Harvard Magazine published a truly awful article this past week in which Elizabeth Bartholet, a Harvard Law School professor and the director of its Child Advocacy Program, comes out strongly against homeschooling. Bartholet’s interview is a smorgasbord of selective outrage and red herrings. She points to isolated instances of neglect by homeschooling parents (mentioning exactly one example) but conveniently ignores shocking evidence of widespread sexual abuse and physical violence in America’s public schools (1.1 million serious incidents, according to a 2016 report originally published under then-President Barack Obama’s administration).
Bartholet also ignores the reams of evidence demonstrating that homeschooled children do better academically, socially and professionally than their public-schooled peers.
The piece has received well-deserved criticism from press outlets including Forbes, The Christian Post, National Review and the Daily Mail. In the Washington Examiner this week, columnist Tim Carney ripped apart Bartholet’s specious arguments and concluded by saying, “you need to worry about these people,” and “These people have a dangerous agenda.”
He’s right. But I would go further. The attack on homeschooling must be seen as part of a larger effort to silence conservatives and marginalize their impact in this country.
If people like Elizabeth Bartholet are successful in criminalizing homeschooling, they won’t stop there. They’ll move on to people who send their children to public school and who nevertheless impart values with which she and her cadre of statists and secular humanists don't agree. The next step would be further interference with -- and even termination of -- parental rights.
This is not extreme, and it isn't hysteria.
There is plenty of precedent. Take abortion, for example. According to the Planned Parenthood website, which provides state-by-state information on abortion access, 12 states and the District of Columbia do not require that parents or any legal guardian be notified before a minor child can obtain an abortion.
Washington is among them. In 2010, a 15-year-old student at Ballard High School in Seattle was given an exit pass by school administrators, who procured a taxi for her to go to an abortion clinic and have an abortion without her parents’ knowledge or consent. When the girl’s mother found out, she was outraged. It’s “always best if parents are involved in their children's health care, but they don't always have a say,” King County Health Department representative said in a statement. “At any age in the state of Washington, an individual can consent to a termination of pregnancy."
Even in the other 38 states that require parental or guardian notification, the minor can obtain a “judicial bypass.” In theory, anyone can take a minor child before a judge to obtain such a bypass, permitting the minor to obtain an abortion without parental knowledge, or over parents’ objection.
Such laws have been on the books for decades. But the attacks on parental rights in the transgender advocacy movement are much more recent and even more insidious.
While advocates and activists argue strongly for preserving the parental rights of parents who are transgender, they are just as emphatically engaged in opposing the rights of parents whose children claim to be transgender.
Across the United States (and Canada and Europe), cases are being brought in which parental rights are sought out to be terminated because the parents do not “affirm” their minor child’s assertion that he or she is a different gender than his or her biological sex. Refusal to do so is argued to be abuse. These arguments are making their way into divorce and child custody cases as well -- the case of James Younger in Texas is an infamous example -- with transgender activists claiming that the parent who opposes “social transitioning,” the administration of “puberty blockers” or surgical mutilation should be denied custody, all in the name of the child’s “rights.”
Efforts to determine whether gender-dysphoric children are suffering from other medical, psychological or emotional issues -- like depression, anxiety, Asperger’s or other autism spectrum disorders -- are de minimis or nonexistent. Many adults who have “detransitioned” from their earlier transgender identities are speaking out about this with anger and regret. Medical professionals themselves express concerns that too many children are being diagnosed, medicated and/or surgically altered. They express these concerns in secret, fearing that the inevitable accusations of being “transphobic” will destroy their career.
The same dynamic is playing out in the social sciences. Brown University assistant professor Dr. Lisa Littman published a peer-reviewed scholarly article about “rapid onset gender dysphoria," exploring the phenomenon of teens identifying as “trans” who had expressed no such gender identification issues earlier in their lives. Predictably, the mob descended with their cries of “transphobia.” Brown University withdrew the article with an apology and then republished it without substantive changes.
The larger point is this: Disagreement will not be tolerated, and persuasion will not be permitted. Hardcore leftists will not be satisfied until those on the right -- or anyone who pokes holes in the prevailing narrative, for that matter -- are silenced, personally and politically.
Personally, they are trying to stop the spread of conservative viewpoints by inserting themselves into the relationship between parents and children in the name of “children’s rights.”
Efforts to silence conservatives in the political realm are a topic for another column. Suffice it to say that they include vote fraud (through tactics like ballot harvesting and the elimination of all photo ID requirements); calls to abolish the Electoral College and equal representation in the U.S. Senate (undermining the voices and votes of citizens in rural states); and packing the U.S. Supreme Court with activists, in case it becomes necessary to do by judicial fiat what the left cannot obtain through the legislative process.
This is a dangerous agenda indeed. And the time to fight it is now.