A vision for the Joshua generation
by Tom Washburne, Esq.
One of the privileges of being an attorney at Home School Legal Defense Association is that I am invited to attend a fair number of statewide homeschooling conferences. These conferences are great. In fact, for someone whose livelihood revolves around helping homeschooling families with significant legal problems, these conferences can be a real morale booster. The moms and dads in attendance are peacefully and happily engaged in educating their children, far from the gaze of overzealous social workers or jealous neighbors—and far from courts of law or hostile legislatures. And, speaking as a parent of five young children, I've noticed that these conferences are also one of the few places where almost every adult seems to be around my own age. The "generic age" tends to be somewhere near 40. Which means, of course, that most of these homeschooling parents grew up in the 1960s and 1970s.
Young people in the 1960s and 1970s—the present-day teachers and principals in homeschools—saw their world change at a rapid pace. The abandonment of moral values, a rise in drug abuse, questions about America's place in the world, and general cultural decline dominated the America of their childhood and youth. In the public schools, prayer was removed, open classrooms were experimented with, and the paddle, hickory switch, or whatever instrument of reasonable corporal punishment the vice principal thought effective was thrown into the closet. Test scores declined, the rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancy rose, and divorce rates soared. Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll became the mantra of the day. Churches, and even whole denominations, abandoned the truths that had guided them for hundreds of years. The reasons for this cultural revolution are complex and will be debated by historians for decades. That it happened cannot be denied.
Tragically, many young Americans suffered from decisions they and others made at that time. Promising careers were cut short, years were wasted on drugs, children became the parents of children, single parents struggled to make it on their own, and lives were lost. But, as so often happens, much good can arise out of what seem the gloomiest of circumstances.
It is in those strange times that we find the rebirth of homeschooling in America. For out of this social and moral chaos, a new realization dawned—a realization that children were at risk physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It was a determination by parents that they were going to see to it that their kids had a better education, not only academically, but also socially. They were simply not going to put their kids through the chaos they had survived, or, in the case of many, the chaos to which they had fallen victim. Unlike their parents, they no longer trusted the system of government-controlled schools that so dominated modern America. Even the private schools appeared to be in trouble. For Christian parents, there arose a newfound commitment to integrate their faith into all aspects of their children's lives. These parents realized that something had to be done for their children, even if it meant tremendous sacrifices of time and money—and even jail. For many, this meant educating their children at home.
Teaching children at home was counter-cultural, and the first families who chose to follow this route were fairly certain to face opposition, perhaps even imprisonment, if caught. State law, the educational bureaucracy, and even friends and families stood in the way.
HSLDA cofounder Mike Farris refers to this generation of parents as the Moses generation, who took it upon themselves to pull their children out of "Egypt," just as Moses led the Israelites out of 400 years of bondage in the real Egypt. Where "Pharaoh" (government or public school officials) objected, whether through certification requirements, truancy law, or some other legal maneuver, Pharaoh had to be challenged.
HSLDA was formed to provide the resources for individual homeschooling families to take on the various pharaohs that lined up to cause trouble for them. Over the last 20 years, we have been engaged in a number of major battles—from teacher certification requirements in Michigan to curfew issues in California.
The fight of the Moses generation continues to this very day. When the phone rings at my house in the evening, and the child who answers says, "Daddy, it's the answering service for HSLDA," I shudder. One of my responsibilities as an attorney at HSLDA is to handle emergency after-hours calls from members. Despite having been through the routine a number of times, the prospect of speaking with a family in an emergency situation tightens my gut. Dealing with a hostile social worker or a police or truant officer demanding to enter a home and go on a fishing expedition—because of some anonymous tip they won't even explain—is something I don't think I will ever get used to. But whether I like it or not, it happens. In fact, HSLDA handles hundreds of these emergency calls every year.
Thankfully, however, emergency calls are not the bulk of the work at HSLDA. Most members call in search of basic legal advice concerning their homeschool: how to fill out forms, how to write a letter, and other relatively easy, but important, tasks addressed by HSLDA contact attorneys every day.
The Moses generation, through the growth of homeschooling, has had a significant impact on the existing education establishment. Let me put it this way. Homeschooling in reality and in theory is bad news for those employed in public education. Whether public school employees love or hate homeschooling, they cannot deny that if this movement succeeds, it will impact their jobs and careers. We would be foolish to believe that we will go unchallenged in this environment. It is clear that we are still in the wilderness, where Moses and the Israelites wandered for 40 years before they entered the Promised Land. We must be diligent to guard our hard-won freedom. Every year, bills are introduced that must be defeated and there are new legal challenges. The battle of the Moses generation is far from over.
But remember, in the biblical account, the story does not end with Moses' generation. His successor, Joshua, led the next generation to actually take the land.
Millions of children are being homeschooled today. Millions more are coming along and will reach school age soon. This generation's upbringing has been very different from that of their parents. They have not been raised in moral chaos. They have not been raised by a system that dumbs them down to the lowest denominator. They have not been told that there is no truth. This Joshua generation is going to be exciting to watch. In fact, the data is beginning to come in. While observing the size of homeschooling families, a friend of mine once commented that she had great hope for the future from the simple standpoint that we will soon outnumber the opposition. A bit simplistic, but it does put a whole new perspective on the biblical command to be fruitful and multiply.
