Harvard Law School Postpones Anti-Homeschooling Summit

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

Harvard Law School said it has “postponed” a controversial summit on homeschooling “problems, politics, and prospects for reform,” supposedly “due to COVID-19.”

According to the school, the summit, originally scheduled for June 18-19, was to have gathered various education policy and child welfare advocates “to discuss child rights in connection with homeschooling in the United States.”

The summit’s description states its focus was to center on “problems of educational deprivation and child maltreatment that too often occur under the guise of homeschooling, in a legal environment of minimal or no oversight.”

Professor Elizabeth Bartholet of Harvard Law School had been scheduled to welcome attendees to the summit and introduce its goals, as well as to propose a “presumptive ban” on homeschooling.

In April, Harvard Magazine published an interview with Bartholet that created a firestorm among American homeschooling parents and conservative and libertarian education policy analysts.

In the interview, writer Erin O’Donnell highlighted Bartholet’s Arizona Law Review paper in which the professor lamented the freedom associated with homeschooling and the fact that “parents can now keep their children at home in the name of homeschooling free from any real scrutiny as to whether or how they are educating their children.”

Bartholet said many parents choose to homeschool their children because they wish to “isolate” them “from ideas and values central to our democracy.”

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo responded to Bartholet’s comments on Twitter, stating, “The risk to children is NOT from homeschooling. The risk is from radical leftist scholars seeking to impost THEIR values on OUR children”:

Perhaps revealing what many have said is a lack of accurate data about homeschooling, as well as her own prejudices, Bartholet also expressed a fear that many Christian parents who homeschool were imposing their beliefs on their own children.

“Many promote racial segregation and female subservience,” she wrote in her paper. “Many question science.”

The professor also accused parents of deciding to homeschool their children in order to continue abusing them without oversight by child protective agencies.

“We have an essentially unregulated regime in the area of homeschooling,” Bartholet said, according to O’Donnell, “but if you look at the legal regime governing homeschooling, there are very few requirements that parents do anything.”

Following the backlash from her comments, Bartholet told the Harvard Crimson she received “an interesting range of accusations that I’m both a Communist — that might be most common — but also a Fascist, a Nazi, and, in a recent email, [a member of the] KKK.”

She said she responds to parents who wrote to her stating they have a “God-given right” to parent and educate their children with no government interference, with, “I do disagree with [parental absolutism].”

“It’s fine if parents want to withdraw their children because they want to emphasize their own beliefs and religion, so long as they can provide an adequate education, which for me includes exposing children to ideas other than those that the parents hold,” the professor said.

“I think we would do far better as a society putting effort into reforming and improving the public schools,” Bartholet told the Crimson.


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