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  • VOLOKH ON HOMESCHOOLING Eugene

    Filed at 7:48 am under by dcobranchi

    VOLOKH ON HOMESCHOOLING Eugene Volokh has responded to the critics of his earlier HS comments. I am still opposed to mandatory testing for HSers. Aside from the fundamental rights question on which Prof. Volokh and I disagree, there are at least three practical considerations that make this proposal illogical and unworkable.

    1) Why single out HSers for testing? Private schooled students are not required to pass any particular test and the imposition of testing requirements on religious schools raises all sorts of 1st Amendment questions.

    2) Prof. Volokh lightly dismisses the scope & sequence question:

    How, some people ask, can you decide exactly what the tests should say? Wouldn’t any potential design be in some measure arbitrary? Sure. But there are all sorts of tough judgment calls that have to be made where laws relating to treatment of children are involved. How much physical discipline is too much? When does a diet become neglect? When are parents at fault for failing to provide proper medical treatment to their kids, and when is their action a reasonable decision? Tough questions, and often call for some pretty arbitrary line-drawing — and, what’s more, for line-drawing that is a lot vaguer than a test, and that may yield to much greater penalties for the parents (criminal charges as opposed to just an insistence that the parents send the child to an accredited school). Some such judgment calls are inevitable whenever the community chooses to in some measure limit parents’ otherwise absolute power over their children, as I think it in some measure must. (Of course, one important proviso is that the mandated standards be relatively low floors, with lots of flexibility given to parents in most cases — I surely don’t think the test passage thresholds should be tremendously demanding.)

    It’s not quite that simple. Let’s take U.S. history as an example. This year’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 4th grade U.S. history section included questions from the colonial period up to the “I Have a Dream” speech. Public school teachers (and text book publishers) know this, of course, and include the material in their books and lessons. We HSers may do things a bit differently. [WARNING: Personal anedote ahead.] My wife and I have chosen to go into significantly more detail with our (then) 4th-grader. It will take us three years to get through the same material. If my son had been mandated to take a test at the end of last year, he wouldn’t have performed particularly well on that part. So, what is a HSing family to do? Continue to teach their kids the way they think is best and face retribution from the state or change their scope & sequence to match the test. Either way, HSers would lose their freedom.

    3) These tests are a burden and a tax imposed on parents. Test preparation takes time and money. Most if not all states requiring testing do not pay for the tests but make the parents pay. HSers pay property taxes and other taxes that go to support the public schools. We then choose not to use them, thus saving other taxpayers money. We gladly pay for all of our educational materials without support from the state. Enough is enough; don’t tax us to test us!

    As Prof. Volokh points out, HSers who CHOOSE to be tested do extremely well (as a group). The experiment is over; HSing works. Mandated testing serves no useful purpose and unnecessarily burdens law-abiding Americans.

    UPDATE: Skip Oliva again took Prof. Volokh apart piece by piece. (And yes, cynical reader, Skip kindly linked back to us here but that had NOTHING to do with my update. Honest!).

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