Liberal political analyst Michael Lind writes in the opening chapter of his book, Up from Conservatism:
American conservatism is dead. This is not to say that the conservative movement in American political history is over. Just as left-liberal Democrats continued to advance their agenda in the 1970s and 1980s — years after their ideology degenerated into an empty creed — so the right wing of the Republican Party may continue to expand its influence for some time to come. But those victories will be a result of external factors — the collapse of the left, the disorientation of the political center, the long-term conversion of the white South to the GOP, inertia — not of vigor or dynamism on the part of conservatives. . . . The project of sustaining a mainstream, centrist conservatism distinct from the far right in its positions, and not merely in its style, has failed.
Lind is perfectly right in describing "centrist conservatism" as lacking vigor or dynamism. Moderate Republicans are in essence liberals. Centrist conservatives are not revolutionaries or radicals. It is hard to describe what they actually are, except as careful politicians with a tepid free-enterprise agenda, political pragmatists. You have to go outside Congress and the political system to find the true freedom movement in America: the homeschool phenomenon. There is no other movement in America that has done more to recapture the spirit of American freedom than homeschooling.
Homeschoolers are, without question, revolutionary; they are making a clean break with the statist institution of government education. It is government-owned and -controlled education which is the very foundation of the secular state which exerts its power by molding the minds of its youngest citizens to serve the mythical state.
The Founders and the "State"
The founding fathers never created a "state" which had certain mystical powers over its citizens. That kind of state was a concept concocted in the mind of the German philosopher Hegel, a pantheist, who saw the State as God on earth. The Germans have always had a rather mystical view of the state and its power over the lives of its people, or "volk."
In America, this Hegelian state has evolved into something that simply cannot be made compatible with the American idea of government. Thus, when American courts speak of a compelling state interest in education without defining the state, or what is meant by compelling, or education, the assumption is that Americans regard the state as some sort of higher godlike power that must be served. The state they are talking about is the mystical Hegelian state.
What we have in America is a government, not a "state" in the Hegelian sense. We have a government run by men who must conform to a Constitution which places limits on what the government can do. There are not limits to what the Hegelian state can do, a fact tragically demonstrated during the Nazi era. In addition, we have a constitutional republic, not a democracy. A democracy is simply majority rule. A republic, through its written constitution, limits what the majority can do to the minority. Representatives, elected by the citizenry, are obliged to adhere to the limits placed on them by the Constitution.
Most Americans speak of our government as a democracy. They have virtually no understanding of the profound difference between a democracy and a constitutional republic. This gross lack of understanding is the work of the statist education system which has a vested interest in keeping Americans ignorant of the true role of limited government. The mystical "will of the people" is now what is considered to be the essence of American democracy. The "will of the people" has now become the sacred mantra of the humanist state as long as the will of the people can be manipulated by the humanist dominated media.
The homeschool revolution was started by Christians who recognized the implicit conflict that exists between Biblical religion and secular humanism. When it became obvious to them that the government schools had been thoroughly captured by the humanists, these parents had no choice but to remove their children from them. And inasmuch as many private schools have been greatly influenced by humanist philosophy, these Christian parents found it necessary to do the educating themselves. Also, many of them were strongly motivated to follow God's commandments concerning the education of children as given in Deuteronomy 6.
While religion was the primary moving force behind the early homeschoolers, they were also well aware of the academic decline within the public schools which no longer knew how to teach such basic subjects as reading or arithmetic. After all, it was in April 1983 that the National Commission on Excellence in Education issued its now historic report, stating: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves." Sixteen years later, the schools are probably worse today than they were then.
These early homeschoolers were the pioneers in the movement. They were generally well-educated orthodox Christians who understood the political and cultural forces at work, and were willing to take the necessary steps to guard their children against the growing moral and academic chaos in the public schools. In those days, they were a tiny minority, and they tended to keep low profiles. However, whenever they were dragged into court by local superintendents who asserted implicitly that the children were owned by the state, ministers like Rushdoony were called by the homeschoolers to defend their God-given right to educate their children at home.
