No, the Turpin Family Abuse Case Doesn’t Hurt the School Choice Argument
When the reports began pouring in that California parents David and Louise Turpin had been arrested for the alleged torture and imprisonment of their 13 children, I messaged my husband, the second oldest of 11 children in a Catholic homeschooled family.
“Absolutely horrific if this is true, but … I could just easily see people turning a blind eye if people like your parents were arrested on bogus charges just because of your family’s size,” I wrote to him.
Sadly, it was all very true.
Since those initial reports, the media have been closely tracking the story, releasing new updates almost daily, each one more disturbing than the previous: Children starved and shackled to beds; the Turpin parents taunting their children (aged 2 to 29) with scrumptious food and new toys that they were forbidden to touch; David and Louise leaving their kids to go engage in “kinky sexcapades” with strangers.
But the media didn’t simply report on this story—as the alleged Turpin victims deserve. Instead, the media predictably jumped on the Turpins’ “house of horrors” in order to weaponize the case against the liberties of Christian homeschooling families.
“The Turpin child abuse story fits a widespread and disturbing homeschooling pattern,” read a particularly blatant L.A. Times headline.
“Christian Homeschoolers Kept Children Shackled To Beds,” shouted Patheos.
An article in TIME Magazine cited claims that the Turpins had their kids memorize long passages from the Bible, cautioning that rote memorization is “a known tool for preventing original thought, questioning or self-awareness.”
What naturally followed these reports were calls for increased “monitoring” and “oversight” of home-schooling families.
“I am extremely concerned about the lack of oversight the State of California currently has in monitoring private and home schools,” said Assemblyman Jose Medina, who represents the Turpin’s hometown of Perris, California.
“We would not say abuse is more common among home-schoolers, but when it does occur, there are fewer safeguards, less to stop it from spinning out of control,” Rachel Coleman, Executive Director of the liberal Massachusetts-based Coalition for Responsible Home Education, told Reuters.
In an op-ed for the L.A. Times, Coleman suggests forcing parental contact with “mandatory reporters” as a way to keep better tabs on homeschooling families and curb abuse.
Opponents of school choice view the Turpins as the ultimate case against home education. After all, only depraved whack-jobs with bad haircuts would prevent their children from experiencing the enrichment of the public school system. And since parents can’t be trusted to care for and educate their own kids, an expansive nanny state is the only humane option.
Progressives believe that there is not a single problem big government can’t solve: Shootings? Ban guns. Hurt feelings? Criminalize offensive speech. But what they don’t understand is that no government can solve the problem of evil. And these cases, however horrific, do not provide the grounds for restricting basic freedoms.
Homeschooling isn’t child abuse; it doesn’t “facilitate” child abuse any more than homeownership does. And to blame homeschooling for the actions of two clearly evil parents is to cast unjust and unwarranted suspicion on countless good families who choose to homeschool.
Many parents of large homeschooling families are aware of these prejudices and live in fear of having their kids taken away. These people know that few would question a headline that read, “Parents of [insert number greater than three] Lose Custody After Authorities Discover Signs of Neglect,” whether it was true or untrue.
This week is National School Choice Week, and the media’s cynical use of the Turpin case serves as timely evidence of school choice under attack in America. Now more than ever, it is important to defend the rights of parents to make their own decisions regarding their children’s education.
For Catholics, school choice is a matter of religious freedom.
As John Paul II notes in his exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, “The right of parents to choose an education in conformity with their religious faith must be absolutely guaranteed.” It’s not abuse if parents wish to opt out of a public school system that teaches middle schoolers anti-scientific propaganda under the guise of “sexual education.”
The Holy Father is explicit that “those in society who are in charge of schools must never forget that the parents have been appointed by God Himself as the first and principal educators of their children and that their right is completely inalienable.”
You hear that, nanny state? BACK OFF.
On this week’s Catholic Vote Radio Hour, National School Choice Week President Andrew Campanella joined host Stephen Herreid to discuss what’s being done in Washington and across the country to protect school choice. Listen HERE.