PRESENTING: SAM B. PEAVEY
I was born and reared in Iowa. After high school in Des Moines, I worked on a railroad maintenance crew (section gang) until I accumulated sufficient funds for college. I received my initial professional preparation at the University of Iowa. After only two years as a high school teacher and athletic coach, I enlisted for military service in World War II. Upon my discharge, I entered the Harvard University Graduate School of Education for further study in social science education. I then returned to the midwest to teach and coach in high school and junior college in Iowa and Nebraska prior to returning for my doctoral study at Teachers College, Columbia University.
My major educational field was in school curriculum and instruction with special preparation in the education and supervision of teachers. My work has kept me closely involved with the certification programs for teachers and the evaluation of schools and colleges for accreditation.
During the later years at the University of Louisville prior to retirement, I assumed the role of Private Education Liaison between our School of Education and the growing number of private and church related schools within our service area. During that period I also served as the state representative for the Council
for American Private Education. Some enlightening experiences came to me as I was invited to testify as an expert witness in behalf of church schools facing legal action from my colleagues in the education establishment. Those activities and interests led to contacts with individuals and groups associated with home schooling. As a professional educator, my instincts told me that the concept of home schooling would certainly flounder, but my closer observation and acquaintance with it assured me that it was doing well. I was intrigued. I decided it needed looking into. That’s where I am today.
THE FRONTIER OF EDUCATIONAL FREEDOM: HOME SCHOOLING
by Sam B. Peavey
Professor Emeritus of Education
University of Louisville
Home schooling may someday be regarded as one of the most significant and unique educational developments of the century. An insightful observer today might wonder whether those presently engaged in the movement recognize fully the meaning of what they are saying and doing. It is no small thing to challenge head on the entrenched power and vested interests of the institutionalized education establishment. Such an action demands qualities of courage and commitment that are, to say the least, historic.
Home education is, of course, an integral aspect of the larger current movement toward nonpublic educational alternatives. However, there seems to be good reason to view the home school as having an identity and integrity of its own. It is a phenomenon worthy of study and understanding as the most private form of private education. Overall, the move toward home schooling does not reflect one single cause or concern. The history of education can be expected to portray the emerging home school as the natural and ultimate outcome of an array of forces converging in a fateful era. It would be well for both the proponents and opponents of home education to view it in its broader perspective.
The writer has enjoyed a long career as an active member of the public education establishment that has traditionally viewed demands for freedom of choice in education as a direct threat to its power and prerogatives. However, my more recent acquaintance with he people and programs in private and church related education have greatly broadened my perspective and understanding regarding the mounting crusade for both religious and educational freedom. The reliance on home schooling in early America was
largely a matter of custom. Today the revival of the home school is an expression of deeply rooted concerns and convictions and of a growing demand for free choice among educational alternatives. The following will touch briefly on some of the factors that have stimulated the growth of home schooling and which will have a
bearing on its future.
“Family Values in Decay•
Historians caution us that no civilization in recorded history has ever survived the state of degeneracy in home and family life now seen in this nation. The open, amoral expressions of “life styles” in sexuality, marriage commitments, and family relationships have undermined the stability and security once associated with the home. Sex education commonly leaves tots and teens wandering in a value vacuum. Compassion is certainly in order for those families who choose to affirm and preserve more traditional values within the family setting of the home school.
“Teacher Certification Under Fire”
A half century of research has failed to find any significant relationship between teacher certification and pupil achievement. The writer grieves to admit that, after a long career preparing teachers for certification. The one valid measure of teacher effectiveness is pupil achievement. Home schoolers have little difficulty in equaling or surpassing the pupil achievement of state certified teachers. Few states still
persist in forcing their certificates on teachers in private schools. Ironically, the National Education Association (NEA) demands certification for all teachers, public and private, but vehemently opposes the evaluation of teachers based on pupil achievement.
“School Accreditation Simply Accredits•
Standards for school accreditation appear to have as little relevance to pupil achievement as does teacher certification. Most states have recognized that their least effective schools are fully accredited. They now have mandated testing programs to insure that pupils are achieving at minimum levels. The superior
achievement in most nonpublic, nonaccredited schools reinforces research findings that the most common characteristics of effective schools are factors that would be expected by any conscientious school patron. They are (a) strong leadership, (b) a safe, orderly environment, (c) an emphasis on basic skills, (d) high expectations, and (e) continuous evaluation of progress. Dedicated home schoolers should have little difficulty in applying those basic principles within the home setting.
