In an MSNBC opinion column Friday, columnist Anthea Butler warned about homeschooling being a “project” of evangelicals’ “war against public schools,” one that also has “inidious” racist roots.
Butler began her piece by mentioning actor Kirk Cameron’s documentary “The Homeschool Awakening” and how it shows that staunch conservatives are planning to launch an assault against public schools.
“’Public education has become public enemy No. 1,’ the actor Kirk Cameron opines in a promotion for ‘The Homeschool Awakening,’ his documentary scheduled to hit theaters in June,” she stated, adding, “as Cameron’s quote indicates, this latest project of conservative evangelical education is another salvo in the ongoing evangelical war against public schools.”
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“It should come as no surprise that evangelicals, fundamentalists and other religious conservatives have fought against public education since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education,” Butler continued, framing this far-right, Christian “war” against public schools in a racial light.
She asserted, “The prospect of integrated schools led to the creation of many ‘segregation academies,’ private schools designed to keep African American children and undesirable immigrant groups away from white children. But there was another, more insidious way to circumvent integration: homeschooling.”
Butler linked these supposed racist roots to the modern era of homeschooling by way of a 1960s homeschooling pioneer, claiming, “One of the main purveyors of homeschooling was a fundamentalist, Rousas Rushdoony, whose work beginning in the 1960s in establishing Christian day schools grew into the homeschooling movement.”
In addition to being part of this early “insidious way to circumvent integration,” she added that Rushdoony “saw homeschooling as a way to cut the government out of educating Christian children and to prepare them to take their place in a theocratic government.”
She wrote, “Crazy or not, homeschooling materials inspired by Rushdoony’s theology are on sale today to parents who homeschool in America, and many of those materials reached parents during the pandemic.”
Butler then referred back to Cameron, asserting, “Cameron’s documentary promoting homeschooling is not an aberration; it is part of a larger project about dismantling the public education system in the United States.”
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“This dismantling has taken shape over the years in various ways: in segregation academies, in school vouchers, in attempts to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education,” she said.
“Cameron’s documentary furthers the long-term goal of America’s religious conservatives to dismantle the public school system by promoting homeschooling,” she added, and also mentioned that homeschooling did expand during the pandemic “among parents who wanted to make sure their children kept up academically and avoided the coronavirus.”
Butler pointed out that indeed people “are now finding homeschooling as an attractive alternative” including “Black parents and other diverse groups.” Though, “some parents have expressed frustration with conservative Christian materials for homeschooling, which drive the current marketplace.”
Butler concluded her piece acknowledging that homeschooling has a “greater appeal now” but that people need to watch out about getting roped into “Christian conservative networks.”
“Homeschooling may have greater appeal now … but parents unfamiliar with the existing networks of homeschooling run the danger of being drawn into Christian conservative networks and theocratic teaching,” she warned, and added that homeschool supporters like Cameron might destroy public school altogether.
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“Cameron’s [sic] says that people choosing homeschooling are having an awakening, but the public needs to awaken to the reality that public schools may disappear if people with his extreme beliefs have their way,” she claimed.