March-April 2010 Selected Content
Editorial - Mark and Helen Hegener
Freedoms at Risk
Through the dedication of countless families and individuals, homeschooling has gained a measure of acceptance and approval that seemed almost impossible just fifteen years ago. Homeschooling families have come a long way, and we have several valuable contributions to offer society. We are learning a great deal about children and the ways in which they learn, and while many of those lessons challenge the current perceptions fostered by the American public education system, there are hopeful signs that people are becoming increasingly receptive to these lessons and to homeschooling.
Homeschoolers have recognized the need for assuming real responsibility in their lives. They are searching for answers to the problems presented by faceless bureaucracies and insensitive official policies. In their recent book, Taking Charge Through Homeschooling: Personal and Political Empowerment, Larry and Susan Kaseman state, "Homeschoolers stand on the forefront of freedom in education today. We are one of the groups that is most strongly resisting the increasing standardization of education and the increasing attempts of the educational establishment to take over the functions of the family."
The Kasemans also note, "Because education in America today is so dominated by the political system, the decision to homeschool is a political decision." Individual homeschoolers are taking actions that are resulting in fundamental changes in their lives. They are demonstrating an ability to band very diverse groups together to become a potent political force, an ability recognized in states where outside influences have not interfered with grassroots activism. In several states homeschoolers are working together for sound legislation and regulations, to produce highly successful conferences and conventions, to gain favorable media exposure, to coordinate a full calendar of support group activities, and much more. Given the opportunity, homeschoolers know how to get things done - a quality which is all too rare in these times.
However, because of their commitment to action, homeschooling families have been the target of skillfully crafted attempts to focus their energy and to appropriate their political potential. Sadly, these attempts have come from within their own ranks, from those who have first worked to gain the trust and the confidence of homeschooling families (these individuals, their organizations and a few of their allies, are identified in the special feature section, Homeschooling Freedoms At Risk, in this issue). Possibly with the best of intentions toward fellow homeschoolers, these individuals and their organizations have tremendously weakened the ability of homeschoolers to work together. They have worked behind closed doors to write and support questionable legislation that is now causing many problems for homeschooling families. They have repeatedly worked to advance their own narrow definition of acceptable homeschooling methods. And they have seriously compromised our potential to be politically effective by closely linking homeschooling to a narrow political stance.
The valuable contributions that homeschooling families have been sharing with others are being seriously jeopardized. We've allowed one small band of very shrewd and determined individuals to play havoc withour lives, our communities, our relationships with each other, and most sadly, with the future of our children.
In a very real way, we are being subjected to the games we learned in the public school system. The game of Obedience to Authority. The game of I Know More Than You Do. The game of Don't Question What I Say. The rules were simple, everyone got to play, and the winners were always obvious. So many people have been preconditioned to accept what those perceived as winners ("leaders") have to say that they rarely apply the rules of sound logic and good common sense to their words. It's much easier to go along, to be part of the crowd, to be accepted. And for those who see the imbalance and the injustice? One fierce word from the "leader" and a would-be questioner is turned upon and castigated. How reminiscent of those playground bullies and adolescent cliques.
As homeschooling families we have made great strides toward reconciling the conflict between a need to maintain social order and the need for individuals to exercise personal responsibility. We have shown that independent action can work in the realm of education, and we have come together as a community and worked to assure individual freedom. And yet our responsibilities are still being usurped by the "playground bullies." The conflict continues. What we are facing - what we must face - is the opportunity to do something about this conflict before our children are saddled with it as well.
We find hope in the children. As homeschoolers they haven't learned the kinds of games we're used to playing. We can teach them, to be sure. Or we can find a better way. Let's put our homeschooling theory into practice, for we have as much to learn as the children.
© 1991, Mark and Helen Hegener