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Press Attacking Homeschoolers

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By: Matthew Hennessey – wsj.com – December 20, 2023

The lockdowns and lockouts of 2020 dealt a reputational blow to the education blob—that quasipublic syndicate of teachers unions, government bureaucracies, brand-name credentialing institutions and their media allies whose mission is to keep taxpayer money flowing to public schools. Most of that money is linked to students, many of whom left during the plague year and haven’t returned. Now the crisis is over and the blob wants its monopoly back.

The pandemic scrambled Americans’ attitudes toward education. With entire families stuck at home, parents got a chance to examine in detail what their kids were doing all day. Many didn’t like what they saw. Wasted time, woke-infused curricula and poor instruction convinced these parents they could do better. They decided they liked the freedom and convenience of home schooling. It worked for them and for their kids. They kept at it after the lockdowns ended.

Somebody somewhere has decided this experiment in liberty has gone on long enough. An Oct. 31 piece in the Washington Post sounded the alarm about the stubborn popularity of “a largely unregulated practice once confined to the ideological fringe.” The education blob is a closed shop. Teachers and the unions that represent them are married to the idea that only properly trained professionals can handle a classroom. It’s a cult of expertise. Pedagogical science isn’t for amateurs, never mind that the idea of mass public education is no more than 200 years old. Also never mind that most credentialed teachers aren’t subject-matter experts.

Insufficient oversight is, for the blob, an argument ender. But in what arena has government regulation ever been a reliable guarantor of quality, service and safety? Public schools in communities across the country have failed—and are continuing to fail—to educate students. This happens despite well-funded, intrusive supervision by the blob. The whole point of home schooling is to get out from under that type of regulation.

Those most offended by home schooling tend to think the purpose of education isn’t to help young people reach their full potential but to socialize children into responsible citizenship. This leads them to view parents not as the primary educators of their children but as potential societal malefactors.

MSNBC personality Melissa Harris-Perry gave voice to this view in a 2013 commercial for the network. Society has to shake off the antiquated notion that parents have some special claim on their children, she said. Instead, we have to “recognize that kids belong to whole communities.” It’s precisely this warped view of the family from which many newly minted home schoolers are running.

A Nov. 12 Axios explainer similarly warned that home schooling can “prevent children from learning about and being exposed to other kids from different backgrounds.” Teachers union honcho Randi Weingarten tweeted the story, adding her own Bizarro World commentary: “If we dealt w/ gun violence, had robust anti-bullying programs & provided more services for special needs students, many of these parents wouldn’t feel compelled to homeschool.” She thinks that the uptick in home schooling is the product of big social forces outside her powerful union’s control, and that there’s nothing wrong with public education that more money wouldn’t cure.

On Dec. 2, the Post returned with a tragic story about an abusive Michigan family that tortured and starved their children. The headline? “What Homeschooling Hides.” Although the piece nodded to reality—home-schooled kids aren’t at “significantly greater risk of mistreatment” than those who attend traditional schools—the clear purpose was to paint home schooling as an attractive end-around for potential child abusers.

Most recently, on Dec. 11, the Post’s education reporter dropped 3,500 words tearing into the reputation of Brian Ray, a relatively unknown independent academic who has spent his career conducting research on home-schooling outcomes. This is scorched-earth stuff. Is it really necessary to air the grievances of Mr. Ray’s disgruntled 43-year-old daughter, who no longer feels she got a good math education in her parents’ home? It is if the goal is to discredit home schooling completely and forever.

The education blob and media progressives see the growing popularity of home schooling as a social problem that urgently needs to be solved. As always these days, democracy itself is at stake, although a plausible case can be made that if a free people don’t have the freedom to raise their kids as they see fit, democracy is already in trouble.

The attack on home schooling is partially about money. The education blob behaves like a classic rent-seeking special interest. But it’s mainly about freedom. There’s a certain type of person who thinks too much of that is a bad thing.

Mr. Hennessey is the Journal’s deputy editorial features editor.

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Wonder Land: Covid-19 disrupted people’s private lives. Biden addressed concerns with a $6 trillion spending spree that’s had little effect on them. Images: SMG/Zuma Press/AFP/Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

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Source: Why Is the Press Attacking Home Schoolers? – WSJ