bastiat1Frederic Bastiat wrote “The Law” in 1850 soon after the French Revolution of February 1848 when France was rapidly turning to complete socialism.  (Oh that our schools would make this required reading.) Bastiat focuses on what he calls Legal Plunder which is “the law tak[ing] from some persons what belongs to them, and giv[ing] it to other persons to whom it does not belong.”  He saw socialism as a means to legalize plunder, an “attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.” What are some examples of legal plunder? “Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation, public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labor, free credit and so on.” How many of these forms of legalized plunder do we already have in the United States? The danger of this legalization is that “the law places the whole apparatus of judges, police, prisons and gendarmes at the service of the plunderes and treats the victim, when he defends himself, as the criminal.” This truth is no less true today than it was almost 170 years ago when Bastiat wrote about it and no less relevant.

Secretary of Education John King spoke at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast this week and made this ominous (masquerading as innocuous) statement about homeschooling. He worries that

“students who are homeschooled are not getting kind of the rapid instructional experience they would get in school”—unless parents are ‘very intentional about it.’ ”

HSLDA is reasonably worried that his “comments are paving the way for more government oversight to make sure that parents are being intentional.”

The sheer absurdity of King’s statement should be obvious to everyone. If the comparison is to be made between public school and homeschool, the rapidity of response to an individual child’s needs can be infinitely faster for the home schooled child than the public schooled one. Most homeschooled children do not need 7 hours a day to master grade level material. Many perform several grades above the grade their chronological age would place them in. And what evidence does King have that public schools offer a rapid instructional experience or that such an experience is beneficial? None. Instead he implies that a minority of home school parents are actually up to the task. If they weren’t the minority why would he even bother mentioning it? And why is he worried about the minority of homeschool parents not up to the task when he has a much larger percentage of public school staff who aren’t intentional enough about their efforts?

King did acknowledge that he’s aware of homeschooling families “doing it incredibly well” and he knew of homeschooled students in college who had “very tremendous academic success.” This sounds like anecdotal evidence at best.  Too bad he is not aware of the data to back these casual observations up that is available at the National Home Education Research Institute.

  • The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. (The public school average is the 50th percentile; scores range from 1 to 99.) A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015).
  • Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
  • Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
  • Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.

Bastiat recognized public education as legalized plunder. It takes money from everyone to benefit some (not all families have children, not every family uses the public school system). The taking of this money is enforced by the legal system. It has been elevated to a moral obligation to support the public education system.

It is not a stretch to see King’s statement as a shot across the bow of his intention to extend the grab of government further than just the public school system and thus extend the system of plunder. The U.S. Department of Education does not seem concerned with whether or not they have the authority to make rules for homeschoolers and, in today’s environment they may not have to. The Secretary can simply make the existence of such rules an unwritten requirement in a state’s education plan. Or he can collude with other federal departments to put such requirements into a Dear Colleague letter that gathers homeschool families in its net.

sharkTaking from parents the right to educate their child as they see fit is a plunder of our freedom. Homeschool is not only an expression of that freedom but is also a lifeboat from the tyranny of the public school and King has just rocked it, like a shark bumping it to test its stability. We would all be well served to begin whacking at that shark to get it away from this lifeboat. Once our children are dumped in the water they are fair game for all the government agencies who would like to go after them. What might they dream up as necessary for all children: mandatory academic and social/emotion testing, medical and mental health screenings, time requirements? What limits, if any would be placed on the amount of public funding of such requirements? Bastiat warned, “If such a law – which may be an isolated case – is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply and develop into a system.”

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

Is this not the basis for the objections of many on the right to education reforms that come from the self appointed elite? King glorifies that ability of the public school system, and the state and federal rules placed upon it. If society joins him in that, it will soon become a moral obligation to impose that system on every child, whether they come to a brick and mortar public, virtual, private or home school. If a law placing requirements on homeschool parents to prove to the State’s satisfaction that they are providing a “proper” education should be proposed I know what Bastiat would say.

“Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source of further evils because it invites reprisals.”


Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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