It's nearly 4pm and I am just now getting around to writing a post, and it's not the post I was planning on writing. Instead, our day was pre-empted by a real life civics lesson coupled with the role of social media in political movements. We're not in Egypt, but it was perhaps a very small scale model of the way social media can inform, persuade (or not), and mobilize large groups of people.
A week ago an IL state senator introduced a bill that would seek to count and regulate homeschoolers. The best thing (and it is a very short list) about living in IL is the fact that it leaves us homeschoolers alone. We are free to raise and educate our children as we see fit without the state sticking in its oar. But then the senator heard that a family member of his was going to homeschool and suddenly we appeared on his radar. Now up till now he was not bothered by us homeschoolers. Clearly there were not articles being published about homeschooling gangs roaming the streets terrorizing the well-behaved public school children. There were no exposes about the shocking number of homeschoolers ending up in prison. Aside from the obligatory article every autumn about homeschooling, we just don't do anything to warrant much attention. Taking care of children, making sure they learn things, and living together as a family just doesn't make very interesting news.
But yet the senator was troubled. Troubled that somewhere someone was doing something they shouldn't. Did he have a specific example? No. Did he have any statistics to show that homeschooling was educationally inferior to public schooling? No. But he seems to believe that the citizens of IL are incapable of doing what is right and good without the government telling us how and when and what. In triplicate.
Now if you get the idea that I find this senator to be a governmental bully who has nothing better to do than appease the teacher's union which is the single biggest doner to his campaign and who brings bills against homeschoolers who weren't doing anything wrong, you'd be right. And I am a soft-spoken representative. Trust me.
Homeschoolers are an educated bunch, especially when it comes to governmental processes. We have to be. This is not the first attack on our homeschooling freedoms and it is only through effort and vigilance that we enjoy those freedoms. Today, over 4000 homeschoolers, remarkably well-behaved to boot according to one observer, descended upon Springfield to attend the education committee hearing. (I wish I had been one of them, but driving four hours one way to attend a hearing with two toddlers did not seem wise.) We (and many others) virtually attended the hearing by compulsively reading Twitter reports and refreshing facebook pages. The only frustrating thing about the immediacy was having no way to respond, short of forwarding information on to the next person. It's a shame the committee wasn't able to hear some of my very well thought out comments in response to some of the more egregious statements.
The short answer is we don't know yet. I've heard differing reports from 'It's too contentious, the committee meeting was a sham so the senator could save face' to 'The bill is not withdrawn, and there is talk of testing and curriculum approval being added to it.' We'll have to wait and see which way the pendulum is going to swing. And I may get to make the trek down to Springfield with my crew in tow yet.
Why you should you care.
I know that I have a lot of readers who do not homeschool. I know I have even more readers who do not live in Illinois. So what does our little brouhaha have to do with you? Well, it is an example of how government likes to ooze into private lives. It is a question of learned incompetance. Here's the scenario: People in government have purpose if they can regulate things so they look for things to regulate. Often that piece of regulation involves something that the public was doing quite well by themselves. Not everyone, not 100% all the time, but for the most part it was working. Then the government steps-in. Suddently something that people did themselves without thinking becomes a big deal. You need forms, approvals, experts, and a whole host of support services and the general public forgets this was something they used to do all their own without any help. The government has successfully created the stupid public that they imagined in the first place.
You need to care because while homeschooling laws and regulations might not affect you today, you never know where the tentacles of government will squirm next... it might be something you do care about. It is why the founding fathers created the system of checks and balances in the first place. They knew that the very nature of government makes it greedy and it needs to be checked at every turn to stop it from growing. Do not become the stupid citizens that the host of government regulations implies you are. Take a stand for intelligence and small government and unlearn the incompitance thrust upon you.