Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Creeping Fascism: Are We Servants of the State?

I admit it. Late May and early June is usually a time of the year in which I actually avoid deep thinking, prefering to celebrate the end of the semester by reading thrillers and working in my yard. And still the world of homeschooling turns, even though I am preoccupied with watching the sunset and sunrise from my little piece of paradise.

So today, I finally feel compelled to discuss some issues that have been developed on other blogs and tie together some ideas that have been rumbling around in my head for a while--even as I watched wonderful sunrises and sunsets from my front porch.

In Connecticut, their version of Child Protective Services (DFS) has been enlisted by certain school districts to force parents who wish to homeschool their children to keep the kids in school. Judy Aron over at Consent of the Governed has blogged extensively about what is happening there. I am linking to her first recent post on the issue here, but you should look also at today's post, as well as one about the press conference, which can be viewed here. It is well worth viewing.

There is no question that the school districts that have reported these parents to DFS for "education neglect" have abused their power. What is very interesting is that in the cases discussed during the press conference (linked above), the parents were removing their children as a last resort after reasonable attempts to work with the schools to get their children a public education. In these cases, another issue stands out--the children had health problems that should have resulted in some form of an individual educational plan--either an IEP (under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) or a 504 Plan (under Americans with Disabilities Act). The IDEA in particular mandates that the schools must work as a team with parents/family in order to provide a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) to a child with a disability. In the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, Congress found that " strengthening the role and responsibility of parents and ensuring that families of such children have meaningful opportunities to participate in the education of their children at school and at home" can make "the education of children with disabilities...more effective." (IDEA 2004 601.c5B). It is also stated in the law that all members of an IEP team must agree to educational interventions. And yet, in the Connecticut cases, parents were dictated to, bullied and threatened with loss of their children if they did not comply with unilateral plans put forth by the school districts involved.

These abuses most likely have a number of causes, including money--because school districts get federal money for each child with disabilities educated under IDEA, and they can use this money in their general funds--that is they do not have to show that the money goes specifically for special education. Although this is a loophole that taxpayers ought to be concerned about, I believe there is a more insidious idea being promulgated here. This is the idea that the state has a kind of ownership of the child and merely contracts to the parents the duties of raising the child as a servant of the state. This is not an American value. Neither is it a democratic ideal; it is, rather, a fascist concept. The Constitution of the United States clearly demonstrates that a government governs at the pleasure of the citzenry. Government is the servant of the citizen, not the master. Citizens are not the servants of the state, rather they direct their government to do certain, constitutionally defined jobs in order to protect their liberties and live their lives.

The abuse of power represented by the actions of the Connecticut school districts and the DFS--which apparently is allowed to ignore certain basic constitutional rights of the accused--appears to stem from the idea that a petty bureaucrat or school official knows better than we do what is best for ourselves and our children. That these people are often more poorly educated and have less information than the parents they are harrassing would be laughable if they did not have so much power to disrupt lives and waste public resources doing so.

Another example of this "creeping fascism," has been making the rounds of the homeschooling blogosphere recently. I found out about it at this post on Corn and Oil. (By the way, Susan, I hail from your part of the world and went to school with your state congressman, Bill Brady. Don't know why, but I have been unable to comment on your blog because the registration never goes through). In a forthcoming article for California Law Review, professor Kim Yuracko of Northwestern University, essentially argues that the state has the constitutional power to dictate the ideas that parents teach their children in the course of homeschooling them. The article is called Illiberal Education which can be accessed by clicking on the link. Home Education Magazine has posted the abstract, commentary and links to other analysis here.

Although acknowledging that homeschooling is a "diverse" phenomenon, Yuracko incorrectly states that it is controlled by fundamentalist Christians who want to isolate their children from "secular influences and liberal values" (Yuracko, 2007, abstract). How, well, illiberal of Yuracko. The paper is poorly written and has numerous factual errors with regard to the diversity and philosophy of homeschooling. It also uses numerous logical fallacies in the pursuit of the argument. It is the central point, however, that demonstrates another example of fascistic thinking that I want to address.

Yuracko argues that education is essentially a "public function" that states delegate to parents and that parental power over their children's education is therefore limited. This law professor has it exactly backwards. The state may have an "interest" in the education of future citizens, but by sending their children to public schools, parents are delegating their responsibility to educate their children to the state. Not the other way 'round. Our children are not servants of the state. In a Constitutional Republic, such as the United States, the state is our servant.

In reading the entire article, it is clear that Yuracko would like to have the power of the state to limit the freedom of certain classes of parents (namely fundamentalist Christians) to pass their own beliefs and values on to their children. Rather, Yuracko would like force her own values on all of us. This would be a violation of our liberties under the United States Constitution. It also smacks of an incredible amount of elitist chutzpah on the part of a law professor.

