Monday, December 10, 2007

Note to Mainstream Press: Michael Farris Does Not Speak for All Christian Homeschoolers

Mike Huckabee seems like a decent guy personally, but it absolutely infuriates me when the mainstream press touts him as "the homeschooler's choice" based on his endorsement by Michael Farris of the Home School Legal Defense Association. The HSLDA has done a lot of good work over the years but they don't speak for all homeschoolers. I personally don't think they should get involved in partisan politics, particularly since there is another strongly pro-HS candidate in the election (Dr. Ron Paul). Now, I've got my own concerns about both Huckabee and Paul but that's a discussion for another time. Anyways, the Des Moines Register ran an article yesterday entitled "Homeschoolers propel Huckabee".

Although not monolithic, home-schooling Republicans are united by core principles, especially their rejection of public schools in favor of their own religious-based teaching.
Let's stop right there. While all HS families have rejected the public schools, not all those who vote Republican are HS for religious reasons. The GOP is the party not just of the religious right but also of secular libertarians, many of whom also have decided to educate their children at home.

Likewise, they are civically active and well-connected to Iowa's evangelical churches
Again, why does the mainstream press insist upon equating homeschoolers with Evangelical Protestants? Some are, but many aren't. There are HS families of every Christian denomination, and also plenty who are other faiths, atheists, or agnostics.

Michael Farris' endorsement of Huckabee in May, meaningless to much of the voting public, sent a strong signal to Crawford and other Christian home-school families in Iowa. Farris is founder and chairman of the Virginia-based Home School Legal Defense Association and the national figure for Christian home-school families.
The national figure for Christian homeschoolers? Maybe in his own eyes, but I know plenty of Christian home educators who do not believe that he represents them.

Estimates by the Oregon-based National Home Education Research Institute put the number of Christian home-school families in Iowa at roughly 7,500 to 9,500. As a group, they are disproportionately active in politics, partly out of strong opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage, core positions for socially conservative Republicans.
Not all Christians are socially conservative, anti-abortion, or hold traditional views on sexuality. These are hotly debated issues and several denominations have taken official positions that are definitely on the liberal side: the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, the American Friends Service Committee (aka the Quakers), etc. While I personally disagree with those positions and I'm glad that the Vatican has held the line on traditional sexual morality, my point is that Christians are a pretty diverse group. Just knowing whether someone considers Jesus to be the Savior of the world doesn't automatically mean one knows where he/she stands on "hot button" issues.

Socially conservative Evangelicals may be a vocal subset of the homeschooling community, but they don't speak for all homeschoolers and it annoys me when the mainstream press treats them as if they do.

1 comment:

Dana said...

Quite true. I remember the first HSLDA newsletter I got, and while I did agree with most of it and appreciated the information, I was frustrated by the general formatting. Such and such is happening and this is why it is important and you should do this (script included for phone call).

That is the kind of stuff I get from the AFL-CIO. I don't want a homeschool union, telling me what to think and why. I want information so that I can decide.

HSLDA is convenient, however. They have a large membership and they are a national organization.