The Harvard professor behind recent anti-homeschooling articles and events at the university will soon have the opportunity to have her myriad misconceptions regarding home education answered by none other than a Harvard graduate and homeschooling mother herself.
Kerry McDonald, a Senior Education Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education and adjunct scholar at The Cato Institute, is set to debate Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet live on Monday, June 15 at 12 p.m. EDT.
As we reported earlier in the spring, Harvard University had been cranking out a handful of alarming anti-homeschooling propaganda, with the work of Bartholet behind much of it.
Back in March, we learned that the Ivy League university’s law school was set to host The Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform, an event helmed by several academics adversarial toward home education. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the event has since been postponed.
Although Harvard itself readily accepts homeschoolers, HSLDA’s Darren Jones revealed at the time that the event was co-organized by Bartholet, who has previously recommended “a presumptive ban on homeschooling, with the burden on parents to demonstrate justification for permission to homeschool.”
In April, an article titled “The Risks of Homeschooling” was published online by Harvard Magazine. Though written by Erin O’Donnell, the article was largely cobbled together from Bartholet’s talking points, including myths that home education “violates children’s right to a ‘meaningful education’ and their right to be protected from potential child abuse,” and “may keep them from contributing positively to a democratic society.”
McDonald herself offered a sound rebuttal to several of Bartholet’s points in an April article. Now, she’ll be able to take Bartholet to task in a live, moderated debate.
In an editorial for FEE leading up to the debate, McDonald recalled telling her 13-year-old daughter, who was shocked that anyone would want to ban homeschooling, about some of Bartholet’s criticisms:
My daughter was baffled. I asked her what she thinks my response to the professor should be in the upcoming discussion hosted by the Cato Institute on Monday, June 15th, that will be livestreamed to the public. She said that many of the young people who attend the self-directed learning center for homeschoolers where my daughter and her siblings take classes chose homeschooling to escape abuse in their previous school. Many of them were bullied by peers or otherwise unhappy there, and homeschooling has been a positive game-changer for them. “Maybe the professor doesn’t really know homeschoolers,” my daughter said. “You should explain to her what it’s really like.”
McDonald goes on to explain that her argument in favor of homeschooling and against “presumptive bans” and regulation hinges on three primary principles.
First, McDonald argues, today’s homeschoolers are “diverse, engaged, and competent.”
“Stereotypes of homeschoolers as isolated radicals were rarely true even a generation ago when homeschooling became legally recognized in all US states by the mid-1990s, and they are even less true now,” she explains.
McDonald’s second point is that parents know better than the State.
Though parents may elect to homeschool for various reasons, McDonald argues that honoring parental rights is not “absolutism” and a violation of the child’s rights as Bartholet has stated. In fact, many parents pull their children from school because of abuse taking place within its walls.
“…Government schools are heavily regulated and surveilled, and abuse still regularly occurs there, and not only in the form of bullying,” McDonald explains. “Headlines abound of educators abusing children on school premises, and a 2004 US Department of Education study found that one in 10 children who attend a government school will be sexually abused by a government school employee by the time the child graduates from high school. Child abuse tragically happens in all types of settings, but some research suggests that homeschooled children are less likely to be abused than their schooled peers.”
Lastly, McDonald points to one of the fundamental principles of justice in America: the presumption of innocence.
McDonald points out that, in this nation, we rightfully reject racial profiling and stop-and-frisk policies. We would be horrified if the State attempted to enact a policy imposing a routine police search of every home to ensure no illegal activity is taking place inside. So why would we tolerate the profiling and presumption of guilt of homeschoolers?
“The central question is what kind of society do we wish to live in?” McDonald asks. “Do we want entire groups subject to special scrutiny and suspicion just because they are different? Do we want to accept a legal regime of guilty until proven innocent? Do we want government to serve families, or families to serve government? At the heart of a free society is tolerating difference and accepting diversity—in lifestyles, in beliefs, in values, and in parenting and educational practices.”
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