From the May 2008 Idaho Observer:

The original purpose of public instruction in America and its result

It would be fair to call Thomas Jefferson the father of public education in America. Though Jefferson’s writings on the subject seem to ignore the dubious history of state-sponsored instruction, they do reflect his desire that primary, secondary and higher education in America be dedicated to planting and nurturing the tree of liberty in every educated American heart. It was his hope that public school would not be compulsory but desirable; that each student be able to reach his educational goals and enter adulthood as a good citizen capable of fulfilling his self-determined purpose in life and; that students who show specific talents be awarded the opportunity to pursue them to their personally and socially beneficial limits. A proportionally-educated, maximally self-governing electorate, Jefferson reasoned, would be America’s greatest defense against tyranny. But Jefferson’s dream that generations of publicly-instructed Americans would preserve their own liberty in perpetuity has been co-opted by a fear-mongering, lie-propagating, corporately-controlled, liberty-usurping central government and its sycophants. The only lucid, Constitution-adhering, freedom-promoting analysis of government schooling from Capitol Hill today is from Ron Paul. Once again, it is sobering to juxtapose what our most eloquent and thoughtful Founder had to say on a subject of timeless concern with the thoughts of the only man in national government keeping the Founders’ vision for America alive.

Thomas Jefferson on public education

"Man is an imitative animal. This quality is the germ of all education in him. From his cradle to his grave he is learning to do what he sees others do." ~Notes on Virginia 1782

"The occasion [should be seized] of sowing useful truths among the people which might germinate and become rooted among their political tenets." ~Letter to Levi Lincoln (1802)

"Of all the views of this law [for public education], none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people safe as they are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty." ~Notes on Virginia (1782)

"I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength: 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it." ~Letter to John Tyler (1810)

"In a republican nation whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance." ~Letter to David Harding (1824)

"Preach... a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [of monarchial government]." ~Letter to George Wythe (1786)

"I need say nothing of household economy, in which the mothers of our country are generally skilled, and generally careful to instruct their daughters. We all know its value, and that diligence and dexterity in all its processes are inestimable treasures. The order and economy of a house are as honorable to the mistress as those of the farm to the master, and if either be neglected, ruin follows, and children destitute of the means of living."

~Letter to Nathaniel Burwell (1818)

"After stating the constitutional reasons against a public establishment of any religious instruction, we suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects to establish, each for itself, a professorship of their own tenets on the confines of the university, so near as that their students may attend the lectures there and have the free use of our library and every other accommodation we can give them; preserving, however, their independence of us and of each other. This fills the chasm objected to ours, as a defect in an institution professing to give instruction in all useful sciences... And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality."

~Letter to Thomas Cooper (1822)

"Promote in every order of men the degree of instruction proportioned to their condition and to their views in life." ~Letter to Joseph Cabell (1820)

"The reading in the first stage, where [the people] will receive their whole education, is proposed.. to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views."

~Notes on Virginia (1782)

"The objects of... primary education [which] determine its character and limits [are]: To give to every citizen the information he needs for the transaction of his own business; to enable him to calculate for himself, and to express and preserve his ideas, his contracts and accounts in writing; to improve, by reading, his morals and faculties; to understand his duties to his neighbors and country, and to discharge with competence the functions confided to him by either; to know his rights; to exercise with order and justice those he retains, to choose with discretion the fiduciary of those he delegates; and to notice their conduct with diligence, with candor and judgment; and in general, to observe with intelligence and faithfulness all the social relations under which he shall be placed. ~Report for University of Virginia (1818)

"This institution [i.e., the university] will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." ~Letter to William Roscoe (1820)

"A bill for the more general diffusion of learning... proposed to divide every county into wards of five or six miles square;... to establish in each ward a free school for reading, writing and common arithmetic; to provide for the annual selection of the best subjects from these schools, who might receive at the public expense a higher degree of education at a district school; and from these district schools to select a certain number of the most promising subjects, to be completed at an University where all the useful sciences should be taught. Worth and genius would thus have been sought out from every condition of life, and completely prepared by education for defeating the competition of wealth and birth for public trusts."

~Letter to John Adams (1813)

"The object [of my education bill was] to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind which in proportion to our population shall be the double or treble of what it is in most countries." ~Letter to M. Correa de Serra (1817)

"I think by far the most important bill in our whole code, is that for the diffusion of knowledge among the people. No other sure foundation can be devised for the preservation of freedom and happiness... The tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance." ~Letter to George Wythe (1786)


Dr. Ron Paul on homeschooling

We live in one of the most difficult times in history for guarding against an expanding central government. We are seeing a steady erosion of our freedoms. We have arrived here because our ideas, our words—and the actions that follow—have consequences.

We need to understand exactly what ideas brought us to this point. We can then, I hope, reject the bad ideas and reform our thinking toward a better set of intellectual parameters. Our goal should be to identify what ideas are now shaping our culture and work to sow the seeds of liberty for the generations who will come after us.

