John Stossel is the woo-loving moronic co-host of the formerly not too bad but these days totally sucky tv “news” show 20-20.

It turns out Stossel is a libertarian home schooling supporter and reality denialist

Now, I should tell you that I am not against home schooling in principle. But I have come to believe that most home schooling setups involve either scary right wing fundamentalism or yahoo-istic libertarian political masterbation at the expense of the kids. But who cares what I think. What does John Stossel think?

The cat is finally out of the bag. A California appellate court, ruling that parents have no constitutional right to home-school their children, pinned its decision on this ominous quotation from a 47-year-old case, “A primary purpose of the educational system is to train schoolchildren in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.”

There you have it; a primary purpose of government schools is to train schoolchildren “in loyalty to the state.” Somehow that protects “the public welfare” more than allowing parents to home-school their children,…

Justice H. Walter Croskey said, “California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to home-school their children.”

If that is the law in California, then Charles Dickens’ Mr. Bumble is right: “the law is an idiot.” …

The danger in having the Legislature clarify the law is that the Legislature is controlled by politicians sympathetic to the teachers’ union, which despises home-schooling. “Home-schoolers fear that any attempt to protect home-schooling would end up outlawing it,” writes Orange County Register columnist Steven Greenhut.

It reminds me of what New York Judge Gideon Tucker said in the 19th century, “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Legislature is in session.” …

There is more, but that gives you the flavor of Sotssel’s libertarian-think. If you must, the rest is here.


  1. #1 Becca
    April 10, 2008

    Ok, you’re welcome to dislike him, after reading his whole article, I think I’m on board there.

    But for someone who’s “greatest habitual annoyance is the presumption so many people make that everyone else is religious, or “at least spiritual,” and that all others are somehow abnormal”….
    for someone who derides “woo”…

    you sure do love your non-evidence based belief in the idea that homeschoolers all tend toward scary right wing fundamentalism or yahoo-istic libertarian political masterbation at the expense of the kids. Show me the data!!

  2. #2 FromTennessee
    April 10, 2008

    In Tennessee, we have one more variety that I see from work in the Juvenile Court system. Kids with behavior problems that the parent’s can’t or won’t control. Religion or lack thereof is not a factor. To avoid all of the hassles with the public school authorities, the parents claim to be homeschooling. They register and buy a curriculum, but they do no school work and leave the older kids home unattended during school hours. Due to holes in the monitoring system, they slide by until kids pass mandatory school age.

  3. #3 the real cmf
    April 10, 2008

    “non-evidence based belief in the idea that homeschoolers all tend toward scary right wing fundamentalism or yahoo-istic libertarian political masterbation”

    At this point in the game, looking for that ‘data’ is like looking for child abuse data in the heyday of Freud…but there IS a trend towards data, even if it comes from th homeschooolers themselves:

    Of course, the government can’t ask about that ol’ rligion per se, but the data is coming in via the census as well.

  4. #4 Orac
    April 10, 2008

    “Woo-loving”? Say what you will about Stossel, but “woo-loving” is not the word that comes to mind; Stossel usually debunks woo. The problem is, he also moves into Michael Fumento and Steve Milloy right wing territory in doing it. That’s not woo; that’s denialism.

  5. #5 Colugo
    April 10, 2008

    There are always counterexamples.

    Jedediah Purdy, born in 1974, homeschooled until age 13, associate professor of Law at Duke, affiliated scholar at Center for American Progress, contributing editor at American Prospect.

  6. #6 the real cmf
    April 10, 2008

    Becca: you guys almost smugly( maybe the word is smarmily…?) always gripe ‘Show me the data!!” but provide very little else. It seems as if some of you you are obstinately using your kids as some kind of leverage *against* data, or insight into the inner workings of the HS.

    In addition to the above ( and I am sure you can find other data referenced herein on this blog) there is that ol’ NCES data ” the parents’ desire to provide religious or moral instruction to their child (30%).”
    quoted here:

  7. #7 the real cmf
    April 10, 2008

    Then there is that old roadblock to education HSLDA: “most observers acknowledge
    that conservative Christians constitute
    the largest subset of homeschoolers.
    The most prominent and politically active
    national homeschool advocacy group, the
    Home School Legal Defense Association
    (HSLDA), describes itself as a Christian
    organization and estimates that conservative
    Christians comprise as much as 70
    percent of the nationwide homeschool

  8. #8 Jim Lippard
    April 10, 2008

    David Friedman (an atheist advocate of “unschooling”) made reference last year to a survey of homeschooling parents that found that about 2/3 of them reported “to provide religious or moral instruction” as a reason for homeschooling. Just under 1/3 gave it as the most important reason.

