Social & Domestic Issues

California Courts Effectively Ban Home Schooling

In what was branded by James Dobson as “an all-out assault on the family,” a California court of appeal handed down a decision on a secret juvenile case that effectively bans home schooling in the state of California by establishing criteria not met by most of the parents of California’s approximately 166,000 home schooled kids.

The court interpreted California’s compulsory education law (saying instructors must hold a “valid state teaching credential”) as meaning that parents have to have state teaching credentials to teach their children at home, even if they’re using independent study programs. And California is already facing an “emergency” situation with not nearly enough certified teachers. To make up for the shortage, many California teachers that do not have credentials passed a test to teach.

This ruling is not in the best interests of the children or even of the California schools. Even more importantly, this ruling is another egregious example of judicial activism. So, why are activist judges fighting so hard on this issue?

Simple: at stake is the indoctrination of the next generation of liberals.

For big-government supporters moving with all engines go toward socialism, this is the next step. First they move to indoctrinate through the public school system. And then they make everyone go through the public schools.

Then they’re basically free to “teach” whatever they want: ‘socialistic economics work,’ ‘capitalism is evil,’ ‘America is evil,’ ‘homosexuality is not a dangerous or an unacceptable lifestyle,’ ‘your parents are bigots for thinking it is,’ etc.

As Chuck Norris wrote in a recent column on the ruling:

“The rationale is quite simple, though rarely if ever stated. If one wants to control the future ebbs and flows of a country, one must have command over future generations. This is done by seizing parental and educational power, legislating preferred educational materials and limiting private educational options. It is so simple any socialist can understand it. As Joseph Stalin once stated, ‘Education is a weapon whose effects depend on who holds it in his hands and at whom it is aimed.’”

Or as Nobel Laureate economist Milton Friedman pointed out, it is frightening that the most socialized commodity in this nation is education.

Not only is the In Re Rachel L. ruling a step toward socialism by masquerading indoctrination as education. Also at issue here — as socialist nations are antagonistic toward religion — is a step away from religion and the First Amendment’s protection of “the free exercise thereof.” The California court ruled that Wisconsin v. Yoder, a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing home schooling for religious families, was not applicable to the family and their religious beliefs because Amish culture was different from their case:

“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.”

The court, in effect, implied that for the parents in Rachel L. either their religion was not as different from what is taught in public schools as the Amish religion is, or that their religious beliefs are not as deeply held, therefore they don’t have the same right to home schooling as the Amish do. There is a clear double standard here relating to freedom of religion, and it is frightening.

Even parents who are not religious should be concerned. As one blogger put it on Parental Rights’ Web site:

“The danger of Rachel L. is it presumes that it is ultimately the state’s duty to ensure that the child’s right to ‘adequate’ information is respected. It makes the dramatic shift from parents being presumed to be doing what is best for their children to parents having to prove to the state they are doing what is best for their children.”

Michael Farris, of the Home School Legal Defense Association, said “Learning is not important … At the heart of this case is a distrust of parents.” He is right when he says it is not the learning that is important to the court; in fact, the decision specifically says otherwise; as they quote one 50-year-old precedent, People v. Turner, as saying:

“[h]ome education, regardless of its worth, is not the legal equivalent of attendance in school in the absence of instruction by qualified private tutors.”

(In layman’s terms: ‘whether one form of schooling works or not, or whether it’s better or not, we don’t care. We just want our hand in it.’)

Which means it’s a power grab out of the hands of parents. The court doesn’t care how competent parents are. They just can’t be allowed to teach their kids.

This ruling can and probably will spread, as many of California’s radical decisions do. The In Re Rachel L. ruling itself took precedent from a 90-year-old New Hampshire case (State v. Hoyt) that decided against home schooling rights — while justifying away a U. S. Supreme Court ruling that grants parents the right to home school in the name of freedom of religion (Wisconsin v. Yoder).

The next step for social conservatives is political activism to reverse the judicial activism. Whether parents home school or not, whether they live in California or not, the implications of In Re Rachel L. are potentially far-reaching enough to affect parental authority for the whole nation. As Norris says in his column, “Thomas Jefferson committed, ‘I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.’ I know others would join me in rightly assuming that in our day ‘every’ form of tyranny could also include publicly forced educational indoctrination.”

One viable option is petitioning California’s Supreme Court to “depublish” the opinion, so that it cannot be used as precedent in other California courts. The Home School Legal Defense Association currently has over 200,000 signatures on such a petition. It can be signed online here.

Another option — much more of a long shot — would be to obtain a federal parental rights amendment to the US Constitution. Another petition to do that is being put together by Parental Rights and can be signed here.

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