Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Is Home Schooling a Form of Child Abuse?

When does freedom of religion turn into child abuse? When do parents' rights to raise a child according to their religious beliefs become a violation of the child's civil rights? When does the state's need to have an educated electorate override religious parents' belief in ignorance?

Atheists love to blog about child abuse when it's in the form of medical neglect that becomes manslaughter and Jesus-inspired whippings that kill children. These are horrible and deserve our condemnation.

But there's a much more insidious, widespread and far-reaching form of abuse going on across America: religion-fueled, anti-science, anti-homosexual, anti-truth home schooling. It's far more important than any one whipping or medical-abuse case, however horrifying, because the ignorance fostered by these home-school programs is the very foundation that allows whippings and faith-based medical neglect to continue.

Home schooling is an old tradition in America. In some cases home schooling is a good alternative to public schools. Kids with unusual talents can benefit from accelerated lessons. Child performers who have to travel can keep up with their public-school peers. Kids with exceptionally well-educated parents with a knack for teaching can get a better education than public schools can provide. And so on.

And while the word "abuse" is a very strong claim, I believe it's appropriate. Abuse in the broadest sense is an action that damages the child physically or emotionally and causes them ongoing suffering. Ultra-conservative Christians are doing exactly that. If they were merely teaching their Christian beliefs as an adjunct to a well-rounded education, I would have no objection. But they are deliberately and knowingly keeping their children ignorant. They are blocking their children's access to biology, chemistry, evolution, political science, American and world history, philosophy and critical thinking skills.

And on top of that, they are fostering paranoia. They're teaching their kids that the world is a giant conspiracy and everyone is out to get them.

The organization that inspired today's blog is the perfect example. Their web site has so much over-the-top rhetoric that it's easy to think it's just a ludicrous joke. But it's not ... they believe this stuff, and they have a lot of followers. They start with a deceptive name: RescueYourChild.com. It sounds wonderful, doesn't it? But what they're actually advocating is for parents to "rescue" their children from a modern education.

Their web site's SHOUTED HEADLINES sound like a joke:
"FACT: There are now at least 8 sexual indoctrination laws impacting children ... See these bad laws, then rescue your child."

"Homosexual 'education' in classrooms ... Don't believe it's happening? CLICK TO WATCH."

"There's a BATTLE for your child. Whoever fights harder will win."

"Shocking dads and moms into REALITY ... Watch the IndoctriNation movie trailer."

"Parental rights, decency out the window."
RescueYourChild.com is a perfect example of how these ultra-conservative Christians are abusing the home-schooling system and twisting our laws. They claim that parents have an absolute right to teach their children anything they want, regardless of their children's needs and rights. And they carry it out: they teach their religious dogma in place of real facts.

Parents should have enormous latitude in raising their children. The last thing we want is the state peering over our parental shoulders and imposing some idealistic politically inspired child-raising theory on families. But children have rights too. Every child has the right to a basic education that includes accurate history, science and social studies. And the state has a right to demand that children are literate and knowledgeable so that they can be responsible voters.

Parents have an absolute right to teach their children their own religion (or no religion). But they do not have a right to block all other education. Every child has a right to a good education. Ignorant children are economically, socially and politically handicapped for life. In my book, that's abusive.


  1. Craig, I was raised middle-of-the-road Irish/Italian Catholic, and compared to the kids who are sent to Jesus Camp, I have nothing to complain about. However, I am appalled that so much of my youth (up until age 15, when I opted out) was taken up with "serious" adults wearing the Catholic team uniform teaching me mythology no more believable than that in the Harry Potter series.

  2. Well, homeschooling (on the right or left) certainly isn't good for a child, but it's not abuse. You can't just define abuse as anything detrimental to a child; no parent can do everything right all the time. Abuse has clearly defined criteria, and just homeschooling doesn't meet them.

    In addition, I don't think that teaching kids that homosexuality is bad is detrimental. A homophobe can get by in life almost as easily as someone who accepts gays.