Fortunately, homeschooling works. The Joshua generation appears to have all the potential of being one of America's outstanding generations. In 2003, Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) conducted the largest study ever of adults who were home educated. Over 5000 participated. Many of the results of the study were, quite frankly, expected. We were pretty confident that it would be found that homeschool graduates are going on to college at high rates, are getting good jobs, and are active in their communities. However, we were somewhat surprised and pleased to learn that homeschooling is also nurturing civic involvement.
These adults who were homeschooled were found to work for candidates, contribute to campaigns, and vote in much higher percentages than the general population of the United States. For example, 76% of homeschool graduates surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared to only 29% of the relevant U.S. population. This same group was also 14 times more likely to work for candidates and political causes. Clearly, these first members of the Joshua generation are not content with simply being watchers, they are doers. The largely homeschooled student population at Patrick Henry College, which HSLDA helped birth, bears this out as well. But we must, as homeschooling parents, ask ourselves if this trend toward active civic involvement will continue.
In the first 20 years of fighting the battles of the Moses generation, HSLDA was engaged primarily in the legal and political battles of a movement. In other words, HSLDA was taking on the attacks being made against homeschooling as a method of education. When these attacks were mounted, as in the case of the infamous battle over H.R. 6 in 1994, the children of homeschoolers were actively engaged in the fight. They were right there making calls and stuffing envelopes. In the opinion of Mike Farris, this "family activism" largely accounts for the activist nature of these first homeschool graduates who constituted the bulk of the adults in the NHERI study.
However, the trend is shifting. The attacks on home education as a movement are still prevalent in various places and settings, but the most frequent problem tends to involve attacks on particular homeschooling families. In fact, more and more often, homeschooling families are completely unaware that there is a significant challenge to homeschooling in a nearby location because the attack is aimed at one family, not the movement. While the children of a particular family may accordingly find themselves in a situation warranting activism, the movement as a whole often does not. One possible result of this reality is that the perceived importance of homeschool graduates' civic involvement may fade. This would be tragic.
|MISSOURI VICTORY: Homeschooled students and graduates helped candidate Jim Talent unseat an incumbent senator in 2002.|
All around us, our culture is declining on a scale that makes the decline of the 1960s and 1970s pale in comparison. The lyrics of today's rap music make the controversial music of the Rolling Stones of old seem like stationary pebbles. In Washington, D.C., groups of girls who call themselves the Most Wanted Honeys cruise the streets and clubs in search of trouble, brutally beating any who might offend them. Store clerks can hardly make change, and many young people seem unable to carry on a simple conversation. Television has degenerated to little more than what used to be called soft porn. Society tells our young girls that marriage is not necessary to be a mother. Indeed, in Massachusetts, the courts have declared that marriage cannot even be exclusively set forth as the relationship between a man and a woman, but must include men "marrying" men and women "marrying" women. Most federal politicians act more like purchasing agents for their district than statesmen. America is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. As surely as the consequences of gravity become apparent to one ignoring the physical laws of the universe, there will be consequences for a nation ignoring the moral laws.
In the midst of this darkness, there is light. America has a rich heritage. The Founders of our form of government believed in truth and principle, liberty and freedom. There remains a remnant in America that still believes there are self-evident truths, that "all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." Many in this remnant are members of the Moses generation, and the Joshua generation is coming.
We know that ultimately America's future is in the hands of the Lord. But we also know that we are stewards of the opportunities and resources we have been given. Twenty years ago HSLDA was formed to protect and expand liberty. We are proud of HSLDA's track record. And as HSLDA contemplates the next 20 years—how to best secure the long-term freedom of parents to educate their children—we believe that the time has come to expand our proactive efforts. We believe that the best way for HSLDA to do this is to assist parents in preparing their children to take their proper place in America, catch the vision of what America can be, and couple this vision with hands-on involvement.
HSLDA has put this long-term effort into a new program. We call it Generation Joshua. Through Generation Joshua, we intend to develop a new civics curriculum based on an old concept—the U.S. Constitution as interpreted in the light of the original intent of the Founders. To take the land, the Joshua Generation needs a solid understanding of the proper role of civil government, the church, and the family. But knowledge is not enough. If this program is to have a lasting impact, it must be coupled with actually doing something. That is activism.
We believe that activism is an essential aspect of the Generation Joshua program, not only because it can make an immediate impact, but, more importantly, the hands-on experiences of today pave the way for members of Generation Joshua to be the leaders of the future. This activism will take many forms. Voter registration and letters to the editor can, on a large scale, make a huge impact on American politics. In addition, direct participation in campaigns is essential. There is nothing like real-life experience as a training ground. By being involved in the elections of today's leaders, we are helping tomorrow's leaders gain needed skills.
To facilitate this participation in elections, federal election law and prudence both dictate that HSLDA not utilize its revenue derived from membership dues. Accordingly, HSLDA has organized a connected political action committee (PAC) to fund the election activities of Generation Joshua.
We have high expectations for the Generation Joshua program. But in order to be successful, three things must happen. First, we need to encourage our teens to participate in the program. Second, we need to raise, through contributions, the funds necessary to engage our students in real-life political races. Finally, we need to be wise in the selection of specific political races.
The Joshua generation is coming. It will be exciting to watch the Lord work.