Out of Whack Authority & Responsibility

I believe in freedom – as you well know. I believe that freedom is a gift from God; as did the founders of this nation. I also believe that God created “institutions” to aide us along the way through this life. Further, I believe that those institutions are essential to freedom and prosperity. Among these is, of course, the family.

It is in this light that I view a recent story from Montgomery county New York with great consternation. Homeschooling parents in that town were arrested for not properly registering their children with the county. Now, I don’t know all the facts of the case, so I won’t comment on the specifics and the rights or wrongs. However, it does point out a general point of discontent and concern.

In many places in America a 14 year old girl can choose to have an abortion without parental consent or notification. (An abortion that will be paid for with tax dollars at that.) However, these parents actually need consent from the state to homeschool their own children. This stands reason on its head. Parents do not have to consent for state-funded doctors to convince a young girl to undergo a dangerous procedure with well known physical and emotional consequences. But the state must consent for parents to choose the nature of the children’s education.

This is a dangerous situation. Remember, in a representative democracy, “the state” is essentially your neighbors (albeit indirectly). How can we honestly believe that the village (sorry Hillary) has more responsibility for the children than do their parents? This is the only way we can possibly justify giving the state more authority.

OK, so the system is messed up. Where do you stand? Whose side are you on? Will you stand for freedom, even if you disagree with how it is practiced by others?

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7 Responses to Out of Whack Authority & Responsibility

  1. Beverly Lynn says:

    It is quite disconcerting when a child can get an abortion without parental permission, but needs a thousand forms signed to be able to take an aspirin at school. That is something I could go on about forever, but to address the main anecdote of your post, I admit that I was troubled when I heard about these parents getting arrested, but to provide a counter point, they didn’t follow the rules. As much as I don’t like it, and arresting them seems a bit extreme, it is easy to see where these guidelines came from. If the government is going to concern itself with the welfare of children, then assuring that kids are not being kept at home in forced labor or extreme neglect or terrible abuse* is part of that concern. Now the whole issue of the government being concerned with the welfare of our children is another issue all together. It only takes one however misguided complaint to get your children taken away from you and that is a pretty scary thought to all decent parents. And yet, we still need to protect both the parents and the children’s right to life and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t support children divorcing their parents and all that nonsense over not getting an xbox or some equivalent absurdity, but children should be protected from abusive parents. I think that I essentially agree with you, however I am not convinced that this case should be a standard for protest of government intrusion into our lives.

    *spanking is NOT terrible abuse, no matter how many self-indulgent and spoiled children say that it is.

    • nomasir says:

      Excellent points Beverly.

      There’s certainly an argument to make here in favor of the government defending the rights of the people – which certainly includes children who could be in abusive situations. There is a further argument to make that public schools offer a nice mechanism in support of this goal: it’s probably easier to discover abuse when the kids are out of the home and in the public school setting. To this end, I’ll make a counter point. (Note, I recognize that Beverly did not explicitly make these arguments, they just seem like logical points to argue in defense of forced registration for homeschoolers.)

      Registration of homeschoolers and in-home visits by county officials would indeed be an effective mechanism for preventing abuse. To that end though, so would random house-to-house inspections. Further, random searches of cars would help uncover drug trafficking and usage. We can always use these tactics to reduce law breaking. But, we have decided in this country that we ultimately have a right to due process, and that such searches cannot happen without probable cause. It appears that the only probable cause in this case was that the parents were actually homeschooling their kids. (Again, I’m not up on all the specifics, so I don’t want to get too far into the case.) If so, then this is political probable cause, indicating that the county may actually view homeschooling as abusive.

      As for “not following the rules” – well, this is a touchy subject. There is certainly biblical mandate to respect the authorities and obey the local laws, so that we can live a peaceable life. Simple logic dictates that this can’t hold sway over all things. If the law of man dictates that we violate the law of God, then clearly we must refuse. So, where do we draw that line? This, I won’t presume to know. Each one must judge for himself.

      I will note though that trouble always starts small, much like a frog being boiled slowly. Those who have read Elie Wiesel’s account of Nazi concentration camps (NIGHT) will see this in the Nazi handling of free Jews. They would be asked to cede just a small bit of freedom; and naturally respond with “well, that’s not so bad”. Then a little more freedom, but still not so egregious as to make them revolt. By the time they figured it out, the game was up and they were in the camps. It’s a chilling tale. And it should scare any of us into not relenting on freedom.

