How to be an American Citizen

By Lauren Gideon

The original article, “How to be an American Citizen: The Relationship between the Represented and the Representative,” was published in The Cultivated Patriot.

There is a lot of confusion these days (and dare I make us all nauseous and use the word “misinformation”), drowning the American citizen. We don’t always know what is going on, but even more than that, we haven’t been trained in what to do about it. The battle cry of our generation is “Just DO something!” If that doesn’t make you snicker a wee bit, this installment might be for you.

Republic or Democracy—What is the difference?

As American citizens, we live in a republic, meaning we have a representative government. Most often, though, the United States is falsely described as a democracy. This distinction could fill up this entire paper, so instead, I will summarize. In both systems, the ultimate power is held in the hands of the voter.

Direct Democracy

In a direct democracy, however, the voter would literally vote on every issue. There is no assurance that what the voter votes for is moral or just. It is truly an expedient representation of the will of the people. Thomas Jefferson, who was initially endeared to this style of governance, was disenchanted by it over the course of his service as Governor of Virginia. While unverified, he is credited with saying, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.” So, while mob rule is expedient and gives ALL the “power to the people” ALL of the time, it can potentially be very dangerous. Consider the unbridled mob-like mentality of the past several years on ALL sides of the political arena.

“Democracy is nothing more than mob rule,
where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.

Republic—Representative Government

A republic is still organized with the citizen as the highest authority. However, a republic is less efficient and expedient. Our power as citizens is vested in those we choose to represent us. We vet, we interrogate, we debate, and then we select. Our selection is our seal that the individual we’ve chosen is the best person for the job that we could find within the population for that office. This process is THE exercise of the citizen’s authority in the framework of a republic. This description is by no means a marginalization of the citizen’s role. In the “Just DO something” age, it’s essential first to define what we should be doing.

The exercise of this role is much more complex than scribbling in an oval with ink a few times a year (much less every four years!).

Who are our Representatives?

Our representatives represent us in the office and exercise authority on our behalf.

Ideally, how should you select a representative?

Find someone with sufficient knowledge, who understands that knowledge, and has wisdom in applying that knowledge. Another way of articulating the qualifications: do they possess true principles? Building on those principles, can they reason well? Lastly, could they strategically apply those principles to any potential circumstance? That is how we ought to select our representative.

Two Seasons of a Representative

This process has two seasons: first, the selection (a primary and general election), and then the term in which they do the representing.

During the representative’s term, we should support and encourage the candidate the majority thought was best suited for the role.

Support means we consider the principles we base our decisions on. These become the mechanisms of conversation and sometimes persuasion. We winsomely advocate for applying these principles on issues based on the merits of goodness, justice, and wisdom (or lack thereof). We thereby partner with those representing us.

Terms have different lengths, but they all have limits. Like all healthy assignments, there are seasons of assessing, or “performance reviews,” if you will.

Who performs the reviews, you ask? The voters. Can we all agree that there are qualifications for the heavy responsibility of giving performance reviews? You would need to know the standard or “ideal,” and you would need to know the merits on which the representative was selected in the first place. And you would also need to be engaged enough to know what transpired during the term and WHY. The assessment is a layered puzzle that will take more than a yard sign, a piece of literature, or a social media post to perform. But as the sovereign in this great nation, “We, the people,” have this high calling and responsibility to rule our country well. We need to hold ourselves individually accountable to the measure this office deserves.

“We, the people,” have this high calling and responsibility to rule our country well.

Our Responsibility as an American Citizen

Juxtapose the calm, calculated, time-consuming, discipline-requiring paradigm as stated above with the suggested playbook of our age. Verbs enlisted to the cause include yell, scream, e-blast, force, fight, rally, bully, protest, and “make your voices heard.”

If you don’t join the mob, this will mean to others that you aren’t yet awake enough. If the wicked have succeeded in this vein, isn’t it time we “borrow a page from their playbook”? And if your representative doesn’t bow to your beck and call, he’s “forgotten who he works for.” After all, “We the people” make our demands. If enough people want something, a representative should be bound to give it to them. And if our representative doesn’t, we choose vindication over virtue.

Which Playbook do we use?

If the stakes are high (as the last commentator I listened to told me they were), ought we use the most effective playbook for the task? Yes and no. I am not confident we have a modern example of a diligent, virtuous approach to politics by which to form a fair comparison. Perhaps there still is wisdom in the path of diligence, and, to a degree, we can generally anticipate that we will reap the seeds we sow.

