For the second time in recentÂ weeks my breakfast has been enlivened by reading a homeschool article in the newspaper.Â This second article, from the Associated Press (and apparently picked up across the country),Â wasn’t as pleasant to read as the firstÂ homeschooling articleÂ because it takes homeschooling out of the ‘way of life’ category, and plops it firmly in the political activist, and social change pigeonhole.
Kansas City Star, Kansas City, Missouri, 3 September 2006, Different Dropouts
Led mainly by evangelical Christians, the movement depicts public education as hostile to religious faith and claims to be behind a surge in the number of students being schooled at home.
Claims?Â What substantiation is there for this claim?Â There is also a rise in the number of children being enrolled in the public-school-at-home programs via cyber-charters and virtual schools.Â Many of those programs use materials and schedules that are similar, if not identical, to those used in public schools.Â Can activist conservative Protestantism say it is also behind the at-home education surge that uses average, everyday school materials?
And as for “Led mainly,” who else is trying to remove other people’s children from the schools?Â Homeschoolers remove their own children from everyone’s schools, not just public schools, and, as far as I know, the majorityÂ aren’t school-removal-proselytizers.
The article is also sloppy in its attribution about the size of the religious segment of homeschoolers.Â The article gives 72% as the relevant figure …
According to a federal survey, 72 percent of homeschooling parents said one of their primary motivations was to provide stronger moral and religious instruction.
… while the pie chart accompanying the article indicates a 30% ‘market share.’
The National Center for Education Statistics pegsÂ parents who responded saying they can give their children a better education at home as being the largest group: 48.9%.Â Religious reasons came in at 38.4%
Still, the movement is very much alive, led by such groups as Exodus Mandate and the Alliance for Separation of School & State.Â … Â Another initiative seeks to draw an additional 1 million children into homeschooling by encouraging parents already experienced at it to mentor families wanting to try it.
It’s one thing to mentor new homeschooling parents by offering advice and information when asked, as many of us have already been doing for years, if not decades.Â It’s another to work to specifically increase the number of homeschooling families for political reasons that are meant to affect the public schools.
We want to encourage seasoned home schoolers to mentor at least one family per year by reaching out to relatives and friends and by helping them take the first step into home schooling! As experienced home schoolers, we can transform those inevitable kitchen-table and backyard conversations into positive home schooling outreach.
Exodus Mandate announced today that it has launched “Homeschooling Family-to-Family” (HFTF)Â …Â Â HFTF’s goal is to bring over one million new children into homeschooling over a five to seven year period, thereby strengthening state and local homeschooling organizations.
Alliance for the SeparationÂ of School and State:Â What About the poor?
A recent example illustrates the credibility of this scenario. Last August, a local judge shut down much of Milwaukee’s school-choice program (based on government vouchers) after thousands of children had already begun classes. A generous outpouring by Milwaukee’s citizens resulted in raising $1.6 million in ten days (and eventually more than $2 million) so that the children could remain in the schools they chose and not be forced to return to government schools.
And, in searches for that #7 reference, aÂ Wall Street Journal article from 1995Â entitled, “School Wars” that isÂ apparently unavailable online,Â it seems that the Milwaukee area school wars continue.
A Brief 2003 Synopsis of The War Against The Milwaukee Public Schools
It is unbelievably ironic and a paradox that the City of Milwaukee, where the exemplary Milwaukee Public Schools have developed since the 1970′s a unique system of public school choice, is also the Mecca of the anti-public school movement and private school choice, including religious schools.
I’ve no idea about the factualness of the above-linked article, but use it only to indicate that the schoolÂ situation in MilwaukeeÂ seems to beÂ torn concerning school choice.Â It looks like another ‘iceberg’ situation where outsiders see the tip of the situation, with most of it findable only by diving beneath the water.
But back to the A.P. article.
Though the movementâ€™s rhetoric strikes many public school supporters as extreme, some of its leaders are influential. They include R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who last year said the denomination needed an “exit strategy” from public schools, and the Rev. D. James Kennedy, pastor of 10,000-member Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and host of a nationally broadcast religious program.
Also, even though Mr. Mohler is of the opinion that the Southern Baptists need an “exit strategy,” the Southern Baptists themselves are not of the same opinion.
USA Today, 14 June 2006, Southern Baptists won’t back public school pullout
The “exit strategy” proposal, offered by Roger Moran of Troy, Mo., and Texas author Bruce Shortt, came as many Southern Baptists are concerned about how classrooms are handling subjects such as homosexuality and “intelligent design.”
But the SBC’s resolutions committee instead called on members to “engage the culture of our public school systems” by exerting “godly influence,” declining to put the proposal from Moran and Shortt before delegates to the SBC’s annual meeting.
What makesÂ the A.P. article difficult to write aboutÂ is that it isn’t about homeschooling.Â Homeschooling-as-a-tactic is used in the article, but the pointÂ seems to beÂ that the activists wantÂ eitherÂ to remove enough children from public schools to …Â accomplish what?, or theÂ activists want toÂ “take them back,” as ifÂ conservative Protestants in the modern mold,Â alone, founded and builtÂ public schooling.
From the final part of the A.P. article:
The head of Christian Educators Association International, which represents devout teachers in public and private schools, urges parents to reflect carefully on their choices.
“One size does not fit all,” said Finn Laursen, arguing that public, private and at-home education all might be good options.
“Donâ€™t just hammer public schools,” Laursen said.
“Go in there and take them back.”
If the aim is to “take them back” then theÂ framework underÂ these activists’ work is not homeschooling, it is a kind of public school reform.Â Public school reform has nothing to do with homeschooling.
As long as homeschoolingÂ is an option that families can freely choose, homeschoolers-as-a-group don’t have a compelling reason to deeply interfere in public schooling.Â Yes, we should be good citizens and make our opinions known in our communities, and be as active concerning local education as our consciences dictate, but to work to remove the main method that many children will have as their only means of becoming educated could be viewed as a cruel act, regardless of how we feel about schools.
Not all homeschoolers are religious, and if they are religious, not all of them are Christian.Â Of those who are Christian, not all of them are Protestant.Â Of those who are Protestant, not all are conservative.Â Of those who are conservative, not all are political activists.Â Of those who are political activists, not all of them have their eyes on public schools.
The groups featured in this articleÂ don’t seem to haveÂ homeschooling as their main objective.Â WhatÂ their purposeÂ looks like is aÂ long term, ‘next generation’ religiously political agenda.Â How much of this iceberg is stillÂ under water?