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Should parents have complete control over home schooling?

Josh Powell is a 21-year-old Georgetown University student who grew up in rural Virginia with 11 siblings. Powell’s parents decided to home-school all their children for religious reasons.

“I think it’s important that parents have a role in instilling in their children a world view that does not exclude God,” said Powell’s father, Clarence Powell, in a Washington Post article published Monday. “It’s a sacred honor to be able to home-educate your children and instill in them values in a way that’s consistent with your faith.”

Yet Josh Powell asserts his home schooling yielded an inferior education, and so he wants his younger siblings to have the option of attending public school. Susan Svrluga’s feature-length Washington Post piece reported how, because of a unique law on the books in Virginia, there’s really no objective criteria to substantiate or refute Powell’s claims.

“Powell was taught at home, his parents using a religious exemption that allows families to entirely opt out of public education, a Virginia law that is unlike any other in the country,” Svrluga wrote. “That means that not only are their children excused from attending school — as those educated under the state’s home-school statute are — but they also are exempt from all government oversight. School officials don’t ever ask them for transcripts, test scores or proof of education of any kind: Parents have total control.”

On the U.S. Catholic website, managing editor Scott Alessi penned a blog post Tuesday that concluded some form of government oversight over home schooling doesn’t necessarily infringe on the right of families to home-school their children for religious reasons.

“There (is) a case to be made for parents who wish to home-school their children,” Alessi wrote. “Sometimes local public schools are themselves doing a poor job of educating students. Some parents feel that public schools will contradict the religious values they are attempting to teach their kids. … Still, it seems that should be some oversight to prevent children from falling through the cracks. Parents should have a right to raise their children any way they wish, but when they are failing to provide even the most basic elementary skills and knowledge they are depriving their kids of a chance to succeed in life.”

In 2009, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that 1.5 million students were home-schooled during the 2006-07 school year. “The most common reason parents gave as the most important (for home schooling) was a desire to provide religious or moral instruction (36 percent of students).”


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