The concluding section on Education in Restoring America One County at a Time:
Chapter 1: Education
1.3 How to Get It Back
When we talk about restoring freedom, we have to be careful not to be too romantic about the past. It is one thing to survey how things used to be free, and lessons we learn there we can certainly apply to modern times; it is another thing, however, to think that the goal is to return everything to the state it was in back in 1776. We can’t return to that world, socially, technologically, culturally, geographically, demographically, economically. But there are certainly, as I said, many ideals we can take from then and restore for today. After all, ideals such as liberty and neighborliness do not change; the highest morals and ethics of Christianity do not change; the ideals of life, liberty, and property do not to change. The ideals don’t change: rather, it is how committed we are to the ideals that makes changes in society.
So how do we restore the ideal of individual and economic freedom in education? Obviously, you’re not going to change the whole system overnight; so you commit yourself to do what you can do personally, and then begin to model for and persuade others. The first step can be stated simply, and for many can be performed tomorrow if they are willing: don’t accept the apparent benefit that comes with government control. Don’t want the trap? Don’t take the cheese. Put bluntly, pull your children out of public school.
You may think this does not need to be the first priority; you may think that education is one area we can leave alone for the time being while we fix the really big problems over in Washington. But this mentality has been in play for well over a century, and it’s a myth—it’s totally backwards. If you can’t rein-in the socialism in your own county, and your family’s complicity in it, you don’t have a chance at changing anything greater. And even if you did, it wouldn’t matter socially, because you would still be doing it yourself.
Why do I say this is the one area you can take control of now; the first point at which you must start; the one area in which you can have the greatest impact right now? Here’s why: In later talks we’re going to cover things like the role of the Supreme Court, the Federal Reserve, the Constitution—you can’t change these things. You don’t have any control over what currency you use, unless of course you live in a very tightly controlled community that relies purely on barter (nota bene: not even the Amish do this). You have absolutely no power to change those things, and very little in the way of alternatives. For all practical purposes, you’re stuck with tyranny in these areas (although, not to be completely pessimistic, we will discuss things we can do, and the type of future and steps toward which we can work). In things going on at the federal level, the best you can do in many cases is cast your vote—one vote among a hundred million—about like thinking you’re going to stop a tsunami with a sandcastle. Here, however, in the area of education, you can take nearly complete control right here, right now. No election required, no legislation required, no vote required, no amendment to the Constitution required; you don’t have to hire a lawyer, call your Congressman, nothing. There are no legal, social, or economic barriers preventing you from being free in this area. It is purely, 100%, a lifestyle decision.
And that is why I say, if we don’t reassert liberty here first, we won’t really do it anywhere else. Because if we’re not willing to make changes when and where we can, then we certainly won’t do it where it’s unlikely. If we’re not willing to make the sacrifices in lifestyle necessary in order to take personal responsibility here, where it’s perfectly legal and able to be done, then pretending anything beyond that is absolute parade of showmanship. In such a case, here’s what we’re doing: we’re devoting tons of time and effort, and maybe even money, to things that can only have marginal effects at best, and yet neglecting the one thing that can have major effects, only because it will cost us the devotion of a little extra time and effort and money. We’ll spend countless hours and energy going to political campaigns, rallies, speeches, waving flags and signs, passing out buttons and bumper stickers, watching the news every night to see what politician on what side said what; posting video clips of news reports and interviews on YouTube and Facebook, adding commentary; saying things like “We need more guys like this”; “I wish this guy was president”; or on the converse advancing whichever of countless criticisms we could choose from. Why do we react this way to a society that’s not free, instead of concentrating our time and energy on exercising that freedom where we’re already perfectly free to do so to begin with? It speaks volumes as to why we’re in the shape we’re in: we’ve taken the benefit. We take the easy way out—the path of least resistance. And our attempts to regain freedom reflect this very complacency: it’s easy to mount a bumper sticker, to attend a rally, to get in a group and shout at the marble façade of a building that houses corrupt politicians. It’s easy to click on an internet link, and share it on Facebook. It’s easy. We do what’s easy.
But homeschool child? Private school a child? We’ve got a thousand reasons why we wouldn’t, shouldn’t, couldn’t do such a thing. And I’m telling you, that in all but a small minority of cases, those thousand reasons are all excuses.
Educational Choices: A Few Scenarios
But we have to work hard for liberty and make the efforts that we can. All government must begin with self-government. And the moment you believe it’s legitimate to use law to govern someone else so as to benefit yourself, you have sown the seed of the destruction of both Christianity and liberty. And it just so happens that the easy way out means just that: destruction of both Christianity and liberty. We have to reassert individual responsibility where we can. And you can. If ever there were an area of life in which people today need to hear the mantra “Yes we can,” it’s in the area of reasserting individual liberty in education.
