May 2, 2003

HSLDA Reviews O'Keefes Pilot

The news that Warner Brothers has produced (and are planning to run this summer) a sitcom depicting a homeschool family is a sure sign that homeschooling has arrived in the mainstream. This shouldn't be surprising since there are likely over 2 million homeschooling students in America.

"The O'Keefes" is described as a "whimsical, family-oriented comedy" about a homeschool family whose parents shelter the intelligent but socially inept children from the dangers of the outside world. The main characters, Harry (Judge Reinhold) and Ellie O'Keefe (Kirsten Nelson), who described as "loving but eccentric parents who've home schooled their three children to protect them from the loud and libidinal world."

After reviewing the pilot it is evident that the producers have almost no knowledge of the homeschool community or are deliberately ignoring the facts about homeschooling. The O'Keefes goes out of its way to reinforce almost every negative myth about homeschooling.

The motivation to homeschool presented is based upon the father's paranoia. One of his main fears (other than sending the kids to public school) is that his children will be recruited (as young teenagers) into the CIA. Not exactly your model of stability. Harry was bullied as a schoolboy and his decision to homeschool seems to rest on this single fact. While it may be true that a tiny minority of homeschool parents have 'bullying' as their main reason for homeschooling the truth is very different. Most parents who homeschool make this choice because the public schools have abandoned Judeo-Christian values and have low academic standards.

No-one should be surprised that Hollywood does not accurately present the facts about a community it seems to know nothing about. However, the crux of the show is the depiction of the children as social misfits; the children are full of head knowledge but little social awareness. To be fair, after the two older children, Danny and Lauren, encounter the public school system they are able to handle the environment after a few days (at least in the pilot). While this is a glimmer of accuracy about the capabilities of homeschool students the overwhelming message is that children cannot grow into full adults or be socially well adjusted while being homeschooled. This myth is one of the most hurtful accusations thrown at homeschool families. Numerous studies show that homeschool students are intelligent, capable and well adjusted. In fact, the maturity and development of the average homeschool student far exceeds the level of the average public school student.

Homeschoolers should be rightly upset that the WB would produce a show which negatively stereotypes honest, hardworking families.

 Other Resources

Hollywood Poised to Reinforce Homeschool Stereotypes

Mike Smith's Letter to Warner Brothers (Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

If you would like to express your concerns to Warner Bros., you can write to:

Warner Bros. Television
4000 Warner Boulevard
Burbank, CA 91522

Email: complaints@wb.com
Warner Brothers General Phone Number: 818-954-6000