“Abundant Instructional Resources•
Home schoolers certainly face no shortage of excellent teaching-learning materials for every area and level of home education. The professional quality of scope and sequence of most programs is impressive. Much thought has gone into making the materials attractive in format and sound in content.
Teachers’ manuals and instructional guides contribute to the competence and confidence of the home school teacher. Programmed packets and units employ sound professional principles of individualization, pacing, feedback, self-testing, and continuous evaluation. Parents with limited teaching experience will be
wise to secure and follow these professionally designed materials rather than using a single traditional textbook. Sources of added enrichment are commonly available from community educational, recreational, cultural, and religious resources. Educational television, recordings, videotapes, radio programs, computers, and home crafts are simply examples of unlimited resources for a well rounded home study curriculum. Commercial catalogs of excellent materials readily available to home schoolers are numerous. As a professional curriculum consultant, this writer is convinced that the consistent success of home schooling, as well as the promise for its future, is closely related to the availability and use of good materials.
“Teaching Profession Losing Credibility”
Despite a long career associated with some of the finest teachers who ever entered a classroom, the writer in all candor feels that school teachers as a whole no longer enjoy the unquestioned public esteem they once did. One might argue that they are the unsung casualties of troubled times in a troubled society. The fact remains that they have allowed themselves to become associated with a militant labor union dedicated to a left, liberal political agenda that has been rejected by the great majority of the patrons they serve. While individual teachers are often held in respect, the image of the NEA in the eyes of many is that of a self-seeking political action group with little interest in the mundane affairs of public education. As a life member of NEA, I find no pleasure in that observation.
“Humanism: An Educational Fact of Life•
A growing number of public school patrons now identify secular humanism as the established non-theistic religion of the government school. As such, it is seen as denying or ignoring the historic, spiritual roots of our nation’s heritage. Thus interpreted, we find most public schools now forbidding any and all open expressions of reverence for God on school premises. That image of the school has inspired an exodus toward church and home schooling by concerned parents determined to reunite humanity and divinity in the life and learning of their children. The situation offers the ultimate irony and tragedy in America’s cultural history.
“Parents’ Rights and the State’s Interests•
The past half century of educational history has witnessed continuing tension and litigation between the parents’ legal rights and the “compelling state interest” pertaining to the education of children. State and federal courts have significantly reduced the scope within which government authority may assume and exercise its compelling interest in overriding parental prerogatives. Most states have recognized and respected the trend toward educational freedom since the 1925 decree of the U.S. Supreme Court said, “The child is not the mere creature of the state” to its 1972 pronouncement that, “This primary role of
the parents in the upbringing of their children is now established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.” Few states persist in assuming a compelling interest in prohibitively regulating nonpublic teacher credentials, curriculum development, or textbook content. About three-quarters of the fifty states now permit home education while an increasingly large number of states have placed home education in
a nonregulated status. Alaska has its own state program of home education for children in remote areas. An informative and supportive resource on the legal status of home schooling is “Home Education and Constitutional Liberties” by John W. Whitehead and Wendell R. Bird, a 1986 publication of The Rutherford Institute.
“The Precious Liberty of Free Choice•
The monopolistic instincts of the compulsory government school were generated as the means to achieve the goal of universal education. Unfortunately, for over a century we have seen the preservation of the means taking precedence over the achievement of the end. The professional education establishment, in league with a central government bureaucracy, has maintained a structure of regulations to protect their mutual political power and control. Their standard prescription for the ills of the public school is more public funds and favors. A predictable and forceful reaction against that entrenched monopoly is now coming from the advocates of a free market in education. Our nation lags far behind the freedom of choice among educational alternatives granted to families in other democracies of the world. Home education, in my judgment, offers an ultimate arena for confronting some basic issues of freedom. Freedom of education is fundamental to freedom of thought, freedom of expression, and freedom of religion. We have ignored the truth too long.