If you listen to anyone from the NEA, you’d think that homeschooling is the last place where you would find open minded, politically tolerant people being raised and educated. In fact, the usual terms heard are “ignorant”, “closed minded” or “sheltered” or worse. Tolerance, defined as “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own”, is something better embodied by homeschooled children over those who weren’t. It’s a statistical fact.
The National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) discussed a study published by the Journal of School Choice: International Research and Reform regarding whether students who were homeschooled were put at a disadvantage when it came to being civil and tolerant. The study in fact found that homeschooled students were more politically tolerant than those who were either educated in public schools or even private schools.
Albert Cheng, study author, used a tool called the “content-controlled political tolerance scale” which gave each respondent a list of popular social and political groups, like Democrats, Republicans, gay rights activists and conservative Christians. The respondent was then asked to choose the group whose beliefs were the most opposite theirs. Next, the respondent was asked if they were willing to extend basic civil liberties to that opposing group. They were asked to agree or disagree with statements such as “The government should be able to tap the phones of the group you oppose”, “Books that are written by members of this group should be banned from the public library”, “I would allow members of this group to live in my neighborhood” and so forth. Obviously this measures how people identify with others as human beings who just have different views or dehumanize them as an enemy not deserving basic civil rights.
Study participants were from a private university in the western United States, with disparate backgrounds and educational experiences. The prevailing thought would be that children who are exposed to people of different ethnicities, faiths and political backgrounds would be more tolerant of differences because they were used to them. This was not the case. What Cheng found instead were two different things.
First he found that private over public doesn’t increase or decrease political tolerance. Students from both public and private schools had the same levels of tolerance. The second finding, though, was the surprise. Homeschooled children were more politically tolerant than those who weren’t, and the longer they were homeschooled the more tolerant they were.
While Cheng didn’t suggest a causal relationship between schooling and political tolerance, there are two theories as to reasoning behind the results. The first reason is that students who are homeschooled tend to have a greater degree of self-actualization. Homeschooled children get personalized instruction that enables them to be taught a more consistent worldview. The second reason, and I believe the most important, is that the very religious values disparaged by those against homeschooling, teach our children the true definition of tolerance – respect for differences without having to accept them as being ok.
The study flies in the face of the NEA supported view, as written about by Dr. Rob Reich in a piece entitled Educational Leadership, where he says that a state run public school “is one of the few remaining social institutions – or civic intermediaries – in which people from all walks of life have a common interest and in which children might come to learn such common values as decency, civility, and respect.” He also posits that children being taught by parents or places of worship “cannot become what they should without the oversight of the state and institutional schooling.” The hubris of the ivory tower in action. Big Brother watching doesn’t make us more civil.
As a parent of children who went to public schools, I’m not surprised by these findings. I was blessed that my children attended good public schools in a conservative county. While the state in which I live is very liberal, by and large the teachers in our county are more conservative. Most tend to give lip service to the left leaning and liberal educational ideas proliferated by our state and federal boards of education. I know of several teachers in our area who talk the Common Core talk, but walk a very different walk. They continue to teach our children in the ways they know from experience work, whether it fits Common Core or not.
It can’t be emphasized enough either that the participation level of parents also weighs into this equation. Parents need to be in the classroom to see what is being taught. They need to ask their kids about lessons, look through textbooks and talk to their children about the differences between what is taught and what they believe. I caught several instances where textbooks were wrong or biased about a subject. Other times it was a difference in belief on a moral subject. I used those times to educate them about our beliefs, always emphasizing that no matter what, if someone is different: has different ideas, looks or faiths, it is NEVER ok to treat them badly.
The great experimentation of “only schools can teach values” has been proven a vast failure. The college professor who physically assaulted a fourteen year old and called her names because she stood up for her pro-life values; the driver of a car with a “coexist” bumper sticker who mowed down a pro-life monument; the nasty political trolling and name calling from both sides on any given blog or topic. Public schools certainly aren’t the answer to making it better, and now we have the proof.
Image: Courtesy of: http://www.mises.org.br/Article.aspx?id=153