Next on CBS Evening News - "How children nationwide have been put in danger, even killed, while homeschooling." Last Monday, CBS featured a special report called "A Dark Side to Homeschooling," suggesting that home schooled children are abused and that government must seriously regulate home schooling.
CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather and correspondent Vince Gonzales portrayed the home-schooling movement as a grisly, abusive, underground network of human rights violators. "Unlike teachers," Gonzales asseverated, "parents need virtually no qualifications to home school. Not one state requires criminal background checks to see if parents have abuse convictions."
Only in a morally confused nation would a news reporter hint at criminal background checks for parents in order to raise their children. In the America most of us want to live in, the state has no business questioning the authority of parents to nurture and educate their own sons and daughters.
Dan Rather and Vince Gonzales would have America believe that the millions of American children being home schooled are at grave risk of murder, suicide, and abuse. One "child advocate" who was interviewed on CBS said that home schooling allows "persons who maltreat children to maintain social isolation in order for the abuse and neglect to remain undetected."
The CBS special report focuses exclusively on a few bad home school families, some of whose names are recognizable - like Andrea Yates who drowned her young children in the bathtub. Rather calls the examples like Yates "a dark side to this largely unregulated system of education."
Any human institution, home schooling included, is corrupted and prone to evil because man is fallen and imperfect. But a combination of healthy families and liberal education is the original, proven recipe for a successful society. As the institutions of both home and school have yielded their authority to an increasingly socialist government education system over the past century, the need to revive the social authority of the family has become more pressing.
I spent most of my K-12 education at my local government indoctrination center. I was also home schooled during the seventh and eighth grades. The corridors and classrooms of the modern public school are so polluted with the filth of moral relativism that the typical public high school graduate moves into the world devoid of character, conscience, or courage. And while he may have self-esteem, tolerance, and a grasp of diversity, the public school graduate is incompetent in academic comparison to the rest of the free world.
According to a new Manhattan Institute for Public Policy report, only 32 percent of public school graduates are prepared for college. American students are consistently falling behind other industrialized democratic nations in academic excellence, and the cause of that failure is a decline in character and the work ethic. Knowledge without character is absolutely worthless to a free people.
The public schools have demonstrated their general abhorrence of traditional American values. The abuse of ordered liberty that occurs on a daily basis in America's public schools is of such greater proportion than the few home-schooling disasters highlighted on CBS that I would go so far as to recommend that parents not place their children in a public school at all.
The home schooling community, as a general rule, is built on moral absolutes, not moral confusion; on self-responsibility, not self-esteem; on excellence, not excuses. And excuses abound in the realm of public schools. We are told that the problem with public education is a lack of money. Yet according to the Ethan Allen Institute of Vermont, a typical Vermont public school student costs taxpayers $10,000 per year, while a typical home schooled student might cost only around $2000, including subscription to a curriculum base and a home computer.
And despite the dramatically lower costs of learning at home, home school students have secured their reputation as a brighter bunch than their peers in public schools. Of course, home school students have won many of the recent national Geography, Spelling, and History Bees. Home school students consistently score higher on the ACT and SAT college entrance exams. And home school students are involved in far more extracurricular activities than their peers - from internships to community college courses to hobby clubs to regular volunteerism.
Home schooling doesn't work every time. But the public schools - when federally engineered to produce pawns of socialist control - never work. If it is murder and abuse that CBS News is concerned about, consider the high level of violence that our nation's public schools have dealt with over the last decade.
Dan Rather, Vince Gonzales, and CBS News owe an apology to America's growing home schooling movement. They misrepresented the facts, and the continuing success of home schoolers will be ample repudiation of CBS's radical agenda.
Hans Zeiger is a Seattle Times columnist and conservative activist. He is president of the Scout Honor Coalition and a student at Hillsdale College in Michigan. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
I'm following this post with my letter.
October 24, 2003
Dear HSLDA Members and friends,
On October 30th, homeschooling will be debated in the Netherland's
parliament. They will either direct the Minister of Education to
crack down on homeschooling (which the Minister wants to do) or
The Netherlands Home School Association (NHSA) believes your calls
and e-mails will likely make the difference on whether homeschooling
will survive in Holland.
Right now, most members of parliament do not think the issue is very
important because it only effects 50 families that are legally
homeschooling. But there are hundreds of others underground waiting
Will you take a few minutes and help "the least of these" who are
requesting our assistance? Remember, in the past, your calls and e-
mails helped release a homeschool family from jail in South Africa, a
homeschool court case to be dismissed in Germany, harmful homeschool
legislation defeated in Ireland and the Czech Republic and much more.
There are three places to send a copy of your e-mail listed below to
make this grassroots effort a success.
Please give the Education Committee in the Dutch Parliament, the
Minister of Education, and the Dutch embassy this message:
"Please legalize homeschooling in the Netherlands. One of the most
basic human rights that every free nation must recognize, is the
right of parents to choose the education and training of their
children. Homeschooling is producing thousands of productive and
successful adults. Homeschooling works and should be protected." You
can also give some general information about the success of your
Deliver the message to:
1) The Education Committee of the Dutch Parliament which will be
meeting to debate homeschooling on October 30th. E-mail: email@example.com.
