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Charter Schools: Gift or Seduction?

By Carolyn Forte

Excellence in Education Newsletter, Volume 6, Issue 2

Seduction, by definition, is hard to discern in the beginning. Seducers are always attractive in some way, that is how they get their foot in the door. They have the ability to play into the "wants and needs" of their intended victims often displaying a wonderfully sincere and caring presentation. Only the very wary or the very wise will recognize a seducer immediately. Looking backwards however, is much easier to see the seduction in action.

As an interesting example, let's look at the "seducers" in action in the American public schools. The public schools were created only about 150 years ago on the premise that the system was the way to "Americanize" the immigrants, to educate and uplift the poor as well as some other "social" objectives. In order for this to work the system needed students. Realize that at this time in history nearly all children attended private schools. This is where the "seduction" must start, there must be a way to convince the parents and administrators of the private sector to release the children to the public sector. How did they do this? Very simple. They catered to the "greed and need" of the Protestant church at the time. The Protestant churches were persuaded that they could advance "Protestantism" by closing the private and promoting the public schools. In fact, the Protestants were given leadership positions in the beginning allowing the church to "think" they had control of the schools. They were even allowed to teach the Bible, the Protestant version of course, thus allowing all those little "Catholic" children of the new immigrants to be indoctrinated in the Protestant religion. Since the Protestants thought they were in control of the public school system nearly all of them were willing to close their own parochial schools leaving the population with only one choice in education. This was not the only seductive half truth used to induce the private schools to close, but it does illustrate the point. The net result was that the majority of private schools closed in support of the public school system. Even today we find that the majority of children (88%) are in the public system.

Notice what has transpired in the last 150 years. How much control do Christians have over our public schools? For all practical purposes, the answer is none. This is especially true since 1962 with the Supreme Court's infamous ruling against prayer in school. Was this seduction? We encourage you to read the history of public schools and decide for yourself. If you do not like to read that much, we would encourage you to listen to John Gatto who will be at the LINK Conference next May. [1999]

What does this have to do with homeschooling except to provide one of the reasons to homeschool? Let's take another historical look at the education movement. If indeed the public school movement was an example of seduction, what can we learn from the experience. We saw the promise of local control gradually erode away until there was very little or none. If you think that there is still local control we would encourage you to study the federalization of education through programs like Goals 2000 and National Standards. The real question becomes, "What will the attitude of the public school system be towards homeschoolers?" Will the people in control of such a system willingly allow it to be undermined, embarrassed and eroded by homeschoolers? Not a chance! At first, in the 1970s and 80s when homeschoolers were few and not well organized, the education establishment simply tried to squash any renegade parent who tried it. Some went to jail, at least one mother died in jail, but that only forced determined parents underground. That was basically how we started out. This somewhat aggressive action by school districts resulted in the creation of various homeschool and legal defense organizations which resulted in victories for homeschoolers in court.

At this point the educational establishment realized that frontal attacks would not end homeschooling. Next they enlisted the services of Child Protective Services in an attempt to outflank us. A truly fearsome opponent, CPS workers consider themselves above the law. Initially they had several "victories" on their behalf until our legal representation started taking them to court and scoring victories on behalf of homeschoolers. Even with all this oppression, the homeschool movement continued to grow at a 15-20% rate.

We are winning the battle. We have established our right to oversee the education of our children. Now realize that this does not set well with the education establishment. There is a tremendous amount of money being denied to the system each year because of homeschooling. Just based on the fact that there are 1.5 million homeschool children in the country, the districts are loosing over $7 billion annually.

Charter schools and public independent study programs are becoming much more popular. Do they mean that the education establishment has come over to our side? Or, do they mean that our opponents have decided to seduce us instead of fighting us. If you only look at the surface, if only look at the kind teacher offering you $1,000-$2,000 worth of goodies, it's easy to say that they have come to our side. "They've learned the error of their ways, They recognition what a good job we are doing and will support us now." You can believe that if you want, but remember those Christian schools that closed down 150 years ago. They thought they could get something for nothing out of the government and still keep control. We can clearly see now how deluded they were. What a tragedy that they did not think more carefully. We are now suffering the consequences of the actions of those who made the decision 150 years ago to go for the "short term" advantage.

In the same way, those who support charter schools and public independent study programs now, do not see any danger or serious repercussions from their decision. Even though these ISPs and charter schools will start to change the rules on how you will be able to homeschool, many people will still find these options to be tempting. However, what will the picture be like in 20-30 years? Will our grandchildren be able to freely choose how their children will be educated?

The examples are not exactly parallel. Homeschoolers are individuals - much harder to shut down than a few schools 150 years ago. But, the strength of homeschooling is in its independence. Homeschooling will only remain strong as long as it is independent. If too many become dependent on the government to raise their children, then first independent homeschooling will fall and finally, all the children will be forced back to the government schools.

About the author: Carolyn Forte has always homeschooled her two daughters. Carolyn and her husband Martin own and operate a homeschool supply store in Monrovia, Excellence in Education, and also a large independent study program. One of the specialties of their store is a game-based curriculum, which she and her daughter Tenaya developed for use with all styles of homeschooling. Carolyn has been politically active promoting homeschooling, and fighting against School-to-Work, public school homeschool programs, and daytime curfew. Martin is also one of the founders of the California Homeschool Network. This article originally appeared in one of their newsletters for their ISP. If you attend conferences in California, don't miss meeting Carolyn and Martin! Resources Related to This Article

Interview with Cathy Duffy, author of Government Nannies
Give to Caesar What Is Caesar's
The Cost of Public School
Home Eating a Threat to Public Kitchens?
Mountain Parents Scorn Textbooks
California Charter Schools
Public Schools Have Been Failing for Years
Rebuttal on Some Words of Concern for Public School Administrators