Why Harvard University Is Targeting Homeschooling

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Harvard Homeschooling Summit

What if I told you I was a racist, misogynistic, homophobic, patriarchal, science-denying, politically conservative Christian man? And what if I told you I plan to impart my dangerous, anachronistic worldview to all seven of my children?

What if I also told you that my wife and I have neither degrees nor certificates in early childhood education? Yet we intend now to educate our children without either license or express permission.

Suppose I told you I was going to abuse my children – physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Because of homeschooling, it would be very unlikely Child Protective Services was going to be able to stop me.

And what if I told you that not only my children’s well-being but even our democracy itself was in jeopardy? Due to our decision to homeschool and insufficiently strict state and federal laws concerning education, America itself is now at stake.

Suppose I next told you that a lot of highly credentialed activists – led by Harvard University Law School, no less – will meet in June to discuss how to stop me. You might cheer. Perhaps you would wipe the sweat from your brow in relief that my villainy was going to be thwarted. My tyranny over my wife and children would be resisted and ultimately defeated!

Then again, perhaps you would feel uneasy. Maybe you would shift uncomfortably in your seat. Was I really guilty of doing and being all the things Erin O’Donnell and Elizabeth Bartholet – “Wasserstein public interest professor of law and faculty director of the Law School’s Child Advocacy Program” – were saying I and other homeschooling parents were guilty of?

Homeschooling Summit

March 24th, 2020 – a month ago now – the HSLDA posted an update on their website titled ‘Harvard Summit to Discuss Regulating Homeschooling.’ After coming across that notice on March 26th, I posted the following write-up to my personal Facebook page:

Do you see what is going on here?

In the span of a few weeks, all or nearly all of America’s children have suddenly become homeschooled.

Now the academic elite is panicking that many families might find out they like homeschooling and want to stick with it, even after this COVID-19 business passes.

So here they will go, getting together in self-congratulatory fashion to agree very seriously and very condescendingly about how they should intervene.

You know what? Maybe they should call a summit to discuss how to fix broken public education first. Once the public schools are ahead of the homeschoolers, maybe they will have some credibility.

In the meantime, they need to mind their own business – which, ostensibly, would include public education long before it would home education.

Fast-forward to this past Sunday, April 19th, 2020. I was home with my family, all of us relaxing with the windows open and fresh air streaming in. All of us except for my wife, that is. She had gone for a walk around the block with Monica, our neighbor two houses down. Monica is a former public-school teacher, now fellow homeschooling mother.

At a certain point early in our wives’ absence, I received two text messages from JP, Monica’s husband. The first was a link to an article by Erin O’Donnell in Harvard Magazine, titled ‘The Risks of Homeschooling.’

The second link was the page for the Homeschooling Summit: Problems, Politics, and Prospects for Reform – June 18-19, 2020 on Harvard Law School’s website.


I told JP I felt an article coming on, and asked what he thought. “Please respond to it,” he said. And he reminded me of the half-finished book on homeschooling I told him about, but haven’t worked on for a few months now.

That’s one of the root causes of my initially angry reaction to this Harvard business, by the way. How do academic busybodies like Professor Bartholet find so much time, funding, and support in fighting against the things I’m fighting for?

For me, it’s been a busy year. I moved my family to a new state and started a new job. If that weren’t enough, my wife had major knee surgery last summer. She only concluded physical therapy a few months ago. In February, my wife nearly died after a surprise pregnancy turned out to be ectopic, then ruptured. I rushed her to the hospital, then brought her home again to heal. We’ve gradually rediscovered our new normal again.

Then COVID-19 hit, and the economy crashed. Then the oil and gas industry – in which I’ve worked to support my family these past 8 years – suffered a historic price collapse.

Now this business with Harvard. And the simple fact is that I should not need to worry about self-important, egotistical, control-freak Marxists in academia trying to sabotage my children’s education.

Yet what is all the more galling is the manner in which they are arguing to disenfranchise us. Professor Bartholet suggests we homeschoolers are racist, misogynistic, homophobic, patriarchal, science-deniers. Not only that, but we may also be abusing our children. And we are undermining the nation’s interest by raising such broken, ignorant children as we ourselves are.

If this is not an instance of adding insult to injury, I don’t know what would be.

Argumentum Ad Hominem

Several logical fallacies can be found front-and-center in Harvard’s illiberal attack on homeschooling. First and most grievous is what is known as argumentum ad hominem “argument against the person.”

It is a fact that I am white. I am not, however, a white supremacist as Bartholet suggests.

It is a fact that I strongly oppose feminism and gender theory brow-beating generations of American boys and men. I am not, however, a misogynist.

It is a fact that I am a Christian who strives to study, understand, and obey the Scriptures. Accordingly, I believe there is such a thing as sexual immorality. And I take my cue from God’s Word as to what it is or is not. I do not, however, hate or fear homosexuals.

