My husband and I are members of the Christian homeschooling organization HSLDA--the Home School Legal Defense Association. You might think that any Christian homeschooler would want to join such a group. You would be wrong. There are many homeschoolers who choose not to be members of HSLDA. They have thoughtful reasons for their decision, reasons that I can respect. My husband and I have considered the pros and cons of membership and have made a different decision.
That, though, is not the point of this post. The point of the post is an article I just read in the Nov./Dec. issue of the HSLDA publication, The Home School Court Report. The article, written by HSLDA chairman Michael Farris, is entitled "The Third Wave of Homeschool Persecution" and outlines what Farris sees as the third in a series of attacks on homeschooling by those who are threatened by it. He says the first two attacks failed because they were based on faulty premises which were in time shown to be faulty, namely that 1) homeschooling doesn't work and that 2) homeschoolers suffer from not being "socialized." Farris says no one seriously argues either point anymore because homeschooling has proven itself to be quite successful in producing students and ultimately adults who are able to function in the world as effectively as students coming out of institutional settings.
What's left, then, for those who want to go after homeschooling? Farris says that the anti-homeschoolers have found a third war cry, and this one (unlike the previous two) happens to be based in fact. According to him, the "third wave" is the argument that "Christian homeschooling parents are effectively transmitting values to their children that the elitists believe are dangerous to the well-being of both these very children and society as a whole." He quotes at length from an article by Catherine Ross, a professor at George Washington Law School. The article, published in May 2010 in the William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal, is entitled "Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling." Here is an excerpt:
"This essay explores the choice many traditionalist Christian parents (both fundamental and evangelical) make to leave public schools in order to teach their children at home, thus in most instances escaping meaningful oversight. I am not primarily concerned here with the quality of academic achievement in the core curricular areas among homeschoolers, which has been the subject of much heated debate. Instead my comments focus on civic education in the broadest sense, which I define primarily as exposure to the constitutional norm of tolerance. I shall argue that the growing reliance on homeschooling comes into direct conflict with assuring that children are exposed to such constitutional values."
Are you tracking with this? Homeschooling is dangerous to our children, the country and the Constitution. Farris also quotes from another author, Professor Martha Albertson Fineman from the Emory University School of Law, who in 2009 in the book What is Right for Children? The Competing Paradigms of Religion and Human Rights wrote,
"Indeed, the long-term consequences for the child being homeschooled or sent to a private school cannot be overstated. The total absence of regulation over what and how children are taught leaves the child vulnerable to gaining a sub-par or non-existent education from which they may never recover. Moreover, the risk that parents or private schools unfairly impose hierarchical or oppressive beliefs on their children is magnified by the absence of state oversight or the application of any particular educational standards." Fineman's solution to the problem? Read on:
". . . [T]he more appropriate suggestion for our current educational dilemma is that public education should be mandatory and universal. Parental expressive interest could supplement but never supplant the public institutions where the basic and fundamental lesson would be taught and experienced by all American children: we must struggle together to define ourselves both as a collective and as individuals."
Are you catching those buzzwords? "Struggle"? "Collective"? Would you like a cup of Marxism with your afternoon dialectic?
The battle line is being pretty clearly drawn. Having failed to attack homeschooling on the merits there is nothing left for the anti-homeschoolers but to attack a parent's right to do it. And that is achieved by going after the child, claiming that the state, not the parent, has ultimate responsibility for that child.
On the one hand, I have a certain sense of security that homeschooling has become so common and accepted that any attempt to eradicate it would fail. I am in the second generation of homeschooling and have personally never encountered what I would describe as homeschooling "persecution." Most of the time the people I come in contact with, even if they don't understand homeschooling, respect it as one of the educational options out there and respect my and my husband's decision to do it. They have overall positive images of homeschooling and often say they would do it themselves if they "could."
On the other hand, I think it pays to be vigilant. We live in a country that has for a very long time now been slowly expanding the power and reach of the State. There are some signs that may be starting to change, but those signs are not definitive and I am not convinced the tide has turned. I for one plan to tighten my grip on my kids, plant myself firmly between them and the ever-grasping State, and proclaim loudly, "Over my dead body." I suggest you do the same. How you do it is up to you.