A week or two ago I received a message from a notorious fugitive named Julie Giles. She complained that she'd recently been arrested, shackled, and cuffed for barbaric and shocking crimes against humanity. The courts determined that she was a threat to herself, her family, and her community, therefore she was seized and charged like the scurrilous criminal she so clearly is.
What were these depraved acts, you ask? What sort of atrocities had she committed? What kind of vile transgressions led to her being chained and perp-walked like Charles Manson? Why does this previously law abiding middle aged woman now have her very own mugshot on file over at central booking?
Well, her son missed class a few times.
You see, according to the compulsory attendance policy at her kid's public school in Georgia, the district will magnanimously allow a parent to keep their kid home from school up to five times in a year without a doctor's note. Once they exceed that magically arbitrary fifth "unexcused" absence, every succeeding incident must be specifically prescribed by a medical professional. Even if the parent feels the child should stay home, the school will not allow it unless a doctor agrees. Otherwise, the parent could be thrown in jail, which is a totally reasonable response.
Julie's son unfortunately made the mistake of getting sick more times than the school allows, and so a warrant was issued for his mom's arrest.
Keep in mind, this is not a unique or uncommon situation. Julie is only the latest in a long, long, long line of parents who have been violently reminded that we live in a fascist state where liberty is, increasingly, a mere fiction.
A Gofundme account has been set up to help the family deal with the legal expenses, but even if she avoids jail time for her sins, the shame and embarrassment won't necessarily dissipate so quickly.
Now, we might all be feeling exhausted by the constant onslaught of stories about government busybodies bullying parents and children in the name of "education" or "safety" or whatever, but I think a few things need to be said about this latest bit of insanity:
First, it bears emphasizing that this is insanity. A reasonable person could reach no other conclusion. If you laugh it off, shrug your shoulders and say, "well, that's the law," you are a weak, cowed, subservient, un-American, self-hating vassal and you should be ashamed of yourself. Yes, it might be "the law," but it's a tyrant's law. It's a bad law. It's a stupid law. It's a law that says a bureaucrat should exercise greater control over your child than you. It's a law that ought to be broken and ignored and demolished. It's a law that has no right to exist in the first place.
Second, Julie tells me that her son is an Honor Roll student who averaged a 91 in all of his classes this year. He missed 12 days (although he did have a doctor's note for some of them, and three were due to a school wide virus that was severe enough to be reported on the local news) and still aced his assignments. That means the absences had no negative impact on him academically.
Third, clearly a note from a parent should be required when a student doesn't show up to school. Kids these days: sometimes they like to cut class and hide in the woods behind the soccer field out back. Or they go to the IHOP down the street and feast on pancakes until someone dimes them out to the assistant principal. Or, you know, some other random example. The point is, requiring a note from a parent makes sense. But requiring a note from a doctor means the parent's word isn't good enough. It means parents are stripped of their authority to decide whether their own children should go to school on a particular day.
Fourth, find me one doctor who considers this a good policy. Do you think your daughter's pediatrician wants to have his waiting room clogged by kids with simple colds and stomach bugs? Aside from the financial strain on the parent, think about the strain it puts on these doctor's offices -- not to mention what it does to insurance rates. If I took my kids in every time they had a virus or a bad case of the sniffles, I'd be bankrupt by the end of the year.
Kids get sick. When kids spend a lot of time with other kids in enclosed environments, they get sick even more. Usually, a day's rest, a few bowls of soup, and plenty of fluids are all they need to feel better. At a certain point, as a parent, you begin to understand this reality and elect not to make a doctor's appointment over every tummy ache or sore throat. In fact, it's often better not to take them to the doctor because that's where sick people congregate. A really good way to make your kid go from kind of sick to really sick is to drag their weakened immune system to a place where more serious germs are prowling for a fresh respiratory system or digestive tract to infiltrate.
Great plan, school system!
But, fifth, that's all irrelevant. The point is that I am a parent. A father, in my case. As a father, I have been endowed by God with a certain fundamental authority over my progeny. He has given them to me and to my wife. He has entrusted them to our care. They are ours. We don't own them like objects or slaves, but they are our jurisdiction and responsibility.
[sharequote align="center"]They are my children. I don't own them like objects but they are my jurisdiction and responsibility.[/sharequote]
Yes, a parent can rightly lose that authority. If they treat their kids in abusive, violent, and heinous ways, their God-given parental rights can be taken from them -- just as any right can be taken from people who reveal themselves to be a danger to those around them. These people, for instance, who locked a 5-year-old child in a closet and nearly starved him to death obviously deserve to have all of their rights permanently rescinded. Unlike Julie Giles, these despicable people ought to be chained and locked in a cage like dogs.
