Wednesday, March 12, 2008

criminalizing homeschoolers

please tell me that they're kidding.

an appellate court judge has issued a broad ruling declaring homeschooling illegal in the state of california, unless the teaching parent is a credentialed teacher. you can read about it here.

i am a product of california public schools through grade 12 (mostly in the pre-proposition 13 era) and was well-served there. i know and love some excellent public school teachers, not the least of whom are my mother-in-law and a number of our former students.

still, there are lots of reasons why i object to the ruling:
  • i don't like the government telling parents how to raise their children. the government hasn't done so well at the tasks for which it ought to be responsible, much less trying to force a one-size-fits-all education solution on families. and this in a case that was supposed to be about child abuse!
  • the public educational system is a virtual monopoly (especially for those of us with modest means) which too often serves the needs of the government and teachers, rather than students and parents. anything that limits the options of families is not welcome, in my view.
  • i'm a big believer in homeschooling. it's not right for every family, but in general, i think it a positive thing when parents take more responsibility for their children's education and commit more time and energy investing in their kids.
  • many of you know that m and i homeschooled our two daughters through 5th and 7th grades, and we think they've turned out pretty well (in spite of our lack of the proper credentialing!). the homeschooling families that we've been associated with have, for the most part, seen similar results.
  • i would think the bottom line of educational quality is not teacher credentialing, but the academic performance of students. perhaps predictably, a study conducted by national home education research institute in 1997 revealed that the average homeschool student outperformed her public school peers by 30-37 percentile points across all subjects. interestingly, the study also showed that the performance gaps between minorities and genders common in public schools were virtually non-existent among the homeschool students who took the tests.
  • finally, the ruling is strangely inconsistent. private school teachers don't need to be credentialed to teach whole classrooms of children; why should a parent need a credential to teach their own? should the business person or attorney who teaches a class at the local college also have to receive an educational credential?
overall, this ruling feels like a ham-handed solution in search of a problem. by all means, confront specific cases of abuse -- and leave everyone else alone.

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