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Tolerance and Liberty: Answering the Academic Left's Challenge to Homeschooling Freedom

Peabody Journal of Education: Issues of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations, Vol. 88, No. 3

Michael Farris, Home School Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College


Millions of children in the United States are educated in the home. Millions more receive their education from private institutions. For parents, a common reason for seeking alternatives to public education is the desire to ensure that they receive instruction in accord with their religious beliefs. In many cases, these beliefs include exclusive claims about the nature of God, salvation, or morality. Recently, several scholars have argued that, to achieve a diverse and tolerant society, homeschooling and private education should be abolished or severely limited. They have contended that “a liberal multicultural education,” which will expose children to different ideas and perspectives, is necessary for the preservation of democratic values. Homeschooling, they claim, leads to close-mindedness and intolerance because children are taught to affirm certain beliefs which imply that not all other traditions are equally valid. The argument that homeschooling should be banned or severely restricted, however, relies on illiberal and intolerant premises that have already been discredited as inconsistent with our constitutional liberties. Although tolerance may be a valuable objective, it cannot be forcibly imposed by using the state's power to create philosophical homogeneity. True tolerance and diversity require a constitutional commitment to liberty for all, not a “constitutional norm” of silencing the “intolerant.”


Michael Farris, J. D., LL.M., is the Chancellor of Patrick Henry College and Chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. He founded both organizations. Farris teaches Constitutional Law and Public International Law at PHC. Farris is an experienced appellate advocate having argued before the United States Supreme Court, seven United States Courts of Appeals, and the appellate courts of 12 states. Farris received his Juris Doctorate (with honors) from Gonzaga University where he was Articles Editor of the law review and moot court champion. Farris earned an LL.M. in Public International Law (with honors) from the University of London. For his work in home education he was named by Education Week as one of the Top 100 Faces in Education of the 20th Century.