The seventh most populous state of the union, Ohio, is so typical that it verges on the point of drab. But on the Buckeye State’s quiet streets teeming with suburban housing of seeming normalcy, there rests an underbelly of white supremacy. In the Winter of 2023, the Ohio Department of Education uncovered a bustling Neo-Nazi homeschooling network in the state. In the very neighborhoods where during the 1940s, young boys kissed their mothers goodbye to go fight in fascism abroad today, there persists the very evil they were sent off to destroy.
In the United States, over 3.1 million students each year are homeschooled, a figure steadily on the rise. Since the start of the pandemic, the share of children homeschooled has risen dramatically: from 2019 to the Fall of 2020, the percentage grew from 3.4% to 9%. This staggering increase should force the nation to look at the practice with more pertinence than ever.
It is no secret that the United States is growing more divided than ever. Politicians like Majorie Taylor Greene, Paul Gosar, and Lauren Boebert litter our political scene with evil and bigotry. Their “Freedom Caucus” turned out to be one of the primary reasons Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggled to win his current leadership position, despite the GOP winning a clear majority in the House of Representatives. From xenophobic policies disguised as “tighter border security” to strong anti-gay and trans sentiments, the rise of the hateful, far-right branch of the Republican Party should alarm all Americans- particularly those who do not conform to the cisgender, White, and heterosexual standard. But the question still remains: How can our nation band together to abate such a threat of fascism?
A good first step to take may be to ban homeschooling.
The best method for fighting extremism around is to nip it in the bud when the indoctrination begins. The aforementioned Neo-Nazi network is one of the few that has been exposed to the general populace. Of all the 50,000 homeschooled children in Ohio, however, it remains unknown how many of them are truly facing indoctrination by similar programs. There are bound to be many more that are not as overt but nevertheless, instill the children with values that go against everything that the American education system hopes to push for: facts, truth, logic, and basic deductive reasoning skills. In fact, the districts many of the members of the Freedom Caucus come represent are majority White and Christian: the very demographics that homeschooling indoctrination targets at the highest rates.
Outside of teaching children the importance of logic and reason, public schools expose children to those who do not think or look like them. While children may struggle to find diversity in rural schools, kids must nevertheless be made to engage with perspectives and experiences other than their own, in whatever size or form they come in. As many know, one of the quickest and most simple means to fight racism and other prejudices is through mere exposure, as it impedes one’s ability to believe the crass and cartoonish characters of minority groups created by conservative media outlets.
The majority of Americans opting for homeschooling started the practice at the beginning of the Pandemic and are white, but these two figures do not represent the intentions of all homeschoolers. In 2016, an African-American mother named Talandra Stewart who lived in Texas asked her children what they knew about Martin Luther King Jr. After they gave her nothing more than a few mumbled and vague sentences, she believed it was time for her to develop a homeschooling system more inclusive of material relevant to brown and Black people, and focused on the struggles and contributions of Americans of color. In 2020, the number of Black children who started homeschooling also rose dramatically, at a higher rate than white students; 3.3% of Black families homeschooled their children at the start of the pandemic, but that share increased to 16.1% by the fall of 2020.
Thus, while it is true that the system that allows for neo-Nazism to flourish in some parts of the country is the same one that allows for more progressive and accurate forms of education to exist, this should not discount the fact that the very existence of homeschooling is a net burden to this country. If the growing number of fascist or fascist-friendly members of Congress is not enough proof, the rise in white supremacist terror attacks such as the El Paso shooting and events like the January 6th insurrection should be enough to prove that we need a single system for proper education in this country.
While the current public education system is lacking in many respects, it is still important that all students experience exposure to our public education system so that we all develop a vested interest in making it better. If one can quite literally go home and quit when their schools are not to their liking, the country will never progress. Mainstream America will stagnate while many will float toward the extremes. In the meantime, programs like the one started by Talandra Stewart can operate but should function as supplements to public schools. Curriculums akin to hers can act as fact and narrative checkers to counteract the Eurocentric and white-washed education many are taught. The solution is not for our nation to run away from the problems infecting our public education system, but to stay and fight against it, and suffice with what we can in the meantime.
Since the election of Trump, white supremacy is on the rise and we must do all we can to stop it. If that means taking away the ability to homeschool unless absolutely necessary, then that is what needs to be done. The way to fight fascism is to attack the root cause of it, and that starts with the ideas passed down from parents to posterity. We cannot and should not control what a parent tells their child at home, but we can ensure that this narrative is counteracted with an ability to engage with the world on a more factual and reasonable level. In this modern political era of increasing division, the least we can do is come together, share a space, and exist simultaneously to grow less afraid of each other. The first step just might be to rid our country of homeschooling.
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