Those were the days before the creation of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The pioneers, like the founding fathers, tended to be strong people, willing to accept the consequences of their actions, but also willing to fight for their right to control and minister their own children's education. And the law and tradition were basically on their side. There were no federal laws preventing homeschooling and, in fact, education was not even mentioned in the U. S. Constitution. Also, most state compulsory school attendance laws provided room for exemptions.
Nevertheless, here and there, local judges, backed up by the education establishment, ordered local police to actually drag children away from their families in conformity with the state's supposed compelling interest in education. That's what happened in Plymouth County, Idaho, in 1985. In such cases, the public and even the liberal media tended to sympathize with the homeschoolers. News pictures of perfectly decent children being dragged away from their parents were not good PR for the school authorities.
Some parents actually went to jail. That was the case with the Pangelians who in 1985 spent 132 days in jail in Morgan County, Alabama, because they had decided to homeschool their children without the school district's approval and refused to turn their children over to the state authorities when ordered. Again, jailing Christian parents for homeschooling did not make good PR for state officials.
Two years later, after the ordeal was over, Sharon Pangelian was asked why she and her husband didn't take the children and leave Alabama. She wrote:
That question was asked of us over and over before the trial. (And would continue to be asked during our time in jail, and even after we were released.) We answered the question the same way, over and over again: We don't want to be separated from our children at all. But if we run away, we teach them that courage has no part in liberty. If what you're doing is right, according to Scripture, then you don't run away. Fighting against oppression and ungodly usurpation of authority is indeed Scriptural, especially when it concerns the family.
That is the kind of courage and spiritual strength that undergirded the pioneers of the homeschool movement. In 1983, three homeschooling lawyers formed the Home School Legal Defense Association, "born out of the need to defend the growing number of home school families in each of our respective communities," writes Michael Farris, president of the HSLDA, who is also an ordained Baptist minister.
By 1990, more than 15,000 homeschoolers in all fifty states had joined the HSLDA, which offered legal services to homeschooling families who were experiencing legal difficulties in their communities.
A Thriving Movement
Today, the homeschool movement is thriving in a manner which would have been inconceivable twenty years ago. State homeschool organizations now have to rent large convention centers in which to hold their annual conventions which draw thousands of interested parents. Apparently, there is more to homeschooling than merely removing one's children from the morally corrupt public schools. There is now the sense that the new family lifestyle, which develops around homeschooling, is highly desirable because of the positive bonding it creates between parents and children. This is a particular blessing for the Christian family that seeks to live in conformity with Biblical truth, which is more easily imparted to their children.
While the early homeschoolers were considered pioneers, the families that followed were looked upon as settlers. The settlers created the state organizations, support groups, magazines, books, and curriculum that have evolved into what one can call the homeschool academic and political establishment. While they have a long way to go before they can equal the National Education Association in political power, the exponential growth of the homeschool movement assures that its influence will be felt in the state legislatures and the Congress of tomorrow.
Today's newcomers to homeschooling are more like refugees, fleeing the failed government schools. They eagerly seek help from the settlers who are more than happy to provide it. But we should not be overly sanguine about the movement's success. The vast majority of Christians still put their children in the public schools. Also, many parents are seeking salvation in the new charter schools and the possible enactment of government voucher programs. They have yet to be weaned from the government trough. Nevertheless, the homeschool movement as it exists today represents a triumph of parental independence and enterprise. Christians must do all in their power to support it.
- Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Samuel L. Blumenfeld (1927–2015), a former Chalcedon staffer, authored a number of books on education, including NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education, How to Tutor, Alpha-Phonics: A Primer for Beginning Readers, and Homeschooling: A Parent’s Guide to Teaching Children.
He spent much of his career investigating the decline in American literacy, the reasons for the high rate of learning disabilities in American children, the reasons behind the American educational establishment’s support for sex and drug education, and the school system's refusal to use either intensive phonics in reading instruction and memorization in mathematics instruction. He lectured extensively in the U.S. and abroad and was internationally recognized as an expert in intensive, systematic phonics. His writings appeared in such diverse publications as Home School Digest, Reason, Education Digest, Boston Magazine, Vital Speeches of the Day, Practical Homeschooling, Esquire, and many others.