Additionally, the wicked have always prospered, and they will until the end of this age. So, to take a page from the wicked’s playbook to achieve a moral end is inconsistent and incompatible. Also, is it just those “other” people who are tempted to be tiny tyrants?

Tyranny is All Around Us

If dominance is how the team moves the football down the field, would they give up their tyrannical ways once they reach the end zone? Victory would mean nothing less than a regime change where one tribe steals the scepter to wield how they see fit. To quote my colleague, “Tyranny is awful except for my tyranny… which is ok.

To get back on track, I am not assuming that we will always see eye-to-eye with those who represent us, especially if we are “on-ramped” into this cycle somewhere in the middle. It would be imperative that we identify what season we are currently in with each individual representative.

Do our Research!

As an American citizen, we need to do our research, and then enter into a relationship with these civil servants who represent us. We can get to know them, their background, and their priorities. Like any new relationship, we ought to find what principles we have in common. Then, when we meet a division of opinion, we appeal on the merits of goodness, justice, and wisdom. We build our reasoning on something timeless, outside of mere opinion, on some truth that both can identify. Provide authoritative sources. And then be professional!

When this fails, it will, at some point—we need to evaluate. What level of division is it? Is it a deal-breaking disagreement? Should it be? Or is it an area of minor consequence? Review season is coming, and you will take your role more seriously this time. After you have made your appeal to your representative, and once primary season is at hand, it’s time for the community to reevaluate if they (and, more importantly, truth) are best represented by the current representative. This can not happen in a vacuum.

The constituents must compare notes, events, circumstances, choices, and actions. They must focus on winsomely persuading their neighbors to vote based on what is good, just, and wise. They must consolidate their voting power to find the best representative for their community.

We will Reap what we Sow

As American citizens, we vet, we interrogate, we debate, and then we select our representative. We remember that our selection is our seal that the individual we’ve chosen is the best person for the job we could find within the population that is being represented by this office. And from the last term, we realize we will reap what we sow.

When the primary season is over, what’s done is done. And it’s back to the season of civil relationships.

Read other articles written by Lauren here.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations. She co-leads and teaches through an organization committed to raising citizenship I.Q. on U.S. founding documents. She and her husband homeschool their seven children on their small acreage, where they are enjoying their new adventures in homesteading.

School Choice has Come to Louisiana

School Choice Has Come To Louisiana

By Jennifer Bright

Each year, more and more states are embracing school choice options through education savings accounts (ESAs) and school voucher legislation. Alabama was the first state to pass a universal school choice bill in 2024! Louisiana will not be far behind as it is being debated this week in the Louisiana Senate.

As private homeschoolers in Louisiana, why should we be concerned about ESAs or school voucher legislation? Statistically, Louisiana has always been near or at the bottom in education as compared to the other fifty states. For example, in 2023, Louisiana ranked 46th. The question that is often asked is, why wouldn’t we support these school choice options? Wouldn’t ESAs help lift Louisiana students from the bottom?

School Choice

‘School choice’ is often referred to as educational choice, educational options, parent choice, etc., in which taxpayer-funded monies are channeled through school vouchers, educational savings accounts, educational empowerment scholarships, tax credits, etc., (which sound and look enticing) for parents to choose the educational option that they believe is best for their child(ren). Louisiana’s version, the Giving All True Opportunity to Rise (LA GATOR) scholarship program, is being decided this week at the capital.

Government Monies—Government Regulation

As with all government monies, there will be regulations, rules, accountability, and control. Currently, 13% of Louisiana school districts receive their funding from the Federal Government, and the rest is divided between the state’s budget and our local sales and property taxes.

How will this new legislation affect private homeschoolers in Louisiana? From HB 745, section 4037.5. (Schools and service providers; eligibility; participation), private homeschoolers who register either as a home study program or a nonpublic school not seeking state approval are not eligible to participate or concurrently enroll in the LA GATOR scholarship program. The LA GATOR scholarship program sets up a new class of government-funded students, just like Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. So currently, private homeschoolers will not be affected.

            “When parents take these funds, they sign a statement that they are no longer homeschooling, even if they may be educating at home. As a result, accepting ESA funds places the student in a new category as an ESA student. Because students are no longer privately funded homeschool students, but instead publicly funded ESA students, government regulation inevitably follows and impacts the education these students receive.”[1]

It may not affect private homeschoolers today, it could in the future. The current bill requires all students who participate in the LA GATOR scholarship program to comply with all program requirements (including yearly testing). But what about next year or the year after, how will the government change or modify the program requirements?

Other States’ ESA Programs and Problems

Let’s look at a couple of other states that have drunk from the well of ESAs, like  Arizona and West Virginia. Budgets have blown up! There is an administrative nightmare and a lack of accountability. Politicians and educational leaders are looking for solutions to fix the failed experiment.

