Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Conservative Christian Homeschoolers Are Fighting Standards That Don’t Apply To Them

Extremist Mike Farris
I continue to believe that the derangement of today's GOP tracks directly to the rise of the Christofascists within the GOP base.  Given the 90% overlap between the Tea Party and self-styled "conservative Christians," that hijacking of the GOP includes the rise of the Tea Party.  The goal of this crowd?  To impose their sick, fear and hate based religious beliefs on all and to oppose anything that might suggest that their fantasy world view is wrong.  Nothing terrifies these folks more than having to think or face the possibility that they have built their lives on an untrue myth.  A piece in Think Progress tracks how this ties into the effort by the home school crowd to oppose education reforms even when they do not apply to them.  Note how Virginia extremist and failed statewide candidate Mike Farris is in the thick of the opposition - and making a nice $400,000 a year in the process.  Here are highlights:
Opposition to the educational standards known as Common Core has come from an array of Tea Party groups, conservative think-tanks, Glenn Beck, and the Koch Brothers’ Americans for Prosperity — and a few voices on the left as well. But one of the most active sources of opposition has been an unlikely group: a Christian conservative organization that works to defend the rights of homeschooling parents.

Homeschoolers are not actually covered by the educational standards. Still, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has spent tens of thousands of dollars in opposition to the Core State Standards Initiative, including federal lobbying, a microsite, and even a fully produced 39-minute documentary.

While HSLDA has tried to present these public school standards as an “immediate threat” to homeschooling families, critics from inside and outside of the homeschool movement wonder if it is part of a pattern of fear-mongering by an organization eager to maintain its membership base.

An attorney and ordained Baptist minister, Farris joined with J. Michael Smith in 1983 to establish an organization to provide advocacy and legal representation for parents who chose to educate their children at home. Farris was a already veteran of the Christian Right movement, having worked against the Equal Rights Amendment under anti-feminist legend Phyllis Schlafly in the 1970s, as head of the legal department at Concerned Women for America, and as a state director for Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority in the early 1980s. Today, HSLDA estimates its current membership as about 82,000 families. The organization, based in Purcellville, VA, reported in 2013 that its annual budget is more than $10 million. 

Some homeschooling advocates were not thrilled that the movement’s most visible organization was and remains a religious one. Mark Hegener, publisher of Home Education Magazine, told ThinkProgress that Farris’ “approach is a narrow religious agenda, and homeschooling is just his shtick.”

Farris argued that “Christian beliefs have been thoroughly eradicated from public schools,” and those schools are a “multi-billion-dollar inculcation machine” to push “secular humanism and new age religions.” It also quoted Farris as describing public schools as “godless” promoters of “evolution, hedonism and one-world government.” 

Farris won the 1993 Republican nomination to be Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. . . . even the state’s Republican U.S. Senator John Warner refused to back him and Farris lost by nearly 9 points (as the Republican nominee for governor won by a more than 17-point landslide).

Though opponents have tried to convince parents that the Common Core is a massive federal plot to usurp state and local control of education with a national curriculum — some even labeling it “Obamacore” — it is not actually even a federal program, nor a curriculum. 

This claim of a federal takeover is one of a series of objections Michael Farris and his Home School Legal Defense Association have cited in their massive anti-Common Core campaign.

One common attack on HSLDA has been that its work often extends to topics that are not directly connected to the rights of homeschoolers. So far this year, its federal lobbyists have worked to stop ratification of treaties, including U.N. Conventions on the Rights of the Child, the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as passage of a bill to prevent corporations from denying birth control coverage in their healthcare benefits.  

In the 2006, the group even lobbied for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. A statement on the group’s website explained that because “Same-sex marriage attacks the traditions of the family in western civilization,” it thus constitutes an “attack on parental rights.”

Kunzman concurred, telling ThinkProgress that he has frequently heard people in homeschool community criticize HSLDA as a group that “only survives financially by continuing to manufacture crises. That’s how they fundraise. Threats to homeschool freedom get the base riled up, so people contributing believe they need legal protection and political advocacy.” This victimization narrative has proven beneficial to the organization in good times and bad, he suggested: “If they win something, it’s great promotion of their services. If they lose, it’s ‘the threat is real and you’d better support us.’” 

[M]ajor concern is that if states have common standards for the public schools, standardized tests like SAT, ACT, and GED will be aligned to the Common Core and homeschooling parents who opt not to use Common Core curricula will see their kids do poorly and not get into college. Warning that kids taking these examinations might “soon encounter progressive ideologies including social engineering and alternative lifestyles,” HSLDA claims on its website, homeschool students who “are not adherents to the Common Core” could “find themselves at a significant disadvantage come test time.” 
Read the full piece.  Ultimately, opposition boils down to opportunistic extremists like Farris seeking to make a very comfortable living while  force the larger public to embrace ignorance so that small minded parents don't have their house of cards belief system threatened.  Greed and selfishness are at the core.

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