States should crack down on homeschoolers

The pandemic showed remote learning doesn’t work well. Kids need personal interaction with teachers and peers to learn and mature. When Covid-19 made remote learning a necessity, or at least a preferred public health option, scores dropped and kids struggled both intellectually and emotionally.

This means homeschooled kids are at a disadvantage right out of the gate. For that reason, states should allow parents to homeschool their children only for legitimate necessity.

For example, when I was a kid a neighborhood family had a wheelchair-bound child. The schools I attended weren’t wheelchair-accessible; you couldn’t even enter the building without climbing stairs. But that child wasn’t homeschooled; he attended a special school for disabled kids, and was picked up and dropped off by a van driver.

If homeschooling is allowed, parents should be required to teach the state-approved curriculum, using standard textbooks and workbooks, under teachers’ supervision so the kids get the same education they would by attending school.

Today parents often homeschool their kids because they have their own ideas about what they should learn. In one extreme case, an Ohio couple developed a homeschooling curriculum to train children to be Nazis, and they have a following in the thousands (see story here). That’s atypical, but illustrates why you can’t let parents take over the education of their children to do whatever they want.

That’s not to say public schools are free of curriculum controversies. Political fights over curriculum are nothing new. Generations of schoolkids were taught a whitewashed version of American history, and now conservative parents and politicians are fighting to keep it that way.

With mediation mechanisms breaking down in our increasingly polarized society, these fights are likely to intensify; and in time, public schools may not be much better than rogue homeschooling if militant parents and rightwing politicians get their way.

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