By their very name, the “Tim Tebow” bills increasingly winning favor with state legislatures imply there never would have been a Heisman-winning quarterback of that name for the University of Florida Gators had not the Sunshine State’s lawmakers passed a measure back in the 1990s letting home-schooled kids like Tebow play for public school teams.
The specter of potential Tebows being victimized and sidelined forever by denial of equal access for home-schoolers to government schooling’s perks has helped advocates in 30 states shatter this supposed barrier to shared athletic glory and potential riches. Virginia’s General Assembly recently became the latest to climb aboard the equal-access bandwagon.
This trend is troubling on several levels. One is the practical reality that home-schooled athletes don’t need free passage to public school sports in order to hone their athletic skills, meet NCAA requirements and win full-ride scholarships to play ball in college. In fact, the flexibility of their daily schedules can give them an advantage over enrolled student-athletes who have to sit in classrooms all day.
Examples abound of home-schooled athletes winning scholarships. Last month, a home school graduate from Georgia accepted a full scholarship from the U.S. Military Academy to be a punter on the Army team, according to Fox News 5 of Atlanta. John David Mote had played his high school football for the Georgia Force, a team of home-schooled kids from the metro area, before going on to Georgia Military College, a two-year institution.
Mote will become the fifth home-schooled athlete to play for Army.
Increasingly, private travel teams for sports such as soccer, baseball and track rival interscholastic competition as a way to snag Division I or Division II scholarships. In fact, in a March 11, 2011, Forbes article, youth sports expert Bob Cook ventured, “If you’re serious about a pro career or athletic scholarship, in most cases it’s your elite travel schedule, not how you did for your Podunk High against rival Bugtussle, that determines whether you’re noticed.” He told of a home-schooled girls’ basketball player who won a Division I scholarship without ever playing a minute of prep ball.
Granted, government schools have the edge in financing pricey team sports such as football. However, given extensive video documentation of speed, strength and agility, plus clinics, camps and networking opportunities to market athletic skills, it is hard to believe a Tim Tebow could fail to win the attention of recruiters even without having played prep ball. In addition, home school football squads now are expanding and are even competing against Assembly teams.
What is most worrisome about win-one-for-Tebow laws is the harm they could do to the academic excellence cultivated by home-schooling parents determined to teach their children free of statist controls.
It took decades of struggle for parents to secure this intellectual independence, sometimes after staring down the threat of prosecution. Now a strong, highly vocal contingent within the home-schooling movement is seeking special privileges for their children, sometimes not just sports and clubs but selected courses as well, in the very public schools the pioneers of home schooling wished to avoid.
This assertion of a home-schooling entitlement to public school perks will probably come at a price. Those coming over part-time from home schooling will have to submit their courses of study and test scores to official scrutiny. Sooner or later, political pressure will mount to bring all home schooling under intense tracking and regulation, jeopardizing this highly productive form of parental choice.
One of the great strengths of home schooling has been the ability of parents to do more with less. By creatively assembling a wide array of clubs, regular field trips and, yes, fitness and sporting activities for kids, they put the lie to critics’ claims that home-educated children would lack sufficient “socialization.” Now, however, the drive for Tebow laws suggests they need to be in the regulated cocoon after all. That’s a costly fumble.