Checks and Balances—Except for Homechooling?

Growing up, I heard a lot about the importance of checks and balances in our government. My parents explained that the checks and balances in our government—the sharing of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—ensure that our country will not become a dictatorship. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, they explained time and again.

But it was  like all of this was erased from their brains when they started talking about their right to homeschool. Instead, any check or balance on their absolute power over the education of their children was unacceptable—and suddenly absolute power was a good thing. How did my parents never consider that if checks and balances are good for the government of our country, necessary even, checks and balances might be good for the raising and educating of children? How did they never consider that if absolute power corrupts, their absolute power over their children’s education might corrupt them?

And it’s not just my parents. It’s HSLDA too. Here’s what HSLDA’s late Christopher Klicka had to say about regulations on homeschooling: “We want to maximize parental freedom. We want the honor system.” The honor system. No regulations or oversight, no checks and balances, the honor system.

My parents, and HSLDA as well, would probably say that parents naturally have their children’s best interests in mind, as well as an interest in ensuring that their kids are educated, so there is no need for checks or balances. The thing is, it’s simply not true that parents always know or want what’s best for their children. There are parents who choose homeschooling in order to hide their abuse—and never actually plan to educate in the first place. There are parents who start out homeschooling with good intentions but get overwhelmed and stop actually educating their children yet continue to homeschool because they believe it’s the only option they are allowed as good Christians. There are homeschool parents who don’t believe their daughters need to be educated in things other than cooking and cleaning and caring for children. If there is no oversight of homeschooling—if there are no checks and balances—there is nothing to stop these parents from depriving their children of an education.

I think my parents would also say that God has set parents as the authorities over their children, and commanded children to obey their parents, and that a parent’s absolute power over his child’s upbringing, education, and social life is therefore natural and good. But even within their framework I don’t think this excuse works. After all, the New Testament also commands Christians to obey the government, because it is placed over them by God, and it says nothing about checks and balances.

Romans 13: 1 — Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

Either checks and balances are the way to go for any sort of authority, or every authority is set there by God and must be obeyed without insistence on checks and balances. You can’t make an exception for one type of authority but not for another. I do believe that’s called “picking and choosing,” something people like my parents are generally against.

And besides that, of course, I don’t agree with their premises.

See, I don’t believe that parents own their children or should have absolute and unchecked authority or control over them. Children aren’t property, they’re people. Yes, they’re people who lack the knowledge and abilities of adults and therefore need help and preparation before they can step out into the world as fully independent. But that doesn’t make the parent the overseer—it makes the parent the guide. Further, children have their own needs to be met, and the right to have an open future. The idea that a parent should have absolute authority over a child? No. Children are not mere slaves or property. And I say this as a mother myself.

It is certainly true that children don’t belong to the government either. They don’t belong to anyone. They are not chattel. While parents may be their children’s natural first guides, it is only right for the government to step in and protect children when their parents are not meeting their needs—the need for food, or for physical safety, or for an education. In defending the needs of children against abuse and neglect, the government serves to balance the power of the parents and is a natural check on parents’ ability to abuse or misuse their children. When children are in public school, the school serves a as a check on the parents and the parents serve as a check on the school. But when children are homeschooled, one side of this balance disappears. This is why I think we need some reasonable regulation of homeschooling, to create a balance and serve as a check on the unrestricted power of parents.

When the children are grown, they can care for themselves and make their own choices. Until then, a balance between the parents and the government, whether that is manifested through the schools or through child protective services or through reasonable regulation of homeschooling, is the best way to keep ensure that children have the best upbringing possible and are set on the road toward a healthy and mature adulthood. After all, wasn’t I taught by my parents that a system of checks and balances the best protection against the corrupting influence of absolute power?

If you agree, sign this petition. It’s a good first step. 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • tsara

    I’m still having trouble with the “right to homeschool.” No. Homeschooling your children is not a right; it is a privilege. Accordingly, just like with driving a car, those wishing to homsechool should first demonstrate that they are responsible parents and fit educators.
    In fact, if I thought that this wouldn’t go terribly wrong (due to racism, sexism, classism, culture in the States, and a few other reasons), I’d be pressing the argument that parenthood/custody of a child is a privilege and not a right (even your own biological children!) — and that anyone at all wishing to have custody of and legal authority over anyone else who is not legally capable of making their own decisions should be required to demonstrate their ability and responsibility.

    Nobody has the right to authority over another human being. Period.
    And homeschooling (as you’ve described it, with an obvious lack of adequate regulation) just removes some of the already insufficient checks and balances on parental authority, adding to the problem — giving more power and more authority over vulnerable human beings to people who have not demonstrated even something so basic as the ability to read and do basic math or an understanding that children are people.

    • RedGA

      Let’s take the flipside of this. Where is it stated the government had the mandate to educate its children? Where is it stated that government has power to compel education upon its population? If we are talking rights here you must be referring to the Constitution. One cannot use ‘rights’ without referring to something as a basis for those rights.

