"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Do Home Schoolers "Belong to the Government"?

Does being "missional" or "democratic" mean home schooling should be discouraged?  Whose idea of "social contract" should apply in your childrens' education?

A recent article (adapted from a blog Strange Figures) in the St. Louis Post Dispatch about home schooling raised interesting questions about the role of home schoolers in society, both from a religious and secular standpoint.  The author, Sharon Autenrieth, questions the premise of a "societal compact" in public education.  She mentions a Christian blogger, Tony Jones, and his stance and attack on home schooling via his post "Death to Home schooling":

Similarly, formal education was formerly for the societal elite. But in a democracy, education is for all, with the understanding that the more educated we all become, the more humane we will be toward one another (this, of course, is open to debate).

So it seems to me that to withdraw my children from public education is to not play my (God-given) role as a missional member of society — like I can’t just choose to withhold my taxes. We give our children all those vaccinations when they’re young not necessarily to protect them from polio (since the chances of any one of my children getting it is exceedingly small) but because we live in a society, and part of the contract within the society is that we will never again let polio gain a foothold.

So I can’t think, “I’ll just pull my kids out of the public schools — what difference will one less follower of Jesus make in a school full of hundreds of kids?” I don’t, as a Christian, have the option to “opt out” of the societal contract. Instead, I live under a mandate to be the most involved, missional societal participant that I can be.

My question is to Jones is: who is he to decide how one lives his/her life in order to be the "most involved, missional societal participant"?  Does becoming  a "most involved societal participant" mean a child's individual educational needs are secondary to the collective society?  Does such a contract require parents enroll their children in a public school?  Really?  Is he serious?  If your child is not learning in a school or the education is not appropriate for your child, does that mean your child needs to stay because of a "societal and/or missional contract"?

Autenreith writes:

Here is my immediate reaction to that argument:  Jones is saying that my children belong to the state just as much as my taxes do.  I’ll avoid my usual tendency toward florid language and just say that I reject that idea.  I reject it with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength.  I also reject the idea that homeschoolers are opting out of anything except one educational option.  Many homeschoolers (most?) are involved in the world, engaged in extracurricular activities, and serving their communities in a variety of ways.

 (Jones stating) that home schooling is not "missional," that Christian home schoolers are not being 'salt and light" has been around for a long time.

Sometimes it's framed without the religious lingo. In that case, home schooling is seen as undemocratic, elitist, a violation of the 'social contract." To not participate in public education tears at the fabric of our country.

If this is true -  if Tony is right that the public schools have as strong a claim on  my children as the public coffers have on my tax dollars – maybe the DNC video was right: maybe we all “belong” to the government.  The social contract is more than just an agreement between peers, after all.  It’s the exchange of certain rights for services or protections.  Maybe my children’s educational freedom is a price I pay for being an American citizen. Well, you already know I don’t believe that, but Tony Jones seems to be arguing toward that end.  I think he has a narrow and cramped vision of how we serve as salt and light in society, a view that is less Kingdom of God than civic idolatry. 

What do you think?  What is our moral obligation to society when it comes to educating our children?  Must a “compassionate” Christian have their children enrolled in public school?

Or, phrased in a secular manner,  must a "democratic" citizen have his/her children enrolled in public school because of a "societal contract" decided by folks like Tony Jones?

Read Autenreith's entire article here. 

1 comment:

  1. I find Mr. Jones argument... silly. I grew up a homeschooled child until HighSchool and it was while being HomeSchooled I founded the roots for my Christian identity/beliefs. As children of God we all belong to God. He leaves it up to the parents to how they can best minister to their children (either at home or other venues/situations). If Mr. Jones feels he is lead to put his children in publica school thats good for him. God works in many different ways and many different venues though.


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