Resist the Temptation

As Leigh Bortins shares in this article,

            Parents are presented with “choices” that aren’t really choices at all.” And “Receiving one-time government money with no strings attached makes the second, third, and fourth times easier with strings attached. With the shekels come the shackles.” So, “we must…resist the temptation posed by government funding.”

Educate Yourself

Think through these questions from Classical Conversations® Educational Freedom website, as you consider who do you want to control your homeschool—you or the government?

  • Do you want the state involved in your homeschooling on any level?
  • Is accepting any financial assistance from the state a slippery slope?
  • Where does the money come from?
  • Would it be more beneficial for homeschoolers to keep their education tax money rather than fund the Department of Education with that money?
  • In your state, are you still classified and protected as a homeschooler if you receive government funding?
  • Is making your own curriculum decisions important to you, or would you prefer the Department of Education to assume oversight in those decisions?
  • What historical examples can you think of where the government was involved in decisions like this? What were the initial intentions? Were the outcomes positive or negative, and how accurately did they reflect those initial intentions?

In Louisiana, there are currently over 45,000 children being home educated. If we were our own school district, we would be the second largest in the state! Just remember, the state government (and federal) will do whatever it can to bring us under its control, and ESAs are just one of their avenues. We need to stand firm against any governmental encroachment on our freedoms to direct our children’s education. We, as parents, know what is best for our children.

The Homeschool Freedom Action Center website is here to help you stay informed and to help families educate themselves on what true educational freedom is!

Jennifer Bright profile headshot

Jennifer Bright is the Communication Manager for Research and Quality Assurance for Classical Conversations. Jennifer’s passions are classical Christian education and discipling the next generation to live for Christ. She supports homeschool families by tutoring their students with the classical tools of learning. Jennifer and her husband began their homeschool journey almost 20 years ago in Russia while serving as missionaries, and currently, they reside in Covington, Louisiana.


[1] “Educational Savings Account.” Accessed 4/15/2024. https://classicalconversations.widen.net/s/swkgl26rw7?__hstc=87463879.1d548548b58a4ef2d8bb0d564a005567.1638826400930.1670868123213.1670943201710.270&__hssc=&__hsfp=&hsCtaTracking=d9ec90d4-0a2d-4d25-bcbb-c8c3b64bb33d%7Cbc6a2c98-eeed-4bdf-adba-2ef77c9a312a

Indoctrination

What is Indoctrination?

By Olivia Abernathy

Olivia Abernathy is a current Challenge III student in Classical Conversations®. She has been a part of CC for over a decade. Olivia enjoys books, writing fiction and nonfiction, theatre, and the mountains. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of her community newsletter. Olivia hopes to own and run her own creative arts magazine. Ultimately, she will go where the Lord leads her.

People often use the word “indoctrination” in our culture today. Democrats say that Republicans are indoctrinating children with conservative beliefs, and the Republicans throw it right back at them. What do we mean when we say somebody’s “indoctrinating” someone else? What makes us dislike the idea of indoctrination?

Where did the word “indoctrination” come from?

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the verb “indoctrinate” first appeared in 17th-century writings, it merely meant “to teach.” Its meaning came from the Latin “docēre,” “to teach” or “to instruct.” It wasn’t until the 19th and 20th centuries that the modern connotation entered our language. “During the early part of the 20th century, the word’s pejorative meaning entered common parlance as a synonym for ‘brainwashing,’ especially regarding the inculcation of sectarian and partisan doctrines,” 1 says the aforementioned article.

Today’s meaning of indoctrination

Indoctrination, defined by the Random House College Dictionary, means “to instruct in a doctrine or ideology” or “to imbue a person with learning.” This definition intends to instill in someone certain principles or beliefs, specifically those that are not universally held. Imbue” is also interesting because “imbue” means inspiring someone with knowledge or saturating them with feelings.

Today, indoctrination has a negative connotation. CNN says, “…there’s a growing political argument on the right that children must be protected from ‘indoctrination’ by the government in schools…2 In this example, people usually use the word about children in the public school system. We say children are being “indoctrinated” with things we disagree with as part of a plot, that they’re being “conditioned” to accept certain things as fact whether or not they are factual. Is this true? Possibly. Is this a bad thing? Yes, but not for the reason you think I’m about to say.

The consequences of indoctrination

To indoctrinate someone is to instill in them the beliefs of your religion or social group. When you firmly believe something is true, it’s reasonable to want others to come to know the truth (or what you believe the truth is). However, if we genuinely want to have an open mind and exercise critical thinking—if we want that for our children as well—we must expose our children to all sides of an issue, even the parts we might disagree with.

