Dear Time Magazine....
Readers: I share the following letter with you (1) because of my
professional distress over what seems to be the disintegration of good
journalism in some of our most potent mainstream publications and (2)
because I am a parent who believes a serious injustice has been done to
everyone with an interest in public and private education by Time
Journalists, Editors, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am a homeschooling parent. I subscribe to a widely distributed "email discussion list," topical to homeschooling. On August 20, threads on this list indulged: (1) the proper way to care for pet snails, (2) the different types of dogs that are best suited to different types of family and living conditions, (3) resources to find projects for Boy and Girl Scouts, (4) how a homeschooling daddy rescued two folks from drowning during a fishing trip, (5) the proper type of protective helmet for a child to wear while horseback riding, and (6) Time’s recent front page article on homeschooling. http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010827/index.html
At first, list-poster comments on this key subject were much like the following:
“I think the new anti-homeschooling articles will be like this one -- give the appearance of being balanced and even seem to be favorable, but leave an unsettled feeling in the minds of readers.” And, “The whole article left me feeling very uneasy, the snide tone made my skin crawl.”
From there, things started to focus: “I read it… and could not finish it. [It is] badly written and poorly documented. I wonder if it was not ordered by Public School officials to scare the public about homeschoolers ‘threatening’ the Public School entity.” And, “I am – again -- disappointed with Media and journalists. I thought they existed to 'objectively inform' people. Not to give their -? or someone else's – opinion. This article is not objective.”
As the list-conversation evolved from a discussion of broad generalities to topical specifics, plausible theories about stereotypical bias and self-serving motivation came up: “[This article] is a ‘one way’ talk… made to reassure the majority of parents so that they keep enrolling their children in [public] schools. It is -again- a question of money.”
Another list-subscriber quoted the Time article, “One could argue that kids need to get into a certain amount of trouble to learn how to handle temptations and their consequences." Then she responded: “I thought that in 2001, most of the people did not believe in such things any longer.”
A different parent referenced Time’s assertion that: “It's fair to assume that a majority of parents won't want to give up those delightfully quiet hours when the kids are at school.” In response, the parent pondered: “What parents are those? Those of us homeschooling would either (1) have younger children at home or (2) be out in the work force trying to raise the family income level above $25,000/year (the average in the government study published recently).”
About this same quote, another parent wrote: “And there are things they did not get. They view homeschooling parents as people ‘sacrificing’ themselves for their children. What is the future of a civilization if the parents only think about the moment when their children are away from them? That this kind of thought is authorized and shared by a majority is ‘scaring’ to me.”
By the next day, while other threads on the list explored subjects like dinosaurs, C-sections, potty-training, pole beans, cracked tomatoes, and family-safe ways to eradicate ants from one’s kitchen, critique of the article intensified. One homeschooling daddy, who also happens to be a PhD, wrote over a thousand well turned words to Time’s editor, which I trust have, by now, been snail-mailed or emailed to their intended recipient.
To this growing medley I added my own list-posting, commenting that as a modestly successful professional journalist, it deeply offended me to see such a not-so-subtle anti-homeschooling bias perpetrated upon the general public as the lead feature story in a distinguished “news” magazine. I confessed that, in context of my experience with the editors of four reputable newspapers, I was flabbergasted to see such blatant op/ed journalism disguised, promoted and published as a legitimate piece of investigative research. For example:
You quote Chris Lubienski, a teacher at Iowa State University, "It (homeschooling) is taking some of the most affluent and articulate parents out of the system. These are the parents who know how to get things done with administrators.”
A legitimate investigative journalist, in hearing Lubienski’s assertion, would be duty bound to find out: “What does this fact tell us? Why is this happening? What could be the negative and positive implications and consequences of this trend.” Yet I see no evidence that John Cloud and Jodie Morse fully researched and objectively reported in accord of Journalism’s fundamental 6-Ws (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?) and I am appalled that Time Magazine has let such shoddiness steal its front page.
A thorough investigative job would have, as response to the above, most likely turned up tons of homeschooling parents saying things like: “Chris Lubienski is incorrect. These parents could not get things done with administrators, or they would…probably still have their children in [public or private] schools.”
Elsewhere, your article wails about the (supposed) financial hardships being borne by some public schools because of increased homeschooling which (supposedly) results in a loss of tax revenue to a school district in accord of per-student State funding schemes. With respect, your writers seem to have completely missed the fact that homeschoolers pay property taxes just like public-schoolers, and that in many places these property taxes go into a collective pot which is divided among ALL public school students.
According to the simple math I learned as a child this means the per-student allocation for every child in public school has increased as class size has decreased as a result of homeschooling. Isn’t this what public school educators are constantly asking for? So, why does your article choose to portray homeschoolers as villains and thieves?