So what does this mean on a personal level? It will depend on your personal family situation, and it will depend on what alternative to government schools you choose. I personally favor homeschooling for a variety of reasons; but you may decide private schooling is better for you and your children. Fine. The purpose in either decision is to reassert individual control, which means individual liberty, and to begin the end of civil government domination of education, end civil government coercion, and in fact, all educational coercion in which someone forces someone else to do it their way. So let’s consider a few case examples:
In an ideal scenario, there is a traditional family in which the husband works and the wife is able to stay home and school the children. In a traditional family setting like this, if children are currently in government schools, the only changes that need to be made are very minor, especially if the decision is to switch to a private school. Here the only changes are logistical: deciding what school, enrolling, and going; and the greatest burden would be paying tuition, which would mean revising the budget. Even a homeschooling scenario is easy, however, and cheaper: the mother (or in some cases, perhaps the father) who stays home, simply needs to get encouraged and equipped to start homeschooling. The encouragement can be found in many churches, support groups, co-ops, and other organizations devoted to home education. And the same people and institutions can direct you to a million curriculum and teaching resources, and American Vision sells a few as well. All it takes to find plenty of both of these things are a few internet searches. In this case, there is no reason not to do so. For Christians it could be argued persuasively that it’s sinful not to do so.
But this traditional family scenario clearly is not the majority of cases today. Most traditional-like families are today two-income families, and the children, if not at public school, are often in day care. In these cases, the decision whether to private school or home school will mean a greater revising of the budget. Private school will require tuition, and homeschooling will require either hiring a private nanny/tutor, or more commonly, one of the parents staying home. But a parent staying home means at least a reduction to part-time salary for that parent, and more likely forfeiture of that second income completely. I have to tell you that this is the most common resistance I hear in regard to homeschooling. Because they always say that they family needs all of both incomes in order to pay the bills. I have to be honest: while I suspect that is probably sometime the case, I am skeptical that it’s truly as frequent as I hear it. In most of the cases of this I have encountered, the two-income dependent family has a large suburban home and comfortable lifestyle to match. If families require two incomes in order to maintain this, and this makes government taxation for child care and education necessary, then don’t we need to start asking question about lifestyle? In this scenario, the taxation is not so much subsidizing education as subsidizing their comfortable lifestyle, cable TV, etc. And is it really the case that the total of both incomes are necessary to pay the necessary living expenses—house payments, utility bills, insurance, etc. I don’t know; in some cases yes that’s probably true, but in others, is it not the case that some cutbacks here and there, sacrifices in lifestyle, tightening the budget a little across the board may just be the right to do for the cause of freedom? What is the price of freedom, after all? Is the price of freedom that we live at the extremity of our means, while passing off the fundamental aspects of life like education to be funded by other people through taxation? And even in a case where a two-income family honestly requires the fullness of both incomes in order to make “ends meet,” should not there be some soul searching into the way such a lifestyle is funded and the taxation on which it depends? And should there not also be a question about living beyond our means at the expense of other people? Is that moral and right? Is that freedom?
And then there are the actually difficult cases: single parent families. How in the world can we expect a single parent to work and provide for the necessities of life, and at the same time homeschool? And how can we expect a single mom to be able to afford to pay for private schooling? I don’t think the latter issue is as difficult as the home school issue. A single mom is really not much different than any other one-income household paying tuition at a private school. And in these cases, many churches which have private schools will give discounts to church members. At any rate, many private school tuitions are not that much higher than day care rates. But the single mom home school dilemma is definitely difficult. Yet even here, depending on State requirements, nothing says you have to home-school during the day. You can find the required number of hours in the afternoon and evening. And I personally know at least one business-class working mom who has successfully home-schooled a child into their teenage years. So I know it can be done.
The only real question here is the same question at the root of all these cases: What lifestyle changes are you willing to make in order to restore freedom in this area? What sacrifice are you willing to make to restore freedom?
Steps to Restoring Educational Freedom
So here are a few practical steps: First, educate yourself. Educate yourself as to the processes of beginning and managing your decision (whether homeschool or private). Really, the easiest to way for a beginner to learn is to Google something like, “How do I get started homsechooling?” and add to this the name of your state, for example, “Georgia” (because every state has slightly different laws). You will be able to choose from an endless list of helpful sites, the top few probably being the most popular organizations in your state: for this example, one is the Georgia Home Educators Association. Study especially the relevant laws for compulsory attendance, reporting, etc., and find out exactly how to initiate your home school legally (if necessary) and what is required of you beyond that. Then see what resources are available for curriculum in all price ranges, read reviews, talk online and in person with people who know, and make an educated decision.