It should be clear to anyone who has taken more than a cursory look at my blog that I am not a fundamentalist Christian. In fact, I strongly disagree with many of their ideas and beliefs. I am not a political conservative, either. Rather, I'd like to see the words "conservative" and "liberal" banned from polite discourse so that citizens could talk to each other on the level of issues rather than shout at each other from ideological positions. I do, however, remember the words of Martin Niemoller:

They came first for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me,
and by that time no one was left to speak up.

(New England Holocaust Memorial Version)

Either the rights of citizens belong to all of us, or they will belong to no one.
Disagreement is protected and even encouraged in our American values. Supression is not.

Maybe someone like Yuracko is afraid of homeschooling and homeschoolers precisely because most of us have made a choice to teach our children their rights as citizens of the United States.

And, no, I don't do the Pledge of Allegiance with my son in our homeschool. Rather, every day we stand before the flag of the United States and recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (From Findlaw).

My son is not a servant of the state. He does not owe allegiance to a specific government, office, or person. He owes allegiance to an idea. The idea that "governments are instituted among (human beings) at the consent of the governed." The idea that the government exists to serve the citizens. If he chooses to run for office or serve in the military as an officer--and himself becomes a servant of the citizens, then he will take an oath of fealty. Not to a government, flag, office or person. Rather, he will take an oath to "protect and defend the constitution of the United States." To protect and defend an idea. The idea of liberty.


Judy Aron said...

I just had to share this letter response which was written by CT Homeschooling/Unschooling activist Ned Vare -

The article by Ms. Yuracko demonstrates how, as Mary said, hard cases make bad laws.
Yuracko's claim is that there is little, or no, information about how homeschooling is actually doing the job of educating children. She has a problem with that lack of information, because she seems to believe that government has the role of controlling all of its citizens in every way. Because she does not know for certain that ALL homeschooled children are receiving an education that she considers adequate (at least minimum by state standards), she believes that ALL homeschoolers should be regulated by the states -- presumably by the states' Departments of Education. This idea by itself would make bad law since it says: "Because a few might need, All must have."

Ms. Yuracko's larger mistake, however, is to attack homeschooling merely for the possibility that some of its practitioners might not be living up to her (unspecified) criteria. Even worse is her ludicrous assumption that the government that she wants to oversee homeschooling is properly educating -- or, is even capable of properly educating -- the children who are currently in its schools. Thus, she wants the people (public school employees) who are largely incompetent and unsuccessful to be in control of the people (homeschoolers) who are overwhelmingly competent and successful.

If Yuracko (and Robert Reich and others) has her way, homeschooling will be thrown into chaos and ruin while the public schools will be empowered and vastly enriched and will continue their massive failure with one less alternative available.

In my state of CT currently, the State Dept of Ed and the Dept of Children and Families have joined in an attempt to criminalize homeschooling in the state. The schools begin the process by refusing to allow parents to withdraw their children from being enrolled in a public school. The schools then report "absences" to the DCF as a "truant" child, and a legal battle ensues that is costly and troublesome for the parents with threats of removing the child from the home -- all because of their desire to homeschool. In an outrageous twist, the schools are claiming that the parents are breaking the law, when it is the schools themselves who are doing so. Even though the schools are using illegal and "extra-legal" means, their actions intimidate families and cause untold hardship and expenses. We are fighting back, but it is taking an unusual effort from homeschooling families here.

Surely, other states are watching to see if the CT educrats are successful in their illegal attacks, because we can be sure that homeschooling is a nationwide threat to the goldmine that is Government Schooling.

Ned Vare

Garth said...

Nice post. Thanks for your perspective.

I would hasten to point out that you probably mean "socialist" rather than "fascist" (and after all "Nazi" is shorthand for "National Socialist") in that socialists (whether communists, many stripes of fascists and socialists themselves) believe in community control over all facets of economics and politics - e.g. your children, as part of the community, must be educated in such and such a manner as determined by the community itself. You can easily swap "assembly plant" for "children" and "directed" for "educated" in that particular example.

What's nice about using the term Socialist rather than Fascist is that the former is much less inflammatory and a badge that many people will readily wear. Fascist connotes Hitler and one does not want to invoke Godwin's Law.


Melora said...

Great post! I hadn't heard anything about those poor families in Connecticut -- how awful. I always find it strange that people use the argument that some homeschoolers won't do a good job (which I'm sure is true), when it is so widely recognized that many public schools are failing to offer an adequate education. People (educators) who live in glass houses ...

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Hi, Garth,

No, I want to use the term fascist.
There are socialists--like some of the old Kibbutzniks in Israel, who want to live in a communist fashion--shared property and all of that--but who have no interest in controlling what other people do. In fact, they can be pretty picky about who they allow to join.

In my parlance, fascism means state control regardless of what political philosophy is used to justify it. You can be a communist who is fascist or a Nazi who is fascist. (Yes, I know, the Nazi's claimed to be fighting fascism--but they were really just another brand of it).

I do not believe I ever mentioned Hitler and therefore have not invoked Godwin's Law.

Finally--gotta admit this--political correctness in speech just annoys the heck out of me.

