The segment from Monday’s Diane Rehm program from the NPR affiliate WAMU is available online. I listened to the program, and made notes, in the hope that I’d be able to give a capsule account of the conversation. Fat chance. Professor Reich mentioned “public policy,” and other speakers brought up “children’s rights” and “parents’ rights.”
I did some web searches for these various factors of the conversation and, to me, it seems as if some of the controversy about homeschooling (if not all of it) comes down to the ancient commotion over what people think, and who gets to tell the kiddies about ‘it’ so that the kiddies will grow up to be ‘right-thinking’ adults. All the parts seem to be about this particular control. Anything else seems (to me) to be a smokescreen, not specifically on this NPR program, but in the overall discussion about homeschooling.
I made a rough transcript of the discussion that, I hope, accurately reflects what the host and guests talked about.
Home Schooling, 24 March 2008, The Diane Rehm Show, WAMU, Washington, D.C.
Rob Reich giving the background on the California court ruling in Re. Rachel L.
– ruling is atypical concerning the national trend in homeschooling
– Prof. Reich thinks the “tide is turning” on homeschooling regulation (from loose to strict)
– credentialing is probably unnecessary
– agrees about lack of constitutional right to homeschool
05:25 teachers organizations in California declined to participate on this program about homeschooling
05:44 Mike Donnelly of HSLDA
– ruling is deficient
– California rules allow parental discretion in the education of children
– the ruling applies to one family
– the ruling is precedent
07:30 Gretchen Roe, homeschooling mother and Calvert School community liaison
– description of her background
08:35 question from Diane Rehm to Gretchen Roe: “What are your qualifications?” (for teaching her own children) Follow-up answer.
11:04 question to Mike Donnelly about how fast homeschooling might grow, and why homeschooling will grow. Answers were academic concerns of parents, safety of children, and morals and values.
12:30 — 13:30 music
14:05 question to Rob Reich about “what kinds of qualifications” does Mr. Reich feel are necessary “for a parent to become an effective” teacher of his or her own children. Answer is not simple because of diversity of parental motivations for homeschooling, and that private and charter school teachers do not need to be credentialed.
15:40 Rob Reich:
– you don’t want to build public policy on anecdotes
– as to what is happening academically with homeschooled kids, the “shocking” answer is that without skills testing, we don’t know
16:47 comment from email: parents are misguided in their attempts to shield their children; children should be educated jointly between parents and professionals
17:30 Gretchen Roe asked to respond: homeschooled children are not cloistered; parents have the opportunity to guide their children
19:52 question to Gretchen Roe about a “typical day.” Answer is that there is no “typical” day.
21:10 Mike Donnelly talking about Pierce v. Society of Sisters and parental responsibility
23:10 Rob Reich explaining that the rights and responsibilities most at stake are those of the children being educated. He is against unlimited parental choice because “We, the people” have an interest in the education of children.
24:30 Rob Reich’s choice for homeschool regulation
1. register homeschools with public authorities
2. have regular basic skills testing
3. have curriculums submitted for approval
25:50 Gretchen Roe thinks that Rob Reich’s priorities are logical, but that a presumption of educator priority is fallacious.
27:00 phone callfrom a Florida homeschooler in favor of regulation and twice-annual testing (mid-term and end of term)
28:52 question to Mike Donnelly about his opinion of the regulatory aspect
– Federal republic and education is a state responsibility
– states have various methods of regulation (most don’t)
– HSLDA is for freedom
– minimum of government interference
29:38 comment by Rob Reich that the dissatisfaction with public schools has built up homeschooling has nothing to do with public schools because regardless of the quality of local schools, homeschoolers would not use them. The public school itself is the problem for homeschoolers.
33:34 Caller from North Carolina – rights of children; right of a child to have connection with the world in a social way; need testing; concern about developmental isolation from peers; the kids have a right to be a part of society
35:40 Gretchen Roe replies about what her family does and caller responds, “But that’s YOU.” Caller is concerned about all the homeschooled children deprived of social contact. “What about all of the other homeschooled children?”
36:28 Roe replies that schools have poorly socialized children among the student body.
36:41 Rehm asks Roe how her children are socialized “on a daily basis,” and Roe produces her list of good works. [note: this is not to disparage Gretchen Roe. I've had to do the same thing myself. 'Society,' in the person of whoever you happen to be talking to, does not demand an accounting of social activity from the parents of the average young person who attends school, even though that young person may not be a member of French club, the honor society, the drama club, or is not the captain of the football team. I realize this is a radio program of adult guests meant to inform listeners, but usually participation ON the radio show is taken as an indication of activity.]
