GREAT explanation of this recent issue, from our pastor Charles Baldon:
“So tonight, I am proposing that every state—every state—requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.”
—President Barack Obama, January 2012 State of the Union speech.
On its surface this sounds like an eminently reasonable suggestion from the leader of our nation in regards to the importance of education amongst our young people. Who would disagree that education is critical? What is the harm of ensuring that our young people receive the best education possible for the longest period possible? How is it that some people, particularly Michael Farris, founder & leader of HSLDA, see this one phrase as a threat to our freedoms, particularly that of homeschool families to homeschool?
I see two answers to these questions. First, however well-intentioned (or not) this might be on the part of the federal government, they have no jurisdiction over the matter, even to make strong suggestions such as this. May they respectfully request the states to consider an idea they have? Absolutely. Must they often be respectfully reminded that the power to so decide is in the hands of the individual state? Absolutely. And second, were we to say “yes” to this request, we would once again make the mistake of exchanging our liberty for security, in this case a vague but appealing notion that our children will somehow be better educated and prepared for their lives as Americans if we make them go to school longer.
The first issue is what I would call an American issue, in that we have to look at the issue of the federal government versus state governments. For the last 150 years or so, there has been steady erosion in the rights of individual states. Looking to the Constitution, the founders specifically gave certain powers to the federal government, and left everything else in the hands of the individual states. In fact, prior to the Civil War, people spoke of the America this way: “The United States are going to do this.” Now we say: “The United States is going to do this.” The very way we think is focused on the central government in Washington now, instead of the local governments in your city or state. Very few of us think of ourselves as Arizonians first and Americans second, but that was once common. Well and good, you say, but what does all this have to do with the issue at hand? For a President or federal government to exert it’s will over the individual states on a matter that they should have no control over should concern every single one of us, deeply. The founding principle of America was a belief that power should be dispersed, because no one man or entity can or should be entrusted with absolute power. But those in power tend to consolidate their power; this is the story of nation after nation in the history of the world. In America, however, due to our representative government and term limits, those who consolidate power benevolently then hand to others who might use it far differently. Once it has been consolidated, it is all but impossible to disburse it again short of revolution (if you can think of a case of this in world history where this has happened without violence, I would love to hear of it). In other words, an idea that seems good puts more power in the hands of good men, who act for the benefit of all. The power, though, remains with the government once those good men are gone; evil men who come after them will have just as much power.
For example, the NEA stated at its founding in 1892: “…if the study of the Bible is to be excluded from all state schools; if the inculcation of the principles of Christianity is to have no place in the daily program; if the worship of God is to form no part of the general exercises of these public elementary schools; then the good of the state would be better served by restoring all schools to church control.” The power of the NEA has not diminished, but you might have noticed it now holds to a very different view about Christianity and public schools. So read the Constitution, citizen (http://www.usconstitution.net/), and leave in the hands of the individual states the freedoms our founders wisely put there.
The second issue is one of liberty, which should also be of great concern to all Americans. Neither the state nor the federal government should be in the business of determining what is best in raising a child. That is the God-given role of the parent, and the state has no jurisdiction here. Is it a noble goal to see all children well-educated?
Possibly?! How could I write that, you demand?
Well, let me ask you a question in return. What is education? And what is a “good” education? Who determines the answers to these questions? The responsibility of discipling your children (to use the Biblical phrase) well rests squarely on your shoulders, parent, and nowhere else. Before you delegate this to anyone – whatever their worldview – think very, very carefully. Jesus was specific on this: the student will become like his teacher (Luke 6:40). At this point several states, including Arizona, leave an enormous amount of liberty in the hands of the parents when it comes to educating children. But as I stated earlier, power consolidates upward, and suggestions such as President Obama’s during his speech pave the way for this to happen.
So as a homeschooler, why do you need to worry about this? Doesn’t this just affect public schools?
Because it affects you directly and indirectly, and no, this isn’t just some public school problem. Arizona’s current law only requires attendance in some school – home, private, public – from 8-15 years of age. So we would have 3 more years of education required. Then comes the next question – what constitutes sufficient and proper education for these years, according to the government? Perhaps you were hoping to send your son into an apprenticeship or have your daughter focus on more practical education in the home. That may or may not be good enough, depending on who makes the rules. Maybe those extra years should be spent making sure your kids are more tolerant of what you would call evil. The point is, we don’t know how the government would want you to spend those years. I would recommend we don’t just sit around and find out, by ensuring they don’t take the authority. Once those rules exist, even if you agree with them at first, the very language can be twisted to mean something different by the next group of lawmakers. For a good example, look at the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868. In 1973 it suddenly, according to the courts, began to mean that abortion should be legal. And so it goes…
So do as Mr. Farris suggests, and make that call to your congressperson. Consider the worldview of our culture and our government (regardless of which political party is in office). Having abandoned the belief that laws should reflect truth, our nation believes that laws should reflect the greatest good for the most people. And this may sound wonderful as a thesis for human self-government… but what happens to minorities, such as homeschooling households, when the majority is persuaded – by their government or otherwise – that a different way is better for everyone? A majority of the population can be just as big a tyrant as any dictator ever was. A government that represents that majority and that no longer believes in a power on earth or in heaven greater than itself starts to act as god to its people. And as a wise man once told me, a king (or government) that thinks it’s god quickly becomes the devil.
In conclusion, I would fight tooth and nail against any law that restricts the liberty that rests in your hands. Once it has been taken from you, history tells us, you will not see it again. And your children, should they find the courage, will have to fight to take it back.
One further note to Christians. Everything we have discussed here should always be discussed respectfully, and to be fully obedient to Christ we must honor those in authority over us, even when we disagree with them (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Pray for our government earnestly; honor them in your thoughts, words and actions. You do have a responsibility as a citizen as well, to be the very best citizen you can be to the glory of God. Don’t waste your chance to make your voice heard, but do it respectfully and graciously.
Written by Charles Baldon, teacher pastor at Family of Faith Christian Fellowship in Glendale, AZ 1-28-2012
From: Home School Legal Defense Association
Sent: Wednesday, January 25, 2012 10:47 AM
Subject: Urgent Calls Needed to Stop Obama’s Attack on Educational Freedom