Friday, April 28, 2006

History of Home Schooling in North Dakota

Today Jim asked me to read his latest submission to the Home School Report; publication for the North Dakota Home School Association. I thought you might find it interesting, as the events and comments included so closely relate to what is happening with government controls in agriculture. North Dakota has the reputation of being the most restrictive state in the nation regarding home schooling laws. The home schooling families in this state must constantly be vigilant, as there are many in state government that are ready and willing to take away what freedoms we do have. Our family will be in the hot seat, as Jim is executive director of the NDHSA, and will most likely be traveling to the legislature to testify in various committee meetings.

A couple of years ago I scoured libraries, archives and files of the North Dakota courts, universities, newspapers, home school families and the NDHSA which resulted in an amazing pile of information which gives glory to God in many ways.

In order to organize this mass of interesting information, I personally hired Lori Kenney and Lynn Bartlett to help me create a chronological annotated bibliography which is now being made available as a publication of the NDHSA. Over several months, Lynn, Lori and I read through the documents, placed them in chronological order, highlighted the key dates and names, and noted the thoughts that caught our attention.

This 80 page bibliography begins with the Dyck “It Did Happen Here” story of 1978 and Lynnette Dagley’s inspiration to form the NDHSA in 1983. It then proceeds through the legal battles of many ND home school families to the Bismarck Tea Party and Governor Sinner signing the ND Home School Law in 1989. This bibliography also covers the follow-on vigilance, ND home education activities, family stories, and the 1998 memorial of Clinton Birst. Michael Farris has invited me to spend as much time as needed in the HSLDA Virginia archives to finish collecting the legal details, but I’ll either need helpers or designated funding to make that trip happen.

This bibliographic history is like a series of small windows along a long hallway which gives the person walking down the hallway a glimpse into the past. It helps the reader (1) better understand the present attitudes about home schooling in ND, and (2) ponder strategies, defenses, and Biblical perspectives which have been time, court, and legislatively tested in preparation for future legal and legislative interactions. The details in this bibliography also contain powerful testimonies and wisdom worth sharing with friends and families.

Stepping back to appreciate the broad perspective, I think it is very helpful to remember that there are different ways to view history. For example, the religion of secular humanism views history as the history of man’s accomplishments, where the Bible presents history as God’s interaction with man. As R. J. Rushdoony wrote in his book titled The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum(p. 40), “These two perspectives are mutually exclusive: either God is God, or man is God, and history is either basically God’s work or it is man’s work. The teaching of history cannot halt between these opinions. History is not social science; it is a theological science, because it is an aspect of God’s creation.” The events of North Dakota's homeschool history, seen in light of God's perspective are compellingly interesting, because we are actually looking at the hand of God working in North Dakota, not just a series of factual events or the decisions of man. Most of the Christians who lived this history understood this and acknowledged God in their homes, courtrooms, legislative actions, and the press. We can all be inspired by their actions and encouraged to follow in their footsteps.

The following paragraphs provide an example of the content and format of this chronological annotated bibliography which captures and organizes the history of home schooling in North Dakota is a sound bite format.


Samples from the Chronological Annotated Bibliography of the History of ND Home Schooling

Lynette Dagley, family scrapbook, June 1983. “The inspiration to begin the NDHSA began here at The Black Hills Health and Education Center in Hermosa, SD, June 1983.”

“Children told to testify against parents,” Bismarck Tribune, 24 January 1984, 7. “A judge in Minot ordered three children of a Baptist minister to testify against their parents…on charges of violating the state compulsory school attendance law.”
“…North Dakota does not have a law giving children a privilege against testifying against their parents…” Children were interviewed by a psychologist who found them “likely to be damaged psychologically if forced to testify against their parents…” “states interest in the alleged crime is clearly outweighed by the potential harm to the children and family…”

Gannon, Grael Brian, partial letter to Bismarck Tribune. “…People who seek the freedom to educate their children according to their convictions are only asking to work hard, to do good, and to pay their own way. They are not asking for freedom to neglect their children. They are only asking to do what the state says is its compelling interest: to educate them. And to do it every bit as well – or better – than the state can.” The following closing was not included in the Bismarck Tribune: “To use the law as an instrument to persecute these godly people is a terrible wrong. When we break their hearts, destroy their hopes, and shatter their dreams, we diminish ourselves. When are the people of North Dakota going to say ‘Enough of this shame’.

North Dakota Home School Association, January 1985. 1. Clinton Birst’s letter to pastors regarding homeschooling, and the benefits the association can give to them. “Children thrive better in bad homes than in good institutions.” Reference to Dr. Bowly, educator who had done studies for the World Health Organization. “God has designed the home to be a powerful learning center.” Reference to homeschool dads becoming better leaders and contributing to the church.

Hendrickson, Lucille, “Home Schools: The Final Test,” Bismarck Tribune. “In 1984, the Rev. Thomas and Peggy Patzer and Ray and Lorita Larsen were convicted in Stutsman County Court, and the other couples, Richard and Kathy Reimche and Gerald and Sheryl Lund, were convicted in Bottineau County Court…The State Supreme Court upheld the convictions in January of 1985. Chris Klicka,…said it will not be known whether the U.S. court will agree to hear the case until after the fall court term begins. Mike Farris…is representing the North Dakota parents.”

Klaudt, Edna, “Parents Know Best About Teaching Kids,” Bismarck Tribune, Editorial. “Governments have long considered public education their most important tool for indoctrinating and controlling the young.”