Your article also missed the fact that homeschooling parents are legally obliged to pay these taxes even though their own children derive little or no direct benefit from this expenditure and, on top of this, that they must pay a second time to make sure their own children’s educational needs are met.
Sincerely it seems that if Time is genuinely interested in drawing attention to the most threatening injustices running rampant today in the civilized world, an in-depth and objective look at any of the aforementioned issues presents an admirable place to start.
Echoing the sentiments of many list-subscribers, another homeschooling parent wrote: “My favorite part is where he questions the behavior of homeschooled kids who, when studied, were ‘generally more patient and less competitive. They tended to introduce themselves to one another more; they didn't fight as much. And the home schoolers were much more prone to exchange addresses and phone numbers.’”
Commenting on how the article seemed to characterize these socially adept and well-mannered children as bizarre "miniature adults," the parent lamented: “We routinely get blasted about socialization and when the kids act socialized, we get blasted again!”
There are many other things about the alleged factual content of your article, its condescending tone, and the conclusions it butters to slide down readers' throats that I, personally, find grievously offensive. Offensive enough, in fact, to have taken of my own sweet time to contact you and let you know that you have, through ignorance or innocence, portrayed a very narrow and highly bigoted side of the case you make.
I resent this arrogant misuse of the power you wield and the resulting compromise of the trust vested in you by public interest. I am forced to inquire, in reference to your rhetorical question -- “Home schooling may turn out better students, but does it create better citizens?” -- is Time’s conduct, by publishing this article, exemplary of good citizenship?
“Schools may want better students… governments may want better citizens… industries may want better employees…,” wrote another homeschooling parent. “[But] aren't parents the most likely to want their children to become better PEOPLE?”
I resent that you have, without giving a moment’s pause to it, effectively made my life and the lives of all us homeschoolers “harder.” To which I can only say, geeze… it feels like I’m back to being the nerdy fat kid with long braids stuck in the lunchroom line next to the class bully – wondering how anyone in his or her right mind could rationalize this kind of coincidental (and all too typical) educational experience as anything other than distorted, inhumane, and absurd.
As another list-poster commented: “Like I said before… Ack!!! Vomit!!! I hope some of you more articulate people will write to this moron and blast him/her.”
So, I’m offering you the opportunity to redeem Time’s reputation by mustering a bit of chutzpah and publishing this commentary with the same gusto, enthusiasm, and flourish you gave your “Seceding From School” cover piece and/or by assigning a qualified reporter to produce a front page article on homeschooling parents/educators that is of similar scope, slant and tone to your “Schools That Stretch” piece http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010521/intro.html
In this interest, please consider yourself duly informed of the fact that in the eyes of those who are actively engaged in homeschooling and by the overwhelming weight of well documented evidence, it is obvious that our public schools are not “weathered,” they are broken. Homeschooling is not “flawed” as your article alleges. Homeschooling is a collaborative yet self-determined social and educational practice being individually implemented by an exponentially growing number of well-informed, well-educated, self-motivated, critically thinking and caring parents, 24 hours a day, every day, all the time.
Furthermore, the healthy synergy and reciprocal trust you call for among home-based and public educators, which many homeschoolers (such as myself) would dearly love to see, was dealt a vicious blow by your publication of the words: “Putting money into home schooling is throwing money down a rathole.” In context of the scope of this article, this was not good journalism. It was a pandering and vile insult.
In closing, please allow me to ditto (minus your snide editorial remarks) the words you attributed to William Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education, when he said it’s time to “talk about a revolution of common sense.” And, to share with you the following comments, made to me by the highly respected executive director of a regional arts and education foundation who routinely works as an instructor with children in both public and home-based schools.
“Phew...it's been a long time since I've read such a slanted piece of journalism. Even the positive points were expressed with the use of negative words, amazing. This might be something I would expect from a small, local, biased, publication. Sad to read such a piece in Time.”
She goes on to say that her son is not homeschooled, but that she has “known and worked with home school students in a variety of educational, professional, and personal settings.” And while she is “not prepared to make an across the board statement on the quality of home schools” the examples she has personally witnessed have been “exemplary.”
Sincerely, I look forward to your proactive response. A short list of research sources is found following my signature card.
Christine Louise Weiss
HOMESCHOOLING RESEARCH RESOURCES
here for an ABCNEWS.com look at life as a homeschooler.
Here's another great article about the achievements of homeschoolers.
Click to visit one of the oldest homeschooling sites on the Web.
The Family Unschoolers Network, www.unschooling.org
Lynn Marie Vosbury Garcia, firstname.lastname@example.org
And the following offer good, all-around info:
Other great resources for topical and accurate information about homeschooling ideologies, practices, and curricula may be found on gozarks Homeschool page.
Prior to posting, the foregoing was snail-mailed and/or emailed to the following: