Saturday, March 08, 2008

Statism Strikes Again: California Homeschoolers be Damned

The California courts have decreed from on high (or on low) that parents cannot homeschool their own children unless they have state teaching credentials. We must cut to the chase on this piece of legal vandalism: it is unvarnished statism, the worship of the state as an ersatz god.

But all ersatz gods, all idols, are truth-less and godless--and dangerous. Idols violate reality, exalting themselves and thus debasing everything in their wasting wake. The state of California claims ownership of the children of those families that live there. They claim ownership of education. They claim unlimited jurisdiction over knowledge. If they do not endorse education, it is illegitimate. Moloch needs its sacrifices; it must not go hungry. (To understand the divine judgment on political god-players, see Isaiah 14, Ezekial 28, Acts 12, and Revelation 13).

But the state (or civil government) is only one realm or sphere of government, alongside family government, church government, and self-government. (Abraham Kuyper, the great theologian, politician, and journalist, called this "sphere sovereignty.) All are under God, none are divine. Jesus told us to render to Caesar what was his and to God what is God's. Children are a heritage from the Lord; they are not a gift of the state. We are to train up children in the fear and admonition of the Lord, not according to the secular curriculum of the state schools, which have institutionalized naturalism as the reigning ideology and idol-ology.

In a representative republic, such as ours, legal recourse is available and necessary. The conscience must be free. May all Christians, and every citizen who loves responsible freedom under law, rise up and oppose this false God of statism that is now strutting its anti-family, anti-Christian stuff in California.

1. For a radio program with James Dobson and Michael Farris on this topic, click here.
2. For the Home School Legal Defense Association's take, click here.
3. You may sign a petition against this ruling.
4. Here are some statistics on the benefits of home schooling.


Jeff S. said...

You can also sign a petition here to ask the case be "depublished." It appears this was a juvenille case that didn't become a "published" case until very late in the process, which is why this case snuck up on everyone. The petition would not allow other cases to draw from this as precedent, or at least that's how I understand it.

Susan said...

Thanks to the hard work of people like Treon Goossen (of Mountain Area Calvary Chapel in Divide, CO ) who co-authored the home schooling statute in Colorado, and has served home-schoolers in our State as the legislative analyst/liaison at the state capitol for the past 10 years,we enjoy a VERY liberal environment when it comes to home-schooling in Colorado. It should not be taken for granted! We are very blessed here in our State.

Tom said...


Is your view that even the most illiterate of parents should be able to control their children's education without the state having any interest? Why should the state not have a stake in the interest a great number of its citizens who have no real control over their education?

Does the state have a legitimate interest in the health care that parents supply for their children? Should parents be able to deny their kids access to medicine if they believe that God will directly cure them of any and all illnesses that might befall them?

Finally, where do you get your perspective on these matters? In the Scriptures or the teaching of the Church? Can you supply some references? You seem to think it is the duty of Christians to fight against laws that have the welfare of children in mind. I'm curious about why you would think that.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


The state can provide some minimal standards for home schooling, without the draconian action of CA. Other states have these arrangements, which were won through some tough battles in the last twenty years.

I gave Scripture on idolatry and the state, as well as a reference to Abraham Kuyper.

Tom said...


Do you really take those biblical passages to suggest that laws like that enacted by California are anti-scriptural? Can you tease the line of reasoning out a little bit more because I'm not seeing it.

As always, I appreciate the dialogue.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


You need to read the books I mentioned. I also take Romans 13:1-7 to stipulate a negative and minimal view of the state, when taken in conjunction with other texts and themes.

For the dangers of statism, also see I Samuel 8.

Anonymous said...

Well said; thanks for the alert. Given the cultural and political attitudes of California (humans as a blight on the earth, panic of overpopulation, children as wards of the state who are merely "watched" by their parents), it is a wonder they haven't enacted a China-like one child limit (and I pray they don't!).

The Daily Fuel said...

Public Service Announcement:

Lest anyone should decry the scourge of liberalism and the perils of judicial activism and legislating from the bench, you should know this:

"A Republican, former business lawyer, Croskey could be labeled conservative, but he doesn't seem ideological."


"Croskey seldom gets reversed or depublished -- despite producing prodigious numbers of published opinions in complex, cutting-edge cases."

(quotes from Justice Croskey's profileon

If you are interested in reading the Court's 3-0 opinion, you may find it here (in pdf format).

