The Key to the Liquor Store

One response to the stories of pain and abuse being aired at Homeschoolers Anonymous is that the problem isn’t homeschooling, it’s fundamentalism. Or, the problem isn’t homeschooling, it’s abusive parents. Homeschooling has nothing to do with it, they insist. Leave homeschooling out of it, they say. But I won’t do that, and there’s a reason for that.

The sort of unregulated homeschooling that we have today, without any form of checks and balances, allows parents with abusive tenancies to abuse their children without any restraint on their authority. Similarly, homeschooling as it currently exists allows fundamentalist parents to indoctrinate their children without fear of outside influence, controlling their children’s every action and interaction. The idea that homeschooling is this totally unrelated thing and not a key factor that is complicit in creating abusive and oppressive situations is laughably ridiculous.

Allowing a fundamentalist or abusive parent to homeschool is like giving an alcoholic a key to the liquor store. 

Would someone honestly tell children who are abused by their father, an alcoholic who has been given a key to the local liquor store, that the key plays no role at all in their abuse, or in their father’s alcoholism? I’m thinking not. Sure, the underlying problem is their father’s alcoholism, but his possession of a key to the liquor store must be taken into account when looking for ways to curb his abuse and deal with his alcoholism. In fact, it probably isn’t possible to solve his abuse or alcoholism without taking the key away—or at the very least restricting his access to it. It’s also possible that it was this key that caused his alcohol problem in the first place by giving him unfettered access to all the alcohol he could drink.

If he has proven himself unable to handle the responsibility it puts in his hands, perhaps the alcoholic father should lose his key to the liquor store. Perhaps we shouldn’t give alcoholics keys to the liquor store in the first place, because of the risk of abuse. Perhaps those in possession of liquor store keys should have some oversight or accountability to ensure that they do not become alcoholics and abuse the access these keys grant them. Perhaps we should have provisions in place to confiscate the liquor store keys of those who become abusive alcoholics, or are at risk of doing so.

By now I think you get my point. Just like you can’t address this hypothetical alcoholic father’s problems without addressing the fact that his habit is aided and abetted by his possession of a key to the local liquor store, even so you can’t solve the problems described on Homeschoolers Anonymous without grappling with the reality that homeschooling enables this abuse to take place and, indeed, creates the very situations within which it occurs. Homeschooling as it currently exists places an enormous amount of power in the hands of homeschooling parents, allowing them complete control over their children’s social and academic lives without any sort of outside check or balance. When these parents are healthy, kind, and loving, this usually works out. But when they’re not, the implications for their children are profound and even disastrous.

So no, sorry, I’m not going to leave homeschooling out of this.

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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.