On January 16th, home educators from across the state converged on the North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck to voice their opinions on the homeschool law, meet with government officials, and begin the process of bringing back vital parental rights.
Representative RaeAnn Kelsch gave the first address to the crowd. She was the Chair of the House Education committee last legislative session, and in the past has been known to be unfriendly to pro-homeschool change in the law. Mrs. Kelsch gave some good pointers regarding how to best influence legislators and how to best draft an email to them. Don't use form letters, she said, and keep it short and to the point. Bullet points separating thoughts are very helpful as well. Towards the end of the speech, Kelsch briefly mentioned the upcoming legislation that will initiate public-school-at-home programs in a positive light, obviously not understanding that homeschoolers are generally opposed to such legislation due to the control the government would exercise upon the family.
Wayne Sanstead, Superintendent for Public Instruction, spoke later in the day. He prosecuted the homeschoolers back in the late 1980's, and at least according to him he has changed his views now that homeschoolers have proved that home education is a viable choice. However, it was clear during the speech that his previous views had not done a complete 180 and much of his unfounded suspicions of the homeschool movement remain firmly ingrained in his mind. Sanstead listed several steps of legislation that he would be willing to work with us on, but none of it was anywhere close to bringing a restoration of “green state” status to North Dakota. The best he got was offering to work to make the state pay for testing, rather than the parents. At one point, someone asked him a question about how testing doesn't measure values and morals, and Sanstead answered eloquently with how important values and morals are to the education of every child. Mark Dagley spoke up and asked for clarification on what values Sanstead was thinking of. The answer was quite shocking: At first, Sanstead talked about his involvement with the Boy Scout Movement and their values, and then mentioned the “values of the Greeks and Romans,” and how we all can agree on basic morals for everyone. He obviously wasn't standing on a firm foundation.
Another person asked if the DPI knew how many homeschooling families existed in the state. Sanstead replied (and I paraphrase), “No, we have not yet obtained a count of how many homeschoolers there are. Until we implement an effective tracking number system for every student in the state, which we are working on, we will remain ignorant as to the numbers.” He went on to describe the tracking system which eerily brought up thoughts of Big Brother looking over your shoulder in “1984.”
Dr. Sanstead described how homeschooling used to be mainly based on religious conviction, but “that's not the case anymore. We know that you guys don't represent ALL the homeschoolers in the state, so we will work to do what the majority wants, not specifically for any group.” He went on to talk about how “even though I'm impressed with your families here, there is those families out there keeping their children at home and abusing them like the case of the... blah, blah, blah...etc.”
Greg Gallagher, DPI director of Standards and Achievement, spoke at 3:30pm. He was afterwards described as being “hypnotic” with his smooth monotone voice detailing a defense of the current testing requirements. He was totally opposed to any change in the current law. Mr. Dagley asked another good question on how the testing measures success in a different manner than some people would agree with. Another homeschool Dad asked how the testing method is formulated, and Gallagher talked about how educators are chosen from all ends of the spectrum, both public and private, but no, ZERO homeschoolers.
“Yes, we would be willing to get some homeschoolers to join the discussion...” Gallagher went on to describe in vivid detail the Hegelian Dialectic that Mr. Dean Gotcher warned against in his recent North Dakota tour. Gallagher described the group setting, the facilitator, and the compromise and consensus that all would reach; of course the end result would be favorable to the DPI. It was obvious that Gallagher was using the Soviet method of faking willingness to accept public opinion while twisting, compromising, and ending up with socialist goals.
A homeschool mom spoke about the monitoring provision of the law and how she is told what not to do, but has never been told what exactly the responsibilities of a monitor really are. In her view, and mine, the law is so messed up and not effective that it is essential to abolish the provision. Afterwards, apparently Sanstead came over to her and expressed his opinion that there ought to be MORE regulation of monitors! That was exactly opposite what the lady was wanting.
L. Anita Thomas, Legal Council for ND Legislative Council, gave a good summary of socialist principles. To sum up her speech to a group of homeschoolers downstairs in the Fort Union Room, DON'T use religion, DON'T use the Constitution, and DON'T base any of your arguments to legislators on principle. “It may make you feel good,” she stated, ”but it won't do anything for your side.” Earlier, she said, “I don't think religion should have anything do with this issue. We need to focus solely on obtaining a quality education for the child.”
Someone asked about how the State Constitution doesn't appear to give authority to the state to regulate education anywhere but the public schools. Mrs. Thomas replied that the state has the responsibility to ensure a quality education for each child. I knew that was a blatant twisting of the literal reading of the Constitution, so later in the discussion I raised my hand and asked her, “You stated earlier that the state has a responsibility to ensure a quality education for each child. According to my reading of the Constitution, it merely says that the state is to provide for the establishment of a public school system, NOT to provide an education for each child. Where in the ND Constitution do you find the part about providing an education for everyone?” It was funny as her face went blank a minute, she looked sideways, paused, and then responded with the single sentence, “Who would go to the school?” Obviously she had no comprehension that the job of a legislator is to adhere strictly to a literal reading of the Constitution. Instead, she misinterpreted “establish a public school system” as “provide for the education of the public.” There is a HUGE difference!
Overall, the day was very enjoyable and educational as we listened to both the pro-homeschoolers and the anti-homeschoolers. Many friends were there in attendance and as always it was good to have a chance to visit with them. I left the capitol with awareness that we are facing a Goliath in the state; they are not going to give up without a hard fight. But I'm willing to take part in the fight, and will not stop until freedom has been won. I hope you will join me as NDHSA brings forward legislation next year to change North Dakota from a “Red” restrictive state to a “Green” free state in the tradition of the founding fathers, the Constitution, and the Bible.