Friday, May 1, 2020

Harvard, Homeschooling, and Responses

Recently there was controversy caused by an article in Harvard Magazine about homeschooling.  I put together a few resources on this as well as a few snippets from relevant responses.

Initial Article:
The Risks of Homeschooling by Erin O' Donnell Harvard Magazine (May-June 2020)
* Also see the longer academic article cited in the Harvard Magazine essay--Homeschooling: Parent Rights Absolutism vs. Child Rights to Education & Protection Arizona Law Review vol. 62, no. 1 (2020)


Harvard Law School Calls for Ban on Homeschooling: Homeschooled Harvard Graduate On Why This Is Wrong by Melba Pearson (April 19, 2020)
"Thus, it is disappointing that Harvard Magazine’s Erin O’Donnell, quoting Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Bartholet, argues it is the government’s responsibility to educate the children of this nation. She is not arguing everyone has a right to education — they absolutely do. Rather, she argues the government has more of a right to educate, care for, and control your children than you, their parents, do; and furthermore, they can do it better. The idea that a government, already so inefficient and inadequate in so many areas, can care for and educate every child better than its parent is wrong.
 "The article argues only those whom the government deems correct can teach children; this is a blatant rejection of free thought, suppression of democratization of education, and attack on the freedoms and rights the citizens of our country fought long and hard to win. This article speaks directly against constitutional rights to parent your child as you see fit and exercise free speech. It speaks directly against those ideas of liberty and freedom that are fundamental to the success of our nation.
"Additionally, this anti-homeschooling narrative coming out of Harvard is completely contradictory to its recent crusade of “diversity,” “inclusion,” and “acceptance.” During my four years on Harvard’s campus, I saw many protests, new rules and regulations, and initiatives to promote diversity, inclusion, and tolerance. We as humans thrive on diversity, and the openness and freedom of thought and opinion and dialogue that comes with it. The scientific community thrives on open source solutions. The arts thrive on the creativity and optimization of ideas that are only possible through diversity.
"The restricting and banning of individual rights, especially on the basis of religious or political beliefs, or other ideas protected under freedom of speech is not democratization — it stems from the fundamental desire for a world without a certain group of people, and that desire makes the survival of creative, peaceful, pluralistic community impossible. I am sure that neither O’Donnell or Bartholet truly desire a world without homeschoolers, and I am sure that is not the vision Harvard wants to present to our world. That is discrimination, and it is wrong."

