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Jewish World Review Sept. 3, 2002 / 26 Elul, 5762

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Consumer Reports

Public education versus homeschoolers


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | When you read about the state of California's latest assaults against its homeschoolers, don't just dismiss it as another left-coast phenomenon that doesn't affect you. This is bigger than California and involves more than education.

The California Department of Education is on the warpath against those parents who have had the audacity to escape its clutches. How dare they presume that they know what is best for their children (or care more about them) than the omniscient educators?

In a July 16 memo, Deputy Superintendent Joanne Mendoza decreed that homeschooling is "not an authorized exemption from mandatory public school attendance." Without the proper credentials, according to the missive, parents will no longer be allowed to homeschool their children and will be considered truant by local school districts.

The proper credentials? Think about this. They want parents, who are already doing a fantastic job educating their children, to descend to their level of incompetence by acquiring "professional teaching credentials." (No insult is intended here, and there are many exceptions to this, but recent studies have shown an alarming degree of ignorance among public teachers in many of the subjects they are assigned to teach.)

Nicole Winger, a state education department spokeswoman, insists that Mendoza's memo represents no change in policy. "All parents," she says, "are welcome to supplement their children's education with home instruction, but not substitute the education with uncredentialed home instruction."

That's big of you, Ms. Winger. Thank you for permitting parents to help their children with their homework and perhaps even teach them things independent of the school's vaunted curriculum.

This episode is a chilling reminder of the arrogance of certain elitists who apparently believe they should be able, with the full power of the state, to impose their will on families with respect to education.

Why can't the bureaucrats just leave these parents alone? Is it their dedication to the childrens' best interests? Please! If that were the case, wouldn't they be elated about the remarkable academic achievement record of homeschoolers? No, we should probably look elsewhere for our answers.

One major thing obviously driving the educrats is money. Homeschool advocates say the state's education department has a $23 billion deficit. According to CPI News, these school districts receive funds based on the number of students attending public school -- roughly $4,500 per student a year. It's pretty simple math, even for the New-New Math public educrats: the more homeschoolers, the less money for them.

But I'm convinced this is about more than money. We should also recognize that the struggle between homeschoolers and their statist opponents is grounded as much on philosophical differences as the issue of educational quality.

The establishment wants to retain control over what goes into children's heads. In far too many cases it teaches whole language reading instead of phonics, multiculturalism -- which often means the evils of Western Civilization, political correctness, "diversity" and "tolerance," weird math and a distorted, anti-American view of American history. Its byword should be "getting away from the basics." The enlightened educators of California, for example, have no problem offering courses in the wonders of Islam, while strenuously blocking any utterance about Christianity.

But this struggle against homeschooling isn't unique to California; it is happening to greater or lesser degrees throughout the United States and will increase in direct proportion to the inevitable success of homeschooling. And while it may not seem directly to affect those who don't have school-age children or grandchildren, it should concern every American. I'm not just talking about the broad-based detriment to our society that will result from inferior education. It's more than that.

The nature and quality of our education will have a great bearing on whether we remain free and prosperous.

How can America remain free when its public education establishment is largely committed to teaching students that the very values and systems that have led to this country's unparalleled tradition of freedom and prosperity are evil, exploitive and oppressive?

No matter how much money we throw at public education, it will not improve significantly until educators get away from psychobabble and indoctrination, and return to the basics. But that will not happen so long as the establishment is allowed to retain its unaccountable monopoly.

The establishment knows this, which is why it is desperately seeking to limit competition on all fronts, including school choice and homeschooling. In the meantime, it will continue to spread disinformation about the alternatives and do everything it can to obstruct their development.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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