Rightwing Film Geek

What liberal media?

CBS News has, for the last two nights, sullied its newscasts (if that were possible) with reports on child abuse among home schoolers. Yet, if you actually listen to or read the transcripts of the two-part series, available here (Day 1) and here (Day 2).

The teaser at the top of the Web site home page, next to D-n R—-r’s mug shot breathlessly blurts out: “Abusive parents sometimes hide in our unregulated home schooling system.” Well, yes, I suppose. And they also hide in our unregulated housing system. And travel on our unregulated highway system.

Now, it is certainly theoretically possible that there is a higher rate of child abuse or child murder in home-schooling families. And if there were figures suggesting or proving such a correlation, that would obviously be a legitimate news story. But you will comb these pieces of CBS “journalism” in vain for any such figures, even bogus advocacy numbers, that could even begin to suggest it. In fact, near the end of part 2, we get this: “But it’s hard to know how widespread abuse might be because the government doesn’t keep track. It doesn’t even know how many children are taught at home in this country.”

cbs.jpgWell, whoop-de-doo. In other words, we don’t even know if there’s a story here, but we’re still gonna report it anyway.

This is pure, undiluted journalism-by-anecdote and journalism-as-prejudice-stoking and audience-stroking — the liberal equivalent of conservative tales about welfare queens driving Cadillacs. It’s like Tales from the Crypt, only not as campy. See the Manhattan and Georgetown cocktail partiers scare each other (booga, booga) with dark stories on Halloween night of the “unregulated” things they hear go on in the red states, and what you can learn if you drag a $100 bill through a trailer park.

Just for fun, let’s try this method of “journalism” with … hmmm … the Springfield, Ore., school shooting. Kip Kinkel killed two classmates and wounded 25 others after murdering his parents, both schoolteachers. Would focusing on that angle (the killer’s home situation and his being raised by two schoolteachers) ever be done, well, actually … PBS did focus on this shooting in a Frontline episode here. There is even a section called “blame” section here focuses on video games, music and guns (all perfectly plausible contributing factors), but couldn’t it have centered around his family situation and how schoolteachers raise children to become killers? In fact, I’ll bet it’s hard to know how widespread children of teachers becoming killers might be because the government doesn’t keep track. It doesn’t even know how many children schoolteachers have in this country.

The ugliest part of these reports comes in part 2’s bid to blame home schooling for the Andrea Yates murders. Exqueeze me? Baking powder? Of the five children she drowned (Noah 7, John 5, Luke 3, Paul 2, and Mary, 6 months), only one was definitely school-aged, so her family’s home-schooling decision could have burdened her only slightly beyond what a woman with that many children would have if the family choose public-schooling. And how many other contributing factors *were* there in her case — post-partum depression, living in a trailer with that many children, being on powerful prescription drugs, only just out of a mental hospital. All this was widely reported at the time, and led to quite a bit of “I can see how all that would drive her to this” sympathy on her behalf (rightly or wrongly). But we’re now supposed to believe that this is an example of Home Schooling Syndrome. Puh-frickin-leez.

I carry no brief for home-schoolers — I am single with no children and am a product myself of public and Catholic schools. A few are a bit fruity in that “Protect Our Children From The Atheist ATF And Their Black Helicopters” way. But those CBS pieces were so sloppily done, such a failure measured by the basic canons of journalism, that the only way a prestigious news network could publish them would be an expression of naked prejudice. Just because they’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not persecuted.

UPDATE:
I deliberately didn’t address the substance of the charges, the details of the cases, and the home-school regulation schemas in the states in question because all that is simply beyond my knowledge. Further, I didn’t need to know them to realize how slipshod the smear-by-anecdote story was. Well, there are now some rebuttals on the merits here and here, although you need to go down a little to get to the meat of the latter article’s details. Also near the end of this article, columnist Zan Tyler quotes a 1979 Supreme Court decision that already rejects the implicit reasoning in the CBS piece — that state regulations on all parents are justified merely on the basis that some abuse their children.

October 15, 2003 - Posted by | Uncategorized | ,

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