Alex J. Harris (Facebook) (April 19, 2020)  Alex Harris was homeschooled and later graduated from Harvard Law School.
"While Professor Bartholet may not be aware of any of this, I was not the first or only homeschool grad at Harvard Law School when I arrived in 2012. At least two preceded me. Both were named editors of the Harvard Law Review, a distinction available only to the smallest fraction of the student body. Another homeschool grad matriculated with me. By the time I graduated, there were FOUR of us on the 92-member law review board. One homeschool grad won the annual award for best student writing on constitutional law. At the end of my 2L year, I won the Sears Prize for one of the two highest GPAs in the entire class.
"Because of my success at Harvard, I had the enormous privilege to serve as a law clerk—first for then-Judge Neil Gorsuch on the Tenth Circuit and then for Justice Anthony Kennedy at the U.S. Supreme Court—right after law school. But once again, I wasn’t alone. When I arrived at 1 First Street in DC, another homeschool grad was clerking for a Justice down the hall. Another followed a year later. And while the ranks of SCOTUS clerks have historically been heavily imbalanced in favor of men, both of the other homeschooled clerks were women.
"Today, as a direct result of my homeschool education, I am a successful attorney at one of the premier law firms in the United States. But I’m just one of many success stories. My fellow homeschool graduates are some of the most talented, responsible, caring, well-read, and well-rounded adults I know. They have reached all levels of academia and are making the world a better place from boardrooms to living rooms, small business to big law. Professor Bartholet might even know some of them and just never realized they were homeschooled."
Harvard Magazine Calls for a "Presumptive Ban" on Homeschooling: Here are 5 Things It God Wrong by Kerry McDonald Foundation for Economic Education (April 20, 2020)
The central tension between those who advocate for homeschooling bans and heightened regulation and those who don’t relates to how each side views the proper role of government. The former sees a proactive role of government in “intervening to try to safeguard the child’s right to education and protection,” while the latter relies on the historical underpinnings of our democracy, going back to the writings of John Locke and Thomas Jefferson. We are endowed with “unalienable rights” and that to “secure these rights, governments are instituted.”
If a child is being abused, whether in a homeschooling situation or a public school classroom, the government should intervene to protect that child. But to single out a particular group for increased suspicion, monitoring, and invasion of privacy under the guise of “protection” is as un-American as similar attempts of the past. I agree with Bartholet when she says in the article: “I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.” She is concerned with families having this power, while I worry about giving that power to government.
Elite Imperialist Crusade Against Homeschooling by Rod Dreher The American Conservative (April 20, 2020)
What she’s really saying here is that it’s wrong that there is any place to hide from progressive propaganda. Progressives can be as rigid, intolerant and oppressive as any fundamentalist, but they don’t recognize it because they believe that they are morally and intellectually correct. In the discussion over Catholic “integralism,” small-l, small-d liberal democrats have objected that the Catholic Church should have no say over the state’s values and practices. They may (or may not) be right about that, but what they are certainly wrong about is that there is any such thing as a neutral viewpoint. The things that Bartholet cites as virtues necessary for democratic governance are expressions of a particular point of view. She is upset that there are people in this pluralist democracy who do not share those views, and seek to teach their children according to their family beliefs, not the state’s. (Note well that the original laws against private schooling in the US emerged from 19th century fears that Catholic schools would create a fifth column of subversives.)
Recently, some public schools have adopted policies for handling transgendered students that require teachers and staffers to deceive parents of gender dysphoric children. This is really happening. The school places itself between parents and their children, for the sake of assisting children’s beliefs that they are the opposite sex. It’s terrifying. In a matter of utmost concern and intimacy, parents really cannot trust the schools. And that, in my view, is at bottom the reason this Harvard Law professor and other elites hate homeschooling: they really do believe that they know better than families, churches, and non-state institutions, what is best for children. This is about an ideology of domination masquerading as care for abused children, and for liberal democratic values. 
It is important to get that straight in your head, so you’ll know what this fight is really about. The Elizabeth Bartholets of the world really will come after us, if they are given the opportunity. I especially appreciate the speaking out by homeschooling parents who are not religious and/or conservative, but who choose homeschooling because they regard it as a better way of educating their own children. These people are not supposed to exist in the Elizabeth Bartholet model of the world.
Harvard's Lazy Attack on Homeschooling by Mike McShane Forbes (April 21, 2020)
"Lazy stereotypes of insular religious homeschoolers are also easily disproven by a cursory look at the data. In 2019, the National Center for Education Statistics published results from a survey of homeschoolers who found that the number one reason for homeschooling was not “a desire to provide religious instruction” (that came in third) or even “a desire to provide moral instruction” (that came in seventh), but rather “a concern about school environment, such as safety, drugs, or negative peer pressure.” Number two was “dissatisfaction with the academic instruction at other schools.”
 "Totally absent from these lazy stereotypes are two of the fastest-growing segments of homeschooling in America: families of children with special needs and minority families. In that NCES survey, almost 11 percent of homeschooling parents say that they do so primarily because their child has special need of some sort. In a recent research brief from the University of Washington’s Center for Reinventing Public Education, Aaron Hirsh crunched the numbers and identified that 8% of all homeschoolers are African-American and 26% of all homeschoolers are Hispanic. Why are they opting out of traditional schools? As Hirsh puts it, “Motives for opting out vary, but many black families cite racism and a lack of opportunity for black students in the traditional classroom.”

Harvard Professor Wants to Ban Homeschooling Because Christians Do It by Kelly Marcum The Federalist (April 23, 2020)

What She Cares About Is Controlling Kids’ Minds

As shown by her support of Blunt’s legislation and advocacy of placing children with adoptive parents rather than letting them languish in the system, Bartholet understands on some level that a nurturing, loving family is what’s best for a child. But, in her rabid attack on homeschoolers, parents are no longer the best guardian of a child’s happiness. They are suddenly tyrannical ideologues who, before they can be trusted to raise their own children, must prove to the state that they will not beat their offspring with Bibles while reciting Klu Klux Klan propaganda.
That is not to say that abuse has not happened in families who homeschool, just as abuse has happened at the hands of public school officials and staff, but it is nothing like the widespread epidemic Bartholet would have her audience believe. To her, homeschoolers’ true crime is being conservative and, worse, Christian.
Although nearly all homeschoolers do not fall into this category, Bartholet is blissfully unaware of such an inconvenient fact. But again, children’s safety is not truly her concern here. If it was, she would not have spilled so much ink fretting about the nefarious Christian parents.
Her worry, and the worry of all those who argue for weakening the parent-child bond, is that these parents will raise children who adhere to a vision of the good that differs from the morally acceptable viewpoints held by academics in their coastal conclaves.
It’s tempting to dismiss Bartholet as another elitist Ivy League professor, easily mocked for her obscenely out-of-touch positions. But while she does fit that descriptor, and the tone of her recent attack on homeschooling is condescending to the point of nausea, such a dismissal would only obfuscate the true malignancy.
Bartholet is a clear example of the distortion of even well-ordered desires—such as the desire to protect children—at the heart of leftism’s corruption. No longer is she fighting to protect children from true abuse. Now she is fabricating abuse to undermine parents who may seek to raise their children according to a different set of beliefs from hers.