      As for parents having to first demonstrate they are fit, where has the state done this? Surely not with their standards. Seeing how these standards still lead to failing kids and failing schools, I would challenge your assertion that this demonstration be a requirement. I see failures in NYC, Milwaukee, DC, Atlanta, and numerous other systems as evidence this fitness standard is not worth the paper it is written on.

      No one has the right to authority over another human being. Amazing logic. So you would then agree that a child cannot be compelled to school – public, private, or home based. I could also say this is applied to any law or regulation. Unless you are advocating anarchy I would say your statement would need rewording. As for authority over vulnerable human beings, sort of like the school systems that graduate kids who still cannot read or write. Or have sexual predators abusing them. These vulnerable human beings have no recourse on being failed.

      • Rosa

        All children have theoretical recourse in the courts, of course – many school reforms have come about through the courts, from racial integration to gender opportunity equalization to access by disabled students.

        Schooled children have two practical ways to access this power: they have adult family members who can use the court system against schools and other institutions, and they have access to a number of non-family adults who can use the legal system to protect against familial abuse. Homeschooled children lose half of this balance – they can be cut off from everything but their family members.

        What we are talking about is formal systems to make that theoretical check on unlimited parental power into something kids actually have access to when it counts.

      • Composer 99

        RedGA:

        Actually, tsara is correct: no human being has an inherent right to authority over another human being. Authority, in democratic government (whatever the scale) is – or at least, ought to be – granted by assent of the governed.

        As far as mass or mandatory education goes, uneducated people impose costs on others, costs that often can’t be compensated (as they would be in an ideal market system). Mandatory education reduces the likelihood of such costs occurring or reduces their magnitude.

        Other than that, your comment, insofar as it attempts to debunk tsara, is a non sequitur. Problems with public schools are not an argument for allowing homeschooling parents unlimited power over their children. They are an argument for improving public schools.

      • RedGA

        Again, quite the anarchist. Better start marching on your government. Our government imposes authority on the people all the time. If the government has power to compel people to public education it has the same power to rescind regulations over same education system. In this case duly elected legislators decided to relax education restrictions on homeschool families. Don’t like it? Petition them. Vote them out. Uneducated people impose costs on others. So we get to the foundation of who you are. Your politics is now clear. You do realize the masses that have created a “burden” on our society are ones who made their way through the failed public school system right? So in your argument, you give a strong case for complete overhaul of the public school system. If they are turning out thousands of uneducated people on welfare, drugs, jail, homeless, etc. where does that leave your statist argument? It reduces the likelihood of costs and reduces their magnitude? I hate to break it to you but you may want to visit centers of ‘magnitude’.

        Non sequitur. Good one. Your claim of unlimited power for homeschoolers is quite a logical fallacy as well. These states still have required standards – some very loose, some not. States can still go in and question records, etc. Even some of the less stringent states still have a requirement for records which can be called on if deemed necessary. As I mentioned earlier, unlimited power would be forcing my child in a failed school system. Ask a child or family in DC about unlimited power over education. I will be happy to list many public systems that will kill any attempt for school choice. If you truly were principled on unlimited power, you would address those aspects as well. You would call on reform for the failed public education policies. But what this is truly about is some resentment of one area of life – many from a poor personal experience – that you find no other purpose than to rant about this on blogs.

        Before you get on my case, I find problems with all forms of education. There are good cases and bad in all areas. Frankly, I personally think it is not the government’s role in mandating education on its people. Call me more libertarian on the subject. The Prussian model and its subsequent incarnations were nothing but a means to indoctrinate their people into a nationalist, statist, militaristic force. If you argue authoritarian, this is a case in point. Centers of free thought dried up as single mindedness took over education.

        So if your argument is accountability, then feel free to apply across the board to ALL forms of education rather than singling out one area. If your argument is authoritarian, then advocate for school choice especially in areas where thousands of children are being failed by authoritarian systems.

      • Composer 99

        Boring hypocrite is boring. And hypocritical.

      • Composer 99

        Now that I have a little more time, I’ll go into some detail. Probably wasting my time trying to engage with RedGA, but whatever.

        RedGA:

        That you presume you can know the mind, politics &c of someone based on, what, one or two posts on the Internet is the height of arrogance. That you can’t seem to get it consistently right – am I an anarchist or a statist? They’re rather mutually exclusive groups – suggests that you’re not trying to make a coherent point so much as throwing shit against the wall and hoping something sticks. At least, that’s what it comes across as.

        —–

        You also appear to be ignorant of some basic economic principles. In an ideal market system, with complete property rights, there are no externalized costs: no person can impose costs on another person without compensating them. So if you smoke a cigarette and the smoke gets in my face (violating a comprehensive right to bodily integrity), I get to send you a bill. If I dump toxic wastes on my land and it seeps into yours, you get to bill me for the clean up. If Joe & Jane Altmedder’s kids get measles, because they didn’t vaccinate, and pass it on to Harry and Henrietta’s kid who’s allergic to vaccines, Harry & Henrietta bill Joe & Jane for their costs. This treatment is a bit simplified, but it should get the point across.

        In the actual world, a comprehensive system of property rights and compensatory exchanges is impracticable. So we have to work with regulations, with things like mandatory vaccination, and the like.