In his book Why ProLife?: Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers, Randy Alcorn shares how he once presented the pro-life case to a class of high school students. After Alcorn’s presentation, the teacher admitted that he had never actually heard the pro-life case. His exposure had only been to the pro-choice point of view. Alcorn states that the teacher “had uncritically accepted the pro-choice position from others, and his students had done the same.3 Is this the kind of nation we want to live in? I’m not even talking about pro-life versus pro-choice. I’m talking about a nation where a 55-year-old social studies teacher was only exposed to ONE point of view on a very controversial topic.

Another possible consequence of indoctrination is that children may not learn to question perspectives. In indoctrinating children, educators often teach them to accept a perspective as fact. Students need to develop the skills of thinking through what they see and hear and conducting more in-depth research to discover the truth. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, you don’t want to accept things unquestioningly without thought or research.

Did someone make the moon out of cheese?

Children are naturally very trusting. When I was a child, it would never occur to me to question anything my parents said was fact. If my mother had told me the moon was made of cheese, I would probably have believed her. As I’ve moved forward in my classical education, I’ve been taught to look at all sides of an issue, to question the things I’m taught, and encouraged to do research. I’m grateful for the education I’ve received, which regularly involves engaging in difficult conversations and researching many points of view. But only some children have this opportunity.

“Teach” vs. “Indoctrinate”

The definition of “teach” is “to impart knowledge or skill.” What is the difference between “teach” and “indoctrinate?”. The difference is that “indoctrinate” means you only present the thoughts and ideas of a specific group or system. In contrast, the word “teach” imposes no limit on the type or amount of ideas that one can teach.

In essence, we don’t want to merely indoctrinate our children. We want to teach them, give them the freedom to think their thoughts, and use critical thinking skills to carefully ponder both sides of an issue. People should think freely. They should not feel wrong for challenging previous teachings. In a recent podcast, Robert Bortins discussed the results of a survey showing how Gen Z males are fighting indoctrination.

In Conclusion

Indoctrination is filling a child’s mind with a specific belief system or ideology—almost always while condemning other points of view. Are we called to raise our children this way? It may be easy to teach them only what we believe, but it is far better to expose them to all sides of an issue and how to think about it for themselves. Let us be teachers, teachers of critical thinking, teachers of open-mindedness, teachers of brilliant young minds, and let us not be advocates of indoctrination. The American Enterprise Institute says it best: “The educational system is key to the modern state’s human and social infrastructure, and schools must fulfill their responsibility…”4

Olivian Abernathy

Olivia Abernathy is seventeen years old and a current Challenge 3 student in Classical Conversations. She enjoys books, writing fiction and nonfiction, theatre, and the mountains. Olivia is the founder and editor-in-chief of her campus newsletter. She hopes to one day own and run her own creative arts magazine, but in the end, she will go where the Lord leads her.

Footnotes

  1. Ben-Chaim, Micheal. “How Schools Indoctrinate and How They Can Educate.” American Enterprise Institute, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/how-schools-indoctrinate-and-how-they-can-educate/. Accessed 22 February 2024. ↩︎
  2. Wolf, Zachary B. “The growing movement to protect children from their government.” CNN, 9 March 2023, https://www.cnn.com/2023/03/09/politics/education-government-role-what-matters/index.html. Accessed 22 February 2024. ↩︎
  3. Alcorn, Randy. Why ProLife? Sandy, OR. Eternal Perspective Ministries, 2004. ↩︎
  4. Ben-Chaim, Micheal. “How Schools Indoctrinate and How They Can Educate.” American Enterprise Institute, https://www.aei.org/research-products/report/how-schools-indoctrinate-and-how-they-can-educate/. Accessed 22 February 2024. ↩︎
Feminism: The First Wave

Feminism: The Radical First Wave

By Elise DeYoung

“What began as a movement with the principled intention of equality for women has turned into an abstract ideology that is seeking to overthrow all traditional structures under the guise of women empowerment.”

I wrote this over a year ago for a thesis project, which I titled “Behind the Veil of Feminism.” My goal for the assignment was to look beyond the boss babe propaganda and the gender pay gap debate to answer the deeper question, “What is the ideology of feminism?”

After researching its ideology and those who have historically promoted it, I firmly concluded, and still believe, that feminism is, in fact, “an abstract ideology that is seeking to overthrow all traditional structures under the guise of women empowerment.”

