September 25, 2023

What Is Your Stand with the State?

What Is Your Stand with the State?

by Craig S. Smith
Gentlemen, the Lord is constantly and consistently calling
us to higher ground. It means we need to claw our
way “uphill” in a spiritual and behavioural and attitudinal
sense, fighting the world, the flesh and the devil to
make any progress along the road of sanctification. A
part of me dislikes the implications of passages such as
Philippians 3:13-14 where it says, “…forgetting what
lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I
press on….toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,”
for I see there a whole entire life of hard work,
pressing on, always moving to higher ground. And that
is not just struggling with my personal self, it includes
husbanding my wife properly and fathering my children
as I should. Here is a challenge that will try even the
most worthy of Christian men!
In addition, there are other areas of vast importance
with which we must struggle in order to shepherd our
families aright. Not only do we need to struggle to work
out what we must do, we must also comprehend the
issues so that we can then instruct our children in the
way they should go in regards to these areas.
One such area that seems to be almost a no-brainer is
how we as home educators deal with the Ministry of
Education (MoE) and the Education Review Office
(ERO). I know many of us see no problem: tell them
what we’re up to, show the ERO around, answer their
questions, hide nothing for we have nothing to hide.
The people with whom we deal within both the MoE
and ERO are generally not only very reasonable people
but also quite friendly, decent and nice to get to know.
In itself this is great! The problem is that these lovely
folks are the face, but not the heart, of these huge, powerful
state institutions of civil government. We may
read from their personableness and friendliness messages
that are not shared by the MoE or ERO official
policy positions in regard to us home educators or home
education in general. We must, therefore, be alert and
on guard lest our personal freedoms and those of generations
to follow be compromised by our relaxed attitude
and quick compliance to any request.

