by the Night Writer
“We are now trusting to those who are against us in position and principle, to fashion to their own form the minds and affections of our youth… This canker is eating on the vitals of our existence, and if not arrested at once, will be beyond remedy.”
— Thomas Jefferson
I just spent a week away from my children. Curiously enough, I spent a surprising amount of this time thinking and talking about home education.
One afternoon I played golf with a fun couple who have two boys, aged 4 and 2, who are nicknamed “Search” and “Destroy.” The mom had learned from my wife the evening before that we home educate and was interested in what was involved. I heard the usual questions from her about college admissions (colleges are now, in fact, actively recruiting home-schooled teens) and socialization (personally, I’m more concerned about socialism).
I told her that my children had always had a wide circle of friends their age, either cousins or kids from church or even the neighborhood, but also had had the experience of talking to and working closely with adults on a one-on-one basis. One of the results of this, in my opinion, is that my daughters have always been poised and comfortable whenever they speak with non-parental adults. They are respectful, but not awed or overcome with shyness or cupidity. In short, they act as if talking to other, older people is completely natural (imagine that!). Interestingly enough, the woman I was talking to and her husband spend a great deal of time (and earn a fair amount of money) trying to teach adults to regain or re-engage the child-like creativity and imagination they had had before years of education and “socialization” had beaten it out of them.
Two days later I was in the home of my wife’s cousin Kay and her husband, Adrian. With us were, I think, 9 of their 11 kids, plus a few sons- and daughters-in-law (and a prospective daughter-in-law) and their own children. We were enthusiastically and effortlessly added to the dinner table where our presence scarcely created a ripple. I think that with this many kids and grandkids around on a regular basis, most of Kay’s recipes start with “Take one whole cow…” One of the things you can’t help but notice, besides the number, is how fresh-faced and attentive all the young folks are, even the ones that have married in. Kay home-educated all of her children, some of whom are currently pursuing college degrees.
Normally when I’m around a family gathering of this size the rising clamor will eventually start to get to me, raising my blood-pressure and level of discomfort. This night, however, though there was a steady hub-bub, I had nothing but a feeling of peace, though I’d scarcely met any of these people before that night. Several of the children cycled through our table talk as the evening rolled on, with every age having something to contribute to the conversation.
The next morning we met Adrian, Kay and their oldest son, David, at their favorite local restaurant for breakfast. One of the topics that came up was the recent California appellate court ruling requiring home-schooling parents to have a teaching certificate. More compelling was one judge’s written opinion:
“California courts have held that … parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children,” Justice H. Walter Croskey said in the 3-0 ruling issued on Feb. 28. “Parents have a legal duty to see to their children’s schooling under the provisions of these laws.”
Parents can be criminally prosecuted for failing to comply, Croskey said.
The ruling sent shock waves throughout the estimated 166,000 home-educators in California as well as through the California legislature and even Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said, “Every California child deserves a quality education, and parents should have the right to decide what’s best for their children. Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children’s education. This outrageous ruling must be overturned by the courts, and, if the courts don’t protect parents’ rights, then, as elected officials, we will.” Interestingly enough, Schwarzenegger’s signing of SB777 last year may be one of the things that have led many parents to abandon the public schools. Give the Governator credit though; he may not be great at logic but he definitely knows how to count votes and probably realizes that whatever other political beliefs a homeschooling family may have, telling them that they have no right to educate their own children trumps them all.
Personally, I’m not shocked. California has long been the most overtly hostile state toward home-educators (ironically it’s own school system struggles to place a certified teacher in every classroom, yet would seek to mandate it in every home-school). Similarly, Education Minnesota has no love lost for home-educators and my hunch is that they wouldn’t mind if their pet DFL pupils in the Minnesota legislature were to bring them a similar bill as if it were a bright, shiny apple.
Of course, it takes a real socialist mentality to proclaim that the State is the rightful owner of your children, as I’ve documented before regarding events in England and Germany. The Germans, in fact, are still embracing the 1937 law instituted by a certain mustachioed megalomaniac that mandates compulsory state school educations. Seventy years later they’re still enforcing it by forceably taking kids from their homes to school in police cars or even removing children from their parents’ homes and hiding them in psychiatric hospitals for evaluation.
Many home-school parents in California are having to consider possibly leaving the state. That’s a drastic measure for sure, but one that has had to be taken by many German parents, as described by Sheila Lange in her blog, Trying to Homeschool in Germany, which details the personal struggles of her own family (now living in South Africa) and other home-school German families.
Of course, that’s all happening very far away, in Germany or even California, right? Closer to home, former Nebraska state senator Peter Hoagland is on record as saying, “Fundamentalist parents have no right to indoctrinate their children in their beliefs. We are preparing their children for the year 2000 and life in a global one-world society and those children will not fit in.”
Especially not if I can help it.