In two recent news pieces, the writers question parental talents. The years mothers and fathers spend with their children, the parents’ educations, and their life experience, are presumed to be inadequate for continuing to raise their children once those kids are old enough to be affected by compulsory school attendance laws. Or, that’s how it comes across.
Five ideas: What are your thoughts on these items in the news this week?, 11 April 2008, Columbia Missourian, Columbia, Missouri
Home-schooled and college-bound
Missouri neither requires parents to have a teaching certificate to educate their child nor has standards for home-schooled students to meet or required tests for them to pass. MU, which brings in around 10 home-schooled students a year, according to an admissions representative, requires a score of 24 or better on the ACT to accept home-schooled students.
What credentials should parents be required to have in order to educate their child at home?
[emphases in original]
Essay: Homeschooling, 22 April 2008, Jack Lessenberry’s Essays and Interviews, Michigan Radio
There’s a romantic tradition about home schooling. Those who support it like to rhapsodize that George Washington was home schooled, for example. Well, yes, he was.
However, he also didn’t need to be computer-literate, owned slaves to do his heavy lifting for him, and died from a throat abscess that one shot of simple antibiotics probably could have cured today.
Actually, this bill doesn’t go far enough. We need a strong package of bills firmly regulating home schooling. They should prescribe a curriculum and require home schoolers to prove they are qualified to teach. We owe it to our kids and ourselves.
In both these pieces, the writers raise the question of making parents qualify to teach their own children. The writers give no evidence of wholesale homeschool failures, of chronic unemployment by homeschooled grads, or of homeschool gangs terrorizing neighborhoods, when the same cannot be said of schooled populations. The comeback by public school advocates about the general lack of homeschooler-unsociability is that public schools are required to take ‘everyone’ … as if homeschooling parents handpick their children.
I assume the idea that parents must ‘qualify’ to ‘teach’ comes from the general requirement that people who want to teach other peoples’ children at public expense are to be ‘qualified’ in some way. The points usually left out of discussions about requiring qualification of homeschooling parents are that the qualifications required of public school teachers are because they:
- teach other peoples’ children
- do so at public expense
In other occupations, if someone wants to do certain work for ‘other people,’ perhaps cutting hair, filing fingernails, or serving food, that person or facility must have some kind of certificate such as a beautician’s license or a food handler certificate. For a family member to do the same thing for other family members does not require certification. Parents (and sometimes siblings) routinely cut family members’ hair. Manicuring children’s hands (whether it’s just a quick clip of the nails or a full-blown beauty treatment) is often a parental job. Food service, from the choosing of the food through the preparing and to the serving, is a common occurrence in most households. The cleanliness of a child and the feeding of children are as important as educating them.
My other point, public expense, is (to my mind) the reason for ‘accountability.’ When other peoples’ money is used to fund a venture, then those people deserve an accounting of how the money has been spent, and if the method of the spending worked or not, and if not, what to do about it.
This accounting for the spending is not straightforward in a (small r) republican form of government because the money is distributed through channels to an arm of the government. The people who made the money that was given (the taxpayers) do not have a direct say in how it is spent. Their representatives, and the representatives’ appointees, make the daily nuts and bolts decisions such as whether to buy this style of desk or that style of desk, or whether the classroom will be fitted with chalkboards or dry-erase boards, etc. Each and every little decision is not put up for a vote because that would paralyze the organization.
Homeschooling families do not use public money (for the most part) (and whether or not they do is one of the ‘big commotions’ in homeschooling), and therefore are not ‘accountable’ to taxpayers. As for homeschooling ‘accountability,’ because the families are not using public money, they are no more accountable to their neighbors (which is what society is made of) for how they are schooling their children than they are for what brand of shampoo they are using, or whether they are having baked potatoes or cottage fries for supper.
Despite the built-in accountability for the spending of public funds, the organizations that use public money to educate the children of the people who want to use schools’ services are not 100% successful in doing what they’re using the money to do. (there are lots of dropouts) This is not to blame them as I don’t know that they could ever be 100% successful in ensuring that all students master the common-denominator education provided to the conscripted clientele. I find many of the practices to be a poor use of my money, such as fad-teaching, huge schools, and sports teams, but I’m outnumbered by my neighbors in regards to changing any of this. The whole public school/accountability drama seems to be a case of figuring out what I can and can’t change, and knowing the difference between the two.
Should homeschooling parents ever have qualify to teach their children, I would like to see similar legislation requiring the same kind of qualifying requirement applied to everyone for:
- cooking at home (everyone must make good dietary decisions, and I’ve sure seen some school lunches in dire need of help)
- home care of ill children (parents in general are not medically trained — and Mr. Lessenberry is already concerned about this)
- haircutting at home (a bad haircut can emotionally scar a child, or a grownup)
- backyard gardening and lawn maintenance (irresponsible use of potentially toxic chemicals and powered tools is dangerous; importing pest plants that must be eradicated increases the cost of public works)
- home repair (ditto on the irresponsible use of chemicals and tools, not to mention the damage to marriages when He does something completely loony in the kitchen)
- pet ownership (reduce animal abuse; promote understanding of spaying and neutering; reduce neighbor abuse from barking dogs)
- home decoration (have you seen some of those holiday decorations?! — they’re flippin’ ground safety hazards)
- home car maintenance (poor maintenance could result in an accident that harms other people; washing cars at home causes oil and gasoline residue to flow into storm sewers)
- stocking home libraries (if homeschoolers must be controlled by a “strong package of bills firmly regulating home schooling” that “prescribe a curriculum,” then it is equally important that all home libraries are properly stocked with quality materials — ‘ordinary people’ outnumber homeschoolers by a whole bunch!)
After all, once the government enters the homeschool, precedent has been set for entering the home. It’s already being done for guns.
Other comments on Mr. Lessenberry’s piece are at:
- Mom is Teaching (hat tip to Tammy)
- Doc’s Sunrise Rants (hat tip to Chris)
- Elisheva’s Ragamuffin Studies has a post on a similar topic (hat tip to Dawn)