The modern home school movement began in the 1980s as evangelical Christians began to react to the culture and the public schools, which promoted the culture through politically correct curriculum and teachers and students who reinforced what many of these parents saw as direct attacks on the biblical and traditional values they were trying to instill in their children. Many of us were simply trying to protect our children and trying to follow what we believe is our biblical responsibility to raise our children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Last spring at the Texas Capitol, a longtime friend and I were talking about the cultural and political battles of the last 30 years, and he told me that he was amazed that we had won the “home school fight” but had not been as successful in other areas. Indeed, home schooling is now legal in every state, and the legal harassment of the 1980s has dissipated, although we still see it in some states dominated by left-leaning Democrats.
Then, as now, we articulated the fundamental constitutional right of parents to direct the care, control, and upbringing of their children in order to defend the right of parents to choose to teach their children at home. We rebutted the arguments by teacher unions that parents were not qualified to teach their children by citing studies that showed that children taught by their parents did extremely well on standardized tests. Today the data are so overwhelming that opponents are reduced to arguing that we can’t know for sure how well students do because the state does not require every home school student to be tested.
Along the way an interesting thing began to happen. These home schooled students began to impact the culture. In fact, 10 or 15 years ago a national news magazine ran a cover story on home schooling and acknowledged the academic success of the method but raised a new concern: Would these academically successful students be good citizens? They were concerned about these students, who in many, if not most cases, adopted the conservative, free-market, biblical worldview of their parents. This was, of course, a great concern to the liberal journalists.
Today there are more than two million children being taught at home by their parents, according to the most recent estimates of the US Department of Education. These students are having a serious impact on the culture as measured by studies by the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI). “The findings of this study indicate that adults who were home educated are clearly engaged in their local communities and civic activity and will likely do so with a personal philosophy that is very similar to that of their parents with an attitude toward life that is different from the philosophy and attitude they might have learned in a state-run or private institutional school.”
The liberal left of this country is aware of this impact, and that is a major reason the teacher unions want the state to regulate home schooling and why the socialists of “Occupy Wall Street” take as one of their demands, “Make homeschooling illegal. Religious fanatics use it to feed their children propaganda.” In other words, we don’t want parents to be able to teach their children because the parents rather than the state will indoctrinate them.
An interesting example of this cultural impact is Tim Tebow, the home schooled winner of the 2007 Heisman Trophy who has been making huge waves in the National Football League (NFL) not only for his recent, amazing play for the Denver Broncos but also for his outspoken Christian faith. Indeed, the usual liberal demand for tolerance seems not to apply to Christians who seek to simply speak about their faith.
The battle for and against home schooling and parental rights is part of the culture war in this country because those who oppose biblical, traditional values want a secular and often anti-Christian state to indoctrinate children in order to move them away from the faith of their parents and this county’s founders. We will continue to fight for the right of parents to teach their children at home, free from government intervention, because parents have a fundamental right to do so, and our country will be the better for it.