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Sure, there is the occasional crossing of church-state lines in U.S. public schools, usually by individual teachers insufficiently enamored (or aware) of the separation principle. And there are some more serious issues at times like the Texas science curriculum fracas. But school administrations are generally so keen to avoid church-state dustups that they often overcorrect. And if they fail to act, the courts, more often than not, do the right thing. Not a perfect system by any means, but one stacked in the long run in favor of sensible separation.
Now once you step outside of that protection — into homeschooling, for example — all bets are off. It’s a majority-rules, market-driven world out there. And since the majority of homeschooling parents by most counts are homeschooling to provide a religious framework and to avoid what they see as the “aggressively secular education” of the public schools, the providers of nearly all things homeschool frequently cater to that point of view.
This can make matters tough for secular homeschoolers. Homeschoolers of Maine (HOME) is having a convention in March in which vendors display curricula for homeschooling parents. If you are a homeschool curriculum provider, you have just two more days to reserve your space, so act now!
Oh, but first you’ll want to read this, from the Regulations for Exhibitors:
HOME does not require that exhibitors and/or advertisers subscribe to our Statement of Faith, but HOME does require that the exhibitors and/or advertisers do not promote any materials that might include stories or art work containing witches, ghosts, dragons, or other occult materials; “Values Clarification” curriculum; multicultural curriculum (the ideas of valuing all lifestyles and religions as equal to the biblical view); fantasy role-playing games or curriculum; or any materials that portray the Bible as merely mythological, or Christianity as untrue or as one among many religions…Vendors who refuse to remove items deemed inappropriate by HOME will be asked to leave without refund.
Let’s be clear: HOME is a Christian homeschool organization, and they have every right to set such guidelines. But the apparent challenge for secular homeschoolers is that homeschool support organizations, whether religiously-based themselves or not, often pitch their products and services in this same way, aiming for that fearful, narrow majority. It’s similar to the effect Texas has on the national textbook market and similarly driven more by dollars on the corporate level than by ideology.
Now that we’ve affirmed HOME’s right to set their own rules, a few observations for fun:
In banning the mention of ghosts, witches, and dragons, HOME helps protect kids not only from such rot as Hamlet, Macbeth, and the Odyssey, but from The Chronicles of Narnia — and at least one other book of note.
Aside from that, I do applaud their efforts to stem the rampant tide of values clarification among kids today. And thank goodness they’re quashing the urban legend that other religions exist.
[Hat tip to my homeschooling mole.]
ADDED: Stats from the Nat’l Center for Education Statistics regarding the most commonly-cited reasons for homeschooling in the US: “Parents’ concern about the environment of other schools (85%); “To provide religious or moral instruction” (72%); “Dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools” (68%). Hat tip to Melanie K!
ADDED: Be sure to check out the secular homeschooling Q&A by Amy Page in Raising Freethinkers (pp. 217-19), as well as the list of groups and resources (229-30). See also links in the blog sidebar.