There is much disappointment these days among conservatives who have or haven’t expected the new Bush administration and conservatives in Congress to reverse the liberal drive toward socialism and global government. The Jeffords’ defection, which turned the Senate over to the Democrats, was like a punch in the stomach. This reliance on politicians to bring about a conservative millennium is not only misplaced but delusional. You have to go outside Congress and the political arena to find where the real freedom revolution is taking place: in the home school movement. There is no other movement in America that has done more to recapture the spirit of American freedom than home schooling.
Home schoolers 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 that exerts its power by molding the minds of its youngest citizens to serve the mythical state.
The Founding Fathers never created a “state” that had certain mystical powers over its citizens. That kind of state was an idea conceived by the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1830), a pantheist, who saw the state as God on earth. The Germans have long had a rather mystical view of the state and its power over the lives of its people.
In America the Hegelian state idea, introduced in this country by Harvard intellectuals and educators, has evolved into something that simply cannot be made compatible with the American idea of government, which is well stated in our Declaration of Independence. That document tells us that the purpose of government is to secure the unalienable rights of the people, rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is a philosophy of government more compatible with the Bible than with Hegel. 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 many Americans now 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 that places limits on what the government can do. There are no limits on what the Hegelian state can do, a fact tragically demonstrated during the Nazi era, when the state became a persecutor and mass murderer of its own citizens.
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 our 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,” often invoked by liberal politicians, has become the sacred mantra of the liberal secular state, as long as the “will of the people” can be manipulated by the liberal-dominated media.
The home school 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 home schoolers, 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 education 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.” Eighteen years later, the public schools are probably worse than they were in 1983.
Pioneers and Settlers
These early home schoolers 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, Christian leaders like the late Rev. Rousas J. Rushdoony were called by the parents to defend their God-given right and their God-commanded duty to educate their children at home. It was Rev. Rushdoony’s staunch Biblical defense of Christian parental responsibilities that provided moral and spiritual backbone to the Christian home school movement.
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, willing to fight for their right to control and minister their own children’s education. The law and tradition were basically on their side. There were no federal laws forbidding home schooling. 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, ignoring the Constitution, but backed by the district’s education establishment, ordered local police to drag children away from their parents 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 home schoolers. News pictures of perfectly decent children being dragged away from their parents were not good public relations for the school authorities.
Some parents actually went to jail. That was the case with Sharon and Ed Pangelinan, who spent 132 days in jail in Morgan County, Alabama, in 1985, because they had decided to home school 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 home schooling did not make good PR for state officials.
Two years later, after the ordeal was over, Sharon Pangelinan 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 is indeed Scriptural, especially when it concerns the family.
That is the kind of courage and spiritual strength that undergirded the pioneers of the home school movement. In 1983, three home schooling 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, former president of the HSLDA, who is also an ordained Baptist minister. Today, thousands of home schoolers from all fifty states are members of the HSLDA, which offers legal services to home schooling families who experience legal difficulties in their communities. The HSLDA has also become a viable lobby in Congress, bringing the home school revolution into the offices of our lawmakers.
In 1999, Michael Farris and his colleagues founded Patrick Henry College, dedicated to educating young Americans in the principles of constitutional government, so that the graduates can pursue careers that honor the ideals of our Founding Fathers. And that is what is needed in government, men and women who understand the limits the Constitution places on lawmakers.
Today, the home school movement is thriving in a manner that would have been inconceivable twenty years ago. State home school organizations now have to rent large convention centers in which to hold their annual conventions, which draw thousands of parents. What we’ve learned is that there is more to home schooling than merely removing one’s children from the morally corrupt public schools. There is now the sense that the new family lifestyle, which is centered around home education, is highly desirable because of the positive bonding it fosters between parents and children. This is a particular blessing for the Christian family that seeks to live in conformity with Biblical values, which are readily imparted to their children.
While the early home schoolers were the pioneers, the families that followed were the settlers. They created the state organizations, support groups, magazines, books, and curricula that have evolved into what one can call the home school academic and political establishment. While they have a long way to go before they can equal the National Education Association in political clout, the exponential growth of the home school movement assures that its influence will be increasingly felt in the state legislatures and Congress of tomorrow.
Today’s newcomers to home schooling are more like refugees, fleeing the failed government schools with their Columbines, academic confusion, moral corruption, and anti-Christian bias. The refugees eagerly seek help from the settlers who are more than happy to provide it. But we should not assume that the struggle for educational freedom is anywhere near completion. The vast majority of Christians still put their children in public schools, thus justifying their continued existence and involuntary support by the taxpayer. Also, many parents are seeking salvation in other statist programs, such as charter schools and government voucher plans. Too many parents still believe that the government should educate their children at no cost to them. Nevertheless, the home school movement as it exists today represents a triumph of parental independence and enterprise. Freedom lovers must do all in their power to support it and help it grow.
- 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.