This post reviews Ronald Kreager, Jr., “Homeschooling: The Future of Education’s Most Basic Institution,” in University of Toledo Law Review, 42, no. 1 (Fall 2010): 227-233. [Excerpt available here]
Kreager, a J.D. candidate at the University of Toledo College of Law, here pens a sprawling and somewhat eccentric article on several topics related to homeshooling.
He begins with a cursory history of homeschooling, drawn largely from an article published in 2009 by Chad Olsen that I reviewed here. As I noted in my review, Olsen’s history section was based mostly on my book. This article, then, is too, in a third-hand sort of way. Like Olsen did, Kreager here misinterprets the Supreme Court’s 1973 Wisconsin v. Yoder decision, wrongly reading it as establishing a Constitutional “right to homeschool one’s children when a religious motivation to do so exists.” (p. 233)
Yoder did no such thing. “Homeschooling” wasn’t even at issue. The question was whether Amish parents violated Wisconsin’s compulsory education law when they forbade their children from attending school after 8th grade as doing so would threaten their Amish way of life. The Supreme Court agreed with the Amish parents, arguing in an intentionally narrowly-worded opinion that there were likely very few other religious groups in America that could qualify for such an exception. Kreager, Jr. must know this since his article shows evidence that he actually read the decision. But his stance as a homeschool advocate I suppose motivated him to fudge on this crucial point just like Chad Olsen did. For full details of the Yoder case and what it did and did not do see Shawn Peters’ fine book The Yoder Case: Religious Freedom, Education, and Parental Rights.
Next Kreager looks at how States regulate homeschooling, dividing the various state laws into Linda Dobson’s three classes: “private school laws, equivalency laws, and home education laws.” This part of the article comes mostly from a 2002 article by Judith McMullen published in the South Carolina Law Review and from HSLDA’s website. No need to go into a summary of it all here.
After the summary, Kreager claims that the first two approaches–regulating homeschooling as if it were private schooling and considering it a valid form of “equivalent instruction elsewhere”–are not good enough. He wants every state to have an explicit home education law. He wants these new or revised explicit laws to include four things: 1. all required regulations narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest, 2. added protections for religiously-motivated homeschoolers, 3. “liberal parental qualification standards,” and 4. annual assessment of all children, with multiple options for how to do this.
Now, I can already imagine what some of my readers might be thinking. Homeschoolers have since the late 1970s debated whether or not having an explicit law is a good idea. Some have always argued that lack of specificity is better because the more detailed the law the greater the regulatory environment. Others would accept the notion of an explicit law in theory but would be loath to accept the specifics of Kreager’s proposed law, especially the annual testing. But Kreager himself shows no signs of being aware of such possible objections. So on with the show…
Next, Kreager goes on a meandering trip through some of the classic homeschooling issues, all categorized under the notion of threats to the practice. First he discusses the desire by some to regulate homeschooling more, which I find quite ironic given how his own proposed law would dramatically increase regulation in many states. But Kreager is thinking here of people who think homeschooling doesn’t socialize students well. He responds in the usual way, saying basically that the homeschooled kids are alright. He touches lightly on some other issues as well, all very cursorily.
Finally he takes up the United Nations’ Convention on the Right of the Child. Here he basically summarizes HSLDA’s aggressive opposition to it and their efforts not only to keep the U.S. from ratifying it but to pass a Constitutional Amendment explicitly permitting home schooling. Kreager is charitable in how he says it, but he basically says this is a total pipe dream.
And that’s it. After reading it through I found myself wondering why this article was published. It is entirely derivative, either from other and better essays published in law journals or from popular sources like newspapers and the HSLDA website. The only take-home messages I get are that we have here another future lawyer who doesn’t understand Yoder, and an erstwhile friend of homeschooling who somehow doesn’t understand that he’s being inconsistent when he opposes increased regulations of homeschooling while arguing for explicit laws requiring annual testing.