  9. #9 Becca
    April 11, 2008

    @the real cmf- With respect to Mr. Kunzman (whoever he may be), saying “Most observers” does not constitute providing data. I also can’t find anything like a 70% conservative Christian homeschooler figure on the HSLDA website. Do you have any more information?

    The reason I ask for data is that I only have my personal experience to go off of… and I realize my experience has not been with a random cross-section of homeschoolers.

    The reason I don’t particularly want to legislate the inner workings of homeschools, is that I’m reasonably sure my own education would have come up short by most people’s standards.
    Did I spend the same 6 hours a day/180 days a year at a desk that public school kids had to? No! Did I spend even 1 hour a day doing assignments? No! Did I work through the same curriculum as my peers? No!

    If you saw how little writing I did, you’d be appalled (though maybe not suprised, given the rambling nature of this post).
    If you saw the fights my Dad and I had over math, you’d probably instantly conclude that
    1) I was far too bright a kid to be so poorly educated
    2) my father wasn’t a very competent disciplinarian (i.e., I was a spoiled brat)
    3) I would be lucky to be able to balance my checkbook as an adult.
    If you’d seen my 10 year old self- I think you just wouldn’t have been able to envision me turning out a highly educated, statistics-loving biochemist, who happens to have a close, loving, and mutually respectful relationship with her father (which is more important than the other part anyway).

    I quit school halfway through fifth grade. I wanted to be an artist. My Dad let me paint to my hearts content. Then I wanted to be a scientist. My Dad tried to find me as many science-related activities as possible… but he warned me I’d have to do a lot of schooling. Through the help of a contact of one of our homeschooling friends, we got me enrolled part time in the local community college. They had to bend the rules since I was 14 years old.

    I am now 24 and in my fourth year of a PhD program.
    The way I think of it (and I’m an idealist, I know), I’m not an abberation. There is a Picaso quote along the lines of ‘all children are born artists, the trouble is to remain artists when we grow-up’… All children are born learners, but bad schooling can destroy the innate joy in learning, the ‘pleasure in finding things out’… Homeschooling is one important option (among many) in finding a learning environment that is right for a particular person.

  10. #10 Larry Osterman
    April 11, 2008

    My daughter’s currently being homeschooled in coordination with our local school district (which provides excellent resources for parents of homeschool kids).

    My experience with the homeschool community is that a fair percentage of them are homeschooled for religious reasons (one of my wife’s friends homeschooled her kids because she wanted to keep them out of “government schools”). But many of them are homeschooled because the mainstream classes simply can’t provide for the needs of the student – the student may have behavioral issues, or require more 1-on-1 attention than a public education teacher can provide. Some of the kids are involved in extra-curricular activities (sports, etc) where they need a more flexible schedule to allow them to achieve their personal goals.

    In no circumstances have I ever run into parents who were homeschooling their kids as a way of avoiding the responsibility of parenting, far from it, these are highly involved and dedicated parents who care deeply about their kids.

    It is a mistake to dismiss homeschoolers as a nutty religious kooks, in my experience, that is an overly broad (and unfair) generalization. Is IS possible to have a high quality homeschool experience, especially if the parents are dedicated to ensuring that their kids succeed (and the parent’s I’ve dealt with absolutely fall into that category).

  11. #11 Ahcuah
    April 11, 2008

    If I may, I’d like to address, not the homeschooling part of this, but the legal crap put forth. This will look at the interplay between statute and constitution.

    What was really at issue here was that California has a statute that says that those who teach students must be certified. Of course, the “proper” way to deal with homeschooling is for the legislature to simply change that statute to remove the requirement for certification (and, in my opinion, add new provisions to make sure that homeschooled children are adequately prepared in an appropriate range of subjects).

    The court appropriately ruled that homeschoolers were not following the statute.

    The next level of the law, though, is the California Constitution, and that is where the homeschoolers pursued it further (and that is why you always see this framed as “parents do not have a constitutional right to home-school their children,” which I see as a fundamentally dishonest misstatement of the issue). The homeschoolers (usually part of the crowd that screams bloody murder at the discovery of a “new” right and denigrates judges as “activist”) were looking for the court to find a new right, namely, the right to homeschool.

    First, there is a generally recognized constitutional right to pretty much raise your own children as you see fit. But that right is subject to conditions, such as no abuse, and mandatory education, vaccinations, etc.. Thus, it was already well-settled that compulsory education did not violate that right. The issue here was whether that right included a specific right to homeschool that would overturn the specific terms of the statute. The court said “no”, which on its face is really not too unreasonable. The people like Stossel, who go off on this, are totally misunderstanding (I’d almost say deliberately misunderstanding) the issue just so that they can fell horribly outraged. And, yet again, these are same people who scream “activist” at every opportunity.

