How home schooling threatens monopoly education

January 10, 2013

"What about home schooling? You know, it's not just for scary religious people any more." That's a line from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and it should strike fear into the hearts, not of vampires, but of public-school administrators everywhere.

The fact is, Americans across the country -- but especially in large, urban school systems -- are voting with their feet and abandoning traditional public schools, to the point that teachers are facing layoffs. Some are going to charter schools, which are still public but are run more flexibly. Some are leaving for private schools. But many others are going another step beyond traditional education, and switching to online school or even pure home schooling.

And, as Buffy so accurately noted, it's not just "scary religious people." In fact, rather than scary, those religious people are looking more like trendsetters. A recent piece in The Atlantic told of purely secular parents' decision to take their kids out of New York public schools and home school instead:

"That first year, chatting with other homeschooling parents at soccer games, picnics, and after-church coffee hours, I found that our decision was far from unusual. Homeschooling has long been a philosophical choice for religious traditionalists and off-the-grid homesteaders, but for the parents we met - among them several actors, a jazz composer, a restaurateur, a TV chef, a Columbia University physical-plant supervisor, and a handful of college professors - it was a practical alternative to New York's notoriously inadequate education system."

New York's public school system is indeed notoriously inadequate. And, like most public school systems (or public systems of any kind), it's run more for the convenience of the staff and bureaucrats than for the benefit of parents or kids. Some kids do fine anyway, of course, and some parents aren't in a position to pursue alternatives. But for many parents, traditional schooling is no longer the automatic default choice.

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