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response to anti-homeschooling comments


WHO WATCHES THE WATCHDOGS


by Wayne S. Walker


     Every once in a while, I do a Google search for homeschooling in the news. Some of the items that I find are very positive, but from time to time I see something that makes my blood boil. In a business column article entitled “The watchdogs have fallen asleep,” taken from The Daily Press, Ashland, WI, on Tuesday, May 30th, 2006, Wayne Pankratz, president of The Winning Move, Inc., a human resources and labor relations consulting firm, made some comments about homeschooling. He began his article thus:


     “As taxpayers, we do not have the time, resources or ability to monitor all aspects of our society. This is why we pay others to take care of these functions for us, such as law enforcement personnel to protect us, or various positions at state and county government to watch over the multitude of programs we support with our tax dollars. However, what happens when the watchdogs we employ do not do their jobs or fall asleep? I believe there are a number of different situations that currently exist that need to be changed to allow better use of our tax dollars.”


     Most of us would probably agree with his principle that if tax dollars are being spent, they need to be used wisely. We would also probably agree with some of the examples that he cited, such as “folks who, while collecting disability, can do more than a lot of other people who are not disabled.” However, he then moved on to the subject at hand and took some potshots at the practice of homeschooling.


     “Home schooling is another case of someone pulling the wool over the eyes of the public without anyone watching or caring. Again, I am not saying that all those who home school their children are doing a poor job or that this right should be removed. However, I have a hard time believing that children are being appropriately home schooled when either the children are out and about on the streets of communities or those who are responsible for doing the teaching at home need assistance to correctly spell 'cat.' Some who home school do a wonderful job, but who checks on the others? What are the consequences when someone is not doing their job of home schooling?”


     One has to wonder if Mr. Pankratz is for homeschooling or against it. Oh, I know that he says, “I am not saying that all those who homeschool their children are doing a poor job or that this right should be removed,” but I get the feeling that he really does not like the idea. Else he would not have referred to it in such a critical fashion and lumped it in with other undesirable practices.


     First, why would he even mention homeschooling in an article that primarily deals with misuse of tax dollars? True homeschoolers do not receive any tax dollars, and, while we would like to be able to keep more of our own tax money, the vast majority of homeschoolers do not even want taxpayer funding because it always comes with undesirable strings attached. We prefer to stay as far away from the educational bureaucracy as possible and just educate our children at home.


     Second, he has a hard time believing that children are being appropriately homeschooled when the children are out and about on the streets. Did you know that in a typical “hour” of classroom time, only about ten minutes are actually spent on instruction? Most of the time during a normal school day is used up marking attendence, passing out papers, taking up papers, moving from one class to another, standing in the lunch line, going to the water fountain, etc. What it takes a regular school eight hours to accomplish, homeschooled students, using one on one tutorial instruction or doing independent study, can accomplish in two or three hours. Why should they not be rewarded by being allowed to use that extra time for their own pleasure?


     Third, are there really any parents responsible for doing the teaching at home who need assistance to spell “cat”? Methinks that Mr. Pankratz is dealing in hypothetical hyperbole rather than facts. Studies show that the quality of education received by homeschool students, as measured by standardized testing, shows absolutely no difference whatever based on the level of the parents' education–from doctorate degree to grade school drop out. And, yes, homeschooled students as a whole always do much better on those standardized tests than their public and private school counterparts.


     Mr. Pankratz is willing to throw us a sop and admit that “Some who homeschool do a wonderful job,” but he wants to know who checks on the others. Why should anyone even feel the need to check on the others? Homeschooling has shown itself to be wildly successful, so basically it should just be left alone. Or, do we want a “Big Brother” type of police state where someone “from the guv'ment” is always checking up on everything that we do? Maybe that is what Mr. Pankratz is really advocating after all.

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