In following the career and impact of Dr. Ray, I occasionally need to repost one of his newsletters. Like this one!!!
Hello, Homelife, from NHERI.
I just returned from the biggest educational research annual meeting in the world. About 13,000 professors, doctoral students, policymakers, test publishers, bureaucrats, and more recently converged on The Big Easy (New Orleans, Louisiana) for four days. A lot of music, good food, liquid spirits, and more were taken in – you can be sure – by that group.
I am enthused to tell you about a few of the thousands of papers and presentations. They showed up in a session entitled, "If Homeschooling Is So Good, Why Don't More Educators Promote It?" [Endnote 1] A colleague of mine and I put together this idea and it was accepted via a peer-reviewed process. It was great fun.
The chair of the session asked me to make the first of four presentations. I gave a quick summary of research on home-based education and learner outcomes. Twenty-five years of studies make it clear that essentially only positive things – compared to conventional institutional schooling – are associated with this educational practice. Above-average academic achievement, as strong or better social, emotional, and psychological development, and various aspects of success into adulthood are what keep showing up regarding the home educated.
I made the following two main points. First, none of the academic opponents of home education back up their claims with empirical evidence, data. Their assertions are data-free. Second, their opposition to parent-led education is clearly ideological. Basically, they do not like state-control-free home education for philosophical (i.e., worldview, religious, political) reasons.
Then Dr. Charles Howell pitched in. From Northern Illinois University, he referred to institutional schooling as "normal science," basing this on Thomas Kuhn's now-classic 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Those practicing "normal science," like those who believed in an earth-centered solar system, will not change their minds until basically forced to do so by unavoidable and incontrovertible evidence.
Their frames of reference, identities, and vested interests are tied up in the old and faulty paradigm. It is painful for them to admit to reality and confess they were in error. Dr. Howell was witty and humorous as he explained that thousands of professors' $2,000 trips to New Orleans for a research conference, promotion and tenure, and their very salaries and benefits are inextricably and undeniably tied up with state-run institutional schooling, and to admit that home education is good for children – and perhaps better than public schooling for many – would be a painful thing to do, indeed.
Dr. James Carper of the University of South Carolina was next on the docket. With his always-delightful articulation and engaging painting of history, Dr. Carper squarely faced the audience with a blatant concept not often discussed among these researchers: America's public schools have long been the "established church" of the nation.
Many professional educators, whether professors, curriculum developers, or classroom teachers, do not recognize or will not admit that they are high priests and lower functionaries in the United States' functional equivalent of the established church. The state-run schools promote a worldview (or a few variations on a theme), an ideology, that they either heartily or passively endorse. To promote or endorse any other (e.g., biblical Christianity, strong classical liberalism, Judaism) would be anathema to them. Further, more educators than would like to admit it want all children in this church, public school, so their minds and hearts can be molded therein.
Dr. Blane Després rounded out the panel. A professor from the University of British Columbia, he used systemic thinking to understand why educators resist or oppose home education. Dr. Després mentioned three types of people when it comes to changing from the status quo: "… ones who are on fire to change and who are involved in it, those who are unintentionally resistant or the 'practitioners of false clarity, … stuck but potentially responsive to unfreezing,' and the 'cryogenic' or unrepentantly recalcitrant, perhaps self-interested, sometimes exhibiting 'blanket negativity or contrariness…in others selfish laziness; in still others, malice or vengefulness.'"
One hypothesis Dr. Després posited is this: Homeschooling is a social movement resisting "… against the political dominance of the (perceived evil) culture in power [embodied in public schooling]. That culture in power is viewed as malevolent because, in practice, it seems to demonstrate preferences that are not inclusive of other cultural, ideological or political beliefs," then the status-quo public schooling resists the resistors.
What fun we had! And then the discussant/chair and audience (which was good-sized and attentive) were ready with challenging questions and comments for even more enjoyment and feisty conversation.
Be assured, research on home education and thoughtful challenges to the status-quo hegemony of state-run schooling are working their way out to the research community and public at-large. Your encouragement and support of NHERI are making a real difference. Thank you.
Brian D. Ray, Ph.D.
National Home Education Research Institutehttp://nheri2010.org/http://nheri.org/
P.S. Please feel free to send us your questions about homeschooling and we will try to answer them in upcoming messages.
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1. If Homeschooling Is So Good, Why Don't More Educators Promote It? A symposium, Session 63.048, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association (AERA), April 8-12, 2011, New Orleans, Louisiana.