In 2017, Congress authorized the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to conduct a comprehensive review of Selective Service. Earlier this year, the commission finally released their report. Many of the recommendations are far-reaching, and some would impact homeschoolers if implemented.
The report, titled Inspired to Serve, proposes policies that would bolster military recruitment efforts and improve civics education throughout the nation. One recommendation is similar to proposals that HSLDA has fought at the state level several times already—the idea that homeschool students should be required to pass a civics test before being awarded their high school diploma.
Of course, we are certainly in favor of students learning how to become good citizens. It is important that all young people receive training in how government works and in our individual duties as members of society.
However, HSLDA also believes that parents should be free to tailor civics curriculum in a way that best fits their students.
And this individualized approach to civics training has had an effect. A 2003 study showed homeschool students already attend more public meetings, work for candidates more, contribute more time and money for civic causes, and vote with twice the frequency of any other group.
Several homeschooling parents also serve as legislators throughout the country.
The commission’s report suggests that states adopt the following proposal: “To receive a high school diploma, all homeschooled pupils shall be required to pass an assessment in civic education… and shall complete a student-led applied civics project.”
This proposal is similar to others the report recommends for students in public school. Currently, only 22 states test all students prior to graduation, and the report would like all states to do that. Only eight states have year-round civics instruction, and again, the report wants all states to do that.
Currently, no state in the nation requires homeschool students to pass a test before graduating. Adopting this proposal would, for the first time, impose a mandate on homeschool families before they could issue a diploma to their children. The commission’s recommendation would take a huge amount of authority away from parents and send it to the government.
Once state legislatures take that step of restricting homeschooling for the first time, it becomes much easier to pass further regulations. If the government-homeschool barrier is broken, it would give lawmakers an easy argument for imposing new and burdensome mandates on homeschool graduation.
To be clear, this report is merely a list of recommendations that Congress or state legislatures should implement. It is not binding; no state is required to implement any part of the report. HSLDA’s concern is that, because it is coming from the federal level, state activists will feel empowered to try to impose civics assessments on homeschool students.
While seeking to improve civics education is a laudable goal, the ends do not justify the means. Lawmakers should not restrict freedom in the name of patriotism. Homeschooling works as well as it does because it is free from the rules and bureaucratic red tape that binds public schools. HSLDA will continue to fight to keep it that way.