Home-schooling is not a trivial issue. Conservatives (particularly of the religious kind) make the case that public-schooling is failing children (a favorite refrain of many conservatives) and that home-schooling is an adequate alternative, and also that it is an issue of individual freedom. The flipside of those argument is that if home-schooling does not meet a state's education standards (even those for private education), it can hurt children, and is a form of child abuse (albeit well-intentioned in its premise), in which case the child's best interests trump any issues of parental rights and individual freedom. Minors after all are a protected class of persons.

The Daily Fuel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Daily Fuel said...

One question for all curmudgeonites:

In ruling as it did, the Court did no more than to uphold current California laws on public education. It seems to me that this is a states' rights issue. Do you agree, or do you think the Supreme Court should intervene? It would seem to me that the only way the Supreme Court could rule on this case is to uphold the court's decision, since otherwise they would interfere with state rights, and we know how dear state rights are to strict constructionist and originalists. Or are they allowed to be strict constructionists when it suits them, but judicial activists in other cases?

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


You are assuming the worst and getting ahead of yourself. I am simply saying the ruling is statist and unjust. What should be done to correct it is another issue. The Dobson program speaks to his, though, and it has nothing with the Supreme Court!

The Daily Fuel said...

Dr. Groothuis:

Perhaps I was getting ahead of myself, but I was responding to your words that the court's decision is "a piece of legal vandalism" and indicative of "the worship of the state", not to mention your accusation that state schools have institutionalized naturalism (read "evolutionism" and "materialism"). I saw only a court's decision upholding the law of the state (the People) of California. If the people are in favor of changing the law, they can use a ballot initiative.

I did listen to Dr. Dobson's broadcast. Of course, Dobson could not resist the temptation of making a not so veiled Reductio Ad Hitlerum, implying that the secular state wants to control children from an early age. Of course, the same argument can be made about churches (trust me, I come from Italy, the land of Catholic Catechism). His suggestion that opponents of home-schooling and the courts are decidedly anti-Christian is also typical of a victimist mindset.

It is certainly true that schools can be venues for the indoctrination of children, as one of Dr. Dobson's guests made. For example, the Christian Democrat party in Italy ruled uninterruptedly for 40 years after WWII. The two ministries they never relinquished to members of the governing coalition? The Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of Education. Christian Democrats certainly understood the importance of controlling curricula. Nonetheless, I cannot seriously say that schools were places of indoctrination, nor do I remember a similar outcry by, say, communist parents to protest this quasi-monopolistic control of education, or a similar push for home-schooling laws.

I would have no problem with an education system that allowed "controlled" home-schooling, as long as home-schooled children were not exempt from exactly the same tests that public-school students have to undergo (it is my understanding that this is not currently the case). That would be a reasonable safeguard against the fact that even the best-intentioned parents may not be good teachers, or not as good as they think, and it provide a more accurate comparison of the worth of homeschooling and public-education.

Still, I would exclude the use of public funding to sponsor private tutoring, private schools or home-schooling. Parents who choose to home-school children should not be exempt from paying school taxes, for the same reasons that I, a childless adult, have to pay for other children's public education: a civilized country must find a way to make public education work, and diverting funds from public education to private education adds to the problems that public education faces. The cost of not having a public education system, or of shortchanging it, is too great: it would return us to a time in which the quality of education would be too dependent on access to wealth, to the detriment of the children of less fortunate children.

Finally, there is a danger in homeschooling: children may grow up in a cocoon that does not reflect the diversity of ideas and experiences that different teachers and contact with other children in school brings, and may suffer just another kind of indoctrination, at the hands of their parents, that would be no less harmful. (see Rob Reich's "The Civic Peril of Home Schooling".)

Apologies for the length of the post.

Jeff Burton said...

sirfab: I have a favor to ask of you. Please start your own blog. If you do, I promise to add it to my rss feed and to comment regularly.

Jeff S. said...

sirfab: Home-schooled children must take the same standardized tests as public schools do. So there is some level of accountability. I would agree home-schooling could lead to neglect towards education. So I don't support a system that would have no accountability whatsoever.

Tom said...

As I understand it (and Doug or Fab, please correct me if I'm wrong), Judge Croskey essentially ruled that California state law, as it is currently written, requires that home-schooled children be taught by certified teachers. Not being a lawyer or having read the relevant statute myself, I'm in no position to judge whether Croskey is right about that. But if he is (and I don't see how one could know he's wrong about it just in virtue of the content of the ruling), then if he had ruled the other way, wouldn't that have made him a judicial activist? If the state law just does require certification, then wouldn't he have been 'legislating from the bench' had he ruled that teachers didn't need to be certified? And isn't judicial activism supposed to be a bad thing?

