Kowtowing Before the State: A Real Irritation

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Maybe it’s an age thing. Or maybe it’s a deeper understanding of how things really work. Regardless, as I grow older I find myself growing more resentful of the state and more irritated by my own actions before it.

Where I used to kowtow without even a moment’s reflection, I now fume for days after showing any subservience to the state, its laws, and its officials.

A case in point: The Ohio State School Board recently reviewed its rules and regulations around homeschooling. The Home School Legal Defense Association sent an alert to its members and associates: The state school board is seeking online comments from "stakeholders" regarding possible changes to the rules and regulations around homeschooling. HSLDA wanted supporters of homeschooling to register their approval of the current system — the system is working, do not change anything. I acted.

I clicked over to the Ohio Department of Education website and entered my comments. At the time, this didn’t seem to be such a big deal — simply throw some formality around the do not change anything message and hit send. Done.

Yet the irritation started right after the return message "your comments have been registered" appeared on my computer screen. Who are those folks at the state board of education? What makes them believe that I must beg their permission to educate my children as I see fit? And why did I justify their power and position by kowtowing to them — or, e-kowtowing, anyway?

Some irritations never seem to go away. They — like the unscratched itch — grow in intensity the harder they are ignored. So I scratched. I emailed the Ohio Department of Education requesting copies of all responses to the survey — a request covered by Ohio’s open records laws. My reason for this request? I wanted to see where folks in Ohio stood on the issue of homeschooling prior to the state board’s vote.

Of course, with the state, nothing is easy. Before I finally received the responses on CD, the state board of education made its decision (thankfully no significant changes, only some minor language corrections). Nevertheless, I took a look at the 5000+ responses to read some of the comments.

Sadly, just like me, the majority of those commenting wrote from a voice that begged the political class for favor. We began by establishing that the state has first claim to our children. And then we begged them some leave: We only want to educate our children. And we will continue to do it by your grace.

There were a few indignant comments — You, the state, have no authority to rule my family. While I cheered these writers, I noted the inherent fallacy: The state does have the authority to rule my family. Not in a moral sense, but in a real sense — it has the gun.

In addition, there is another fallacy that is generally accepted by the majority of Americans (not by homeschoolers, of course). It is the assumption that receiving one more vote than any opponent is sufficient to assume authority over all families within the political boundary. It is as if omniscience is the result of the ballot box — an over-the-rainbow vision of the wizard of democracy bestowing omniscience from behind the curtain of the voting booth.

Yet many folks readily look to the state and its officials and minions as all-knowing. Homeschooling families recognize this every time someone questions a parent’s ability to educate. How can you teach math at the same level as the local high school? Of course, we snicker under our breath: We can’t. We’re not that incompetent. But that question alone is enough to raise concern about your friends, family, and neighbors should you wind up standing against the state. Do you think that most of those folks will side with you? Given the current majority view of the state as the supreme paternal and maternal figure, I wouldn’t bet on it.

Regardless, my irritation with my own actions continues to grow. Why? I played the game. I didn’t even consider the premise of having to beg the state for the ability to act as parent. And I didn’t allow my indignation to come out in my comments. Instead, I wrote as to hold them higher than me. In this, I have no one to blame but myself.

My salve is the fact that this year has seen a great awakening of Liberty. Folks are speaking about freedom and against the state. And these discussions will change the minds of Americans. When the across-the-board response to the state is, Get out of our lives, we will be back on track.

My hope is two-fold. On one hand I see and hear the beginnings of a greater movement toward freedom in the near term. While, on the other hand, I know that homeschooled children — freed from the state’s nonsense — will be less willing to kowtow than their state-educated parents — parents like me who, on occasion, reflexively bow before the state.

Despite our seemingly grim present, the future looks bright, indeed.

Jim Fedako [send him mail] is a homeschooling father of five who lives in Lewis Center, OH, and maintains a blog: Anti-Positivist.

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