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Did Early Presidents Really Home School Their Kids?

One of the promises made by GOP candidate Rick Santorum is that if elected he would home school his kids at the White House, claiming that most presidents did that very thing during the first 150 years of this country.  

Well, according to blogger Andy Horowitz (Salon), it turns out that in fact very few presidents in those early years even had school-aged kids.  Those who did, like Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, and even Grant sent their kids to school.  Washington hired a tutor for his wife’s child so that the boy could later enroll in King’s College, now known as Columbia.  Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia, an accomplishment he insisted be listed first on his tombstone at Monticello, wrote that without public schools, participation in the fledgling democracy by anyone other than the rich would be sorely limited.  The poor, he wrote, “should be educated at the common expence of all.”  So I guess we could say that if elected, Santorum could choose to home school, but he won’t be carrying on a presidential tradition.

Home schooling is part of the candidate’s belief that education is the responsibility of a child’s parents rather than the state or federal government.  I think it’s safe to say that most of us here in this country don’t really believe that, but there are countries that do.  Afghanistan, for example.

The candidate also has opinions about college.  He believes that our current president is a “snob” for wanting all Americans to have the opportunity for higher education. 

My parents would have been astonished that anyone wanting a college education for their kids, let alone everybody, would fall into the “snob” category, especially since neither of them graduated high school.  My father went into the steel mill at 16, and he was determined that his kids would have more opportunities than he did.  All three of us did go to college thanks to our parents’ expectations.  What snobs they were.

Pants-on-fire2In some ways the candidate’s name calling (he should have learned about that kind of thing in first grade) is just plain weird coming from a person with a Bachelor’s degree from Penn State, an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh, and a law degree from Dickenson.  College was a good choice for him, I guess, just not for everyone.  Pressed by David Gregory on NBC last Sunday about his views on education, the candidate backpedaled a bit, pretending that there was a difference between college and higher ed.  Higher ed is fine, it turns out, after Gregory pointed out that during the current recession the unemployment rate for college graduates is 4% as opposed to over 8% for everyone else. 

It remains to be seen if any of the candidate’s kids will go to college, but I’m guessing it’s very possible.  And maybe it’s true, that if elected, the candidate actually would home school his children, given his belief in the inadequacy of our public schools.  Well, probably he personally  wouldn’t be home schooling his kids.  And his spouse, as First Lady, probably wouldn’t have time to do it either.  So maybe they’d have to hire a tutor like George Washington did.  Of course, they’d probably want to hire someone with a college education.



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