|HSLDA News||June 13, 2003|
Editorial: Homeschooling Grows in the Black Community
By Michael Smith
President of Home School Legal Defense Association
The best research on homeschooling indicates the total number of children who are homeschooled is 1.5 to 2 million, and that number is growing by 10 to 15 percent per year.
But not everyone recognizes the academic and social success of homeschoolers and some criticize the movement as being white and elitist. While it's true that the large majority of homeschool children are white, the number of black homeschoolers is growing rapidly. Brian Ray, president of the National Home Education Research Institute, estimates that there are 30,000 to 50,000 black children being homeschooled today. Others estimate that black homeschoolers make up 5 percent of the total homeschool population. Most importantly black homeschool movement is growing at a faster rate than the general homeschool population.
One of the chief reasons for this growth is the general dissatisfaction among blacks with public schools. In a 2002 survey conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, 850 black adults were polled concerning their views on public education. As part of the same survey, 850 adults in the general population were asked the same questions.
The results - 35.2 percent of blacks viewed public education as excellent/good while 53.7 percent of the general population viewed public education as excellent/good. Of the black population surveyed 25.4 percent said public education was poor, versus 14.3 percent of the general population.
The study shows that many black families have concluded that government-run schools have failed them. For 50 years since the Supreme Court decided the case of Brown v. Board of Education, minorities, especially blacks, have been told that public schools would "save them." With 57 percent of blacks supporting school choice, it's clear that black families are seeking alternatives.
To facilitate the growth of the black homeschool movement, several organizations have been established recently. The National Black Home Educators Resource Association (NBHERA) was founded by Joyce and Eric Burges, veteran homeschoolers living in Baker, Louisiana. Explaining why they started the organization, Mrs. Burges says, "Black families have always valued education - this is one of the reasons many black families taught and teach their children at home. Black families felt, and still do feel, that education is the door to our people's freedom. Many families across the nation are returning to the old- fashioned method of teaching learned years ago from our ancestors." Homeschooling for black families is not a new idea, it's an old idea revisited.
While homeschooling is experiencing rapid growth, the decision to homeschool is a significant one. Successful homeschooling requires time, effort and commitment. Almost every parent considering homeschooling experiences is nervous to some extent. A little voice inside asks, "Can I really do this? What if I ruin my child's life? Is it really legal?"
But black families face an additional obstacle. Mrs. Burges explains it this way. "Because black Americans were part of the civil rights movement who had to fight and struggle to gain a place at the table of public education, they find the idea of not having their children participate in a public education system as turning their back on the civil rights movement and their friends and relatives, as well."
Gilbert Wilkerson, founder of Network of Black Homeschoolers in Richmond, Virginia, explains that the primary goal for starting his organization was to bring black people out of the mentality that they have to settle for government programs. "Why are we waiting around for somebody else, like the government and others, to give us a hand for something we can do ourselves? I know we can do better," he says.
The future looks bright for minority homeschoolers. In a survey of selected classes at Vanderbilt University and Nashville State Tech, almost half (45.3 percent) of black students said "yes" or "maybe" when asked if they would homeschool their own children. Among other non-Caucasian groups, two-thirds indicated "yes" or "maybe." By contrast, less than one-fourth of the white students said they would homeschool their children.
The changing attitudes of minorities indicates that public educators can't count indefinitely on the loyalty of ethnic minorities as the backbone of big city schools. The percentage of minority homeschoolers will grow rapidly in the future and one day might equal non-minority homeschoolers. We look forward to the day when large numbers of minority children experience the American Dream by receiving the education they need for success.