Friday, September 21, 2007

HSLDA endorses Huckabee: why not Ron Paul?

Since Mike Huckabee was recently endorsed by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) there has been some discussion about why it didn’t endorse Ron Paul. Why would HSLDA endorse Mike Huckabee? The question is: if you wanted to safeguard your right to homeschool, who would you vote for – Mike Huckabee or Ron Paul? The following is a summary of some explanations for this endorsement as suggested by members of a Homeschoolers for Ron Paul meetup group, together with some thoughts of my own, and an attempt to answer this question.

Among the suggestions made by the meetup group were as follows. It was suggested that the Home School Legal Defense Association believes Mike Huckabee, as previous Governor of Arkansas, would have a better chance of being elected, than Ron Paul, and that HSLDA, which has defined itself as a Christian organization, would support Mike Huckabee as a Christian pastor. It was also suggested that neither Huckabee nor the HSLDA share Ron Paul’s idea of liberty, in spite of the fact that they use the word.

My research suggests, first of all, that Huckabee is not as strong a supporter of homeschooling as his campaign might suggest. It is true that he demonstrated his support for homeschooling in 1997 when he signed into law a House bill favoring homeschooling. Huckabee saw to it that a good deal of publicity surrounded this event. Prior to the 1997 legislation, home schooled students had been required to receive a passing grade on annual tests. Currently students are only required to take standardized tests along a schedule similar to that of the public schools, and they are not required to pass the tests. In addition parents are not asked to pay for the testing. In other words, the 1997 law provided relief for home schooling families, but didn’t represent a dramatic change.

However, this reform occurred only at the beginning of his governorship (1997-2007) and Arkansas laws pertaining to homeschooling were already very restrictive. In the following ten years no additional relief was provided to home schooling families, and in fact, more restrictions followed. A home schooling family who didn’t want to have their child tested could still be charged with truancy. In 1999, additional legislation was enacted in Arkansas and signed by Governor Huckabee that imposed greater rather than less restrictions on home schoolers. The restrictions could potentially cause problems for students whose families are undecided. The 1999 legislation called for a two-week advance statement of intent to home school or truancy charges would be filed. In addition the restrictions do not permit students to be withdrawn from school for the purpose of home schooling if the students are facing disciplinary violations. The compulsory attendance law was also revised during Huckabee’s governorship to require that attendance in school be required beginning at age 5, not 6, as previously. In an article entitled “Homeschoolers Lose Ground” of July 20, 2007, HSLDA itself stated its vigorous opposition to this legislation. In other words, Huckabee’s avowed support for homeschooling must be seriously questioned.

If Huckabee’s agenda doesn’t seem to be as forcefully pro-homeschooling as it looks at first, the HSLDA’s agenda and political activities are not entirely focused on home schooling issues either. HSLDA states that it is an explicitly Christian organization with a strong political orientation and interest in promoting certain candidates. The Patrick Henry School and Generation Joshua are involved in political activity. The HSLDA claims it is “organized as a 501 c 4,” which means that it is exempt from the rule that 501 c 3 non-profits are expressly forbidden to actively support political causes, and implies that it doesn’t have legal status as a non-profit anyway.

For example, currently the student teams associated with HSLDA's PAC, are organizing support for the candidacy of Bobby Jindal for Governor of Louisiana. Who is Bobby Jindal? Jindal is described as a social conservative, and his bio indicates that he converted from Hinduism to Catholicism while in college. Jindal has been given low ratings by environmentalists and, according to Wikipedia (September 19, 2007): "Jindal is an enthusiastic supporter of the war in Iraq." Since Jindal is not known to have any particular interest in home schooling, the Home School Legal Defense Fund appears to be focusing its attention on a candidate who has nothing to do with home school legal defense!

The above notes point to the fact that the agenda of both Huckabee and the HSDLA doesn’t manifest a strong orientation to the rights of home schoolers in general.

Does their agenda reflect a strong orientation to the freedom of the individual? Is freedom from government regulation really an underlying goal for Huckabee or for the HSLDA’s leadership?

Ned Ryun, Generation Joshua’s director and director of HSLDA’s federal political action committee thinks not. On his blog he recently wrote (September 19, 2007) that Mike Huckabee has a poor social and fiscal record, and in particular mentioned that he has recently introduced legislation to ban smoking in public places. Ned Ryun commented as follows: “In a free market/capitalistic society, and by the way, a free society, the government should not be regulating when and where people smoke.” I have recently received a report that Ned Ryun quit the directorship of Generation Joshua due to the HSLDA’s endorsement of Huckabee.

Another way to consider the question of whether Huckabee and the HSLDA are seriously interested in safeguarding individual freedoms would be to look at their analysis of other questions. It seems that both HSLDA and Huckabee would be willing to use the law in the service of a moral principle or moral truth as they saw this truth. Huckabee and HSLDA would consider legislation in the service of morality, possibly undermining the separation of church and state. Ron Paul, on the other hand, would insist that we are “endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.”

