Gary North – July 29, 2020
Some Christian parents really believe in the public schools. Southern Baptists certainly do. It’s part of their religion. It has to do with their view of state neutrality. They believe that civil government has a right to shape the thinking of children, including their own children. They believe that civil government is neutral, or at least in theory can be made neutral. So, they occasionally get active in the PTA or some other useless appendage to the public schools. Let me assure you on this: how the local high school football team performs on the field this year is more important to the vast majority of Southern Protestants than the question of the neutrality of public school education.
Other Christian parents want a middle-class lifestyle, and both of them have to work to obtain it. So, they send their kids to the public schools. They get free babysitting eight months of the year, but not through the whole day. Their children become latchkey children at an early age. They are not willing to forfeit the income generated by the working wife. I don’t know what they do with seven-year-old children during the summer vacation months. This much is certain: they are not willing to pay for babysitters during the eight months of the school year.
Single moms have to find all-day babysitting, and that often means grandmothers. Since few grandmothers are available free of charge all year, single moms come to the conclusion that they have to send their children into a public school. Their income does not let them pay for a brick-and-mortar Christian day school. Brick-and-mortar Christian day schools shut down in summers. So, whatever solution the single mom is using, it doesn’t involve homeschooling.
The vast majority of Protestants and even Catholics today have been educated in the public schools. If they live in a middle-class neighborhood, they believe that their public schools are different from the public schools of the inner city. They are correct. The public schools are not different philosophically, but they are certainly different in terms of the social environment. So, the parents are content to send their children into the same environment into which they were sent, and their grandparents were sent. There is continuity.
Yes, some mothers are lazy. They don’t want to teach their kids. But, far more important, they are insecure. They don’t think they are competent to do the work. It looks like a lot of work, and they’re not confident about their ability to do it.
Public education is like a river flowing downhill. Most mothers don’t want to swim upstream. They are under no social pressure to do this. On the contrary, they are under peer pressure to send their kids into the public schools. After all, that’s where their peers send their children.
There are big barriers to entry associated with homeschooling. There are no barriers to entry associated with sending your children in the public schools. It’s not only easy, it’s required by law unless you have a legal alternative. Prior to the 1980’s, homeschooling was considered an aberration legally. It is taking a long time to get parents to pull their kids out of the public schools.
It is easier to do it today than it has ever been in American history. The next year offers a tremendous window of opportunity for homeschooling.