But just because a small percentage of parents have acted in monstrous and unspeakable ways doesn't mean all of us should be covered in a cloak of suspicion. Just because a minority have been exposed as fatally sadistic and incompetent doesn't mean we should all be micromanaged and infantilized. And, importantly, just because a certain number of parents fall somewhere on the scale between "selfish idiot" and "murderous wretch" doesn't mean public schools suddenly become defacto daddies to every single child within a 20-mile radius of their building.
Schools are just schools. They are places that teach students how to say the ABCs, how to add two plus two, and how to use lube and get abortions. You know, the basic stuff. They are not foster parents. They are not kings. They are not gods.
Our children are not owed to them. They exercise no ownership over them. In a free country (so, not this one) a school would be a tool for parents to use. A place to which parents delegate some temporary and conditional authority. Authority that can be revoked at any time, for any reason. Period.
In a nation where liberty is cherished and protected, I can take my kids out of school because they're sick, or because I want to bring them on an educational trip to Gettysburg or Fort McHenry, or because there's a personal or family matter that needs to be attended to, or because I just feel like it, damn it. All the school needs to know or deserves to know is that I, the parent, have given my child permission to miss classes for the day. I do not need permission from the school in order to grant permission to the being my wife and I have conceived and raised and housed and fed and loved and funded for his entire life.
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In a nation where the family is revered as sovereign and sacred, this is how it would be.
Tragically, we don't live in that nation.
We live in one where this kind of outrageous nonsense happens on a regular basis.
Sorry, maybe I shouldn't call it outrageous. "Outrageous" means: "grossly offensive to the sense of right and decency; highly unusual or unconventional; extravagant; remarkable."
It is certainly grossly offensive that a woman can be put in chains for keeping a sick kid home from school, but is it highly unusual or remarkable?
Every state in America has compulsory education laws on the books. In every part of this country there are government buildings where all kids nearby are automatically required to assemble six hours a day, five days a week, nine months a year, for at least 12 years. In these buildings, they are taught whatever a bunch of government bureaucrats think they should be taught; and they are subjected to whatever ideas, policies, propaganda, and rules the government thinks they should be subjected to; and every day their identities, belief systems, and futures are shaped and molded according to the whims of the state.
There are things you can do to circumvent or avoid this process, but there are plenty of regulations in place to make that more difficult. And aside from the regulations, our society is so profoundly centered around the compulsory government education system that many of us have become dependent upon it. While we whine and cry about so many other government intrusions, none of them -- not a single one -- has been as effective at fundamentally changing our values and our views on life as compulsory government schooling.
Because the government requires our kids to leave us at the age of four or five, and spend most of their time in these giant factory-like structures where they are constantly deconstructed and reassembled in the image of the state, we have ourselves adopted the belief that things should be this way. We've arrived at the near-universal conclusion that the home is just a place where everyone returns at the end of the day, after spending most of their time serving at the behest and under the authority of teachers, bosses, and coworkers.
In the modern arrangement, the only family member who actually spends significant time in the home is the dog. For everyone else, it's just a place to sleep before you go your separate ways again in the morning. It's a staging ground of sorts. It's a temporary break from the more important business of sitting at a desk in a school building or a cubicle.
If that's all a home and a family really are, then I suppose compulsory government education makes sense. If kids aren't meant to spend extensive amounts of time in their homes and around their parents, then the law should indeed protect them from the very damaging effects of prolonged parent-exposure.
But if the home and the family are more than that -- if they are, far from an hindrance, actually the most valuable and natural context for education and growth -- then compulsory attendance laws are counterproductive, abominable, and absurd. They penalize a parent for being around their kid too much. They force a divide between parent and child, and insist that the two must have a verified medical excuse if they wish to be together during "school hours."
So if this is built on a false premise -- if it is, in fact, wrong to assume that families should ideally be pulled apart and separated for most of the day, every day -- then what happened to Julie Giles is a (common and predictable) atrocity. In that case, compulsory attendance should be abolished, and as a result, public education itself should be called into question. In fact, all of our modern notions about education, the family, and the home ought to be reexamined and ultimately upended.
In the mean time, though, while we await the general reawakening of the American people, the best course of action, individually, is to search for alternatives outside of government education. Homeschool is a great choice. If you can't do that, look into private schools or charter schools. If all else fails, I always suggest releasing your child into the wilderness to be raised by coyotes before sending them to government educational factories. They'll probably end up more mentally and emotionally adjusted than they would in our current public school system.
In lieu of all of those options, public school might be your only remaining choice. If you go that route, just realize what it means. You are forfeiting your parental rights. The schools have made this terrible and unconstitutional fact clear, and the courts have backed them up. Make sure you understand that going in.
And, as a side note, make sure your kid is taking his vitamin C. After all, if he gets a cold you might end up in prison.
Listen to Matt's latest podcast here. Contact with general comments and speaking engagement requests at MattWalsh@TheMattWalshBlog.com. If you are a homeschooler or would like to learn more about homeschooling and related issues, come to the Great Homeschool Convention in Ontario, California.
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