Reliable Answers - News and Commentary

Adolf Hitler, Dr. Zhivago, Columbine and CBS News

By Shawn K. Hall

Shoddy reporting

Additional Information

Over the last couple days, CBS News has been airing 'news' about how the 'lack' of oversight of homeschoolers exposes them to greater danger than their publicly schooled counterparts. I'm here to refute that.

By example, CBS has taken the very worst events in the history of homeschooling (some that were even dismissed, declared innocent by the courts, or have yet to be tried - at least one that didn't even involve homeschoolers!) and painted them as the hidden culture and agenda of parents who choose to educate their own children. The events relayed are few and far between.

I do not deny they happen, no more than I deny the existence of Adolf Hitler. However, the assertion that these are common events is no less ridiculous than saying that every politician is as bad as Hitler; using Dr. Zhivago as the poster child for the entire medical community; implying that every public school suffers from the same traumas and disasters as Columbine; or that every news organization is as irresponsible in their reporting as CBS. I don't claim that any of these are untrue, but very unlikely.

CBS contends that the murder and suicide of the children of Nissa Warren represent a broad enough sample of horrors to impose monitoring and oversight to homeschooling families that is not applied to others. Further, they highlight a half dozen events over the last decade as symbols of the abuse and dysfunction homeschoolers are capable of on a daily basis. Never mind that Mrs. Warren and her husband were acquitted of child abuse, or that Andrea Yates was taking medication, which her doctor, a state mandatory reporter, should have been capable of determining her capacity to abuse her children.

Is more oversight the answer?

Would more oversight really help? How often do you hear about 'that really good teacher' or 'that quiet public school student' that just couldn't take it anymore and took it out on his family or his school? The simple fact is, every report you see about homeschooling families on the 'news' begging for enhanced oversight identifies the families involved as people that have consistently been previously identified as abusers or high risk cases by Child Protective Services, their family physician or other interested parties/government agencies that already have that authority. If these governing groups are incapable of performing their function, on what basis would anyone assume that adding another group to perform oversight would make it any more effective or any less corrupt and abused?

If you recall, after Columbine there was 'strengthened' regulation of children and teachers in schools across the nation, yet school shootings increased. Earlier this week Reliable Answers posted another article regarding the over 850 articles about teachers arrested in the last month. A similar search on 'parents arrested' returns far less than half that number.

Oversight of the medical community is perhaps the most stringent in the world, yet last year the FDA found that 90% of the drugs produced by Schering-Plough (the maker of Claritin) had Quality Assurance problems. Ninety percent! Is oversight the answer? Absolutely not.

Clearing things up

CBS doesn't seem to have their facts quite straight, either. In the lead portion of the segment, which ran Tuesday evening, CBS highlighted the Bryan Edgar story. It took very little digging to discover that Bryan Edgar was not a homeschooler. His parents, founded "God's Creation Outreach Ministry" in Kansas City where Bryan's mother was considered a prophet.

According to an article found on AmFor, "Bryan was in foster care before he was adopted. The adoption was finished in June 2000, said a spokeswoman with Kansas Children's Service League, which began handling adoptions in July 2000 for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services." Bryan Edgar was adopted and would have fallen under the jurisdiction of the courts, who would have completed background checks and home visits.

The Kansas City Star newspaper extensively covered the story and there has never been a mention of the children having been homeschooled. In fact, KMBC, Channel 9 located in Kansas city reported, "Investigators searched the Edgar's home and the property at God's Creation church Tuesday, which also served as a school for children."

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What is this really about?

So what is this really about? Are homeschoolers really either more 'at-risk' or less responsible than the average family? Could you seriously entertain that thought knowing that homeschooling families, unlike their public school counterparts, have gone to great lengths - often sacrificing the wages that a second income would gain - to raise their children at home without the intervention of the state? Is it about saving lives? If so, why isn't CBS focusing on the nearly 100,000 doctors that will kill their patients this year? Perhaps, the article is simply intending to stir the waters of the 'homeschooling controversy' in order to eliminate the rights of parents to choose what is best for their children once and for all.

The CBS articles appear to be little more than a thinly veiled excuse to involve the government in everyone's lives. After the US PATRIOT Act, which provides the ability for the government to hold you without trial - without even charging you with anything (forbidden by our Constitution), you'd think people would have learned not to support broad, invasive government intrusion. CBS, apparently, has not yet learned that lesson.

Before the government considers entering my home and questioning whether I am raising or educating my children correctly, they had best review their own existing practices and correct the flaws. And before CBS even suggests that homeschoolers are doing something wrong, they ought to at least try to get their facts straight. Had they read the newspaper from the area they are reporting about they could have discovered how far they have twisted the truth.

The Simple Truth

Excerpt from a letter posted on a Home Education Magazine sponsored list:

Studying the data from multiple sources, including NCES (National Center for Educational Statistics) who used information provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey, I have seriously begun to question why any thoughtful and caring parent would send their children to public school!

  1. From July 1, 1992 through June 30, 1999, there were 358 school-associated violent deaths in the United States, including 255 deaths of school-aged children (ages 5 to 19).
  2. In the most recent school year for which data are available, from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 1999, there were 47 school-associated violent deaths (table 1.1). Thirty-eight of these violent deaths were homicides, six were suicides, a law enforcement officer in the line of duty killed two, and one was unintentional.
  3. Of the 358 total school-associated violent deaths that occurred between July 1, 1992 and June 30, 1999, 218 were homicides of school-aged children and 37 were suicides of school-aged children.
  4. In 2000, students in 12 through 18 age group were victims of about 128,000 serious violent crimes (that is rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault) at school
  5. Students were victims of about 700,000 nonfatal violent crimes (that is, serious violent crime plus simple assault) at school
  6. Students were more likely to be victims of theft at school than away from school in the from 1992 and 2000.. In 2000, about 1.2 million thefts occurred at school
  7. Regarding nonfatal crime (theft plus violent crime), students were victims of about 1.9 million crimes while they were in school in 2000.
  8. In all survey years from 1993 to 2001, between 7 and 9 percent of students reported being threatened or injured with a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club on school property.
  9. In 2001, 8 percent of students reported that they had been bullied at school in the last 6 months.
  10. The percentage of students who reported that they had been bullied increased between 1999 and 2001.
  11. From 1996 through 2000, teachers were the victims of approximately 1,603,000 nonfatal crimes at school, including 1,004,000 thefts and 599,000 violent crimes (rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault). On average, this translates into 321,000 nonfatal crimes per year, or 74 crimes per 1,000 teachers per year. Among the violent crimes against teachers during this 5-year period, there were about 69,000 serious violent crimes (11 percent of the violent crimes), including rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. On average, this translates into 14,000 serious violent crimes per year.

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Updated September 13, 2008

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