Friend or Foe?
Home-schooling legal problems continue to undergo transformation. The once vast “empire” of teacher certification laws has dwindled to a single enclave—the People's Republic of Michigan. And even there, battles are being won ">(see page 1) as the cries for an end to the despotism escalate. Home schoolers have won the right to exist.
In some school districts old-style harassment continues. The militant autocracy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is evidence that some never change. However, the most potent threat to the legal freedoms of home schoolers in the future will come from those in the public school community with a smile and not a snarl on their lips.
Actually there are two kinds of smiling public school officials. Home schoolers need only fear one kind.
One bears a smile of friendship. He respects home schooling as an alternative. He respects the rights of parents to make choices. He makes no demands beyond the requirement of the law. He has no altruistic design on the minds or hearts of your children. He is willing to help upon request. This person is a true friend.
The other bears a smile of partnership. He accepts the decision of the legislatures and courts that you have a right to home school. He respects your good intentions. Like you, he has the “best interest of your child” at heart. He volunteers to assist you in your endeavor to home school your child. He wants to form a public school/home school partnership to make sure your child receives the best of both worlds. This person is dangerous.
The heart of a “friend” is in fundamental agreement with the notion that parents are the people most qualified to choose what is best for their children. The heart of a “partner” fundamentally distrusts the judgment of parents and truly believes that only the professional educator knows what is best for your child. Friends are willing to help you. Partners want “equal input” on your decisions, and somehow “equal input” ends up a lot like control.
The philosophical difference between “friendship” and “partnership” lies at the heart of HSLDA's long-standing rule against accepting members who are enrolled in California's public school independent study program. Such people are in a true partnership with the public schools. There are financial benefits to the home-schooling partners. But, the public schools are becoming increasingly bold in declaring that they are the managing partner in the firm.
I will never forget the lady who spoke to me last year at CHEA of California’s annual convention. She had been enrolled in the “partnership” program with the public schools. She was threatened by the school district's lawyer with a suit for a refund of the public school assistance she had received because she was using religious books for some courses. He reminded her that she was in a public school program in which it was constitutionally improper to interject religion.
As we enter the second decade of home school activism, we are familiar with our enemies and know how to deal with them. We are grateful for our friends, and we need to remember that there are officials who are truly our friends. But home schoolers are a lot like a newly rich person. All of a sudden there are a lot of smiling faces who want to be your partner. Remember, the Bible asks, “How can two walk together unless they be agreed?” Beware of unsolicited partnerships—especially with those who are not founded on God's Word and fully committed to the concept that God has given children to parents rather than the state.
Michael P. Farris