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February 13, 2016

The Best Chat We’ve Had with the UN?

Late last month my work took me to an unlikely location in Manhattan, just across the street from an entity we sometimes characterize as a hotbed of hostile internationalism: The United Nations.

Mike Donnelly BY MIKE DONNELLY HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

I’d been invited to speak to a collection of activist groups, collectively known as the UN Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) Committee on the Family. Members of this committee are among those allowed to lobby the UN on various issues and programs.

The theme for the session was parental involvement in education—which I found quite appropriate, since homeschooling is one of the best ways for parents to be involved in teaching their kids.

I spoke after a young mom who was also a Ph.D. student. She gave an interesting presentation on how parents lay a very important groundwork (or fail to do so) for progress in reading. In my own half-hour presentation, I sought to give a broad overview of homeschooling, from its philosophical underpinnings to its explosive growth in the last few decades.

Many of the attendees had little experience with home education. So I closed with a discussion of the legal status of home education in the U.S. and abroad, and asked the NGOs who were present to do what they could to influence the UN and foreign governments to respect the right of parents to choose how to teach their children.

Speaking for Parents

There were several NGOs at the meeting, which was held at the Church Center for the United Nations.

Although Home School Legal Defense Association opposes the ratification of certain UN treaties in the United States, we recognize that many UN member countries treat UN treaties with great deference. As a major promoter of human rights treaties, many of which recognize the primary role of parents in education, the United Nations is very influential in those countries. And by building on these protocols—which include language that is supportive of parental rights in education—we can help homeschooling families in other countries.

Raising Our Voices

This idea was echoed at the meeting by fellow attorney Kelsey Zorzi. A former homeschool student herself, Kelsey now works as UN counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). HSLDA has partnered with ADF before to advance homeschool freedom overseas, especially in Europe.

Kelsey said it has been difficult to convince UN decision-makers about the importance of supporting families—a reality that undermines the institution’s own goals of reducing strife, poverty, and abuse.

“We find that when families are intact and thriving, so many issues are eliminated,” Kelsey told me. “And yet the UN is never focusing on families. It’s a huge struggle even to get the word ‘family’ into any UN document.”

It was also exciting to see all the homeschooling families (with their kids) who came to hear my presentation. I invited the audience to interact with the living proof that homeschool students are socialized and engaged. What a great experience for children to come to a presentation like this in Manhattan, across from the United Nations itself, and experience such diversity deep in the heart of our nation’s most populous city.