Those of you that know me know that I have been teaching Constitutional Law and American Government to home high schoolers now for almost 15 years. Indeed I have taught over 120 students my year long course in that span of time, many of them your kids.
Permit me to explain some Constitutional principle, and what we call “First Principles” to you, and if I might use a now overused descriptor, let me “unpack” a bigger issue surrounding something that one of our state representatives said yesterday. This particular state representative made the following statement in response to a query about legislation (H3478) introduced on 2/5/13 that will eviscerate a large portion of South Carolina’s homeschooling statute. He stated the following: "The issue with the third option is that of the three options available it has very little oversight". Friends, this statement is fraught with HUGE problems. I suspect that he is just parroting the word “oversight” that I hear is being used by the primary sponsor of H3478.
The founders of our nation unequivocally intended the default position on government to be towards liberty, not against it. In other words, liberty is assumed, and constrainment and regulation of the people’s liberty is to be the exception. We see this in the construct of the United States Constitution and it is woven throughout the fabric of our Republic and the Rule of Law.
So when the sponsors of this bill or any other like it for that matter use the word "oversight" what they really mean is "Government Control". His use of that word and his reasoning highlight his absolute and utter misunderstanding of liberty and the intent of the founders. The United States Constitution by its very design was constructed to constrain the government, not the people. Indeed, one of my favorite quotes of Jefferson is when he refers to the Constitution as a set of chains on government (“Put not your faith in men, but bind them down with the chains of the constitution”.)
You see friends, the founders/framers of our great nation and its chartering and governing documents REALLY understood human nature and the desire of men to control other men. They set up a system wherein GOVERNMENT would be constrained by “oversight”, to use the representative’s word. The founders/framers view was quite the opposite of what we hear from this state representative and frankly most elected officials today. The founders/framers view was to weight everything on the side of liberty…and then create a Rule of Law (Constitution) to RESTRAIN government.
Now, to be clear, I’m not just trying to pick on him, but since these were his words, it really made me think about the broader issue that I have been speaking about over and over again lately especially as I have teamed up with my friend Curtis Bostic to help elect him as our next United States Congressman from the 1st Congressional district of South Carolina. This issue would be the qualifications that we use to select our representation. Friends, the truth of the matter is this, the pool of candidates that really understand, and I mean REALLY understand First Principles is very small today. We continue to elect men like that representative I mentioned above to office with absolutely NO understanding of the principles of liberty and limited government. This is evidenced by their visceral reaction to something they know nothing about, to curtail liberty. In this case it’s far beyond curtailment, its out and out elimination of an entire statute of law created to codify parental rights in the state of South Carolina.
Since 1996, literally tens of thousands of South Carolinians have homeschooled their children under the statute known by most of us as Option 3. Tens of thousands of kids educated under the auspices of their parents have been educated at home with absolute success, have gone on to excel in College and University settings and are now productive members of society. I remember the day my eldest daughter came home from school after her first week attending Charleston Southern University (on full scholarship I might add) and told me what she had observed in just one week; public schooled students that had no work ethic, students that had no idea what their assignments were, that had no clue what a syllabus was and how to use it, needed to have their hands held for just about every little detail of an assignment. I don’t say that to disparage the public school system, they don’t need my help in that; I do say it now to make a point and to add some personal context to what I am saying. The success of homeschoolers is so well documented that I have no intention of wasting any more space here to reiterate it.
I mention those tens of thousands of successfully homeschooled students to make the following point. This state representative also went on to say that because of what he called lack of oversight; he cited two instances of some sort of abuse. So you see what he’s doing here folks, he’s taking anecdotal examples, of which he provides no context other than “abuse”, or if it even was related to homeschooling, and he takes those examples and uses them to make the case that the General Assembly needs to wipe out liberty for thousands of South Carolinians that are successfully educating their children at home and producing well rounded, WORKING citizens for our society. Friends, do you see the problem with that? The absolute worst thing a legislator can do is legislate away the people’s codified liberty in pursuit of fixing either a nonexistent problem or a problem that is the exception and not the rule.
Let me return to the discussion about First Principles. The 9th and 10th Amendments to the United States Constitution work together to enable the states to retain the vast majority of powers and to enable the states to “codify” (make statutory law) certain rights that the citizenry of those states thought necessary for their state. This is also linked to the principle of Federalism whereby the states would be sovereign to make laws that would protect specific liberties not specifically enumerated (listed) in the Federal Constitution.
In 1992 and 1996 respectively, the citizenry after years of threats and persecution, families that wanted to direct the education of their children won very hard fought victories to codify into state law the statutes that give us two of the best laws in the entire 50 states pertaining to Home Education. Those two statutes known in the actual state code of laws as 59-65-45 (Option 2/SCHAIS) and 59-65-47 (Option 3/Association of 50 or more members) provide great liberty to South Carolinians to determine what is the best course of action for them in the education of their children. These laws were hard fought victories folks, victories that codified our liberty.
The reasons for this frontal assault on our liberty is mostly driven by money friends, usually always is. In this case it stems directly from the fact that every child in South Carolina that is not under the public school system costs the state of South Carolina federal dollars. The state gets federal dollars for education based on the number of students enrolled. So when some legislators come along with an axe to grind against Homeschoolers for whatever reason, it needs to be answered at first by educating them as to the fact that we understand our liberty, we understand the founders intent for our liberty, and we understand that our founders intended for our elected officials to defend that liberty, not attack it. These legislators need to understand that only as a last resort, do you turn to restrictive measures against the liberties of the citizenry, especially the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. But if they don’t get this message, they need to know with no uncertainty that we are amassing literal ARMY of opposition the likes of which they have not seen, and they better count the political cost VERY carefully before deciding to forge ahead on the legislative field of battle.