Who Speaks for the Movement? by Michael P. Farris
There has been much recent debate on the question of unity among home schoolers. At the heart of this issue is the question: Who speaks for all home schoolers?
Let me give you my answer to this question and this issue and then give my reasoning.
No one speaks for all home schoolers, and unity is a needless and illusory goal.
Think about it for a minute. If every home schooler in America were assembled in one large convention, what resolution would pass unanimously? The only one I could think of is: “We really would rather not live in North Dakota.” Even a resolution saying: "Home schooling is a valid alternative for some families,” would not pass unanimously because some would feel that it contradicted their belief that God commands us all to home school our children.
Try: “Home schooling should be legally permissible.” Not a unanimous idea. Some would contend that it is not a matter of permission, but an absolute right. Or: “Home schooling is the right of every family which chooses to do so.” This would not pass unanimously because some home schoolers believe that some uneducated parents should not have this right.
In other words, there is not a single meaningful resolution that would pass unanimously if all home schoolers voted.
Who speaks for all home schoolers? No one can, and no one should try.
But there is a better question to ask: “Who gets to speak for the home schooling movement?” This is a much better question. The majority speaks for the movement.
This should not be considered a radical position in this country. Majorities speak for all kinds of movements. The majority of the Republican party speaks for Republicans. If the majority is pro-life, then the party is pro-life. Why should it rattle anyone’s cage for the majority of home schoolers to define the position of the movement?
The Teaching Home Magazine recently sponsored a fine National Home School Convention. The content was overtly Christian. The resolutions proposed by the leadership and adopted by the attenders were also overtly Christian. Some people are suffering fits of emotional discomfort because the content was Christian. They criticize these resolutions, for example, because of their Christian content. They want a disclaimer put on the resolutions saying: WARNING, THESE RESOLUTIONS CONTAIN OVERTLY CHRISTIAN IDEAS AND DO NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENT THE VIEWS OF ALL HOME SCHOOLERS.
No one claimed that these resolutions represented all home schoolers—only that they represented the majority. About 95% of those in attendance approved them.
That same weekend, a group of secular home schoolers held a “national” home school meeting camping in New Mexico. Sixty men, women, and children attended. Only anti-Christian bigotry could lie at the heart of the suggestion (which has been made) that the New Mexico “60” represented all home schoolers, while the 1700 parents from 37 states at the Teaching Home Convention did not. Numbers speak. The majority rules. That's the American way.
But it is also the American way to protect the rights of the minority. In this case, Christian home schoolers (the majority) need to defend vigorously the rights of the non-Christian home schooler. HSLDA has always accepted home schoolers regardless of their religious faith or lack thereof. We are, nonetheless, an openly Christian organization. We view it as our obligation as Christians to defend vigorously the rights of all parents. This belief lies in our reading of Scripture that God gives children to parents, not to governments. So if you are a parent, we will vigorously defend your right to home school. On the practical side, we also believe that if secular home schoolers have their rights diminished, religious home schoolers will suffer the same loss.
I would hope that all Christian home schoolers would endorse the following resolution which I wrote as the very first resolution discussed by the state leaders at the National Convention:
WHEREAS we, as Christian home educators, are strongly committed to the rights of those of differing faiths or no faith to teach their own children,
WE ARE RESOLVED and committed to work with and for the rights of all home educators regardless of their religious faith.
I would also hope that non-Christian home educators could enthusiastically endorse the rights of Christian home schoolers—including the right to vote our convictions and the right to majority rule.