Evangelical Family Wants Religious Exemption for Teaching Their Kids

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Back in the day, the “Little Rascals” and “Bowery Boys” comedies repeatedly used the theme of “playing hooky.” The idyllic day of freedom from adults and society’s institutions always ended with a restoration of order. You might say that the day of extracurricular high jinks was particularly enjoyable because it was safe; everyone knew the boys or the rascals would return to school in the end and the mischief they caused while outside the purview of the school would stop. They would return to the loving graces of their beatific teacher, Miss Crabtree.

From Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer to Ferris Bueller and Cool Hand Luke, there has been a steady stream of American characters who are heroic because of their ability to slip society’s traces, especially as represented by the school. They are charming rogues, by and large, who tweak the noses of the same pompous authorities whose noses we didn’t have the courage to tweak when we were kids.

The individual who escapes authority and asserts a radical individualism is ingrained in American folklore and romance. Perhaps best epitomized by the Cowboys, sheriffs, and hard-boiled detectives of Hollywood, we admire these heroes because they have the ability to be engagingly different without ultimately paying a price for their iconoclasm. They represent our fantasies of freedom, and we are saddened in a complicated way by their inevitable fall. Who wouldn’t want to be Butch Cassidy or the Sundance Kid?

We might trace all this back to a misreading of the Abraham story. Abraham is commanded to leave behind everything he knows, family, culture and society, and head into the unknown zone to start a new life. And this is a divine command, not an idiosyncrasy, preference, choice or experiment. The Pilgrims heard this command. The 49ers heard this command. The denizens of the Lower East Side heard this command.

But sometimes they failed to pay attention to the rest of Abraham’s story. The story was focused not so much on what Abraham left behind, but where he was going: to a place that God would show him. Leaving the failed behind was only the first step on Abraham’s journey to freedom, not freedom itself. And that journey has many steps, and where that journey leads isn’t known at the start. God will show you, but if you think you know the end at the start it isn’t really a journey at all; you’ve never actually left, have you?

This is what the homeschoolers such as the ones in this story don’t understand. They think they know the end of the journey before it ever starts. Instead of trusting in God’s process of learning and discovery, they will only trust what they themselves believe God wants, as if that’s already known. They set up their understanding of God as if that understanding WERE God. They are religious idolaters, substituting their own understanding for God.

The homeschoolers are afraid because they don’t know in advance where a process of real education will lead their children. For children to learn, parents must give up control of their children gradually, as the kids grow and change. This is a universal law, and applies to all God’s creatures. Homeschooling parents can no more prevent this than a farmer can prevent the leaves of a plant from turning toward the sun. Parents have to trust that in creating an order in which growing plants have leaves that turn inevitably toward the sun, and children have schools that facilitate their journey, that God did something good.

—Rabbi Kerry Baker

Read the referenced article: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/11/02/meet-the-kim-davis-of-homeschooling.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

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