Sunday, August 24, 2008

One Step Back, and Two Steps Forward

Just a few days ago, a significant event occurred in the home school community. The California legal system expressly declared home schools as a legal method of education in that state. Before this ruling, that issue was very much in doubt.

The case was brought about due to a lawsuit against a family who homeschooled, but who had clear indications and history of abuse. The state stepped in to protect the children, and a case was made that tied the children’s protection to the legality of homeschooling. So, two issues were at stake – 1) the protection and disposition of the children in the case, and 2) the legality of homeschooling. I will not deal with the children’s protection issue in this article, but will instead focus on the second issue.

The court’s ultimate findings were released just two weeks ago. They make an interesting read (if you don’t like legalese, skip ahead in the document and just read pages 5-8). You can view it at Initially, the court concluded that home schooling was not legal in the state. This ruling was challenged by many, leading the court to agree to hear an appeal and reconsider their ruling. From the written finding, here is a summary of California home school law history, including the milestones of the current case.

1. 1903 – Homeschooling was permitted under California law
2. 1929 – The homeschooling clause was amended out of the law – children had to be educated by a public or private school or an accredited tutor
3. Cases in 1953 and 1961 agreed and concluded that a home school could not be considered a private school
4. The California court submitted their initial finding for this current case on Feb 28, 2008 stating explicitly that home schooling is not permitted under California law
5. The case was appealed, and several groups, along with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, vowed to protest the ruling
6. The court agreed to reconsider, and allowed amicus briefs to be filed by various groups who were not part of the original legal proceedings.
7. The court found instances in law where it was clear that the state government knew that home school was occurring but had issued no protest. There were instances where California law exempted homeschoolers from certain restrictions typically applied to private schools – thus, giving credibility to the existence and legality of home schools. The court believes (rightly so) that the California legislature should have used these opportunities to amend the law once again to name home schools as private schools. However, they cite the law back in 1929 (excluding home schools) as the main reason for their initial finding.
8. On August 8, 2008, the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles reversed its earlier decision and stated that “California statutes permit home schooling as a species of private school education”.

This is significant. In just a few months, California has gone from casually allowing home schools to exist, to declaring them as illegal, to naming the home school as an outright accepted version of a private school. It’s a victory of great proportions, especially considering that it took place in a liberal state such as California.

These proceedings also terrify me. How close were we to preventing the 166,000 children who are currently home schooled in that state from being educated by their own parents? I know, in our mostly public-school society today, this prospect may not seem so fearful. But for those of us who treasure the gift of teaching and discipling our children in our own home, the possibility of losing this right seems all-too-possible. Today, Americans have the choice to send their children to public school, to private school, or to home school. What would our nation be like if we took away that third option?

Consider Karl Marx, who did just that through his political system in nineteenth century Russia. Here is an excerpt from the Communist Manifesto:

“Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists. On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain… The bourgeois family will vanish as a matter of course when its complement vanishes, and both will vanish with the vanishing of capital. Do you charge us with wanting to stop the exploitation of children by their parents? To this crime we plead guilty. But, you say, we destroy the most hallowed of relations, when we replace home education by social.”

Marx’s desire was to replace the family with state institutions. Home education would not be allowed; indeed, the family as we know it would not be tolerated or allowed to exist. The state was to be trusted with providing everything that the children need.

Our nation edges closer to this political system every year. Other countries such as Holland and Germany already outlaw the practice of home education. The victory in California is critically important. But there is certainly another state somewhere waiting to take away this fundamental right…and may one day succeed. If you feel compelled to assist, I encourage you to donate to the Home School Legal Defense Association at Educating our children is a fundamental right of parents and should be preserved. The founding fathers (who were home educated) would agree.

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