Ryan Stollar’s recent blog post, “Why I Am a Radical Activist for All Things Evil,” really struck a chord with me. I want to stand there by him, facing our parents and the homeschool leaders who so moulded and shaped our lives and telling them something I feel deeply, passionately. You see, I am not here in spite of what they taught me, I am here because of what they taught me, and I wish they could see that.
A month before I married against my parents’ wishes, I wrote my dad a letter. I spilled out everything in that letter, my tears, love, and pain mixed together as I sealed it and sent it off. I told him that I was following what he had taught me. I told him that it was from him that I had learned to question authority, to think for myself, to never accept something without researching it, to follow the truth wherever it led. I told him I loved him, told him I was trying, told him all of that. So much passion and catharsis went into that letter that I’m surprised it didn’t self-combust. My dad didn’t respond, and we’ve never spoken of the letter since, but at least I know I told him these things.
But there’s more than that. I was raised to be on the front lines, groomed to be a mover and shaker. I was primed for politics. I was raised to be an activist. I was taught to dream big dreams of changing the culture, to speak up passionately for my beliefs, and to hold my head high as I faced off with the opposition. Politics, campaigning, local leadership, homeschool debate, these were the stuff of my adolescence. My dad was a local political organizer. My mom was a leader in our homeschool community, running conventions and speaking before other homeschool parents. I participated in four years of NCFCA homeschool debate, putting together policy briefs and making legal arguments on topics from energy policy to trade. This was my life. It was passionate, energizing, and incredibly exciting.
I once sat under the tutelage of Michael Farris himself, at a weeklong summer camp at Patrick Henry College. He taught us constitutional law, but he taught us more than that. He gave us pride in who we were, and told us we had unlimited potential. He believed in us. He waved his hand over one side of the room. “My dream is that someday, you over here will be congressmen.” He turned to the other side, and continued. “And someday, you over here will be senators.” Then he turned to the middle of the room. “You will be on the supreme court, or in the white house.” He told use we could change the world, and we believed him, because he believed in us.
And then, as I left for college, Alex and Brett Harris founded The Rebelution, dubbed as “a teenage rebellion against low expectations” and “a worldwide campaign to reject apathy, embrace responsibility, and do hard things.” The Rebelution repeated other messages I had been receiving for years, but it also emphasized especially that age should not get in the way of one’s ambition or ability to bring change and make a difference. Everywhere around me I was getting these same messages, and I believed them. I could do great things. Me. I had potential, huge potential, potential in the here and now and not at some nebulous time in the future. Every respected leader in my life told me that my homeschooled peers and I were the new hope, that we had the potential to quite literally change the world.
But what made me think about all of this are the recent posts I wrote about some of the ways homeschool parents have responded to homeschool alums advocating for more effective oversight of homeschooling in the interests of homeschooled children (see Ryan’s fascinating post about his recent activism in Virginia here). In creating organizations like Homeschool Alumni Reaching Out and the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, we former homeschool students are doing something very hard—we are facing off against the homeschool establishment and its incredible powerful lobbying force in an effort to change how the homeschool culture approaches abuse and neglect and stop the deregulation push they’ve been driving for twenty years now. We know that the odds of success, at least initially, are low. We grew up on the propaganda machine, we know how we will be viewed, and what will be said about us. Some of us risk damaging relationships with family if we go public with our activism.
And yet, here we are.
We are doing hard things. We are working to bring about change. We are organizing, networking, and building a movement. We have a cause that we believe in passionately, and real good we want to do. Sadly, I’m afraid that homeschool parents, or at least those in the Christian homeschool movement in whose circle of influence so many of us were raised, will see us as the ultimate betrayal of everything they taught us, rather than as the ultimate fulfillment of everything they taught us.
I would not be here if it were not for my father and his political organizing. I would not be here if not for NCFCA and homeschool debate. I would not be here if it were not for Michael Farris and his encouragement of my potential. All of these individuals organizations, from Patrick Henry College to The Rebelution, shaped who I am. In a very real sense, they created me.
You know those concerns about advanced technology escaping our control and taking on a life of its own? In some sense, that is what is going on here. The leaders of the Christian homeschool movement set out to create an entire generation of culture changers. Well, they succeeded, but it’s our turn now. And they’re going to have to live with it.