By Nathan Barton
For me, integrity is the consistency of words and actions. Part of the way that you do that is to ask people questions on some of the most difficult issues that you confront. ‘Take me through where you felt you had to compromise your values.’ Kenneth Chenault
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is one of the good guys. Although not truly libertarian, they nevertheless come close in many areas. As their name states, they legally defend home-schooling parents against government tyranny. Especially the petty bureaucratic mindset of too many educrats: public school administrators and faculty. And the inflated egos and stupidity of too many public school boards and their members.
The right they defend is a critical one: the right for parents to raise and educate children based on their own values and beliefs. A right that is essential to guard against the state in all its aspects – its evil aspects.
Unfortunately, even the fine people at HSLDA, many of them liberty-minded in many ways, are inconsistent in what they say and do. In that, they are not unlike many libertarians (especially the politically involved) and many lovers of liberty in general. It is a problem in trying to win converts to the cause of liberty.
Right now, there is a bill in the South Dakota legislature that would require home schooled children, as well as students in public and private schools, to take and pass a “civics test” in order to graduate from high school in South Dakota. It is a typical conservative sort of mandate. It shows that even in conservative states like South Dakota, the public education system has failed to educate people and make them “good citizens.”
HSLDA is correctly leading a fight against this bill, which would clearly violate the rights (and duties) of homeschooling parents to teach their children.
Sadly, there are two major problems. The first is that HSLDA is trying only to remove home schooled students from the mandate. They are not fighting to remove the requirement for private school students, even though the bill would violate the rights of both parents and their students just as much in those schools. (Public school students are fair game for the legis-gators, in my opinion. Maybe I’m just being vindictive.)
This problem can be explained, to some degree, by a need to husband their resources and deal first and foremost in support of their constituency. HSLDA does not represent, or try to, private schools, their students, or the parents who pay for those students.
The second problem is the topic of this commentary: consistency. I realize that we humans are, by nature, inconsistent. But some inconsistency is worse than others.
On the one hand, HSLDA is sending out missives to get South Dakota homeschoolers about the civics test. Members and friends are ask to urgently contact the legislature about this. And tell (in essence) their representatives and senators to stop meddling in home school affairs and mandating things like this civics test.
At the same time, HSLDA sent out a “pat ourselves on the back” message to those same people. This e-mail tells how a 15-year-long battle to “remove discrimination” against homeschoolers has been won when the SD governor recently signed a bill into law allowing home schooled high school graduates to get government scholarships on the same basis as other graduates. The scholarships can be up to $6500, according to HSLDA.
Let me put it baldly. Home school high school grads now have the same “right” to be parasites on the taxpayers just like their public school (government-run, tax-funded school) peers.
Which, of course, is the perfect excuse for the legislators and government of the state to have the bureaucrats meddle with home schooling by requiring a civics test to graduate.
Like too many of us, HSLDA and its members want their cake and to eat it, too.
It is presented as a discrimination matter, and the welfare aspect is ignored. Yes, it is unfair that home schoolers are treated differently than public schoolers, but two wrongs do not make it right!
This eligibility for tax-funded scholarships, together with the “right” to participate in public school extracurricular activities (especially sports), shows that it is very difficult to wean ourselves from the public nipple.
Isn’t it time we stopped being hypocritical about accepting (and demanding) government services, even while trying to free ourselves from those governments? This issue is not like public highways or first-responder (police, fire, etc.) services: in South Dakota alternatives DO exist to government-run, tax-funded schools at ALL levels, Pre-school to post-graduate work.