An upcoming Harvard summit on the dangers of homeschooling will feature lectures and discussions led by various Ivy League professors, bureaucrats, and doctors. The point of the whole event is basically that parents have no business teaching things to their kids. Based on the published agenda for the summit, there doesn’t appear to be much of an emphasis on intellectual diversity. For example, a debate titled “Reform Proposals” will have one side making the case for greater regulatory oversight of homeschoolers and the other side making the case for an outright ban of the practice. The idea that parents should be free to educate their children without government agencies breathing down their neck is not being considered.
As it happens, that debate is set to be moderated by Professor James Dwyer, who will also be delivering the opening and closing remarks on the first and last days of the event, respectively. To give you an idea of where the distinguished professor is coming from, he has stated that parenthood itself only exists because the government allows it to. In his words: “The reason the parent-child relationship exists is because the State confers legal parenthood.”
Dwyer believes that the assortment of bureaucracies comprising the government are “the ultimate guarantor of a child’s wellbeing.” In fact, says Dwyer, the State “empowers the parents” to do things like “take them home” and “make decisions,” or indeed to “do anything.” We should remember here that Dwyer is not some crazed lunatic on a park bench somewhere. He may be a crazed lunatic, but rather than rambling on a park bench, he is a tenured member of the faculty at a prestigious American law school. And he is not alone in his extreme hostility to parental rights, as the Harvard summit makes clear.
Of course, he’s entirely wrong. As a parent, my relationship with my children exists, first, because I conceived them and raised them. Our relationship is based in our biological ties to each other, and more importantly in the bonds of familial love. Nobody on Earth is more dedicated to my children’s health and safety than me and my wife. Nobody is more desperate to protect them than we are, and nobody would be more devastated if any harm came to them. Nobody loves them more than we do. Nobody knows them or understands them better than we do. This is both the reason why we, not the State, are the “ultimate guarantors” of their wellbeing, and why we, not the State, are in a position to be their most effective educators. The parent-child relationship is far more fundamental and important and powerful than the government-citizen relationship, if the latter can even be described as a relationship (it can’t).
There are exceptions, obviously. Parents who abuse their children can and should lose their parental rights, and the government in those cases can and should step in. But that makes the government a regrettable Plan B, not “the ultimate guarantor” or the foundation and source of all parental rights.
Dwyer’s views may seem radical — and they are — but they are also shared, on some level, by everyone who opposes homeschooling. To claim that all children should be required to attend public school is to claim that the government has a right to our children. Our children are wards of the State, and our job is only to keep them alive on nights and weekends until they can be returned to where they rightfully belong. This is why all parents, whether they homeschool or not, should be advocates and defenders of the right to homeschool. Because if you don’t have the right as a parent to educate your own children, you don’t have rights as a parent at all.