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The Empire Strikes Back (Part IV): Can the left stop the homeschooling movement?

This spring, a second-grade public school teacher in Lexington, Massachusetts, outraged some parents by reading to her class a fairy tale entitled “King and King,” a story about a young prince who passes over the princesses and “marries” another prince.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon,
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Statist education began as a subversive movement … The ‘public’ or statist schools, which began their history as a subversive movement aimed at subverting the old order, now cast the implication of subversion on the family! … Statist education is increasingly intolerant of any rivalry. —R.J. Rushdoony[1]

Some people disapprove of gay men and lesbian women. Some even hate homosexuals because they are homosexuals. People may feel this way toward homosexuals because they think homosexuals are different from them or that gay relationships are wrong. Usually these people know little or nothing about homosexuals, and their views are based on fears or misinformation, not on facts. —Robie Harris, It’s Perfectly Normal[2]

R.J. Rushdoony (d. 2001) did not live to see just how subversive, anti-family, and anti-Christian the public schools would become. Robie Harris’ book, for instance — which twice lists the anus as a sex organ (pp. 23, 26) — has been used as a textbook in the Waco, Texas, public schools (see “‘It’s Only Normal’ — Not,”

This spring, a second-grade public school teacher in Lexington, Massachusetts, outraged some parents by reading to her class a fairy tale entitled “King and King,” a story about a young prince who passes over the princesses and “marries” another prince. The school principal and the Lexington superintendent of schools supported the teacher’s action, refused to give parents the opportunity — supposedly guaranteed by Massachusetts law — to opt their children out of such activities, and wouldn’t promise not to let it happen again (for details, see

As a keen student of the origins of public education and its philosophy, Rushdoony didn’t need to wait until 2006 to see where government schools were headed. Because he understood the nature of the beast, he helped to found a movement to remove Christian children from these schools and either homeschool them or put them into Christian schools.

Although no one can say exactly how many American children are being homeschooled today (the U.S. Department of Education roughly estimates a little over a million, but that figure is several years out of date), “[h]omeschooling’s economic and political impact is keenly felt by teacher unions, educational bureaucrats, ideological indoctrinators and other beneficiaries of today’s system,” Chris Cardiff wrote. “What will happen when the growing number of homeschooling families withdraw their political support for the enormous taxes required to fund today’s $300 billion government system?” (“The Seduction of Homeschooling Families,”

Lashing Out

“No one is going to come out and say, ‘Let’s make homeschooling illegal,’” J. Michael Smith, president of the Home School Legal Defense Association (, told Chalcedon. “But every effort to make it harder to homeschool — I mean legislative bills backed by teachers’ unions calling for more government testing, ‘oversight,’ etc., of homeschooled students — is not only intended for the purposes which they say, but is also meant to discourage people who are on the brink of homeschooling. And I believe that’s planned.”

In many states, the public school empire strikes back at homeschooling by demanding legislative intervention. But it uses other tactics, too.

The crudest and most blatant of these is the scare tactics on display at such venues as Talk to Action, a website of the Religious Left. In a recent Talk to Action blog piece, “Death by ‘Chastening Rod’” (, we are asked to believe that homeschooling parents are actually prone to beat, torture, or even murder their children! This, says the blogger, is attributable to the “dark Christianity” practiced by “dominionists.”

The teachers’ unions favor subtler smear tactics. In a recent article on the National Education Association website, Dave Arnold called homeschooling parents “well-meaning amateurs” incapable of providing their children with proper “socialization” (

“Children should have the opportunity to interact with others their own age,” Arnold wrote, as if this could only happen at a public school. “Without allowing their children to mingle, trade ideas and thoughts with others, these parents [those who homeschool] are creating social misfits.”

Why such hysterical rhetoric?

Because, as Rushdoony understood and frequently explained, public education’s reason for existing is not to teach children academic subjects, but to program them to become a certain kind of person: a humanist servant of the state. This is what all the talk about “socialization” really means.

“Horace Mann, the founder of the state-supported public school movement in the United States, saw the public school (and university) as man’s true church and his great hope of salvation,” Rushdoony wrote.[3] His 1963 book, The Messianic Character of American Education, lays out this case in compelling detail.

Meanwhile, the parents in Lexington, Massachusetts, have learned exactly what “socialization” means.

If scare tactics and legislative tweaking prove ineffective in deterring parents from homeschooling, there is always the threat of intervention by the court system.

“That’s what we’re here for,” J. Michael Smith said. The Home School Legal Defense Association must always be ready to defend parents’ rights to educate their own children, he said, “because we recognize that these judges don’t always follow the law.”

Rob Reich, education and political science professor at Stanford University, has already propounded a “constitutional framework” for state supervision of what homeschooling parents are to be allowed to teach their children (see “A Quiet Threat to Homeschooling,” Reich argues that children have a constitutional right to learn values, attitudes, and ways of life different from those of their parents.

“Some of these tactics might send some homeschooling parents underground,” Smith said, “without stopping them.”

The Pressure Mounts

Why does the education establishment feel increasingly pressured by homeschooling?

Because homeschooling works!

Libertarian Brad Edmonds recently listed “Some Interesting Facts About Home Schooling” (

“On standardized tests nationwide,” he reported, “home-schooled children on average hover around the 80th percentile in all subjects … [while] government-schooled children perform around the 60th percentile.”

Homeschooling also benefits minority children, Edmonds wrote: “While most minorities in government schools do worse than white students on standardized tests, among home-schooled children the differences disappear — black, Latino, and white home schoolers all do about the same.”

Furthermore, “home-schooling is cheap: Government schools nowadays spend an average of $5000 per student per year. Home-schooling families spend an average of $600.”

So the public education empire can’t claim academic superiority to homeschoolers, and can’t play the race card anymore. It has nothing left in its arsenal but scare tactics, smears, and the “socialization” argument.

Rushdoony didn’t only criticize public education. He also explained why Christian parents should assume the responsibility of educating their own children. For example:

The Christian school is based on the logical premise that, while the gods of Humanism are dead, the Christian God is not dead. Our choice of schools indicates our faith [emphasis added]. If our God is left out of every area of life, or virtually every area, then we subscribe to the death of our God, or at least to His basic irrelevance to our world … Even as the growing collapse of statist education signals the death of the religion of Humanism, so the growing strength of the Christian school movement heralds the fact that God is alive and strong.[4]

We have seen in this series of articles that the defenders of public education have finally awakened to the threat to their monopoly posed by Christian schooling. Decades of being the only game in town made them slow to react to the threat. Now they’ve been energized.

But Christian parents are even more energized, and homeschooling continues to gain momentum. And every time the empire gets caught trying to herd children into the homosexual lifestyle, homeschooling looks like a better and better idea to more and more Christians.

[1] Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1965, 2001), pp. 23, 26.

[2] Robie Harris, It’s Perfectly Normal, (Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1996), pp. 17–18.

[3] Rushdoony, Chalcedon Report #54, Feb. 1, 1970, in Roots of Reconstruction, (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), p. 690.

[4] Ibid., p. 692.

Lee Duigon
  • 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

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