However, I excused first-wave feminism, arguing that feminism fell short of its original, righteous design during the third and fourth waves. It wasn’t until recently when I revisited the first wave, that I became convinced that feminism has never been “a movement with principled intentions.”

Feminism, from its conception, has always been a dangerous ideology, designed to destroy all traditional structures and ways of life.

The Origin of Feminism

The ideology of feminism was born out of the minds of women like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. These women were discontented with the status of women in 19th century America. They worked to revolutionize the relationship between women and the broader society.

The movement was officially conceived in 1848 at the Seneca Falls Convention with the signing of the Declaration of Sentiments. The first wave ended in 1920 with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

This period of feminism is largely looked upon with approval by both conservatives and progressives because it resulted in a woman’s right to vote, which in turn led to educational, vocational, and political equality between the sexes. Surely, with these results, we must conclude that first-wave feminism was principled and beneficial. Before we come to this conclusion, we must challenge ourselves with the question, why didn’t feminism dissolve after these political wins? Why have we continued to see a second, third, and fourth wave (each more radical than the last)?

Because the feminist mission was not complete after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The amendment was only a means to an end to the early feminists. So, what then, is their end? Thankfully, we do not have to ponder this question long because the early feminists clearly laid out their radical intentions in the Declaration of Sentiments. After examining exactly what the first feminists wrote, I believe it will become clear that the end of feminism has always been social revolution through the reproach and replacement of men and the rejection of the family.

Social Revolution

Leftist movements always have a shared value of revolution. Whether it is climate change, critical race theory, or the LGBTQIA+ movement, all progressive movements call for the dismantling of the past to prepare for the restructuring of the future. Feminism is no exception to this rule.

In the Declaration of Sentiments, Elizabeth Stanton makes the case that in order for women to have the rights they deserve and the positions in society that they desire, a political and social revolution is required. Stanton writes that such a revolution “Has been the patient sufferance of the women under this government, and such is now the necessity which constrains them to demand the equal station to which they are entitled.”

Stanton wrote revolution into the fabric of feminism. The ideology itself demands the overthrowing of systems, ideas, and traditions which constrain it. Revolution—the foundation of the philosophy—has manifested itself largely in feminism’s insistence on the reproach and replacement of men in society and the rejection of marriage.

All progressive movements call for the dismantling of the past to prepare for the restructuring of the future.

The Reproach and Replacement of Men

We are never surprised today when we hear feminists complaining about the so-called “patriarchy” and expressing their disdain for men. However, this argument has been made since the founding of the ideology.

Stanton wrote, “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.” She continues by saying, “He has endeavored, in every way that he could to destroy her confidence in her own powers, to lessen her self-respect, and to make her willing to lead a dependent and abject life.”

The brash claim that all men have “an absolute tyranny” over all women is not new. From the beginning, feminists have implanted a disdain for men into their followers. They have done this largely by convincing women of a long list of grievances that men have committed against them. Stanton included such a list in her declaration and used it to justify the destructive nature of the ideology of feminism against men. In short, she argued that men have conducted the government, conditioned society, and instituted religion in order to oppress women. You may be more familiar with this concept as it is known today—the patriarchy.

The feminist solution to this alleged problem is for women to stand up and overthrow men’s tyranny over them. Or as we hear it today, “women need to be empowered to rise up and overthrow the patriarchy.” The effects of this thinking have been women replacing men in almost all spheres of life. Husbands and fathers have been replaced by single mothers or unconventional family units, the universities have been dominated by women, the military has manipulated its standards to uphold women over men, and the workplace has been radically reworked to value women workers over men. The list goes on.

Whether you support these social trends is irrelevant. The fact that cannot be denied is we are seeing the replacement of men in society, and this is all by the first feminists’ design.

The Rejection of Marriage

The most destructive war that feminism has waged since its founding is the war against the traditional family. Some may be tempted to believe that the feminist attack on the family began in 1963 when Betty Friedan published her book Feminine Mystique. In it, Friedan argued that the station of a wife and homemaker is equivalent to that of a slave—where the home is a prison, children the chains, and the husband the jailer. Sadly, this flawed thinking dates back much farther than the 20th century.

The most destructive war that feminism has waged since its founding is the war against the traditional family.

The Declaration of Sentiments reads, “In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master—the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.” From its beginning, feminism has ruthlessly attacked the institution of marriage by degrading and misrepresenting it.

Not only this, but the early feminists have always fought to loosen divorce laws to favor wives over their husbands. “He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce; …the law, in all cases, going upon the false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.”

