Wm F Buckley on Homeschooling

Wm F Buckley on Homeschooling

William F. Buckley on Homeschooling

William F. Buckley-founder and editor-at-large of the National Review. Now that we have taken care of the nuclear bomb threat, our national problems are reduced. They are (primarily) education, race relations and health. The first and third of these have been fruitfully explored, and, as tends to happen, the republic awaits the word from the president of the United States on what should be done to reform education. Because public educations is a documented mess. The New York Times on Dec. 30 carried a touching story. It is of a young man with three boys and an infant daughter. The boys are 11, 9 and 7. And Dave Guterson and Robin Guterson are undertaking to educate them at home. This is legal in the state of Washington, where teacher certificates are not required of parents. However, the children need to submit to the same tests given to public school students. The Gutersons are having no problem with this: Their boys are getting substantially higher grades than their contemporaries in public schools. There is a nice irony here because Mr. Guterson teaches at a public high school. He doesn’t find this in any sense paradoxical: He will do the best he can at the school he tests in, but he knows that better training can be done at home. He is so confident that his little home school is, if not the universal answer to the problem, at least a partial answer to it. And so he has written an extended essay, published as a book: “Family Matters: Why Home Schooling Makes Sense.” I write with special sympathy for the Guterson model inasmuch as I am myself a product of home schooling (up until age 15). There were 10 of us, and life at home was as “Life with Father” in the famous play, the father in question having a mad-dog enthusiasm for everything from Latin to how to construct ship models inside glass bottles. It is Mr. Guterson’s point that the whole enterprise can be conducted on a modest scale, that the notion that expensive tutors need to be hired is incorrect. And he makes the further points that at about age 13 the boy or girl should be given the option to go to an institutional school, in the event that child hungers for a broader social experience. But he is not apprehensive at the moment, given that his children are gregarious and engage in sports and other social activity with their contemporaries. The idea is breaking out all over because of the common concern over schooling: Look to the private sector. John Chubb and Terry Moe published their seminal work under the auspices of the Brookings Institution in 1990. Their book is called “Politics, Markets and America’s Schools,” and the foreword speaks in simple words about the book’s findings. The authors “argue that government has not solved the education problem because government =is= the problem. They contend that the political institutions that govern America’s schools function naturally and routinely, despite everyone’s best intentions, to burden the schools with excessive bureaucracy, to inhibit effective organization, and to stifle student achievement.” Is America responding to the challenge? We have the Guterson unit, but we have also the grand design of the Whittle organization, which lured Benno Schmidt from the presidency of Yale University to launch a network of schools-for-profit designed to give us back what the public schools have taken from us. The proposition that satisfactory schooling can be had only at an institutional unit requires us to deplore the illiteracy of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Margaret Mead and Pearl Buck, all of whom were educated at home. We face the problem of Bill Clinton. He is much more afraid these days of the teachers’ unions than he is of Boris Yeltsin. Early on, Mr. Clinton showed an intelligent and innovative interest in reforming education in Arkansas. But by the time Potomac Fever got hold of him, he collapsed back into the old cliche, that we must not encourage vouchers or private education or choice on the grounds that to do so would damage the public schools. Damaging the public schools would be the greatest exercise in redundancy imaginable, like revisiting Hiroshima one day later and dropping a few hand grenades. One needs therefore to hope that such initiatives as suggested by Mr. Guterson and the Brookings Institution, and Whittle and Polly Williams of Milwaukee, the black leader who has struggled valiantly for choice and vouchers, will affect the public mood sufficiently to bring on the reforms so manifestly needed. (taken from the Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel, 1-6-93)

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