Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Liberalism and Homeschooling

Blame Cobranchi for this post. His blog pointed me toward Stanford political scientist and self-proclaimed liberal Rob Reich who has written a downloadable paper on "Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority Over Education: The Case of Homeschooling". I say "self-proclaimed" because for all his references to "the liberal state" I have yet to see any evidence that he's ever heard of classical Lockian liberalism.

Let's take it from the top, shall we? In classic liberal theory, people are considered to have a natural right to life, liberty and property. Governments rule with the consent of the governed. Therefore, governments only pass laws which regulate or ban the actions of the people when there is incontrovertible empirical evidence that such actions present a clear and present danger to the health, safety and property of the people.

The standard example is alcohol laws. In general, the state cannot interfere with the individual's right to purchase and consume alcohol. However, the state can prohibit a person who has consumed too much alcohol from driving a car, because there is incontrovertible empirical evidence that drunk drivers cause an enourmous amount of death and destruction.

Now, let's look at homeschooling. Where is the incontrovertible empirical evidence that homeschooling presents a clear and present danger to the health, safety and property of the people? There isn't any. Every study of homeschooling that has been conducted so far shows it to be the safest and healthiest form of education around. Rob Reich comes out and admits this in his paper. Yet he still wants to heavily regulate homeschooling because of his belief that there's a problem with homeschooling which doesn't surface in any of the empirical evidence. Such a belief is incompatible with the principles of a classical "liberal state".

3 comments:

COD said...

The problem is that the definition of liberal has changed. Today, it simply means opposed to conservatives. Of course, conservative has changed to, so it's sort of an endless loop that gets us nowhere.

Lioness said...

And this is the fault of what? All-together now:

"Miseducation!"

clarice said...

I haven't read Reich's article, but as far as regulation of homeschooling, it's like everything else--it isn't the responsible consumers of alcohol, keepers of firearms, drivers of automobiles, etc., that need regulation; it's the irresponsible ones. Where I live there were some moms who claimed to be "homeschooling" their kids when in fact they were cooking and using meth and couldn't be bothered to get the kids fed and dressed and ready for regular school. The kind of regulation I've seen proposed would cover these kinds of abuses.

I teach at the college level, but I'm in no way qualified to teach math to my kids. Not every parent is an appropriate candidate to homeschool their kids. Also, I have to work, even though I'd rather be home with my kids. Congrats on having the knowledge and opportunity to be a great teacher!