It seems to me, as it does to Fab, that if current California law really does require that home-schooling be done by officially certified teachers, then the solution is to change the law--and not to expect judges to do it. (And for the record, I think that if CA law does require certification, then that is law that should be changed.)

The Daily Fuel said...

Tom, there are standardized tests, but my understanding is that they are not mandatory (I don't know if this varies by state).

If that is the case, then the playing field is not level, in the sense the comparing mandatory public school testing with voluntary home-school testing would be skewed in favor of the latter (if, for example, only good students underwent the test). If I am wrong, I am ready to stand corrected.

A certification requirement is reasonable for public and private schools (including private tutors). It should not necessarily extend to home-schoolers, as long as testing for all home-schoolers were mandatory and administered by the state or a state-recognized testing entity.

The Daily Fuel said...

Jeff Burton:

I already have my blog, so your wish is granted. Just click on my name in a post, and link to my blog.

Your promise is not a threat, is it? ;-)

Susan said...

Each State has different requirements for home-schooling and each State has the freedom to legislate this. In Colorado, children do not have to be taught by a certified teacher (so parents dont have to have state-approved credentials in order to oversee the education of their children from home-based schools or cooperative classrooms)but children are required to be assessed every two years and this assessment is supposed to be administered by a credentialed teacher. This enables parents to instruct their children yet the children must keep up with State education standards; thus parents are held accountable.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


Thanks. I take it you may have done this? What you are describing is fair and good.

David said...

Over at Scriptorium Daily, John Mark Reynolds provides a link to the following article, which explains the details of the ruling. Bottom line: this doesn't seem to affect parents' ability to homeschool their children--with or without state credentials.

Jeff S. said...

Thanks David. That was a good article.

BJS said...

Dr. G writes:
"I also take Romans 13:1-7 to stipulate a negative and minimal view of the state, when taken in conjunction with other texts and themes."

And yet you support aggressive, interventionist foreign policy.
The two don't seem to mesh. If you have a minimal view of the state, one would think you'd be against our government causing preemptive wars and overthrowing other governments... no?

You don't see the inconsistency?

As for the Statism you cite... As usually is the case in our disagreements, I find I agree with your basic premise (the law is bad) but I rather strongly disagree with both how you present it and your discourse over the matter.

I agree this law seems bad and unfair. But there are other fair ways to remedy it (Colorado's laws seem about right). Your issue with the State as a god-idol... well, need I remind us all that this big bad evil thing called the "state" is simply US, you and me. There is no such thing as a scary, disembodied, autonomous entity floating around called the "state" that's doing all this. PEOPLE, U.S. citizens, made, passed, and enacted this law. So get mad at those people. Then, since the state is US, go and change it if you don't like it. There is no boogie-man "state" out there doing these thigns. It's people -- you and me. People comprise the state. Amazingly, we somehow forget that at times.

Of course, you are not a resident of California, and in the past you've seem to support strong state governments over federal intervention and involvement. the people of California passed this bad law. It's on them.

The people of California made the mistake (I agree) of setting the bar too high for parental accountability for homeschooling. Parental accountability for homeschooling IS important (you've conceded that), but the folks in Cali screwed up and made this too difficult. No doubt about it. However, they are worshiping the "state"? No, I'm afraid that's not going on here.

hobie said...

I have one issue with home schooling, and that issue has to do with the research home school organizations cite in its behalf. In short, the studies are not controlled (in other words, there is no way to tell that other variables besides home schooling led to student performance), they are not peer reviewed, and they are usually commissioned and published by the home school organization. Sorry, Doug, but while I'm thrilled to live in an America that offers freedom of educational choice, please don't tell me that the research comes down with any kind of weight on the side of home schools. The sampling and publication biases alone makes me question the impact of these studies.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


No! The state is not identical to society. That, believe it or not, is the essence of (hold your breath) fascism. And I am not throwing around the term loosely; see Goldberg's new book, Liberal Fascism. The state is but one sphere of government, among other spheres. When it pretends to give meaning to everything, to control everything, to monitor everything, it becomes an idol.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. said...


The state should protect its citizens through the military. There is no inconsistency. The question is when war is justified. The Afgan war was clearly justified; Iraq is more questionable, but it must be won now.

