Partisans of "school choice" were cheered
recently by reports of success from an unexpected place: Sweden. The inaugural issue of
School Choice: Issues in Thought,
published by the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, celebrates the results
of that Scandinavian land’s 1992 education reform. The measure requires municipalities to fund independent schools
on terms equal to existing state schools.
It also allows parents to choose which school their children will
attend. To qualify for funding,
independent schools have to be approved by a National Agency for Education,
meet educational standards and targets set by the state system, and be open to
all children regardless of their ability, religion, or ethnic origin. These independent schools cannot charge extra tuition. Nonetheless, by 2002, the number of such
institutions had grown from 122 to 637.
Four percent of primary school children and 5.6 percent of secondary
school pupils nationwide were now in independent schools, up from about one
percent in the pre-reform period. The
innovation proved to be popular with teachers and apparently had no measurable
negative effects on the state schools.
All the same, there are some curiosities about the
Swedish results. To begin with,
so-called “confessional” schools played only “a minor part” in the reform,
although they were fully eligible to participate. Some Muslim schools appeared among immigrant communities; but the
number of Christian schools--already small--did not grow at all. Instead, most of the new independent schools
were created by for-profit corporations and offered special curricula such as
Montessori and Steiner-Waldorf. In
turn, these new schools tended to be located in the more affluent parts of the
larger Swedish cities.
Moreover, although the
reform began in 1992 at the initiative of a center-right coalition government,
it also won the support of the leadership of the leftist Social Democratic
Labor Party, which returned to its traditional political dominance in
1994. Since 1971, these Social
Democrats have pursued a consistent policy aimed at dismantling the
family. The Party has intentionally
eliminated the legal, economic and cultural bases for marriage. It has largely dismantled parental authority
and encouraged children’s rights. The
Party's sexual policies favor early experimentation, universal contraception, homosexual
rights, and cohabitation. School choice, it appears, has at least not
proven incompatible with this larger social agenda.
Accordingly, the Swedish example usefully clarifies
some issues regarding educational reform.
Because of the exercise of a limited consumer choice, the encouragement
to a kind of state-funded entrepreneurship, and the lack of any guiding moral
vision, the 21st Century Libertarian can celebrate this experiment
in “school choice.” Because the results
pose no threat to Sweden’s intentionally post-family social-political order and
may actually divert energy from more important issues, the modern Socialist can
embrace “school choice” as well. It
appears that only the Social Conservative, normally an advocate for parental
authority, is left to ask several nagging questions: Is shared moral purpose truly no longer possible? Do not the local community and the inherited
culture also have claims on the child?
Are not the family virtues the starting place for real learning? And: Might there still be ways to reconcile parental autonomy with
THE GRIM ROOTS OF "COMMON SCHOOLS"
I hasten to note that these family- and
community-centered questions need not require “the public schools as we know
them” as answers. Indeed, the record of
American state education regarding the status and role of the family is fairly
dismal, with one remarkable time period as exception.
From the very beginning, public school advocates
aimed – as they had to – at undermining and displacing the family as the center
of children’s lives. The most important
claim for public education was that only a compulsory system of this sort could
unify a scattered and diverse people: the parochial ideas of families obviously
stood in the way. Benjamin Rush,
perhaps the most radical of the signers of the Declaration of Independence,
urged a politically-charged vision of learning that began by demoting the
Our country includes family, friends, and property,
and [the state] should be preferred to them all. Let our pupil be taught to love his family, but let him be taught
at the same time that he must forsake and even forget them when the welfare of
his country requires it.
Horace Mann of
Massachusetts, the acknowledged "father" of the Common Schools in the
mid-19th Century, held similar attitudes. Citing the “neglect,” ignorance, and inefficiencies of families
in his state, he underscored the special brutality of what he labeled “monster
families,” deemed totally unworthy of their children. Indeed, Mann linked the “common school” system to a vision of the
later welfare state, where government simply assumed the role of parent. As he wrote
in his school report for 1846: “Massachusetts is parental in her government.
More and more, as year after year rolls by, she seeks to substitute
prevention for remedy, and rewards for penalties.”
School Journal, founded by Mann and colleagues in 1838, featured the
deconstruction of family life as one of its regular themes. Passages included:
the public schools succeed
because “parents, although the most sunken in depravity themselves, welcome the
proposals and receive with gratitude the services of …moral philanthropy in
behalf of their families”;
“[T]hese are …illustrations
of the folly of a parent, who interferes with and perplexes a teacher while
instructing or training his child”.
