Homeschooling exemplifies our national exceptionalism. The phrase is not one of arrogance…
During a recent presentation on national and personal exceptionalism to a group of 5,000 business owners, I had one of those epiphany moments right there in the middle of the stage. It suddenly dawned on me that if America preserves its exceptionalism, it will be in very large part due to the investment of homeschooling parents across the nation. These parents refuse to settle for mediocrity or submit their children to the social experimentation of government schools that have failed miserably with their coddling, feel-good education mixed with “fuzzy math,” moral relativism and continually lower standards of achievement.
Before I continue, a description of American exceptionalism is needed, since so many people are using that term today. The phrase is not one of arrogance, as so many of those apologizing for American greatness seem to complain about. The idea of American exceptionalism has absolutely nothing to do with the worth, well-being, aptitude, intelligence, ability or any other personal characteristic of the American people versus other people. It is not about you or me personally. It is about the American way of life, its political and economic structures, and the philosophical foundations upon which those things were built.
This phrase, first coined by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville in his The Republic of the United States of America (modern, redacted versions unfortunately are called Democracy in America), simply means that our system of freedom and our values have produced something exceptional — not perfect, not infallible and certainly not indestructible, but something exceptional, meaning different results than any other nation in history. Another way to say it would be to say that the American experiment in freedom has been extraordinary, which means extra-ordinary, or not ordinary, not normal, beyond normal … something different.
While statistics on wealth, power, freedom, and virtually every other category or measurement certainly prove that America is the most successful nation in history, I do not wish to belabor that point, but rather emphasize the importance of homeschoolers in preserving that exceptionalism.
Back on that stage in front of those business leaders, it was during the story of a frustrated homeschool mom that I realized just how capable the homeschool movement is of literally saving America even if we never grow to more than 10 percent of the student population.
I told the story of a talkative, inquisitive, hyperactive, 7-year-old boy who was labeled by his teacher as having a learning disorder. His courageous, dedicated mother pulled him out of public education after only three months and began teaching him at home. Her curriculum included the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and the Bible, while the father encouraged him to read the classics. By the age of 12, this supposedly learning-disabled child had completed Gibbon’s Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, Sears’ History of the World and Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy. He had devoured The World Dictionary of Science and a number of works on practical chemistry. Wait a minute … 12 years old? Most of us have trouble with the titles, let alone getting through these tomes!
But lest you get the idea that this kid was a “poorly socialized” bookworm at home 24/7, you should know that at age 12 he convinced his parents to allow him to sell snacks, candy and newspapers in the community, and he had another business selling fruits and vegetables. By 14, he became a political activist and had his own newspaper with 300 subscribers, making the equivalent of $300 a day and using his profits to set up his own basement laboratory … at 14!
He was just getting started.
Little Thomas Edison went on to invent the lightbulb, the phonograph, the Dictaphone, mimeograph, storage battery, kinetiscope (silent film), talking pictures (The Great Train Robbery in 1903), and (his greatest achievement of all) a central power plant with the ability to distribute electric light, heat and power to the masses. He obtained 1,093 patents in his lifetime, and every man, woman and child on the planet has benefited from them.
Imagine a world without these things.
If it were not for the decision of his parents to homeschool Thomas and give him an environment of exceptionalism where he could pursue his dreams, he most likely would not have become the greatest inventor of all time. If he had been born in 1997 instead of 1847, he most likely would have been given a healthy dose of ADHD drugs, and his creative curiosity, along with his 1,093 inventions, would have been lost to the world.
Just as important as his parents’ personal decision to homeschool was the fact that Edison lived in a nation where he was free to follow his calling and be rewarded for his hard work. In other words, the crossroads of his personal exceptionalism in an environment of national exceptionalism is what allowed for his amazing inventions not only to take place, but also to quickly spread to the entire nation and then the entire world.
Even the amazing personal exceptionalism he experienced at 14 could not have happened in most places on the planet. What if government regulations had required all kinds of permits to sell his goods? Or what if there was no First Amendment, and the local authorities stopped him from having his own newspaper?
What if the Environmental Protection Agency had stopped him from setting up his basement lab? Just imagine how impossible it would have been for Thomas to have done these things in communist North Korea or Cuba or even the Chicago of today? Can you imagine a 14-year-old entrepreneur having to battle the union thugs and their control of transportation (he was selling his newspaper on local trains)? What if the teacher unions and anti-homeschooling truancy laws had prevented Thomas from leaving the house during the day?
The bottom line is that we need both an education environment that encourages exceptionalism and national economic and political structures that reward and incentivize that exceptionalism.
No group or demographic in America is better equipped to impact both personal and national exceptionalism than homeschoolers. Not only are we creating an environment of excellence in the education of our own children, but we have also become one of the most powerful, politically active demographics in the nation. So as we strive for personal exceptionalism in our own homes, we are fighting to revive the freedom formula that made America exceptional as a nation.
The results speak for themselves.
Homeschoolers are not only winning spelling bees and geography contests, they are also dominating speech and debate competitions and fielding athletic teams that win both on and off the field (meaning the life lessons learned on the field with coaches interested in character first). Colleges have gone from shunning homeschoolers to seeking them out and recruiting them. Candidates for public office covet homeschool endorsements and know that the most effective campaign volunteers and social networkers are supposedly “poorly socialized” homeschoolers.
Most importantly, the individual result of our own children being raised with our values in a positive environment requiring hard work is producing some of the most effective, successful leaders in virtually every single area of the culture and economy. This means that your hard work will pay off for generations to come.
Thirty years ago, when my mother would try to explain to someone why she was homeschooling us, they would often say, “Wow, what a sacrifice!” Her response was always the same: “No, it’s an investment.”
I believe that same investment by millions of parents in our generation will reap a tremendous reward for generations to come. With even a small percentage of the populace well trained and equipped, we can bring a revolution of traditional values that renew exceptionalism in America.
And who knows — one of us might end up homeschooling a talkative, hyperactive, inquisitive child who invents an even longer-lasting light bulb, something even better than the iPhone, a cure for cancer, or some other improvement that changes the world. And while there will be many individual stories of great exceptionalism, I firmly believe we can raise up a generation of patriotic, God-fearing, freedom-loving thinkers who save American exceptionalism.