A world in which men “lose” and women “win” in a divorce was the world that the early feminists were seeking to create. Thanks to legislation like no-fault divorce, we are living in the first feminists’ imagined utopia where marriage vows are easily broken, and families are routinely torn apart.

The Results of Feminism

Feminism is arguably one of the most powerful leftist movements in history. This is partially because it has had over two centuries to do its damage and also because it has wrongly been accepted as a societal good.

Feminism is arguably one of the most powerful leftist movements in history.

Whether you consider the decline of masculinity, the rise of “boss babe” culture, the acceptance of abortion as a “Constitutional right”, the rejection of marriage, and the rise of divorce—it cannot be denied that we live in a society today that has been gravely affected by the ideology of feminism.

While we cannot attribute all these civil illnesses to feminism alone, we must recognize that this was the future that the first feminists envisioned. Elizabeth Stanton closes her feminist declaration with the words, “We shall employ agents, circulate tracts, petition the State and national Legislatures, and endeavor to enlist the pulpit and the press in our behalf. We hope this Convention will be followed by a series of Conventions, embracing every part of the country.”

Congratulations, Elizabeth, you got your wish.

It should not surprise us when we see modern feminism bent on destruction. The first feminists planted these seeds of destruction and revolution from the beginning. They only needed time to grow.

We need to stop excusing first-wave feminism as a “principled movement” because once we accept that premise, we lose the fight. Feminism has always used corruption and destruction as its means to its end—and that end has always been a revolution of society, the reproach and replacement of men, and the rejection of marriage.

Read other articles by Elise here.

Elisa DeYoung headshot smiling at the camera

Elise DeYoung is a Public Relations and Communications Associate and a Classical Conversations® graduate. With CC, she strives to know God and make Him known in all aspects of her life. She is a servant of Christ, an avid reader, and a professional nap-taker. As she continues her journey towards the Celestial City, she is determined to gain wisdom and understanding wherever it can be found. Soli Deo gloria!

the Texas capitol building

May Homeschool Days at the Capitol! Get Ready!

Homeschool Days at the Capitol, Legislative Days, Capitol Days, Pie Day, and other similar events foster communication between parents and their elected representatives. Seize this excellent opportunity to teach your children the importance of the legislative process. Help them mature into civic leaders who will help protect American freedoms.

The chart below lists May Homeschool Days at the Capitol. You can also check your state’s dates here if they’re not listed below.

LouisianaMay 15, 2024
New YorkMay 22-23, 2024
Informed Citizenry

Informed Citizenry Limits Unintended Consequences

Robert Bortins reminds us in this episode of “Refining Rhetoric” the importance of an informed citizenry and the need for engagement in tackling the issues of today. With the quick pace of life and a faster pace of information, it can be difficult, if not overwhelming, to keep up with it all.

Chris Blackburn and Robert’s quick chat might help you think through how education can affect foreign policy. They explore the consequences of U.S. payments to Iran—linking them to Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, rising oil prices, and inflation.

Engaged and Informed Citizenry

Let’s not sit on the sidelines. Let’s stay informed and involved!

How?

Check out this episode below. Listen to other episodes of Refining Rhetoric.

Have You Noticed the New Format?

There is a new format for the Refining Rhetoric podcast. In the first week, Robert interviews a Christian leader, whether they are a spiritual leader, in the business sector, engaging in the culture war, or active in the political arena. The following week, the discussion revolves around a current event headline and crypto news.

Don’t miss out on these resources and opportunities as an engaged and informed citizen. You can encourage other people to stay informed and involved, as well.

Robert Bortins, CEO of Classical Conversations profile headshot

Robert Bortins is the CEO of Classical Conversations® and the host of Refining Rhetoric. The company has grown from supporting homeschoolers in about 40 states to supporting homeschoolers in over 50 countries and has become the world’s largest classical homeschooling organization under his guidance.

Good Friday - It is Finished!

Good Friday: It is Finished!

By Edward Murray

How could that Friday be good?

Let’s be honest: to call the day of Jesus’ crucifixion “good” is counterintuitive and sounds odd to the watching world. How can we call a day marked by suffering and mourning “good”? How can we say that a bloody cross is “good”?

Yet, this day most definitely is good, because it marks the most powerful and momentous weekend in history! This is the weekend that all of history points to – where the world was changed forever! 

On this day a couple millennia ago, Jesus paid for our sins and rose from the dead, showing the world that the grave has no hold on him. Moreover, for those who are marked by Christ, his resurrection serves as an eternal receipt, proving that their debt is completely paid.

