Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fear and Loathing About Homeschooling

Abigail Esman is a single, childless Jewish-American expat freelance journalist living in the Netherlands. Based on a misleading New York Times article on Muslims homeschooling (the Deputy Headmistress over at "The Common Room" had an excellent debunking of it) and glancing at the website of one private Islamic school in Washington state offering an Independent Study Program she is now calling for homeschooling to be banned.

"The truth is that ideally, I'd see an end to all home schooling."

Sounds like Ms. Esman is of the same opinion as the German government and the Second Appellate Court of California. All of whom seem motivated by fear and stereotypes rather than actual knowledge about homeschooling.

Ms. Esman claims that the curricula offered by the "ArabesQ Islamic Academy" neglects literature, poetry, and the arts but their website clearly states that literature and fine arts are included in their unit studies. Also, it's been my observation that the typical homeschooling family has a huge collection of books available for their children to read outside of whatever curriculum (if any) they use. I'm not currently using a formal reading curriculum in our homeschool but my DD is an avid reader nonetheless.

Ms. Esman also criticizes the ArabesQ program for not offering any religious studies aside from Islam. That's the equivalent of criticizing Abeka or Bob Jones for only teaching Evangelical Protestant Christianity and Seton for only teaching Catholicism. Parents who buy a faith-based curriculum are doing so because they want their children taught in accordance with their worldview. Secularist liberals may bemoan the lack of cultural relativism of the government-run school curriculum- Ms. Esman writes that she wants children's education to provide:

"options, not indoctrination; insight, not propaganda."

Except that the government-run schools are guilty of the *exact same thing*, only different dogma. In preaching cultural relativism, "tolerance" for alternative lifestyles, only one belief about of the origins of life, and often presenting an overly negative view of Christianity, Western Civilization, and America, the government-run schools engage in indoctrination of their students into what Bill O'Reilly calls "secular progressivism".

Islamic parents have as much right to teach their children their worldview as Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and so on. Ms. Esman and other critics of homeschooling such as Prof. Rob Reich of Stanford may want to deprive parents of that right but they're going to have one heck of a fight on their hands if they try!

Ms. Esman is afraid that Muslim homeschooling is an indication of "horrifying abuse" but provides no actual evidence to back up her claim. She points to a mention in the NYT article that the homeschooled Muslim girls help out with the housework and typically have arranged marriages soon after completing their education. Neither of which are necessarily signs of child abuse. It may be politically incorrect to assign chores along traditional gender lines, but not abusive. Also, just because a marriage is arranged doesn't automatically mean that the young woman is being forced into it under threat of violence. I remember reading in my college psychology textbook that people in arranged marriages are actually *happier* on average several years in than those who married for love because they tend to have more in common (opposites initially attract but they struggle to make a marriage work in the long run).

Ms. Esman claims that some NGO attorney told her about "honor killings" in the U.S. I found a trio of horrifying tragedies (an incident where two girls died in Texas this year, one in Arizona in 2004, and one in Chicago in 2000) but none of them were among homeschoolers and sadly domestic violence is not uncommon. I couldn't find any statistics to suggest that Muslim-American women are at any significantly higher risk of being killed by a family member than non-Muslims of similar age and income level. Also I couldn't find any evidence to suggest that homeschoolers of any faith are at any higher risk than non-homeschoolers of similar age and income level.

Ms. Esman fears that homeschooled Muslims are:

"potential radicals in the making, and easy targets for recruiters for jihad."

John Walker Lindh, the American caught working with the Taliban, was homeschooled. However, he came from a very different background than the families profiled in the NYT article. He was your stereotypical rich Californian kid with overly permissive divorced parents willing to indulge his "self-discovery" even if that meant studying in a madrassah in Pakistan. So I'm not sure what anyone aside from Ms. Walker and Mr. Lindh could've done to prevent his jihad. Certainly one should not use "Taliban Johnny" as a reason to clamp down on Muslim homeschooling.

Islamofascism is a very real threat to the U.S., but homeschooling isn't the problem.


Santiago Chiva de Agustín said...

Hello. Congratulations for your blog. Do you know why the young people pray the holy rosary? You can watch here fifty testimonies of young university students
(in Spanish, with english subtitles)
See it:

Santiago (Granada, Spain)

Trekin4JC said...

I am happy to see your staunch support for homeschooling. It is refreshing to see someone keeping up with what is going on in our country regarding homeschooling. It is certainly a freedom that must be protected. I once heard Dan Rather say that all home-schoolers were keeping their kids out of the system to avoid the detection of child abuse. I was so furious I wrote the station about it. Thank you again for your blogs on homeschooling.

deb said...

I just found your article on homeschooling. There is a lot of antireligious sentiment, I think, in the media. That seems to be the basis for this woman's dislike of homeschooling. Yes, she is attacking a religion different then mine, but the same arguements could be used against Christian homeschooling also.

ankur said...

Its good to see someone is supporting home schooling .