Bill Maher: Santorum homeschools his kids because he wants them locked up in his “Christian madrassa”

posted at 5:30 pm on March 11, 2012 by Tina Korbe

How very open-minded and reasonable it was of Bill Maher to deliver this little riff on the Santorums’ decision to homeschool their children (h/t NewsBusters):

Let’s not even get into his use of the term “madrassa,” which refers to an Islamic seminary that teaches mostly Islamic subjects. Suffice it to say anyone concerned about brainwashing should worry less about Rick Santorum’s children and more about subjugated women and children in the Middle East.

Instead, let’s focus on the “comedian’s” own appalling lack of knowledge. What Bill Maher doesn’t know about homeschooling could fill a book he’d never read. Fortunately, Noel Sheppard offers him a handy primer:

The 2009 Homeschool Progress Report found “homeschoolers scored 34–39 percentile points higher than the norm on standardized achievement tests. The homeschool national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math, and Social Studies to the 89th percentile for Reading.” …

The 2003 study Homeschooling Grows Up offered more evidence of Maher’s ignorance: …

“Only 4.2% of the homeschool graduates surveyed consider politics and government too complicated to understand, compared to 35% of U.S. adults(Table 2). This may account for why homeschool graduates work for candidates, contribute to campaigns, and vote in much higher percentages than the general population of the United States (Figures 2 through 7). For example, 76% of homeschool graduates surveyed between the ages
of 18–24 voted within the last five years, compared to only 29% of the relevant U.S. population (Figure 7). The numbers of homeschool graduates who vote are even greater in the older age brackets, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared to a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace. Interestingly, the three participants in the age-55–69 category were also more civically active than their peers nationwide (but the sample size was so small that this category was/is not included in the figures).”

58.9 percent of homeschool grads report that they are “very happy” with life compared with 27.6 percent for the general U.S. population. 73.2 percent find life “exciting” compared with 47.3 percent.

Homeschool grads also score higher on the ACT, are more likely to volunteer in their communities as adults and read more in general.

It’s true that some parents opt to homeschool their children because they don’t want their kids to be brainwashed by educators who have swallowed the latest progressive educational theories without a second thought or by textbooks authored by academics who have their own agenda. But does it follow, then, that because the parents don’t want their kids brainwashed by others that they want to brainwash them themselves? Or might it be possible that parents homeschool their children precisely because they want their kids to be able to think for themselves?

For two years, I was homeschooled. I also have a number of friends who were homeschooled through high school (including my sister-in-law). In my personal experience, parents who homeschool think the basic premise of education is to teach children to recognize and appreciate truth wherever they find it. I encountered a wider variety of viewpoints as a homeschooler than I ever did as a private school brat or a public school rat (and, yes, I’ve been both of those, too!) because the world became my classroom. Did my parents impart standards by which to judge the validity of ideas I encountered? Yes. Do I consider that brainwashing? No. In fact, I was so aware of my standards for truth that I was able to consciously reevaluate them as an adult. The brainwashed aren’t even aware of the standards by which they judge.

If it’s brainwashing to teach kids that objective truth exists (after all, if truth does exist, it precludes the possibility of relativism pretty quickly!), then the homeschool parents I know brainwashed their children. To Bill Maher, a belief in objective truth is “close-minded.” Never mind that basic logic teaches us that the idea that “there is no truth” is a self-defeating proposition. Eh, well, as Dr. Laura says, you can be so open-minded your brains fall out.

It’s also important to note that there are as many different ways to homeschool as there are families. Such a thing as “progressive homeschooling” has existed and still exists, for example. Back in the day when leftists were still anti-establishment instead of the establishment, they saw homeschooling as a radical thing to do, a way to prevent their children from being brainwashed into thinking capitalism was the only legitimate way to allocate resources. (Incidentally, David Mills wrote a pitch-perfect piece about “Homeschooling’s Liberalism” in the January issue of First Things magazine. If you’re a subscriber, don’t miss it!)

What does Bill Maher make of that?


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