The Washington Times
September 29, 2008

Washington Times Op-ed—GenJ Teaches Leadership, Civics

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Election season is in full swing and in about six weeks we should know the name of the next president, the new composition of Congress, as well as results from state and local races. Millions of people across the country will vote and help determine the direction of this nation. This is the time when “we the people” have an opportunity to play a critical role in the future of our country.

While millions of people will vote, unfortunately, millions more will not. Turnout in presidential elections typically runs at 50 percent, but among people ages 18 to 24, the percentage is only about 30 percent. Much has been written about the lack of participation among the younger generation. However, it appears young people have great interest in this year’s elections.

The 2003 study “Homeschooling Grows Up” focused on homeschool graduates and what they were doing as adults. More than 7,000 homeschool graduates were surveyed by the National Home Education Research Institute. It was discovered that 76 percent of homeschool graduates 18 to 24 years old had voted in an election in the previous five years. Furthermore, it also found that homeschool graduates ages 18 to 24 were three times more likely to financially support a candidate for public office and 14 times more likely to work for a political campaign than other 18- to 24-year-olds.

This is good news because it shows homeschoolers are not only interested in the study of our government, but they actively do something to try to improve it. One of the reasons for this heightened involvement in society is that many homeschool families teach American history, which shows how important it was during the founding of this nation to have men and woman who were well-educated and powerful advocates for their positions. The great acts of civic and political leadership that led to the adopting of the U.S. Constitution occurred in a period in history that many homeschoolers admire.

The Home School Legal Defense Association started the Generation Joshua program to give young people an opportunity to develop their leadership skills. They do this while learning about the principles that were important to the Founding Fathers and by putting their knowledge to work in the political arena.

This program is designed to provide civics training to teens, but also give them real-world experience. GenJ has more than 4,000 members and more than 70 GenJ Clubs. Teens join GenJ because they do not want to sit around and watch the world pass by. They want to be a part of shaping the course of this nation. It’s an enormous task, but homeschoolers are well-acquainted with overcoming daunting challenges.

Aside from participating in local community projects, GenJ members also conduct voter registration drives, but the highlight of the GenJ program is working on a Student Action Team. Hundreds of GenJ members will travel the country before the election supporting candidates who are pro-family and pro-homeschooling. They gain real-life experience with political and civic action.

Programs like GenJ show that homeschoolers are not retreating from society, as some critics claim, but actively engaged and making a difference.

Homeschoolers enter the adult world with confidence that they can make a positive contribution to their nation, both locally and nationally. GenJ is fast becoming a vehicle through which a new generation of homeschoolers can make a lasting impact on this nation.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at (540)338-5600; or send email to media@hslda.org.

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