The Next Four Years
About four years ago I debated the topic of home schooling with the president of the National School Boards Association at a dinner meeting of the New York State School Boards Association. The speaker preceding our debate was Bill Clinton. Clinton introduced his speech saying, “We just dealt with the home-schooling issue in Arkansas, and I know the issue well. I can argue both sides of the question.”
I think we can expect the Clinton administration to treat home schooling with that “both-sides-of-the-question” kind of ambivalence. Home schoolers will have good reason to be especially alert during the Clinton presidency, but there is no reason to panic on this front.
We have received calls from mothers who have started to look for Christian schools because they “know” that home schooling will be made illegal immediately upon Clinton's inauguration. That degree of fear is simply unwarranted.
There are some legitimate concerns, and in all fairness we must point out that there will be some bright spots as well. Let's deal with the bright spots first.
Clinton endorsed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during the campaign. As you know, I was the chairman of the committee which wrote this bill. It has solid backing in Congress and should pass easily and quickly. This bill will protect religious organizations, our churches, and our families from the onslaught of unfriendly government at any level.
What I am about to say will be surprising to most people. Clinton judicial nominees are much more likely to be favorable to home schooling and other religious freedom concerns than many Reagan–Bush appointees. It was the conservatives on the Supreme Court who degraded the free exercise of religion. When I appeared before the federal court of appeals to argue against the infamous 1982 police raid on Faith Baptist Church in Louisville, Nebraska, I was before a panel of three judges. Two were appointed by Democrats, one by President Reagan. The Democrat appointees both voted in favor of the rights of the worshippers. The Republican appointee voted in favor of the police raiders. This has been my experience in most, but clearly not all, cases dealing with the free exercise of religion.
On the other hand, the Clinton administration and the Clinton judiciary will be adamantly pro–abortion rights, pro–gay rights, and pro–feminist. These issues provided good and solid justification for the overwhelming preference for President Bush among pro–life, pro–family people.
The one issue we are going to have to watch specifically is an attempt to use the federal government to ban or restrict home schooling of “special needs” children. Arkansas has the most restrictive law in the country for the home education of children with special needs. That provision has the fingerprints of Hillary Clinton all over it. We will have to be alert.
What should our response be to the concerns we have that a Children's Defense Fund advocate will be living in the White House for the next four years?
Panic is not the appropriate response. Instead we should pursue a course of prayer and action.
HSLDA and the National Center for Home Education will be implementing an expanded program for monitoring federal legislation. We intend to find a legislative liaison in every one of the 435 congressional districts. If you would be interested in helping with this project, please write to me. Congress will still respond to calls and letters from voters. We need to be ready.
The second response is of a more long-term nature. Frankly, we did not have the greatest choices in November. President Bush failed to pursue a conservative economic course, and he paid the ultimate political price for his middle-of-the road philosophy.
If we are going to have better policies, we have to develop leadership from within the ranks of those who believe in the traditional values of freedom. We need to start the long process of developing credible leadership by consistent involvement in local and state politics. Home-schooling moms have their hands full. This is a project for dads, teens, and those moms whose children are at the stage of life which makes this type of involvement possible.
Home schoolers have looked at the problem of our children's education and determined that we could do a better job ourselves. We have much to contribute to the good of our country if we take the same approach to self-government. Home schoolers can never dominate this country, but we can participate.
If Clinton's election drives us to greater levels of participation, it will clearly be a blessing in disguise.
Michael P. Farris