Last March delivered a double wham­my to the American people.  A few pundits expressed dismay; some parents shook their heads sadly.  Then people moved on.

On March 10, California’s 2nd Appellate Court virtually banned homeschooling.  Then on March 11, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene of the Centers for Disease Control announced epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases among teenage girls (one in four).  Both were lost among headlines about mortgages and money, murder and mayhem, sex scandals of the rich and powerful.

With the economy already taking a beating and the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war then at hand, presidential candidates on the stump stuck to monetary issues and troop withdrawals.  They declined to weigh in on the attempt by an out-of-control judiciary to deprive parents of their rights and children of a solid education.

California Gov. Arnold Schwar­ze­neg­ger expressed indignation over the homeschooling crackdown.  “This outrageous ruling must be overturned,” he demanded, “and if the courts won’t protect parents’ rights, then, as elected officials, we will.  Parents should not be penalized for acting in the best interests of their children.”  The Governator apparently is not aware that the Nanny State has been encroaching on parents’ rights for some 40 years, or that the educational bureaucracy has been moving leftward, regardless of party affiliation.

Incursions into sacrosanct areas of the family have been incremental and subtle—a bureaucratic regulation here, a new policy there, a government-backed “incentive” somewhere else.  It isn’t until you rewind a couple of decades that it becomes apparent how much self-determination has been squeezed out of the republic.

That the blatant attack against homeschoolers was not based on academic concerns should have come as no surprise to anyone following education issues.  In America’s public schools the emphasis has not been on the transmission of substantive knowledge for a long time.  Instead, the focus has been on the so-called socialization of children—although civility and good manners are neither taught nor expected.  Socialization boils down to “mental health.”

Justice H. Walter Croskey, writing for the 2nd Appellate Court, confirmed the objectives of government schooling when he wrote that “keeping the children at home deprived them of situations where . . . they could develop emotionally in a broader world than the parents’ ‘cloistered setting’.”

Of course, inoculating against cultural rot is the primary consideration in most parents’ decision to homeschool.  Another is substantive curriculum.

Research shows that young children, in particular, do not do as well in mass-institutional settings.  Without guidance and leadership administered by caring and interested adults, youngsters tend to form brutal Lord of the Flies subcultures that do not serve their best interests now nor anyone else’s later, when they graduate.  The result is cultural devolution and a country awash in lawlessness and violence.

Take away the focus that academics provide, and children will compete, but not for good grades.  They will compete to see who can intimidate other pupils, who can wear the most outrageous clothes, who can mouth the filthiest obscenities, who can wreak the most havoc, even who can get pregnant first.

This is precisely the environment from which homeschoolers have seceded.  The average public school not only is stressful, dysfunctional, and unstructured but actively encourages poor character.  Government schools are not attempting to form critical thinkers, analytical thinkers, or any other kind of thinkers.  They promote “consensus” (groupthink), knee-jerk emotionalism, interdependence, and peer pressure.  Then they tell kids to “say no to drugs” and gangs.

Abundant opportunities exist for youngsters to socialize—church, neighborhood, and structured recreational activities such as music, dance, swimming, camping.  The appellate-court judges know this.  What they object to is parents choosing which activities their children pursue and with whom they will associate.

Public Law 92-96-88, Title I, Section 101, No. 3 states: “Parents have the primary responsibility for the education of their children and states, localities, and private interests have the primary responsibility for supporting that parental role.”  In 1970, Congress issued an amendment to the General Education Provisions Act: a “Prohibition Against Federal Control of Education.”  This was reiterated in the Education Amendments of 1976, just as the new U.S. Department of Education was assuming Cabinet-level status.

Some 30 years later, here comes the California Teachers Association, the state arm of the NEA, applauding the court for sticking it to homeschooling parents.  This was predictable.  In its annual legislative agenda, the NEA has for years been attempting to categorize homeschooling as outright child abuse.

When I taught in the California public-school system (Orange County, 1968-73), it was clear to me where things were headed.  Prevailing wisdom held that parents were amateurs unless they had degrees in behavioral psychology.  Nothing they said carried weight concerning school policy, curriculum, textbooks, or teaching methods, even if the parents in question were otherwise well educated.

Parents began protesting sex education in the 1950’s—not because sex was included per se, but because it was being treated as a course apart from physiology.  This overemphasis, most parents felt, would catapult youngsters into a world of obsessive sexuality and serve to titillate rather than to inform.

They were proved correct.

Sex educators kept pushing the envelope, urging more graphic curricula until, by the 1980’s, sex-ed was more about arousal than reproduction, more about how-to’s than health.

Not only have the rates of sexually transmitted diseases soared, but pornography and perversion are now pervasive.  Illegitimacy has skyrocketed to nearly 40 percent of U.S. babies (70 percent among blacks, which had leveled out at 30 percent in the 1950’s).  Divorce and cohabitation devastate families, traumatize children, and increase healthcare costs.

Predictably, the media has followed education’s lead: We’re subjected to happy-face, nonjudgmental herpes commercials—which fail to inform that these diseases ravage the mouths of those naive enough to believe that “oral sex isn’t really sex.”

Depictions of sex on television, in movies, and in fashion magazines have many among the Woodstock generation cringing.  It isn’t just that the over-50 crowd is experiencing a midlife crisis.  Baby boomers are aghast at what their love fests of the 60’s actually produced.  Sex is no longer about flirtation, sensuality, or affection.  It is about calisthenics—how many, what kind, and the level of bizarreness.  Sex has turned lurid.  Rape, incest, deviancy, and sadism are grossly overrepresented in today’s films, TV dramas, and sitcoms.

It is difficult enough to protect youngsters without the courts pronouncing (in 2005) that “parental rights stop at the schoolhouse door.”  Combined with other antiparent rulings, including the ousting of religious morality, it is hard to imagine what schools will be like in another 25 years.

In addition, schoolchildren are being exposed to intimate questionnaires and probing surveys under the guise of education.  The modesty ethic has been stood on its head, with the excuse that, if one has “nothing to hide,” intimate questions should not be a problem.  Then, when kids respond poorly, their parents are pressured to administer psychotropic drugs and to enlist the school counselor, who nearly always slaps a label of mental illness on the child.  Many wind up in special education, which has itself devolved into a holding tank for “conduct disorders.”  Special-ed teachers have nothing in their arsenals to combat real academic difficulties; consequently, disciplinary issues have become the central focus of such placement.

Today, some two million home­schoolers reject the government diktat that all children attend “accredited institutional settings.”  That is a good sign, but parents should have drawn the line 35 years ago, followed by a nationwide taxpayer hissy fit.

In an era that equates outrage with mental illness and “refuse­niks” with criminality, parents are discouraged from serious activism.  In the wake of this latest attack on parental rights, Americans who balk at any policy are about to find themselves squeezed out.

There was a time when Americans expected a place at the table whenever disagreements over policy occurred.  Now, parents who show up at the public school to examine textbooks, or merely to sit in on a child’s class (as in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma), are being escorted away by police.

From there, it is a short step to mandatory counseling or, we might say, punitive psychiatry.