  3. Jack – Yeah, and imagine your Catholic education, but turn up the volume by a factor of ten. Catholic schools are some of the best in America because Catholic doctrine supports science and rational thought. Which, ironically, means that they lose a lot of kids to atheism...

  4. Vid – I just flat disagree with you. Abuse comes in many forms. Physical abuse is just the most obvious form. Psychological abuse can be just as damaging as physical abuse (short of murder) and can cause severe lifelong problems. These home-schooled kids are severely handicapped when it comes to college, employment and participating in the political process. Not just a little, but a lot. On top of that, they're taught to be paranoid, to worry that everyone is out to get them. They believe that the government is a giant conspiracy. In other words, they're being sentenced to a life of struggle and fear. Sure, it's not abuse at the level of incest or manslaughter, but it's still abuse.

  5. Kids have rights - they're not simply the property of their parents. One of the rights that they have, I believe, is the right to be integrated into wider society and to be exposed to ideas and perspectives that their parents disagree with.

  6. "But society changes, and ideas (and religions) have to evolve and adapt in order to survive. The ones that don't simply die."

    This comment seems rather bizarre to me. The denominations (main line) that have adapted liberal positions such as gay rights are the ones who are plummeting in attendance.

    Further, I am supposed to be moved that an adolescent who is spiraling out of control, whose father rues the day he ever let her perform, is to be a bell weather for the the future of the most wonderful message to ever spread across the world?

    Further am I suppose to be moved that Europe and America who are staggering towards financial and social collapse are becoming less Christian? The areas where the Christian faith is exploding (Africa, China, Korea, South America etc) are the same ones rapidly poising themselves to dominant the global economies in the coming century. It is not the Gospel that is dying, it is the secular West.

  7. Bill – all I can say is you need to study your facts a little more carefully. You're mixing up cause and effect, correlation with cause. Christianity is exploding in Africa, China, Koria and South America because Christianity thrives when there's poverty, ignorance and disease.

    I don't know where that "spiraling out of control" came from. Most performers lead pretty ordinary lives; we only read about the wildest ones because the rest aren't newsworthy.

    And it's not the "liberal" denominations that are dying. All religion is fading in countries where there is wealth, stability and good health care. The fact that our economy is having trouble doesn't change the fact that if you look at the last five decades, we're richer than any time in history.

  8. No, it isn't. Parents have a right to raise their children with whatever ideology they see fit; unless we all want our children owned by the State. The Supreme Court found that the rights of parents superseded the interest of the state, and most states have Homeschooling laws that require an education in basic subjects.

    And before you go all OH NOEZ CREATIONISM on me, there are plenty of private schools that teach that, too. And are anti-gay. And keep kids uber-sheltered. Don't need Homeschooling to do that.

    And there is a large contingent of homeschoolers who made that choice for academic or social reasons. Many parents of gifted children Homeschool because the schools refuse to accommodate their child's needs. There are several secular and atheist Homeschooling groups, nationally.

    I've worked with abused children, and this--alone--just isn't.

  9. Darlene – I think you are confusing what parents can teach kids and what the state can require kids to know. Parents can teach any sort of religion they like, but the state still has the right to require that kids learn basic math, science, and history, even if that conflicts with the parents' religion.

    And I'm not condemning home schooling in general. It only becomes abusive when it is used to foster ignorance. A child without a proper education is socially and economically handicapped for life. Creationists are abusing the home-schooling system to do exactly that.

  10. It's sites like these and many christi-crazies out there that give homeschooling/unschooling a bad name. I became homeschooled/unschooled after freshman year in high school. The school system I went through was terrible. I sadly learned more from watching South Park and reading Mad Magazine. When I became homeschooled/unschooled it was as if the world opened to me; like an oyster opening to reveal the hidden pearl. Here I quote myself from Menewsha:

    My own exp. with homeschooling/unschooling has been (and still is) the greatest learning period for me. For kindergarten to 9th grade and part of 10th grade I went to public school. I disliked it most of the time.