Ministry of Education

The first thing to note about schooling in New Zealand
is that it is compulsory. We are talking naked force here
in the face of mountains of evidence that compulsory,
taxpayer-funded and secular schooling is a very poor
baby sitting service, let alone educational institution.
The schools cannot guarantee either the physical safety
of their inmates nor their educational enhancement,
even though students are compelled by law to attend. It
is worth noting that in many other countries, their Education
Acts state that students must be “educated” or
receive “education”, whereas in NZ, students must
both be enrolled at and attend registered schools. That
is, in NZ schooling is compulsory while in other countries
education is compulsory. The two things are not
The next thing to note is that classroom instruction is a
rather mediocre method of teaching either academics
or social graces. But it is the only logistical solution to
the division of labour philosophy or the efficiency of
production philosophy which both levered the task of
educating one’s children out of the hands of NZ parents
via the first Education Act back in 1877. (One
could argue that the real mistake was in viewing the
educational task of one’s children as a task that was
totally transferable, one that could be just as efficiently
accomplished using a production-line, conveyor-belt
concept as it would be in leaving every parent to do the
job himself. But that is an issue for a future article!)
Classrooms are ideal environments for fostering groupthink
and peer-dependency wherein most aspects of
education are socialised. That is, one must learn maths
in a peer group, rather than on his own or from a tutor;
one can only learn social interaction in a group of peers
and not from interacting with parents and siblings; history
becomes a function of what the peer group decides
happened back then, ably guided by the politically-
correct agenda expressed in the state’s textbooks,
rather than what your parents and your church tell you
about it.
This socialised form of learning (as opposed to the
family-oriented form we enjoy as home educators) is
specifically designed to break the natural stranglehold
which the Lord God designed parents and households
to have over their children’s developing attitudes, values,
knowledge and understanding. Consequently
among state educationalists there is constant pressure
to lower the age of compulsory school attendance: at
present the age of six is what they feel they can get
away with. Convention has since ensured that most
five-year-olds attend anyway. And we do have MPs
clamouring for compulsory pre-school. Call me a sceptic,
but the vision of state educational bureaucrats being
more concerned about my child’s personal development
than they are about the pressure from teachers’
unions, special interest lobby groups and other social
engineers is not a vision that readily comes into my
mind when I contemplate our state school system!
There is something – no, actually there are a lot of
things – about a schooling situation which should give
us all cause for concern. There is a tendency, one I will
identify as coming from our sinful natures, to use the
school as a convenient dumping ground, a place to put
children when they just seem to be too much hassle.
But in our more rational moments, we must surely
wonder why we’d off-load our precious children onto
people far less interested in their welfare, far less compassionate
toward them, far less able to properly focus
on them, far less committed to their success than we
are. The typical teacher (in virtually every case) is totally
oblivious and even uncaring toward our children’s
family backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, standards, values,
customs, etc. Why would we ever dream of doing
such things to our children?
In the case of around 90% of parents it would appear
that they have been trained to trust the schools and
have never given any other alternative a moment’s
thought…..not to mention that the law compels parents
to send them away from home, that is, removes from
them meaningful choices; that is, intervenes into every
resident NZ family without exception and dictates to
parents what they will do with the bulk of their children’s
lives on a day-to-day basis; that is, pulls the rug
of parental responsibility toward their children clean
out from under them, upsetting and damaging families
to one degree or another, again without exception. The
biggest bully in the classroom may well be the one
standing at the blackboard. But there are bigger ones in
the MoE and Paliament standing solidly behind and
totally in favour of the compulsory attendance laws.
Let me quote from the MoE’s Home Schooling Desk
File of 1996:
“Some parents will see it as their right to homeschool
their children.1 It is important to understand, however,
that there is no unfettered right to homeschooling,
though all parents have the right to apply for a certificate
of exemption to enable them to educate their children
at home. Put another way, parents have a right to
educate their children at home, but the exercise of that
right is subject to the Secretary being satisfied that the
children ‘will be taught at least as regularly and well as
in a registered school’”.
It must be recognised that there are people in both the
MoE and ERO who would shut down home education
in a flash if they had the chance. More than one official
I have dealt with in the Ministry has told me that about
50% of the staff do not like home education and feel it
needs to be far more regulated and controlled. I sat
across the table from one MP who thumped the table as
she told me, “You home schoolers should be subject to
every single regulation in the Act because you are de
facto schools!” I not only declined to agree with her, I
said if any such nightmare should ever eventuate, the
government would have a massive amount of civil disobedience
on its hands.
So who’s in charge here? Whose are the children and
who will ultimately control their education? It seems
pretty clear what the state thinks about these issues.
Woe to me and my family on the day the state should
ever try to definitively settle the issue in their favour: I
will fight it with vehemence. May the Lord grant me
the courage to fight it until my last breath.