A Short Response to Harvard's Anti-Homeschooling, Anti-Parent, Anti-American Professor of Child Advocacy by Home School Legal Defense Association (April 24, 2020)
Bartholet suggests that there should be a presumptive ban against homeschooling because parents can’t be trusted to raise democratic citizens. Thankfully, her dangerous premise is based on a discarded notion that the government, through its public schools, is solely responsible for creating democratic citizens through public education. The idea that homeschooling parents are too ignorant or too religious to be trusted is so elitist and without foundation that it must be condemned. And it has been, by none other than the United States Supreme Court and the United Nations General Assembly.
In 1922, a law was passed by Oregon voters that prohibited private education. That voter initiative was spearheaded by the discredited Ku Klux Klan and motivated by anti-Catholic animus. The United States Supreme Court struck down the law in a landmark ruling, which issued a profound and powerful precedent that has stood for nearly 100 years:
“The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”
As a law professor, Bartholet should know that both American constitutional law and international human rights law utterly reject her view that parents are unworthy of exercising decision making for the education of their children. Far from being a risk to democracy, empowering parents to raise and educate their children is a bulwark against totalitarianism.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes in its Article 16.3 that families are the “fundamental group unit of society,” and in its Article 26.3, that “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” These principles were articulated in response to what happened in Germany when Hitler took over all education in order to immerse children in national socialist values away from their families. Virtually every major international human rights treaty recognizes that parents are endowed with this inalienable right.
Harvard Attack on Homeschooling Doesn't Push Kids' Best Interests by Katie Jay and Sarah Campbell The Federalist (April 27, 2020)
"Unable to find evidence that homeschoolers are anything but well-educated, well-rounded, and happy from a body of 35 years of research in peer-reviewed journals, the professor cites a dated study with a pool of 90 adult Canadians and tries to extrapolate some of those limited findings to the lives of 2.5 million American children.
"Toward the end of the article, Bartholet admits she considers homeschoolers’ academic excellence  irrelevant. She simply wants a homeschool ban to indoctrinate all children into what she calls the “majority culture.” The professor unfairly, inaccurately, and irrelevantly attacks faith-based homeschoolers when she presumes that religious parents will not sufficiently expose their children to a “range of viewpoints and values.” Of course, she does not propose that children in public schools diversify their viewpoints and values by learning about religion or minority cultures.
"How does such intolerance pass for legitimate academic study? As one outraged homeschool and Harvard graduate has asked, even if most homeschoolers were conservative Christians, “Why does that matter?” It is not the role of government to override the family cultures and traditions of competent and safe parents and force “majority culture” on religious people. Indeed, the Constitution protects against such abuses."
 "Homeschooling today is a far cry from the draconian world Bartholet describes. The article is based on the homeschooling community of some 30-40 years ago — and even then, it’s a caricature.
"Bartholet alleges that children who are homeschooled suffer social isolation, but our experience has been that homeschoolers are at least as active in extracurricular activities as their school peers. The article doesn’t recognize how widespread homeschooling co-ops, homeschooler field trips, and community classes are, nor does it take into account the wonders of modern technology. 
"Homeschoolers are privy to many life skills at an early age in comparison to their mainstream schooled peers. Unencumbered by the traditional school schedule, many teenage homeschoolers balance college courses, extracurricular activities, and jobs with more maturity and grace than many adults. 
"Homeschoolers, savvy to online education, have transitioned to quarantine with a wide support network already in place and with the discipline and creativity necessary for independent learning. Indeed, it is by and large modern homeschool families who have created the fantastic and diverse online resources that all children are now benefiting from during this national quarantine."

