California Homeschool Ruling: Why It’s Absurd
If you’re not stranded, like Robinson Crusoe, on a desert island, you’ve probably heard about the California court ruling that essentially outlaws homeschooling in California. You can read an overview of the case as well as a complete copy of the brief at the Home School Legal Defense website, and you may also join the thousands who have signed a petition to request that the decision be depublished.
As I read through the brief, one thing struck me as particularly absurd. I found it remarkable that the California legislature has, over time, apparently concluded that the only way to meet the constitutional mandate that “A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement” (Article IX, Section 1) is to enact draconian laws that criminalize parents who don’t institutionalize their young people full time during the primary formative years of their lives.
Exactly how the state determined that the criminalization of responsible parents is a “suitable means” of advancing “intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement” is a mystery. They seem to have overlooked the goal of preserving “the rights and liberties of the people,” as well as the fact that there is no evidence that full-time public education is the best (much less the only) way to educate children.
The ruling states that a “primary purpose of the educational system is to train school children in good citizenship, patriotism and loyalty to the state and the nation.” Discounting the fact that the primary purpose of education should be academic, it seems counterintuitive that a state would so blatantly violate the “rights and liberties of the people” in an effort to induce patriotism and loyalty.
There are years of accumulated data that confirm that homeschooling works. According to standard measures of academic achievement; social, emotional, and psychological development; and civic engagement, homeschooled students are consistently above average. A review of the contestants and winners of public math, spelling, music, science, and geography competitions reveals that home educated students not only participate, but win in numbers that seem extraordinarily high.
There are, of course, exceptions. There are low-achieving homeschoolers, just as there are low-achieving students in every public and private school. The fact that low achievers exist is not so much a reflection of the educational method, as it is a reflection of the reality of individual ability and autonomy. “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” is a truism that may have been coined with education in mind. Learning requires receptivity, which can exist in any setting.
It’s ironic that in California, a state that prides itself on being progressive, a judge would attempt to institute such a regressive and oppressive interpretation of the law. I’m reasonably confident that this decision cannot constitutionally stand, but the fact that it could occur at all is appalling. This absurd decision stands as a stark reminder that eternal vigilance remains the price of liberty.
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.” Thomas Jefferson
Resources- Readings on Institutional Schooling
Robert Epstein, Ph.D.: The Case Against Adolescence
California Homeschool Groups (for additional information, support, and encouragement)
Homeschool Association of California
I’ll be hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling next week. If you’d like to submit a post for inclusion, please do so at the Blog Carnival site.