    On the other hand, the ability of the state to direct the education of children is strongly established, so considering a right to homeschool as a fundamental right that effectively removes any standards on the education (which is what overturning the statute would do) just does not make much legal sense.

    The proper way to address this whole thing, once again, is for the California legislature to re-write the statute to allow homeschooling, and at the same time to make sure that there are adequate standards to ensure a proper education of the children.

    I should add that Ohio, where I live, does so.

  12. #12 Jim RL
    April 11, 2008

    I don’t get why people are so up in arms over this. There certainly isn’t a constitutional right to home school your children. The state and federal government has have right to regulate on the issue. The law is not “an idiot” for not including a constitutional right to home school your children.

    Greg, I know a lot of people have said it, but a lot of University faculty home school their children, and it’s not because they are loonies of any sort. It’s because they feel they legitimately can give a better education than the schools in their area.

    I am in favor of regulating for home school children to meet educational standards. I think a lot of people do home school to keep their children ignorant of ideas and beliefs they find dangerous. At the same time, I don’t want to stop good home schooling that is at or above the level found in schools.

  13. #13 Rev Matt
    April 11, 2008

    The problem with citing people who were homeschooled in the 60’s or 70’s as proof that most homeschooling is not either right wing religious zealotry or libertarian posturing is that you’re talking about the people who were doing it 30 or 40 years ago, not the people doing it today. In the past ten years the only people I’ve known who were homeschooling for reasons other than religious eventually admitted that it actually was for religious reasons once they decided I wasn’t going to argue with them about it when they admitted it.

    And I’ve overheard plenty of discussions in cubicles around me at various jobs of strategies for homeschooling and discussing homeschooling without acknowledging that the reasons for homeschooling were religious. So at least a subset of the religious homeschoolers are actively trying to hide their reasons for doing it. Which leads me to believe that they know what they are doing is wrong and probably bad for their kids.

  14. #14 the real cmf
    April 11, 2008

    Rev Matt: “problem with citing people who were homeschooled in the 60’s or 70’s as proof that most homeschooling is not either right wing religious zealotry or libertarian posturing”

    That just isn’t true. The hippie whacko community I referenced above is alive and well in almost every state I have been to, and the particularly virulent feminist strain of strangeness with children that demands they keep their children out oif society ( lest society find that maternal incest is indeed a reality)is also quite alive–particularly in California and its ‘progressive’ kin states; Wisconsin, and one particular whck job from Florida who used to participate in this discussion as well.

    After Koresh, and others like Philadelphias “MOVE” community were obliterated by government initiated firebombing, many of the fringe ‘homeschoolers’ went back into the woodwork, but the leftern versions of that are quite alive still.

  15. #15 Tom
    April 11, 2008

    The law in California does not require certification of private school teachers. It is not okay for a parent, presumed incompetent by lack of credential, to teach his own children — but it is fine with the state for that same parent to PAY someone else, equally presumed incompetent by lack of credential, to teach not only his children but a class full of others? In this sense, yes, the law is an idiot.

    Second, test results bear out the assertion that lack of certification is not a barrier to effective teaching. Why do homeschool students outscore their public school counterparts?

    If the goal of regulation is to maximize student achievement, one would think the correct course of action would be to require the public schools to adopt homeschool techniques, rather than the reverse.

  16. #16 unicow
    April 11, 2008

    The case in question deals with a family with a serious history of child abuse and neglect, and a total whackjob father who gave reasons for homeschooling such as “he won’t allow the pro-homosexual, pro-bisexual, pro-transgender agenda of California’s public schools … to indoctrinate his children” and that he doesn’t want the children exposed to “snitches” (see

    Perhaps this goes without saying, but it was also horribly substandard education.

    The fact of the matter is that there is no explicit “right to homeschool.” I’m glad for that, at least in this case. If there were, this poor kid would be stuck in a totally horrifying situation.

  17. #17 unicow
    April 11, 2008

    What’s more, Stossel says:

    The court finds no constitutional right to home-school one’s children. But in a free country, people are free to do anything not expressly prohibited by law. If the Constitution is silent about home-schooling, then the right is reserved to the people.

    This is idiotic. Having the right to do something is not the same as something not being illegal. If there’s no law against leaving flaming bags of dog poo on John Stossel’s doorstep, that doesn’t mean I have the right to leave flaming bags of dog poo on John Stossel’s doorstep.

    But the Constitution is silent about it…

    Time to walk the dog!

  18. #18 Ahcuah
    April 11, 2008

    Tom wrote:

    The law in California does not require certification of private school teachers.

    This is correct. As the judges in the decision put it:

    It is clear to us that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that private school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught, or (3) one of the other few statutory exemptions to compulsory public school attendance (Ed. Code, � 48220 et seq.) applies to the child.

