Friday, September 30, 2005

Selling Our Birthright

Esau came home from hunting starved. Jacob was cooking lentil soup. Esau demanded some and Jacob countered with a proposed trade: your birthright for instant gratification. Esau agreed!

While many in the homeschool community have felt that our counterparts in public schools have made the same exchange with the government, perhaps it is time to admit that many in the ranks of the home-schooled have also done that deal. Virtual academies, public-school "enrichment" and "outreach" programs are multiplying across the educational landscape - because homeschoolers are buying into the idea that the government ought to have a role in raising our children. And because it is easy, immediate and someone else pays for it.

Inge Cannon, homeschool pioneer and author of countless resources for homeschoolers, writes to homeschool leaders:
What Ron and I are finding as we have worked with the twenty- and thirty-somethings over the past 15-20 years at conferences and over our Education PLUS telephone lines is often a completely different worldview perspective than was prevalent in the earlier days of our ministry to home schoolers. The changes for many in the next generation (if we figure a generation to be about 18-20 years) exhibit some or most of these characteristics:

[1] They tend to be focused on sound bites-often unwilling or unable to focus concentration on a full training session such as we offer them at our conventions and seminars. Witness the fact that they often come into the speaking sessions twenty minutes late and leave twenty minutes early—easily distracted and far more interested in coming to conventions to shop. Witness how difficult it is to get them to commit to regional seminars on the very topics about which they say they need help.

[2] They tend to function much like the rest of society in terms of an entitlement mentality. This characteristic is exhibited in several ways: they feel they have paid their taxes and therefore the government owes them something in return; they feel they are sacrificing much (and they are) by being single-income families, so leaders, businesses, suppliers, speakers, etc. should provide their needs on a gratis or marginal break-even basis (reflecting a bit of the “class envy” philosophy that liberal politicians consistently promote); they often misunderstand basic economics to the point of not taking responsibility to support what they say they believe in, so that it can be available. (And more often than I wish, resenting those who would make a profit or a living at providing the services and materials they need).

[3] They welcome government controls because they are very frightened that they might jeopardize their children’s future by not completely duplicating the curriculum design and perceived requirements of the public school (this is particularly true of the parents who are approaching the high school years with their teens). In their minds the presence of government involvement somehow sanctions what they are doing and provides them with a sense of legitimate credentialing—hence, they duplicate “school” without understanding that the definition of Christian home education is a tutorial lifestyle focused upon Biblical discipleship. This is made even more difficult when they come to home education as products of the public school themselves and have not had the opportunity to learn the Scriptures well.

[4] They welcome co-ops, entire video programs, etc.—anything that will do the teaching job for them because they are too busy to do it themselves. (Please note that I do not oppose these methods as tools, but reject the total family program being saturated by these tools in lieu of personal discipleship in teaching and interaction.)

At least once a week, I return a call to a home school mother at work in a full time job away from home. Her children are usually at home educating themselves (so I’m told when I ask).
[5] They often have no clue as to what it means to reject certain real conveniences, financial or equipment grants, reimbursement of curriculum and/or supplies at significant cost to themselves—whether financial, sacrifices of time and energy, or the pressures of swimming upstream in the face of disapproval from their peers, parents and in-laws, authorities, or the like. The logic of paying for something yourself to maintain your freedom rather than accepting the handout that comes with just a few strings can be difficult to swallow—let alone defend. Choosing what is right at cost to yourself is very hard."

"Ideas have consequences", as Francis Schaeffer would remind us. Opting to invite the government to participate in our home schooling not only damages the homeschooling movement in the long run, but exposes those homes to direct government intervention. World Magazine, in its Sept 3 article, "Here Come the Strings", details this progress in Alaska, where parents once trusted government to provide funds and parent-determined access to curricula and services, now find their entire home- life legally defined by the state as a public school, subject to all the restrictions of a secular government.

"Assistant attorney general Kathleen Starsbaugh confirmed EED's interpretive broadening of the law, labeling private homes as public schools: "While it uses terminology more easily applied to the traditional classroom, it applies to public schooling however delivered." She added that dispensing public money to parents who rely heavily on religious-themed curricula also violates the Alaska Constitution and the First Amendment's establishment clause."

What seemed like a free lunch turns out to be selling our birthright for a bowl of beans. For me, it's too much to pay.

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