Will homeschooling Christian parents be compelled to teach their children to embrace “safe sex,” abortion on demand, and moral relativism?
It sounds absurd, but it could happen tomorrow, next month, or anytime. The proposal is on the table, waiting for a judge to pick it up.
Children have a constitutional right to learn about beliefs and ways of life other than those of their parents, and the state has a duty to secure that right for them.
So argued Rob Reich, political science and education professor at Stanford University, at the 2001 convention of the American Political Science Association, reading from a paper entitled, “Testing the Boundaries of Parental Authority over Education, the Case of Home Schooling.” He included the paper as a chapter in his 2002 book, Bridging Multiculturalism and Liberalism in Education.
As dry and academic as that seems, Reich’s new children’s “right” has attracted the notice of America’s education elite. “Reich’s material is being read and referenced,” reported Home Education Magazine News & Commentary recently. “He has the ear of the media.”
In his writings, Reich proposes that homeschooling should be monitored by the state to ensure that parents teach their children beliefs and lifestyles that they may oppose — that parents may even believe to be evil.
One lawsuit brought to the right court — the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, for instance, (famous for declaring the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional) — could allow a judge to rule that Professor Reich is right, that children do have a right to learn beliefs and behaviors opposed to those of their parents. And if the parents refuse to teach them such, then the court may order them to secure their children’s “rights” by sending them to public school.
“We see that danger,” says Thomas Washburne, J.D., of the Home School Legal Defense Fund. “You might see it come up in a case where homeschooling parents demonstrably failed to educate a child. Some advocacy group might file a suit and try to mount a case for the child. They might claim the child has this right Reich has identified, and the judge might agree.”
In a recent Amazon.com reader review of Reich’s book, the reviewer declared, “The leading goal of education is to develop autonomy in children.”
Reich was quoted in Home Education Magazine News & Commentary* as saying: “The state has a role of promoting the independent interest of children, including the right to live a life other than that their parents lead.”
These astounding statements — are we to believe that until today’s hip educators came along, children were doomed to be carbon copies of their parents? — show that Reich’s ideas have fallen upon fertile ground.
Reich asserts, “Children are owed as a matter of justice the capacity to lead lives—adopt values and beliefs, pursue an occupation, endorse new [sic] traditions—that are different from those of their parents. Because the child cannot … ensure the acquisition of such capacities and the parents may be opposed … the state must ensure it for them” (emphasis added).
“It is at this point that we can begin to see the implications, indeed danger, of Reich’s ideas for home education,” Washburne says.
Reich has also written, “Neither parents nor the state can justly attempt to imprint indelibly upon a child a set of values and beliefs.”
Are you listening, Christian parents? Consider Biblical injunctions, such as:
“And ye shall teach them (God’s words) [to] your children … (Dt. 11:19), or “Train up a child in the way he should go …”(Pr. 22:6). To obey these injunctions, in Reich’s view, would be unjust.
Yet he argues that state interference in home education may be necessary to secure the children’s religious freedom: “[T]he state cannot relinquish its regulatory role in education in cases where parents invoke their religious beliefs as a bulwark against secular authority” (emphasis added). Translation: homeschooling is okay, as long as you don’t teach your children to be Christians.
“What Reich is doing,” Washburne says, “is setting an academic framework by which an activist judge might rule in favor of heavy restrictions on home education.”
What is the purpose of Reich’s proposals?
Says Washburne, “The education elite sees homeschoolers as traditional moralists, raising their children to be traditional moralists. They teach their children truth — truth that the elite doesn’t believe in, doesn’t recognize. It drives them crazy that they can’t get at these homeschooled children.”
For many parents, the whole point of homeschooling is to get their children out of the public schools and away from corrupt ideas and values. Now Reich proposes that these corrupt ideas be brought into the home by the parents themselves — or else.
“It’s been quiet so far this year,” Washburne says, “but Reich’s ideas are out there. We’re waiting to see if anyone tries to implement them.”
Perhaps Christian parents ought to start planning what they will do if an activist judge rules that their children have a “right” to be taught Practical Paganism 101. From the view of this writer, it’s only a matter of time before such an answer will be needed.
For more information, contact the Home School Legal Defense Fund, (540) 338-5600.
* In an earlier version of this web article, Chalcedon incorrectly attributed to Home Education Magazine News and Commentary its quote of Rob Reich. Their intent was, like ours, to alert Christians to the danger of Reich's position. We apologize for the error.
- Lee Duigon
Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.
Lee has his own blog at www.leeduigon.com.