The entrenched educational powers are scared. We cannot draw any other conclusion from the egregious, full-court press against homeschooling and classical education from corporate media and national public school organizations.
Yet as much as the increasing number of bitter hit pieces and “reports” unfairly malign and misrepresent both homeschoolers and classical schools, the phenomenon also evinces something hopeful. The overtaking of American public education by racial and sexual ideologues has tremendously backfired. For those parents who have sought more say over their children’s education, the message is clear: We’re winning.
An Aggressive Campaign
Corporate media and various pro-public education organizations have for some time been increasing their rhetoric against homeschooling and classical education. Conservative media, including The Federalist, have recently documented The Washington Post’s smear campaign against homeschooling, which not so subtly hinted that homeschooling parents engage in child abuse.
“There is little to no regulation of home schooling in much of the country, with no guarantees that kids are learning skills and subjects to prepare them for adulthood — or, for that matter, learning anything at all,” the paper ominously warned in its first of several long pieces on home-schooling.
But The Washington Post’s reporting is just the tip of the iceberg. Salon ran a story on June 10 warning that the deregulation of homeschooling will damage an entire generation of children. “Children in homeschooling environments are uniquely vulnerable to isolation, abuse and humiliation at the hands of their caregivers,” the author claimed, with no actual hard evidence.
Dr. Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard University told PBS that kids who go to a school outside the home are protected from abuse and neglect because the largest group of reporters for many years now has been teachers and other school personnel.
“How the conservative Christian right is hijacking homeschooling,” read a May headline from MSNBC. CNN earlier this year reported on a “white supremacist homeschooling network that shares Nazi-related resources.”
Classical education is also under assault. As The Federalist’s Joy Pullmann recently noted, The Washington Post on June 8 positively covered a “report” — funded by the Network for Public Education, which receives funding from public school teachers unions — claiming schools that use a classics-based curriculum are vanguards of “right-wing Christian nationalism.”
The New Republic in March 2022 called conservatives’ embrace of classical education “alarming,” and claimed that “religious charter schools are plainly a threat to pluralistic society.” Michael Harriot — a columnist for The Grio and guest on MSNBC programs — recently claimed classical education is racist because it teaches “white things,” whatever those are.
A Threat to the Education Complex
It is unsurprising that the education-industrial complex would set its sights on homeschooling and classical education. Since the beginning of the 2019 school year, homeschooling enrollment in the United States has increased by an estimated 30 percent. Public schools across the nation have lost about 1.2 million students since 2020. In my home state of Virginia, homeschoolers now account for almost 60,000 students, which makes homeschooling the fifth largest school district in the commonwealth, as homeschooling advocate Derrick A. Max recently observed.
There has been a similar spike for classical education: Since 2016, the number of classical and conservative charter schools has grown by 90 percent. The Classical Learning Test, or CLT, created by my friend Jeremey Tate, has become a popular replacement for the SAT and ACT.
Commensurate with this shift has been a willingness from state governments to support these alternative education models. As of March, at least 12 states have laws on the books that provide funding for home-education expenses, and several others are considering legislation.
Naturally, this engenders fear among public educators. Between 2020 and 2021, state funding for higher education declined in 37 states by an average of 6 percent, according to the National Education Association, America’s largest union.
And why not? According to the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), homeschoolers “typically score 15 to 25 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests.” The NHERI also reports that 78 percent of peer-reviewed studies on academic achievement show homeschooled students statistically perform significantly better than those in institutional schools. Research conducted by the sociology department at the University of Notre Dame indicates that classically educated students have better academic preparation, outlooks on life, and independent thinking than students in public schools.
Growth of Education Alternatives
As more data becomes available for the American public to evaluate alternative models of education, we will see more scaremongering and spitefulness from the education-industrial complex. And, as recent corporate media slandering suggests, that scaremongering will almost certainly be defined by anti-Christian and anti-conservative messaging, reminiscent of the late 19th-century anti-Roman Catholic Blaine Amendment movement.
That political program, which enjoyed support in many states, sought to curb the growth of Roman Catholic parochial schools in America, even though public schools at the time were quite explicitly Protestant. Only three years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that Montana’s Blaine Amendment had been prejudicially used against a (non-Catholic) religious school, in violation of the free exercise clause.
Though attacks against homeschooling and classical education will intensify in the coming years, these education alternatives will keep growing. Parents want control over their children’s education, especially when politicians and educators explicitly assert that their authority supersedes that of parents.
Parents know better than to believe the ridiculous rhetoric that students are safer in schools than they are at home. Even the NEA admits that incidents of sexual violence in public schools increased by about 50 percent between 2015 and 2018. And kids are more likely to be bullied in public schools than in private ones.
Homeschooling and classical education schools aren’t hotbeds of racial, sexual, or political ideology that threaten the minds and bodies of our nation’s young people. That description, unfortunately, is far more likely to be true of America’s public schools. Until the education-industrial complex understands that, expect attrition rates from public schools to continue apace.