Rocked by a nationwide storm of criticism, the Los Angeles County
court that declared homeschooling illegal in California has agreed to
rehear the case in June. At issue is Justice H. Walter Croskey's Feb.
28 decree, which ordered the parents of "Rachel L." to send her away to
a public or private school, where she can get a "legal education."
Justice Croskey's edict interpreted state education laws that govern
all children, whatever their home situation and "whatever the quality"
of their home education. Except for the rare case when parents already
hold state teaching credentials, parents who find public schools
intolerable and cannot locate or afford a suitable private school were
branded by the decree as outlaws if they choose to instruct their child
California legislators were entitled to enact this blanket
prohibition, according to the judge, because they feared the supposed
social disorder that would result from "allowing every person to make
his own standards on matters of conduct in which society as a whole has
"Allowing"? By what right does
government presume to "allow" (or, in this case, forbid) you to make
your own standards concerning your child's education?
has no such right. Neither the state nor "society as a whole" has any
interests of its own in your child's education. A society is only a
group of individuals, and the government's only legitimate function is
to protect the individual rights of its citizens, including yours and
your children's, against physical force and fraud. The state is your
agent, not a separate entity with interests that can override your
If Justice Croskey's description of California
law is correct, then the state's educational policy is at odds with
America's founding principles. Parents are sovereign individuals whose
right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness includes the right
to control their child's upbringing. Other citizens, however numerous
or politically powerful, have no moral right to substitute their views
on child-raising for those of the father and mother who created that
Instead, a proper legal system recognizes and
protects parents' moral right to pursue the personal rewards and joys
of child-raising. At every stage, you have a right to set your own
standards and act on them without government permission. This parental
right to control your child's upbringing includes the right to manage
his education, by choosing an appropriate school or personally
educating him at home.
Of course, there are certain
situations in which government must step in to protect the rights of a
child, as in cases of physical abuse or neglect. But no such concern
for individual rights can account for California's arrogant assertion
of state control over the minds of all school-age children residing
within its borders.
Education, like nutrition, should
be recognized as the exclusive domain of a child's parents, within
legal limits objectively defining child abuse and neglect. Parents who
starve their children may properly be ordered to fulfill their parental
obligations, on pain of losing legal custody. But the fact that some
parents may serve better food than others does not permit government to
seize control of nutrition, outlaw home-cooked meals, and order all
children to report for daily force-feeding at government-licensed
The shockwaves from Justice Croskey's
decision will likely impact not just homeschoolers but also the
apologists for government education--teachers' unions, educational
bureaucrats, and politicians. Their political and financial survival
depends on a policy that treats children as, in effect, state
property--but only rarely is the undiluted collectivism of that policy
trumpeted so publicly.
What if, in the harsh glare of
the "Rachel L." case, parents start asking whether the state has any
right at all to be running schools and dictating educational standards
for children, in order to advance society's "interests"? This calls
into question the moral foundation of public education as such. In this
light, one wonders if the court's decision to rehear the case could be
a first step toward muting, and muddying, the controversy.
their part, the defenders of public schooling can be expected to stay
busy papering over their system's own failures--the very failures that
helped fuel the homeschooling movement, by driving desperate parents to
seek refuge at home from the irrationality, violence, and mediocrity
that have come to characterize government education, in California and
For now, at least, the battle lines are
clearly drawn. Are parents mere drudges whose social duty is to feed
and house their spawn between mandatory indoctrination sessions at
government-approved schools? Or are they sovereign individuals whose
right to guide their children's development the state may not infringe?
The answer could determine not only the future of homeschooling but the future of education in America.