38:16 Caller: “My concern is more about who is going to be making sure that the other children in these other families who don’t do all of these wonderful things have the opportunity to be out in the world.”
38:25 Mike Donnelly underscores Rob Reich’spoint about anecdotes not making good public policy. Studies have been done about homeschooling looking at both academic and social areas, and homeschooled kids did as good or better on the tests than their schooled peers. The social test (SSRS) indicates that the homeschooled kids tested have not been harmed by their homeschool experience.
39:12 Email from listener: How well do homeschooled children score on SATs, and how well they are prepared for college? Mike Donnelly: Answer is statistical; the ACT record keepers report that homeschoolers score slightly above the public school average. Also, many colleges actively recruit homeschooled graduates. Rob Reich: Anecdotes are not a basis for public policy; studies about homeschoolers have “varying degrees of badness.” Asking homeschoolers to report on homeschooling is like asking tobacco companies about nicotine addiction. The participants are self-selected, so the sampling of homeschoolers is biased toward those who feel they’ll do well on the tests. In terms of public policy, the studies can’t be trusted.
41:40 Rehm asking Gretchen Roe if her children ever wanted to go to school. Answer: 9-week experiment with public school because of illness. Children became disillusioned with school attendance.
43:13 Email from listener questioning Gretchen Roe teaching six children of different ages, and asking what her qualifications are to do this, as well as teaching “chemistry” and “European history.” Answer: She uses Calvert’s handbook for each grade, and other resources for her teenage children.
44:50 Mike Donnelly asked about the situation in Germany.
46:15 Phone call from pro-homeschool Georgia listener on anecdotal information. Caller says public education system is bankrupt with predatory teachers, and lack of true education, freedom, and children learning to think.
47:55 Rob Reich asking why Mike Donnelly is opposed to regulating homeschooling by regular testing. Mike Donnelly says it is a state issue. Rob Reich also asked about child’s rights, and what if a child wants to do something the parents object to. Answer is that children are born into families and that parents can be trusted.
49:00 Question by Diane Rehm about any opinions by presidential candidates?
49:35: Question by Diane Rehm to Gretchen Roe about her worries about the California court decision. Answer included reference to the rights of children, and that those rights should be “in concert with their ages.” The children are under their parents’ authority until they reach the age of majority.
One item that caught my attention more than once in this discusison was the issue of “public policy.” This is a reference I’ve heard throughout my adult life, but not one that I ever bothered to dissect. “Public policy” was just ‘there.’ In considering how public policy applies to private family life, I went to Wikipedia (because it’s convenient) to find out the popular opinion about “public policy.”
Policy, Wikipedia (as of 28 March 2008)
Policies can be understood as political, management, financial, and administrative mechanisms arranged to reach explicit goals.
According to William Jenkins in Policy Analysis: A Political and Organizational Perspective (1978), a policy is “a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve”. Being the author of numerous papers on the subject he is considered to be a leading authority in this field.
So if the government develops “public policy” on homeschooling, this will be what people outside a family feel is best for ‘generic children’ in specific families. I say ‘generic children’ because public policy cannot take specific children into consideration — not even school classrooms can do that.
Despite growing up in a family, and being a parent in a family, I have no idea if there are public policies about what goes on in my family. I know that the children were to be vaccinated because of public health concerns, that I (and they) could do some things but not others because those things were against the law, and that the buildings we lived in had to meet construction codes in order to be safe. I know that public schools must abide by policy because they use public money and educate ‘other peoples’ children,’ but I don’t know about “public policy” issues that reach into a family to influence beliefs and ways of thinking.
Is having “public policy” — “… political, management, financial, and administrative mechanisms arranged to reach explicit goals …” — concerning homeschooling a reasonable expectation?
To paraphrase Mr. Reich, asking an educator who specializes in public policy issues and statistical studies whether or not these methods should be used to control something is like relying on the tobacco industry for reliable information about nicotine addiction. We all have our pet peeves, and how we feel about reliance on governmental oversight skews opinion about making laws and regulations as much as being an ‘advocate’ for a particular undertaking, such as homeschooling.
posted by Valerie