John Oliver is calling on states to crack down on homeschoolers after millions of parents fled the public school system and its Covid-19 lockdown panic in favor of education at home.
In a 24-minute monologue on Monday night, the “Last Week Tonight” host lectured his audience about the alleged dangers homeschooling poses and begged the government to regulate families that choose to keep their kids out of public schools. Oliver claimed state intervention is necessary because homeschooling parents regularly exploit their freedoms to abuse and neglect kids.
There’s nothing wrong with a good homeschooling joke routine, but Oliver’s “think of the children” screed was anything but funny. A laugh track roared in the background as Oliver relied on overgeneralizations and stereotypes to justify his call for states to surveil and interfere in homeschooling families’ lives.
Oliver assured listeners that if his government investigation plans didn’t work out, he would settle for statewide homeschool registries.
“That is how low the bar is here, at the earth’s core. Which I’m sure, according to at least one homeschooling textbook, is somewhere between soil and the fiery bowels of hell,” Oliver quipped.
Twisting the Narrative
Oliver correctly identified that there are a multitude of reasons families choose to homeschool including disabilities, safety concerns, and convenience for military families. (His personal favorite homeschooling demographic appears to be the “growing number of black parents opting to homeschool due to whitewashed curriculums and zero tolerance policies at schools that disproportionately criminalized their kids at an early age.”)
By the end of his segment, however, Oliver managed to reduce the whos and whys of the homeschooling community to the pack of dinosaur- and homosexual-fighting farm kids depicted in “Mean Girls.”
“The ceiling of how good homeschooling can be is admittedly very high but the floor of how bad it can get is basically nonexistent,” Oliver said.
He kicked off his degradation by complaining that concerns about sexual content in schools are “shaky rationalization” for parents to pull their children out of public schools.
Oliver failed to mention the people who regularly protest porn in schools at school board meetings or the millions of parents who have yanked their kids out of government classrooms over the gender and lockdown insanity that grips the nation’s public school system. Instead, he poked fun at a father who, in an interview with Vice, said his third-grade daughter should not be exposed to sexual content by a teacher in a classroom.
Oliver clearly views the recent uptick in homeschoolers as a threat that deserves to be quelled by the state. He openly worried that education at home is “essentially unregulated” and immediately assumed that education with no government-mandated oversight like mandatory testing and check-ins “can result in enormous damage.”
“In many states, the rules and oversight can be so lax parents don’t ultimately have to teach their kids anything at all,” Oliver insisted.
Homeschoolers have an infinite number of curricula and educational resources to choose from when it comes to building out their lesson plans, but Oliver honed in on Christian publishers like Abeka, A.C.E, and BJU Press as “troubling.”
He also spent minutes on “Dissident Homeschool,” a niche Nazi-praising syllabus and group founded in 2021, as the reason why homeschoolers should be subject to evaluation by their respective states.
What he didn’t mention is that “Dissident Homeschool” and the Telegram the group operated out of were investigated by Ohio’s education department but ultimately found not to have violated any laws.
Instead, Oliver used the “Dissident Homeschool” example as fodder to fearmonger about the unrelated Home School Legal Defense Association’s incredibly successful attempts to protect parents’ rights all across the nation.
“When you’ve got some parents running the Homeschool Institute of Dishwashing, and others running Li’l Nazis R Us, it seems maybe the reins have gotten a little loose,” Oliver said. “And the lack of regulation here has serious consequences, not just regarding quality of education.”
Child Abuse or State Abuse?
Oliver claimed that because “states don’t even screen homeschool parents for red flags,” homeschooling is a tool “exploited by abusive parents” to neglect their children.
He cited an anecdotal TikTok video from a young woman who claimed that “my mom’s disciplinary techniques and my mom’s educational neglect” were overlooked because “parental rights are so paramount to anything else in this country.”
Despite Oliver’s assertions, statistics show that actual child abuse is not higher among homeschooling families.
“Forty-eight states have no background check process for parents who choose to homeschool,” Oliver complained. “Even if you have a prior conviction of a crime against a child, you can homeschool.”
Public schools require background checks for teachers and staff, yet hundreds of them are still arrested for child sex crimes each and every year. Government schools are also guilty of hiring people who have a history of sex crimes and child abuse.
Oliver did not mention those stats when he made a clear call for states to change child welfare laws, which were “written before homeschooling was legal in all 50 states” and “rely heavily on the premise that a child is going to be in school and seen by other adults.” (Is that the antisocial homeschooler stereotype I see coming into play?)
“The truth is, a few extra security measures would not hurt the many parents who homeschool their children responsibly, but they definitely safeguard against those who use personal liberty as an excuse to neglect or harm their kids,” Oliver insisted.
The “extra security measures” Oliver touted, however, are proven to make homeschool families the wrongful targets of state investigations simply because they choose to educate their children under their own roof.
In 2013, Child Protective Services (CPS) in Texas illegally ripped away seven homeschoolers from their parents despite “no evidence of abuse or neglect.” Hearings later revealed that CPS attacked the Tutts with allegations of child abuse because of their “religious beliefs, community service, and right to homeschool their children.”
The Tutt children did suffer abuse, but it wasn’t at the hands of their parents. While in the state’s possession, multiple Tutt kids “were severely traumatized” by the distance from their parents, lack of access to basic hygiene products, and forcible medical examinations and re-immunization by CPS. One special needs child “was punished for urinating on herself, when part of her disability caused urinary incontinence.”
The Tutt family previously spent years under the watchful eyes of the state because they were a “licensed CPS foster home, adopted a child from CPS foster care, and were serving with Safe Families, working with at-risk families and directly with CPS to help children in need of care because of abuse or neglectful situations” — subject to the type of check-ins Oliver argued more homeschool families should undergo. Yet, it took literal years for the Tutts to get their children back from the corrupt system Oliver says should give regular oversight to families who educate at home.
Oliver faked understanding that asking the government to invade families’ privacy because of how they choose to parent “poses a risk” but his concern was once again limited “especially to those who aren’t wealthy and who aren’t white.” It’s also a risk that he said states should be willing to take regardless of the consequences.
“The HSLDA can say all that it wants that it doesn’t support Nazis or child abuse, but the fact is, the policies that it relentlessly pushes for allow them to thrive. And basic reforms here just shouldn’t be remotely controversial because after all, this is about child welfare. This isn’t rocket science. It’s not even home sheep eye dissection — don’t Google it, by the way, I cannot emphasize that enough — all of this is just basic common sense,” Oliver concluded.
He’s wrong. Common sense is recognizing parents are best equipped to make decisions, including those about education, for their children. State homeschooling laws should reflect that fact.