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The Washington Times
June 15, 1999

Parental involvement, values yield success

By Michael Farris
The Washington Times
June 15, 1999

Once again home-schoolers did very well in the showcase national academic bees. David Biehl of South Carolina won the National Geography Bee. Two home-schoolers, George Thampy and Anne Foley, were in the top eight at the National Spelling Bee. George tied for third.

David also was a contestant in the spelling bee. He was eliminated in the fifth round. He misspelled bariolage. Can’t say that I blame him.

It’s not just an isolated genius here or there.

Home-schoolers showed their academic prowess in their disproportional representation in both bees. Although the highest estimates place home-schoolers at about 2 percent of the school-age population, our students made up 5 percent (13 out of 247) of the National Spelling Bee finalists and 9 percent (5 out of 55) of the National Geography Bee finalists.

This news comes on the heels of Dr. Larry Rudner’s widely circulated national study of the academic achievement of more than 20,000 home school children. Mr. Rudner, a professor of statistics and information science at the University of Maryland, found significant achievement, especially in the higher grades. For example, in the eighth grade, home school students scored four grade levels above the national average.

All of this news comes on the heels of the worst public school news in my lifetime. All that needs to be said is: Columbine High School.

Could it be that there is a common thread between the academic success of home-schooling and the growing concern for safety in the public schools? There may well be.

Although gun control advocates are blaming guns for the horrors that took place at Columbine, it seems self-evident that other factors are far more important. There is little question that the two deranged killers would have found other weapons if guns were not available.

Parental neglect was clearly a factor. Numerous reports have surfaced that one of the shooters had open bomb-making materials in plain view in his bedroom. One simple bedside chat would have led to its discovery.

Columbine also was in the vanguard of offering some of the most aberrant courses offered in public schools. More than a decade ago, Columbine High School was featured in national published reports for offering classes in death education including discussions of suicide.

Public schools for decades have taught students that they are evolved beings that are no different from amoral animals. The approach to values in schools has been driven by folk interpretations of the Supreme Court’s edicts on God in the public square. If God is excluded, it is difficult to make a logical philosophical case for a transcendent universal code of right and wrong.

Many parents of public school students are positively involved in the lives of their children. This has served as an antidote to the dangerous philosophy of evolutionary amorality. But when that philosophy is mixed with parental neglect, it is a lethal combination.

Christian home education offers the opposite in both arenas. By definition, all home-schooling parents are very involved in the education of their children. God and His universal principles are featured prominently in the philosophical foundations of nearly every course.

Our nation is in such a sad state that it is no longer enough for good parents to guard the hearts and minds of their own children. There is increasing concern about the children from families whose parents play no such role.

It is time for many soul-searching questions to be asked:

  • Can we afford to continue teaching children that they are amoral animals and that values are personal and transient?
  • Should we eliminate or lower compulsory attendance ages so that children who want to be in school are protected from those who don’t want to be there?
  • Should children be schooled in a way that transmits rather than tears down their parents’ values?

    All parents in America, non-home-schoolers and home-schoolers alike, want the public schools to be the best they can be. The contrast between the environments that foster academic victories on one hand and shootings on the other are clear. Any reform of public education that excludes parents and God-given universal values is not likely to produce either academic excellence or basic safety.

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

    Copyright 2000 News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit our web site at