Harvard Law Takes Aim at Homeschooling by Kevin D. Williamson National Review (April 30, 2020)
"Homeschooling is based on a radical proposition that is utterly incompatible with Professor Bartholet’s politics. Homeschoolers insist that their children are not the property of the state, to be farmed and dispatched in accordance with the state’s needs; the homeschooling ethos insists that the purpose of education is to serve the needs and interests of students rather than those of the state or of business; it insists that there exists a sphere of life that is private and not subject to state surveillance, and that this sphere covers family life and child-rearing unless and until there is some immediate pressing reason for intervention. 
"The debate about homeschooling is not really about educational outcomes — there are good and bad homeschooling practices, good and bad public schools, good and bad private schools, etc. — but about who serves whom and on what terms. Do American families serve the state or does the state serve them? Do we live our lives and raise our children at the sufferance of the state, or is the state an instrument of our convenience? Professor Bartholet casts her vote with the Know Nothings." 
Home Sweet Homeschool by Peter Jones (May 1, 2020)
"It should not be lost from view that under the cover of contemporary educational theory, the conflict today over homeschooling continues to pit the still lively, Puritan, Twoist faith of biblical orthodoxy against the Oneist faith of ancient Creator-denying paganism, now aided and abetted by atheistic neo-Marxism. As public education becomes increasingly opposed to the principles of America’s founding, both in the domains of politics and theology, it follows that for serious parents homeschooling may well present an increasingly attractive option. Home education can not only defend the truth but also promote the intellectual and spiritual health of children.
"Many studies have demonstrated that home-educated students, on average, perform far better than their government-schooled peers on every metric. Homeschool children have a well-established history of success. They typically outperform their institutional public school peers academically, and actually excel in social development, defying the myth that social development can only occur in the setting of a school. The statistical outcomes are quite positive for the homeschooled, compared to those in conventional schools.[13]
"Public schools are also dangerous. According to government statistics, “During the 2017–18 school year, an estimated 962,300 violent incidents and 476,100 nonviolent incidents occurred in U.S. public schools nationwide. Seventy-one percent of schools reported having at least one violent incident, and sixty-five percent reported having at least one nonviolent incident.”[14]
"In view of the clear educational advantages to homeschooling, the only reason for such a determined attack on it is the existence of a widespread ideological commitment to use the state and state education to bring down historic Western culture and the Christian faith. Homeschooling, whenever possible, may be one of the last remaining ways to hold back these forces of evil—for the sake of our children, our neighbors, our churches and our nation—and for the glory of God, our good Creator and loving Redeemer." 

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Karl Marx and Marxism--Some Notes

* Notes for a lecture on Marx and Marxism.

Karl Marx and Marxism

·     Karl Marx (1818-1883)

o   Grandfathers on both sides were rabbis

o   Father was a lawyer

o   “Following a Prussian decree of 1816 which banned Jews from the higher ranks of law and medicine, he became a Protestant and on 26 August 1824 he had his six children baptized.  Marx was confirmed at fifteen and for a time seems to have been a passionate Christian.”[1]

·     Karl Marx is the key figure in the formation of Marxism

o   Note: there has been development of his ideas and different intellectual heirs

o   C. Stephen Evans notes[2]:

§ Differences in Marxists

·     free thinkers; democracy 

·     “Stalinists”; totalitarianism

§ Differences in …

·     Theory: supposed to benefit working people and enable them to gain economic control over their own lives

·     Practice: bureaucratic rigidities of life; economic stagnation; loss of personal freedom

·     Two major intellectual influences on Marx

o   Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1830)

§ Human history was guided an absolute Spirit

§ Followed a dialectical process

·     Thesis – Antithesis –Synthesis 

o   Ludwig Feuerbach (1804-1872)

§ Materialist

§ God is a projection of human potentiality; an expression of our unrealized ideals

§ Criticized Hegel’s philosophical idealism

·     “Spirit” is simply a secularized version of the Christian God

o   Marx accepts Feuerbach’s critique of religion and his atheism

o   Marx turns Hegel “right side up”

§ Not “Spirit” guiding/manifesting in history

§ Materialism in history

·     Historical and Dialectical interpretation of history; “Historical Materialism”

·     Economics is the key lens for Marx through which he views history

o   “Economic factors are the primary determinants of that history.  Since human beings are material, their lives must be understood in terms of the need to work to satisfy their material needs.”[3]

§ Dialectical Materialism


Capitalists; property-owning class

Workers who must sell their labor to survive

Classless society; people who work and own the means of production in common

·     Overview of Marx’s view of history

o   Originally: small human communities with no private property

o   As society develops so do technology 

§ Technology leads to a division of labor

§ Some in society control the tools or resources

·     Those who control can exploit others

o   Division of labor and consequent control over the means of production leads to social classes

§ History for Marx is the history of class struggle

§ Society is dominated by the class that controls the means of production

o   Medieval feudalism historically led to Modern industrial society

§ Conflict seen in the French Revolution

§ Establishment of the Middle Class who control the means of production (Capitalism)

o   Capitalism needs a body of property-less workers (proletariat) to exploit

§ Capitalism grows wealth and leads to a society in which more is produced than can be purchased

