Parents Refuse to Educate Their Kids Because the World Is Ending Anyway

revelation bible The Texas Supreme Court is about to weigh in on a case of a family accused of not teaching their homeschooled kids anything because they believe the rapture is coming. Should parents be able to willfully keep their kids from learning because of their religious beliefs? Let's hope not.

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Laura McIntyre and her husband Michael pulled their nine kids out of private school in 2004 to homeschool them in an extra room in the family's motorcycle dealership. Family members -- including Michael's twin brother Tracy -- reported to officials that the kids never do any schoolwork and instead sit around and play music all day. Tracy also says he overheard one of the McIntyre kids say learning was totally unnecessary since "they were going to be raptured" anyway.

Now they're suing the district for discriminating against them for being Christians. The McIntyres are going to the Texas Supreme Court to make the point that it doesn't matter how little actual education their kids get, it's no one's business but theirs. Well, theirs and Jesus's.

More from The Stir: Are Parents Who Homeschool Qualified to Teach Their Kids?

But make no mistake, the real issue here isn't religion at all. In the U.S., we have an understanding that making sure kids get an education is a public good. And so, we spend billions on schools because there are just certain things -- like reading and writing and basic math -- that a person needs to know to function in society. It's in everyone's interests that the McIntyres' brood of nine doesn't end up without the means to take care of themselves, and reading is pretty crucial.

Parents in this country get a lot of leeway to raise their kids as they see fit, but willfully ignoring your kids' need for a basic education is more than exercising religious freedom -- it's educational neglect. It's a form of child abuse. 

Of course, there are plenty of parents who take the time and care to educate their kids at home in a structured and smart way, and often homeschool outcomes are better than public schools'. But parents who homeschool should absolutely be required to prove that their kids are actually learning and meeting some basic educational standards. We all have a stake in making sure the kids in our communities get educated and become productive, employable citizens tomorrow.

If parents believe they are better equipped than a trained teacher to educate their kids, then by all means, take on the job. But asking for some sort of proof that a kid is learning doesn't seem like a huge imposition -- unless of course they aren't learning anything at all. That's got nothing to do with religious freedom.

Oversight will protect many kids from more than educational neglect, since abusive parents often choose to homeschool to hide evidence of abuse. Homeschooling can be a wonderful, enriching experience for a child, but it can also restrict his or her interaction with the world outside the home, including with teachers and school officials trained to spot signs of abuse. Having a trained educator get a good look at a kid once in a while to monitor his or her progress should be part of any homeschool experience.

The Texas Supreme Court ruling will be significant for the nearly 2 million homeschooled kids in the U.S. Only 24 states require homeschooled kids to be tested to make sure they're getting a basic education, and, of those, only nine states ask that those test results be submitted for verification, according to the Coalition for Responsible Home Education. So for now, parents in most states who choose to pull their kids out of school can do so without explanation or proof that their kids are getting any basic instruction on core subjects. Pretty loosey-goosey.

Oversight seems like a smart idea. For now, homeschooling parents should look to Texas for a signal of how involved the government is likely to get in homeschooling kids in the years to come.

 

Image via GongTo/shutterstock

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