The Washington Post Magazine‘s cover story this week is about … the horrors of home-schooling. Specifically, the horrors of “fundamentalist Christian” home-schooling. The cover illustration for the story depicts a sinister windowless log cabin that’s supposed to be your typical home school, I guess.
Author Lisa Grace Lednicer’s main source for the story seems to have been an anti-home-schooling activist named Sarah Hunt, age 36, who was home-schooled herself and lived to tell the tale. Actually, Hunt seems to have done quite well for herself even though home schooling at the behest of her father had consisted “largely of reading and watching videos from the Bob Jones University curriculum.”
In other words, Hunt was essentially taking college course while still in high school—what was supposed to be wrong with that? She enrolled in the University of New Mexico at age 17 (with the approval of her father—an avionics engineer, by the way—who praised her grades and encouraged her to apply for a Rhodes scholarship), went to law school at Georgetown, one of the nation’s top universities, and is now a practicing lawyer. Again, what was supposed to be wrong? Here’s what was wrong:
She straddled two worlds. There was the one she had grown up in, where she had learned that being a smart and outspoken woman was dangerous. And there was the world in which she was trying to make her way, where she was teased for her ignorance of pop culture touchstones such as “The Smurfs,” Madonna and “Mad Max.”
Gee, no Madonna. So Hunt and a home-schooled friend from Georgetown have recently formed the Center for Home Education Policy where they “do legal work for those who want to attend public school.” In other words, use the legal system to prevent parents from raising and educating their children according to their own religious views and moral standards. But remember, this is “fundamentalist Christian” home-schooling we’re talking about, and we can’t have that.
One of the tenets of Hunt’s campaign is that home-schooling breeds child abuse. She points out that her center has collected some 84 accounts of child deaths in home-schooling households over an indeterminate period dating back to at least 2011. (If you do the math, though, using figures from the federal government’s Children’s Bureau, you find out that that’s at most less than half the rate at which children die from abuse or neglect in the general U.S. population.)
Hunt’s and author Lednicer’s home-school horror-story poster child—or actually, poster adult at age 18—is Cornelia Hertzler, daughter of “fundamentalist” (that word again!) parents who didn’t believe that higher education was part of “‘God’s plan’ for her.” At some point the parents had taken away Hertzler’s laptop and cell phone, we are told. When Hunt heard all this in a phone interview with Hertzler, she pushed the panic button:
Hunt texted a lawyer she knew in Oregon. She had a checklist: The home-schooled woman … would need to collect proof of her identity, because confiscating identification was a common parental tactic. The lawyer had to be prepared. Some parents forcibly restrain their children. If Hertzler, 18, got out, she would need to get to a computer, perhaps at a library, to alert people. She would also need help finding work and housing, and eventually coaching on issues such as the SAT and financial aid, Hunt said. READ MORE