Michigan has some of the least restrictive laws on homeschooling in the U.S. and that galls many people to no end. Periodically that anger over parents actually being permitted in a free country to make decisions on their own regarding the education of their own children leads to rants from ill-informed citizens. The latest salvo comes from Dennis Smith of Sturgis, Michigan in a letter to the editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette. He writes in response to a essay penned by Justin Wing, a homeschooler who is on the Gazette’s Young Editorial Staff that argues against embryonic stem cells. Mr. Smith responds in a less than charitable fashion. When you have a letter that starts out…
The trouble with homeschooling is not so much that it serves as a smokescreen for havens of child abuse, but that it can, with state sanction, substitute ideological indoctrination for actual education.
…you know you are in trouble. Nothing like poisoning the conversation right out of the gate by implying that homeschooling is little more than a means for child abusers to hide their misdeeds from the watchful eye of public school officials. In that one paragraph Mr. Smith, who styles himself “Reverend Dennis Smith”, demonstrates that he has no understanding of the homeschoolers of Michigan outside of the slander and propaganda that he parrots back in his letter. The letter in question is supposed to be a defense of stem cell research but apparently Mr. Smith sees this as an opportunity to attack the homeschooling families of Michigan by painting us all as child abusers and brainwashers.
Mr. Smith apparently cannot differentiate between “schooling” and “education”. What you get from the public schools, i.e. rote memorization and behavior control in a state run institution, is the furthest thing from actual education that you can find. Kids who come out of the public schools with an actual education do so in spite of, not because of, the public school system. Rather than castigating parents who take a more active role in the education of their children, Mr. Smith and others like him should be pleased to see parents getting involved .
What is especially galling is the naïve attitude that public schooling is a value neutral learning environment. According to Mr. Smith, homeschoolers are indoctrinating their children with religious drivel while the public schools are turning out open-minded thinkers. The reality, as anyone with even a passing understanding of the public education system in America knows, is that the public schools are heavily influenced by all manner of ideologies and that many of those ideologies run contrary to the values of parents. The idea that the public school bureaucracy that is doing such a bang-up job in Michigan should be given even more kids to oversee is laughable. What sort of solution is it to give a failed system even more control?
It is one thing to disagree about a topic like embryonic stem cell research. It is quite another to engage in demagoguery that slanders an entire population of parents and children because they have exercised their right to choose an education that reflects their own worldview instead of the worldview of the public school bureaucracy and those who see the public schools as a Petri dish for social experimentation aimed at undoing the values instilled in children by their parents. The homeschooling population of Michigan is far from a monolithic block of mindless drones. We are a vibrant community that runs the gamut from families like mine that are homeschooling for primarily religious reasons to those that are seeking a more challenging curriculum for their children. To declare homeschooling a haven for child abusers and slack jawed yokels because you disagree with a well written editorial penned by a homeschooler shows an incredible lack of perspective and what can only be labeled ignorance and intolerance.
It is ironic that the man who describes the homeschooled population as a pack of ignorant, controlling child abusers shows himself to be completely incapable of engaging with an argument without resorting to name-calling and caricatures. Maybe if Mr. Smith had been homeschooled he could have put together a more cogent argument.