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Jewish World Review June 18, 2003 / 18 Sivan, 5763

David Limbaugh

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Homeschoolers in the trenches | Given the poor academic track record of public education in many areas of this country, you would think the government and education establishment would be a little less arrogant about superimposing their will on homeschooling families who prefer to opt out of their system. But you would be wrong.

The establishment's assault against the homeschooling movement continues. In Waltham, Mass., local authorities are so adamant about imposing their mandatory standardized testing that they sent social workers and policemen to the home of George and Kim Bryant at 7:45 a.m. last Thursday demanding their two teen-agers take the tests.

According to World Net Daily, the Department of Social Services actually threatened to take the Bryants' children away from them over this issue - if other issues were involved, the article didn't say so. But the Bryants refused to let their children go, believing they have a right to determine their children's educational choices.

The Waltham Public School's homeschooling policy mandates that parents develop a grading system and file educational plans for homeschooled children, but the Bryants have steadfastly resisted the government controls.

It's not that homeschooling families are afraid of competing with their public-school counterparts. Homeschoolers have continually done well on academic tests and contests.

In 2000, the top three winners in the Scripps-Howard News Service's National Spelling Bee were all homeschooled. This is all the more remarkable when you consider that only 11 percent of the contestants were homeschoolers. That same year, homeschoolers placed first and second in the National Geography Bee.

There's more. According to official reports for the American College Testing Program, homeschoolers have scored higher on average than students in public and private schools. In 2000, the average composite ACT score for high-school students was 21, while homeschool students scored 22.8.

Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner, an expert in quantitative analysis and one who has studied the performance of homeschoolers, once remarked that this move to make homeschoolers meet public-school standards was "odd" given the superior academic performance of homeschoolers.

Rudner conducted a study in 1998 that included 20,760 students in 11,930 familes. He found that in every subject and at every grade level (K-12), "homeschool students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts." Some 25 percent of all homeschool students at that time were enrolled at a grade level or more beyond that dictated by their age. According to the study, the average eighth-grade homeschooler was performing four grade levels above the national average.

Nevertheless, some homeschooling families are still reluctant to submit to standardized testing because it would be an indirect method for the state to gain control over the curriculum. If homeschoolers were required to pass standardized tests geared to public-school curricula, is it not inevitable that their families would have to alter their curricula to teach to those tests?

Don't just assume the Bryants are being stubborn and unreasonable. This is a freedom issue. Why shouldn't the Bryants or any other parents be free to make their own curricular choices? We've seen the extent to which the educational establishment influences public school curricula, often in directions that many parents - not just homeschooling ones - would consider repugnant.

Most homeschool parents - at least Christian ones - understand what the education establishment has known for a long time but won't often admit: that there is no such thing as values-free education. With the banning of Christian values and their replacement with humanistic ones in the public-school system, we have witnessed the adoption of bizarre ideas having little to do with academics and everything to do with social engineering, directly resulting, ultimately, in the corruption of educational quality.

As more parents opt for homeschooling, public schools will grow increasingly nervous. Homeschooling's financial impact on public schools can be significant. If thousands of students are homeschooling in a school district, it stands to lose millions of dollars in revenue. And with every additional homeschooled student, the public-education monopoly is eroded a little further, and control over children's academic and social development shifts away from the state and back to the family unit.

So, despite homeschooling's outstanding academic track record, we can expect persistent opposition from the establishment, sometimes reaching the point of policemen and social workers at homeschoolers' homes threatening to snatch away their children.

But we can also be sure that homeschooling families will continue to resist this oppression. They deserve our support, because they are fighting over the most fundamental rights of a free society: the right to raise and educate children as they see fit. They are carrying the banner of liberty for all of us.

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David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.