U of A Education Reform Team Recognized for Influential Blog Post

From left: Matthew Lee, Angela Watson and Patrick Wolf.

University Relations

From left: Matthew Lee, Angela Watson and Patrick Wolf.

Three scholars from the Department of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas co-authored the fifth-most-downloaded post of the year on the Education Next blog.

Education Next, which describes itself as “a journal of opinion and research,” is influential in national policy circles. Since 2013, it has announced its 10 most downloaded blog posts of the year each December.

The education reform team’s post was titled “Harvard Law Professor’s Attack on Homeschooling Is a Flawed Failure. And Terribly Timed, Too.” It was posted on May 5 in response to a February article in the Arizona Law Review by Elizabeth Bartholet, who asserted that homeschooling contributes to child abuse and should be presumptively banned by the government. The bloggers responded by pointing out errors and inconsistencies in the article.

Patrick J. Wolf, a Distinguished Professor in the education reform department, was lead author of the post. His co-authors were Matthew H. Lee, a Distinguished Doctoral Fellow in the department, and Angela R. Watson, who received her Ph.D. in education policy from the U of A in 2018 and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy.

“As social scientists who study various forms of school choice, we felt we had an obligation to set the record straight regarding the myths and facts regarding homeschooling,” Wolf said. “For example, there is no empirical evidence indicating that homeschooled children suffer abuse at higher rates than children who are educated in other types of schools.”

Bartholet’s article also included several questionable stereotypes, Lee noted.

“She wrote that conservative Christians who educate their children at home are ‘isolationist’ and ‘intolerant’ while the empirical research on those questions actually show the opposite — that homeschooled children are more involved in their communities and more tolerant than their institutionally-schooled peers.”

The law review article published in February, just weeks before the pandemic brought about huge changes across the country in the way all children were being educated. It was ironic, Watson said.

“Professor Bartholet’s policy prescription was for government officials to severely restrict the number of parents allowed to educate their children at home, in the interest of child well-being,” she said. “A month later, government officials ordered all children to be educated at home, in the interest of child well-being.”

All three scholars plan to continue publishing occasional blog posts at Education Next and in other venues. “We do it to speak truth to power,” Wolf said, “But it is especially gratifying in cases like this when many people listened.”

About the Department of Education Reform: The College of Education and Health Professions established the Department of Education Reform in 2005. Its mission is to advance education and economic development in Arkansas and nationwide. The department began offering a Doctor of Philosophy degree in education policy in the fall of 2009.


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