    So, as Tom puts it, the law is an ass, because the legislature wrote an illogical law (so what else is new?). However, that doesn’t mean that it rises to a constitutional violation, or the requirement of recognizing a new constitutional right to homeschool. As I said before, the correct remedy is for the legislature to fix the darned law.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    April 11, 2008

    Orac: I think your analysis of Stossel is exactly correct.

    Lippard: David Friedman (an atheist advocate of “unschooling”) made reference last year to a survey of homeschooling parents that found that about 2/3 of them reported “to provide religious or moral instruction” as a reason for homeschooling. Just under 1/3 gave it as the most important reason.

    What I have noticed is that older data seems to show very high percentages of home schooling for religious reasons, and this number drops (to numbers such as you cite) very suddenly. Religious reasons go from the main reason to being on the list but not the main reason.

    In my opinion, this is most likely a change in rhetoric among home schooling fundies to make the whole think look less like they are a bunch of home schooling fundies.

  20. #20 Spike
    April 12, 2008

    You really think Stossel is a libertarian? So much for rational, evidence-based reasoning from science people.

    All the atheists I know homeschool our kids because the government schools in my area have been overrun with creationists and we don’t have enough money, numbers or time to run a legal campaign against them.

    We’ve sorted out who has the best ability to teach which subjects and gather for classes taught more in the way Thomas Jefferson would have recognized than would anyone educated by modern American school pedagogy.

    So far, we’re three for three for our teenagers getting into the colleges they want with some scholarship money.

    Your results may vary.

  21. #21 Elizabeth
    April 12, 2008

    Spike … for some reason I do not quite believe a word you are saying.

  22. #22 Stephanie Z
    April 12, 2008

    Elizabeth, I think your reaction has to do with the improbable economics. They can afford the time to home school but can’t contact the ACLU about a lawsuit? I’m not buying it either, not without supporting detail.

  23. #23 the real cmf
    April 13, 2008

    Spike: “All the atheists I know homeschool our kids because the government schools in my area have been overrun with creationists and we don’t have enough money, numbers or time to run a legal campaign against them.”

    It sounds reasonable to me from a laypersons perspective–parents of several likely don’t have the time to do all that, as working with government can be intimidating, time consuming,etc: Spike, some are questioning your truthfullness–>could you elaborate on where you live,what battles are or have been in progress etc.?

  24. #24 Cherish
    April 16, 2008

    Becca, if you feel so inclined, could you stop by my blog and drop me an email (you can from the profile page). I’d like to chat with you.

  25. #25 the real cmf
    April 16, 2008

    Becca: I didn’t say there were 70% Fundies HSing. I said 30%, and 33% now, which can be found here:

    So i don’t know where you got that 70% info: I never said it.

    But HSLDA is definitely a Christian Fundie Org.
    From their website:

    “4. Is HSLDA a Christian organization?
    Yes; however, HSLDA’s mission is to protect the freedom of all homeschoolers. Although our officers and directors are Christians, HSLDA membership is not limited to religiously based homeschoolers…” freedom in the name of jeebus…

    But you could ALMOST safely say that the other categories of:

    “family reasons-11%”–is a euphimism for everything from religious beliefs to child abuse–includes the religious.
    You could say that to “develop character/morality-8.5%” is a tergiversation for all the same, but in this case, likely as many loopy lefties as rightie whities do it.

    Same goes with the categories of:”other reasons-23%,object to what the school teaches-14%, etc.,” all of which are also surreptitously equivocating and indicative of the mule-minded Christian right.

    All of that will add up to higher than 70%, but who can possibly pin down the shifty homeschoolers? They resist data collection ( as you will note in that vagueness outlined in the Census figures above) especially because all HS kids are so damned unique–just ask their mothers, who are beside them 24/7….

  26. #26 the real cmf
    April 16, 2008

    Becca: the following results comrpise an eyebal estimate that the respondents to the HSLDA are near 102% religious( 20,000+ respondents, 20,000+ report religion), based on their mothers religions as follows

    survey Table 2.7
    Home School Students
    Classified by Mother’s Religion
    Frequency Percent
    Independent Fundamental 5,119 25.1%
    Baptist 5,072 24.4
    Independent Charismatic 1,681 8.2
    Roman Catholic 1,106 5.4
    Assembly of God 838 4.1
    Presbyterian 772 3.8
    Reformed 685 3.4
    Other Protestant 500 2.5
    Pentecostal 459 2.2
    Methodist 420 2.1
    Lutheran 353 1.7
    Other Christian 2,213 10.9
    Other 1,572 6.2



    Total 20,790 100.0%