Professor Eugene Volokh posted a comment on a Family Court case involving a dispute between parents over homeschooling versus public schooling. I initiated an e-mail correspondence with one of the people who left comments. I reproduce some of that correspondence here.
From: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
To: Dilan Esper
I saw your comment on homeschooling at the Volokh Conspiracy. Please reconsider.
From: Hyman and Penroe, Journal of School Psychology.
"Several studies of maltreatment by teachers suggest that school children report traumatic symptoms that are similar whether the traumatic event was physical or verbal abuse (Hyman, et.al.,1988; Krugman & Krugman, 1984; Lambert, 1990). Extrapolation from these studies suggests that psychological maltreatment of school children, especially those who are poor, is fairly widespread in the United States...."
Roland Meighan, "Home-based Education Effectiveness Research and Some of its Implications", Educational Review, Vol. 47, No.3, 1995.
"The issue of social skills. One edition of Home School Researcher, Volume 8, Number 3, contains two research reports on the issue of social skills. The first finding of the study by Larry Shyers (1992) was that home-schooled students received significantly lower problem behavior scores than schooled children. His next finding was that home-schooled children are socially well adjusted, but schooled children are not so well adjusted. Shyers concludes that we are asking the wrong question when we ask about the social adjustment of home-schooled children. The real question is why is the social; adjustment of schooled children of such poor quality?"
"The second study, by Thomas Smedley (1992), used different test instruments but comes to the same conclusion, that home-educated children are more mature and better socialized than those attending school." ...p. 277
"12. So-called 'school phobia' is actually more likely to be a sign of mental health, whereas school dependancy is a largely unrecognized mental health problem"....p.281
Clive Harber, "Schooling as Violence", p. 10, Educatioinal Review, V. 54, #1.
"...It is almost certainly more damaging for children to be in school than to out of it. Children whose days are spent herding animals rather than sitting in a clasroom at least develop skills of problem solving and independence while the supposedly luckier ones in school are stunted in their mental, physical, and emotional development by being rendered pasive, and by having to spend hours each day in a crowded classroom under the control of an adult who punishes them for any normal level of activity such as moving or speaking."
"Autobiographical Notes," in Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, Paul Schilpp, ed. (1951), pp. 17-19
"It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly."
A statistician in the office of the Attorney General gave me the charts below. This is what advocates of compulsory attendance statutes must defend...
I was a teacher in the Hawaii DOE schools for ten years.
From: Dilan Esper
To: Malcolm Kirkpatrick
Thanks for your note. I didn't say why I wasn't a fan of homeschooling in my comment-- I just noted my opposition. But since you raise it, I will tell you that my concern is about insuring that there is a collective base of knowledge that is shared by all Americans. I.e., I want every educated American to understand Darwinian evolution, STD prevention, that there are other religions that claim millions of reasonable people as adherents besides the one that they were raised in, that there are valid criticisms of religious belief that have persuaded many people, the basic principles that are enshrined in our Constitution and why they are important, etc.
My concern about homeschooling is not so much about outcomes-- I assume that most homeschooled kids do fine, but I also suspect that some kids would have done better in the public school system (it all depends on the teaching skills of the parents). And I fully understand any parent who pulls his or her kid out of the schools because the parent thinks he or she can do a better job educating the child, especially if the local schools stink.
But I suspect that in actuality, many children are homeschooled in part or in the main because their parents don't want them exposed to ideas that are different than the ones the parents hold or kids who might express those different views. And the problem is that there is a societal consequence that is paid because of that-- we end up with kids who don't understand basic biology, don't understand how to use contraception or have safe sex, and never get exposed to conflicting ideas or have the opportunity develop critical thinking techniques. Since education determines future national competitiveness, this seems like not such a good thing to me.
As I said in the comments thread, though, homeschooling is clearly constitutionally protected under existing law, so I wouldn't worry if I were you about my view gaining much traction. The most one could possibly see is some effort to require testing and instruction in particular subject areas.
Once again, I appreciate you taking the time to write.