As libertarians, we often hear about the erosion of liberty in the U.S. and the growth of big government. However, this is not true across the board, and we should recognize the areas where we have gained liberty.
Technology is certainly helping in advancing liberty. While technology can be used against us (think of the NSA) by the government, I believe there is a net benefit towards liberty overall.
Uber is threatening the taxi cab monopolies throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. Email and other online communications are making the U.S. Post Office more obsolete by the day. The easy and cheap access to information is destroying what is known as the mainstream media.
Another area in which we have gained liberty, but which has little to do with technology, is in the area of homeschooling. While its legality was questioned up until around the 1980s, it is essentially legal everywhere in the U.S. today.
To be sure, the state laws vary, and some are better than others. Some states enforce strict standards for homeschoolers while others have minimal requirements.
This is a great symbolism of liberty. It means that you have the right to teach your kids how you want to teach them, and you have the choice not to hand them over to the state.
It is difficult to get accurate statistics on homeschooling in the U.S., but it is estimated that close to 2 million students are homeschooled now. This would be just over 3% of the U.S. student population, which is quite significant considering it was barely legal just a few decades ago.
Homeschooling is like the internet. Some people say that the government will make it illegal, but I say that the cat is already out of the bag. Homeschooling parents are very passionate about what they do and their right to do it. They tend to have a strong voice.
When a German family sought asylum in the U.S. for homeschooling their children, the homeschoolers in America got behind them. The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has become something of a force to be reckoned with. It will get behind cases that threaten parents’ rights to homeschool.
I recently attended a homeschool graduation (for any kids in the state) and a homeschool convention. You will find a lot of smart kids and a lot of diversity in terms of interests and aspirations.
There are many who still criticize or question homeschooling. Some are just apologists for the state. They think that the government should have priority over parents in raising children.
Others are just not familiar with homeschooling and question whether kids will get proper socialization.
In response to socialization, my first comment is that anyone who thinks this way should walk through a public (government) middle school in America and point out all of the kids who would be a good influence for others. I’m not saying that there aren’t any, but I’m guessing most would not exactly be role models at that age.
Also, most kids have activities in sports, music, clubs, etc. There is nothing preventing homeschooled kids from doing these things. With the popularity of homeschooling rising, it is becoming more common to have homeschool groups, co-ops, etc.
Homeschooling is not legal everything. It is illegal in Germany and Sweden for example. The general populations there obviously believe that children are owned by the state. I am glad I do not live in those places.
While liberty in the U.S. has been lost in some areas, schooling is not one of them. With more online curriculums coming, homeschooling will only get more popular. It is not just hardcore Christians homeschooling anymore. It is becoming more widespread and more acceptable. Libertarians should be thankful for this and recognize it as a gain.