Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Are Homeschoolers Motivated by Racism? Pt, II

The demographics of homeschooling families has come under quite a bit of scrutiny recently, particularly the findings that an increasing percentage of them are white, college-educated, and have incomes >$50,000 than in 1998 (though it is unclear whether that particular number has been adjusted for inflation). These findings play into the belief among certain critics of homeschooling that racism/ethnophobia is a major factor driving families to choose homeschool.

I discussed this topic back last December. You can read the full post here, but the key part is this:
"Is there any evidence that homeschoolers are disproportionately likely to reject integrated schools? I'm not aware of any research on the topic, but anecdotally it doesn't hold true for the homeschoolers I know personally....The school my children are zoned to attend is only 2.8% Hispanic and a mere 1.8% black. Low-income students of any race/ethnicity make up only 3.2% of the school's enrollment. So obviously my decision to homeschool is not due to a 'fear of mixing with the opposite race or class' because there are hardly any black, Hispanic, or poor kids at our neighborhood school. In fact, I'm pretty sure the percentage of black and Hispanic kids in our homeschool support group actually exceeds the percentage at the school (it's certainly not less)."
The fact that homeschoolers are disproportionately white, college-educated, and higher income means absolutely nothing if the schools they are rejecting are filled with students of the same demographic. If critics want to make an argument that homeschoolers are motivated by racism, they need to provide some data to show homeschooling rates are higher for families zoned to attend a diverse school than for those zoned for a non-diverse school.

Jesse Scaccia of the "Teacher Revised" blog asks in his post "The Case Against Homeschooling":
"How can a young person learn to appreciate other cultures if he or she doesn’t live among them?"
That is a fair question, but his proposed solution of enrolling in the government-run schools is no guarantee that a child will encounter a diverse set of classmates. The above quote from my previous post shows how faulty that assumption can be. And the school my kids are zoned to attend is hardly alone in its lack of diversity. Consider the demographics of the following government-run schools from across the country.

Located in Massachusetts, where the statewide numbers are 8% African-American, 13% Latino, and 29% low-income.
  • My alma mater: 2% African-American, 1% Latino. Less than 1% are low-income.
  • My dad's alma mater: 4% African-American (many of these are bused in from Boston through the METCO program rather than town residents), and 3% Latino (again many of these are METCO participants). 2% of the students are low-income (again most are METCO kids).
Located in Ohio, where the statewide numbers are 15% African-American, 3% Latino, and 36% low-income.
  • My mom's alma mater: Less than 1% African-American, 1% Latino. Less than 1% are low-income.
Located in California, where the statewide numbers are 7% African-American, 49% Latino, and 51% low-income.
  • The high school in one of the towns where we're considering buying a home: 1% African-American, 4% Latino. Less than 1% are low-income.
  • The high school in the second town where we're considering buying a home: Less than 1% African-American, 3% Latino. Less than 1% are low-income.
  • High school #1 in the third town where we're considering buying a home: 7% Latino, 4% African-American. 3% of the students are low-income.
  • High School #2 is: 8% Latino, 1% African-American. 3% are low-income.
Homeschooled children therefore are far from alone in having there be "probably only one race/background in the room" as Mr. Scaccia puts it. De facto segregation is still a real problem in the U.S. four decades after civil rights legislation put an end to de jure segregation. But regardless of how important a challenge it is for our society to overcome, it is not a homeschooling issue. So don't try to make it into one.


Anonymous said...

What I find odd is the two assumptions, namely that going to a racially diverse school exposes children to other cultures and that homeschool students don't learn about (or learn to appreciate) other cultures.

First even if your local school was 30% African American exactly how many of these children would be from a different culture? There may be a few subcultural differences, but little black kids and little white kids listen to most of the same music, watch the same TV shows and speak the same language.

Hanley Family said...

You would also have to prove that they were rejecting the racial makeup of the school, not the educational quality available at those schools.

Crimson Wife said...

Very true! Just because the rejected school happens to be diverse does not mean that the diversity is the reason why the family rejected it. But in that case, the issue of racism/ethnophobia is IMHO a fair one for critics of homeschooling to raise. IF families zoned to attend a diverse school at a higher rate than families zoned to attend a non-diverse school, one of the factors COULD be racism on the part of certain homeschoolers. Probably not all that many, but I would suspect that the number is higher than zero.

Nicole said...

I am an African-American and one of the reasons (although there are many)our family has decided to homeschool is related to race.
Our nations schools tend to lower expectations for all students, but particularly black males.
In addition, our homeschool support group is FAR more diverse than the local schools. Diverse in race, ethnicity, nationality, religious preference, languages spoken, you name it, we have it.