Letter to Mark and Lynette Dagley, 14 January 1986. Opposition letter. “I get tired of unqualified persons, thinking they can do better, because of their religious beliefs. We all have to abide by laws for the safety of Americans. If we break the laws, because of our Christian beliefs we sin against God! Because He expects us to obey Christian as well as public laws…”

Anderson, Rev. and Mrs. Larry, Letter to North Dakota Home School Association, 2 February 1986. “…We have 5 children in school now – kindergarten to sophomore year – and have had to return to the public system due to present circumstances. We are vexed daily with the standards and values being taught and practiced in the public system and we’re working to inform ourselves as to the alternatives available to us….Since then, God has increased our understanding and strengthened our convictions and we are compelled by His Spirit to seriously consider what part we can play and, more importantly, what God would have us do, both for our own children and for others who may be in the situation we are in…”

Birst, Rev. Clinton, Letter to Dr. Sam B. Peavey, 4 February 1986. “…The Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Wayne Sanstead, has softened his opposition to home schooling by indicating that some accommodation is necessary in order to get good parents out of court…The most unusual case we have involves a chairman of a public school board who in frustration removed his children from the public school and enrolled them in a Christian correspondence program. This prompted the county prosecutor to charge the children, then nine and ten, with statutory ‘unruliness.’ At this point, I believe the goal was to intimidate by charging the children with a social service charge in civil law rather than charging the parents with violating the compulsory education law, a criminal violation. We have found it more difficult to deal with the civil law than criminal law. Fortunately, we have reason to believe that the North Dakota Supreme Court will consider the charging of children in this instance an inappropriate use of the law.”

Editorial. “Good parents, good homes, good schools.” The Bismarck Tribune. 9 February 1987. This is an editorial by the staff of The Bismarck Tribune. “It’s clear by now that parents who wish to teach their own children are not just ‘kooks’ and zealots, but reasonable people genuinely concerned about the quality of public education or who simply believe in nurturing their children. There is no danger in home schooling as long as the quality of education is preserved. We don’t all have to come rubber-stamped out of the same mold to get along in this world. The current law is unworkable. Some parents are prosecuted, and others aren’t. School officials are put in the role of detectives to identify home school families.”

Herron, Stacy. “Home School effort falls one vote short.” The Bismarck Tribune. 19 February 1987. It talks about the fact that the bill lost by one vote in the House today. It needed one more vote to meet the constitutional majority. “Although the state lets parents home school, it has one of the most restrictive laws in the country by requiring teacher certification for those parents.”

The Home School Court Report. March-June, 1987. Written by HSLDA. The lead article is entitled “The Front Lines” by Chris Klicka. Mr. Klicka states “The real issue involves who has the authority to dictate how the children are educated: the parents or the public school authorities? The state, in the form of the public school system and the National Education Association (NEA), believes that they alone have sufficient knowledge and ability to control the education of the children.” It goes on to say, “One outrageous argument was raised in a home school trial in North Dakota by the prosecutor. He stated that home schooling was inadequate because the children did not have the educational advantage to be pushed around by a school bully! In other words, it is harmful for the child to be sheltered from bullies because he will miss an important social experience which would have prepared him for life.”

“Hard Times in North Dakota.” Jacqueline McDonald. August 1988. HSLDA received the following letter in August 1988. It eloquently describes the fears and joys of a home school family living in ND in the early 1980’s. This home school mother tells her story of home schooling her children on the Minot Air Force Base during the years when home schooling was illegal in ND. She tells of how she was afraid to tell anyone of her children staying home with her, and how God laid it on her heart to home school and she felt compelled to do so. They became good friends with Gerald and Sheryl Lund but tried to tell no one else of their home school. Her husband asked to be transferred to another state where it was legal, and they were finally transferred to Texas which just had won a major court victory in favor of home schoolers in April of 1986. She is praising God for never having to face a court trial in this case as her husband was in the military and they could not face this. God miraculously protected them! Praise GOD!

Gallagher, John. “Those lawless folk who had to home school.” Legislative Front Newsletter. There is no date on this editorial. He is writing for a column entitled “Reverse Angle.” Mr. Gallagher states “The home school lobby came out a winner in the 1989 debate, and has worked to improve its position in subsequent sessions. But it knows, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so it will have to keep a presence in Bismarck forever. With this year’s graduation, we’re seeing some of the first fruits of that hard-won but bold and brilliant 1989 legislation.”

Clips from a 1989 possible HSLDA magazine or newsletter. The clip says “1989, North Dakota, Hawaii, Maine, Ohio. February 20 - North Dakota. As part of a rally at the State Capitol 150 home schoolers from 11 states celebrated a “Bismarck Tea Party,” flooding the offices of legislators with hundreds of tea bags with the attached message: ‘The consent of the governed for home schooling, too!’” February 27- North Dakota: Judge Dennis A. Schneider dismissed the child neglect charge of HSLDA members Barry and Kim Fisher, and in a five page decision ruled that simply proving that a child is not receiving an education as required by law is not sufficient to sustain such charges.

April 7 – North Dakota: Governor George A. Sinner signed into law HB 1421, ND’s new home schooling law, which repealed the state’s former teacher certification requirement for all teachers.

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee. Deuteronomy 32:7

Jim Bartlett


Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn,

Thanks for posting this. I found it really interesting and informative.

Happy trails!

Chris Moonbeams said...

Hi there, I was surfing the internet and I found your blog. I like the way how you have put it all together. I'll be coming back again.


birdwatching birds