Some of my colleagues have noticed the news flurry about home schooling and the sudden declaration
of its illegality by a panel of federal judges in Los Angeles. The formal decision features a spicy stew of judicial threats to parents, in a section entitled “Consequences of Parental Denial of a Legal Education”.
That certainly got my attention and that of many friends, since (dare I now admit?) I've been home schooling my children since 1987. Two have finished with honors at good universities and are now productive taxpayers, two more are now making their way through college, and the rest are ahead of grade level and nicely socialized, thank you. Who knew my wife and I were guilty of Parental Denial of a Legal Education? (Gotta get some of that Legal Education. It must make you as wise as a Judge.) To those of us in the home schooling community, the general consensus is more adequately phrased in a San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed: “What planet are those judges coming from?” I realize the education of one’s children is a culturally subversive thing to do, but since when is California suddenly shy of cultural deviancy?
One can only wince in wonder at the ideal California those judges are contemplating. The state has an interest in many children’s rights beyond mere education, such as nutrition. Perhaps we should require parents to be certified dieticians before they cook their children’s lunch. Or, let’s just go all the way and eliminate the inconvenient families, by requiring a parental license before the first child is brought to term. That would bring everything nicely under control, and our Wise Judges could rule a utopian, aristocratic Plato’s Republic—which is really a nice place to study, but a terrible home.
In my own home town of San Jose, I just noticed a reasonable Mercury News editorial on the subject. Common sense still rules in San Jose!
I make one key exception to the Merc.’s editorial position: All else being equal, I as a private citizen greatly prefer benign neglect to any form of regulation. But unlike us private citizens, editorial writers and politicians seem to have a professional rule: Never make ringing calls to do nothing. (And the corollary: Never be without a ringing call.) I am thankful that, somehow despite all the political fidgeting, life goes on anyway.
Also, I’m proud to say that the two debaters the Mercury mentions are from our group’s debate club. I think it is not too much to hope that, in their day as judges or other community leaders, they will write better opinions.
In the end, my advice to judges, and even to friendly editorialists and politicians, is: Leave parenting to us parents. It worked when all of us were growing up, and it works now.
August 2008 Update: The court has reversed its decision. Here is Governor Schwarzenegger's take on it:
This is a victory for California's students, parents and education community. This decision confirms the right every California child has to a quality education and the right parents have to decide what is best for their children," he said. "I hope the ruling settles this matter for parents and home-schooled children once and for all in California, but assure them that we, as elected officials, will continue to defend parents' rights.
And Superintendant Jack O'Connell says,
As head of California's public school system, it would be my wish that all children attend public school, but I understand that a traditional public school environment may not be the right setting for each and every child... I recognize and understand the consternation that the earlier court ruling caused for many parents and associations involved in home schooling. It is my hope that today's ruling will allay many of those fears and resolve much of the confusion.
(Source: LA Times.)