Despising Private Home-Based Homeschooling Education and Contorting Rights:
A Review of Robin West’s “A Tale of Two Rights”
PERSPECTIVES – News and Comments1
Brian D. Ray
National Home Education Research Institute, Salem, Oregon
A person must read what certain academics professors write to grasp the full animus that some people have against parents directing the education of their own children. The extent to which some academics go to twist and turn philosophical and legal concepts against home education is sometimes rather astounding. One example is professor West’s conception of civil “rights to enter” and “rights to exit” (West, 2014).
To understand West, one must know that she thinks the U.S. Congress and state legislatures “create rights” and should do so, and it is good that they do so. West holds the following:
Some of our most newly created civil rights, generally created by Congress and state legislatures rather than announced by courts, in effect extend to individuals [sic] various rights to enter civil society, or some civil project close to its core. I call these civil rights “rights to enter” – these include, for example, the right to a high quality and public education, the right to purchase health insurance at affordable costs, the right to a safe home and neighborhood free of gun violence, the right to nurture a newborn or sick family member while not losing one’s job, the right to marry whom one loves regardless of sex …” (p. 894-895).
She likes these rights. Further, West believes that “These civil “rights to enter,” … exemplify … a new idea that invites participation in a radically transformed civil society” (p. 896).
On the other hand, professor West writes about the evils of various “rights to exit.” A taste of her thoughts can be found when she says that she identifies and criticizes
… a cluster of constitutional rights, which I argue do tremendous and generally unreckoned harm to civil Society … At the heart of the new paradigm of constitutional rights that I believe these rights exemplify is a “right to exit.” On this conception of individual rights, a constitutional right is a right to “opt out” of some central public or civic project. ….. The particular exit rights that I enumerate – that is, the rights to exit from the benefits and responsibilities of public projects, including public education, publicly funded policing, civil rights commitments, and public health projects – harm civil society in profound ways not appreciated by rights critics in the 1970s and 1980s. (p. 893-894).
To develop her negative critique of parents being in charge of their own children’s education, West develops her view of why the U.S. Supreme Court has made bad decisions regarding the Second Amendment (e.g., District of Columbia v. Heller) and claims that the Court has created a bad “… newfound constitutional right to own and use lethal weapons” (p. 895). She works hard to argue that “When coupled with the resulting stand your ground laws, Heller essentially grants a right to privatize the policing function of the civil state” (p. 899). The professor claims that this allows citizens to “exit” the right of the group to use and expect police to protect them from harm; she holds that this is a bad thing.
Likewise, West claims that legislatures and court decisions have essentially created the right of parents to “exit” the extremely important and essential social project that is tax-funded, state-controlled, public schooling. She believes that this is a bad thing.
The first thing many people will notice is that professor West believes it is good for elected lawmakers to create rights. This is a very different viewpoint from that of the founders of the United States and those who think that the Declaration of Independence and Constitution are the best representation of how the United States should operate. That is, the founders and these documents recognized rights given by a Creator and did not think that they, humans, were creating rights. West’s view is also different from worldviews such as classical liberalism and Christianity.
Second, the West likes the idea of legislators using their power to “radically transform society.” She is eager for herself and others of her philosophical-religious viewpoint to use others to change society and its beliefs to conform to her beliefs.
A clearly problematic aspect of West’s understanding of state-run (public) schooling is that without it the United States would be a notably worse place than it is and would be a much less civil place. She never offers a foundation for such claims about tax-funded and government-controlled education and its effects on this nation. She apparently assumes that all of her readers agree with this unsupported implicit assertion. She never addresses the high rates of literacy in the United States before the advocates of statist education won their way. She never addresses the effectiveness of home-based education, privately funded schooling, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training that was the norm before state-school advocates got their way with the majority of children in the United States.
On this note, West also does not present the rates of illiteracy, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, bullying, child abuse, out-of-wedlock births, venereal diseases, and incarceration in the United States after 120 years of the large majority of children being taught, trained, and indoctrinated in statist public schools that she zealously promotes.
Fourth, professor West implies that families who practice homeschooling are pulling out of, or exiting, statist education and she is ignoring the reality of the U.S. situation regarding the education/schooling of children. That is, for most of the history of United States before the Supreme Court decision Pierce v. Society of Sisters in 1925, and for the 91 years since then, no parent has been required to use statist schools for their children. That is, parents have had to choose to opt in and go sign up their children at the local government public school. They did not and do not have to opt out of or exit public schools. When their son or daughter reaches age 6 or so, they have three choices: continue home educating them, enroll them in a private school, or enroll them in a statist public school. On this note, each state, by its constitution or some law, must only offer or make tax-funded government schools available for children. It is neither necessary nor required for parents to use statist schools.
he view of West and others of her persuasion is that if parents do not subject their children to the teaching, training, and indoctrination of statist schools then the parent is opting out of a necessary “social compact” (p. 910) that would make the United States a better place. West does not, however, offer empirical evidence that children not being indoctrinated by government schools is worse for the children or society.
West claims that Americans “… do not have a constitutional right to a high quality public education …” (p. 910) but do have a right to not subject their children to indoctrination by the State and homeschool them; and she bemoans both the first non-right and the second right. She clearly despises the idea that American parents are able to use “… curricular material of their own making …” and “… not … subject their children to …” public schools (p. 901).
Like others, this law professor clearly does not trust Americans to choose to voluntarily fund the education of their neighbors’ children if the neighbors are too poor to purchase basic curriculum materials for homeschooling or to enroll their children in a low-cost private school. West wants the state to continue to force all Americans to pay for the education of all children. She apparently thinks that Americans are too selfish to volitionally help their neighbors in need.
West claims that homeschooling one’s children is anti-Constitutional (p. 911) and that if too many families home educate then “… the idea of civil society itself, is seriously eroded” (p. 911). Further, by homeschooling and not opting one’s children into statist schools, “… citizen-focused norms of liberalism and tolerance integral to the public curriculum are undermined” (p. 911). Again, she offers no empirical evidence to support any of these claims. (First, however, she would have to define her terms and convince her readers that her definitions are good and noble.)
In sum, one can see that thinkers like professor West believe that parent-led privately funded education is a bane to society, whether in the United States or elsewhere. With her claims of damage to society by parents and children homeschooling, however, she offers no empirical evidence to support such claims of damage. (In fact, much evidence exists that home education is good for society, as compared to the effects of state-run schooling (Murphy, 2012; Ray, 2013.) One can be sure, however, that West’s philosophical-religious legal views are being passed on to more and more law students who will become some of the nation’s legislators, judges, policymakers, and law professors. Whether those who think home education is good for children like it or not, influencers like professor West who despise parent-led home-based private homeschooling education are constantly on the move to try to suppress it.
Murphy, Joseph. (2012). Homeschooling in America: Capturing and assessing the movement. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, a Sage Company; and, Ray, Brian D. (2013). Homeschooling associated with beneficial learner and societal outcomes but educators do not promote it. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 324-341.
Ray, Brian D. (2013). Homeschooling associated with beneficial learner and societal outcomes but educators do not promote it. Peabody Journal of Education, 88(3), 324-341.
West, Robin. (2014). A tale of two rights. Boston University Law Review, 94(3), 893–912. Retrieved December 15, 2014 from http://www.bu.edu/bulawreview/files/2014/08/WESTDYSFUNCTION.pdf
- The “Perspectives – News and Comments” section of this journal consists of articles that have not undergone peer review.