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.


  1. Hello,

    I’m the person linked in this post and called a “homeschooling advocate.” I’d like to think of myself not as an advocate for homeschooling but a dispassionate observer of the phenomenon. Jessie’s comments here are suggestive, and they’re the very sort of thing I wish Levy had done in his article. Jessie here provides the evidence of his family’s experience to show a connection between racist attitudes and the decision to homeschool (though it sounds like his family never actually took that step). It’s only one anecdote, but there are probably more, and if we had several of them we would be able to assert that there was, at least for some people, a racial motive in choosing to homeschool.

    But please note that Levy’s argument was not about why individuals chose to homeschool but about why state governments passed homeschooling legislation. Levy’s study found a correlation between increased integration of public schools and the passage of homeschool laws. What Levy did NOT do was provide any evidence that suggests that the homeschool law was passed out of racial motives. He jumped from correlation to causation, a big no-no in social science research. As I note in my post, in the only state where we have very detailed information on what transpired behind closed doors (Georgia), the black senators actually voted FOR the homeschool bill because they became convinced that its backers were not trying yet another sneaky way around desegregation but had legitimate religious and academic reasons for homeschooling.

  2. Muriel Minnie Mae

    I think the ability to live on one income has a lot to do with the decision to homeschool. More white parents can afford to have one parent home with the kids than black parents.

  3. Jessie Author

    Hi Milton, Muriel ~ Thanks for your comments here.

    Muriel, that’s an interesting point about single-income families. I’d be curious to know how that maps onto rural residence, another important factor Levy identifies in the article.

    You make excellent points, Milton, both here and in the longer post on your site that you linked to. And, I stand corrected on your stance as an observer rather than advocate. I do think that there are ways that Levy’s article slips between the legislative decision-making and the individual decision-making. What I tried to do in offering the personal anecdote was to fill that in a bit. No, my father never resorted to homeschooling me, but a big part of that was that he lots of other options for avoiding school integration – like moving our family to an all-white suburb.

    Some enterprising sociologist should follow up Levy’s quantitative, macro-level, study with a qualitative, micro-level study of interviews with parents who homeschool. My guess is that fleeing racial integration in schools is a big factor for many, but not all, families.

  4. Mordy

    There seems to be a logical inconsistency posited here (or more likely i am just missing something). There is a reference provided here that states integration being at its highest in ‘the 80s’ and points to that as being the reason why homeschooling legislation was enacted, and by extension, popularized. It would then follow that integration has been waning since its apex during the 80s (and will likely now dramatically continue to do so) yet home schooling is thriving and is projected to continue to. While it does sound logical to me that some folks might use homeschooling for this reason, i suspect there are far deeper socio-cultural pulls (ummm, RELIGION!!) that are spearheading this trend. So if integration has been in declining or worst holding steady for the past 20 years , how does he reason that the increase in homeschooling is tied to integration levels?

  5. Glenn B.

    I appreciate everyone noting the importance of religion as an additional explanatory factor for the increase in homeschooling. Religion, however, should not be seen as an independent factor but rather strongly connected to racial identity and racial motives. The “Christian Right” is better termed “the white evangelical church.” Their emphases on conservativism, stereotypical patriotism, and discipline flow from white norms, privileges, and white racial interests (including opposition to affirmative action, welfare initiatives, and support for harsh incarcerations). The white church homeschools to ensure their children have both a pro-conservative Christian AND ultra/tacitly pro-white training. I served in a church where the 10 staff members and most of the volunteers homeschooled their children. The parents were overt about their desire to teach conservativism, which we all know is entirely about whiteness. They proved impervious to racial justice conversations and would not reconsider curriculum. By kindergarten the children opposed all leftist policies, including race-focused initiatives.

  6. mgs

    where in Spring? Also, I noticed a post-worthy article in the weekend edition of WSJ on the slowing and in some cases reversing of the “white flight” phenomenon.

  7. I attended a government-run school where “diversity” consisted of 2 African-Americans, 2 Mormons, and 1 Jew. I didn’t encounter a single Asian-American, Latino/a, Arab-American, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Baha’i during my entire K-12 schooling- BUT my children have met friends from all of these groups through our local homeschooling community.

    So how about looking past all the tired stereotypes of homeschooling to the reality. You might just be surprised at just how diverse the homeschooling movement truly is…

  8. Seattle in Texas

    Crimson Wife–I respect what you are saying only to a point. But there is a homeschooling movement that has been going on for the last several years that caters to, and is designed for segregating white children from society in a way that is socializing them to internalize very dangerous white supermacist/neo-nazi ideology. Currently I am in an area of the nation of which I have been told may be “the” most conservative place in the country. I don’t know if this is true. But what I can say is that while I find the local public schools far too conservative, the large proportion of the homeschooling community around here took their children out of the schools because they find the schools “too liberal”. I agree with you that homeschooling can be a very viable and positive option for parents who live in largely segegrated disticts and wish for their children to be raised with more diversity and certainly even more so, for those who value multiculturalism. Regardless, there is a very real phenomenon occurring in the homeschooling community(s) that is directly tied to white supremacy. By the way, have you ever seen children holding up hate signs that say things such as, “AIDS is the cure for gays” and overtly racist hate language of which I won’t repeat here? They’re homeschooled as far as I know. Because this is a site that is focused on primarily on racism, the post above is addressing that aspect of homeschooling. If you wish for there to be a positive site on homeschooling and its potential benefits with relation to diversity, maybe you should get one up and running.

  9. Marlene

    Washington State (particularly Olympia, Washington) is filled with racist whites who don’t want their kids around blacks. It’s linked to the white supremacist movement. There should be a place online where the names of home schoolers can be posted. THIS SHOULD BE INVESTIGATED!

  10. Seattle in Texas

    It’s nice to see somebody from the PNW on here—miss home…at least the beauty. I don’t know if this is the case any longer, but it used to be that in order to home-school in WA the parent or legal guardian must have a minimum of 45 college credit hours. If not, then they have to either pay for a private qualified educator or…I cannot remember at the moment. But many of the materials generated for the white supremacist home-schooling folks comes not to far from Olympia, out of Moscow, Idaho (last I heard), and is purchased from white families throughout the nation.

    In terms of WA, Marlene, tell me if I am wrong—the Washingtonians generally do not consider themselves racist and the white folks in particular largely see racism as a thing of the past. Thus, for the white Washingtonians, a racist person is one who wears a sheet or swastika. For example, they don’t see white flight as a form of upholding a white supremacist structure…living in segregated suburban neighborhoods and sending their children to privileged all white public schools as the equivalent to white supremacist folks living in perhaps more integrated areas home schooling their children to keep their precious white children segregated from children of color. They don’t see a problem with George Washington being on our flag and seal and don’t see that as an inherent and fundamental symbol of white supremacy—(which is in all public schools of course also). And they have absolutely no problem with migrant agricultural workers getting paid federal minimum wage with no labor protections, federal securities, etc., while citizens get paid state minimum wage (a couple dollars more per hour) and are entitled to state and federal protections, laws, etc. No problems with children of migrant workers getting punished in various ways in the public schools for speaking their native tongue, etc. The list goes on….


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