Second, write the letters, order the necessary books, and start the process. Here’s one tip: don’t jump at first into one of those thousand-dollar all-in-one curriculum packs, because if you get half way through and don’t like it, or find something better for much less, you will have wasted your money. Most people I know prefer to design their own curriculum piece by piece.
Also, get some books for yourself: learn how to become more than just a housewife going through the motions (which could be the case); learn how to become an effective communicator and a good teacher, planner, organizer, scholar yourself. Improve yourself as much as you do your child.
So educate yourself, make the investment, and then start doing it. Jump in and start. That’s more important than trying to get everything perfect and then start, because then you’ll never start. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn, and the child will learn—and you’ll both be better for it. There will always be more to learn down the road, no matter how good you are.
In addition to taking back individual and family control to the extent that we can already, we should educate ourselves in regard to the larger picture. There could certainly be further political goals at which to aim, beginning at the local level: the ultimate goal should be to abolish all public taxation and funding for schools in general—get the civil government completely out of the market of education. But a mediate step in the meantime would be perhaps a law that exempts anyone from property tax who is private schooling or homeschooling their children. No one should be taxed to pay for other people’s educations, but especially people who already pay such high personal costs to take care of their own should not have to bear the added costs of others on top of that: as it currently stands, these people are bearing what is essentially double the tax burden.
Not only would this be economically fair for those who already pay for their own, but this fairness in itself would become an incentive for more people to pull out of public school, and for more people to become private tutors, teachers, and create more private schools. When more and more property owners realize that they could afford a more than adequate home school curriculum for way less than the price of their property taxes, they would certainly want to move in that direction (not to mention the further benefits of home schooling, by the way). And if more people moved into the private school market, not only would options increase in that market, but a range of levels of affordability would arise in order to serve those who wished to afford more or less tuition. And depending on your status and property, when the market reaches an equilibrium not distorted by the State’s virtual monopoly on education, you would soon be able to afford yearly tuition at one of many private schools easily for the amount of your property tax saved—and that’s considering an average middle-class property owner. This is probably true for many people already depending on the person and the school.
If the essential monopoly of government over education is broken, a free market in education—considering today’s technology and vast information resources—would produce options that we probably can’t even imagine currently. Charitable organizations even could start schools that surpassed public schools in capability and efficiency, and serve even the poorest of the poor, and do so in a way superior to the one-size-fits-all model of government education today.
We should also, if we were to consider the political side, look further into revenues. We have just discussed personal exemptions which make perfect sense. But we are doing this project in the context of County Rights, restoring the County as the fundamental unit of government in America. And the sovereignty of county administration is compromised to the extent that it accepts funding from the State level and the Federal level—these, always coming with mandates, regulations, and other strings attached. In order truly to reassert local district control (which is the basis, after all, behind most people claiming, “our schools are different”), the source of funding must remain always and only local (or private organizations with private contracts disclosed to all comers). The truth is that nationwide, most local school districts receive about half of their funding from their states, about another 10% from the Feds, and only the remaining 40% from local taxes. Of course, all of this is a tax bill picked up by taxpayers, but when higher and higher levels of government are in control, the revenues get homogenized and then reapportioned more equally than they were collected. In other words, it’s one more deceptive way to redistribute wealth. Local districts should reassert local control, and could do so by refusing to accept the handouts; of course, this would take pressure from the community on the school board, and again, a willingness on the part of all involved to sacrifice and make due with the limitations of their own means. But this should be done; and it should come in addition to local, state, and federal exemptions for anyone not directly using the system, but homeschooling or private schooling.
The goal is to exercise what freedom we can in the area of education; and in doing so, create a movement that will make it socially viable to free up education completely. This, I realize, is not a walk in the park; but it is the easiest thing we can do right now in the effort to restore America. It is sitting there right in front of us waiting to be done. All it takes is a little commitment and a little sacrifice.
What are you willing to sacrifice? What do you consider important: freedom, integrity, honesty? Can these be compromised for the cause of convenience and comfort? Should they be? That’s the question at the root of Restoring America One County at a Time, and it begins with the issue of education. If we can’t take action here, you can forget the rest.
Up next: a wholesale biblical vision for Welfare.