Why the Concern?
I'm not a big one for paranoia or conspiracy theories.
But right now, some of the biggest conspiracy theories of old have become almost ho-hum daily news. In the last few weeks news reports have been devoted to:
- IRS targeting conservatives
- National Security Agency amassing vast amounts of private information easily available to low-level, third-party contractors
- EPA (and other agencies) sharing private information of citizens with hostile groups
- News organizations listing addresses and phone numbers of citizens from government sources on their websites to invite harrassment.
A few points to be mentioned here. None of this is really new. People have been complaining about the vast amounts of information that Google has been collecting on all of us for a while. (And I highly doubt that they are using that to protect us from terrorists, mind you.) In fact they have more info than the government knows how to get. And, hey, if they can collect it, why can't Uncle Sam?
The conservative groups targeted by the IRS were complaining for many months before the scandal broke. It's just that their complaints are no longer being ignored.
And it needs to be mentioned, that not all homeschoolers are conservative. The homeschool movement is comprised of patriotic, flag-waving, conservative Christians AND
one-world government, pagan liberals. (This is not name calling, this is how the groups describe themselves.)
And everything in between.
There is not only diversity of political thought but educational strategy (from Back to the Basics to Unschooling - and everything in between). In spite of this diversity, it is true that the demographics of homeschoolers leans to a more conservative, well-educated, two parent families.
And many in this group feel they have been declared: "The Enemy."
So now more and more are asking the question:
Are Homeschoolers Being Targeted?
The short answer is: yes.
Homeschoolers have been portrayed by the media and by some government authorities as dangerous extremists. Here's a recent report of portraying homeschoolers as terrorists
in a homeland security operative.
Again, this is not new. I remember in the 1995 Oklahoma Bombing when four major news organizations specifically mentioned homeschooling as the cause of the bombing and the anti-government mentality.
In one sense, it makes sense. If you remove your children from a government-run institution it is quite likely you are not supportive of the institution. Hence, you are anti-government.
This, of course, ignores the fact that many homeschool families DO send SOME of their kids to public schools at some time. Nonetheless, the profile of homeschoolers as anti-government extremists persists.
It can be stated if one group receives different treatment or different sets of regulation than another group by their government, they are targeted. But is that happening to homeschoolers?
To some extent it is. The 50 different states in the USA have different laws and regulation applying to homeschoolers. By necessity, there needs to be some differences in how states view and track homeschool and public school students. (I know tracking is offensive to many, but in many states both groups are tracked to some extent whether one agrees with it or not.)
In Pennsylvania some of the regulations are similar for both:
- requirement for subjects at elementary and secondary levels
- immunizations, medical, and dental exams required at certain grades
- standardized exams in 3rd and 8th grade for all districts and homeschoolers
- informing the school district of names, addresses and birth dates.
Some of the regulations in the homeschool law are considered "roughly equivalent" by some people, and over-stepping by others, and not enough by even others:
- Homeschoolers need to submit objectives at the beginning of the year
- Homeschooler need to be interviewed annually by a state licensed teacher
- Homeschoolers need to submit a portfolio of their work for assessment
Some of the regulations are, indeed, not equal:
- Homeschoolers must submit a notarized affidavit each year (no problem with the affidavit - but notarized? Like someone is going to go to all the work of writing all those objectives for someone else's kids as a prank?
- Homeschoolers must give 30 days notice to the school district before changing their address.
That last requirement in the law never seemed too terribly controversial to me. I mean, it makes sense that the school district wants to know how many school-aged children are in its district and the new district would also want that information if you moved. No big deal.
That is, until we wanted to move. A number of years ago my husband got a new job opportunity, and in record time we sold our house and made plans to relocate. Unintentionally, we became law-breakers. You see, we were required to give notice 30 days before
moving. We didn't have 30 days until his job started. When I tried to file the paperwork and found the dilemna I told my husband. His response was, "What, do we live in Commmunist China that we have to report our movements to the government."
If you are a homeschooler in Pennsylvania, you must report to the goverment BEFORE you are allowed to move. Small, unnoticed regulations subject homeschoolers to unequal treatment.
NATIONAL TRACKING OF HOMESCHOOLERS
Since states differ as to whether a family reports to:
- The local school
- The school district
- The State Department of Education
- An umbrella organization
- No one
There is no known
national tracking of homeschoolers. This is likely going to change if the Common Core is adopted and the federal government assumes control of education as it is currently in the process of trying to do.
Does that therefore mean homeschoolers are not currently tracked?
With Google and Facebook cooperation with the federal government's surveillance system, it would be easy to identify any homeschoolers who buy homeschool books over the internet, participate in homeschool forums or classes, or even hit a homeschool "like" button on Facebook.
Government agencies may be able to do any number of things with that information. That may include intentionally or "accidentally" sharing it with any interested private or public parties. Literally millions of third-party contractors can access that information as well and do whatever they wish with it.
Is there any reason to think they are NOT tracking homeschoolers.
Should Homeschoolers Be Worried?
In my opinion: yes and no.
Really, nothing new is happening here that wasn't happening or predicted years ago. It's merely being talked about, which is probably a good thing.
No one should quit homeschooling, anymore than they should quit driving, talking on the phone, gardening, hunting, or voting. Yes, there are people opposed to what you are doing. More people have access to all of your information about everything anyway.
But what was once hypothetical is becoming more and more an obvious reality.