Wednesday afternoon I was asked to do a TV interview with a national news program about homeschooling freedom in Oklahoma, where we live and where I was homeschooled as a child. Currently, families are free to homeschool without any regulation from the government: In fact, Oklahoma is the only state with a constitutional provision guaranteeing the right to homeschool. So after some discussion with my husband, in which he reassured me I could do a good job, I accepted. I prayed about it, and I did a little preparation for what I thought the questions might be.
The next morning, they arrived. I discovered I was not prepared for the type of questions they threw at me. I also rediscovered that I am not very good at articulating my thoughts while under fire. The reporter definitely had a bias, and it wasn’t pro homeschooling or pro parental freedom.
We also realized later that she used the dialectic process on me (something I’m very familiar with due to my father’s work for Institute for Authority Research), and while I somewhat saw it coming, I wasn’t able to redirect. A question was posed in such a way that either I relented my stance that homeschooling should continue to be totally unregulated and under the parent’s responsibility in Oklahoma, or I had to admit that I didn’t “care” about all those kids who weren’t getting a proper education because their parents used the excuse of homeschooling to be irresponsible, which can’t be monitored because of the current laws.
I stuck to my stance that the government shouldn’t be involved: Parents are accountable to God for their children’s upbringing, not to the government. So with intentional editing, I’m afraid I may come off looking like a woman who doesn’t care about the needs of children in families who aren’t homeschooling diligently.
One question that was asked quite aggressively was how it would “hurt me” in particular if there was some regulation put in place: The old “if you are legit why do you care if we search” kind of question. Once again, I stuck to my stance that the government had no right to hold me accountable, and it should be the other way around. It’s ridiculous to ask parents to be held accountable to a government school system that is failing — even in Oklahoma. (See related news article, “Significant amount of Oklahoma schools receive D’s and F’s on state report cards,” for a report on current public school ratings in the state.)
Later I thought about a way I could have turned that question around and put it in their home court. Here’s what I wish I had said: In the same way that I fight for my rights as a parent to raise my children free of government intervention, members of the media fight for their right to free speech. In fact, in many instances, we are standing on the same first amendment, with freedom of religion, freedom of speech and a free press. When people try to put regulations on the media, they fight tooth and nail against even the smallest infringements.
Are there abuses within the media? For sure. I, for one, think it is grotesque to display Miley Cyrus twerking with Robin Thicke in national media coverage, so I don’t choose to watch. But I still defend the media’s right to free speech. They have the right to say and print what they want (if it isn’t libel or slander) — and I have the right to choose not to listen, read or watch what the media produces if I don’t like it.
In the same way, I, as a parent, have the right to train up my children in the way I believe is right, including homeschooling. If someone else doesn’t like it, they have the choice not to homeschool — and they don’t even have to watch me homeschool.
Are there abuses with this freedom? Yes. Anytime you give people freedom, there will be abuses — but taking freedom away isn’t the answer. Here, I will insert this quote from The Citizen’s Rule Book, as Charles Olsen says it so much better than I can:
“Politicians, bureaucrats and especially judges would have you believe that too much freedom will result in chaos. Therefore, we should gladly give up some of our rights for the good of the community. In other words, people acting in the name of government, say we need more laws even if we have to give up some rights in the process. They believe the more laws we have, the more control, thus a better society… The hard fact is that whenever you give up a right, you lose a free choice.
We could chain everybody to a tree, for lack of trust. This may prevent a crime, but it would destroy privacy, which is the heartbeat of freedom! It would also destroy trust which is the foundation for dignity.”
Sure wish I had this quote Thursday morning when I needed it.
So whether they edit the program to show me as an uncaring woman or not, I learned a lot from this experience. At first, I thought maybe it was wrong of me to put myself out there when I wasn’t fully prepared to defend the homeschool community as well as I had hoped.
However, thanks to some friendly support, I realize that this was an important step for me to take: To publicize and vocalize what I believe. As a second-generation homeschooler, it is time I took a more public stand and fought for the rights of parents. It has also helped me realize I need to be better prepared to defend and articulate my faith without backing down or worrying about how people perceive me.
POST UPDATE: The reporter who set up the interview with me has read my post and shared his response with me via email. With his permission, here is his email response:
“Thanks for sharing your blog. I’m sorry you felt “under fire” but disagree that you were not prepared. You spoke from the heart about strong convictions and — again — I thought you did an outstanding job. As for your perception that we were biased, our job is to play devil’s advocate with everyone we interview. It may not be fun to be on the receiving end of this questioning, but I honestly think it’s the best way to find out where people stand on whatever issue we’re exploring. And I really appreciate you stepping up and talking to us. We’re still hoping the HSLDA will share your courage so we can talk to them as well — but we have yet to hear from them (despite repeated phone calls)! Cheers, David.”
We appreciate David’s response and do hope to see a fair representation of this issue when the final news package airs!
POST UPDATE: The final TV news story on homeschool regulations appeared on Tuesday, January 21, 2014 and is summarized online. At this time, no video link is available.
What would you have done if a reporter called you for an interview about homeschooling? Have you ever been in a situation where you had to defend your homeschooling rights? What state regulations do you face, and have you dealt with challenges as a result? Would you consider the homeschooling rights of a state if you were considering a move?