Let me take this space to applaud mid-sized and small papers and condemn the big three: the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. When it comes to covering under-reported America, the little papers have passed with flying colors, while the big papers have failed.
And no, I'm not talking about unreported Middle America. I'm talking about tens of thousands of kids between the ages of five and 17 who don't get the media coverage most kids their ages get. Why? Because they're home schooled.
The Bradford County Telegraph in Florida reports:
When students returned to public schools this year, many thousands were not among them.
That is because they are being home schooled.
An ever-growing movement, parents and their children have decided to go about the business of education in this radically different fashion.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 1.1 million students were a part of this "ever-growing movement" in 2003. But a quick search through the archives of the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal don't show the shadow of the home schooling movement. (Well, except for this home school joke in the New York Times.)
The website of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) shows there's no absence of stories in the home school community. This website lists a whole load of court cases involving home schooling families, each of which would be a perfect anecdotal lead for a story about the legal issues involved with home education. For example, here's the lead to a story about one legal storm caused by home schoolers in France:
A proposal to outlaw most home schooling in France was withdrawn after an international outcry against the measure was raised by home schooling associations and concerned individuals, according to the U.S.-based Home Schooling Legal Defense Association.
Smaller papers have done much better than large papers at covering the home school movement. HSLDA's website lists many home schooling related stories that have been published in the last year. The list is quite broad, from a general overview of the home schooling movement, to numerous stories of home schoolers winning spelling bees, to a story about how colleges are accomodating home schooled high schoolers in their application process.
You may say, "Well, the big papers have a more international outlook. What they don't say about home schooling they make up for with copy about the war and big national issues."
Let's just say that according to HSLDA's listing, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, Belgium, Scotland, Australia and Russia have all written stories on the home schooling movement, too.
So what's the deal here? I'm not going to accuse the big papers of bias, because I'm not sure there is a bias that would motivate a newspaper to not cover a national education movement. But look at the wealth of stories they're missing out on! Why do people home school? Are most home schoolers religious? How do home schoolers do on the SAT compared to public schoolers? What kinds of challenges do home schooled students face when entering college?
What about blasting some home school stereotypes and myths? That would be a service to society. Are home schoolers really socially-inept? Do home school moms really all wear denim jumpers? Do home schoolers get to stay in their pajamas all day?
It seems to me there's a whole new culture out there just waiting to be explored. So, go on New York Times, go on and explore the strange "new" world of home schooling.