Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rachel's Messiah

Last month's press release from Pacific Justice Institute regarding the California Homeschooling case, In re Rachel L., says the following:

Pacific Justice Institute has just received word that the court ruling which declared most forms of homeschooling unlawful in California has been vacated. This means the Rachel L. decision, which has sparked a nationwide uproar, will not go into effect as it is currently written. The Second District Court of Appeal has instead decided to re-hear the case, with a new round of briefings due in late April. It would likely take the court several additional months to schedule oral argument and issue another decision.

Today's announcement by the court that it will re-hear the case reinforces PJI's position that homeschooling families should continue their current programs without fear of governmental interference. PJI will be actively involved in the upcoming briefs and will continue to post updates and special bulletins on this vital issue.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, "We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has decided to re-hear the Rachel L. case, and we are hopeful that the fundamental rights of these parents, our clients Sunland Christian School, and the tens of thousands of homeschooling families in California will be honored. Homeschooling parents should be treated as heroes - not hunted down or harassed by their own government."

I admit that I'm a paranoid anti-government extremist who believes in every conspiracy theory that comes along. Brad Dacus is an optimist who says he's "hopeful" that the reason the court is going to allow a new round of briefings and hear new oral argument is so the court can reverse itself, and instead of following California and federal legal precedents, the court can chart new legal ground by carving out a right for parents to keep their children at home away from government educators and government propaganda.

Yeah, right.

In the eyes of education bureaucrats -- including the judges that signed on to the opinion in Rachel -- the "right" to "home school" is the right to "play hooky." Creating such a right would completely destroy the entire theory of universal compulsory public schooling.

Such a (court-recognized) right should exist, and such a (God-ordained) right does exist, but teachers' unions and education bureaucrats are congenitally opposed to such a right, and their lawyers are doubtless churning out briefs and lining up witnesses this very moment to get a better (for them) opinion than the first Rachel opinion -- which was a pretty good one for them, all things considered -- one which can really break the backs of schools which are not run by the government, a decision which will win on all appeals.

Although the current Superintendent of Education in California has released a statement against the Rachel decision and in favor of homeschooling, this is an anomaly. Over the years there has been some incredibly pathological hatred of non-public education on the part of some education bureaucrats and Superintendents. This is because the issue in this case (unlike the title of a previous post) is not just "Who is Rachel's teacher?" the real issue is, "Who is Rachel's Savior?"

If you want to become paranoid, there is no better place to start than R.J. Rushdoony's book, The Messianic Character of American Education. Rushdoony was a voracious reader and researcher, and the book is filled with quotations from public education pioneers, evangelists, and czars, all of whom passionately believed that government-administered education would bring social salvation.

Public education is not a neutral, technical legal doctrine. Public education is a religion.

Tyrants in Black Robes and Messianic Educrats -- Backwater Report

Incarnations of the Messianic State -- Gary North

William Edgar writes in FIRST THINGS: A Journal of Religion, Culture, and Public Life:

Many have credited Rushdoony with being an early inspiration behind the home school movement. He certainly was the strongest possible advocate of religious education, consistently favoring private over public schooling. In The Messianic Character of American Education (1963) Rushdoony decried the American public school system, tracing its ideology back to John Dewey and other secular thinkers who believed in the natural goodness of children and the role that education could play in liberalizing society.

Rushdoony was often called upon as an expert witness to defend the rights of home-school advocates against their detractors. In 1983 the Home School Legal Defense Association was formed under the leadership of people inspired by Rushdoony’s attacks on secular education. By 1990 over fifteen thousand families in all fifty states belonged to the Association, and today home schooling is more popular than ever.

I haven't yet (after less than 5 minutes of searching) found reaction to the Rachel case from the NEA or CTA. There's this:

NEA: Home Schools Run By Well-Meaning Amateurs

which argues that professional teachers (those who teach for money) are more to be trusted with children than amateur teachers (from the Latin, amāre, those who teach out of love). Economist Gary North notes that vast amounts of "Social Overhead Capital" are required in a society to teach the next generation, and the bonds of love in the family are the best institution to accomplish this. See also Jennifer Roback Morse's infelicitously titled Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn't Work (the "socialist dictatorship family" does? She means the union-organized "professional" wages-for-hire family doesn't work).

Abolishing amateur teachers is bad PR for the State. Abolishing well-educated, well-behaved kids is also bad PR. So Brad Dacus can be forgiven for thinking that reversing the Rachel decision is the only reasonable thing the court can do.

If it seems unreasonable for the State to assume the mantle of Messiah, it is. But reason has never stopped the messianic State. One line of the Rachel court's opinion is a hint of how the State will rise to meet the homeschooling challenge. Quoting previous courts, the Rachel court said:

it would be an unreasonable burden on the state to have to supervise each and every home in which a child was being educated.

Yes, it would be unreasonable, but that doesn't mean the State won't attempt it. If the State cannot prevent homeschooling from taking place (without the State looking very bad in the process), it will attempt to regulate it. Like every good messiah, the State will seek to "save homeschooling from itself," and just as FDR "saved capitalism from itself" by abolishing it, homeschooling will be abolished. Sure, something called "education" will be allowed to take place in "homes," but it will no longer be "homeschooling" as a movement of resistance against The Messianic Character of Public Education. Home schoolers will be "welcomed" into the arms of the State's protective education bureaucracy -- like a boa constrictor welcomes its lunch.

If Rachel's court reverses itself and grants a "right" to "home school," this will be the purpose.


Previous blogs on government schools and their products:

Yoder and Pierce
Would God Bless This?
"The Lust of the Eyes"

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