Currently, the mood of our country is dominated by a powerful word: Fear. Fear is not always the product of irrational thinking. However, once experienced, fear can lead us away from reason, especially if it is extreme in duration or intensity. This kind of fear is a threat to rational liberty. When people are fearful, they are more willing to irrationally surrender their rights. The psychology of fear is an essential tool of those who want us to increasingly rely on "the powers that be" to manage the apparatus of the central government.

"Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." ~attributed to Benjamin Franklin

Clearly, people seek out safety and security when they are in a state of fear and the result is often the surrender of liberty. We must remember that liberty is the ultimate security. Our love for liberty has been so diminished by fear—of everything but God—that we tolerate intrusions into our privacy that most Americans would have abhorred just a few years ago. American history, at least in part, is a history of people who refuse to submit to the will of those who have no rightful authority over them. Yet we have increasingly empowered the federal government and its agents to run our lives far beyond their jurisdiction to do so.

The seeds of future tyranny are being sown and many of our basic protections from government oppression are being undermined. We tolerate new laws that allow the government to snoop on us, listen to our phone calls, track our financial dealings, make us strip down at airports, and even limit the rights of habeas corpus and trial by jury. Like some dysfunctional episode of the Twilight Zone, we have allowed the summits of our imaginations to be linked up with the pit of our fears, all to serve man. Paranoia can be treated, but the loss of liberty resulting from the fear of man is not easily cured. People who would have previously battled against encroachments on civil liberties now explain the "necessity" of the "temporary security" measures Franklin would have railed against. This would not be happening if we had remained vigilant, understood the importance of individual rights and refused to accept that the sacrifice of liberty is justified by a "need" for security—even if it’s just "now and then."

As Americans, we must confront our irrational fears if we are to turn the current tide against the steady erosion of our freedoms. Fear is the enemy. The confusing admonition to "fear only fear itself" does not help. Instead, we must battle against irrational fear and refuse to succumb to it.

Fortunately, there is always a remnant who longs for truly limited government, maintaining a belief in the rule of law combined with a deep conviction that free people and a government bound by a Constitution are the most advantageous form of government. They recognize this idea as the only practical way for prosperity to be spread to the maximum number of people, while promoting peace and security. Their thoughts are dominated by a different and more powerful word: Freedom. If we intend to use the word "freedom" in an honest way, we should have the simple integrity to give it real meaning: Freedom is living without government coercion. If we hope to remain free, we must cut through the fog of rhetoric and attach concrete meanings to the words politicians often use to deceive us. We must reassert that America is a republic, not a democracy and remind ourselves that the Constitution places limits on government that no majority can overrule. We must resist any use of the word "freedom" to describe state action. We must also teach these truths to our children. [emphasis added]

Freedom is not defined by safety. Freedom is defined by the ability of citizens to live without government interference. Government cannot create a world without risks, nor would we really wish to live in such a fictional place. Only a totalitarian society would even claim absolute safety as a worthy ideal because it would require total state control over its citizens’ lives. Liberty has meaning only if we still believe in it when terrible things happen and a governmental false security blanket beckons. Self-reliance and self-defense are American virtues; trembling reliance on the illusion of government-provided security is not.

Many, if not most, homeschoolers have fought on some level for the freedom to teach their own children. Most have had to stand against a tide of disapproval from friends and family. Some parents have dealt with strife in their church over the issue. Too many have been questioned by local authorities who don’t understand the limits of their jurisdiction; some have withstood the scrutiny of state and federal laws, courts and law enforcement who have overstepped their constitutional bounds. Still others have suffered fines, imprisonment, and separation from their children at the hands of a government that claims to be "protecting" the children.

All homeschoolers have tasted a morsel of freedom that many others still can’t comprehend. Homeschooling parents still regularly face questions such as, "Can you do that?" "Do they let you do that?" "Is that legal?" It all comes down to a proper understanding of jurisdiction and submission to delegated authority. Homeschoolers, by and large, maintain that the authority for determining the education of their children rests solely with parents. This spark of freedom must be fanned into a flame, not just among homeschooling fathers and mothers… but among the generation they are training up in liberty.

Ironically, the Constitution which protects our freedoms was conceived in a time of great crisis. The founders intended to place inviolable restrictions on what the federal government could do even in times of national distress. America must stand against calls for the government to violate the Constitution—that is, to break the law—in the name of law enforcement. America was founded by men who understood that the threat of domestic tyranny is as great as, if not greater than, any threat from abroad. If we want to be worthy of their legacy, we must pass it on to our children, showing them how to resist the rush toward ever-increasing state control of our society. Otherwise, our own government will become a greater threat to our freedoms than any foreign terrorist could ever hope to be.

~Excerpted from Homeschooling Today (March/April 2008)