Without the cross, there is no gospel

You can’t have Christianity without the cross. Sure, Jesus is a great teacher, whom we must learn from and model our lives after, but if we don’t have the cross, we don’t have the gospel. If we don’t have a real resurrection of the eternal Son of God in bodily form, occurring in real-time history, then everything is meaningless.

“You can’t have Christianity without the cross.”

Spanning the gospels, one will find various angles recorded of the cross. Yet, in one account recorded by the apostle John, we see Jesus lifting the battle cry that Good Friday points to: “It is Finished!” Not only is THIS the most relieving statement anyone has made in history, but it’s quite possibly the most powerful sermon ever preached, and only with three words.

“…So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written…”

28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:16-30 (ESV)

The Christian’s rest and relief extends into eternity

One of the hardest things I’ve ever accomplished in life was when I earned my master’s degree. Of course, suffering is relative, but academics don’t come naturally to me. I had to work very hard to get to graduation. And I can still recall how I felt the day I walked across the stage to receive my degree and relish knowing it was finished! Whatever relative turmoil and trial any of us have faced in life to arrive at a proverbial finish line, Jesus’ “finishing” takes that temporal rest and relief, multiplies it by infinity, and extends it to eternity!

In our passage, one of the key things to focus on is the apostle’s recording in v. 28: “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the scripture), ‘I thirst.’”

What does John mean when he says that this scene occurred to ‘fulfill the scripture’?

To answer this question, John alludes to Psalm 22 with Jesus’ reception of sour wine and his garments being divided. However, one of the most significant elements of this passage comes from John’s mention of the hyssop branch (v. 29).

Don’t miss the significance of these elements leading us towards Jesus’ final breath that Friday. With the hyssop branch, John points us to the primary aim of Christ’s mission. It reminds us of the atoning blood sprinkled during Israel’s Passover celebration: God required blood to cover his people, so that their blood wouldn’t be required as the cost for their sins.

In Exodus 12:22, we read about the first Passover. In order to escape the penalty of the final plague, God’s people were to “take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and touch the lintel and the two doorposts…” Additionally, this was likely David’s allusion when he confessed, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be whiter than snow.” (Psalm 51:7)

 At the Passover, the threat of judgment – a final plague – loomed over all the people, both Egyptians and Israelites. It didn’t matter which people group they belonged to. To escape wrath, the blood of an unblemished lamb was required by hyssop to paint the entrance to one’s house.

By turning to Jesus, you can look to that Friday and say, “It is Finished! It is complete! My debt has been paid, and my sin is atoned for!”

There are only two options:

(1) You pay the penalty of the plague.

or…

(2) A substitute pays the penalty of the plague.

To put this another way, when Jesus received the sour wine with hyssop, the Lord of the universe proclaimed that he finished in real time what the Passover only pictured and typified.

You and I have an eternal debt that we cannot pay. We have sinned before the Holy Eternal Triune God of the universe, but Jesus’ proclamation is that he has finished his work, and the threat of judgment can be spared and atoned for if you look to him as your substitute. By turning to Jesus, you can look to that Friday and say, “It is Finished! It is complete! My debt has been paid, and my sin is atoned for!”

And, keep in mind, Jesus doesn’t say that it is potentially finished, but that it is actually finished! Elaborating on this would take a whole other series, but for now, it can be said that this is a beautiful mystery. Jesus fully atoned for the sins of his people over two thousand years ago, and on that day, when he said, “It IS finished!” he declared this for all who ever have and ever will call on him.

“Believe this, rest in this, and proclaim this!”

The worst day in history was the best day in history

That Friday was good! And this coming Friday, when we look back to his crucifixion, we can mourn the sin of the world and the punishment it deserves, while at the same time proclaiming the goodness of that day.

Dear Christian, remember the truth this week. Believe this, rest in this, and proclaim this! At the cross, Jesus completed the task and proclaimed that it is finished!

And when you’re done remembering Friday, remember that he rose on the third day, which changes everything.

Edward Murray profile headshot

Edward Murray currently serves as Manager of Special Projects and Policy Research for Classical Conversations® and The Homeschool Freedom Action Center. He is a native of Augusta, GA, and an alumnus of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC, where he earned his M.Div. He lives in Newport News, VA, with his wife and three children.

School Choice Isn’t School Choice: My Argument

By Lauren Gideon

I recently wrapped up a year leading Challenge A with Classical Conversations® students. On the last day of community, the students took turns reading their assigned persuasive essays. While each student chose their topic, two had chosen the same topic. 

But they chose different sides!  

After the second student finished reading his essay, arguing opposite the first, do you know what happened? Absolutely nothing! The entire class sat unfazed. They didn’t rush to take sides; they didn’t vote against or ‘cancel’ the minority opinions… no name-calling, and no identity crises. These students haven’t been taught to be offended.  

