Homeschooling & Racism

In a recent article, “Homeschooling and Racism” in Journal of Black Studies (November 2007): 1-19, Tal Levy offers a compelling analysis of homeschooling legislation throughout the U.S. (fulltext here, behind a pay wall). Levy, a political science professor at Marygrove College in Detroit, tests 13 hypotheses about the variation in which states passed homeschool legislation and tests each one using event history analysis using logistic regression. His study is intriguing because he found that the higher the segregation index (his measure for how racially integrated public schools are), the greater the likelihood that the state would adopt homeschooling legislation. Levy writes:

“The fact that the majority of homeschooling families are White may be because of the increased racial integration of public schools.” (Levy, 2007:10).

He goes on to note that:

“Data about public school integration (since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision) show that the level of school integration in most regions of the country reached its highest level in the 1980s. It is also the same decade that 29 of the 28 homeschooling laws were passed.” (Levy, 2007:10).

This is significant because, as Levy also points out, homeschooling has expanded by about 500% between 1990 and the year 2000, and it is predicting to continuing growing between 7% and 15% annually for the foreseeable future. While Homeschooling advocates, such as this one, tend to dismiss the effect that the desegregation of public schools played in the passage of new homeschool laws, my own lived experience suggests that Levy is on to something here with his research.

In the early 1970s, my family lived in Corpus Christi, Texas and I attended public schools there. When the Corpus Christi school district began a plan that would have resulted in the racial integration of the school system, my father was incensed. There was a lot of talk about “pulling me out of school” if that plan went into effect. As it turned out, I didn’t get homeschooled (a truly radical idea at the time); instead, my father moved the entire family away from Corpus and to Spring, an all-white suburb of Houston.

What strikes me about both Levy’s research and my own experience is the lengths to which white people will go to resist racial integration of education.  And, there is no shortage of options  – from all-white suburbs that effectively fund all-white school districts to the contemporary homeschooling  movement – for white people who which to resist such political efforts at integration.