        As far as education goes, a less-educated populace means more externalized costs: for starters, on average less-educated people tend to be poorer, so they can’t afford, say, good health care on their own dime. Since, in the US, the law does not permit people who present at hospital ERs to go untreated, the health costs of the poor and destitute get externalized. Where I live, in Canada, the general attitude is that people should be able to get at least basic health care, whatever their level of affluence – so again, the health costs of people who couldn’t afford it normally are externalized. But someone has to pay those costs. (I’m happy to say I put in my share.)

        As such, expecting a minimal baseline of education from individuals who choose to participate in a society reduces the likelihood and magnitude of externalized costs that result from its lack.

        —–

        As far as accountability goes for different forms of schooling in the US: Libby Anne is discussing homeschooling in the OP. And as a matter of blog etiquette, it is generally polite to try to stick to discussion in the comments. Coming along and whinging that one particular blog post and comment thread isn’t talking about what you want to talk about is very poor form. Somehow, I doubt there’s any shortage of people willing to take shots at public schools. Why we should feel obliged to, on a blog post meant to discuss shortfalling in homsechooling, is beyond me.

        As I see it you are confusing a failure in execution with a failure in conception.

        Insofar as there are problems at (some, not all) public schools, these are problems of failure in execution. And, to be honest, these problems aren’t necessarily inherent to public schools. After all, some key problems are lack of funding (public schools which are adequately funded tend to – wait for it – perform better than those that aren’t) and Christian-hegemonist interference in the system (e.g. pushing creationism, wasting school district money with futile attempts to violate the First Amendment, aiding and abetting bullying and encouraging school cultures hostile to people who don’t meet the hegemonists’ normative standards).

        By contrast, based on statements made by HSLDA personnel, the advocacy (whether by public statements alone or by legal aid) that organization has made for confirmed or self-admitted child abusers, and the work against any and all legislation that might apply checks & balances to homeschooling parents, it seems clear that the HSLDA has committed a failure of conception regarding homeschooling.

        If you don’t think this is about unlimited power, just read the damn OP. Read some of the other posts here about what the HSLDA does. The fact that they provide legal & rhetorical cover for neglectful or abusive parents, and the kind of rhetoric about parental authority expressed by Christianists like the Pearls, strongly suggest that unlimited parental power, or something effectively indistinguishable from it, is the goal of groups like the HSLDA: remember, if there’s no checks or balances on the exercise of power, it’s unlimited, by definition.

        —–

        Finally, on the subject of logical fallacies, the post I described as a non sequitur was indeed such, and frankly your follow-up continues in that vein.

        The point, as I made quite clear, is that nothing in your posts actually refutes the notion that homeschooling ought to be subject to some sort of oversight.

        Your “you do it too!” counter (which (a) you failed to substantiate, and (b) is itself a logical fallacy) appears to do nothing to remedy the myriad problems in your arguments.

      • tsara

        “”In an ideal market system, with complete property rights, there are no externalized costs: no person can impose costs on another person without compensating them.””

        Hey, I didn’t know that. That’s pretty cool :)

        You’ve inspired some Wikipedia’ing.

        Also, I might not have written all of that if I had seen that RedGA had called you an anarchist and a statist in the same comment. Trying to engage probably was a waste of time :(

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

        What does this have to do with the fact that HSLDA often fights child abuse legislation that has nothing to do with homeschooling?

      • RedGA

        Again, quite the anarchist. Better start marching on your government. Our government imposes authority on the people all the time. If the government has power to compel people to public education it has the same power to rescind regulations over same education system. In this case duly elected legislators decided to relax education restrictions on homeschool families. Don’t like it? Petition them. Vote them out. Uneducated people impose costs on others. So we get to the foundation of who you are. Your politics is now clear. You do realize the masses that have created a “burden” on our society are ones who made their way through the failed public school system right? So in your argument, you give a strong case for complete overhaul of the public school system. If they are turning out thousands of uneducated people on welfare, drugs, jail, homeless, etc. where does that leave your statist argument? It reduces the likelihood of costs and reduces their magnitude? I hate to break it to you but you may want to visit centers of ‘magnitude’.

        Non sequitur. Good one. Your claim of unlimited power for homeschoolers is quite a logical fallacy as well. These states still have required standards – some very loose, some not. States can still go in and question records, etc. Even some of the less stringent states still have a requirement for records which can be called on if deemed necessary. As I mentioned earlier, unlimited power would be forcing my child in a failed school system. Ask a child or family in DC about unlimited power over education. I will be happy to list many public systems that will kill any attempt for school choice. If you truly were principled on unlimited power, you would address those aspects as well. You would call on reform for the failed public education policies. But what this is truly about is some resentment of one area of life – many from a poor personal experience – that you find no other purpose than to rant about this on blogs.

        Before you get on my case, I find problems with all forms of education. There are good cases and bad in all areas. Frankly, I personally think it is not the government’s role in mandating education on its people. Call me more libertarian on the subject. The Prussian model and its subsequent incarnations were nothing but a means to indoctrinate their people into a nationalist, statist, militaristic force. If you argue authoritarian, this is a case in point. Centers of free thought dried up as single mindedness took over education.