    It was very boring and tedious. Learning useless facts from a textbook, doing hours of homework, studying for tests, etc. All for what? For those useless facts to disappear into oblivion during another school term or during summer. Stress and pressure added to this did not help either.

    I had very few friends when I attended school. Most were not in the same age group (thus in different classes) and those that were either eventually moved away or were transfered to another school. The rest were the following: routine trouble makers who loved to annoy others and get in trouble frequently (in highschool a few of them were finally expelled after they broke into the school and stole stuff, a few others got sent to a boot camp); jocks who were really into sports (I never was interested in sports); air headed girls who loved gossip and watch all the most popular crap (such as twilight, friends, dawsons creek, etc.). I know it sounds as if I'm stereotyping the whole class but that's how it was.

    Also it didn't matter how badly you did thruought the school year, as long as you pass the final test you went to the next grade. It really irked me to see the trouble makers and jocks fail and goof off and then pass the test whilst I worked hard on whatever homework/schoolwork I had only for it to be for nothing.

    The lessons that were taught were often dull. I had to do everything in my power not to fall asleep. And what was taught was usually and easily forgotten.

    There were a few exceptions though. There was the fun activities we did such as playing checkers in part of the Civil War classes. I enjoyed learning cursive. I loved the lessons in history and geography (my best subjects), and I esp. loved the way my highschool science teacher taught (the class at times could seem like Bill Nye The Science Guy on crack!). But as I said with the exception of those school ranged from a raging hell to a mindless, soul-less purgatory.

    When I became homeschooled/unschooled (after years of trying to convince my parents to do so) my learning took off. With my newly found free time I read book upon book, did hours of research into favorite subjects, and watched educational television such as Discovery Channel and Link TV. I learned about the world outside of the US, a very new world for me which was not taught at school. I truely learned about politics and philosophy. I learned Latin/Greek roots and started studying languages such as Japanese, French, Middle English, Esperanto, etc.

    I started looking at the subjects I once despised (math, chemistry, English) and learning them the way I wanted to. No grades, no excessive work, just learning them at my pace and in my way. I actually started to love those subjects!

    For companionship I had my Boy Scout group (had more friends there than at school) and my online friends.

    My homeschool/unschool education was rather secular. I read the books of Richard Dawkins and Charles Darwin and accepted evolution. In fact my homeschooling/unschooling years were when I became very skeptical of the abrahamic faiths.

    1. By sites like these I mean the religious based ones. The ones that have that religious bent that twists science and history.

  11. everyone is right in some way but you all have to understand not every child that is "home schooled" turns out the same. some turned out to be successful people so you cannot use one persons fat to fry everyone. you have to look at it from both angles.

  12. School is abuse. You're wrong to equate homeschooling with indoctrination. School is indoctrination. Not indoctrination into atheism or christianity or whatever. School is indoctrination into the idea that you must be a slave. Homeschooling (actually, just not doing school at all) is your only chance at freedom.

  13. Rilian - If you re-read the blog, you'll see that I don't condemn all home schooling, only "religion-fueled, anti-science, anti-homosexual, anti-truth home schooling."

    What do you have to say about that?

  14. My parents took us out of Catholic school afterva teacher told my sister that:"The Bible isn't true it is just a lot of good stories to help us along."

    What followed was two unqualified people letting us teach ourselves.

    Our parents lived in fear of Doctors, The Government, and Communism even so far as using us to demonstrate to other people how Communists brain-wash children into hating their parents with video games as a reward.

    I have friends from every walk of life. I try to follow the teachings of Jesus. Often I fail. But the only people I feel hate for are the people who cut me off on my drive to work. And that's because they threaten my life with poor driving skills.

    Home schooling to gelp your child be a better part of of our world is excellent.

    Home-schooling out if fear of the world, is abuse.

  15. Congratulations! I support the idea and am glad that there is such a prize, which aims to encourage business development in the minority.


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