“the little interests or
conveniences of the family” must be subordinate to “the paramount subject” of
“there are many worthless
spread with public education across the country over the middle decades of the
19th Century. John Swett, an
early superintendent of the California state schools, was blunt in his opinion
that the state must supplant the family.
In his 1864 Report to the state legislature, Swett explained that “the
child should be taught to consider his instructor … superior to the parent in
point of authority.…The vulgar impression that parents have a legal right to
dictate to teachers is entirely erroneous.…Parents have no remedy as against
F.W. Parker, the
so-called “father of progressive education” and inspiration for John Dewey,
told the 1895 convention of the National Education Association (NEA) that “The
child is not in school for knowledge.
He is there to live, and to put his life, nurtured in the school, into
the community.” The family home and religious
faith simply must give way to a grander vision. As Parker concluded: “Every school in the land should be a
home and heaven for children.”
SCHOOLS AND FAMILY DECAY
In fact, there
is direct evidence of a strong linkage between the spread of mass state education and the
decline of the family. It comes from the field of demography and
uses fertility as a measure of family commitment..
Caldwell’s Theory of Fertility Decline appeared in 1982,
and represents a provocative attempt to apply anthropological research,
primarily in Africa and Australia, across the board. Caldwell notes, as others have before, that fertility declines
only when there is a change in economic relations within the family. In agrarian societies, for example, children
are economic assets and fertility is high while in industrial societies the
economic value of the young turns negative and fertility declines.
But in an
important turn of the argument, Caldwell emphasizes that it is not the rise of
cities or industry, per se, that causes this change in family relations. Rather, he shows that it is
the prior introduction of new ideas
through mass state education that
stimulates the critical shift in the parent-child relation. He argues that state-mandated schooling
serves as the driving force behind the turn in preference from a large to a
small family and the re-engineering of the family into an entity limited in its
the United States gives strong support to Caldwell’s emphasis on mass state
schooling as a major explanation of family decline. The steady fall in American fertility between 1850 and 1900 has
long puzzled demographers, for throughout this era the U.S. remained
predominantly rural and absorbed a steady flow of young immigrants, circumstances
normally associated with large families.
speculated, though, that the leadership role of the United States in
introducing a mass state education system might explain the change. And indeed, U.S. data from 1871 to 1900 show
a remarkably strong negative relationship
between the fertility of women and an index of public school growth developed
by L.P. Ayres in 1920. Fertility
decline was particularly related to the average number of days that children
attended public school in a given year.
Even among rural farming families, where children still held economic value,
the negative influence of public schooling on fertility was clear. Each additional month that rural children
spent in school decreased family size in that district by .23 children. Indeed, we see here how state education
quite literally “consumed” children, and weakened families.
Norman Ryder of
Princeton University agrees that mass state education disrupts family
integrity. He writes approvingly in The
Population Bulletin of the United Nations: “Education of the junior
generation is a subversive influence. Boys
who go to school distinguish between what they learn there and what their
father can teach them….The reinforcement of the [family] control structure is
undermined when the young are trained outside the family for specialized roles
in which the father has no competence.” The broader contest is between the home and
the centralizing state for the allegiance of the child. As Ryder puts it: “Political organizations,
like economic organizations, demand loyalty and attempt to neutralize family
particularism. There is a struggle
between the family and the State for the minds of the young.” In this struggle,
the state school serves as “the chief instrument for teaching [a new]
citizenship, in a direct appeal to the children over the heads of their
parents.” The school also serves as the
medium for communicating “state morality” and a state mythology designed to
displace those of families.
underscores the vital importance of specific functions to family institutional
strength. For example, when families
educate their own children, serve as the focus of religious life, and raise the
largest share of their own food, the persons in these families are more likely
to fix their first loyalties on the home.
When these functions pass over to rival institutions, families lose these
claims and diminish as institutions.
Using solid empirical evidence, then, we actually can indict public education as a
direct cause of family decline.
THE FIRST PRO-FAMILY
The exception to
this record came in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. American family life did show at that time
many signs of increasing disorder.
Between 1890 and 1920, the number of divorced Americans rose
three-fold. Meanwhile, the U.S.
birthrate fell by about a third.
