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P R E S I D E N T ’ S   P A G E

J. Michael Smith, PresidentHomeschooling detractors diversify tactics

The attacks on homeschooling just keep on coming. The latest is from Rob Reich of the Political Science Department of Stanford University. In a paper prepared for the American Political Science Association's annual meeting in San Francisco, Mr. Reich concluded that "While the state should not ban homeschooling, it must nevertheless, regulate its practice with vigilance." One would assume that Mr. Reich would assert the need for vigilant regulation of homeschoolers based upon academic concerns. But he is not. Let us consider why.

First, it would be hard for Mr. Reich to argue that homeschoolers need to be more severely regulated because of academic reasons. In general, homeschoolers score anywhere from 10 to 30 percentile points above the national average, depending upon the specific academic study you review. The issue of academic performance was the first hurdle homeschoolers had to overcome. The early objectors to homeschooling asserted that parents without teacher certification could not provide an adequate education for their children. Obviously, this has been disproved. As a matter of fact, research indicates that there is very little difference between standardized achievement test results of children educated by parents with high school degrees and those parents who are certified teachers. Therefore, Mr. Reich would not get very far if he argued that the state should increase regulation over homeschool children because they are not being adequately educated.

Nor would Mr. Reich get very far in arguing that the state should increase regulations because homeschool students do better academically in states where there is high regulation. One of the nationwide studies HSLDA has commissioned analyzed homeschool students' test scores in three categories of states: high, moderate, and low regulation. States such as Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas, Illinois and Indiana are considered low regulation states because there is no state-mandated notification, nor periodic assessments that would measure the homeschool children's success educationally. States such as New York and Pennsylvania would be considered highly regulated states because there is a significant oversight by the state including notification of homeschooling, extensive explanation of curriculum and textbooks, and periodic assessments that measure the student's success educationally.

In examining the standardized achievement tests results of children in all three categories of states, there is no appreciable difference in how the children score. The legitimate conclusion that can be drawn from the results is that home educating parents can be trusted to provide quality education for their children, even though they are not being prodded by the state. The two percent of the population that has decided to take the responsibility on themselves for the education of their children have proven to be trustworthy. They believe in the old adage that where much is given, much is required. Where freedom is given, steadfast responsibility is required.

So what is Reich's angle? He believes that children have a fundamental right in "becoming autonomous." This is nothing new. It comes right out of the child's rights movement as espoused by Hillary Clinton, It Takes a Village to Raise a Child. This view smacks of egalitarianism which asserts that at a certain age children should be able to make decisions for themselves. Children must be able to think independently of their parents, so the parents should not have the right to dictate when they go to bed, what they watch or do not watch on television, what activities are good for them, what friends are good for them, or whether or not they should obey their parents. Fortunately until now, our law has recognized that until children reach a certain age they do not have the capacity to make these decisions and their parents are presumed to be mature enough to direct their children to make the right decisions.

Reich apparently disagrees with this principle and believes that homeschoolers are dangerous because they do not expose their children to public schools so they can in turn be exposed to education and thinking independent from their parents. To ensure the children's autonomy, Reich would use the power of the state to ensure that all children, regardless of the beliefs of their parents, receive an education that exposes them to values and beliefs other than those they find at home. Reich's view is that allowing only the child's parents to convey to them their worldview is dangerous to the child and society. He trusts state-sponsored education to teach the child the proper worldview rather than his parents.

I surmise that the worldview that bothers Reich of most homeschoolers is that there are moral absolutes. These moral absolutes come with religion, which necessitates the teaching of truth. Quite frankly, this is one of the main reasons why home education has exploded as a movement, because public schools no longer teach absolute truth.

It is easy to see why homeschoolers would be frustrated with this kind of thinking. We have demonstrated through objective standardized testing that we are providing a superior education to what the public school can offer the average child. Yet, we will continue to face these challenges to reduce their freedom which is the key to their success as long as there are fuzzy thinkers who are more concerned about what the child believes than what the child knows.

This position was summed up by Paul Blanchard, while he was the contributing editor of a magazine called The Humanist, with the following statement: "I think that the most important factor moving us toward a secular society has been the educational factor. Our schools may not teach Johnny to read properly, but the fact that Johnny is in school until he is 16 tends to lead toward the elimination of religious superstition."

What is obvious from this kind of statist thinking is that homeschoolers will always have to be on guard in protecting the freedom they have obtained because the educational elite will never be content with allowing children to be beyond their influence. They will not yield in their desire to impart their worldview of relativism and secular humanism on all children in America, even those being schooled at home.

Thanks for your help in joining with us to establish and maintain this God-given freedom to direct the upbringing and education of our children. Q

Based on a May 20, 2002, Washington Times column by J. Michael Smith.