The Education Review Office

Now, there is another government department known
as the ERO: Education Review Office. They are separate
from the Ministry of Education so as to be more
“objective” when they review the performance of
schools and report back to the Ministry. Their reports
then go on-line and are available to anyone, anywhere!
(See under “Reports”). Schools fear
and almost loathe the ERO! There has certainly been
some animosity between these two in the past, though
not so much today it seems.
They also have a unit that deals with home educators.
It is presently run by a gentleman who is incredibly
positive toward home education. In fact, he tells people
that he would like to see his grandchildren home educated!
ERO visits are not regular: only about 12% of
Home Educators get visited in any one year. They are
almost all very positive experiences. Some home educators
say it is nice to have others affirm what they’re
doing and that it is especially comforting to have a
state official confirm, in a written report, their programme,
credibility and performance.
While we always want to be polite, respectful and lawabiding,
I get very worried about having too chummy a
friendship with ERO and MoE people. The bottom line
is, when ERO folks visit our homes, they represent the
state. So here is the state sitting in judgement on my
chosen lifestyle. They are evaluating the way I relate to
my own children. The whole concept is highly repugnant
to me. I do not need, nor do I want, confirmation
or affirmation or approval from a secular state upon
my Christian lifestyle.
Our Prime Minister, Helen Clark, my local MP Steve
Maharey, our “transsexual” MP Georgina Beyer, our
homosexual MP Tim Barnett who just got prostitution
in this country legalised so it is as valid as the corner
grocery: these high-profile MPs openly say Christianity
has no credibility or any place in public life. Consequently
they are moving to ban spanking by parents in
the home, saying out loud ridiculous things such as,
“Why is it only fundamentalist Christians feel they
have to beat their children into submission?” When
children are killed in this country by senseless beatings,
there is a renewed cry by these folks for a ban on
spanking. Yet who beats the children to death? Live-in
boyfriends! And the media refers to these scum-bags
as the dead child’s “step-father”! Neither the media nor
the politicians of this country are the least bit qualified
to judge a Christian or a Christian lifestyle, nor do they
have any Biblical mandate for authority in this area.
Especially when they do not lift a finger to defend the
17,000 most innocent of us all who are mercilessly
slaughtered every year in this country, year after year,
at the rate of one abortion every half an hour.
In the early days of Home Education here (before the
ERO), the Psychological Services officer came quite
regularly with new staff to do “practice” reviews on
our family as training for his staff. At the time we
thought it was great. He was a nice guy. So were most
of the other staff we met. We enjoyed the friendly relations
we had with officialdom. No more. The present
ERO gentleman, as I’ve said, is very positive, and we
actually like him a lot too. He’s come to our home for
a cuppa, but when he wanted to do a review2, I said
we’d never let it happen in our home on principle.
What is the principle? It is one that developed over the
years after meeting some of these state agents who do
not like home education. The fact is, they have the
power, they sit in places of influence, to make life
tough for us. When the current ERO gentleman retires,
just think what could happen to us if he is replaced by
some dragon?
Sadly I have found that these bureaucrats will overstep
their legal powers quite regularly in order to make their
job easier. It is not a vindictive thing: they just want
their days to be as straight-forward and as uncomplicated
as possible. We all desire the same thing. And
that can mean they’ll do something as minor as fail to
produce their ID when doing a review in the home, as
the law requires, or as major as telling home educators
that they must have a Social Studies and a Technology
component to their programme, which the law does not
When these powerful state agents sit in our homes,
these people who can write reports that could bring
down on us the wrath of the Education authorities or
even worse, the unreasoning interventions of Child
Protection Agencies (CYFS in NZ), we do not know if
they will suddenly take umbrage at a plaque they see
hanging on the wall, a smell they encounter, what they
perceive to be a smirk on your face or an attitude in
your tone of voice, or a comment by one of the children
that “Daddy spanks really hard!” American home
educators have declared their horror and unbelief upon
learning of the standard practise here of letting ERO
people into our homes for a Review. They have further
told me that state agents in the USA are always assumed
to be on “fishing” expeditions, looking for evidence
of one thing or another as an excuse to send
along a colleague from another state agency. I no
longer see any reason why I should expose my family
to such dangers, as remote as they might be, when I
know for a fact that there are people, lots of people,
within these agencies who are totally opposed to Christianity
and to home education.
Matthew 10:16 says, “Behold, I send you out as sheep
in the midst of wolves; so be as wise as serpents and
innocent as doves.” It’s a harsh place out there and we
need to have our wits about us. One of my applications
of this is not to expose my family to unnecessary danger,
such as an ERO visit in our home. Or asking the
MoE for more money, which is just inviting them to
demand access to our personal accounts to find out
how we spend it. Or wanting the MoE to hire home
educators to assess exemptions or the ERO to hire
home educators to do reviews, thus creating harpies,
satyrs or Echidna-like hybrids who would be torn between
two masters.
Research the issues for yourselves, men, and be confident
of your stand.
1. I don’t. I see it as my responsibility before God.
Woe to the state bureaucrat who tries to prevent me
from fulfilling my responsibility.
2. This fellow did review us just recently, in our
church’s lounge: we had a great time together and
we got a glowing report…and we were not caught in
that cleft stick of trying to be gracious hosts to a
visitor in our home while at the same time trying to
keep a state agent at arm’s length and the entire
proceedings on a professional, objective level.

From Keystone Magazine

May 2004 , Vol. X No. 3
P O Box 9064
Palmerston North
Phone: (06) 357-4399
Fax: (06) 357-4389

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