Liberals, send your kids to school

Homeschooling and unschooling is the wrong choice for liberals and progressives, writes Dana Goldstein in Slate. She’s responding to Astra Taylor’s unschooling memoirin N+1, which urges parents to “empty the schools,” freeing children from “irrational authority six and a half hours a day, five days a week, in a series of cinder-block holding cells.”  Homeschooling is fundamentally illiberal, writes Goldstein.

It is rooted in distrust of the public sphere, in class privilege, and in the dated presumption that children hail from two-parent families, in which at least one parent can afford (and wants) to take significant time away from paid work in order to manage a process—education—that most parents entrust to the community at-large.

Liberal homeschoolers don’t want to let go of their children, Goldstein writes. She cites a Newsweek story on urban, educated, secular homeschoolers who’ve chosen do-it-yourself schooling. They believe “children are individuals, each deserving a uniquely curated upbringing,” writes Linda Perlstein. “That peer influence can be noxious. Many practice “attachment parenting,” which “involves round-the-clock physical contact with children and immediate responses to all their cues.”  One woman breast-fed her youngest till she was four.

OK, that sounds creepy. These kids are going to find the world very frustrating, if they ever get to live in it.

But Goldstein isn’t just trying to liberate overparented kids from Big Mommy. She argues that educated progressives should send their kids to racially and economically integrated public schools to pull up the achievement of their less-privileged classmates — and to learn to appreciate diversity.

If progressives want to improve schools, we shouldn’t empty them out. We ought to flood them with our kids, and then debate vociferously what they ought to be doing.

I doubt that progressive parents want to use their own children to improve public schools, if they can afford alternatives. However, homeschooling always will be a minority choice. Few parents have the time, energy, motivation and ability to teach their children at home.

All Your Children Are Belong to Us, responds William Jacobsen.

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