“Oh, my God, I have a chance to learn!” The Washington Post’s recent article about Virginia’s religious exemption statute includes this fascinating quote from Josh Powell, the young man who never attended public school because his parents obtained an exemption on religious grounds.
The article criticizes the law that allows the exemption and lobbies for its change. But let’s slow down and think this through.
How many public school teachers ever hear their students say, “Oh, my God, I have a chance to learn”? Very few. Because sadly, public schools crush many kids’ desire to ever learn again. And this has been documented.
The largest study comparing homeschool students to others (by Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, University of Maryland) amazingly revealed that homeschool 8th grade students score the same as 12th grade public school students!
Why do homeschool students score an almost unbelievable four grade levels ahead of others by 8th grade? It’s very simple. It’s not that homeschool kids or their parents have higher IQs—I suspect they don’t. It’s simply that homeschools don’t crush a kid’s inborn desire to learn.
When he hit community college, Josh attended remedial classes designed to serve public high school graduates, then zoomed ahead. Now he attends one of the nation’s top 25 universities, earning good grades while working part time and carrying a heavy academic load. Not too bad for a kid who thought he had a bad secondary education!
If Josh had attended public schools, he would have statistically had a 1-in-5 chance of growing into an illiterate adult. The National Assessment of Educational Progress revealed that 21.7% of adults in Josh’s native Buckingham County are illiterate. This is the wreckage of thousands of young people whose desire to learn has been crushed in the public schools.
I wonder if any of the other kids in Josh’s remedial classes went on to attend one of the nation’s top 25 universities. I doubt it.
Maybe Josh didn’t learn that South Africa was a country while he was being homeschooled. But he arrived at the gates of young adulthood with his inborn desire to learn fully intact, and that has served him very well indeed. The Virginia religious exemption statute deserves its place of respect.