[In what I’m about to say, I intend no disrespect whatsoever to hard-working teachers and administrators who are in the public education system, who are doing a great job of educating children, and do not undermine the values being taught in the Christian home.]
According to a recent decision by the California Appeals Court, home schooling parents do not have the Constitutional right to do what they do. This ruling has caused so much angst in California and across the country that even their Governor has been critical. Allow me to give my two cents by saying that parents have a God-given right to decide the education their children will receive. Who do these Judges think taught the children before this monopoly on education was devised? It is common knowledge that public schools have a lot of room for improvement. But if government schools were exceptional, parents would still have the final say. How much more so if the schools are viewed as hostile to what the parents believe? Thankfully, since the eruption of criticism toward the court, the same court has announced it will revisit the entire decision. It is hoped that it will bring a complete reversal. We shall be praying.
Some people might question why I would venture into this debate. They are saying, “Stick to the Bible, preacher.” I disagree because this is Bible; this is where faith meets real life. Parents in California are ready to defy the government and go underground or move to another state. When you consider the admonition by God to “obey the governing authorities”, this is obviously a serious matter (Romans 13). These parents cannot in good conscience turn their children over to a state that will not give them what they can get at home. The public schools are becoming anti-faith. A child might be sent home or given a failing grade if he brings up God or carries a Bible. God ordained that parents bring their children up to know and follow Him. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1-4). Children are the parent’s responsibility; not the government’s. Parents are responsible for giving their children an education; they are not responsible for giving them a government education. Besides getting a solid education in reading, writing, and arithmetic, there is the positive moral component to home education which is absent in public schools. The government has no Constitutional right to interfere in this matter. If parents want to home school, that is their prerogative. When public schools undermine the natural and God-given authority of the parents, then they ought to abandoned and quickly. I do not prefer for my children to be brain-washed to believe that they are an accident, a fluke, a meaningless and amoral chance occurrence where life just happened. Evolution theory has become indoctrination and when it is accepted, it is poison. A government has no Constitutional right to turn my children away from our God. This is a faith issue.
To support decision, the California Justices quoted a 1925 Supreme Court ruling that said:
“A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting the public welfare.”1
All I can say to that is I would have liked the schools of 1925. But if that is the purpose of today’s schools, I would like to know where it is practiced. Don’t get me wrong, many schools teach some things effectively, like: know that we came from apes; know the 3D’s of diversity, diversity, and diversity; accept that homosexuality is normal, and jump on the bandwagon of earth conservation. But the patriotism and loyalty purposes have been shoved aside by political correctness. When was the last time a kid in public school stood to pledge allegiance to the flag? I proudly admit that we home schooled our children until High School when they were old enough to think for themselves. We did this because some of the values being taught there did not coincide with our faith. Now if the public schools did what the 1925 Supreme Court said schools were purposed to do, we would have done differently. Regardless of the California court’s decision, a lot of parents have concluded that public education has failed in meeting its “primary purpose” and has forfeited its right, Constitutional or not, to a government sanctioned monopoly. But my second reaction to the ruling is to ask if the “primary purpose” of public schools shouldn’t instead be to teach children to read and prepare them for math, science, and arts? Is it not remarkable that tax payers are forced to pay anywhere from $8-15,000 a year per pupil ($11,541 per K-12 student in California here), compared to the rest of the world, for a sub-par education? A headline in October 2005 read “U.S. falls in education rank compared to other countries” (here). U.S. citizens have no choice but to pay for a system that has lost its way. Bill and Linda Gates, powerful figures who have lent their resources and talents to correcting these problems, said that “kids are falling through the cracks….in all schools”.2 It is a scandal that so many kids are passed along through the grades when they have not learned reading and writing, the most basic skills. Jonathan Kozol, in his book “The Shame of the Nation” says, “the average African-American and Latino 12th grader currently reads at the same level as the average white seventh grader.”3 That $11,000 could buy a real nice private school education that emphasizes the 3 R’s along with patriotism and morality. But the powerful unions won’t permit those taxpayer dollars to be freed up in the form of a voucher to pay for a private school of the parent’s choice. It would be nice to think that schools were instilling patriotism, but they are not. To rule against home schooling and force 166,000 California home schooled children into a bloated and ineffective public school system makes no sense.
Home schooled children are not missing out. Standardized testing tells the story that home schooling is more than able to keep up with and often exceed a public education. When public school supporters are shown this indisputable fact, they either bring up the occasional home schooling failure or else they resort to the argument that kid’s need socialization. I agree. Sometimes there are parents who do a poor job of home schooling. Their choice is not wise. And I agree that kids need socialization. But the best socialization happens in the home. At home is where the children learn to share, say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’. Just watch the children in Kindergarten and 1st grade. When they walk into that setting, the socialization has already occurred at home, for better or worse. But I do not prefer the “socialization” of a school and class setting where popularity for good looks and the right clothes are esteemed. The “socialization” problems of peer pressure are so well documented that no one can dispute. Peer pressure is bad pressure. Home schooled children miss out on all of that in place of learning respect for their elders and the beautiful talent of communicating across generational lines. Try to get an average teen to even acknowledge the existence of an elderly person or a small child with something other than indifference or disdain. And in public school, if a young boy is a little rambunctious, teachers regularly suggest the need for drugs. And speaking on behalf of the teachers, how are they expected to teach these children who won’t or can’t pay attention (ADHD) and do not respect their authority (ODD)? The public schools may have their place. But I respect those parents who are willing to endure the financial sacrifices and other burdens to make sure their children are prepared for college.
If the problem in public education is ever fixed, it won’t be before another generation of kids grow up with an inferior education that will most likely bar them from most opportunities. Have you ever thought that God expects for children to read? For God to put so much effort into communicating His will through the written word, He must expect that children learn to read. So parents, don’t trust that the public education system is going to equip your children to know and revere God. That is your job, “Constitutional” or not, so stay vigilant. May God bless you and give you courage to resist all evil.