To some, nothing, which is why it’s probably going to pass, if it hasn’t already, through the Senate Education Committee this morning with flying colors. I’m talking about HB1789, dubbed the Tim Tebow bill in Arkansas and in other states contemplating such legislation, because it allows home-schooled students to participate in public school athletics and interscholastic activities, which is how Tim Tebow got his start in football. But what is the real purpose of the bill? Is it to find the next Tim Tebow in Arkansas to lead the Razorbacks to the National Championship? Well, probably not. Is it to give an equal opportunity to all children to participate in everything from football to quiz bowl? Maybe. Or is it really to encourage home-schooling, since in the past home-schooling has been often discouraged and even stigmatized by the general public? Maybe I’m cynical, but I vote for the latter.
So why do I not like this bill? Well, first, I don’t agree with home-schooling in general. With few exceptions (and I realize there are a few), children who are home-schooled do not achieve the same level of education as those who attend a public or private school. I’m not just talking about ACT scores or the ability to read. I’m talking about socialization, and learning how to get along with others who are different from you. I know not all home-schooled students are sheltered, but I dare to say that some probably are, and it’s a bit of an awakening the first time they walk onto a college campus or into the workplace. Being in school at a young age teaches kids how to live in society, how to appropriately disagree with others, and how to follow rules. I realize that many home-schooled students are involved in church or community activities with peers, but we tend to go to church and live in communities with others like us. We don’t always go to school or work with others like us, because we don’t usually have that choice.
Second, I just don’t think home-schooling is necessary. Call me an optimist, but I think our public schools, at least here in Arkansas, do a pretty good job, or at least do as good of a job as an average parent at home can do. I know there are exceptions, and I realize that some students, particularly those with special needs, struggle in school but can excel at academics when taught in a more personal environment, like at home, and some students need to be home-schooled for at least a temporary period of time due to medical needs or health reasons. And there’s always the child prodigy who is home-schooled so that he or she has time to practice their violin for six hours per day so that they can go to Juilliard at age 14, but again, those are rare. In my opinion, for the average student, our public schools can do a good job, especially with a parent at home that cares and stays involved in their child’s schoolwork.
Finally, with regards to this particular bill, I just don’t think it’s fair that parents who have not supported their local public schools in the past should have the option for their child to “pick and choose”, so to speak, what part of the local schools they wish to take advantage of. There’s typically low voter turn-out and support in school board member and millage elections from parents who home-school their children or send their children to private schools. Local schools thrive with community support, and maybe this bill will result in an increase of support in general, but I don’t think it’s fair that a parent who doesn’t support their local teachers can now be able to support the local coaches.