Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Response to Rob Reich of Stanford University

   I referenced Rob Reich, Professor of Political Science at Stanford University, last week in my post on homeschoolers and tax credits and I also made reference to a post I left on his blog, which I believed he had deleted and refused to reply to.  Surprisingly, a few days after that post on his blog, I received a personal email from Reich and he was very willing to discuss our diametrically opposing views.  I must say he was quite probably the most polite person I've ever discussed so contentious a subject with.  He was occasionally evasive on "why" he holds his beliefs, but was nonetheless much more direct and open than I would have expected.  Per his request, I will not paste our emails here, but will attempt to explain his views with publicly available essays and debates.

   Professor Reich holds to these truths about homeschooling:

First, all homeschooling should be heavily regulated by the state.  He holds that the State, parents, and the children themselves, all hold equal interests in a child's education.  He asserts that the State must raise civicly responsible citizens, that parents have the ability to be tyrannical (he also acknowledged to me that states have this ability as well, but presented no regulations to assure that they were reigned in from their tyranny), that parents have no natural right to pass their personal beliefs on to their children, but children do have the right to be autonomous from their parents. He also briefly touched on his concern that homeschooled children may not be getting the best academic education, but left that point quickly because there's just no evidence to back up his claims, quite the contrary actually.  The rest of his points are merely personal beliefs so they need no empirical data, which I find to be convenient.

Here are a few snippets from essays that give a more detailed view of Professor Reich's views:

"[snip]..I canvas a trilogy of interests in education --the parents’, the state’s, and the child’s -- as a prelude to considering the justifiability of homeschooling. While each party shares an interest in educating a child to become an adult who is capable of independent functioning, the state has an independent interest in educating for citizenship, and the child has an independent interest in education for autonomy, neither of which is necessarily shared by parents.[snip]"

And this:

"Today, it appears that the reason most, but not all, parents choose to educate their children at home is because they believe that their children’s moral and spiritual needs will not be met in campus-based schools. Like the Yoder and Mozert parents, most homeschooling parents have religious objections to placing their children in a public, or even a private, school environment.

And yet in the recent NY Times article on tax credits for homeschooling, Reich holds this view:

"The result is that home schoolers are now a diverse population. No longer the preserve of left wing unschoolers and right wing religious fundamentalists, the great range of people who have chosen to home school their children make it very difficult to draw even broad generalizations about the phenomenon. Berkeley unschoolers who disdain structure, Christian evangelicals who disdain secularism, and suburban technophiles who download Khan Academy tutorials: this is the picture of homeschooling in 2011."

It would seem that Professor Reich cannot determine which view he holds on who is homeschooling and who is not.  However, he is very clear on what he believes the State's right to children are, versus parents rights to their own children. 

"Like parents, the state also has very strong interests in the education of children. And also like parents, these interests are twofold. First, the state has an interest in providing children a civic education such that they are familiar with and able to participate in the political structures of society. Second, the state has an interest in performing a backstop role to the parents in assuring that children receive a basic education sufficient to allow them to become adults capable of independent functioning. Both of these interests serve to justify some role for the state in exercising educational authority over its youngest citizens."

Essentially, Reich's views hold that the State has the right to create citizens who are autonomous from their parents, and that children have the right, especially during the tumultuous adolescent years, to exercise those rights apart from their parents beliefs or feelings. He holds that the compulsory schooling creates a more tolerant, harmonious morally pluralistic society.  You can see what is possible by the State when schools hold to that view here:

A morally pluralistic society is one in which all citizens view all beliefs as tolerable, and equally right.  While I agree that we live in a pluralistic society and that every citizen has the right to their own beliefs, I do not hold the relativistic view that all are equally "good" and "right".  When confronted with this question, "Doesn't that make all of them equally irrelevant?", Reich chose to not reply.  By stating that all beliefs are equal, what you are really saying is that none of them have any true value or moral absolutes.  This is a typical relativistic stance. 

