The problem is not educational outcomes: Students in the Seton program tend to score on average in the 80th percentile on standardized tests. The problem is that progressives operate as though the state owned children as joint property. Dana Goldstein, writing in Slate, urged her fellow progressives to resist the temptation to homeschool, arguing that the practice is “fundamentally illiberal” and asking incredulously: “Could such a go-it-alone ideology ever be truly progressive?” She went on to argue that the children of high-achieving parents amount to public goods because of peer effects — poor students do better when mixed with better-off peers — meaning that “when college-educated parents pull their kids out of public schools, whether for private school or homeschooling, they make it harder for less-advantaged children to thrive.” She does not extend that analysis to its logical conclusion: that conscientious, educated liberals should enroll their children in the very worst public schools they can find in order to maximize the public good.
The numbers are against them, but [Georgetown law professor Robin] West, Goldstein, and like-minded critics still bristle with hostility at homeschooling. There are three related reasons for that.
The first is that progressives by their nature do not trust people as individuals and feel that, whether we are applying for a credit card or popping into 7-Eleven for a soft drink, Americans require state-appointed overseers. If homeschooling weren’t already legal — a happy consequence of the longstanding patchwork of exemptions in state-level mandatory-education statutes — it is highly unlikely that most state legislatures would vote to legalize it. Nine-tenths of American children attend government schools, and most of the remaining tenth attend government-approved private schools. The political class wants as many of that remaining tenth in government schools as possible; teachers’ unions have money on the line, and ideologues do not want any young skull beyond their curricular reach. A political class that does not trust people with a Big Gulp is not going to trust them with the minds of children.
Reasons two and three? Homeschooling retains a “significant conservative and Christian component,” and the majority of homeschool teachers are mothers.