- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 29, 2000

A central theme has developed in this year's presidential campaign.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush is doing his best to present himself and his positions as being supportive of all Americans; it is a message of inclusion.
Vice President Al Gore is following a divide-and-conquer strategy. For example, he claims he will fight for "working families." The implication is that those who own businesses will feel the brunt of Mr. Gore's politics of favoritism. Whenever Mr. Gore tells a group he will fight for them, there is an inherent implication that there is an enemy to be fought.
I never expected home-schooling to emerge as one of Mr. Gore's "us-vs.-them" targets, but it has.
The Gore-controlled Democratic National Committee Web site contains an article specifically attacking Mr. Bush because he has endorsed home-schooling freedom and has a good record on the issue as governor (www.democrats.org/gopwatch/bushwatch/accountability/home.html).
The Democrats lambaste Mr. Bush because they do not like Texas law. The Lone Star state treats home schools the same as all other private schools, a fact the Democrats' Web site conveniently ignores. (The implication is that Mr. Gore's policy initiatives will apply equally to private and home schools.)
The DNC contains the following list of requirements, followed by its editorial comment: "Although the state requires students to be in school between the ages of six and seventeen and requires the teaching of reading, spelling, grammar, math and good citizenship, there is no accountability system to ensure that parents are meeting those requirements."
What kind of accountability do Mr. Gore and the Democrats want to impose on home-schooling? They quote the National Education Association big surprise: "The national teachers' organization argued that home-schooled students should be taught by licensed teachers using state-approved curriculum."
Let's see. If we have licensed teachers and the exact same textbooks and curriculum as the public schools, what would we be? Public schools.
The reason home-schoolers choose the path we do is that we want to be different from the public schools. Documented results, well-known in our society, show that home-schoolers are excelling academically.
During the Republican National Convention, home-schooling received short, but positive, praise from Gen. Colin Powell in his featured speech. The Republican platform supports the right of home-schooling as one of the alternatives for families to choose freely.
The Democrats' platform contains a resolution that closely parallels the most anti-home-schooling bill ever considered by Congress, HR 6 (1994). This provision, sponsored by Rep. George Miller, California Democrat, and approved by committee on a straight party-line vote when the Democrats were last in control of the House, required every teacher in America to have a teacher's certification for every subject he or she taught. That provision would have killed home-schooling.
Mr. Miller has announced publicly his intention to try again, and the Democrats' platform contains language he could have written:
"By the end of the next presidential term, we should have a fully qualified, well-trained teacher in every classroom in every school in every part of the country and every teacher should pass a rigorous test to get there."
If that weren't enough, the Democrats' platform adds this: "By the end of the next presidential term, parents across the nation ought to be able to choose the best public school for their children."
Coupled with the balance of the available information, there is a subtle threat to all who believe their right to choose should include home schools and private schools.
Ironically, the Democrats are pro-choice if a mom wants to kill her unborn child, but if a mom wants to teach her child to read, they are decidedly anti-choice.
That it is the DNC Web site that carries this attack on home-schooling freedom has larger implications. This policy reflects not only Mr. Gore's position, but the position of an entire political party, just as the Republican platform reflects the views of an entire political party.
Home-schoolers should assume that any Democratic officeholder or candidate supports this attack unless that person specifically repudiates the position of Mr. Gore and the DNC. It would be a good idea to write, call or send e-mail to every Democratic officeholder and candidate and ask whether he or she supports Mr. Gore and the DNC's attack on home-schooling.
This would make a great beginning-of-the-year citizenship assignment for your children. If there are any Democratic officeholders or candidates in your area, have your children write to them and ask if they support the DNC-Gore attack on home-schooling freedoms. Be sure to include the Web site address so the candidate can check it out.
Yes, I am a Republican and a supporter of Mr. Bush (and I write this and every column in Family Times in my private, personal capacity and not as an official of any nonprofit organization). But a lot of home-schoolers are not as close to the Republican Party as I am. A sizable minority of home-schoolers are Democrats. I can safely surmise they will not appreciate this attack on their freedoms.
If Mr. Gore wants to use an "us-vs.-them" strategy on the issue of home-schooling, it will have the effect of galvanizing almost all home-schoolers. There is a great deal of diversity in home-schooling on most issues. The one thing that unites us? We do not like our freedoms being attacked. If Mr. Gore and the DNC want to treat home-schoolers as "them," so be it. If he has targeted us as the victims of one of his fights, let the battle begin.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He was a delegate at the recent GOP convention in Philadelphia.

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