It is a fact that I, as the husband and father, am the head of my home. If you want to call me patriarchal, so be it. There is no shame as far as that goes. But I am not oppressing my wife and children! I am no tyrant, but rather strive to lead, provide for, and protect them.

It is a fact that I make a habit of questioning scientists, their claims, and theories. Yet this is part and parcel to good science. And any person or claim that purports to be scientific, yet takes umbrage at being questioned, should be called pseudo-scientific. But I am not the science denier for thinking critically and insisting on a skeptical stance.

Lastly, it is a fact that I discipline my children. When they hurt one another, or disobey my wife and me, they are corrected. And you will get no apology from me for that. As a father, such is one of my core responsibilities by every rule of decency.

Abusive Power

My wife and I are not abusing our children by homeschooling them. That goes without saying. Yet if Professor Bartholet and Harvard get their way, the burden of proof will rest not only on homeschoolers. It will rest on parents across America to prove we all are not abusing our children.

As Gary DeMar at The American Vision has pointed out, the critical difference in worldviews could not be starker. In our view, our children are primarily just that. They are our children, our responsibility. Yet in Professor Bartholet’s mind, children primarily belong to her and the messianic State.

There must be no presumptive ban on home education for one simple reason: children do not belong to the State. Children belong to their families, principally their parents. To place a presumptive ban on home education would be to assert the opposite of reality. Do families, parents, and especially the children themselves have a right only to those things the government explicitly grants them?

On the contrary, remember the central claim underpinning this nation’s founding documents. “All men are created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights…”

Endowed by whom? By our Creator – the Lord God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. He is the source of our rights and, yes, responsibilities.

Yet whoever mocks the idea of parental rights, or any other rights, in favor of responsibilities is lost. He has not grasped that rights are inseparable from responsibilities.

Take away my money, then ridicule me for not buying groceries. Evict me from my home, then mock my homelessness. Violate and deny me my rights, and then condemn me for failing to be responsible.

Such is the twisted logic of those scheming against home education at Harvard.

Atrophied Muscles

The neglected and malnourished muscles atrophy. They cannot be expected to perform the tasks of a strong body, practiced in work, and fed regularly by a sufficient quantity and quality of foodstuffs.

Professor Bartholet distrusts the capacity of most American moms and dads to educate their children at home. But if homeschooling ability depends on certain mental and moral muscles, who is to blame if those muscles are weak?

I cannot here take credit for this argument. Rather, I credit my wife, who was public schooled, yet now educates our seven children at home.

Her question to me at some point was more or less the following which I will paraphrase. ‘If so many American parents don’t feel like they know how to teach their own children, what does that say about the education they themselves received?’

A century worth of American generations has gone through America’s public schools. So many thus educated feel incapable of educating their own children independent of those same schools. I conclude that an unhealthy state of co-dependence exists. And that, far more than home education – as the Harvard Magazine write-up alleges – poses the real threat to our democracy.

These are the atrophied muscles. And parental instincts are suppressed by insistence that the influence and authority of parents is worse than ineffectual. It is even dangerous for children.

I think now of the TV show, My 600 Pound Life. Therein, oftentimes an enabling caretaker feeds their son or daughter past their ability to leave the house. The point is this: the need to feel needed sometimes turns pathological. When it does, independence is seen as a threat.

Elitist Fear-Mongering

We have established that I was angry at this whole anti-homeschooling campaign by Harvard. And now you know my reasons. Yet there is more to the story. And it occurred to me when I paused to reflect further on my initial impression.

We need more than anger to respond effectively to this threat. And it is not only homeschooling families who need to respond. Or do we as Americans care for our individual liberty and our nation’s best interests?

Many American children will not be returning to public schools in the fall due to measures taken to combat COVID-19. And many American parents have now gotten even a taste of homeschooling their children. Some number of these will, with greater confidence, abandon the public education system never to return.

This is the real reason for the Harvard Homeschooling Summit. I am all the more confident when I consider the reasons outlined in Erin O’Donnell’s Harvard Magazine piece.

They’re asking for the moon, but what they really want is mitigation through intimidation. The goal is not so much to end home education. It is certainly not to win the hearts and minds of homeschoolers. Rather, by assassinating the character of those interested in home education, the intention is to bully those considering it into getting back in line.

The truth is that highly intelligent, highly educated people can nevertheless be highly insecure people. And in lording it over the government monopoly that is public education, the Elizabeth Bartholets of America have found their niche and a source of security and affirmation.

In other words, they’re fear-mongering about home education because they feel their position threatened by the tide they sense may be about to turn.

See also my video response to the Harvard Homeschooling Summit on YouTube.
Follow Garrett Mullet:

Christian, husband to a darling wife, and father to seven children - I enjoy pipe-smoking, playing strategy games on my computer, listening to audio books, and writing. When I'm not asking you questions out loud, I'm endlessly asking myself silent questions in my head. I believe in God's grace, hard work, love, patience, contemplation, and courage.