CBS News Links Homeschooling to Murder and Abuse
- Friday, October 17, 2003
1. The Warren family had discontinued compliance with the North Carolina homeschool law and were presumed truant from that point. They were law-breakers, not homeschoolers. To blame this tragedy on homeschooling would be like blaming the public schools for every crime committed by students who had ever attended a public school. The premise is absurd. Besides, we have laws on the books to deal with truancy – whether children are truant from public schools, private schools, or homeschools.
2. The CBS Web site teaser promises that Vince Gonzales will "bring us the story of a household in North Carolina where kids hidden from public sight met a tragic end. " Yet the Warren children were obviously not kept out of public sight. The problems in the Warren home had been noticed repeatedly by neighbors who had turned them in to social services. The problems had been very public. Social services, according to Hal Young of NCHE, had even threatened to remove the Warren children from their home.
Bad logic leads to bad conclusions. According to Dan Rather, the goal of the story is to increase the regulations governing homeschooling. Remember his lead-in for the story? "CBS's Vince Gonzales uncovered a dark side to this largely unregulated system of education."
But would increased homeschool regulations have prevented the Warren family tragedy?
No. We have already established that Nissa and Kent Warren were criminals. They had broken the law in Arizona and in North Carolina. They were not currently homeschooling, so tightening up homeschooling laws would have had no bearing on them whatsoever.
The Supreme Court Has Spoken
The CBS story's basic premise is that all homeschool families must be more heavily regulated because two (non-homeschooling) parents engaged in egregious activity. Certainly, no sane, caring person could ever condone child abuse. This story is a tragedy and must be viewed as such.
But the United States Supreme Court, in Parham v. J.R. (442 U.S. 584) has already spoken on such issues, and the High Court did not decide in favor of Rather's logic.
The law's concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life's difficult decisions. More importantly, historically it has been recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.
As with so many other legal presumptions, experience and reality may rebut what the law accepts as a starting point; the incidence of child neglect and abuse cases attests to this. That some parents "may at times be acting against the interests of their children"…creates a basis for caution, but is hardly a reason to discard wholesale those pages of human experience that teach that parents generally do act in the child's best interest…
The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition.
The Gruesome Sequel
On October 14, we can expect more bad logic and bad conclusions from the CBS evening news. At the end of the October 13 Eye on America segment, Vince Gonzales promises more of the same: "Tomorrow, how children nationwide have been put in danger, even killed, while homeschooling."
We need to register our complaints and dissatisfaction with the appropriate personnel at CBS News. Please visit www.cbsnews.com/htdocs/feedback/fb_news_form.shtml. When selecting the proper program, choose "CBS Evening News."
You can also call the CBS comment line at (212) 975-3247, or write to CBS at:
CBS Evening News with Dan Rather
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
Zan Tyler is the Home School Resource and Media Consultant for Broadman and Holman Publishers and Homeschool Editor for lifeway.com. She and her husband Joe have three children and have been home schooling since 1984.
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