“There is no fundamental liberty to homeschool.” ~ attributed to Eric Holder*
As a homeschooling father of seven, I do my best to track the regime’s evolving position on homeschooling. The statement above by Eric Holder offended me and left many of my fellow homeschooling brothers and sisters aghast. But while Holder’s claim is a touchstone, and a harbinger of things to come, it is essentially correct: I do not have a fundamental right to homeschool, and neither does anyone else.
Before you protest and send emails expressing your disapproval and disgust with my claim, hear me out.
A right always confers an obligation. To assert that I have a fundamental right to (say) life confers, on others, the obligation to provide me with the means to life. This is, in essence, the cry from the left: since the right to life is fundamental, the collective – through the state – is responsible for providing the means to life.
So government is called into action, thieving, with the assistance of the gun, goods from one for the stated purpose of giving to another. Government then doles out some portion of its take in the form of food, housing, healthcare, etc. – the means to life, keeping the rest for itself.
The problem is the standard formulation of rights and the expression thereof. Because rights are typically expressed in the positive, they are many times understood as being formulated in the positive. This is a dangerous error.
Of course, while the formulation and understanding of a right need to be in the negative, stating rights in the negative can sounds pedantic at times. Where it is easy and effective to proclaim a right to bear arms, it is clumsy and less effective to protest with placards that proclaim: No one has the right to take my arms.
We embrace the expression of rights in the positive, but we must never allow the expression to trump the formulation. All rights are negative. So my right to life is correctly formulated as: No one has the right to take my life. This right only obligates others to not take my life. It also implies that others have a similar right, and I have a similar obligation.
But the right to life is really a component of a greater right, the only right, in my opinion: the right to be left alone. As correctly formulated in the negative, it would read: No one has the right to aggress against my body or property. The obligation conferred on others is simple: leave me alone. Just as I am obligated to leave them alone.
It is easy to see that all of other rights come from this elementary right, a right so essential and inherent that even young children easily understand it and agree with its implications.
It follows that your right to speech – correctly formulated as: no one has the right to interfere with your speech – flows from your right to be left alone. It is a derivative right. It really is all very simple.
You have no fundamental right to homeschool. Certainly not in the positive sense. In other words, you have no claim on me regarding your homeschooling – I am not obligated to support your homeschool. You simply have the right to be left alone. And I am obligated to leave you alone
Therefore, your right to homeschool is also a derivative right – derived from your right to be left alone. But you must not claim a right to homeschool while leaving unfulfilled the associated obligation – to leave others alone.
Of course, conflicts will arise, as the right to be left alone spills over onto another’s right to be left alone, such as claiming that using a loudspeaker to broadcast your ruminations outdoors at three in the morning is an exercise of your right to be left alone. When conflicts occur, an entity – the parent for children, an arbitration agency for adults – hear the various claims and settle the rights issue.
As homeschoolers, we must embrace the true right – the only right – and accept its obligation. And we must educate others to the ideas and ideals of Liberty. We must not claim singular rights for ourselves with denying others the very same. In other words, we must not fight for the right to homeschool while agitating for state to interfere in the lives of others. To do so is the epitome of hypocrisy.
*This is variously attributed to Holder as both his direct quote and his position. I could not find this as a direct quote from Holder, but the statement is making headlines in homeschooling websites.