Alongside the already examined effects of public education on these
numbers, there were other new idea systems leveling attacks on the natural
family: equity feminism which labeled the mother-at-home as “a parasite on
society;” neo-Malthusianism, which linked poverty to fertility, condemned large
families, and urged the universal adoption of birth control; and cultural
relativism, which held that it was impossible to find common cultural values or
a shared “way of life” in the teeming diversity of immigrant America.
these challenges, there rose what we might call America’s first conscious
pro-family movement. Prominent figures
were actually in its ranks, notably President Theodore Roosevelt. He called “easy divorce… a bane to
any nation, a curse to society, a menace to the home, [and] an incitement
to married unhappiness, and to immorality.”
He argued that no nation could “exist at all” unless its average woman was “the
home-keeper, the good wife, and unless she is the mother of a sufficient number
of healthy children” to keep the nation “going forward.”
advocate of that era, Frances Kellor, served as director of Americanization
Work for The Federal Bureau of Education.
She concluded that the key to turning immigrants into Americans lay
within the home. All women, native born
and immigrant alike, had a common identity as nurturers and “a common gift for
caring.” She argued: "If we start
with the family and work upward, we get a sound city that will stand the strain
of any crisis because its weakest links are strong….Approached from the
neighborhood and family and met squarely, the problem of Americanization can be
solved adequately.” National unity, Kellor implied, could be
built on “one motherhood from diversely situated women,” with training in
homemaking being the “fulcrum” of Americanization.
Liberty Hyde Bailey, the famed Dean of the College of Agriculture at Cornell
University, argued that family renewal required the revitalization of rural
life. Remember that at this time
Americans still saw themselves as a farming people. Dean Bailey argued that, given the low urban birthrates, “the
farm home assumes a most important relation to civilization,” furnishing new
life for both countryside and city.
“The farm home also carries an obligation to maintain the quality of the
population. It is a preservator of
morals." And yet, Bailey
continued, “while the home is the center or pivot of our civilization, it is
the last thing to be taught in schools.” Looking to the cities, the prominent labor
activist Florence Kelley agreed: “The schools may truthfully be said actively
to divert the little girls from homelife…[offering] wretched preparation for
home making.” Through his position as Chairman of
President Roosevelt’s National Commission on Country-Life, Bailey resolved that
"the home-making phase of country-life is as important as the
field-farming phase” and that the teaching of “home-economics” or “home making”
–“the whole round of woman’s work and place” – was essential to rebuilding American
families and civilization.
Federal policy actions followed. The
Smith-Lever Act of 1914 created the Extension program of the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, charged with teaching modern farming techniques to men and boys
and homemaking and housekeeping to women and girls. The Smith-Hughes Act came three years later. Representing the first Federal program
providing direct aid to elementary and secondary schools, Smith-Hughes
granted money for teacher training and salaries in the fields of agriculture, the
industrial arts, and homemaking.
innovations fell onto receptive soil.
Despite the centralizing dreams of Horace Mann and his successors, the
public schools still showed, circa 1920, a great diversity and a residual,
locally grounded social conservatism that welcomed efforts to strengthen
families. Indeed, as late as 1932,
there were still 127,531 independent school districts in the U.S.; many of them
operating but a single school. The
great push for school consolidation was still to come. And, of course, the new federal money for teachers
was welcomed, too, with little appreciation for the unhealthy precedent being
model for family renewal embodied in these federal measures was the
breadwinning husband and father operating a small farm or shop or earning a
“family wage” in the city and married to a full-time, “home-making” wife and
mother. As Alba Bales of North Dakota
State University explained in 1923: “[Young women] must have the training and
assurance which will help them see that the house is built right for her as a
housekeeper and household manager.” Efficiency and informed consumption in homemaking
would be stressed. Yet the true spirit
of this Federal experiment in family renewal was best captured by two songs
found in the Extension Service's 4-H Songbook of 1928. For boys, “The Plowing Song”:
A growing day in a waking field
And a furrow straight and long
A golden sun and a lifting breeze,
And we follow with a song.
Sons of the soil are we,
Lads of the field and flock.
Turning our sods, asking no odds;
Where is a life so free?
Sons of the soil are we,
Men of the coming years;
Facing the dawn, brain ruling brawn.
Lords of our lands we’ll be!
