Open Rebuttal to Harvard’s Elizabeth Bartholet (or When Homeschoolers Met Permit Patty)
This rant has been years in the making so bear with me. I need to set the stage for you, and then get to the main thrust of what finally tipped the scale for me.
I co-founded AACONS 12 years ago because I grew tired of people — mainly non-Blacks — congratulating me on the election of “my” president, Barack Obama. The underlying unspoken insinuation was, because we shared similar pigmentation, we must have a shared ideology.
Not too long after that, when discussing the debate about the terms “Black” v. “African-American,” a woman — again, not Black — on a page for conservatives of color, mind you — said, in essence, that “you all” need to “get over” slavery because “some good things came out of it, like the food and the hymns.”
Let me just park that for a moment and let that sink in.
Four hundred years of forced servitude, torture, rape, back-breaking, bone-wearying work, separating us from lands, children, mates, and you want me to focus on leftover food no one else wanted and the heartbreaking cries set to the music of our enslavement as “good things?” For whom?
I am not one for reparations, not by a long shot. As many people as we currently have in America with lineage back to slavery, even if I were a reparations kinda gal, it would be tantamount to a .30 credit from a bank or cable company that had to settle up with customers. It’s a gazillion dollars to the company, but little-to-nothing for the end-user wronged. Frankly, it would be an insulting pittance.
Further, I hear, “why talk about color at all . . . aren’t we all Americans?” Well, yes, we are. But, that doesn’t mean we have experienced life in the same way. That doesn’t mean I cannot be proud of my heritage (and, by the way, I am bi-racial). That doesn’t mean I haven’t experienced things that color my perception, or talk with others in my community that have similar experiences to mine that warrant discussion. Nor, does it mean, based on pigment alone, I think as others do, as in my illustration regarding President Obama above.
I’ve been called everything — from the left and the right – and, I’ve had it, so I am just going to let it all out here.
To the right: As I said in my podcast about the Black v. African-American debate, there is so much “White guilt,” that it makes a great number of people incapable of having rational conversation about the topic. For people who are not Black, people with no experience as to what African-Americans do, or do not, go through on a daily basis, the sheer optics of telling me, on my own page, how I should feel, seem to escape these folks.
“Be free thinkers,” they say. However, when I am, yet, don’t say what they think I should say, I am told I should not say it, feel it, think it, or, worst of all, I should “get over it.” This is wrong.
If I feel comfortable enough with you to let you into my private thoughts, to better educate you so that we can work together to effect change, then listen. Just listen. I’m certainly not asking for your opinion (unless I use phrases ending in question marks like “What do you think?”), nor am I asking you to “fix” anything.
I do not like the term “ally,” because – and, this may just be me — it still implies I need you to come alongside me — an educated, competent Black woman — to fix things for me so I can be heard.
Most of those who would use the phrase “ally” would fall on the political left, and now we come to what set me off today.
A White woman – and, believe me, I don’t normally use racial descriptors as I have on these pages, but to make this point, I must — at Harvard is accusing homeschoolers of fostering “White supremacy,” thus, society should ban the practice.
Again, I will just let that sit and percolate a bit. Do you honestly think, as a Black family, we are “White supremacists?”
In the whole 20+ years that we have homeschooled, we have encountered a handful of Black homeschoolers. This is in the very diverse, and very politically liberal area in which I live. A handful.
Did it occur to anyone that we might homeschool for reasons such as:
• People get our history wrong. Routinely. As above, if I can’t even have a conversation about slavery because folks feel guilty or need to “prove” they are not racist, what do you think their version of “Black History” looks like?
• God has been taken out of our schools. As a Christian family, God is central. That right there sets a lot of people off with “patriarchy” comments and “uneducated flat-earther” pejoratives. These are people who quote the Bible out of context, and, similar to those described above, appear to be tone-deaf to discussions about those not from the culture lecturing those from the culture, with ideas and thoughts that are not even accurately informed by the source material, the Bible.
• Not all socialization is good. I have heard that in this period of “social distancing” there were no school shootings during the month of March. Even before some of the school closures, this was the case. Why are there school task forces on bullying and cyberbullying? Because kids can be very cruel and no one knows this better than I, because, for three long and horrible years of my life, I was the kid bloodied, beaten, and bullied.
Of course, there are the oft-quoted “socialization” concerns (“socially awkward” is a term I’ve heard used against the homeschooling community many a time) cited by those against homeschooling. When my kids were smaller, we couldn’t go out to restaurants or in public without people stopping to tell us how amazing our kids were in politely ordering their own food, exhibiting good table manners, and interacting with the adults like servers, cashiers, other patrons that we came into contact with.
