Hal’s about It: Peace or Freedom

1 Nov 2004

by Hal Young

I’ve been thinking about freedom recently. Has it ever occurred to you what a radical thing true freedom is?

I had an opportunity to travel to East Germany before the reunification. One of the remarkable features of the time that I spent there was the red-and-white propaganda signs put up by the government—“Long Live German-Soviet Friendship!” “Utmost Effort to Honor Marx and Lenin!” and so forth. They were everywhere. Two words showed up very frequently—Frieden und Sicherheit, peace and security.

One of my colleagues commented, “Always Frieden, but never Freiheit.” And he was right; it was obvious the German socialist government wanted its people to value the absence of war and some notion of security, over the uncertainty of Freiheit—freedom. The government couldn’t depend on controlling a population that had freedom to choose, so the task was to limit their choices first, then condition them to prefer their constrictions rather than seek out their future in a world without guarantees.

Of course, in 1989 the Wall came down, and those people had a chance to experience the everyday life they’d only seen on TV. It was a long time coming, but thank God the day finally came.

I suppose there is an element of uncertainty, even danger, in the idea of freedom. When you have the liberty to choose, you also have the responsibility for the outcome. If you hope to enjoy the fruit of a successful decision, there’s also the possibility things won’t work out like you planned. Then what?

The thing to remember is that we have the freedom to learn from our mistakes, to repent and try again. If you have the freedom to choose, then you have the freedom to choose again later.



So how does this tie to home education? Simply put, this form of education maximizes your freedom to teach and learn. Yes, there is some stress in making the choices, and sometimes we go down the wrong path. Still, we have the liberty to change direction, even in mid-year, and find out the best methods and materials for our individual families. And I believe that even if we do wander down a blind alley, the efficiency and effectiveness of homeschooling is so great that we can make up for the lost time and still come out ahead of other alternatives.

The freedom and flexibility of homeschooling is one of its crown jewels. That’s why NCHE decided years ago not to get into the curriculum selection and school accreditation business, but to work to maintain your freedom, provide you with information to make informed decisions and connect you with a network of support and encouragement to help along the way. 

Just be wary of the call of “peace and security.” Freedom is a risky thing, but it’s what allows parents to effectively educate kids with special needs, precocious readers, those gifted in mechanics or dance or music, who may be all in the same family! You can simulate “peace and security” by enforcing uniform expectations, group thinking, age segregation and peer-focused culture, but I’d rather take the challenge of treating my kids as individuals. I look to develop the individual gifts God gave each one and trust that the greater freedom will be their freedom to be outstanding in a field they themselves have chosen, rather than one assigned to them.

When Benjamin Franklin was departing at the close of the Constitutional Convention, he was asked what form of government had been created. “A republic, if you can keep it.” That’s our situation today. We have a reasonable law and a tremendous freedom for homeschooling—if we can keep them. NCHE will always strive to protect both, but we need your dedication and help. Give us your assistance monitoring and intervening with the legislature, but remember you need to guard your own freedom as well. Don’t hand over the liberty you fought hard to win. You have the freedom, if you can—and will—keep it.

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