Organize This!

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It’s getting harder for homeschoolers to fly under the radar screen of US political elites. More and more students are being educated at home; at 1.25 million, they outnumber public school enrollments in each of 41 states. No one really knows for sure how many parents have helped their kids defect from approved schools. But this much we do know: they are part of a newly emerging educational cream of the crop, outperforming the rest of the student population in every area.

As the Microsoft case shows, too much success can invite retaliation from the DC forces of destruction. So it was probably inevitable that the Clinton administration would target homeschoolers and put them in their place. During a silly two-day tour of public schools in Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio, Clinton provided three morsels of information that suggest this is going on.

Clinton noted that the homeschool option wasn’t available when Chelsea was growing up, but even if it had been, "I wouldn’t have done it." Notice that this negative declaration was a statement of principle, not expediency, which is to say that he wouldn’t have done it no matter how bad the other options were. Why? He says he wanted his child to be exposed to a wide range of students and experiences, which is what public school supposedly does. (The story on WND.com was one of the few to report his comments.)

First, this remark proves he knows virtually nothing about homeschool culture, which is not about isolation but good parenting and academic excellence. The claim that these kids are raised in a Skinner Box could only be believed by someone totally isolated from homeschooled kids themselves. Colleges and universities are finding that they have an unusual degree of internal drive, intellectual curiosity, and self-discipline, and are increasingly trying to recruit them for precisely that reason.

Second, every study has shown that homeschoolers perform far above the norm, partly for reasons of demographic selection, but also because the home makes an outstanding learning environment, especially when compared to the child-prisons the government has set up. The newest study of more than 20,000 students has the students scoring higher in every subject (average : 85th percentile) than both public and private school students. Students in grades one to four perform one grade level higher than their public and private-school counterparts, and by eighth grade, they perform four grade levels above the national average. (It is also interesting that partially homeschooled children perform worse than fully homeschooled children.)

Third, not every parent wants his offspring to be exposed to all "students and experiences" of public schooling; many parents of Columbine High students wish they had rethought such exposure earlier. And what are public-school kids not exposed to? Discipline, truth, intellectual challenge, and faith, for starters. The schools have been used as political footballs for many decades, and political indoctrination is now unavoidable. Academic excellence takes a back seat to civic formation, as students are psychologically manipulated into becoming loyal servants of the political elite and faithful practitioners of the civic religion. In contrast, homeschooled children tend to be independent thinkers, unlike the carbon-copy kids produced by the state.

Good parenting, academic excellence, and independence: just the sort of traits that the political elites find threatening. And yet the government knows it can’t just abolish homeschooling. Clinton has a better idea for reining them in: national regulation. Well, he didn’t put it that way. Here’s what he said: "It is done in every state of the country and therefore the best thing to do is to get the homeschoolers organized."

But they are already very politically organized, as the Wall Street Journal pointed out in a recent story. By organized, Clinton actually means regulated. Hence, Clinton’s alarming conclusion: "If you’re going to" homeschool, "your children have to prove that they’re learning on a regular basis, and if they don’t prove that they’re learning then they have to go into a school-either into a parochial or private school or a public school."

What he seems to be advocating is a nationwide effort to subject homeschools to the same style of regulations that currently govern private schools, and the same curriculum that is used in public schools. There’s no question that most homeschooled kids can pass any test you throw at them. If the 85th percentile isn’t proof of learning, it can’t be proven. Clinton has it reversed: public-school kids who aren’t learning should be homeschooled!

The real threat here is to the special-needs children who are being homeschooled because they would fall too far behind in a cookie-cutter public school. It tells you something about Clinton’s mentality that he believes the answer for children with learning disabilities is to put them in government-sponsored classrooms.

Regardless of the facts, both of Clinton’s remarks are designed to reinforce certain prejudices about homeschooling: parents, not wanting their children exposed to the world, are keeping them at home and stupid. The government may have to come in and rescue kids from this familial oppression.

Already, homeschool parents are regularly harassed and even wrongly arrested for violating compulsory attendance laws. Rather than feel their pain, Clinton is suggesting that the state have even more power to harass parents. But just as the government waited too long to tax the web, and now finds it politically difficult to pull off, the government has probably missed the boat on homeschooling. The parents and organizations involved are tenaciously attached to maintaining their independence, and are willing to go to any lengths to retain that independence.

The right of parents to raise their children is a natural right, and the attempt by the educational elites to take it away constitutes a ghastly intervention in the moral and legal sovereignty of the family. Homeschoolers understand that better than anyone, and they are dedicated to fighting for that right. By threatening to take away their independence, Clinton has thrust his hand into a wasp’s nest.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also edits a daily news site, LewRockwell.com.

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