• I’ve never noticed anyone else raise this point online, but have you ever noticed in literature that if a protagonist is White, it’s never mentioned? Sometimes hair color or eye-color is discussed — think “titian-haired” Nancy Drew — however, the loud, sassy sidekick friend (never the protagonist themselves) is identified by skin color or even by race. “Her best friend, a gum-smacking African-American girl, with caramel-colored skin . . .” Or the “staff,” as in “the rotund, grandmotherly, Hispanic cook . . .” Black folks see this and we feel it. Why would we entrust the education of our children to a culture that truly does not see it?
Progressives will ban iconic “Little House on the Prairie” for a discussion about “Indians” (as they were called on the prairie), and continue to “whitewash” history by erasing monuments and other historical items. Where can the — yes, painful, but needed — conversations about race occur if everything is Kumbaya? Have we really solved the problem? Not if we are having the discussion I am having today.
I’m not a fan of having the Confederate flag flying in front of a building, but I do believe all of our history needs to be preserved — as it occurred – good, bad, and ugly, in a museum or similar setting. That includes leaving monuments intact.
• One size does not fit all. I have a kinesthetic learner with special challenges, a voracious reader, and one kid who is a hybrid of both styles. Thirty-plus kids in one room with one teacher espousing one style would not work for all of my children.
• Homeschooling works with their body clocks. I have one up at the crack of dawn and two who prefer the “crack of noon.” Traditional schools will not cater to their peak performance time.
• Three words: child-centered learning! My oldest got his Bachelor’s degree at the ripe old age of 20. He fell in love with robots at the age of six and pursued robotics from first grade all the way through high school. He taught Lego Robotics and stop-motion animation for 4-H. He was dual-enrolled (college classes while homeschooling), and got an A at 16 in Intro to C, a college-level course . . . all because these subjects interested him and motivated him to learn on his own.
My daughter has loved animals her whole life. She wanted to pursue veterinary medicine, but for a while thought perhaps she wanted to go into computer programming. She spent a summer at IBM and loved it. It finally gave her the confidence to speak in public, and though she ultimately chose veterinary medicine, she still holds that summer in her heart with fond memories and still chats with good friends she made. And, she was the only Black girl . . . not that it matters, but this is what we are discussing: a world-class education not often seen by those of us in the Black community. Who would begrudge us that?
My daughter now? She just entered her third quarter in college, after having made the Dean’s List in both of the first two.
My youngest, as mentioned, has special challenges. We adopted him — along with his sister — later in life, not as babies.
In a traditional setting, he would have been slapped in a Special Ed classroom, with someone who does not know him as I do. This child is thoughtful and can write well-developed essays that could make you weep if you knew what he had come through. He’s delivered sermons at church services and is the kid everyone loves. Oh, and he interns two full days a week at a wildlife rehabilitation facility . . . and, is well-loved there, too.
All three of my kids will spend time with babies just as easily as they do with the elderly, and do so with genuine enjoyment.
Yep. Sounds like a bunch of “White supremacists” to me. Not.
Since Professor Bartholet has let us all in on her opinions – for that’s what they are — about homeschoolers, let me lob a few “home truths” back at her:
The research shows that by every conceivable measure, homeschoolers outperform their traditionally-schooled peers. Black homeschooling has been the fastest segment of the homeschooling movement in recent years.
Dr. Brian Ray of NHERI says:
“Black homeschooled children scored, on average, 42 percentile points higher in reading, 26 percentile points higher in language, and 23 percentile points higher in math, than did their Black public-school counterparts.”
Those on the left talk about equality, yet our schools are the most segregated in cities controlled – for decades — by “progressives” yet our kids still cannot read or pass basic exit exams. I was supposed to stand by and let this happen? If you think that, you don’t know me.
The kind of “progressive” education espoused in the article have raised children who no longer engage in critical thinking. Everything is “offensive,” “racist,” or a “microaggression.”
The Harvard article posits that homeschooling parents have “24/7 authoritarian control” over their children, thus, setting the stage for rampant White supremacy. Perhaps Professor Bartholet can then explain why, in a traditional school setting, teachers “have authoritarian control” over children far more hours of the day than the parents who send them to these schools do, and that’s okay? That “teaching to the test” inextricably linked to funding isn’t a conflict of interest? Surely there’s no motivation there, right?
In fact, while researching our local Regional Occupation Program, I was told homeschoolers no longer qualified for fee-waivers because the district did not get the “per pupil” funding for my children. I countered that perhaps I should stop paying the taxes that funded them since I got no benefit from their programs.
I digress, however.