And for the girls, the song “Dreaming” (here, the
My home must have its mother,
May I grow sweet and wise;
My home must have its father,
With honor in his eyes;
My home must have its children,
God grant the parents grace –
To keep our home through all the years,
A kindly, happy place.
Again, this was federally-engineered
education, circa 1928, a far-cry, say, from the sexually egalitarian spirit of
today’s Title IX. Indeed, it almost seems to rise out of an alternate
moral universe. But this
family-building experiment worked, at least for a time. Small-scale family agriculture was not
saved, but the ethos of homemaking survived, with a strong influence on the
generation coming of age in the 1940’s.
With Federal backing, there was a vast increase in the number of home
economics teachers. Homemaking classes for
the girls in food preparation, sewing, and home management grew ubiquitous, in
rural and city districts alike. In
1945, the Future Homemakers of America (FHA) organized and this high-school
club soon claimed over 600,000 members.
Home Economics joined Elementary Education as the most popular major for
young women in college. And there were
surely results; the marriage boom of the 1940’s and 1950’s, the better known
Baby Boom, and the new domesticity of the Suburban Boom all reflected – and at
some level may have been stimulated by--this home-building educational work,
actively encouraged by Uncle Sam.
But the renewed American
family did not last. While many factors
were involved in this failure, one certainly was the political and intellectual
collapse of the home economics discipline and of the “homemaker/breadwinner”
family model that it sustained.
Amendments in 1963--a critical year in so many ways!--to the old
Smith-Hughes Act reduced funding for homemaking and family-life
education and required, for the first time, that home ec
teachers also train their students for gainful employment outside the
home. Indeed, the spread of feminist
ideology soon shook home economics to its core, a shock reflected in the very
name of the discipline. By 1970, five
new labels for the relevant school department were in use; by 1990, over
seventy-five. These new names included
"human ecology,” “human development” “consumer sciences,” “contemporary
living,” and “life studies.” The only
word that never appeared among these innovations was “home,” a concept now
fraught with embarrassment. Congress mercifully killed the Smith-Hughes
Act in 1997, its animating spirit long since gone.
Perhaps there were internal
weakneses to "home economics" doctrine, as well. By bringing the logic of industry, of
consumerism, and of the quest for efficiency into the family circle, perhaps
home economists set in motion processes that eventually undid their own work.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: BACK TO THE
Public education, in any
case, eagerly and easily returned to its more natural stance athwart the
family. Title IX of The Education
Amendments of 1972 prohibited discrimination on the basis of sex in all
programs receiving federal funds, driving a final nail in the coffin of the
sexual division of labor that had undergirded the renewed American family. School consolidation speeded up: there were
only 17,995 school districts left by 1990, a decline of 85 percent since
1932. This loss of local control was
complemented by a centralization of power in groups such as the National
Education Association, institutions with a special animus toward the family
model so recently celebrated. By the
early 1980's, the NEA vigorously attacked "materials that promote sex
stereotypes" such as non-employed mothers and breadwinning fathers and
affirmed the right of school children "to live in an environment of freely
available information, knowledge, and wisdom about sexuality." Once again, "multiculturalism"
must serve as the vehicle for national unity. More recent resolutions condemn
"homophobia," celebrate "reproductive freedom" and
"family planning" in the schools, welcome "diverse sexual
orientation," and urge the positive portrayal "of the roles and
contributions of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people throughout history." Prominent educators again speak openly and
contemptuously about the "racial, religious, ethnic, sexist, and economic
stereotyping" that parents presumably give to their children. The founding spirit of Horace Mann and
Common School Journal hath returned and while it is probably flustered
by all the sex talk, this spirit must heartily approve of the fresh verbal flagellations
given to parents.
But is not "school
choice," via tax credits, vouchers, and charter schools, the logical
response? As a step in challenging the
existing centralized monopoly, "school choice" initiatives could have
a positive effect. But, particularly
for people of religious faith, there are haunting voices posing those deeper
questions touching on educational purpose, the claims of culture and community,
and the values which must bind a people together. The Kentucky poet, novelist, and essayist Wendell Berry points to
the strange values of modern education:
According to the new norm, the child's destiny is
not to succeed the parents, but to outmode them….The schools are no longer
oriented to a cultural inheritance that it is their duty to pass on unimpaired,
but to the career, which is to say the future of the child….He or she is
educated to leave home and earn money in a provisional future that has nothing
to do with place or community….It is no wonder that, under these circumstances,
'educators' tend to look upon parents as bad influences and wish to take the
children away from home as soon as possible.
