Homeschooling and Evolution

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The headline was enough to make me cringe: “Top home-school texts dismiss Darwin, evolution.”

The accompanying graphic, a line graph showing the growth of homeschooling over the last 20 years, is enough to incite yet another wave of anti-homeschooling sentiment — because really, who wouldn’t be against homeschooling if homeschooling means that over 1.5 million kids are being spoon-fed questionable science?

That, of course, is exactly what the article implies, thanks largely to an extremely short-sighted, ill-advised comment from Ian Slatter, a spokesman for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). “The majority of home-schoolers self-identify as evangelical Christians,” said Slatter. “Most home-schoolers will definitely have a sort of creationist component to their home-school program.”

Oh. Good. Gravy. For a group that claims to support homeschooling, such a comment — which will clearly turn off at least half of the general public — is pure idiocy. Are they trying to convince the American public that homeschoolers are nuts?

Note: I am not anti-evangelical Christian. I support parents’ rights to teach and instill religious values. But this Slatter guy has gone way too far.

What he doesn’t tell you is that a lot of parents homeschool because they want their children to have a broader world view. I don’t homeschool because I want to protect my children from evolution; I homeschool because I want them to question everything. I want to expose them to things they might not learn for years yet, if they were confined to a certain grade level in a certain school. I want them to have the freedom to think deeply, to make connections, to ask questions. I want to teach them how to analyze information, how to consider the source and how to come to a conclusion based on established facts. I don’t want them to believe in evolution because someone tells them it’s so, and I don’t want them to believe in creationism because someone tells them it’s true. I want them to understand the arguments and “facts” on both sides, and I want them to reach their own, reasoned conclusions. Because whether you believe in evolution or not — whether you believe in creationism or not — you darn well better understand the issues on both sides, because none of us lives in a world with one, accepted world view.

Except maybe the Home School Legal Defense Assocation, which has a long history of promoting evangelical Christian concerns at the expense of the broader homeschooling community.

I will tell you this: The HSLDA does not speak for me. And while the article would have you believe that homeschool parents are stymied, stuck in a system in which the only available textbooks are anti-evolution rants, the article overlooks the simple fact that many (most!) homeschoolers are extremely resourceful people. We haunt the library, checking out scientific books (even — gasp!– The Origin of the Species) and movies. We visit science museums and consult with friends, neighbors and associates who work in scientific fields. We read newspapers — and let our children read along. We surf the ‘Net. We watch the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet. We attend scientific lectures and sign our children up for hands-on, experimental science classes. We experiment and play. We arrange mentorships for our older children and enroll them in community college when they want a more formal educational experience. We are NOT restricted to a couple of questionable texts, just because they’re the top-selling homeschool texts.

Call us the silent majority. We focus on our families while the Associated Press and HSLDA incite homeschooling hysteria.

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