A recent California appellate court ruling raises major questions about whether parents have the right to educate their children. While the ruling will be appealed, parents who homeschool their children are reacting to their uncertain future. Seema Mehta and Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times wrote up the reaction to the ruling, which states that parents without teaching credentials must not educate their children at home:
The California Department of Education currently allows home schooling as long as parents file paperwork with the state establishing themselves as small private schools, hire credentialed tutors or enroll their children in independent study programs run by charter or private schools or public school districts while still teaching at home.
California does little to enforce those provisions and insists it is the local school districts' responsibility. In addition, state education officials say some parents home school their children without the knowledge of any entity.
Home schoolers and government officials have largely accepted this murky arrangement.
"This works so well, I don't see any reason to change it," said J. Michael Smith, president of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Assn.
While the ruling affects all homeschoolers, the article manages to quote only those practitioners who are conservative and Christian. I come from a huge homeschooling state -- Colorado -- where all sorts of people homeschool (libertarians, conservatives, liberals, religious, secular, etc.) and it never ceases to amaze me how uniform the group is presented by the mainstream media.
Further, the homeschoolers quoted in the article are not those whose kids are winning all the spelling bees or just generally excelling in their studies but, rather, those who are trying to hide from secularism in public schools. Even among people who homeschool for religious reasons, this isn't exactly representative.
The article isn't all bad, and it gets some good information out there, but it just lacks any sense of the debate swirling around homeschooling regulations. Let's look at a few of the pro-regulation comments from the article:
"Parents do not have a constitutional right to home school their children," wrote Justice H. Walter Croskey in a Feb. 28 opinion signed by the two other members of the district court. "Parents who fail to [comply with school enrollment laws] may be subject to a criminal complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of fines or an order to complete a parent education and counseling program." . . .
Teachers union officials will also be closely monitoring the appeal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, said he agrees with the ruling.
"What's best for a child is to be taught by a credentialed teacher," he said.
Even though I'm the daughter of a stellar public school teacher, I can't be alone in thinking that last line deserves a worthy retort. How many of the world's worst teachers have been credentialed by governing bodies? If credentials are all that matters, why do so many students in public schools fare so poorly? And yet the only response given in the article is some homeschooling bogeyfather in Sacramento saying he's worried about his kids being indoctrinated with teachings about evolution and same-sex marriage.
There are so many interesting angles to this discussion but none of the debate is really found in the article. Parents don't have a constitutional right to homeschool their children? What are the pros and cons of government schools? What are the pros and cons of homeschools? Does the state have an interest in indoctrinating values against the interest of Christian parents? Does the state have an interest in indoctrinating values against the interest of Muslim parents? What rights do children have in these affairs?