For these reasons, I'll keep the title the way it is.

big mama said...

Wow, this is just incredible. I think the CT homeschoolers better get together and find good legal representation to bring a suit against the state and get this sorted out.

Thanks so much for all your kind comments on my blog. I was looking for your private email but couldn't find any, so I'll have to thank you publicly!


Susan said...

So very nice to run into your blog! And from B-N?! I graduated from ISU. And Senator Brady...hmmm, we'll have to talk off-list...:-)

These are great points worth repeating! and remembering in the name of freedom.
Government is the servant of the citizen, not the master. Citizens are not the servants of the state, rather they direct their government to do certain, constitutionally defined jobs in order to protect their liberties and live their lives.

And I am SO with you about this:
Rather, I'd like to see the words "conservative" and "liberal" banned from polite discourse so that citizens could talk to each other on the level of issues rather than shout at each other from ideological positions.
I hate labels. Just hate 'em unless they're telling me what I'm putting in my mouth or on my body. (And then it's still sorta questionable whether those labels are fully accurate.) A lot of labels are so derogatory in usage. Fundies, et al.
Really appreciated your post and am SO happy to have latched onto your blog.
And thanks for the heads up about the comments registration. We need to do some big time updating and enhancing on the blog. I'll have to get my techie on this soon. We've put it off too long.

Kaber said...

wow... I didn;t know that about CT.

Beth: said...

Just wanted to say, this is so well written and informative. Thank you.

momof3feistykids said...

Thank you for this thought provoking post.

Sista Suz said...

Bravo! You nailed this one.

Judy Aron said...

Hey Big Mama,
We have an attorney in CT working on this - her name is Deborah Stevenson.. of NHELD
She has been instrumental in protecting our rights for the past 15 years.
regarding a suit against the state.. we have been first trying hard to work through the channels.. and try to deal with agency heads, legislators and people in the executive branch of government.. the courts are not a great place to be, so a lawsuit is not where anyone wants to tread.. but it may be where it must go.. you can bet we are working on this though.. I'll keep you posted at www.yedies.blogspot.com

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I am so pleased to see that there are still a lot of us out there who believe in freedom as the best great hope of humankind.

Judy, my late grandfather-in-law (z"l) Dring DeWitt Needham who was a lawyer and a judge, once said to me: "A good lawyer keeps his clients out of court if at all possible." Good work is being done at NHELD and I wish you and Deborah all the best in your work on behalf of the put-upon citizens of Connecticut.

Now that I have a new, young modem, I am going to spend some time at the NHELD site.

Alasandra said...

Great post.

Thanks for submitting this to the CoH. While I try to keep up with various blogs life often gets in the way, the CoH is my fail safe to make sure I didn't miss something important.

Janine Cate said...

>we stand before the flag of the United States and recite the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States:

What a great idea!

Sherry said...

The fight never ends! Great post.

Kathy at brokenhomeschool.com said...

I agree, geat post. It's more than a little frightening to realize that CT is pulling the same stunt that Germany is with homeschooling families. Just goes to show that we can NOT allow ourselves to become complacent.

Crimson Wife said...

That's a great idea to recite the Preamble to the Constitution as part of your morning ritual. I've been thinking about what I want to include in our morning ritual lately since the upcoming school year will be the first year of more formal studies ("officially" kindergarten but that's such a traditional school word).

With said...

The theme of creeping fascism is timely. Many more people need to look deeply at what is left of our inanlienable rights. Set aside time for a movie and watch Aaron Russo's full-length feature film, "From Freedom to Fascism".
It's full of very accurate facts, and presents an eye-opening and jaw-dropping summary of our current state of fascist servitude. happily, it also presents suggestions for ways to reverse the loss of our rights.

With said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Catmoves said...

This disgrace in Conn is one more of the seemingly organized attempts to form the citizens into a massive, mindless organism who agree to anything the "government" (any of them) says.
We have that kind of thing (not speaking of Home Schooling) rampant in NM, too.
But I wanted to congratulate and thank you for a well written and researched article. Kudos to you.

No Apology said...

Sorry if I got to the party late. Freedom is a primary concern for me. I am neither a mother, nor do I homeschooler, but have taught before. I am of the opinion that homeschooling is one of the best ways to educate children. My reason for saying so, is I want to keep 'em out of the State's hands. I think the greatest threat to parental control over their children, (not just in educational matters, but all matters relating to raising a child) would be if the Supreme Court were to rule that children have a basic right to a minimum education. If that happens the push for ratification of the UNCRC will be the globalist's next move, if indeed, they wait that long. If the UNCRC is ratified by the US, a darkness will descend over us all. It is beginning to look like the current make-up of SC Justices will protect the parent's right. I hope so.

Well, this is only meant to be a comment, so I will contain myself. If anyone would like to visit, you are most welcome:


Ragamuffin, I am delighted to have found your website. I hope you will visit mine.

I'll be back...