The older conservatives were rather isolationist. That cannot fly in a world of international terrorism.

Susan said...

I had to learn about the requirements in our State for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that my kids were home-schooled for several years. They also attended private schools. One graduated from High School in the Littleton public schools, the other from a local private school, and the third finished up in home-school, graduating in a CHEC -Christian Home Educators of Colorado ceremony. So we've sort of seen it all!

Jim Pemberton said...

Regarding the conducting of studies and testing with respects to the effectiveness of unqualified parent educators:

As it is, public education systems have shied away from much data collection comparing achievements of home schools, private schools and public schools. Enough testing was done in my state of NC that while NC public school students are required to take a state test, private and home school students (lumped together under the NC Department of Non-Pubic Education) are required to take nationalized testing. There can be no comparison. Let me say, however, that NCDNPE students test higher than average on the national tests.

Perhaps NC Department of Public Education students would be well above average if they took the national test, but they were well below average (near dead last among the states) when they last did national testing.

So, by and large we suspect that home schools are producing comparatively exceptional students. If the public schools shy away from comparative testing and studies, these studies must still be done if only for the benefit of home schools to self-evaluate. To condemn the home schools for performing their own studies is baffling. Rather, it demonstrates the level of sophistication of which a group of homebound purportedly uneducated educators are capable.

If this is true, then one wonders if the success of home schools in general far outweighs any who fail their children by their own inadequacy through home education (a situation that is currently hypothetical - this has not been demonstrated to happen at all, much less as a trend). If the state truly has the children's best interest in mind, then we would expect to see accurate studies and testing performed by the state with the most successful forms of education pursued as ideal. Instead, we see political obfuscation.

I'll let you draw your own conclusions from this.

Tom said...

Jim wrote:

"If this is true, then one wonders if the success of home schools in general far outweighs any who fail their children by their own inadequacy through home education (a situation that is currently hypothetical - this has not been demonstrated to happen at all, much less as a trend)."

I have no general beef with home schooling. Although my kids attend public schools, some of the brightest and most well-adjusted kids I know have been/are being home schooled. But I also have friends who teach at public schools in rural areas and they have each independently told me horror stories of kids whose parents sign them up for home schooling just so they (the parents) don't have to get up in the morning or be accountable for how they are raising their kids. So that there are parents who fail their children by their own inadequacy--be it educational or motivational or both--is hardly "hypothetical." I have no idea how much this happens, but I've heard enough stories from one small town to make me think it happens more than we might realize.


Jim Pemberton said...


We can't presume that because the kids get to sleep in they're not being educated. We just don't know for sure, do we? That's the point I'm making. Public opinion is being driven my hypothetical conjecture which in turn is being used to support legislation. These, enacted as such, are highly questionable.

hobie said...


I was not criticizing home school organizations for conducting their own studies, which they should do. Every organization should conduct some kind of program evaluation. But I have a problem with a statement that "home schools are producing comparatively exceptional students" , based on uncontrolled studies that find that home school students perform higher than national averages but cannot identify why. For all we know the students in these studies would also perform very well in public schools. Unless the study is controlled, we have no clue as to why these findings exist. In my business (education), we face "studies" like this a lot, and in my specialty (research), IT DRIVES ME CRAZY.

Also, Tom's anecdote points out one reason why research in home school is going to remain incomplete: the situation he alludes to does, in fact, exist. Many people home school underground, and because social research requires voluntary participation, we are not going to find a representative sample that includes families who may represent the bad side of the normal curve.

Research on this issue done the way it should be done won't be done by state departments of education; it will be done by foundations, which have money, because this research will take lots and lots of money. However (if I may tap into the cynicism of sirfab), foundations also tend to have their own agendae in proposing research, and in this case we may have organizations which advocate or oppose home schools financing equal and opposite studies.

Finally, I don't hate home schools. I know home schooling families, I have worked with home schooled students and I respect the work of people who do it conscientiously. I do not wish for the state to be overbearing on home schooling. But it has seemed to me for years that, for a number of reasons, the state's role in education is complicated, and I believe that it is not a simple issue of power.

The Daily Fuel said...

Hobie, you are welcome to tap into my reserve of cynicism and also help yourself to some of my skepticism, as long as you make points as lucid, balanced, and pointed as those in your post.



hobie said...


And may I say, your compliment has nearly caused me to second-guess myself.

hobie said...

If that sounded snotty, I apologize.

The Daily Fuel said...

Apology accepted. Next time count to ten before you hit the Publish button.