2) The Minister of Education, Maria van der Hoeven at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(A copy to the Netherlands Home School Association is important, home- email@example.com,
so that they can make a compilation of your
messages and present them to the Dutch press).
3) Call Ambassador Boudewijn van Eenennaam at the Dutch embassy (202)
244-5300 or via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Netherlands home education as such is currently not a legal
option. Home schooling parents may try to get an exemption from
school registration, but only for deeply felt religious or
philosophical reasons. However, these exemptions are recognized with
great reluctance, for children are not considered to be educated
effectively without public school attendance. Many are denied. Once a
child has attended a school even this option is barred.
Now only the parents of about a 100 children have been able to avoid
this trap to secure their freedom. Many more families would like to
home-educate their children but are not able to get their way without
years filled with court cases and child protection investigations.
Since some court cases have been won rather unexpectedly by home-
educators this year, Maria van der Hoeven, the Dutch Minister of
Education, wants to make life even more difficult for them. Despite
the fact that the current law does not consider home-education to be
an effective option compared with institutional schooling, she wants
to put homeschoolers under tight educational supervision. The
Education Committee of the Second Chamber, the Dutch House of
Representatives, will debate her plan October 30, at 10.00 AM.
The Netherlands Home School Association sent us this plea, "We, a
group of home-educating parents in the Netherlands, want home-
education to become a legal option, its efficacy recognized by the
authorities, and most of all we want parents to exercise a free
choice for and with their children without unnecessary state
"That is why we ask for your help. We know some members of parliament
sympathize with us, after receiving tens of pages of arguments
against the Minister's view, but all this input has come from a small
group of activists so far.
"So, after delivering lots of research and different legislative
possibilities we need a lot of your messages to reach the hearts of
those Members of Parliament! Let them find out that home-education
has grown to a worldwide grass-roots movement of responsible
Thank you for assisting the homeschool movement in the Netherlands!
HSLDA Senior Counsel
Dear Mr. Ambassador, Officials of the Dutch Parliament, Madame Minster of Education,
I suspect you noticed my surname (Vande Pol). My great-grandfather, Hendrikus van de Pol, came to America from Lunteren, near Arnhem in 1864. He built a substantial farm near Pella, Iowa. There he raised nine sons. He asked for nothing from his government, and instead, gave much to his country in return for its gift of freedom.
You probably noticed that our family name is spelled incorrectly. It's an amusing story. Some bureaucrat at Ellis Island wouldn't allow more than three names and they all had to be capitalized. So great-grandfather Hendrikus made a decision and signed the form. Somehow, there's something appropriate about this story as relates to the topic of this letter.
I have been to Holland for extended trips several times, especially in the South, both for business and pleasure. It is a beautiful country and especially kind to visitors. It is the product of a staggering amount of work; one is constantly surrounded with works older of high craftsmanship from every trade. I am proud of that heritage. Accordingly, my wife and I went there on our honeymoon. The trains were wonderful, directions easy to understand, and scheduled such that a person could read a map and catch the connecting train before it left (unlike Germany). The VVV was always helpful and the pensions were uniformly pleasant. I greatly enjoyed learning about dog training by observing a full KNPV trial. In speaking to the businessmen there, many wanted to come to America for freedom from oppressive bureaucracy and taxation.
On our honeymoon, we witnessed the repetitive rows of blockhouse apartments, drank excellent beer with retirees in their 40s, and exchanged ideas with students pursuing subjects with no career objective. The joyless emptiness of so many of these residents was obvious. Holland was a paradox to us, of comfort, of decency, and a history of arduous work. It was built into one of the great societies in history: a middle class country seeking religious freedom, now (from what I have seen) a people with a dispiriting view of their future.
I am writing to you to offer them hope.
Here in America, you can see the same ennui as you see all over Holland in the shuffling footsteps of our middle school children. To sit outside such an institution and watch them leaving when school lets out is a most instructive exercise. Try it sometime. Ask yourself, 'How many of them look happy?'
It's socialism. We don't want any part of it.
I home school my two children, 9 and 11. We do it because we have no faith in the schools here in California. Have no fear, because we want the best for our children and know them better than anyone, they are getting an outstanding education. The eleven-year-old starts college calculus this year and her nine-year-old sister will be doing geometry. Both have read Homer and Herodotus and study French. Both have a clear understanding of how much work restoring natural habitat can be. They have traveled all over the West, and learned much of the threat government corruption poses to farms, ranches, and communities. You can read one of their term papers online at http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/chat/737140/posts.
I am proud to say that these kids are the delight of the neighborhood. They are happy, kind, and witty. They don't cuss. We have had parents beg us to "loan" them for a time to serve as a positive influence over their children. We never want for free supervision. They are an asset to this community.
You now know why I wrote you this letter, so I won't tire you with an entreaty.
Mark Edward Vande Pol