Harvard is planning to host a “homeschooling summit” co-organized by two professors who have characterized homeschooling as “child maltreatment” and even called for a “presumptive ban” on the practice.
The event — which is set to take place June 18-19 and is titled “Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects of Reform” — is invite-only. Many homeschool families are protesting the event, claiming that Harvard has mischaracterized who they are and what they do for education and the youth. (RELATED: Harvard To Hold Event To Discuss The ‘Educational Deprivation’ That Happens When Parents Homeschool)
Samantha Kirchner told the Daily Caller she organized a Facebook group called “Harvard Homeschool Summit Protest” for homeschool parents and their proponents to “create awareness of the situation, protest the summit, and give homeschoolers a collective voice.”
Kirchner is a mom who homeschools her 7 children, ages 4 through 17. She has homeschooled in three different states and has served on the leadership of several homeschool groups and co-ops. Her oldest, she says, is graduating this year with 34 dual credits and will be attending a college in Wisconsin.
“In my opinion, Harvard mischaracterized homeschooling in a biased and stereotypical manner,” she told the Caller. “The coordinators of the event seem to be projecting limited exposure and understanding of the homeschool community by generalizing all homeschoolers into one group that, based on assumption, needs to be regulated or controlled.”
The coordinators of the event are Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet and William and Mary School of Law professor James Dwyer. Bartholet has written extensively about the “rapidly growing homeschool phenomena,” which she has said is a “threat” to “children and society.”
Her 2019 essay where she claims many homeschool parents “promote racial segregation and female subservience” as well as “question science” is recommended reading for the event.
“Many homeschool precisely because they want to isolate their children from ideas and values central to public education and to our democracy,” she writes. “Many promote racial segregation and female subservience. Many question science. Many are determined to keep their children from exposure to views that might enable autonomous choice about their future lives.”
Dwyer has claimed that common practices in “fundamentalist Christian and Catholic schools may be damaging to children,” and that such education instills “dogmatic and intolerant attitudes” in children.
He argues that there should be a re-orientation of state policy to focus on what is best for children “from a secular perspective.”
Neither Bartholet nor Dwyer responded to requests for comment.
“[Bartholet’s] unstated assumption is that students in public schools all over the United States are receiving a ‘meaningful education.’ This is preposterous,” Susan, a woman who did not homeschool but says the public school system failed her stepdaughter in Indiana, told the Caller. In an article published by Harvard Magazine, the author writes that Bartholet views the absence of homeschooling regulations as a threat to U.S. democracy.
“My stepdaughter attended public school for Bartholet’s norm of ‘six or seven hours a day’ for 10 years before entering high school, including kindergarten and repeated year,” Susan said.
She added that after her daughter had failed state testing in 6 different grades, there was no intervention by the school.
There are about 2.5 million homeschool students in grades K-12 in the U.S., according to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), and the population is growing between 2 to 8% per year over the last few years.
Many parents choose to homeschool to customize their child’s education and learning environment and help their children accomplish more academically than they would in a traditional school system, according to NHERI.
“What accountability does the public school have?” Susan added. “None. They are not held accountable to state-mandated tests. They are not accountable to parents. They are not accountable to taxpayers. Ultimately, public schools are not accountable to a single outside entity.”
In the article, Bartholet is quoted as saying that it’s dangerous to “think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18.” Brandi Taylor, a former homeschool student, says the homeschool event and article is “poorly researched, heavily biased, and deleterious.”
“Did my parents have ‘100% authoritarian control’ over me? Also, no,” Taylor told the Caller. “Because I had the opportunity to interact with students of all ages, and their parents, and the friendly clerk at the store, and my fellow actors, and my fellow ballroom competitors, and so many more, I was exposed to so many different ideas.”
Lisa, a homeschool mom in South Dakota, found Bartholet’s statement about “authoritarian control” to be ironic.
“The argument the author makes here is that we should take children away from their own parents who love and care for them more than anyone in the world ever could,” she said.
[Parents] who have a much higher vested interest in the success and well-being of those children, and hand the children over to a government school system who will control what they learn, when they learn, how they learn, who they learn from, when they are required to be in attendance and when they are allowed a break, what medications they may be required to ingest and even what they eat and when they use the restroom.
Many of the homeschool parents in the group also expressed their disappointment that Harvard was depicting homeschooling as a one-dimensional experience that’s entirely white, evangelical, and conservative. Proponents argue homeschool families of all backgrounds exist and deserve representation.
The population of homeschool families is diverse, and includes atheists, Christians, liberals, conservatives, Hispanics, black people, white people and those of high and low income, according to NHERI. One study cited by NHERI showed that 32% of homeschool students are Black, Asian, Hispanic, and other non-White/non-Hispanic demographic.
Homeschooling is growing in popularity among minorities and 15% of homeschool families are non-white/non-Hispanic.
“My boys were able to take an extensively rigorous class load as well as work as math tutors and lifeguards, volunteer with underprivileged and abused preschoolers, and swim competitively with all ages, colors and creeds of humans, to name a few of the activities they were involved in,” Janell, a homeschool mom and author of the book “…As Long As You Don’t Turn Them Into Weirdos,” told the Caller.
Homeschool students typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized tests, according to NHERI, regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or family household income.
“Educational deprivation, child maltreatment, child abuse, isolationist, white supremacy? Not at my house,” she said. “If they claim these issues, they need to be willing to take a long hard look at the public system where these things are more likely to be occurring.”
Susan ended her interview with the Daily Caller by lamenting the system that Bartholet is advocating — one, she says, that is elitist and leaves parents who aren’t rich and can’t afford private schools with little recourse if the public school system doesn’t suit their child’s needs.
“If you eliminate homeschooling, you eliminate many families’ last resort to provide a quality education for their child,” she said. “As she said, students should ‘become active, productive participants in the larger society.’ By reducing the access to homeschooling, she is creating a world where that will be much harder.”
One woman, a Harvard Law School Class of 1986 graduate, expressed disappointment in the Harvard Magazine article that delineated Bartholet’s views through a letter to the editor.
“I wish Professor Bartholet, or any of your readers, could sit in on one of the literature discussion groups I now lead for homeschooled high school and middle school students,” the letter, which was shared with the Caller, reads. “Tomorrow we’ll be discussing the end of Dante’s Inferno. It sounds as though hell is the place where Professor Bartholet thinks my students belong.”