Homeschooling and The Social Contract

Is public education part of a social contract?

I've heard so much lately about how home education is an abandonment of 'the social contract' and as such is a selfish, near-sighted endeavor. "Compassion blahblahblah democracy blahblah societal elite blahblahblahblah".

Oh, and John Dewey.

Let's just cut to the chase - those who toss around the words 'social contract' don't really know what the term means. They have this general idea that to maintain a cohesive society, we should always make decisions and act in ways that benefit the public good. Sounds great, right? Why wouldn't a person act to benefit the public good?  No one in their right mind, especially a Christian who claims to be an emissary of Jesus Christ, would come out and say, "No, I absolutely refuse to think of others when I make decisions. It's all about me, baby."

Recently, Tony Jones, Puddin' Stirrer Extraordinaire, stated that  'the social contract' is violated "If you repeatedly make decisions that put your family ahead of the other families that surround you..."

For those who believe Tony's definition of 'social contract' is valid, what are you willing to do to live out that directive? Are you going to sell your house and move to the inner city, send your kids to the lowest performing inner city school, give your discretionary income to feed the poor, provide them with medical care, and your free time to find them meaningful employment?

Give up cable television? Or your iPhone?

Of course not- because you are putting yourself and your family first. Everyone draws the line at 'public good' somewhere.

This just in: So does Tony.

I imagine, however, that his blog traffic and comments went through the ceiling. Apparently, when catching flies, vinegar works just fine. So much for acting in the cause of the 'greater good' with posts like "Death to Homeschooling" and "Why Homeschoolers Don't Understand Missional". Sure - he's just all about "peace, love, and understanding".

But wait - in the next breath, Tony adds a disclaimer: "No, I don’t think you should raise your kids among drug addicts because you might help the drug addicts. We have not decided as a society to publicly fund the healing and reparation of all drug addicts."

Oh, well okay then. The 'social contract' only covers certain tax-payer funded federal programs. Everyone else, I suppose, can go to blazes, because they aren't part of a government program that Tony believes Christians should be involved in.

Tony has apparently never heard of CSAT. He must not get out much. Maybe he got rid of his car in order to support public transportation. Hmmm. . .

In answer to the criticism that Tony was putting his kids out there while he sat nice and comfy and detached at the private, religious universities where he teaches, he answers, children are not my proxies. Their education in public school has necessitated my own involvement in that institution — on the PTA, as a volunteer, and as a generally engaged parent. Sometimes I wonder if homeschooling is a choice that parents make to allow their own adult avoidance of rolling up their sleeves and making public schools better.

Sorry, but Tony's children are his proxies. See, Tony is "theologian-in-residence at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis and an adjunct professor at Fuller Theological Seminary and at Andover Newton Theological School." He has obviously not rolled up his sleeves to make his local schools better. Why isn't he teaching in a public school, instead of a private, religious one? By his own definition he is putting his interests ahead of other families whose children would benefit from his expertise. If Tony really believed in putting the needs of other above his own, he'd be putting his desk chair where his mouth is.

But let's get back to the basics- the idea of a 'social contract' has nothing to do with sending one's children to public school.

The social contract is, however, foundational to our American system of government. Because we are a representative democracy, the will of the citizenry directs and empowers the government, and as such should always seek the good of its citizens.

The social contract preserves our natural and our Constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property. These rights are not granted by government, they are merely recognized by our government. We cannot be deprived of these rights without due process of law, nor are we to attempt to infringe on the rights of others to their life, liberty, or property through force or fraud. Or in Tony Jones' case, provocative put-downs and an attempt at intimidation-by-blog.

To decide and endeavor to do what is best for our family is an embrace and celebration of the social contract. We are free to act in our own best interests, and we are free to choose how we will use our resources and abilities to minister to others.

If we believe that a local school, public or private, provides the best opportunities for our children, we are free to send them there. If we want to move to a different district with even better academic programs, then by all means, call Re/Max. If we believe that by educating them at home, we can provide them with academic advantages, then we are free to opt out of the system (which still receives our tax dollars, by the way).

If the social contract demands that we seek opportunities to serve others, there are better ways than sending one's children to a public school. How about volunteering at a local mission or an agency that provides service dogs to the disabled? There are organizations that need volunteers to help build houses, or give various kinds of assistance to the elderly. Some charities specialize in gathering handmade items for children in hospitals or who have experienced trauma.

If you want to be involved in and support your local school system, vote "Yes" on levies, attend school board meetings, buy oranges and candy bars and popcorn when they come knockin' on your door, and attend games, plays, and rallies. Homeschoolers do these things all the time.

It's the word 'home' that really seems to confuse guys like Tony. We have cars, ya' know.

School is about education, parenting is about nurturing good character, being a human is about caring for others, and being a Christian is about sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

And homeschoolers can wear all of these hats at the same time.

For a legitimate, scholarly treatment of the social contract, read Social Contract Theory by Celeste Friend, Hamilton College.