        So if your argument is accountability, then feel free to apply across the board to ALL forms of education rather than singling out one area. If your argument is authoritarian, then advocate for school choice especially in areas where thousands of children are being failed by authoritarian systems.

      • smrnda

        I’m sure you’re aware that, aside from the federal constitution, state constitutions exist and typically specify a right to an education. Though we do have a number of children who are not performing to acceptable standards, it isn’t like the public school system hasn’t educated the vast majority of US citizens, most of whom at least have basic literacy skills. You cannot teach without a degree and without state certification, meaning that teachers actually do need credentials, and often have to take courses throughout their career.

        If we’re discussing poor academic performance, you might want to look into poor academic performance as correlated with poverty.

        On schools or government being an authority or kids being forced to go to school, the whole issue the post is raising is authority that is absolute versus authority that has checks and balances. Public schools are supposed to be accountable to the public. There is such a thing as a school board.

        If you’re discussing the possibility for abuse of kids within schools, there are rules and protocols in place that are meant to prevent that. And on child abuse, parents are the most likely to abuse kids.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child both mention education as a fundamental human right as well.

      • RedGA

        A right. Not mandated. Not specified how that right must be enforced.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        You are wrong. Positive rights* are in fact mandated. You have a right to an education. That means the people around you are mandated to provide that education to you. And we do have laws and regulations that help make sure rights aren’t infringed. Homeschooling that doesn’t actually school is a violation of human rights.

        We don’t even currently know how many kids are homeschooled, for what reasons, how well they’re doing, or anything, because regulations are so lax that many don’t even have to register. Abused and neglected homeschool kids literally disappear, fall through the cracks, become invisible. We have to know about a problem in order to fix it, so some basic checks on homeschooling are in order.

        *Positive rights are things the state must do, such as provide food, shelter, education, a speedy trial, or health care to citizens/people. Negative rights refer to things the state may not do to you; government may not stop you from speaking or assembling, it may not quarter soldiers in your house, etc. Most of the rights in the American Bill of Rights are negative rights; that is, they refer to what government may not do, instead of what it must do. Other countries’ constitutions and the Universal Declaration mix positive and negative rights in much more even proportions.

      • The_L1985

        You don’t understand what the word “rights” means, and how it differs from the word “privileges,” do you?

      • RedGA

        A right to an education yes. Not mandated. There is a difference. The previous comment referred to education as a mandate not a right. Basic literacy skills. I’ve been in many environments and seen what basic skills exist. You mention the aspect of degrees, credentials, etc. but yet there are still failing schools, failing kids, teachers passing kids just to move them on, cheating scandals, etc. These standards have done quite well have they not? Decades of standards have led to our nation in a decline as compared to other nations. As long as we are on credentials, standards, etc. what of the revolving door of standards and accountability? Every three or four years we have some new abbreviation for a program that changes standards for the better. If these standards truly worked why do they have to change?

        Ahh…correlating performance on other items. So not giving blanket statements based on single instances – like generalizations on homeschoolers or supporting organizations. Other factors come into play causing an inability to stereotype. I agree.

        Authority that is absolute versus checks and balances…right. Again, the system that has checks and balances – explain DC schools. Explain schools and school boards that will repeatedly use every means to shut down school choice, vouchers, and charter schools. School boards are corrupt. They are political. Cheating in Atlanta public schools was decried for years. Nothing ever happened. It was not until standardized tests showed the cheating AND on a widespread basis did they get caught. No oversight, no checks and balances ever caught it. Even when a mountain of evidence was heaped the board, the teachers, etc. all fought it. The same can be said for numerous other scandals.

        As for abuse in schools with rules and protocols – sure. And they have stopped all of these sexual predators from fondling, raping, etc. these children? What of the verbal abusers? You use the word ‘prevent’. When there are so many instances of children abused I would definitely challenge you on your choice of words.

        If you have a problem with the scrutiny by all means challenge your local elected officials. It seems that many of you are far more likely to vent on homeschool families than the ones setting the standards. If your gripe is about accountability, maybe you should also go after the bulk of failed schooling which falls in the public school domain.

      • smrnda

        If our nation is in decline because of public schools, then it makes no sense that the nations which are doing better than us academically employ public schools to educate their children. In fact, in some of these countries home-schooling is illegal, or it is much more highly regulated than in the States. If we look to top performing nations, the answer to a better educated public appears to be better public schools and a better social welfare system.

        There have also been quite a few scandals involving cheating on standardized tests among charter schools, as well as evidence that charter schools don’t seem to be doing much better than public schools. Charter schools are about money more than anything else. Ever talk to teachers from charter schools? They enjoy the same type of job security as fast-food employees, and though teachers should be held accountable for teaching as best they can, student performance relies on so many factors beyond any teacher’s control that I believe tying teacher pay or retention to student performance is highly unethical.

