An editorial in today's New York Times, under the title "Make Home Schooling Safe for Children" sets itself solidly on the same path as last month's much-criticized CBS News "exposé" on the subject. As did CBS, the Times finds a single case of authentically ghastly mistreatment of children -- here, four young boys being more or less starved to death by their adoptive parents -- and extrapolates it to support its chosen to the question of "how could this have happened?"
Part of the answer was that they had been home-schooled, and New Jersey is one of a number of states that provide no supervision over parents who decide to keep their offspring out of the public and private school systems."Most teachers," the Times adds in a marvel of straight-faced understatement, "would immediately have sounded the alarm" upon noticing the excruciating emaciation of these children. (Query whether the Times would care to identify the teachers who apparently wouldn't have sounded that alarm . . . .) A history lesson follows, as do some remarkable and unsupported innuendos and the Times' view of the relative merits of individual citizens and the State as guardians of those citizens' children:
New Jersey is not alone. Nine states allow parents to remove children from school without reporting that they are doing so. An additional 14 states require home-schoolers to report that they are keeping their children at home, but require very little else. These lax regulations stem in some instances from the old patterns of American farming communities [!], where parents needed to keep their children around to help with the crops. In some states, the rules remain unchanged because the groups that hold home schooling sacred [?!] have political muscle. In others, the desire to save money and avoid responsibility [!?!] obviously comes into play.Diligent readers will have noted by now that whoever wrote the title for this editorial can't have bothered to read it first: our anonymous editorialist is clearly not interested in "making home schooling safe," except perhaps by eliminating it or intruding the monitoring powers of the state on a regular basis.
While parents have a right to decide how their children will be educated, the state most certainly has an obligation to ensure that every American child is learning basic skills. The [home] schooling laws fly in the face of compulsory education statutes that have been on the books throughout this country since the early 20th century, not to mention the new national push to raise standards and improve student achievement.
How soon they forget: can this be the same New York Times that only five days ago was praising the merits of the uniquely home-school-based experience of "conjugat[ing] French verbs while cuddling a kitten"? Meow, sez we. And harrumph.
Update: Joanne Jacobs has more, including the fact that the New Jersey children in question were visited by social workers some 38 times without any protective measures being taken. Further comment from Daryl Cobranchi can be found here.
Further Update (with extra sarcasm content): And what about those French-conjugating kittens, eh? Shouldn't PETA or some such be lobbying to require pet owners to deliver their animal companions to the shelter on a regular basis, so that the quality of their health and safety can be assessed by a duly qualified, publicly employed professional? Just asking.