Update on the Harvard Anti-Homeschool Vendetta

Happy Friday everyone!

I wanted to shoot an email out before we head into the weekend to let you know about an awesome development in the ongoing Harvard anti-school choice drama.

If you remember, Harvard law professor Elizabeth Bartholet sent incredulous waves through the homeschool and education-choice communities last month when she suggested that homeschool could be dangerous and that a presumptive ban should be placed on it as a supposed protection to children.

Bartholet said, “From the beginning of compulsory education in this country, we have thought of the government as having some right to educate children so that they become active, productive participants in the larger society.” She continued, “But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,”

She pulls no punches when she asserts that homeschool poses a risk to the safety of children because the government has essentially no insight into the homes of homeschool families and so they are surely rife with abuse and neglect. Here she is again: “The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous. I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”


Parents are “too powerful” to be trusted to educate their children so the state should be inserted in their stead? That’s just plain crazy.

Thankfully, Bartholet has been met with a good bit of pushback, and some really great articles have been written in response to her claims. She’s been undeterred, though, and Harvard has surprisingly seemed to continue to back her, even doubling down on their anti-education choice stance.

The absurdity of the whole thing would be almost laughable if it wasn’t actually so serious. When claims like this continue to be given credibility they have the potential to influence law later on. We’ve seen what happens when ideas and predictions turn to guidelines and then to mandatory orders. It’s a slippery slope, indeed.

At least we can all laugh at the fact that Harvard spelled arithmetic wrong (“arithmatic,” ha!) in the drawing they used on their homeschool hit piece titled The Risks of Homeschooling. It’s even funnier that after they got roasted online for it, they quietly went in and changed it. Luckily, we’ve got screenshots of the original so it can be immortalized in all its glory. 😉

So here’s the awesome news: My friend Kerry McDonald, a Harvard grad and homeschool mom—who also happens to be an Adjunct Scholar at The Cato Institute, a Contributing Writer at Forbes, a Senior Education Fellow at FEE, and the author of Unschooled: Raising Curious, Well-Educated Children Outside the Conventional Classroom—is going to be debating Elizabeth Bartholet on Monday.

Kerry recently shared some of her thoughts on the upcoming meeting,

When I told my 13-year-old homeschooled daughter that I would be participating in an upcoming debate with the Harvard professor who recommends a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling, she asked incredulously, “Why would anyone want to prevent people from homeschooling?”
I told her that some people worry that children could be abused or neglected by parents who choose to homeschool, which is why in a recent Arizona Law Review article, Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet called for a “presumptive ban” on the practice, allowing the state to grant permission to homeschool only after parents first prove that they are worthy of the task and after they also agree to other state interventions, such as regular home visits by government “mandated reporters” of child abuse and ensuring that their children still take at least some classes at their local government school.
My daughter was baffled. I asked her what she thinks my response to the professor should be in the upcoming discussion hosted by the Cato Institute on Monday, June 15th, that will be livestreamed to the public. She said that many of the young people who attend the self-directed learning center for homeschoolers where my daughter and her siblings take classes chose homeschooling to escape abuse in their previous school. Many of them were bullied by peers or otherwise unhappy there, and homeschooling has been a positive game-changer for them. “Maybe the professor doesn’t really know homeschoolers,” my daughter said. “You should explain to her what it’s really like.”
That is what I intend to do.

(Kerry, by the way, also contributed a chapter to my recent book, Skip College: Launch Your Career Without Debt, Distractions, or a Degree.)

We’ve been following this story for over a month now, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to follow up with this news. If you recall, Harvard had originally scheduled an anti-homeschool summit for this month, but ended up cancelling (no word yet on if they plan to reschedule). I call it an anti-homeschool summit because, as I shared in this post awhile back, the list of presenters was truly as anti-education-choice as you could possibly get.

I wrote and asked for an invite but never heard back—and then they cancelled the event entirely. Darn.

I’d encourage everyone to try to tune in to Monday’s debate, and spread the word about it through whatever channels you’ve got access to. The people like Bartholet who want to use the government to force a certain type of education on our children, and who view parents as somehow a danger to society, are not going away. Their voices are going to continue to get louder and, unfortunately, it seems that they often have big platforms and deep pockets backing them as they spread their anti-family and anti-education-choice messages.

Back when I wrote The Tuttle Twins and the Education Vacation, I had no idea that homeschool and education choice would come into the crosshairs in the way they have recently. I just knew that John Taylor Gatto’s hard-learned lessons about the history and purposes of compulsory education needed to be spread to as many families as possible.

Gatto knew what Bartholet admits—that government doesn’t just use public education to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, science, and social studies to children anymore. Compulsory education is an actual extension of the government, and it is used to mold children, like clay, into their idea of the proper social order.

John Dewey, one of the architects of today’s education system said, “Teachers are engaged, not simply in training individuals, they are social servants set apart for the maintenance of proper social order.”

After Mr. Gatto teaches this to the Tuttle family, he remarks that, “This should alarm you,” and it’s true. People like Bartholet aren’t spreading new ideas—they’re the same old ideas that have been around since the inception of the public education experiment—but the growing number of homeschool families pose a huge threat to their agenda and this has placed education choice squarely in the crosshairs of powerful people with dangerous ideas.

I have no doubt that Kerry will do a fantastic job at representing homeschool families and the importance of parents always maintaining the right to choose the type of education that best suits their children without having to ask permission of the government in order to do it.

I hope that you’ll all tune in on Monday, and I’d love to hear your thoughts when it’s over.

This is truly a fight worth fighting, and we are all in it together.

— Connor

Want More?

The Tuttle Twins children’s book series is read by hundreds of thousands of families across the country, and nearly a million books (in a dozen languages!) are teaching children like yours about the ideas of a free society.

Textbooks don’t teach this; schools don’t mention it.

It’s up to you—and our books can help. Check out the Tuttle Twins books to see if they’re a fit for your family!