In the homeschooling world it takes a lot to shock me. I cofounded the Coalition for Responsible Home Education almost 10 years ago after finding other homeschool alumni writing about their experiences and sharing horror stories. When we launched the research project Homeschooling’s Invisible Children it didn’t take long before my spidey senses would tingle whenever a news story about a young dead school-age child broke. White Supremacy and Christian Nationalism is rampant and mainstream in almost all prepackaged homeschooling curriculum, certainly among the predominant homeschooling groups as well. But I’ve never witnessed homeschooling families screaming the quiet part out loud quite like the proud Neo-Nazi Lawrence’s in Ohio.
Much of our work at CRHE is informing the public about the dangers of the lax homeschooling requirements across the US, so when stories like this pop up we are among the first to know and work with reporters to get the story right. Last year I worked with the team to develop a training on parental-rights extremism for anyone who would like to learn about what’s at stake, who’s behind all the Parents’ Bill of Rights legislation across the country, and how to stop ceding ground to that movement (our next training is Feb 14th at 1pm ET, email CRHE if you want to join).
Many people are correctly appalled that nothing is going to be done about the Lawrence’s or any of the 2500+ members of their nazi telegram group or selling their homeschool curriculum. No one will be sent to help the countless children being raised by people who want to eliminate anyone who isn’t a cishet white christian fascist from society. Some of those kids are inevitably queer and trans and experiencing incredible anguish they may not even have words to explain (ask me how I know).
The devastating truth is, with the current laws and political climate in the US, nothing can be done. Republicans and Homeschooling-abuse-protecting advocates are all using the same HSLDA talking points that come out with every tragedy: you can’t punish all homeschoolers for the actions of a few. The thing is, accountability and protections for homeschooled children are not punishments unless you’re an abusive homeschooling parent or their defenders.
While HSLDA will publicly condemn the existence of the Dissident Homeschool channel, they will not hesitate to defend its members “right” to indoctrinate their children in court. They will do so while saying public schools are where true indoctrination is happening, because HSLDA and groups like them are invested in ensuring that parental-rights extremism reigns supreme in the US and children have none.
Any move to regulate what parents can and cannot teach their children will immediately wind up in court as an infringement on their 1st and 14th amendment rights. Homeschooling’s lack of regulation and parental-rights extremism are founded on the arguments determined by SCOTUS that parents know what is best for their children and the state only steps in as a last resort. Unfortunately, we’ve also seen hate speech increase exponentially in the last several years with no legislation or recourse to prevent its spread, instead we’ve seen the exact opposite.
Parents are legally enabled to indoctrinate their children with hateful ideology and train them to fight in a future race war without running afoul of any US law. In fact, US law protects these parents views at the expense of their children’s wellbeing.
Children deserve a quality education, not indoctrination. Education includes exposure to various viewpoints and ideas, not warping all information to fit a single ideology.
It’s tempting to say “well then, the solution is obviously to ban homeschooling entirely” but that isn’t the solution to stopping the spread of fascist propaganda or eliminating child abuse. If we were to do that today, it would cause more harm than good. Many school districts and states are becoming actively hostile and dangerous to queer, trans, and otherwise marginalized students and their families, leaving them few educational alternatives. Sometimes homeschooling is what’s safest and best for a child when it’s done responsibly.
In Germany, article 5 of the Basic Law grants everyone the right to freedom of expression and to share their ideas. However, that right may not violate the other rights people have — to dignity. Hate speech, inciting violence, denying the holocaust and glorifying nazism all clash with a person’s right to dignity and are punishable by fines and jail time.
In practice, the US has unfettered free speech granted by the first amendment. There is no constitutional admendment that states human dignity is invioable. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness are allowed to clash with the human dignity of others. This is viewed as the American Dream. But free speech without boundaries becomes eliminationist speech very quickly, and that’s what we’re seeing. Without a huge change in how the US views freedom of speech — to an extent that it applies to all people, which means hate speech must not be tolerated in any form — we’re going to see fascist ideology with a “wholesome” christian veneer continue to rise.
This was the plan the whole time.