  2. Beverly Lynn says:

    Yes, I agree, Brad. I have used the frog imagery many times. Although I agree with you that we are on a very slippery slope to boiling, let me make a quick counter argument. In as much as random house checking and car searches could help enforce laws but also encroach on our freedoms, so do drivers licenses, being IDed for liquor or gambling, posted speed limits, traffic laws, safety regulations, licensing for certain trades such as doctors, dentists. On one hand we give away all our freedoms and our morals slowly but surely, but on the other there is anarchy and chaos. There has to be a line drawn somewhere. What steps can be taken to prevent murders, child abuse, whathaveyou with out giving up some aspect of freedom? The consent of the governed. Not everyone is quite as sensible as yourself so without some form of government, without some sense of leadership, selfishness and sin would over take all.

    • nomasir says:

      Well argued. I will note though that all of your examples entail the government exercising an appropriate and necessary function of defending the rights of the people:

      Drivers licenses: other motorists must be made safe from known incompetent drivers (that’s why there’s a test)
      ID for liquor or gambling: age of adulthood (we really haven’t gotten in to this one yet … some day)
      Speed limits: While I generally disagree with the levels, the argument is the same as licenses
      Traffic laws: same
      Safety regulations: mostly the same
      Trade licenses: the same

      To apply this to registration for homeschooling, we must infer that homeschooling provides opportunity for the rights of individuals to be trampled. But whose rights? If it’s the rights of the public, then the argument falls apart. You don’t have a right to not have idiots for neighbors (I wish you did, or rather, I wish I did). It must then be the rights of the children. Is a government approved and mandated education on certain topics a fundamental human right? (now that’s Orwellian.) When did this occur – because it certainly wasn’t the case for the first 150 years or so of this nations existence? Do we just now understand the human condition well enough to see this as fundamental? Or do human rights change with time? (Surely there are those who hold this pose, but it doesn’t quite square with Christian thought.)

      My issue isn’t whether the government must infringe upon freedom to ensure the rights of the governed, I’m not an anarchist. My issue is whether the government has greater claim than parents on determining what is best for their kids. Do kids have rights? Of Course! You know me well enough to know my feelings on the abortion issue – I view those rights as fundamental for even the pre-born.

      Requiring registration for homeschooling means that homeschoolers must ask the state’s permission to homeschool. I simply feel that we shouldn’t have to ask for permission.

      The discussion does bring to light an interesting argument for what the morality of the masses actually means for the proper role of government. But, I have more work to do before I can go to sleep.

      • nomasir says:

        PS. I think I use the term “registration” here incorrectly. I’m not actually opposed per se to telling the state that I intend to homeschool. I have no need to hide. What I am opposed to is the notion that the state has any obligation or right beyond that. I should not be required to have in-home visits from county officials, or teach to state-mandated subjects, or that sort of thing. If the state wants standardized tests for graduation then fine, as long as they’re the same tests for EVERYBODY. I’ll either have my kids take those tests or refuse to recognize the state’s authority in this and move elsewhere (there are other states you know … either 49 or 56 depending on who you ask:)

  3. Beverly Lynn says:

    “Do we just now understand the human condition well enough to see this as fundamental? Or do human rights change with time? ”

    That is an interesting question. On first blush I was thinking “of course not, our rights are the same as ever.” And I still think that but, perhaps it is more complicated. As the standard of living goes up and our capacity for longer life, better food, opportunities, increases, the the definition of abuse necessarily must change. Ok, so now I am contradicting myself. I will have to think about this a little further.

    Just as an example, you know but your one or two other readers may not know, I was homeschooled for three years in middle school. We registered with the state, there was someone who glanced over the curriculum that my mother had put together and we took standardized tests that I believe that every student (at least in the county, if not the state) took regardless of where they went to school. Now, I was young and not highly involved, however I don’t remember the oversight being much more than someone checking off that we were being taught all the basics.

    • nomasir says:

      My understanding is that this is all that the state of Maryland currently requires and does. You must register (or “declare intent” or something to that effect), and then have some nominal curriculum review. I don’t have a problem with registration as a basic. It’s just common decency to call ahead and say you’ll be late (or, in this case, “don’t wait around for my child – ’cause he won’t be coming”). I further don’t have a problem with the state offering assistance (“curriculum review”) to parents – so long as it’s an offer. What concerns me is when the state now has some authority to dictate certain coursework requirements. I mean, I’m OK with them dictating requirements for graduation. But requirements for not having your kid seized and taken to public school is a different matter.

      (Now, I certainly haven’t researched the extent to which this happens, if at all, in Maryland. But we started with the NY article.)

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