Common Ground at Last? One Thing Conservatives and Liberals Agree On (and Shouldn’t)
For the past few days I’ve been struggling to make sense of the results from a new survey about homeschooling, and have been debating about whether to write about it. Normally I’m pretty conflict-averse – I’m not one of those who enjoys debating or stirring things up too much; finding common ground and making peace is more my thing. Today I’m feeling a little more feisty than usual, though – maybe because of the change in weather, maybe because I’ve been sleeping really well lately. I don’t know. But whatever the reason, I’ve decided to throw it out there and see what happens…
The survey I mentioned above was conducted and published by The Spectrem Group’s “Millionaire Corner”. In their research they asked affluent families, both conservative and liberal, about whether they approve of homeschooling. The report doesn’t provide much information about their methodology (e.g. how many households were surveyed/participated, geographic distribution, wealth profiles of respondents, reasons given for disapproval), so I was actually left with quite a few questions, but it did offer some interesting findings:
- 56% of affluent households (conservative and liberal) do not approve of homeschooling.
- 71% of liberal affluent household do not approve of homeschooling (vs. 60% of conservative affluent households).
- Affluent GenX parents were the only ones likely to approve of homeschooling, with a 53% approval rating.
More affluent liberal households are opposed to homeschooling than conservative ones? This comes as a huge surprise to me, and this is what I’ve been struggling to understand, because homeschooling came about during the 1960s as part of the anti-establishment movement. What’s more, almost all of the homeschooling families I know are liberally-oriented, valuing individual choice and natural rights. I can only speculate about the reasons for the respondents’ opinions, though, since the survey results don’t provide any details. So, let the speculating begin…
After the anti-establishment liberals fought for their rights to educate their kids at home in the 1960s and 70s (supported by such notable researchers and authors as Paul Goodman and John Holt), religious families became the real drivers in the homeschooling movement over the next few decades, motivated by the desire to base their children’s education on religious doctrine. So, the idea that homeschoolers are bible-thumping extremists persists, even though there is a large (and quickly growing) secular population. Since liberal families are generally less likely to identify as “strongly religious”, maybe the association between religion and homeschooling is one of the reasons for their disapproval. If this is the case, they must not have seen that the Department of Education reports that more families cite “concern about the school environment” as their primary reason for homeschooling now than “religion”.
Maybe the “affluent” variable comes into play here. Do wealthy liberal families think it’s immoral to take advantage of the increased educational options their money can buy? The idea that homeschooling is only an option for “rich” families is a myth – many liberal (and conservative) families that choose to educate their children at home are middle class at best. In fact, quite a few homeschooling families are two income households (usually with one parent working from home or working part-time), and some are even single-parent families. They’ve figured out ways to make changes in their lifestyles and schedules, which sometimes include sacrifices (I’m not saying it’s always easy), because they see the benefits that come from this choice.
Maybe liberal families believe they need to change and improve the educational system from the inside out. For those who believe that continuing to engage in the existing system is a civic duty, I get it. I used to feel the same way, and worked hard to do this by volunteering in my kids’ classrooms and contributing even more time to school-wide projects. Here’s the problem, though: The changes we need to make in the system include huge, fundamental shifts that are going to take some time, and my kids didn’t have that kind of time – they’re growing up right now, and if I don’t ensure the quality of their education, who benefits from that?
So, what do you think? Are these the issues that continue to form the opposition to home schooling? Are there others? I’d love to hear from homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers alike, and maybe we can find some common ground truly worth sharing.