CSC's Letter in Support of ACR 115-Parental Right to Homeschooling
Re: ACR 115 – Strongly Support
Dear Hon. Joel Anderson
I am writing to express our strong support for ACR 115. The Seventh-day Adventist Church State Council is the oldest public policy organization in the western United States devoted exclusively to liberty of conscience and religious freedom issues. The Council serves as the public policy arm of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in California and four other western states.
We strongly support the right of parents to home-school their children, and the existing legal/statutory framework that has served Californians well for many years. We do not believe the existing legal framework for home education is broken, and in need of a legislative fix.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church operates the largest Protestant educational system in the world. We have a mature philosophy of education that integrates religion and spiritual life in every aspect of human development and learning. Our philosophy of education has a basic premise: parents have the primary duty and responsibility for the education of their children. Many parents choose to utilize the services of public or church schools, but many others insist on personally directing their children’s education in a home-school setting.
One of the church’s founders and leading lights, Ellen White, wrote extensively about education, and about the central role occupied by parents:
To parents is committed the great work of educating and training their children for the future, immortal life. Many fathers and mothers seem to think that if they feed and clothe their little ones, and educate them according to the standard of the world, they have done their duty. They are too much occupied with business or pleasure to make the education of their children the study of their lives. They do not seek to train them so that they will employ their talents for the honor of their Redeemer. Solomon did not say, "Tell a child the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." But, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Child Guidance, p. 38
Because of the strong emphasis placed on the integration of spiritual values and character development in education, many Seventh-day Adventists feel a religious obligation to directly educate their own children, believing that this duty cannot be delegated effectively to either public or even church schools. Ellen White connects the spiritual goal of godliness with progress in knowledge:
Higher than the highest human thought can reach is God's ideal for His children. Godliness--godlikeness--is the goal to be reached. Before the student there is opened a path of continual progress. He has an object to achieve, a standard to attain, that includes everything good, and pure, and noble. He will advance as fast and as far as possible in every branch of true knowledge. Education, p. 18
This same integration of the spiritual with the secular training is reflected in her philosophy of “true education,” as expressed below:
Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator-- individuality, power to think and to do. The men in whom this power is developed are the men who bear responsibilities, who are leaders in enterprise, and who influence character. It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men's thought. Instead of confining their study to that which men have said or written, let students be directed to the sources of truth, to the vast fields opened for research in nature and revelation. Let them contemplate the great facts of duty and destiny, and the mind will expand and strengthen….
The Holy Scriptures are the perfect standard of truth, and as such should be given the highest place in education. To obtain an education worthy of the name, we must receive a knowledge of God, the Creator, and of Christ, the Redeemer, as they are revealed in the sacred word. Education p. 17.
Many years before modern educators began to emphasize critical thinking skills, Ellen White understood the importance of integrating moral, spiritual and intellectual growth in education, training young minds with the capacity to think and to understand the world in which they live. Such a philosophy undergirds the home-school movement within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
In our view, the appellate court decision in In Re Rachel L is based on a flawed premise that is inconsistent with our nation’s constitutional order. It presumes that the California constitution grants exclusive authority to the state to educate youth. This is a severely flawed reading of the text. Article IX section 1 states:
SECTION 1. A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.
This clause grants the state legislature authority to “encourage” education. It does not restrict the rights of parents to educate their own children in any way. Our nation is committed to a republican form of government, which is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. In a republic, original rights and power reside in the people, and are delegated to the state to a limited degree.
Parents retain the original right and authority to direct the education of their children, irrespective of the fact that our state constitution has granted the state power to provide public education.
The appellate court decision also appears to assume that existing law is inadequate to deal with problems of educational neglect. This is simply false. Parents do not have a right to deprive their children of an adequate education; they have the right to direct a sound education. The courts remain quite capable of ruling in cases of educational neglect.
In our considerable experience with both private and home education, we have found that home education meets or exceeds the standards achieved in public schools. ACR 115 is factually accurate in its affirmation regarding the historical success of home education in preparing youth to take their responsible positions in society. ACR 115 constitutes an important and timely effort to reaffirm the primary importance and role of parents in directing the education of their children.
For all of these reasons, we welcome ACR 115 as a reaffirmation of the public policy reflected in the legislative scheme which respects home schooling.
Alan J. Reinach, Esq., Executive Director
Cc: Hon. Fabian Nunez, Speaker, California Assembly; Hon. Mike Villines, Minority Floor Leader, California Assembly; Hon. Don Perata, President Pro Tempore, California Senate; Hon. Dick Ackerman, Minority Floor Leader, California Senate