To understand Christian homeschooling today, you must understand the work of R. J. Rushdoony. You need to understand two things. First, he saw education as a war of the worldviews. Second, he utterly rejected the underlying concept behind the so-called classical Christian curriculum: religious syncretism. The second position was an extension of the first.
What is syncretism? This dictionary definition is accurate: “The amalgamation or attempted amalgamation of different religions, cultures, or schools of thought.”
From the 1960’s through the 1990’s, the homeschool movement in the United States faced an escalating battle with state governments. The movement was overwhelmingly made up of Protestant fundamentalists who had decided that they could no longer cooperate with the educational philosophy and programs of the tax-funded schools, K-12. State by state, regulation by regulation, these were the front lines of the war of the worldviews. The states did not want students to escape from state control over the state’s curricula and teaching philosophies. Also, because state funding of local districts depends on enrollment, every child pulled out of the schools cuts the income of the school district.
Throughout this period, Rushdoony was the premier spokesman for the religious rights of parents in this war against humanistic state education. This culminated in 1994 with a Texas Supreme Court decision, in which the school districts in Texas were dealt a massive blow against their control over homeschooling parents. The educational bureaucrats never recovered.
THE BATTLEGROUND IN TEXAS, 1985-1994
The states varied in their threats against homeschooling families. In Texas, the showdown came in a court case: Leeper v. Arlington. A Google search reveals hundreds of articles on this case. A total of 80 families in the state were prosecuted by school districts for criminal violations of a 1985 compulsory attendance law. In 1985, attorney Shelby Sharpe filed a class action suit against all 1,100 school districts. The result came after nine years of litigation. The initial decision came in 1987.
The Tarrant County District Court ruled that home schools are indeed private schools. On April 13, 1987, presiding Judge Charles J. Murray issued a decision (binding on all 1,100 school districts) which was a complete vindication of the rights of parents to educate their children at home in the State of Texas.
The state appealed. In 1991, an appeals court upheld the local judge’s decision. The state appealed. In 1994, the Texas Supreme Court voted 9 to 0 in favor of the parents. At that point, the state was definitively beaten. The districts were fined several hundred thousand dollars. That threw the fear of the state into them. That ended the school districts’ authority or willingness to interfere with parental rights in education.
In 2013, the Texas Commissioner of Education reminded the school districts and parents of state policy.
The issues surrounding students schooled at home continue to be of significant interest to parents and school districts. Because of the number of inquiries the Texas Education Agency (TEA) receives regarding this matter, I am providing some general information with respect to the Agency’s position on home schooled students.The decision rendered in Leeper et al. vs. Arlington ISD et al. clearly establishes that students who are home schooled are exempt from the compulsory attendance requirement to the same extent as students enrolled in private schools. Students should be disenrolled by school officials when they receive written notice either by signing withdrawal forms or a letter of withdrawal. It is not necessary for the parents to make a personal appearance with school officials or present curriculum for review.
That decision sent a memo to school districts across the United States. They began to back off after 1994.
The key witness in the Leeper case was Rushdoony. He was brought in by attorney Sharpe because he was the most recognized defender in the United States of Christian education. After the victory, Sharpe said this: “His testimony was way beyond anything I’d hoped for. It was one of the few times in my career that I ever saw a witness destroy the attorney who was trying to examine him.” Rushdoony’s complete testimony is here.
RUSHDOONY ON EDUCATION
To understand Rushdoony’s position on the right of parents to educate their children, you must understand his position on education in general. He saw it as a matter of religion. He saw parents as agents of God. He saw state education as humanistic and deeply religious. He presented his case in the name of religious liberty. He saw Christian education as inherently at war with the supposed neutrality of state education. State education is part of a rival religion, he argued: the religion of humanism.
(For the rest of my article, click the link.)