The Washington Times
May 23, 2005

Washington Times Op-ed – A New Generation of Moral Leadership

by J. Michael Smith
HSLDA President

Can the culture survive? Is there hope that a new generation will restore a moral framework and return America to its founding principles? Fortunately, there is a growing generation that holds firmly to a Christian worldview and desires that freedom and liberty flourish in America.

On May 14, 50 students graduated from Patrick Henry College in Purcellville, Va. PHC is a four-year undergraduate Christian college that opened its doors in 2000. The new graduates join 61 PHC alumni.

Why open another private college? Even among the growing numbers of religiously based colleges, PHC is unique. The focus on academic excellence and the large number of home-school students set PHC apart.

The idea for a new college emerged at a board meeting of the Home School Legal Defense Association in 1997. HSLDA was founded in 1983 and has fought an essentially defensive campaign to protect the right of parents to home-school. Only a few states allowed home-schooling in 1983, but through many court cases and legislative hearings, all 50 states had legalized home-schooling by 1993.

It is one thing to defend the right to home-school in the courts and legislatures; it is another to change the culture to ensure that government action never threatens home-schooling again.

This is where PHC comes in. The HSLDA board recognized that simply reacting defensively would not be sufficient to maintain the rights of home-schoolers over the long term -- one adverse decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, for example, has the potential to jeopardize home-school freedoms.

In an attempt to ensure that America remains free, most PHC students have expressed a desire to enter the public or nonprofit sector with a mission to steer institutions toward a moral understanding of the founding principles of the country.

Protecting freedom is an ongoing project and the essential work of each generation. Ronald Reagan recognized this dynamic when he made this statement: "Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again."

It is with this idea that HSLDA is working to ensure that home-schoolers, and by extension the rest of the country, remain free. A new generation must be trained to defend the freedoms we have and change the culture so that freedom will be maintained. It's a tremendous challenge and will take many years to bear fruit.

HSLDA believes that freedom demands virtuous leaders. PHC is a Christian college, and a program founded by HSLDA in 2003, Generation Joshua, also is focused on changing the culture. Generation Joshua is designed to train Christian teenagers about their civic and political duties. Morality and freedom go hand in hand.

As Francis Wayland, president of Brown College (now Brown University) from 1827 to 1855, wrote in his classic book "The Elements of Moral Science": "God has rendered the blessing of freedom inseparable from moral restraint in the individual; and hence it is vain for a people to expect to be free unless they are first willing to be virtuous. It is on this point that the question of the permanency of the present form of government of the United States turns."

Many observers agree that the moral conditions in America have declined and that government must increase its power and scope in response to the deteriorating moral climate. HSLDA, together with PHC |and Generation Joshua, are attempting to infuse our culture with moral leadership, thereby increasing freedom and liberty in America.

We believe highly educated home-school graduates are the best hope for the future. A focused education that fully explains the founding of America will lead to virtuous citizens who will be dedicated to renewing the culture. PHC and Generation Joshua are on the cutting edge of a new generation. Time will tell if the home-school movement will be successful in its mission.

We have made a good start, but there is still a long way to go.

Michael Smith is the president of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He may be contacted at 540/338-5600; or send e-mail to media@hslda.org.

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