        On kids being abused, lots of kids are abused and raped by religious leaders, and religious organizations seem to engage in cover-ups quite frequently. If you’re so upset about kids getting abused, you seem to be going after the wrong culprits. I’m not saying no abuse occurs within public schools, but nothing to the extent we see in religions.

        Most of the criticism on this blog has been towards the HSLDA and much of it has centered less on academics and more on their stance on child abuse.

        Just a hint, you might want to employ fewer sentence fragments if you’re criticizing the level of ‘basic literacy’ you’ve encountered in your life. I’ve seen illiterate adults and I’ve also seen 12 year olds who were pretty good software developers, so I can’t say that we don’t have quite a few high performers in this country, and many of them attended public schools.

        You’re also ignoring all the kids in the US who actually know quite a bit and got very good educations in public schools, as well as many of our public universities which must be pretty good because the kids from other countries really want to attend them. If you look into statistics on who is doing well in the US and who is doing poorly, it’s a pretty straight correlation based on family income, at least a much stronger correlation there than anywhere else. Home-schooling isn’t going to fix that problem, since when affluent parents home-school, their kids to fine (pretty much the same as they would have done in public schools, with perhaps some exceptions for kids who weren’t performing well in public schools for some reason.) But without public schools, who is going to educate poor kids? I’ve seen little evidence that charter schools to anything but skim the top segment of the poor population.

        On home-schooling, our public schools are committed to tolerance, diversity, and want to prepare kids to live in a pluralistic society. This is very different than the Prussian model. However, lots of families want to home-school their kids out of religious or ethnic chauvinism or just plain classism. I’m sure not all families that home-school are like this, probably not most, but the clear motivation of many home-schooling organizations is to create a kind of parallel theocratic society. It’s tribalism, a kind of ‘let’s all be little separate families who don’t like outsiders and feel no connection to the broader society. Let’s not be part of a community, unless it’s people just like us.’ I don’t think a democratic nation can function when too many people feel they have no concern for the common good and no feeling of connection to the broader society.

        Not saying all home-schoolers are like that, but a very loud contingent seems to be, and this vocal group also seems to frequently fail on teaching just plain facts.

      • Sally

        -Just a note about comparing schools in other nations to ours. Many nations separate kids around 6th grade into levels. For example, (if our German commenter is here, please straighten me out on the details here, but it’s something like…) Germany sends kids who are trade school bound to hochschuler (sp?) and those who are university bound to gymnasium (nothing to do with PE class). When we compare our high schoolers to their kids, their stats refer to only their gymnasium kids. I believe it’s the same in China and many other countries. It’s comparing apples and oranges. This is not to say our system is therefore actually fine. One could argue we should be separating too (or any number of other reforms).

      • Anima

        No that’s an urban legend. (Or intentional misinformation.) For example in the OECD PISA study the numbers for Germany include students from all types of schools. Including those from special need schools.

        That’s not to say that there are no problems with the participant selection. But that the USA is only worse of because their average has to compete with other countries elites is simply wrong.

      • Sally

        Is it? Do you have a source handy? That they go to different types of schools is true. That they’re all given the same test regardless of school and that’s what we’re comparing ourselves to, maybe I was misinformed, but I’d like to see the correct information then.

      • Anima

        If you goggle “PISA: What Makes the Difference?” you get a paper with a list of participating students by school type in it’s appendix.

      • Sally

        OK, well this was very intersting and informative (especially once I also googled what exactly PISA is, too). I see that in fact students at all levels are included for PISA and that this specific process is in fact comparing apples to apples. I also discovered that there are quite a few more levels of secondary ed. in Germany than I mentioned and that kids are “streamed” even earlier than I said.

        The study you refered to was focused on the differences in scores between Germany and Finland (interesting since we’ve had a Finnish person explaining their system). The study suggests that Germany’s tracking system might start too early and also disadvantage kids in the lower tracks, although they said it’s not clear if those kids would score low anyway even if they weren’t tracked.

        My thought on the German system was always that it’s probably a relief for some kids to be able to focus on a more vocational track if that’s where their talents lie and nice for the university bound kids to have classes with only other students headed in that direction, but that for the kid who is misplaced (especially too low), what a shame!

        Anyway, I know we’re rather off topic here, but since I had questioned our ability to compare public school systems internationally, I thought I’d follow up with what I learned about the fact that they are comparable from the info you suggested. -Thanks

      • kecks

        germany has many different public school system as every state in germany (bavaria, saxony, and so on) does the school thing a little different. in the last year this changed tremendously because a central “abitur” for whole germany (like british a-levels) has been established. but still in – let’s say – cologne your school experience might be differ a lot from your school experience in bavaria. 7

        in bavaria kids are seperated after 4th grad at age 10 by academic performance into “gymnasium”, “mittelschule” or “realschule”, parents have nearly no say in the matter. gymnasium is 8 years, preparing students for an academic career, more abstract and theoretic work; after completing gymnasium with “abitur” german students usually are at the level of an american college graduate before entering grade school or so they say) and go on to university. about 50% of a class attend gymnasium now. their are many people saying this is too much – about 20% of students are talented enough to be really succesfull there.