Look at the Merits of an Idea

They have been taught to look at the merits of an idea as a distinct thing, regardless of the person, their character, their tribe, their emotions, their perceived urgency, and the many other distractions that keep us from discerning the idea’s own merit. We call these logical fallacies, and our students learn how to set them aside and ask, “Is this a good idea?”  

The students’ non-reaction was profound. As adults in the classroom of the world, we know participants are almost always triggered. Public discourse revolves around every angle EXCEPT actual merit. If we want to be virtuous participants in this sphere, we must ask ourselves, “In what way do I need to remove similar logs from my own eyes?” With log-less vision, we can see issues more clearly. 

Another hindrance to our clear vision is social cliques, is when everyone in our perceived tribe seems unified in their position, our objectivity becomes blurred. A prominent topic plagued with this emotional baggage is “school choice.”

School choice has nothing to do with providing more choices. Its singular operative action is to require taxpayers to fund alternatives to the state-provided option.

School Choice is Misleading

Some advocates of “school choice” begin their appeal through statistical arguments. A recent publication opened with the 2022 RealClear Opinion Research poll that argued that “72% of Americans support school choice—the ability of parents to choose the school that best fits their children’s needs.”1 

Why is this significant? First, this communicates the sentiment that “virtually everybody agrees.” This says nothing about whether the viewers should agree with this issue or not. If this premise were asserted to my Challenge A students, they would instinctively reply, “So what?” We call this a bandwagon fallacy.

Additionally, the term “school choice” itself suffers from equivocation. Presently, educational options are legal and available in all fifty states, meaning that proponents equivocate “school choice” with “taxpayer funding for free-market products.”  

School Choice forces Critics to take an “Anti-Choice” Position

Should taxpayers be forced to fund the free market? Moreover, how do legislatures ensure that this money is spent on the type of quality education that is in the public’s best interest (or the government’s interest)? What accountability will ensure the money is spent the way these well-intended policies prescribe? Historically, how well has state government performed this task within their current educational jurisdiction? To what degree could this idea affect the cost and quality of educational options? Does the free market stay ‘free‘ once it is taxpayer-funded? Fundamentally, do we want to expand state-sponsored regulated education or expand actual free-market educational choice?

This IS about a Choice

As the emotions rise among voices on both sides of this issue, remember that the collective conversation does obligate participants to regard sides or emotional manipulation. This issue, like all issues, ought to be about ideas and not the people who hold them. This IS about a choiceLet’s lay aside these culturally acquired discernment liabilities and use those beautiful, classical tools from Challenge A

Check out these blogs and this website for additional information on school choice and educational freedom.

Lauren Gideon profile smiling at the camera

Lauren Gideon is the Director of Public Relations for Classical Conversations.  She has been a home educator since her first student was born 18 years ago. She came to Classical Conversations for support when the student count in their home grew beyond what she thought she could navigate on her own. In addition to homeschooling her seven children, she co-leads community classes that unpack our nation’s founding documents and civic responsibility. However, she is happiest at home, preferably outside, with her husband of 18 years, tackling their newest adventure of building a modern homestead.

  1. “New Poll: Overwhelming Support for School Choice.” American Federation for Children. Accessed on 3/19/2024. https://www.federationforchildren.org/new-poll-72-support-for-school-choice/ ↩︎
A dad reads a book to his two boys sitting on a couch

Does School Choice Mean Education Freedom?

By attorney and reporter Kevin Novak

The following was published in the Western Journal on August 27, 2022, and is a credible source for thinking through the issues surrounding “school choice and education freedom. The views expressed in this opinion article are those of the author and are not necessarily shared or endorsed by the website owners.

In our current day, school choice is a popular topic for parents and voters to consider, especially with rising inflation, our current environment post-Covid, and the legislative-sessional season. We are all presented with various cases regarding government funding for education. But with the prospect of financial aid comes multiple elements that aren’t being said.

Kevin Novak poses legitimate questions regarding school choice in the following article, including lowered taxes, privatized education, and educational freedom.

“Consider these inquiries. If a legislature has the present ability to pass ‘school choice’ legislation, why does it not instead pass legislation that lowers taxes? In conjunction, if a legislature has the present ability to pass school choice legislation, and it being the case that many children have escaped the civil government school system, why does it not instead decrease spending on civil government education? And how would passing more school choice laws produce more financial freedom for people or more thought freedom for children?”

Read the full article here.

Also, read other articles about school choice and educational freedom here.