The argument put forth by Professor Bartholet is not a new one. It is eerily reminiscent of an argument made several years ago by President Barack Obama, ironically, during a time that his daughters attended the toney and expensive private school, Sidwell Friends:
“Kids start going to private schools, kids start working out at private clubs instead of the public parks, an anti-government ideology then disinvests from those common goods and those things that draw us together.” 
Yet, Dr. Ron Paul says:
“A free society acknowledges that authority over education begins with the family. I am not saying that a free society grants that authority. I do not believe that such authority is delegated by society. But a free society acknowledges that families have that authority. To the extent that any society substitutes a source of authority over education to other than the family, it departs from liberty.” 
In a traditional educational model, math is racist, milk is racist, and “African-American Vernacular English” is a thing. Do these “educational snobs” not see the inherent “soft bigotry of low expectations?” You are saying lower the standards because, for the decades you have controlled inner-city public schools, you have failed our children.
When my daughter was 14, she was furious to hear that a New England fire department lowered the testing standards for advancement to get more people of color in higher positions. She said, “I don’t need anyone to dumb down a test for me. I can pass any test you throw at me.”
The Black-White achievement gap is not closing. When there is a choice between supporting children of color and teacher’s unions, educational elites choose the unions. Need proof? Look no further than the DC Economic Opportunity Scholarship Program. Established by a GOP-led Congress, minority children not only out-performed their traditionally-school counterparts, they out-performed the non-minority kids, too (let me translate into “liberal-ese” for you: these would be the “poor kids” Joe Biden said “are just as bright” as “White kids.” And, let me mention, he also said Barack Obama was the first Black person he’d met who was “clean” and “articulate.” Sorry, CornPop.)
According to The Heritage Foundation:
• The children with scholarships for the DC voucher program graduated at a rate of 21 percentage points higher than their counterparts without scholarships.
• The return on investment was $2.62 per dollar spent.
• Researchers stated, “In scientific terms, we are more than 99% confident that access to school choice through the Opportunity Scholarship Program was the reason students in the program graduated at these much higher rates.”
• 75 percent of Milwaukee Public School students graduated high school, compared to 94 percent of Milwaukee voucher students.
• Voucher students were more likely to graduate, had higher levels of college enrollment, were less likely to drop out of school, and overall, had greater levels of academic achievement than their public-school counterparts.
• Charter school students also had greater levels of academic attainment than students in traditional schools.
• Researchers stated, “Attending a charter high school is associated with statistically significant and substantial increases in the probability of graduating and of enrolling in college.”
• 11 of 12 random assignment studies found “statistically significant positive outcomes for students who won a spot in school voucher programs,“ including higher reading and math scores
• Competition seemed to improve public schools. In 22 of 23 empirical studies, public schools students improved performance after school choice began
Need more proof? What about the lawsuit in Los Angeles that alleged teacher’s unions’ tenure policies hurt minority children most?
In traditional school environments, parents have absolutely no rights and no say . . . but teachers and counselors do (hmmm, “authoritarian control”). Teachers and counselors who cannot possibly know – or love — my children as I do. Parents cannot “opt-out” of anything, nor are they needed to provide consent for invasive or life-altering decisions.
As hard-fought a victory as it was to get our schools desegregated, the very folks who spout the sort of rhetoric seen in this Harvard article have our Black children so confused, they actually want to segregate themselves again . . . on campus . . . away from the very people perpetuating these fallacies!
Now with COVID-19 and social distancing, all parents are teaching children at home (not necessarily “homeschooling,” but that’s a dissection for another day, perhaps). These are the parents posting memes all day about “day drinking” and going nuts. It’s so bad that these parents are being told they will “set their children back a generation” (while taking swipes at homeschoolers . . le sigh).
There are so many reasons we homeschool that have nothing to do with politics, and yet, many reasons that do, but not the politics people like Elizabeth Bartholet think.
I have raised my children to be free-thinkers. Sure, every parent has a worldview they pass along to their kids. My kids hold a mix of views. But, the very idea that they are free-thinkers is what I believe Professor Bartholet fears. She, and those like her, cannot control my thoughts, so she wants our children to be under the control of those who think as she does. For more on this, see The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
So, before another “well-meaning” person from outside of our community tells me — yet again — what I should think, feel, or do, maybe talk to some actual Black homeschoolers outside of your echo chamber.
Oh . . . and maybe talk to your own admissions department, Professor Bartholet. Harvard seems to recruit homeschoolers like crazy.
 Speech by President Barack Obama, Georgetown University, May 12, 2015  Paul, Ron. The School Revolution: A New Answer for Our Broken Education System. New York: Grand Central, 2013. 5-6. Print.