In addition, the view of homeschooling described under descriptions of Generation Joshua on the HSLDA website strongly suggests a purposive orientation for homeschooling on the part of this organization: “However, few of us homeschool just for the sake of homeschooling. We homeschool our children because we believe it is the best path for their own future and for the impact that they can have on our nation and the generations that follow. Yes, we want our children to have excellent skills and godly character. But skills and character are designed to equip our children to accomplish great things for God and for the good of our nation.” In other words, according to the HSLDA homeschooling is not primarily a freedom, a right, with inherent value in itself as such. For HSLDA, homeschooling is mainly a value insofar as it is promotes a pre-defined and established good or truth. From a constitutionalist viewpoint, homeschooling is a value insofar as the right to school one’s children as one sees fit is entailed in the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. For the HSLDA there is a good greater than liberty –one truth, morals as they interpret morals; for Ron Paul, homeschooling is entailed in liberty.

My research can be summarized in the following way:

  1. Neither Huckabee nor the HSLDA are strongly motivated to focus on the agenda of homeschoolers, although the endorsement is designed to advertise their concern with homeschoolers;
  2. HSLDA and Huckabee would legislate to promote an agenda in spite of its impact on individual freedom, whereas Ron Paul would argue against the use of government restrictions to promote an agenda, regardless of how moral he considered the agenda to be;
  3. The fact that homeschooling is considered a means to an end differs from the viewpoint that the right to home schooling, as other freedoms, is an end in itself; thus Ron Paul would protect the right to home school as a matter of principle; Huckabee and the HSLDA would protect their agenda first, quite possibly letting the principle of individual rights suffer;
  4. Ron Paul has consistently proposed legislation which would give greater autonomy to home schoolers.

These points suggest that if you want to be homeschooling years from now and doing it your way, your best bet is to vote for Ron Paul (and not Mike Huckabee).

For those of you would like to do more research, please see the following:

UPDATE: One comment pointed out that they didn't see an endorsement of Huckabee on HSLDA's web site. This is because the website is part of the HSLDA which is non-profit and can't endorse candidates. But HSLDA has a PAC, which can, and you can see the endorsement here:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My Family and Ron Paul

I got the chance to meet Dr Paul when he came to my town of Strafford, NH for the Strafford County GOP picnic. He took the time to shake every single hand of the 208 people who voted for him in the straw poll (winning 72% of the votes). My family has homeschooled since the first grade, and have come to realize how important educational freedom is. Dr Paul understands this as well, and has been outspoken in defense of the right to homeschool.

Paul Praises Homeschoolers

From September 27th, 2000
Sponsors Resolution Designating National Home Schooling Week
Washington, D.C.

Representative Ron Paul praised America's home-schoolers this week, acknowledging parents for their sacrifices and achievements in educating their children at home. Paul co-sponsored H.Res. 578, legislation presented on the House floor this week that would designate the first week of October as "National Home Schooling Week." Paul, in a written statement included in the Congressional Record, told his Congressional colleagues that they should recognize the efforts of home-schooling parents, and strive to help them provide a quality education for their children.

"As a Congressman, I have had the opportunity to get to know many of the home-schooling families in my district," Paul stated. "I am very impressed by the outstanding job these parents are doing. Home schooling has produced outstanding results in my district and across the country. For example, a 1997 study indicated the average home-school student scores near the 90th percentile nationally on standardized academic achievement tests in reading, mathematics, social studies, and science! Home schoolers, regardless of race or gender, also consistently score above the national average on both the SAT and ACT exams."

Home schooling has become a popular option for parents across the country. Texas alone has approximately 75,000 home-schooling families, with an average of three children per household. Home-schooling parents have formed numerous organizations to provide their children ample opportunities to interact with other children. Recent data indicate that almost 50% of home-schooled children engage in extracurricular activities like sports and music, while many others are involved in volunteer work in their communities.

"Home-schooling requires tremendous dedication to family and education," Paul continued. "Congress should allow home-schoolers and all parents to devote more of their resources to their children's education. I introduced the 'Family Education Freedom Act' ( H.R. 935) with the goal of allowing education dollars to be spent and controlled locally by parents."

The Act provides all parents, including home-schoolers, with a $3,000 per child tax credit for K-12 educational expenses. Parents choosing to send their children to the local public school may use their credit dollars to help buy educational tools or fund extracurricular programs for the school, while parents with children in private schools may use the credit for tuition.

"The best way to improve education is to return control to the parents who know best what their children need," Paul concluded. "Congress should empower all parents, including home-schoolers, to control their children's education. I urge all of my colleagues to support the 'Family Education Freedom Act.'"