Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at Harvard Law School, managed to break through the endless COVID-19 news cycle when she was quoted extensively by Harvard Magazine, citing her recently published article: “Homeschooling: Parents Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection.”
Tragically, Bartholet’s concern for children, which she is using as a bludgeon to attack conservative Christians, is authentic but horribly corrupted. Bartholet is a woman who by all accounts truly cares about children ahead of politics or agendas, yet has fallen prey to the left’s manic need to substitute the state for the parent, or more accurately, for the traditional Christian parent.
Masking her disdain for conservatives behind a veneer of concern for children’s welfare, Bartholet’s argument concludes that homeschooling threatens not just children, but society, because the majority of homeschoolers are conservative Christians, and thus indoctrinate their children with religious ideology and antidemocratic notions.
“[I]t’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” Bartholet asserts, before arguing for a presumptive ban on homeschooling parents, specifically those guilty of not agreeing with tolerant progressives.
It’s Clear Bartholet’s Biggest Concern Is Ideology
Bartholet has a long career of advocating for child welfare policies, so her alleged concerns for child safety are almost convincing. However, she gives the game away when she lists the potential costs of her proposed restrictions on homeschooling.
Bartholet’s only real concern is not that children may be subjugated to failing school systems or become victims of bullying, reasons commonly cited by homeschooling parents as their motives for pulling their children out of school. These concerns she dismisses out of hand.
No, Bartholet’s largest worry is that since some public schools may reflect the conservative regions in which they are located, students may still be forced to attend “Some schools that teach views and values that mirror those of conservative Christian homeschoolers.” It’s very difficult to argue you’re just trying to protect the kids when the biggest worry you can conjure is that some students may still need to interact with religious folk.
As outrageous as Bartholet’s arguments are, there are enough commentators rightfully skewering her article’s wildly fallacious reasoning and anecdotal evidence. The real tragedy of Bartholet’s article is not its sheer ignorance and bigotry, although that in itself is staggering, and disappointing for a scholar who once prized rigorous research and due process (Bartholet has previously spoken out publicly against the flaws in President Obama’s Title IX policies, and the excessive hysteria of the Me Too movement).
She Once Recognized Children’s Right to Their Parents
In the 1990s, as reproductive technology became increasingly common, Bartholet advocated caution. A former patient of numerous invitro fertilization (IVF) attempts before adopting her two sons from Peru, Bartholet recognized the inherent dangers of treating children as commodities to fulfill parents’ desires.
In 1998, The New York Times, covering the rise of “donor eggs” from women selling their healthy eggs to infertile women, quoted Bartholet as saying: “The selling of human eggs sacrifices [the donor’s] human dignity. It also encourages women to bear children who are not genetically related to them…This practice produces children who have lost one genetic parent- in a world that already has an abundance of orphans who need homes. We need to call a halt to further commercialization of reproduction to give policy makers a chance to consider the ethical issues involved in reproductive technology.”
Nearly two decades later, in 2017, Bartholet authored a full-throated endorsement of legislation introduced by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), arguably one of the Senate’s most conservative members, that would have benefited children abroad who were eligible for international adoptions. Bartholet wrote: “Children’s right to parenting is perhaps their most fundamental right, short of their right to life itself. Institutions have been definitively shown to impose devastating harm to children’s physical, emotional and mental development, destroying their life potential and their ability to enjoy all other human rights.”
These are not the words of a heartless elitist. Indeed, over a career spanning decades, Bartholet has argued repeatedly in defense of children and in support of their dignity. She has condemned the manufacturing of children in labs, advocating for adoption instead, and has urged politicians to restructure foster care and child welfare systems to better protect society’s most vulnerable members.
Leftist Rot Has Gone to Her Head
Unfortunately, very few can remain unscathed after spending their lives locked in an ivory tower of academics who have lost their heads to a liberalism run riot. Bartholet is no exception, and the proof is in her confused and contradictory positions.
Bartholet insists policymakers should put children, not parents, first, but when recounting her own adoption journey, she frames it as a decision made based on her own desires. “I decided that I wanted more children, regardless of whether I was married,” she states (emphasis added), before recounting a frantic multi-year journey to procure a second child at any cost, with no mention given to where her biological child was as she criss-crossed the country for infertility treatments.
She argues for loving homes for children, but has suggested that single adults seeking to adopt be given the same preference as married couples, since many of those couples “will be divorced in a few years” anyways. She wants to defend the bonds of family, especially a voluntary family, but cannot accept a vision of human society in which individuals are actually capable of maintaining those bonds, and serving the good of each other.
Bartholet’s desire to defend the rights of children is admirable, but the evermore dictatorial forces of liberalism around her, preaching a religion of personal desires above all else, keep her from being wholly coherent, or convincing, in her arguments.
What She Cares About Is Controlling Kids’ Minds
As shown by her support of Blunt’s legislation and advocacy of placing children with adoptive parents rather than letting them languish in the system, Bartholet understands on some level that a nurturing, loving family is what’s best for a child. But, in her rabid attack on homeschoolers, parents are no longer the best guardian of a child’s happiness. They are suddenly tyrannical ideologues who, before they can be trusted to raise their own children, must prove to the state that they will not beat their offspring with Bibles while reciting Klu Klux Klan propaganda.
That is not to say that abuse has not happened in families who homeschool, just as abuse has happened at the hands of public school officials and staff, but it is nothing like the widespread epidemic Bartholet would have her audience believe. To her, homeschoolers’ true crime is being conservative and, worse, Christian.
Although nearly all homeschoolers do not fall into this category, Bartholet is blissfully unaware of such an inconvenient fact. But again, children’s safety is not truly her concern here. If it was, she would not have spilled so much ink fretting about the nefarious Christian parents.
Her worry, and the worry of all those who argue for weakening the parent-child bond, is that these parents will raise children who adhere to a vision of the good that differs from the morally acceptable viewpoints held by academics in their coastal conclaves.
It’s tempting to dismiss Bartholet as another elitist Ivy League professor, easily mocked for her obscenely out-of-touch positions. But while she does fit that descriptor, and the tone of her recent attack on homeschooling is condescending to the point of nausea, such a dismissal would only obfuscate the true malignancy.
Bartholet is a clear example of the distortion of even well-ordered desires—such as the desire to protect children—at the heart of leftism’s corruption. No longer is she fighting to protect children from true abuse. Now she is fabricating abuse to undermine parents who may seek to raise their children according to a different set of beliefs from hers.