For whatever reason January always seems like a buffer month to me. It moves by quickly and only seems to serve as a separator between Christmas and the coming year. But, it’s February now and it’s time to get back into the swing of things.
I felt the need to write about something that impacts us as homeschoolers more directly than other parents, but it’s important to us all. Because the inherent right of parents to decide how to raise their children is not spelled out in the Constitution it is perpetually vulnerable to those who wish to impinge on it.
For example, in Germany, the courts there have recently found that because every child is “entitled” to a multi-cultural education that children cannot be allowed to be homeschooled. This is a dramatic infringement of the rights of parents to control how their children are raised.
There are certainly forces in this country that would prefer a similar application of education. As judges come and go our rights are in danger. I had my first encounter with the mindset that we’re up against just today.
In the Oregon State Senate, SB 392 has been introduced to lower the compulsory attendance age from 7 to 6. I wrote to Senator Vicki Walker to explain why this was a bad idea. Primarily, I was concerned that the State was deciding when children were ready to be educated and taking the decision out of the hands of parents. Furthermore, by starting them earlier, homeschoolers would be required to test their children at each grade level up to a year earlier, whether the parents felt the child was ready or not.
The response I received took the usual approach for defending an infringement of my freedom. I was told that while I may be a good parent, there are many bad parents out there that this bill will force into being good parents. So, the senator concluded, the good citizens should be willing to give up freedom in an effort to fix the bad citizens. I disagree.
The email went on:
As a parent myself, I assure you I am not trying to chip away at parents’ rights. This bill is meant to impact the at-risk children who need its protection most. It is my responsibility to act to make sure that Oregon’s children are legally entitled to the early and strong start in life that they deserve.
This blows my mind. Whether Senator Walker is trying to chip away at parental rights or not, that’s exactly what this bill does. Also, I’m a little frightened by the notion that she thinks it is her responsibility to make sure that Oregon’s children get a good education. I think it is her job to make sure such an education is available. I don’t think it is her job to force parents into using the system others have designed.
There’s a subtle change that happens in each of these arguments. There’s a difference between being “entitled” to an education and being forced into one. Both the German court system and Senator Walker are heading down the road of forcing us to participate in the system of their choice. That doesn’t sound like freedom to me.