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The Washington Times
November 4, 1997

We ‘extremists’ follow mainstream tradition

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
November 4, 1997

At one time or another, every home-schooler feels the strain of swimming against the tide of society. It is sometimes lonely to be pursuing not only a different educational method, but a different set of goals for our families and, yes, a different lifestyle.

While we swim against the tide of today, we should remember that society is swimming against the tide of history.

William McKinley was re-elected to the presidency in 1900. Shortly thereafter, he was cut down by an assassin’s bullet. A few days later, in a joint session of Congress, Secretary of State John Hay gave a memorial speech praising our fallen president. This speech is considered one of America’s greatest orations.

Secretary of State Hay related the story of McKinley’s upbringing:

    “The life of William McKinley was, from his birth to his death, typically American. There is no environment, I should say, anywhere else in the world which could produce just such a character. He was born into that way of life which elsewhere is called the middle class, but which in this country is so nearly universal as to make of other classes an almost negligible quantity.

    He was neither rich nor poor, neither proud nor humble; he knew no hunger he was not sure of satisfying, no luxury which could enervate mind or body. His parents were sober, God­fearing people; intelligent and upright, without pretension and without humility.

    He grew up in the company of boys like himself, wholesome, honest, self­respecting. They looked down on nobody; they never felt it possible they could be looked down upon. Their houses were the homes of probity, piety, patriotism. They learned in the admirable school readers of fifty years ago the lessons of heroic and splendid life which have come down from the past.

    They read in their weekly newspapers the story of the world’s progress, in which they were eager to take part, and of the sins and wrongs of civilization with which they burned to do battle.

    It was a serious and thoughtful time. The boys of that day felt dimly, but deeply, that days of sharp struggle and high achievement were before them. They looked at life with the wondering yet resolute eyes of a young esquire in his vigil of arms. They felt a time was coming when to them should be addressed the stern admonition of the apostle, ‘Quit you like men; be strong.’”

I have found no better description of the family-life and educational philosophy of home-schooling than this description.

McKinley was not home-schooled, but the family style and the substantive content of his education matches closely the aspirations of our movement.

We want our children to be content with ordinary means. We want our children to fear God and to show equal respect to every person regardless of race or class. We want our homes to be filled with “probity, piety, and patriotism.”

We want our children to know what is going on in the world and to take a part eagerly in the movement to bring America back to a lifestyle that can more honestly be called civilization. The barbarism and pagan shamelessness that dominates our airwaves and streets calls into serious question our right to call ourselves a civilized nation.

We want our children to have a sense of destiny and to value high achievement. The modern gurus of self-esteem have addicted our children to the acceptance of mediocrity in the guise of accepting themselves.

Sometimes home-schoolers are classified as “extremists” because we aspire to these values and this lifestyle. You may recall that Time magazine made this charge a couple years ago from its trendy offices in a New York City high-rise.

I say let the elites of the 1990s scoff if they will. Let them call us names. We are pursuing goals that produce greatness and methods that turn boys into men (and, of course, girls into ladies).

At one time, virtually all of America held to these values, but now it’s different. The test of time will demonstrate the superiority of objective virtue and the failure of moral relativity.

Our nation will continue to go through deep waters as long as the vast majority scoffs at values that once were nearly universal. But, the good news is that our children, raised in the mainstream of American history, will rise to the surface and become leaders of substance, shaming the pale counterfeits found so often in high places today.

Michael Farris is the father of 10 home-schooled children and chairman of the
Home School Legal Defense Association

Copyright 1997 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at