Derelict Educators, School Choice, and a Case for Classical Education, pt. 1

In our culture, which claims to be committed adherents to the principles of diversity, inclusion and equity for all people, those who issue that clarion call are decidedly against all forms of diversity and equality when it comes to educational choices. This is particularly true for those children and families who most benefit from the ability to exercise liberty in their education choices.

Families of poor and minority children are fervent supporters of school choice:

“There’s a strong undercurrent of support for alternatives from African-Americans and Latinos who have gravitated toward school choice—from charter schools, which are considered a less radical step, to publicly financed vouchers that pay for tuition at private schools. Many minority parents are impatient at what they see as the plodding pace of school reform; they’re concerned that their own children won’t benefit from long-term improvements to the current public school system.

Some national education-watchers believe that minority parents’ growing interest in school choice demands greater attention.

“This new movement from communities of color and low-income parents is certainly a threat to leaders in public education,” said Warren S. Simmons, the executive director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform in Providence, R.I. “If these parents opt out, who is the constituency in these urban areas?”

The idea that these perpetually promised improvements to government schools will ever come to fruition is pretty preposterous. Government schools are increasingly decreasing their already nonexistent rigor in the very areas of study in which American students need the most improvement. Several school districts, including California, are gutting accelerated math instruction, even for advanced students, in the name of equity:

California’s Department of Education is working on a new framework for K-12 mathematics that discourages gifted students from enrolling in accelerated classes that study advanced concepts like calculus.

The draft of the framework is hundreds of pages long and covers a wide range of topics. But its overriding concern is inequity. The department is worried that too many students are sorted into different math tracks based on their natural abilities, which leads some to take calculus by their senior year of high school while others don’t make it past basic algebra. The department’s solution is to prohibit any sorting until high school, keeping gifted kids in the same classrooms as their less mathematically inclined peers until at least grade nine.

Unfortunately, the constituencies who most benefit from and value school choice seem inexplicably addicted to supporting, at the ballot box at least, the very people who would leave their children trapped in under performing schools. I hope to explore that in the very near future. However for now, I want to look at the first front in the left’s ongoing war against all school choice. There has been a sudden onslaught of articles in the mainstream liberal press attacking Christian homeschooling and Christian education in general. I also believe there is a way to circumvent the charges being levied. From the Epoch Times article, Attacks on Christian Homeschooling are No Longer Subtle:

Early in 2020, Elizabeth Bartholet, a professor at the Harvard Law School, became notorious for advocating a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling.

The 3 to 4 percent of U.S. parents who chose to educate their children at home would have to prove to educational authorities that “their case is justified,” and if they couldn’t do so, would have their children sent to public schools.

Then COVID 19 was released on the world, and this chatter, which was pretty loud at the time, stopped:

Then came the coronavirus lockdown. With public schools shuttering their brick-and-mortar classrooms and teachers’ unions promising to keep them shuttered throughout the 2020–21 school year and beyond, the percentage of homeschooling households suddenly surged—to 5.4 percent in late April 2020 and to 11.1 percent by the end of September 2020. Many of the new homeschoolers were otherwise politically liberal urbanites, and the anti-homeschooling movement quickly faded as a progressive cause.

Recently, in a not so stunning twist, the heat was turned up again in opposition to homeschooling. However, rather than skirting around the real issue, the opponents of school choice revealed their true motivation for opposing homeschooling:

On Jan. 15, the Huffington Post ran a scathing critique of Abeka Publishing and the Bob Jones University Press, which publish textbooks and other materials used by many homeschooling evangelical parents: “Language used in the books overlaps with the rhetoric of Christian nationalism, often with overtones of nativism, militarism, and racism.”

A March 2 article in Ms. Magazine focused on “extremist, white supremacist” homeschooling curricula as “the product of a decades-long crusade to deregulate home- and private-school education, the fruits of which are visible in such phenomena as QAnon, COVID denialism, the Capitol riots …”

On April 22, numerous media outlets, including The Washington Post, ran a (now-deleted) article from the Religion News Service by progressive pastor Doug Pagitt, declaring that “homeschooling in conservative evangelical communities is a key channel for ideas to feed into Christian nationalism.

“The conservative evangelical education system has become a pipeline of extremism,” Pagitt wrote.

