by Tammy Drennan
Dear Mr. Rusher,
I’ve enjoyed many of your columns over the past few years, and I’m guessing (and hoping) that you were only trying to help with your recent column on homeschooling and the California court opinion.
But — and excuse me for being so blunt — with friends like this, who needs enemies?
That is not to say that parents, in California or elsewhere, have or ought to have an exclusive right to determine that question [what fundamentals their children are taught]. We live in a complex society, under rules that necessarily apply to all of us, and our children must be taught many things that they must do, and not a few that they must not. We could not possibly survive if rebellious, or even simply inventive, parents were allowed to raise their offspring in ways that defy essential standards of behavior.
But that still leaves vast areas of belief in which reasonable people can and do differ, and there is no reason in the world why parents ought not to be able to instruct their children in what they regard as the right way to act in those areas.
Who else besides parents do you believe should have the right to determine what children should be taught then force them to be taught it? The state? The local school board? The NEA? Maybe we should all vote on it and whoever manages the best ad campaign for their point of view will win the day.
What essential standards of behavior do you fear multitudes of free parents will fail to instill in their children? For inspiration, I suggest you spend a few days roaming the halls of a public middle school or high school to see which ones they’re failing to instill. And watch out for the surveillance cameras.
After suggesting that there are essential standards of behavior that must be taught and cannot be left to parents, you turn around and tell us that some of the things that can be left to the discretion of parents — as long as someone is checking up on them — are controlled substance use, morality, honesty (the simple kind) and compassion. These things, we can only assume, are important but are not among the fundamentals necessary to a smoothly-functioning, complex society.
As if all of this isn’t enough, you go on to imply that parents ought to be “required to know enough about the rudiments of teaching to do the job properly.” I’m wondering if the same people who endorse and empower state schools — those schools turning out illiterates and semi-literates at astonishing rates — would be the ones to determine which parents are qualified to teach.
Finally, you suggest that parents will be happy to have the schools teach arithmetic but many will not want the schools covering civics. It seems to me that civics is one of those fundamentals that is so important to a healthy society. But we should leave that one entirely up to parents (allowing for the state, which employs “tin-horn revolutionaries,” to step in where parents fail)?
This country was built on the strongest possible foundation — that of fiercely independent families that reared hard-working, intelligent, self-reliant, ambitious, compassionate, moral children quite well without the interference of the state. The exceptions were never enough to make us veer off the track our founders set us on.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s, when states began to commandeer the education of children, that we started to lose our commitment to independence, not to mention our literacy.
With all due respect, Mr. Rusher, whatever were you thinking?