On April 26, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took critics of homeschooling to task and accused leftist academics of imposing their preferences on American children.
The Harvard Magazine made waves recently when it published an article talking about the alleged risks of homeschooling. It cited Elizabeth Batholet, Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program, in asserting that homeschooling infringes on children’s rights to a “meaningful education.” She also believes that homeschooling prevents children from being involved in a democratic society.
In her view, homeschooling is insufficiently regulated across the U.S. and can isolate children from others. Pomepo is a former Harvard Law School alum and served as an editor of the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy. He took issue with that statement in a Twitter post he shared on April 26.
“The risk to children is NOT from homeschooling,” the secretary of state tweeted. “The risk is from radical leftist scholars seeking to impose THEIR values on OUR children.”
— Mike Pompeo (@mikepompeo) April 26, 2020
“We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling,” Batholet said in the article, titled The Risks of Homeschooling. To back up her claims, Batholet called attention to the scant requirements that parents must comply with under the current homeschooling regulatory framework. The provision of teaching credentials and submitting curricula aren’t necessarily enforced, she stated. Bartholet also mentioned how only about a dozen states have a base level of education the parents must have before conducting homeschooling programs.
“That means, effectively, that people can homeschool who’ve never gone to school themselves, who don’t read or write themselves,” Bartholet commented.
The academic believes that homeschooling consists of parents having “24/7 essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18,” and deemed the practice “dangerous.” “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless and to give the powerful ones total authority,” she continued.
Bartholet’s anti-homeschooling comments have been met with fierce criticism from right-wing proponents of homeschooling.
In a piece for National Review, writer Fred Bauer described Bartholet’s call to ban homeschooling as an “attack on pluralism.”
“While Bartholet speaks about the importance of giving children the ‘choice to exit’ the worldviews of their parents,” Bauer declared, “her proposal to ban alternative modes of education is itself a proclamation of ‘no exit.'”
Kerry McDonald, a Senior Education Fellow at the Foundation for Economic Education, also had choice words for Bartholet’s piece.
She described it as a “biting, one-sided portrayal of homeschooling families that mischaracterizes the vast majority of today’s homeschoolers” and believes that it is “filled with misinformation and incorrect data.”
About 1.7 million children in America are homeschooled according to federal figures. Homeschooling has been growing during recent decades, as the percentage of homeschoolers has nearly doubled in the last twenty years.
No matter how much Bartholet complains, there is nothing she can do to stop this trend.