Early last month, Tom Stein, senior pastor of Christ Presbyterian Church in Richmond, Ind., wrote an article for the Palladium-Item titled "What do we do with home-schoolers?" Title notwithstanding, I usually know I'm going to have issues with an author when he begins his piece with: "Time to offend everyone. How can you write about education, and do otherwise?"
Stein's article is a classic case of picking out the worst-case scenarios of a given situation and mandating legislation that will affect everyone. In this case, he suggests some homeschooled kids may be enjoying "a curriculum of potato chips and ESPN" resulting in "uneducated, unskilled, unmotivated people who will barely survive in the work force and might eventually drop out altogether."
Stein's primary concern in his scenario focuses not on the worth of the individual or what value their lives may or may not have, but on the burden they may become to society. "We will have another group of people who take far more than they give," he complains. His solution? Increased government oversight.
Now I'm no political analyst, but my gut tells me that people with poor motivations to homeschool don't suddenly become inspired by more rules and regulations. If anything, people with proper motivations to homeschool often find their hands tied by them.
In trying to give Pastor Stein the benefit of the doubt, let's assume there really is something going on in his area where kids are being homeschooled for the wrong reasons. He speculates that local administrators are "quietly encouraging parents of troubled and troublesome kids to sign the form that promises home-schooling" as a way of getting rid of said troublesome kids from their own schools. My question: Should his be a critique of homeschooling or of the local school administrators?
I agree with Pastor Stein that some homeschools are well run and some are not, but the same can also be said for other forms of education (there is no lack of worst-case scenario public school situations from which to choose). But do we really need to go there to make the point? Only, that is, if we want to over-simplify the issue.
Stein's vague proposition that, "If we believe we need to help people who need help, we need to help them when they are kids, so we do not need to help them when they are adults" is surprising, particularly coming from a pastor. The Church will always need to "help" (again, his definition is a little fuzzy) people-kids and adults alike-and I don't see how government control of homeschoolers-or public schoolers, for that matter-will negate these students' needs 10, 20, or 50 years from now.
Pastor Stein rightly observes that our culture runs to extremes when considering the homeschool movement, as evidenced by those who say, "Do not touch my homeschooling!" Or those who say, "Just outlaw it!" Perhaps, with nowhere else to turn in his community, he believes the government could do a good job of providing balance and a sense of responsibility and accountability for the world of homeschooling.
I'm curious where Pastor Stein gets the idea that government knows much about balance, responsibility, or accountability. When considering how elected officials have handled fiscal matters (among other things) in recent years, is it any mystery why homeschoolers choose to teach their kids at home?
Believe me, it has nothing to do with potato chips or ESPN.