I would also posit that reality, not theoretical jargon, proves that Reich's position that compulsory schooling is successful at creating stronger citizens, is false.  Here is why:

   First, if compulsory schooling is the place where children learn to live in a harmonious moral pluralistic society, then why do we have more division now than in almost 100 years?  If compulsory schools are working, why the cliques that are so rampant in high schools across our country? And labels that create those cliques like jock, geek, nerd, prep, etc... You won't find that in any homeschooling community that I'm aware of.  Why so many suicides, and rampant bullying if the compulsory schools are so successful at creating harmony among our youth?  The teachers can barely control the students, much less truly teach them how to serve in their communities, and become productive citizens (for our purposes we will also ignore the fact that this isn't a teacher's job, nor the State's, to begin with!!). If institutionalized learning is where children learn civic duties, then why would Reich say this in an email to the secular homeschooling group NHEN:

"I never claimed that homeschooling leads to citizens who are not interested in the public good.  On the contrary, homeschoolers are often, so far as I can tell, heavily involved in both the civil associations of their communities and in democratic life more generally.  But I do claim that homeschoolers who are motivated to shield their children from engagement with competing values or ways of life may be disabled as citizens.  The reason is that citizenship in a culturally and religiously diverse liberal democracy requires that each citizen be prepared to recognize that the values that guide his or her life will not be shared by all other citizens.  Therefore, each citizen needs to learn to be able to participate democratically with citizens of diverse convictions.  Public schools may not do a great job of this; but I am convinced they do a better job than at least some, or even many, homeschools."

So, he acknowledges that homeschoolers are more involved in their communities and civil associations than their public school counterparts, but cannot stop getting hung up on those same children not realising that the people in the very communities they are serving may not hold to their belief system?  If they even have a belief system....keep in mind, that last quote was said to a very large group of secular homeschoolers at the NHEN that the MSM wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole because it blasts the view that homeschoolers are primarily religiously motivated.  Couldn't have something like the truth interfering in their agenda now, could we?

However, the fact remains that many parents, myself included, do homeschool so that they may impart their belief system to their children.  They homeschool because they want academic excellence, AND Godly wisdom to infiltrate their children lives.  Many desire to raise children who not only hold moral absolutes, but ones who also realize that others may not hold those beliefs when they try to impart their beliefs upon our children.  Professor Reich holds that only the State can impart this knowledge successfully, and I staunchly disagree. Here is another direct question I asked him in our email exchange that he did not respond to:

"I am seeing a society who's entire goal is to produce children that are economic tools of the state, while the society itself has an education level that is incapable of understanding the most basic of economic rules.  Where is the outcry over this?  If you need proof of that last statement, consider the utter lack of understanding of what has happened in our current state of economic duress.  The very people who have depended upon the state for their education to assure that they could not be duped, have not only been so, but have no understanding of how the hell it happened.  Surely, I need say no more for that to be understood, and to prove my point that perhaps the state is not so neutral a companion in the education of our children?"

Here are two excellent links that give a much more detailed view of MY views.  The first is from John Taylor Gatto, a public school teacher who was awarded the Teacher of the Year in New York on multiple occasions, but who now fully believes that the State is raising nothing more than economic tools, and the other is an essay in response to Reich, as well as Michael Apple, on why compulsory schooling is simply not working.

and from Nicky Hardenbergh of NHEN:

And finally, an entire essay from Professor Reich that gives more concise details to his views:
Please research this information carefully, and I welcome any debate on the subject. 


  1. Wow, I have so much to say! I guess my only statement would be when state education can actually perform these duties, then we should talk. For now, with public education failing to teach the most basic of skills and manners to a majority of our children, let alone any economic or civilian values, I will opt out.

    Also, who decides what the all mighty "state" should teach? When someone talks about the state as if it is an autonomous entity, that makes me wonder who they think will in power of this all-benevolent system? (well, them and others that think alike of course)

  2. The state already decides what it teaches. That's also something that Reich backed away from when we emailed. The state gets no feedback from parents, and they reject any attempts to discuss such things. They are the "experts" and they teach what they want children to know. The basic truth is this: the only way to have citizens who do not question the government is to make sure that they are incapable of true thought outside what the State teaches. Frankly, I think it's working and ALL parents should be concerned, not just homeschoolers. Apathy is a sad state to be in, but most parents outsource their parenting and have no desire to take back their position of authority in their kids lives. How many times have you heard parents complain during the summer that they can't wait for school to start back so they don't have to deal with their own kids? It's sad, really...

  3. Wow! Thank you for bringing this to our attention & for hour time in researching this to inform us. I honestly can tell the difference as I have 14 years between my children 4/89 & 12/02 my
    Oldest went to private school then to suburban public school & my youngest has only been homeschooled. We are so blessed by those who have gone before us as pioneers in the homeschooling community.