        “realschule” prepares their students for vocational training in mainly office jobs and the like; it takes 6 years to graduate there. “mittelschule” prepares their students straight for vocational training as barbers, carpenters of any kind, mechanics and the like and takes 5 years. after realschule or mittelschule and also sometimes after gymnasium young people usually go on to vocational training in a dual system – they complete an apprenticeship in their chosen vocation by working full time in a company where they get taught and also attend “berufsschule” (vocational school) for one or two days a week where they get some additional instruction on their job but also further general eductaion (subjects like german, social studies, religion or “ethics” – yes, this is a regular subject in every bavarian school with state and church approved teachers with academic training; usually catholic and protestand ones and “ethics” which are practical philosophy classes for students choosing not to attend “religion” studies). the apprentice gets paid by the company he or she is studying at (!). at the end their is a further exam.
        so that’s bavaria. things in cologne are really different. their students attend primary school often for 6 years and at age 12 change to a high school which is the samt for everybody (“gesamtschule”). so every german state does its own thing.
        the performance results of “germany” in pisa or timms and other international education comparisons are showing the average performance of german students at the tested level as far as i know. the real results may vary quite a (huge) bit. (bavaria does best in these tests but also has the problem that the social background of the students kind of determines their educational results; kids from parents without “abitur” have nearly no chance of making it into university in bavaria; they do not perform well enough.)

      • tsara

        “”The previous comment referred to education as a mandate not a right.””

        …erm. Were you referring to me? And if you were, can you please point out where I said that?

        I really don’t recall doing so, and re-reading my comment didn’t give me any clues.

      • tsara

        1.
        I’m not talking about the American Constitution, or about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I’m talking about abstract, idealistic morality.

        (There’s a reason why it didn’t occur to me to say this on the page asking for practical suggestions for legislation, and why I did go ahead and say it here, on this page of meta-thoughts on checks and balances and where people think they do and don’t belong.)

        2.
        All government standards should always be reality- and evidence-based and open to review.

        All government routes/methods of investigation and intervention should be highly formalized, meet (at a minimum) the government’s own standards, be reality- and evidence-based, and be open to review.

        Governments don’t need to demonstrate fitness in advance (and I can’t think of what such a demonstration from a government would look like in a democratic idea-market unless it only involved [a] signing UN agreements like the ‘Rights of the Child’ thing and/or [b] getting elected in the first place) to do what they do, but we should require all legislation affecting the well-being and education of dependents to meet the criteria in the bolded statements above, and we should require all this legislation to be made with high-quality education and (more importantly) the well-being of dependents in mind — and for the highest quality of education and highest quality of life possible (within limits of reasonable budget and of bolded things above) for dependents to be the demonstrable result.

        Governments can and should be able to hold the well-being and education of dependents/students in their care to the highest possible standards (again, within limits of reasonable budget and of bolded things above). Governments can and should be able to intervene* (with caregivers, teachers, schools, even the dependents themselves) if the well-being and education of the dependents do not meet those standards.

        Public, private, and home schools should be required to demonstrate — before actually being given the opportunity to mess up — that they meet the government’s standards of fitness to care for and educate whatever and however many students, at whatever levels, and in whatever subjects they want to teach.

        Schools can and should be able to hold the well-being and education of the students in their care to a higher standard than that set by the government. Schools can and should be able to intervene* (with teachers, caregivers, and students) if the well-being or education of students do not meet those standards. Schools also can and should be able to trigger an investigation for potential intervention with the (government) standards and required to trigger a (government) investigation for potential intervention if the well-being or education of any students do not appear (by a formalized system [also open for review] for judgment) to meet the standards set by the relevant institutions.

        Teachers should be required to demonstrate — before actually being given the opportunity to mess up — that they meet the school’s standards of fitness to care for and educate whatever and however many students, at whatever levels, and in whatever subjects they want to teach.

        Teachers can and should be able to hold the well-being and education of the students in their care to a higher standard than that set by the school. Teachers can and should be able to intervene* (with caregivers, students) if the well-being or education of students do not meet those standards. Teachers also can and should be able to trigger an investigation for potential intervention with the (government, school) standards and required to trigger a (government, school) investigation for potential intervention if the well-being or education of any students do not appear (by a formalized system [also open for review] for judgment) to meet the standards set by the relevant institutions.

        Caregivers should be required to demonstrate — before actually being given the opportunity to mess up — that they meet the government’s standards of fitness to care for and oversee the education of whatever and however many dependents they want custody of.

        Caregivers can and should be able to hold the well-being and education of the dependents in their care to a higher standard than that set by the government, the schools, or the teachers. Caregivers can and should be able to intervene* (with teachers, dependents) if the education and well-being of the dependents do not meet those standards. Caregivers also can and should be able to trigger an investigation for potential intervention with the (government, school, teacher) standards and required to trigger a (government, school) investigation for potential intervention if the well-being or education of any dependents do not appear (by a formalized system [also open for review] for judgment) to meet the standards set by the relevant institutions.

