Lawyer and prominent author Jill Filipovic…launched a polemical frontal assault on what she terms “pro-life, pro-family homeschooling advocates.” These “right-wingers,” to quote Ms. Filipovic, undermine “children’s basic safety and right to an education.”
Perhaps I was wrong. Just a few weeks ago, right after the presidential inauguration, one of my wife’s close friends, another parent in our homeschooling co-op, expressed her fear that homeschooling is likely to come under greater scrutiny with the new administration. I shook my head in dissent. Sure, I acknowledged, there are some, particularly on the Left, who are suspicious and critical of homeschooling. But ours is a strong movement with political clout, I assured her, with millions of American kids currently being taught at home. It would be foolish, and unnecessarily provocative, to target homeschoolers right now.
Then, earlier this month lawyer and prominent author Jill Filipovic—whose articles have appeared in the Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Guardian, among others—launched a polemical frontal assault on what she terms “pro-life, pro-family homeschooling advocates.” These “right-wingers,” to quote Ms. Filipovic, undermine “children’s basic safety and right to an education.” She accuses conservative homeschooling parents—many of whom, she asserts, lack the necessary credentials and training to teach properly—of willfully keeping their children ignorant, as well as shielding their youth from ideas that might threaten their religious beliefs. She even implicitly claims that homeschooling parents are racists.
Granted, even though Ms. Filipovic’s writing is influential—she has won several awards and written a couple widely-acclaimed books—her opinion on homeschooling is still a minority one. Indeed, a 2020 poll found that a not-insignificant percentage of parents are likely to homeschool even after the COVID-19-related lockdowns come to an end. And while parent satisfaction with the quality of their children’s education significantly declined in 2020, the percentage of K-12 parents who homeschool doubled, according to a Gallup poll.
Nevertheless, those familiar with the “Overton Window” know that the more such arguments are made in the public square, especially by those with cultural clout, the more frequently will there be calls to regulate and curtail homeschooling. Indeed, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet was already pushing that window further open last year by making claims similar to those of Filipovic. The more academia criticizes homeschooling, the more the legacy media will report on those critiques, and the more everyday Americans will be inclined to be suspicious of it, for the kinds of reasons Filipovic and Bartholet provide.
Not that those reasons are particularly good ones. Though I presume it is true that there are abusive parents who exploit homeschooling to shield themselves from the intrusion of authorities, there is a paucity of evidence that this represents a significant trend or problem.