54 million K-12 children in the U.S. in spring 2010, which means homeschoolers account for nearly 4% of the school aged population, or 1 in 25 children.

“The NHERI study used data from both government and private sources in order to arrive at the two million figure. The explosive growth in the homeschooling movement has been accompanied by a growth in openness to homeschoolers in mainstream academia. Increasingly post-secondary institutions are targeting homeschoolers, after studies have repeatedly shown that homeschooled children tend to outperform their conventionally educated peers.”

Indeed, the second article speaks to the very issue: the very pleasing academic results of homeschooling, and how colleges are snapping up these students. The opening paragraphs of this article are well worth considering: “As the modern-day homeschool movement confidently marches forward into its fourth decade, colleges and universities are opening wide their doors to welcome its mature, prepared graduates to their ranks.

“Homeschoolers score an average of 37 percentile points above the national average on standardized achievement tests and typically score above average on the SAT and ACT, statistics that apparently have caught the eye of college admissions personnel. Since 1999, the number of homeschoolers in the United States has increased by 74%, and today thousands of young men and women are graduating from high school – at home.

“Colleges are employing a wide variety of strategies aimed at recruiting homeschoolers, including strong representation at homeschool conventions, direct mailing campaigns, and promotions in catalogs, on their websites, and in publications such as The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the nation’s most popular print magazine for homeschoolers.

“Colleges sponsor ‘Homeschool College Days’ for juniors and seniors, and at Wheaton College, where nearly 10% of the freshman class is represented by homeschool grads, applicants can even be put in touch with current Wheaton students who were homeschooled. Regent University’s website heralds the school as ‘the right choice for home-schooled students,’ and the U.S. Air Force Academy’s website includes guidelines addressed specifically to homeschooled applicants.

“A number of institutions have appointed ‘homeschool liaison and recruitment specialists’ to serve incoming freshmen and their families. In her 2009 article titled ‘We Love Homeschoolers! Prominent Colleges Jump on the Recruiting Bandwagon,’ author Claire Novak, herself a homeschool grad, quoted one such specialist, who said, ‘As the number of homeschooled students grow, colleges are finding it’s a market you can’t ignore’.”

All in all, pretty impressive. It seems these homeschooled kids are pretty bright and are often running rings around their public school counterparts. And this should not be surprising. As more and more public schools abandon the three Rs for more politically correct issues, our nation’s schools are really dumbing down our students.

Indeed, instead of providing a proper education, so many public schools today seem to be more interested in giving their students an earful of the radical social activists and their agendas. Whether it is radical green ideology, anti-family social engineering, or value-free social concerns, our schools have become a hot bed of trendy activism and radical indoctrination.

Given these circumstances, we can expect to see the trends continue with concerned parents abandoning the public school system, and more and more considering the option of homeschooling. And given how so many modern Western nations are cracking down on homeschooling, we can see the very great value of alternatives to the state monopoly on education.

If states find homeschooling to be so threatening, then these homeschoolers must be doing something right indeed.