Ms. Jacks was the Washington, D.C., mother of four who lived with the decomposing bodies of her four children. She had killed them, claiming that they were demon possessed. Ms. Jacks had removed her children from D.C. public schools, claiming to be homeschooling them. Not surprisingly, this grisly murder immediately elicited calls to rewrite homeschooling laws, tightening restrictions on how and where homeschooling took place. As more details from the investigation emerged, we learned that Ms. Jacks was well known to D.C. police and the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. CFS had failed to make their regularly scheduled inspections of Ms. Jacks' home. Calmer legislative heads prevailed, and onerous restrictions were not placed on homeschoolers as a result of Ms. Jacks’ actions. She is currently serving a 120 year prison sentence.
This case came to mind when I read a Yahoo! Answers question posted by “Johnny Poopster.” Yes, that is his online name. Mr. Poopster explained that he was “writing a research argument against homeschooIing. The type of argument is ethicaI/evaluation--and my stance is that homeschooling goes against the human principles of equality for all, freedom of choice, and goes in support of tyranny of the majority, etc.” But Mr. Poopster had a problem. “I can think of dozens of hypothetical situations that are bound to happen at some time, but I am having trouble researching it on the web. I don't know what particular keywords to put in that would bring up articles on that. Are there any specific cases you can find of homeschooled children who were abused and it was not taken care of appropriately? It needs to be documented in the media, somehow.”
I can think of half a dozen cases where “homeschooled” children have died in horrendous circumstances, but I’m not going to share them with Mr. Poopster. I write in defense of homeschooling when knees begin jerking in response to cases such as Ms. Jacks, Nubia Barahona, or Matthew Degner. My reason for not assisting the young man isn’t that I am afraid of a rational discussion of homeschooling. My problem with Mr. Poopster is the manner in which he is researching his topic.
In research, a conclusion should be based on the results of the research rather than conducting research to look for evidence in support of a predetermined conclusion. What happens to the validity of the writer’s argument if the researcher cannot find evidence to support the conclusion at which he or she hopes to arrive? Does the writer stubbornly cling to his belief, or does he change his ideas based on the results of his research? How would Mr. Poopster handle the Banita Jacks case? Does her crime justify the claim that homeschooling “goes against the human principles of equality for all, freedom of choice, and goes in support of tyranny of the majority?” Does he acknowledge that CFS failed to protect four children? Does he realize that even if the children were enrolled in a public school that Ms. Jacks could have killed them? There are many questions to be answered in a difficult case such as the Banita Jacks case, but Mr. Poopster won’t honestly and fairly discuss them. He has reached his conclusion. Someone failed miserably in teaching this young man critical thinking skills, and how to conduct research.
Mr. Poopster is full of crap.
Follow-up: On Thursday night the original question was deleted from Yahoo! Answers for violating their "Community Guidelines."