        *Note that appropriate (i.e., within the scope of the authority of the agency/agent) government intervention looks quite different from that of a school, a teacher, or a caregiver, and appropriate intervention of any of those will look different depending on the object of the intervention.

        3.
        …It occurs to me that my current location (Idealism, My Brain) might not use words the way you are used to seeing them used. Accordingly, a glossary:

        i. A Right: a thing that each and every person deserves (and, in a perfect world, would get) simply by virtue of being or having been an individual instantiation of sentience. There is absolutely nothing that can make any being that has ever been self-aware not deserve/stop deserving/be less deserving of some thing if that thing is a right.

        ii. A Freedom: a thing (usually a gerund or infinitive) that is not a right. The term is mostly applicable in a vacuum (morally and kinda temporally); there are no limits on the possession of freedoms, only on exercising them.

        iii. A Privilege: a freedom, the exercising of which is not restricted by, say, physics, but (1) involves choice or judgment on the part of the agent, and therefore (2) would put the agent in a position where they could potentially cause harm. Abuse of or failure to acknowledge the responsibility that comes with privilege (privilege: the power to cause harm) (responsibility: the moral obligation to weigh, with the fullest extent of your knowledge and to the best of your cognitive ability, the potential consequences of each exercising of a freedom, and to act in a way that minimizes harm. [more or less; I'm getting tired]) is likely to — and should — earn you the loss of the relevant privileges.

        4.
        “Where is it stated the government had the mandate to educate its children? Where is it stated that government has power to compel education upon its population?”

        The government cannot and should not be able to compel education. What it can and should do is remove all possible barriers to education (for everyone), compel attendance (from dependents, though it isn’t the dependents who [sh]/[w]ould be legally liable for truancy), compel attendance at appointments with counsellors for dependents who are reluctant or unwilling (and not having difficulty or incapable, though they should obviously be offered counselling as well [I love counselling and counsellors and therapy and therapists and cognitive behavioural therapy <3] and helped as much as possible to receive the highest education possible) to be educated, and compel caregiver cooperation with that last.

        "Seeing how these standards still lead to failing kids and failing schools, I would challenge your assertion that this demonstration be a requirement."

        Failures of reality to reflect my oughts mean that we need to fix reality (if, after carefully examining my oughts and any relevant data, peer-review committees agree that I’ve probably got the right idea).

        “No one has the right to authority over another human being. Amazing logic.”

        I used no logic. That is a statement of fact in my moral code — a personal value judgment. (Sorry, can’t tell how serious that was meant to be.)

        5.
        “Unless you are advocating anarchy I would say your statement would need rewording. As for authority over vulnerable human beings, sort of like the school systems that graduate kids who still cannot read or write. Or have sexual predators abusing them. These vulnerable human beings have no recourse on being failed.”

        I am not advocating anarchy. (Seriously? I suggested homeschooling licenses — that says ‘anarchy’ to you? I would have thought I’d get commie or socialist) I am not advocating against government. I am advocating against authoritarianism.

        Still, governments are made up of people, and no person or group of people has the right to authority over another human being — and that’s why I like democracy. In theory, fitness for the position is demonstrated by candidates, the people give the privilege of authority to the candidate they believe deserves it more (which I am using as a synonym for ‘will do a better job’), and the elected authority accepts responsibility for the well-being of everyone and everything in hir care.

        People consent to government rule for reasons similar to those motivating insurance purchases: resource pooling to share costs, decreasing the weight for those hit the hardest. A democratic government should be an agent of cooperation, facilitating and mediating compromises between the rights and privileges and wants of every agent and agency it oversees and protecting the rights of dependents, while balancing all of that against the interests of the whole. It’s difficult, and failure happens (though obviously we should work to reduce that).
        (keywords to describe situation: cooperation, balance, compromise.)

        tl;dr:
        A government’s authority is very much a privilege, and very much not a right. For its authority to even exist requires the consent of the governed. See: fact that American currency does not have Queen Elizabeth on it.

  • Composer 99

    Authoritarianism in a nutshell.

    If one is the “correct” kind of authority (parents, in this case), one is apparently entitled to unmitigated power over those who are under one’s authority (children, in this case).
    Suffice to say, I for one reject this premise.

  • Alice

    I think the argument is “The government is secular, which is 100% evil, so we must do everything we can to protect ourselves from them or they will persecute us because they hate the Truth we stand for. If only we lived in a nation where God reigned supreme, then the government would outlaw abortion, divorce, teaching evolution, and homosexual relationships. Then all the public-schooled children could learn the Bible and pray in school. It would be awesome!”

    Fundamentalists think in stark black-and-white terms, and they want absolute control over their children since they know they can’t have absolute control over the government. Hmm, I wonder if anyone’s ever written a dystopian novel about a Christian dictatorship.

    • Alice

      Oh yeah, “The Handmaiden’s Tale.” People keep telling me I need to read that. :)

      • http://twitter.com/TrollfaceMcFart Trollface McGee

        I just wish the fundies would realise that book is supposed to be a dystopian work of fiction, not an instruction manual.

