Update: Over 850 Letters to the Editor received.
By ticking off an entire national demographic, David Fitzsimmons has realized a political cartoonist's dream. I hope you and he are not viewing the publicity generated by this cartoon (February 13, 2005) as an upside to this fiasco.
Having read the incidences of abuse that motivated Mr. Fitzsimmon's pen, I understand his emotional reaction and the subsequent call for increased regulation in the face of such tragedy. However, I think his premise is misguided and his proposed solution unreasonable. Furthermore, from his position of safety, I don't think he fully grasps the far-reaching implications of increased homeschool regulation or the stereotype he perpetuates.
I teach my two children in Mississippi, a state that doesn't require testing, specific instruction or yearly monitoring. I enjoy the freedom to teach physics and Latin to my twelve-year-old as well as geography and phonics to my three-year-old (subjects not available in MS public schools until much later, if at all) without having to abide by an arbitrary list of rules that make someone else feel good. Homeschoolers in states like Pennsylvania, California, and Rhode Island are not so lucky.
Targeting law-abiding families in an attempt to put us on the same "radar" as potential child abusers is intrusive and unfair. Continuing this thread of logic, I could conclude that all political cartoonists are potentially irresponsible and therefore should be strictly regulated and closely monitored as not to recklessly incite a riot. Would that be reasonable? Of course not.
Both federal and state laws currently exist to prevent or prosecute incidents of physical and emotional abuse/neglect. Can we agree that most states don't do a great job of enforcing those laws or funding those programs as it is? If not, recall this story of a Mesa, AZ three-year-old who died just this month (less than a week before the cartoon above appeared) at the hands of her abuser after five years of CPS mishandling.
In light of this case, in which the family sent their children to public school and received 28 visits from sheriff deputies as a result of numerous alerts from the school nurse, I think Mr. Fitzsimmons is either tragically optimistic or hopelessly delusional. Why else would he want to entrust the government with even wider jurisdiction and increased responsibility?
Homeschoolers are not potential threats to society or some mysterious force bent on covert acts of evil. Criminals are. Requiring us to jump through even more hoops will not prevent that. Please, don't demonize an entire population for the grievous actions of a few. I think the cartoonist's intentions were good, but as we in the homeschooling community say: the road to hell is paved with regulation.
Natalie West Criss