In my overview of the history of government regulation of public education, I hinted at the reasons why I currently home school my younger son, Michael, who is in the fifth grade, and why, when the current school years ends, I will be homeschooling my daughter Heidi, who will be a junior in high school. Too much government infringement on my parental rights! I have had enough of playing the stupid bureaucratic rules established by politicians with little, if any, experience or expertise in education. Too much of school administrators who are bureaucrats first and educators only as an afterthought. Too much of teachers who learn all the latest pop psychology theories of teaching, but learn little of the subject they teach. Too much of education becoming more brain washing than teaching our children how to think! Too much stifling of creativity in the name of conformity!
In my overview, I talked about my making cause with the religious homeschoolers, many of whom are fundamentalists, and I talked about the fact that I am so “radical” as to be “conservative” in my position on certain issues, like parental rights. I specifically used the term “God-given” in talking about why my rights as a parent supersede any so-called rights the government thinks it has over my children. An explanation of why I used that term and what I mean by it is in order here.
I was doing some research on Google, looking for homeschooling statistics, and one of the sites Google called up was the Home Schooling Legal Defense Association. Homeschoolers tend to get harassed a bit by various government agencies and the HSLDA is a not-for-profit organization that helps homeschool parents and organizations deal with this harassment. It also advocates at both the state and federal level for legislative protection for homeschoolers.
In reading its FAQ page, I learned that the HSLDA is an avowedly Christian organization, but they do not restrict membership to only Christian homeschoolers, nor do they deny their services to non-Christians. Nor do they, unlike some of the other homeschooling groups I found, require a prospective member to sign any form of religious affirmation. I found that quite refreshing. I am a planning on applying for membership in the HSLDA, if for no other reason than to get access to their research. But, since I am involved in starting a homeschool support group here in Mountain Home, and intend to be very proactive both locally and on this blog in promoting homeschooling, I suspect the HSLDA will come in handy for more than just research data.
It was in their FAQs that I found the argument about “God-given parental rights” that I am going to present here. My position on this subject might be a little different than that of the HSLDA because I take a broader, less denominational attitude towards what “God-given” means. I am assuming that the God that the HSLDA means is the narrow definition of God used by American Christian evangelicals. Christians, for the most part, and evangelicals especially, believe in the exclusivity of their religion, as does Judaism and Islam. There is something about Judeo-Christian-Islamic monotheism that makes it necessary for each orthodoxy and each sect in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition to believe that it and it alone has access to the truth about God.
I personally believe in the unity of religions, whether monotheistic or not. Religion, and therefore religions, are, as Clifford Geertz defines it, is a system of symbols. Symbols can be object, the cross or the Star of David or the crescent moon, or they can be myths or collections of myths. Now, when I use the word myth, I am not using it in the ordinary sense of the word. Myths are texts, oral or written, that are used by a community to teach and explain the order of things, often on a cosmological level. Whether they are true, in any scientific sense of the word, or not is totally irrelevant. The fact that they are accepted as truth, that they are believed, is what matters.
This definition, which is used in social science, encompasses what we commonly refer to as myths – the sotries of folklore, for instance; but it also encompasses any and all religious scriptures that are historical or biographical accounts, especially if they are about divine beings or involve supernatual phenomena. Mich of the Old Testament, the Gospels, the Book of Revelations, are most definitely myths, and it can be argued that the other books of Scripture accepted by Christianity may be myths as well. Every major religion has its myths.
Myths are full of symnolic imagery – metaphors. Humans use metaphors to talk about a lot of things, like describing human behavior – eat like a pig, work like a mule, smell like horse are simple examples of these kind of metaphors. But, when discussing cosmological issues like the nature of God, metaphors are about the only tool we have to try to explain them. Christians talk about God the Father. Does that mean that God is the biological or even social male parent of each human.? Of course not. It is merely a metaphor to try to explain the relationship between God and humans. It odes not even mean that God is of the male gender, or, for that matter, has any gender. God does not exist, by definition, in any physical sense of the word, because, if he had physical existence – limited to a specific space and time, he would not be God the Infinite. And, by definition in all the major religions, the Godhead is Infinite, he exists outside of any space and time, or, to put it another way, he exists in all spaces and all times.
God is Infinite, The metaphors we use to talk about God are not. They exist in a specific time and place. They are finite. By equating God with any specific metaphor, we are limiting God to the finite and, therefore, no longer talking about God because God is Infinite. This is the mistake that religious exclusivity makes. It tries to limit the Infiniteness of God to the finiteness of a specific metaphor.
By accepting in its fullest sense the Infiniteness of God, the unity of religions is a natural corollary. All religious metaphors used by the great religions all refer to God the Infinite. God is not limited to any of their metaphors, rather God encompasses all of them and even more. Jesus supposedly said, I believe in Revelations or the Gospel of John, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, Omega is the last. So, if Jesus is the beginning and the end, then he cannot be God, because something that has beginning and an end is finite. God is not. But, I a, getting way off track here, but I promise to come back to this argument soon.
Parental rights are God-given because it is the parents, not the government, that gives life to children through the power of procreation given to humans by God the Infinite. The power to give life is not something humans can do on their own. We cannot create life out of nothing. Only living humans, through the use of already living materials, can spawn another living being. The government cannot give life without human agents and that ability in humans is from God.
Because we humans give life, we are responsible for those being to whom we give life, In other words, parents have the final and ultimate responsibility for their children, not some government. I don’t care whether you use some religious metaphor or some scientific explanation, it is the parents who are accountable, in the final analysis, for their children. And that most definitely includes their education. We can use third-parties like schools or churches to assist us in the education of our children. Unfortunately, the government, with its increasing regulation of education and other areas applicable to children, has encourage a lot of parents to relinquish their responsibilities as parents to various government agencies.
The parents should be the ones making the decisions about what moral code the children learn, or what religion they practice or whether they accept the myths of science, or whether they should or should not have vaccinations. But, and I hold a lot of parents responsible for this, the government has taken over a substantial portion of parental responsibilities, sometimes out of necessity. But, just because the government has to take over these responsibilities in cases of parental neglect. that does not mean it should deny responsible parents their rights to be parents. But that is what has happened and is continuing to happen. The situation has become a vicious self-serving cycle that may or may not be breakable.
Rights and responsibilities form the cornerstone of true liberty. You cannot have one without the other. This country was founded on the idea of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for each citizen. But, liberty demands eternal vigilance, and it is a sad truth that Americans tend to be less than vigilant in the protection of liberty. We have allowed and continue to allow government to chip away at that liberty. The idea of what constitutes a good citizen has changed over the last 225 years from someone who is vigilant of liberty to someone who allows the government a free hand in taking away our liberty, of letting the government decide what is good for us. These are the kind of good citizens that the educational system is turning out.
I believe in the older definition of good citizen, the one that our Founding Fathers believed in when they pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to the cause of liberty. And I want my children to believe in that definition too. I want them to be the same kind of good citizens that George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, and countless others were. I want them to be vigilant of their own liberty, and by being so, be vigilant of the liberty of all of us. That is why I am making such a commitment to homeschooling them and to the cause of homeschooling.