Sunday, July 24, 2005

#177 - Another Exercise in Futility

It must be getting time for school to start again. Homeschoolers everywhere are having once again to look over their shoulders and see who might be ready to stab them in the back.

The truth of the matter is that politicos have absolutely no idea what to do with homeschoolers.

We present a double-edged sword to most politicians. Republicans and Democrats (and everything in between) alike will talk to homeschoolers and say, "You represent what is truly noble about the American spirit. Your desire to be actively involved in the education of your children is a clear demonstration of American ideals and the principles espoused by our Founding Fathers." Then they wave the flag.

The next day, in session, those same politicians will talk to the educators' unions and say, "You represent what is truly noble about the American spirit. Your desire to be world leaders in the education of our youth is a clear demonstration..." Then they wave the flag.

This teaches us, of course, that politicians need better speech writers for starters. But it also demonstrates that, far from representing that which is noble about America, they cannot politically accept homeschooling as an unalienable constitutional right without enraging a significant voting bloc that they must have in order to get re-elected.

Dateline: Escondido, California.

There are 140,000 citizens residing in Escondido, and apparently most of them are truant. At least, they seem to have been powerless to prevent truancy in this city of fun and sun in Southern California, because they just enacted a daytime curfew that will be in force in time for the coming school year.

Essentially, any child between the ages of 12 and 17 found in a public place during school hours can be referred to a social-service program and have their parents contacted. Repeat offenders face fines, community service, and even jail.

Personally, I favor having Escondido adopt the British "deferred success" label for truant kids so the local school districts can still claim that the kids really were attending school. That way, the district gets its money, and the cops can go back to catching career criminals.

Homeschooling parents, you can imagine, are less than thrilled. While the article states that homeschooled children and those with equivalency degrees are exempt, most law enforcement agencies are 1) not allowed to profile people, making it necessary to stop and harrass everyone who looks to be 12 to 17 years old, or 2) unable to tell the difference between a truant and a homeschooler, except for the fact that the truant will be more likely to be engaged in some activity involving a gun or a can of spray paint. I don't like the odds.

Potentially more disturbing is the fact that eight other cities in the county have already adopted daytime curfews. I'd be interested in knowing two things: How successfully has any such curfew reduced truancy, and how many homeschoolers have not been adversely affected by those curfews? If anyone knows and can cite sources, I'd love to hear it.

As homeschooling families well know, it doesn't take a huge stretch of imagination to see the day when a local school district - once again ignoring state educational statutes - declares homeschooled kids to be "automatically truant" and makes those kids targets of their "program." It's a well-established fact that anything public officials cannot control, they fear. Many politicians, local school districts, and every single professional educator's union in the country fear homeschoolers. And they should: we make them look incompetent.

Knowing the minds of teenagers today, I'm skeptical that simply dragging truant kids back into classrooms is doing anything but fulfilling attendance requirements. True success stories - those where a truant kid is saved from him/herself and ultimately graduates with honors - I suspect are still rare, no matter how "robust" an anti-truancy program may be.

I wish Escondido luck with their program. And I wish Escondido homeschoolers continued success.

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