Notice that last sentence (emphasis added). Pagitt pivots from “homeschooling” to “the conservative evangelical education system”. It is clear that this is not just about homeschooling, but about Christian education in aggregate. One of the things that they use as a weapon in this ongoing battle to stifle school choice is to rip, out of context, excerpts from Christian education curriculum. The Huffington Post used an excerpt from Abeka Publishing, an extremely popular Christian curriculum, as an example of what they’d consider dangerous ideological dogma in Christian schools:

A passage in a history textbook published by

This provides an excellent opening argument to my belief in the superiority of classical Christian education. Our children currently attend a classical Christian school which is strongly committed to teaching Christian virtues by focusing on the good, the true, and the beautiful. However, the Christian virtues are not taught via compartmentalized, heavily opinionated, heavy-handed preaching of political ideologies that align with the author’s interpretation of Scripture.

In the near future, I hope to make the case that Christian education can be effective without being political, with a focus on classical, transcendent values, and taking the wind out of the sail of those who use excerpts from evangelical curriculum as a lob in their real war, which is actually against school choice.

7 thoughts on “Derelict Educators, School Choice, and a Case for Classical Education, pt. 1

  1. Bike Bubba says:

    One interesting thing about the current anti-homeschooling movement is that it’s starting to include people who were homeschooled themselves–our local homeschooling organization’s board has two friends of mine whose homeschooled niece is one of the co-conspirators. As a result, anti-homeschooling is getting smarter because, unlike teachers’ unions, some of their number have actually lobbied legislators for homeschool freedom before changing their minds.

    That is, in my view, why they’re starting to turn to the courts, where judges don’t need to be reelected, instead of legislatures. Even leftist legislators will vote the right way when they see they’ve got a thousand people in their district who will actively campaign against them.

    So now, more than ever, it matters whether homeschoolers show up. We simply have to show up for judicial nominations as well as elections.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Elspeth says:

    Yes, Bike. I recognize that a lot of former homeschooled adults have taken up arms against the homeschooling movement. Their supporters claim it’s abuse, but usually it’s some combination of LGBT stuff or even just anger that they were held to standards or taught traditional moral values. Bigotry, as it were. They also fail to acknowledge that the vast, vast majority of abused children are governmentally educated, or that a crazy number of those kids are abused AT SCHOOL, often by teachers, but also by other students. But nope, they need to make parents the enemy.

    It would make it much easier for us to fight if more Christians would join the movement. 90% of all kids, regardless of religious upbringing, are governmentally educated. I try not to use the words “public school” because the government schools have long ceased giving one whit about the values of the majority of the people in the communities they “serve”.

    Like

  3. Will S. says:

    Alas, even if Christian homeschoolers aren’t interested in politics as regards curriculum, as you point out, politics, of the prog, leftist kind, is very much interested in Christian homeschoolers.

    Perhaps we should consider whether we are well served by striving to be neutral in that, in the face of those actively, decidedly hostile towards us. I don’t think it’s wrong to bring our children up in the knowledge that the world actively opposes us, deliberately. It certainly goes beyond temporal politics, but that is a part of it…

    Like

  4. Elspeth says:

    Yes. I agree that we have to be politically aware..Particularly when it comes to education. And that homeschooling should be aware and engaged. We’re on the same page there.

    I’ll get deeper into this soon I hope, but I think that engagement and defending our rights is a different issue from using modern styled, compartmentalized curriculum and thinking it’s better simply because it has the label Christian.

    Like

  5. nellperkins says:

    A local Christian group tried to have one of those programs where children can leave the public school for religious instruction during the school day. The Local Left/Liberal Establishment (for whom I sadly labor) went crazy about that. I got to hear how much they truly hate Christians as Christians. Trust me, they’re coming for ALL efforts at ANY kind of Christian education and they’re not going to be content with just making double durned sure we’re not allowed near the public schools.

    Like

  6. Elspeth says:

    Yes, Nell. They really do hate Christians and Christianity. So many believers refuse to acknowledge it. And refuse to accept that a lot of reprehensible things are being taught in their particular *good* public school.

    Even in Florida, land of the free, parents are realizing that things like critical theory are being taught.

    Like

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.