And many parents, in truth, are now finding their children an
encumbrance at home, where there is no useful work for them to do, and are glad
enough to turn them over to the state for the use of the future.
These are the symptoms of a
pervasive homelessness, one vastly broader in scope than the
"homeless problem" normally discussed in the media and one deserving
our close attention. The Christian
scholars Steven Bouma-Prediger and Brian Walsh emphasize that true education
"must engender an ethos of intimacy and affection," one rooted in a
geographically defined community such as village or neighborhood, where
"for the sake of Christian discipleship, we must secede from the empire
that has rendered us homeless." Social analyst Bryce Christensen describes home
as "a place sanctified by the abiding ties of wedlock, parenthood, and
family obligation; a place demanding sacrifice and devotion but promising
loving care and warm acceptance," a place anchored in turn in a specific geographic
locale. And nature educator Wes Jackson asks whether
schools ought now be offering a new major in "homecoming."
the strict mechanics of "school choice," what might contemporary
education for "home building" and "homecoming" look like?
The first principle is that
all true and lasting efforts must flow from the primal or natural social units:
families; villages; neighborhoods; faith communities. An effective long term "education in homecoming" cannot
be imposed from the top, down. This was
the mistake of the Smith-Hughes Act.
Federally-directed mass education in "industrialized
breadwinning" for the boys and "commercialized homemaking" for
the girls showed impressive results for a generation; but then crumbled swiftly
from internal deficiencies and external ideological challenges. True "education in homecoming"
will instead flow upward from the familial and spiritual foundations of the
unity" will not be won by the imposition from above of a new cultural
ideology of either "multiculturalism" or some reminted version of Anglo-Saxon
"Americanism." For the whole
of the last century, the effective unifying metaphors of "the American Way
of life" have come instead from the discovery of common affection for
marriage, family, and place: affections that transcend religious and ethnic
divisions; and affections that also grow from the family home as the cell of
Allow me to illustrate this big
idea with a little story. Several years
ago, I participated in a debate over children's issues on Wisconsin Public
Radio, and at one point noted something positive about homeschooling. Another panelist, a professor of Social Work
at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, responded sternly. Given all the new immigrants coming to
America, she said, only the public schools could craft a necessary
degree of public unity. "It was
the values found in the McGuffey Readers that unified this
nation," she concluded. With the gleam
of the successful trapper in my eye, I responded: "If you can show me one
public schoolroom in this state where the McGuffey Readers are used today, I
will concede your point. But I know
that you cannot. For you see, the state
of Wisconsin's education regulations specifically ban the McGuffey
Readers from use, because of their moralistic content. However, I could show you dozens, even
hundreds, of homeschool classrooms in Wisconsin where McGuffey is alive, well,
and in use." Unlike the state
schools, you see, these homes were--and are--still building respect for a
unifying public morality.
Indeed, the most obvious
path toward education as homecoming lies in these home schools. Here we find families engaged in a
fundamental revolution, recovering a vital family function lost
to the aggressive state a century-and-a-half earlier. With over two-million children now involved, homeschool families
are reinventing American education.
The direct effects are becoming well known, and are broadly
impressive. In grades one through four,
according to a University of Maryland study, median test scores for
homeschooled children are a full grade above those of public and private
school students. By grade eight, the
median scores of homeschoolers are almost four grade equivalents above
those of their peers in public and private schools. The domination of national spelling
and geography bees by homeschoolers in recent years testifies as well to the
ability of family-centered education to motivate extraordinary individual
Relative to homecoming,
though, the more important traits of homeschooling may be the social and
familial. Simply put, home education
empowers "homemaking" families.
According to one recent survey, over 97 percent of homeschool
students had parents who were married, compared to a 72 percent figure nationwide. Sixty-two percent of homeschooling
families had three-or-more children, compared to a mere 20 percent of the
nationwide sample. A full third
(33.5 percent) of homeschooled families actually had four-or-more children,
over against six percent nationwide.
Meanwhile, 77 percent of homeschooling mothers did not work for
pay, compared to only 30 percent nationwide.
And of the 23 percent of homeschooling mothers who did work, the vast
majority (86.3 percent) did so only part-time.
These are clearly home-building women and child rich families.
