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    Filed at 10:46 pm under by dcobranchi

    SEND IT TO ZOOM! The following editorial appeared in the Lebanon (PA) Daily News on 11/17. It was sent to me via email by a reader who has Lexis-Nexis access. As it is not available on the web, I have included the editorial in its entirety with my comments interspersed. Yes- it’s time for a fisking!

    Parents should have the right to homeschool their children.

    We believe that, as we believe generally speaking that individual rights and freedoms should not be trumped by unnecessary government rules and regulations – as long as the individual’s actions do not victimize or infringe upon the rights of another citizen.

    OK. So far; so good.

    And while we believe that Pennsylvania is correct to seek to ease its regulations for homeschoolers, we cannot fully support the legislation sponsored by state Rep. Samuel E. Rohrer, R-Pa.


    Rep. Rohrer’s legislation would very nearly eliminate all government oversight of homeschooling. Considering our opening premise, one might expect that we would view this as a good thing – favoring individual freedom over the state. We don’t, in this case. There’s too much chance of creating a victim.

    This is standard nanny-state lingo. "Irresponsible gun-owners might shoot someone. Irresponsible speech might hurt someone’s feelings. Irresponsible homeschoolers might victimize their kids with an inadequate education. To prevent all these hypotheticals, you good gun-owners (speakers, homeschoolers) shouldn’t mind a little preemptive regulation. We’re only going after the bad guys. This will hardly affect you."

    Under the proposal, homeschoolers would not need to keep student records, obtain year-end evaluations from a state-approved assessor or participate in standardized testing. They would only be required to carry out 180 days of instruction and teach certain subjects at certain grade levels to children of a given age.

    This places too much personal freedom into the hands of the parents, and does not do enough to protect the rights of the children. Therein lies our objection.

    It is, first and foremost, the parent’s responsibility to protect the rights of our children. We are responsible for their lives and liberty until they reach majority. The Supreme Court, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters held, "The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations." The state should not interfere unless parents abrogate those responsibilities.

    First of all, let us state that from our observation, most parents who choose to homeschool do so with the best of intentions, and many do it quite well, at least in the child’s elementary years.

    But the fact is that without oversight, it would be quite possible for parents who are misguided or incapable of educating their children to use the homeschool option to deny their children a basic education.

    Just because it rarely, if ever, happens is no excuse. We have to prevent victimization by any and all means.

    What’s wrong with that?

    Let’s throw stones at the straw man. Make some outrageous claim; attribute it to your opponents; and, then, debunk it.

    As a society, we have assumed a responsibility not only to provide for the education of every child, but to ensure that every child gets it. It’s the child’s right. That’s why special education evolved for special-needs children. It’s why school enrollment by a certain age became mandatory in the first place. It’s also why parents are held accountable for truant schoolchildren.

    No, the history of compulsory attendance laws shows school became mandatory in order to create a ready supply of workers for the newly industrialized country. But, that is a history lesson best left for another day.

    There are good parts to Rep. Rohrer’s legislation. He’s correct that we should not make homeschoolers jump through a bunch of hoops set up by an overwrought bureaucracy, so certainly the thing should be made as simple as possible.

    But some oversight, either by the local school district or the state, is in order. Homeschooled children should be assessed, if not every year, then every second or third year, to make sure that their parents are actually teaching them – with at least a minimum of competence.

    Back to preemptive regulation, again. There are too many things left unsaid here. How are the children supposed to be assessed? And, by whom? To what standard of performance are they to be held? And, what is the enforcement mechanism if they don’t achieve it? And to what end? How many homeschoolers are really going to let their kids sit around and do absolutely nothing for two, three, or more years? 1 per cent? One-tenth per cent? So, the nanny-state is going to inconvenience and harass 99+ per cent of homeschoolers on the off chance that they’ll catch the "bad" homeschoolers.

    No, homeschooled kids, on average, should not be expected to perform to the academic level of those who are being educated by professionals, any more than a shirt made by a plumber should be expected to fit as well as one stitched by a tailor. But they should be able to meet certain minimum standards.

    This is laughable.

    Because here’s the thing: Children are citizens, too. And while parents should have the right to homeschool their child, they should not have the right to deny that child an education. The student’s right to an education trumps the parent’s right to homeschool.

    I don’t believe any homeschooler has ever claimed the right to deny an education to our children. If we wanted to do that, we’d send them to the public schools. The "tailors" there do a wonderful job of not-educating. No, what homeschoolers claim is that it is our responsibility to educate our children. We also claim that the state has shown no compelling interest in the education of same. Absent that, "rights guaranteed by the Constitution may not be abridged by legislation which has no reasonable relation to some purpose within the competency of the state" [Pierce v. Society of Sisters].

    One Response to “SEND IT TO ZOOM!”

    Comment by
    November 30th, 2004
    at 6:22 pm

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