Saturday, February 11, 2012

I've been reading a recent edition of John Holt's book of homeschooling, Teach Your Own, mostly because I think John Holt is brilliant. I don't, of course, need to be convinced that homeschooling is a good idea, but sometimes it is helpful to be reminded why I'm choosing to keep my children at home instead of sending them away and getting a little peace and quiet! In the 1970s, Holt wrote a letter to the ACLU, which I'm quoting at length below. It's a little extreme, and I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but it's a perspective that still isn't considered, even with homeschooling becoming more widely practiced. It's interesting. Read it and see what you think.

[I've omitted a few items that are not, I believe, relevant any longer, such as corporal punishment in schools.]

...compulsory school attendance laws, in and of themselves, seem to me a very serious infringement of the civil liberties of children and their parents, and would be so no matter what schools were like, how they were organized, or how they treated children; in other words, even if they were far more humane and effective than in fact they are.

Beyond that, there are a number of practices, by now very common in schools all over the country, which in and of themselves seriously violate the civil liberties of children, including:

1. Keeping permanent records of children’s school performance. This would be inexcusable even if there were nothing in the records but academic grades. It is nobody’s proper business that a certain child got a certain mark in a certain course when she or he was eight years old.


4. Filling these records, as experience as shown they are filled, with many kinds of malicious and derogatory information and misinformation. These may include not just unconfirmed teachers’ reports of children’s misbehavior, but also all kinds of pseudopsychological opinions, judgments, and diagnoses about the children and even their families.
5. Compulsory psychological testing of children, and including the results of those tests in children’s records.
6. Labeling children as having such imaginary and supposedly incurable diseases as “minimal brain dysfunction”, “hyperactivity”, “specific learning disabilities”, etc.
7. Compulsory dosing of children with very powerful and dangerous psychoactive drugs, such as Ritalin.


9. Lowering students’ academic grades, or even giving failing grades, solely for disciplinary and/or attendance reasons. Not only is this practice widespread, but school administrators openly boast of it, though what it amounts to in fact is the deliberate falsification of an official record...


To return once more to compulsory school attendance in its barest form, you will surely agree that if the government told you that on one hundred and eighty days of the year, for six or more hours a day, you had to be at a particular place, and there do whatever people told you to do, you would feel that this was a gross violation of your civil liberties. The State, of course, justifies doing this to children as a matter of public policy, saying that only thus can it keep them from being ignorant and a burden on the State. But even if it were true that children were learning important things in schools and that they could not learn them anywhere else, neither of which I admit, I would still remind the ACLU that since in other and more difficult cases... it does not allow the needs of public policy to become an excuse for violating the basic liberties of citizens, it ought not to in this case.

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