US religious right plans a home-school revolution
Growing numbers of US families are being encouraged to abandon public education in favour of ëhome-schooling', in order to further their ideology and to 'regain America' for fundamentalist Christianity.
Activists told the BBC 2 Newsnight TV programme yesterday that the increasing 'exodus' from American high schools is now in the order of 2 million people.
There are networks in towns and cities across the country to provide educational support and social contact for home-schoolers, who aim to protect their children from harmful moral influences in wider society.
Some of the movement's ideologues believe that it is the only long-term way of combating the waxing and waning of the religious right, and to build a ëJoshua generation' for whom the US can become ëthe promised land'.
Home-schoolers also have their own academies, like Patrick Henry College in western Loudon County, Virginia. And they are now exporting curriculum ideas to like-minded compatriots in the UK - including the teaching of creationism.
'Democracy is mob rule', one US parent told Newsnight. 'Our aim is to return to Christian values.' For him these included opposition to abortion provision and gay rights in all circumstances, and staunch support for capital punishment.
But Frances Kissling, of the critical pressure group Religion Counts, said that the values of conservative home-schoolers were not those of Jesus, and reflected a partial and tendentious reading of the Bible.
Legislation is now being introduced in the US Congress to facilitate federal recognition of home-schooling as an official parallel education system, and to outlaw barriers which proponents in the House of Congress deem to be ëdiscrimination' against them.
A commentator told Ekklesia: 'It is a pity if the home schooling movement as a whole gets identified with, and dominated by, libertarians and the Christian right.'
She continued: 'There is a legitimate debate about how to develop moral values within public education, and those on the critical edge of the system can contribute to that conversation.'
'But it is very important that education policy does not become a tool of narrow political ideology in religious guise', she added.