Homeschooling credentials court deserves some credit

April 16, 2008 — by Aadrita Mukerji

This story originally appeared in the April 4th issue of The Saratoga Falcon.

When a California state appeals court ruled on Feb. 28 that all homeschooled children should be taught by a credentialed teacher, homeschoolers and their supporters were outraged. Focus on the Family, a Christian values organization, deemed the ruling an “assault on family”; Gov. Schwarzenegger vowed to overturn the court’s decision; and 74 percent of participants in a San Francisco Chronicle survey voted against the appellate. A deeper analysis of the court’s motives, however, reveals that the ruling may actually have more benefits than harms.

The case began when one of Phillip and Mary Long’s eight homeschooled children accused Philip Long of physical abuse. A three-person Los Angeles appellate court then ruled that all Californian children ages 6 to 18 should either attend public or private high schools or be tutored by a credentialed teacher, which set off a chain of angry parents and students across the state and eventually across the country.

California alone has over 150,000 homeschooled children, many of whom left public or private school systems for religious reasons. The state itself has few provisions or regulations for homeschooling. Parents wishing to educate their own children may apply to become small private schools, complete independent study programs in concurrence with other schools or just pull their kids out of school without any notification whatsoever. The state, therefore, has no say in how the children are educated at home or even whether they are educated at all.

This lack of enforcement seems dangerous, especially when the child’s perspective of the world is at stake—Philip Long, for example, objects to public schools for their inclusion of “hazardous” topics like evolution and homosexuality. Without any standards for what he teaches his children, Long can administer any kind of knowledge (or lack thereof) he wants, be it a comprehensive study of the Romance languages or a complete denial of the Holocaust.

Homeschooling education could potentially become a free-for-all based on parents’ whims. A little standardization—at least making sure that children are taught somewhat properly—is a perfectly logical solution to this problem. Whether this is better achieved through standardized tests or teaching credentials remains to be seen, but the status quo does not solve for either one.

Education is the most substantial advantage one has in the real world. Adults with degrees or diplomas receive better jobs, better wages and better security than their uneducated counterparts. Parents have the right to choose their children’s method of schooling, but it is their obligation to provide them with a genuine education. The fight over credentials shouldn’t just be over money or convenience—it should be about the children whose lives it determines. The current system of homeschooling has too little regulation to have that power.

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