Michael Farris of HSLDA is writing a new article and put a sneak preview of it, a small section, up on Facebook. In that way I became acquainted with a totalitarian trend in our law schools. (A friend recently said to me that he would have thought that law school was the last bastion of apolitical objectivity in the academic realm. I'm afraid somewhat bitter laughter is appropriate there.)
Catherine J. Ross, Professor of Law at George Washington University, has written an article entitled "Fundamentalist Challenges to Core Democratic Values: Exit and Homeschooling." It's part of a journal symposium with the ominous title "Families, Fundamentalism, and the First Amendment." I haven't yet obtained a copy of Ross's entire article, but this is the blurb at Lexis. (Yes, it really does cut off just there.)
This Essay explores the choice many traditionalist Christian parents (both fundamentalist and evangelical) make to leave public schools in order to teach their children at home, thus in most instances escaping meaningful oversight. I am not primarily concerned here with the quality of academic achievement in the core curricular areas among homeschoolers, which has been the subject of much heated debate. Instead, my comments focus on civic education in the broadest sense, which I define primarily as exposure to the constitutional norm of tolerance. I shall argue that the growing reliance on homeschooling comes into direct conflict with assuring that children are exposed to such constitutional values.
I begin with a brief social and legal history of homeschooling in the United States during the twentieth century and then discuss the dominance of religiously motivated parents among homeschoolers in contemporary America. Section II shows that homeschoolers make broad claims for exemption from state oversight that are not warranted by the constitutional doctrine on which they rely. In Section III, I argue that the state's interest in educating children for life in a pluralist democracy trumps any asserted parental liberty interest in controlling their children's education. Finally, in Section IV, I argue that where parents do not live together and share legal custody of their children, the state should articulate a preference for formal schooling over homeschooling when the parents disagree. I urge states to engage in far more stringent oversight and regulation of homeschooling than exists in ...
Sounds charming, doesn't it?
Here is the further money quote that Farris cited:
Many liberal political theorists argue, however, that there are limits to tolerance. In order for the norm of tolerance to survive across generations, society need not and should not tolerate the inculcation of absolutist views that undermine toleration of difference. Respect for difference should not be confused with approval for approaches that would splinter us into countless warring groups. Hence an argument that tolerance for diverse views and values is a foundational principle does not conflict with the notion that the state can and should limit the ability of intolerant homeschoolers to inculcate hostility to difference in their children—at least during the portion of the day they claim to devote to satisfying the compulsory schooling requirement.
Is that clear enough, you intolerant bigots?
By the way, based on this article by one Robert Reich, I conclude that "exit" is a term of art which refers to kids' growing up to disagree fundamentally with their parents, especially on matters of religion. Liberal "theorists" seem to like to use it because it sounds like a technical psychological health word that refers to an important rite of passage and because it makes religious or conservative parents sound like they want to keep their children chained up in a dungeon somewhere. You know, some parents honor-kill their children. Some pray for them and are heartbroken if they leave the faith. Some home school or send them to religious schools to try to prevent "exit." It's all part of that fundamentalist plot to keep Autonomous Individuals from believing what we, the Supermen, want them to believe. From the regime we Supermen want to create, there is, of course, no exit.
It all reminds me quite a bit of some citations in this article, which has been around for a while and which all home schoolers should read.
What it comes to is this: Having failed to show that home schoolers aren't doing a good job academically, having failed to show that home schooled children turn out incapable of tying their shoes and otherwise living in "the real world," liberals are taking off the velvet glove to reveal the iron fist. The bottom line is just simply that they dislike home schooling for the very reason that a great many home schoolers like it, namely, that it permits parents to opt out of the leftist ideology in which leftist ideologues wish to indoctrinate all children. How dare we? So now leftist ideology is just going to be defined as "core values for democracy," and on that basis parents will be told that they can't teach anything contrary to this religion in their home schooling program.
Occasionally when some avant garde academic publishes something outrageous, there's a temptation to say, grimly, "Well, at least they haven't gotten around to legislating that."
No? Actually, in Canada, they very nearly have. Let me introduce you to Bill 2 in Alberta, which was just recently and possibly only temporarily defeated. Specifically, let me introduce you to some remarks made about the bill by Donna McColl, a representative for the education minister's office:
"Whatever the nature of schooling – homeschool, private school, Catholic school – we do not tolerate disrespect for differences,” Donna McColl, Lukaszuk’s assistant director of communications, told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday evening.
“You can affirm the family’s ideology in your family life, you just can’t do it as part of your educational study and instruction,” she added.
According to McColl, Christian homeschooling families can continue to impart Biblical teachings on homosexuality in their homes, “as long as it’s not part of their academic program of studies and instructional materials.”
“What they want to do about their ideology elsewhere, that’s their family business. But a fundamental nature of our society is to respect diversity,” she added.
Pressed about what the precise distinction is between homeschoolers’ instruction and their family life, McColl said the question involved “real nuances” and she would have to get back with specifics.
But in a second interview Wednesday evening, McColl said the government “won’t speculate” about particular examples, and explained that she had not yet gotten a “straight answer” on what exactly constitutes “disrespect.” She did say that families “can’t be hatemongering, if you will.”
Sounds like she'd been reading Ross, doesn't it? In fact, the resemblance between McColl's comments and Ross's prescription is so striking that I'm inclined to say it isn't a coincidence. That doesn't actually need to mean that McColl read Ross's article. What it could mean is that this sort of talk is much, much more common than the rest of us realized in a certain academic milieu, and that McColl and Ross are both either products of or part of that milieu and are just telling us what the liberal elite has in mind for us as the new normal.
Note that Ross's article and the near-passage of Bill 2 are mutually corrective of certain tendencies to complacency. On the one hand, when anything crazy comes out of Canada, American lefties who want to cry, "Peace, peace" (lulling us crazy conservatives into silence until they're ready to snap the trap shut) will tell us that everything is different in the United States and that nothing that happens in Canada is relevant. To that, Ross's article is an important corrective, because she is writing specifically and explicitly in an American legal context and in an American law journal.
On the other hand, as already noted, the actual existence of Bill 2 and of McColl's remarks thereupon shows us that this totalitarian proposal is no mere paper tiger. Real legislation is being drawn up to put it into effect. We can hope that First Amendment challenges in the United States would stave off any such legislation, but we cannot be sure of that. Obviously, the law professors are working hard to find ways around that.
Confirming both of these points is this case in New Hampshire, in which a judge adjudicating a parental dispute ordered a girl out of home schooling and into public schooling specifically on the grounds that her views reflected her mother's views too closely. Note too how this dovetails with Ross's prescription that the courts use the opportunity to interfere in education provided by divorce cases to force children into public schooling. The broad power of courts in divorce situations, a power created by dispute between parents, to micromanage children's lives and education for the "best interests of the child" places such cases largely outside the ambit of the First Amendment.
What we can be sure of is that direct regulation of home school content to enforce "tolerance" is a goal of a not-inconsiderable slice of the left-wing intelligentsia and that it will come to the United States as soon as they are able to make it happen.
Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
Update: Thanks to a reader who has sent a link to an electronic copy of Ross's entire article. It's a peach.