by Jim McCarthy
Compulsory K-12 education under state law is a fact often taken for granted since its enactment in 1908 in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1984, the state authorized homeschooling initiated by an earlier Supreme Court decision in 1972 (Wisconsin v Yoder), providing for a religious exemption from compulsory attendance in public schools.
At present, some 56,000 youth are homeschooled in Virginia. Enhanced empowerment of parents was a principal plank in Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s campaign for the statehouse and continues to be extolled even as he travels around the country in support of GOP candidates. The newly elected Speaker of the House of Delegates, Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock), enthusiastically proclaimed upon his elevation, “We’re all about empowering parents.”
Under current regulations, homeschooling is authorized where parents demonstrate the following:
1. Possession of a valid high school diploma (or a higher degree, such as can be obtained through a university), which must be submitted to the district’s superintendent (a GED does not fulfill this requirement); or,
2. A valid teacher’s certificate as approved by the state; or,
3. Provide a distance or correspondence curriculum approved by the Superintendent of Public Instruction; or,
4. Provide evidence that they, as the teaching parent, can meet the Virginia Standards of Learning objectives.
Perhaps, under the excitement of the leadership of Youngkin and Gilbert, a newly woke conservative effort is emerging designed further to shed or minimize state control in this area. Del. John McGuire (R-Louisa) introduced House Bill 1454 to eliminate the existing qualifications for homeschool proctors. Evidence of student academic progress remains a requisite at the end of the school year and may be based upon a standardized test on a nationally recognized examination, or an evaluation by a licensed educator, or a report from a distance-learning vendor.
This increased proscription of state participation in homeschooling may be seen to reflect the disenchantment of woke conservatives with the oft-criticized “education-industrial complex,” i.e., government bureaucracy. At the same time, limiting the influence of teachers and teachers’ unions serves other secondary purposes consistent with conservative ideology while also transferring authority from school boards to parents. It could be the start of something good.
Imagine the opportunity for education entrepreneurs envisioning this future to create and market a comprehensive home school program for K-12 called Student Education Life Fulfillment (SELF). Having freed parents from homeschooling credentials, the students would be motivated by Adam Smith’s invisible hand toward self-fulfillment. A consortium of educational expertise to develop content might include Hillsdale College and Regent and Liberty universities. Education kits could contain academic merit award letters (eliminating the current Thomas Jefferson High School/Fairfax County Public School fandango) as well as caps and gowns at the appropriate juncture.
Moreover, the advent of SELF practically eliminates school violence and shootings while offering the subsequent potential of property tax reductions to feed further the pursuit of tax reductions. Traffic congestion caused by the yellow school buses and parent pickups appear in the rear view mirror. School building energy consumption would contribute to relieving grid demands with existing buildings converted to affordable housing and residences for the homeless. No more teachers, no more books, and no more teachers’ dirty looks.
Ah, the freedom of it all. The Critical Race Theory and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion disciplines are vanquished and vanished, virtually destroying the crypto-Marxist designs of progressives to create a one-size-fits-all educational paradigm. In years to come, elected officials need not parse identity with terms like Jew-ish. Now, they can proudly claim being SELFish is credible public policy driven by free market principles. In “Capitalism and Freedom” (1962), Milton Friedman, icon of conservative economic theory, eschewed the public monopoly of states establishment in creating criteria for the issuance of medical licenses as interference in the free market.
The advent of the effective elimination of homeschooling credentials and creation of SELF are mere baby steps in the abolition of credentialism and fully functioning free market enterprise. Applied across the workforce (another Youngkin priority), self-proclaimed credentials hearken the advent of drive-in auto servicing coupled with surgical procedures; wills and trusts by your favorite taxidermist; barber shops as dental clinics.
The nefarious effects of worldwide communism dominating every aspect of human existence has been displayed by valiant and visionary fictional characters like General Jack D. Ripper, in the 1964 film, “Dr. Strangelove” where Ripper prognosticates the Soviet plot to destroy America’s virile purity of essence. Contemporary conservative economic theory warns that America’s “Age of Aquarius” has mushroomed into an “Age of Wokeness,” siphoning precious public investment into social justice processes further condemning the poor to eternal poverty. Diverting investment from economic goals, they argue, aggregates big government and bloated bureaucracy. It was the hope of these critics that the Red Wave of the 2021 midterms would terminate wokeness doctrines.
Perhaps the Commonwealth’s governor will advocate the elimination of income taxes, joining Virginia’s five GOP Congress-folk who recently voted “aye” in that regard. In freeing Virginia residents, the opportunity to smash a bases-full, four-bagger may be irresistible to a political leader who often presents a more humble presence while denying national ambitions. The full-blown, time-worn trickle-down economic theory of cutting taxes to achieve prosperity and elimination of poverty has been elevated to a central plank in the zero-sum politics of the current GOP as it careens toward its vision of American exceptionalism and liberty.
All that’s required is that we the people imagine being free at last.
Jim McCarthy, a former New York attorney, resides in Northern Virginia.