The Home School Court Report
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Home Schooling Statesmen: Making a Positive Difference Across America

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RLPA Battle: Victory in the House

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P R E S I D E N T ’ S   P A G E

Relative Freedom & Responsible Liberty

     Thirty-seven home schooling parents are elected members of state legislatures. One of these, Daniel Webster, is the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Additionally two congressmen and one U.S. senator are home schooling parents.
     This degree of political involvement is, in part, the result of the years of legal threats and prosecution home schooling families faced in the past. The legal rights of home schoolers are considerably better than in those uncertain days in the 1980s, but the memories are still sufficiently fresh to make home schoolers especially vigilant in the protection of their freedoms. There is nothing like persecution by those wielding the power of the majority to launch a minority into focused political activism.
     Perhaps it was the most serious political blunder in the history of the education establishment to have attacked the rights of home schoolers. As a consequence of this harassment, we have obtained a considerable political presence as is attested to by the 40 high-level state and federal elected officials who wear the proud title of “home schooling parent.”
     The question I wish to pose to my fellow home schoolers is this: Will these times of relative freedom cause us to lose our motivation to intense political activity?
     There are three dangers that we face in this situation.
     First, there is the danger of assuming that relative freedom is the same as complete safety. These are only days of relative freedom. The Lynn (Massachusetts) School District believes that home schooling is only legal if families are willing to subject themselves to unannounced “home visits”—a euphemism for a warrantless search. Many social services agencies aggressively investigate home schooling families with a special vengeance. In two federal lawsuits the Home School Legal Defense Association has filed on behalf of families in California, both home schooling and Christianity have been listed in the internal documents of the child protective services investigators as “risk factors” in their assessment of our clients. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit just ruled that a home schooling mother who heard a police officer say, “If you don’t let us in, we will take your children,” consented to a search of her home on a free, voluntary, and untainted basis when she walked out of her front door, hands in the air, less than two minutes later.
     The second danger of today’s relative freedom can be a political lethargy on the part of home schooling families. Both parents and children have been cutting-edge political activists, not just in home schooling matters, but in general politics for the past five to seven years. Our current situation is enviable. Most other special interest groups would jump at the chance to acquire our degree of political participation and effectiveness.
     The third danger that can come from our days of relative freedom is a tendency toward political cannibalism. When every home schooling family in North Dakota was being prosecuted in the 1980s, with Iowa and Michigan not far behind, our movement was focused and usually united. Now, some have threatened to fracture the home schooling movement’s generally unified front by engaging in the irresponsible practice of attacking state and national home school leaders along with some of the few true friends that home schoolers have in Congress. There are two elements which distinguish an unjustified attack from a just criticism:

  1. A just critic has talked with the person whom he or she wishes to criticize before publishing a report, to make sure of the facts and to make sure that he or she has heard the whole story.
  2. A just critic does real research, not a mere passing on of rumor found on the Internet or in other gossip sources.
     Our own history demonstrates the importance of banding together and of being accurate and thoroughly informed before speaking out on an issue. Remember 1994’s H.R.6 teacher certification battle? A good legislative analysis of a proposed bill can only be based on a careful reading of both current law and any law being amended.
     Home schoolers understand that our freedom can be disproportionately impacted by just one family who abuses the academic training of their children. We need to also understand that one self-proclaimed “researcher” on the Internet who behaves in a politically irresponsible manner can also make trouble for tens of thousands who behave responsibly.
     If home schoolers do not remain active, we will not remain free. It’s that simple. Our mere numbers do not warrant our current level of political clout unless we bring general political activism with it. And we need to exercise our political prerogatives with excellence and level-headed responsibility.
—Adapted from an article that originally appeared in
The Washington Times, July 14, 1998.