How might public policy
encourage home education? Home
schooling is now legal, with varying degrees of regulation, in all fifty
states. The model statute may be
Alaska's, where the state's Compulsory Education Law simply and fully exempts from
coverage any child who "is being educated in the child's home by a parent
or legal guardian." This freedom precludes registration,
reporting, or curricular requirements.
In Illinois, homeschoolers can claim an Education Tax Credit of 20
percent on educational expenses, up to $250 per student. Reflecting the same principle, tax-free
Federal education savings accounts and proposed education tax credits should be
made larger still and available for all learning expenses, not just tuition.
Private and religious
schools can also be centers for education as homecoming. The key here is deep parental involvement in
the operation of the schools. The best
ones are those built on a clear--and usually religious--moral vision and on the
work, sacrifice, and treasure of parents and students. While acknowledging the potential of
universal state vouchers to advance "school choice," I am still wary
of them for two reasons. First, the
potential for regulatory intrusion by state authorities here is real. Relative to the goal of
"homecoming," this could take the form of anti-family gender-role
engineering (perhaps under the broad spirit of Title IX) that would undermine
Second, the availability of vouchers would lessen
spirit of family sacrifice and the personal parental involvement which animate
the best independent schools.
Instead, I would urge the
steady expansion of general child-sensitive tax measures, such as the personal
exemption and the child tax credit on the federal income tax. As a minimum, the child exemption and the
child tax credit should each be doubled; for real tax equity, they should then
be doubled again. To give
"choice" to families with relatively little income and tax liability,
the expanded child tax credit could be made fully refundable.
In addition, a
strong case can be made for treating all educational expenses as tax
deductible. Investments in physical
capital by businesses currently enjoy favored treatment under tax policy:
deductibility in some cases; generous depreciation tables in others. As an investment in human capital,
educational costs should logically enjoy similar treatment: full
This focus on
tax benefits would prevent regulatory intrusion and spare independent schools
from the loss of their peculiar and
--I believe--necessary energy.
What then about the public
schools, which still embrace the great majority of American children? Here, I craft a still greater dream and
return to a recommendation I first made twenty years ago: We should move
toward a "radical deconsolidation of the public system, down
even to the single-school level," which would weaken "bureaucratic
and union strangleholds on the schools and so return them to [real] community
control, where parental and neighborhood moral judgements could again play a
role." This goal or process would rest on the
finding, phrased in Bill Kauffman's words, that "every promise of the consolidationists
is, at best, an exaggeration, at worst, a lie." Not efficiency, nor improved outcomes,
nor greater social equity have been gained.
Moving beyond "charter schools," this deconsolidationist approach
would come full circle and reground tax-supported schools in their places,
their neighborhoods. Each school would
have its own elected governing board, and its own tax levy. Where the economic circumstances of a school
district were inadequate, a state education board could make a supplemental
grant out of general revenues. High
school districts could draw students from several independent primary
The use of
busing and magnet schools to prevent or reverse racial segregation would admittedly
come to an end under this approach. However,
recent reports from the Civil Rights Project of Harvard University have found
American schools more segregated in 2002 than they were thirty years
earlier when court-ordered busing first came into its own. Hundreds of billions of
dollars have been squandered in this campaign. It is time to end this wasteful,
fruitless, and degrading exercise in social engineering and turn instead to
building viable neighborhoods resting on good local schools.
Most importantly, these
neighborhood, village, or township schools would be "open." Like a community college, they would offer
their learning and extracurricular opportunities to all students in the
district, but would compel none.
Some families might choose a complete school day; others just a science
or math class; still others, only choir or the soccer team. The local school would have a strong
incentive to serve the neighborhood and its inhabitants, rather than to
force them along a one-curriculum-fits-all path. Once again, school boards could be expected to reflect and
respect neighborhood values and sensibilities.
The school should become the focus and pride of the neighborhood,
village, or township, so helping to unite all people--public schoolers, private
schoolers, home schoolers, and the childless alike-- with their special place
on earth. For those relatively rare
cases of complete parental abdication of educational responsibility,
"child neglect" laws would come into play. In all these ways, parental autonomy would finally be reconciled
with the claims of local culture and community. And by building on strengthened families and neighborhoods, we
would be crafting the greater strength of the nation.
These are, I believe, the
ways of achieving a true homecoming for America's schools, families, and