·     Overproduction leads to unemployment and suffering

·     Proletariat is forced to revolt thus leading to Communism

o   This revolution is different

§ Past: One social class overthrows another and then becomes the oppressor

§ Final revolution: the Proletariat is the majority

·     No vested interest in the old order

·     They abolish the whole system of class oppression

o   Creates “the new socialist individual”

o   “People will supposedly be less individualistic and competitive, more apt to find fulfillment in working for the good of others.  The ‘alienation’ of all previous societies will be overcome, and a new and higher form of human life will emerge.”[4]

·     Marxism has been called a “Christian heresy”

o   Kingdom of God without God and Jesus Christ!

o   Atheist philosopher, Bertrand Russell commented…

§ “Marx professed himself an atheist, but retained a cosmic optimism which only theism could justify.”[5]

o   Historian Paul Johnson: for Marx the proletariat is “… a redemptive force which has no history, is not subject to historical laws and ultimately ends history—in itself, curiously enough, a very Jewish concept, the proletariat being the Messiah or redeemer.”[6]

·     C. Stephen Evans lists out three reasons why Marxism was so appealing to so many for so long[7]:

o   “Marx had a deep understanding of the human need for genuine community and for fulfillment in work.”

o   “He was sensitive not merely to the problem of poverty but to the loss of dignity that occurs when human beings are seen merely as cogs in a vast industrial machine.”

o   “He looked for a society in which people would creatively express themselves in their work and see in their work an opportunity to help others as well as themselves.”

·     Problems with Marx’s views

o   No real basis for expecting that history is moving toward the positive goal he thinks it is

§ No personalized Providence

o   No basis for morality to critique other cultures

§ “As a naturalist, he views morality as simply a product of human culture.  There are no transcendent values that can be used as a basis for critically evaluating culture.  Yet Marx himself often seems full of moral indignation as he looks at the excesses of capitalism.  What is the basis for Marx’s condemnation of capitalism if such moral notions as ‘justice’ and ‘fairness’ are just ideological inventions?”[8]

o   Faulty view of human nature and its fundamental problem

§ “The question is whether Marx’s view of human nature and analysis of the human problem go deep enough.  Is it really plausible to think that selfishness and greed are solely a product of scarcity and class division?  Is it really possible to make human beings fundamentally good if we have the right environment for them?”[9]

·     Problems with Marx’s scholarship

o   “In any case, Marx brought to the use of primary and secondary written sources the same spirit of gross carelessness, tendentious distortion and downright dishonesty which marked Engel’s work. Indeed they were often collaborator’s in deception, though Marx was the more audacious forger.”[10]

o   Two Cambridge scholars in the 1880’s looked at chapter 15 in Marx’s Capital.  Paul Johnson cites their work in the following quotation:

§ “They discovered that the differences between the Blue Book texts and Marx’s quotations from them were not the result solely of inaccuracy but ‘showed signs of a distorting influence.’  In one class of cases they found that quotations had often been ‘conveniently shortened by the omission of passages which would be likely to weigh against the conclusions which Marx was trying to establish.’  Another category ‘consists in piecing together fictitious quotations out of isolated statements contained in different parts of a Report. These are then foisted upon the reader in inverted commas with all the authority of direct quotations from the Blue Books themselves.’  On one topic, the sewing machine, ‘he uses the Blue Books with a recklessness which is appalling … to prove just the contrary of what they really establish.’  They concluded that their evidence might not be ‘sufficient to sustain a charge of deliberate falsification’ but certainly showed ‘an almost criminal recklessness in the use of authorities’ and warranted treating any ‘other parts of Marx’s work with suspicion.’”[11]

     [1]Paul Johnson, Intellectuals(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 53.
     [2]Much of this outline comes from James W. Sire The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog—5thed. (Downers Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 2009)—C. Stephen Evans wrote the section on Marxism on pages 86-92.
     [3]C. Stephen Evans in The Universe Next Door, 88.
     [4]C. Stephen Evans in The Universe Next Door, 90.
     [5]Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy(Simon and Schuster, 1945), 788-789.
     [6]Paul Johnson, Intellectuals(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 58.
     [7]C. Stephen Evans in The Universe Next Door, 90.
     [8]C. Stephen Evans in The Universe Next Door, 91.
     [9]C. Stephen Evans in The Universe Next Door, 91
     [10]Paul Johnson, Intellectuals(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 66.
     [11]Paul Johnson, Intellectuals(New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 67.