HSLDA’s Core Agenda: Abolishing Compulsory Education

HSLDA’s Core Agenda: Abolishing Compulsory Education December 22, 2014

Prominent HSLDA attorney Chris Klicka elucidated on HSLDA’s agenda in a 2001 book, and frankly, when I read it I found even myself slightly surprised, not so much by what their agenda is as by how willing they are to publicly admit it.

The framers of the Constitution, unfortunately, never specifically mentioned in the Constitution the right of parents to educate their children. They took it for granted that parents alone had this right and could choose whatever form of education they saw fit. Since biblical theism was dominant in early America, this right of parents was recognized as a God-give right derived from the Bible and codified in English common law.

In the last fifty years, however, the U.S. Constitution has been so twisted in many areas that it no longer reflects the intent of the framers. The most devastating example of the perversion of the original intent of the Constitution is the creation of the “right” to an abortion, which has resulted in the deaths of millions of babies. This has happened in spite of our Bill of Rights which clearly protects life.

Similarly, the right of parents to chose their child’s education, as held sacred by the framers, has also been gradually eroded in favor of state intervention and control. The parents are no longer solely responsible for the education of their children as established in the Bible and common law. Now the courts recognize the state having an interest in education and the power to regulate that interest. As a result, prior to the 1980s, home schooling was virtually stifled by the state.

However, the tide is slowly being reversed through the application of the various Constitutional or technical defenses in the courts as described in this section or by the legislatures as seen in chapter 19. The ultimate victory will not be reached until the compulsory attendance statues are repealed in every state. However, at this time, repeal of such laws is a long way off. Therefore, the strategy of this author and the Home School Legal Defense Association, in the meantime, is to push back the interest of the state further and further in education, limiting its power to regulate, until that interest finally evaporates. This will take time, relentless efforts, and a great deal of education of our judges, law enforcement officials, and legislators.

If you don’t read anything else of that excerpt, read that last bit in bold. HSLDA’s ultimate goal is to get rid of compulsory attendance. And in the other bit that I made bold, Klicka makes it clear that he believes (and by extension HSLDA believes) that parents should have the right to choose what sort of education their children would get—to choose any form of education they saw fit. Klicka claims that this is what the founding fathers believed, and therefore it should still be so today.

Now first of all, if we did everything like the founding fathers did I wouldn’t be typing this. For one thing, I’m using technology that didn’t exist, and for another thing, I’m a woman, and at the time women were expected to confide their thoughts in private journals or to other women rather than in public. But more than that, Klicka’s claim that compulsory education laws were foreign to the founding fathers, and that the founding fathers took for granted that it was the parent’s god-given right to choose how to educate their children, is simply false.

Check out the Massachusetts Bay School Law of 1642:

Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth; and wheras many parents & masters are too indulgent and negligent of their duty in that kinde. It is therfore ordered that the Select men of everie town, in the severall precincts and quarters where they dwell, shall have a vigilant eye over their brethren & neighbours, to see, first that none of them shall suffer so much barbarism in any of their families as not to indeavour to teach by themselves or others, their children & apprentices so much learning as may inable them perfectly to read the english tongue, & knowledge of the Capital Lawes: upon penaltie of twentie shillings for each neglect therin. . . . 

Yes, you read that right. Massachusetts Bay Colony, as it was then called, authorized officials to go check whether parents were teaching their children to read, and to fine those who were not. Somehow this does not sound like allowing parents to educate their children “however they see fit”—it rather sounds like the state deciding the minimum education children must receive. Why? “Forasmuch as the good education of children is of singular behoof and benefit to any Common-wealth.” Yes, that’s right, for the good of the state. Methinks HSLDA has their history a bit off. 

There’s more, too. The Northwest Ordinance contained provisions for creating schools because the founding fathers believed that education was critical to a healthy democracy. Have a look:

George Washington: The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail.

Thomas Jefferson: If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

James Madison:  Learned institutions ought to be favorite objects with every free people. They throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.

Noah Webster: It is an object of vast magnitude that systems of education should be adopted and pursued which may not only diffuse a knowledge of the sciences but may implant in the minds of the American youth the principles of virtue and of liberty and inspire them with just and liberal ideas of government and with an inviolable attachment to their own country.

Benjamin Franklin: A Bible and a newspaper in every house, a good school in every district—all studied and appreciated as they merit—are the principal support of virtue, morality, and civil liberty.

This sounds literally nothing like Klicka’s claims about the founding fathers in the paragraphs quoted from his book above.

And now back to Klicka:

Although you will see in this chapter that parental liberty historically was held to be virtually absolute, many state courts and the passage of compulsory attendance laws in the 1900s have gradually eroded this right. These states have used the language of the United States Supreme Court which recognizes that the states have an “interest” in education. During the past seventy-five years, the power to regulate that interest of the state has steadily expanded.

Home schools have been involved on the cutting edge in pushing back the interest of the state. In 1983, the Home School Legal Defense Association was established for the purpose of shackling the interest of the state by gradually limiting the state’s power over parents. Eventually, I would like to see the interest of the state totally erased, but that may take some time while we educate the judges and legislators.

Meanwhile, it is important for us to master the history of parental rights, especially as established in the courts, so that we are better prepared for the battle for our children that is presently taking place. We need to work to reestablish the historic foundations of parental rights in our country and restore respect of the parents’ right to choose and control the education of their children.

Klicka does not think the state should have an interest in education. Indeed, Klicka would like to see the state’s interest in education “totally erased.” Education, then, would be solely and completely up to a child’s parent.

What I am unclear on is whether Klicka wants public schools abolished, or simply compulsory attendance laws. Regardless, he makes it clear that parents should have the sole and final say on their children’s education and even whether their children receive an education, and that he doesn’t think the state should have any interest at all in ensuring that its citizenry is educated. Ironically, this places him soundly at odds with the very founding fathers he earlier cited as supposedly supporting his position.

So next time HSLDA comes out against this homeschool law or that homeschool bill, bear in mind that they’re not just interested in keeping homeschooling legal, or in reducing oversight of homeschooling. They’re interested in abolishing compulsory education altogether.

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