All Commentary
Friday, December 3, 2021 Leer en Español

Harvard Prof’s Strange Claims about Homeschoolers Debunked—by Harvard’s Own Research

Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet has been a major opponent of homeschool education in recent years. But do her claims withstand scrutiny?

Image Credit: YouTube

Harvard Law School Professor Elizabeth Bartholet has been a major opponent of homeschool education in recent years. In an interview with the Harvard Gazette last year, Bartholet outlandishly claimed that homeschooling is a threat to our children’s well-being and should be banned. Among other things, she asserted that homeschoolers are “socially awkward” and “in danger of maltreatment.” As a recent homeschooling graduate who is currently studying business at Northwood University, I feel it my duty to provide a rebuttal of Bartholet’s allegations.

In an 80-page article published in the Arizona Law Review, Bartholet portrays homeschooling parents as tyrants who deliberately remove their children from society in order to do with them as they please. She argues that government needs to regulate or even outright ban homeschooling so it can keep regular tabs on children’s family life.

Interestingly, throughout both the interview with the Harvard Gazette and the article in the Arizona Law Review, Bartholet offers no relevant statistical evidence to support her conclusions. Vague adjectives such as “many” and “most” dominate the places in her arguments that should include numerical values and percentages. For instance, she states that “many homeschooling graduates…maintain blogs giving voice to their own and other homeschooler’s concerns” and “many homeschooling parents are extreme ideologues.” Surely someone as highly educated as an Ivy League university professor understands the importance of citing scholarly studies to reinforce their claims. In my opinion, Bartholet’s lack thereof is suggestive of her failure to find any supporting evidence.

Beyond giving vague and irrelevant arguments, Bartholet also makes allegations that are simply untrue. In the interview with the Harvard Gazette, for example, she states that we have “zero evidence that, on average, homeschoolers are doing well.” The truth is we do have evidence that homeschooled students are doing just as well as their peers, even showing a slight advantage.

Two of Bartholet’s colleagues at Harvard, Brendan Case and Ying Chen, released a study this year that examined the success of homeschool students. These scholars presented findings that are very different from Bartholet’s claims. Their results showed not only are homeschooled students on a higher level than other students academically, on average, but they also seem to have a 30 percent advantage over their peers in terms of social and financial success. With more than 12,000 students participating in an 11-year study, Case and Chen present much more statistical evidence than Bartholet.

A 2009 study highlighted by Business Insider found similar results, showing that 69 percent of homeschoolers finish college while only 59 percent of public schooled students do so. Clearly, the stereotypes Professor Bartholet pushes on homeschooled students like me is false and grossly unfair. We are not socially awkward nor ignorant in any way. The skills needed for our non-traditional learning actually enhance our social aptitude and entrepreneurial spirit. Far from being abusive, our family life is a very important and positive aspect of our upbringing that we carry with us throughout our lives.

For these reasons, it is not surprising that studies are putting us at the top of our generation in terms of achievement. Recently, institutions of higher education have come to this realization. At this point many colleges and universities across the nation (including Harvard) have begun strategic enrollment of homeschoolers.

Unjust allegations have been and will continue to be brought against homeschoolers, but they cannot speak as loud as the evidence. As more and more homeschoolers continue to display our abilities both in higher education and the real world, the data in our favor will continue to be overwhelming. I will always be proud of my education, and forever thankful to my family for making it possible.

  • Andrew Reder graduated from a homeschooling high school education in the spring of 2021. He is now a junior honors student at Northwood University where he serves as a peer tutor for the Timberwolf Learning Center and is the founding editor of Students In Defense of Freedom.