Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Closed Minds Make It Harder For Those That Aren't

Everyone from politicians to psychologists to average bloggers love to blame the mother. If the child is a brilliant prodigy, they blame the mother. If the child is a thieving crack head, they blame the mother. Regardless of the outcome of any child’s life, the smoking finger is waggled at the Mama.

In recent news, I’m smelling two rotten apples which may just spoil the whole bunch. This, coming during women’s history month - for me - provokes deep sadness.

A California judge ordered two homeschooled children to attend school. He overturned their legal opt-out under California law to hire a qualified private tutor. And he completely trounced their First Amendment rights. Well, to be fair, I’ll say he pointedly disregarded them.

Things have changed since I was home educating my daughter 16 years ago. Back then, I was hard pressed to find any other families out there who weren’t rabid, lunatic fundamentalist Christians. Since that time, home education is a choice more conscious, progressive people are making. This time around, with Winston, I am delighted to have the support of a diverse, inclusive, secular homeschooling group, PALS. I’m also pleased to notice that the numbers of Black families in this movement are steadily increasing. Blacks, Hispanics and “Others” now make up 24.7 % of the homeschool community.

The growth of homeschooling is making some people nervous, especially school districts. (I don’t see why, they get our tax dollars and don’t have to do much for us.) Maybe it is because if even a stay-at-home mother (read stupid, idiot fit only for domestic service) can better educate her children, then something must really, really be wrong. And eventually, somebody is going to have to fix it - for real.

Most home educators are in active opposition to the stated purpose and goals of public education. We know what the goals of the fundamentalist community are. In the progressive community, most parents goals are to help our children become independent, critical thinkers. When I look carefully at the judge’s ruling, I begin to understand that in many ways, the home education community - as a whole - could be perceived as dangerous.

According to the case decision:
A primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good
citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation as a means of protecting
the public welfare
. ........The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 [45 S.Ct. 571, 69 L.Ed. 1070, 39 A.L.R. 468], held that: ‘No question is raised concerning the power of the state reasonably to regulate all schools, to inspect, supervise and examine them, their teachers and pupils; to require that all children of proper age attend some school, that teachers shall be of good moral character and patriotic disposition, that certain studies plainly essential to good citizenship must be taught, and that nothing be taught which is manifestly inimical to the public welfare.’

What the heck does this mean? If I want to educate my son from an Afrocentric perspective, could that be considered “inimical to the public welfare?” Who determines what is “patriotic?” Currently, George W. Bush would define my “civics class” to be unpatriotic. Does this mean I should lose my right to home educate? Recently, the German government took a homeschooled teenager away from her family and put her in a mental institution. The state of California seems to be happily marching towards the path Hitler put Germany. And I don’t make that statement lightly.

“Because parents have a legal duty to see to their children’s schooling within the
provisions of these laws, parents who fail to do so may be subject to a criminal
complaint against them, found guilty of an infraction, and subject to imposition of finesor an order to complete a parent education and counseling program.”

The case cites an earlier case involving the Amish. In that case, it was proven that lifestyle was a part of the religion and that to remove an Amish child would violate their freedom of religion. However, the judge asserts:

“The parents in the instant case have asserted in a declaration that it is because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs” that they home school their children and those religious beliefs “are based on Biblical teachings and principles.” Even if the parents’ declaration had been signed under penalty of perjury, which it was not, those assertions are not the quality of evidence that permits us to say that application of California’s compulsory public school education law to them violates their First Amendment rights. Their statements are conclusional, not factually specific. Moreover, such sparse representations are too easily asserted by any parent who wishes to home school his or her child. "

Right, because every mother just blithely walks away from her career; chooses to live on a reduced single income; and is just aching to pull one over on the system. How arrogant!

While I don’t agree with the religious ideas and values of the family to whom this happened, I respect their right to have them. I also understand that there were questions of abuse which brought this family to the attention of the State. When the behaviour of one idiot family could have a lasting impact on the community, I get upset. But, when somebody who should know better has such a damaging impact on homeschooling, I get livid. I think the decision was based upon this judge’s opportunity to smack down the Christian fringe. As tempting as that is, it was short-sighted. So - now we have two rotten apples potentially ruining what has been a fantastic choice for many families.

I live in Pennsylvania. Whilst many complain about the requirements, we have it pretty easy. We file out paperwork; test our children at testing time; show off our end of year portfolio; and they leave us alone. I haven’t had to begin hoop jumping, just yet. My son is almost five. As long as I don’t enroll him in school - I may home educate unmonitored for another three years. This ruling in California doesn’t have any direct impact on me. Let’s hope these bad apples stay in their own barrels ... on the other side of the country.


Jax said...

OK, I'm very confused. I read Doc's blog regularly as well, and she has a completely different take on this. What am I missing.

Christina Springer said...

Heya Jax - Yes, this is a very tricky case involving complete nutters and a judge who acted in the best interest of children without consideration for the long term picture and the thousands of lives which could be affected by his ruling. I explained a bit more in tonight's blog.