    • RedGA

      Yes, this is the argument. It is the standard argument all homeschool families have imprinted on a card they carry around. There is a secret code all abide by and all believe the same. I think you got the black and white argument mixed up on who follows that. Talk about broad generalizations and stereotyping. You claim in your generalization that fundamentalists want absolute control over their children. Let me ask you this. Who should control the children? Because I’ve heard no one should have authority over anyone. Just curious as to who has authority over 5 year olds for instance.

      • tsara

        I’m pretty sure that I answered that one in my reply to your reply to my original comment, if you wanna check it out. If it — or anything else people here have said — is still confusing, feel free to ask; I’ll be happy to explain.

      • Composer 99

        Not authority: responsibility. The caregivers of a child (generally, but not always the biological parents) have the responsibility for the care and upbringing of the child. That responsibility means they have the duty to make key decisions on the child’s behalf. Not the authority to do so: the duty.

        And, frankly, if you don’t think Christian fundamentalists have an extraordinarily dichotomous worldview, you’re completely out to lunch. I suggest reading a few posts by Ed Brayton over at Dispatches from the Culture Wars: it will quickly dispel you of such illusions.

        You might also want to read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer, which describes his research into the personalities of authoritarian followers.

    • Brad C.

      Alice, I think that’s a worthwhile point. Not everyone homeschools for those reasons, of course, but the (not insignificant) subset of homeschoolers that distrust the government to educate their children are going to have a similar distrust of that government to monitor/approve/allow their homeschooling.

    • The_L1985

      I know of two good ones: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, and The Blue Pimpernel by Joshua Kilburn.

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    I read a comment earlier today- perhaps on twitter- that said these people are fighting for rights for fetuses, but once they’re born, they have no rights- there’s no such thing as “children’s rights.” Just “parental rights.”

    …right.

    • RedGA

      These people….probably all of them right? We have to make sure all fall into one nice packaged label.

      • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

        Not all of them, but there is significant overlap…

  • Scott_In_OH

    How did my parents never consider that if checks and balances are good for the government of our country, necessary even, checks and balances might be good for the raising and educating of children?

    Because they were convinced they were guided by God. Any check or balance would have been diluting His will.

    That’s my guess, anyway.

  • Indie

    There is a theme running through this series of posts that is very explicit here: children are people and not property. It reminded me of my grandfather, who was a Baptist preacher (obviously a very long time ago). He said that his children were little individuals, and that God had given him this great responsibility to care for them and help them grow. I’m not religious, but I always liked this way of looking at children. My daughter isn’t my property or an extension of me. She’s herself, and she has been since the day she was born. I had a responsibility to her to help her grow into a happy adult: to try to provide her with guidance, assistance, and all the tools she’d need. She didn’t always take those things that were offered. But learning to make good choices is part of growing up.

  • EC

    Oh good grief, that is like trying to say you need to institute checks and balances on your personal choices because the absolute power to control YOURSELF will corrupt you absolutely. It is not the government’s job to raise our kids, any more than it is the government’s job to have a part in telling you what time you have to get up in the morning, what you can eat for lunch, or how often you can have sex with your spouse. Parenting is a very personal thing, it is a relationship, and the only reason the government ever needs to get involved is if there is abuse going on. If there is educational neglect, CPS in every state will handle that, the same reports can be made as those who are physically or sexually abusing their kids.

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Who will report? The doctor .. that the kid never has to see? The pastor … who could very well be pushing for more abuse? The teacher … that the kid never sees? The neighbor … who only sees the perfect outside of well-behaved children, not the terrified inside? Who will report?

    • Composer 99

      EC:

      In addition to Feminerd’s rejoinder, I should like to point out that:

      (1) Groups such as HSLDA strive to work against CPS as well (you should review Libby Anne’s posts, or guests’ posts, about how CPS was – and is – treated as a boogeyman). So not only can children be isolated such that few other adults observe either educational neglect or other neglect/abuse, but such people as might be in a position to notice and report it are hostile to CPS (after all, CPS is just another part of that “nanny state government”).

      (2) Your premise about what is or is not the government’s job is a blatant misrepresentation of what Libby Anne and those in agreement with her are arguing. It also is only partly true. With respect to your incorrect framing, what Libby Anne and others are arguing is not that any government system should “take over” childrearing (this is a classic false dichotomy fallacy), but rather that, like any other people set in authority over others, parents and guardians be – quite rightly – subject to oversight and accountability, especially when engaged in homeschooling. After all, the people that parents have power and authority over – their children – are children.

      This leads into the partial falsity of your premise: children are citizens, too, and are thus guaranteed the rights and protections of the polity in which they live – and this guarantee can and does apply over and against the desires of their parents or guardians. Bottom line: it damn well is the government’s job to make sure children’s rights and interests are being upheld – either by verifying that their parents or guardians are doing so, or stepping in when parents & guardians fail – because children can’t.

  • Sia

    See, personally, I have nothing against government regulations on homeschooling, although I don’t think they’re strictly necessary due to the cps laws.

    I just don’t think the people being paid by enrollment and subsequently, attendance, at school should be the ones issuing School Attendance Orders.

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