Twenty years ago today, I was three weeks away from my due date for delivery of my fifth child. She had already spent the last month trying to kick her way out of my womb and I was looking forward to letting her loose. This was going to be an anxious delivery because the past three deliveries had been by Cesarean section. This time there were no complications, so my doctor was willing to let me give it a try. The downside was that it would have to be without anesthesia. My OB didn’t want the drugs masking any complications during the birth process.
My good friends, Chuck and Jeanne Bern, joined John and I for an afternoon date to see Mel Gibson’s Hamlet. We left all seven of the other kids at home with a sitter and took off for the movie theater. On the way there I began to feel cramping, but wasn’t sure what to think of it. I was determined to see this movie and figured I could hang in there for a couple of hours. The labor pains became more regular and slightly more intense during the course of the movie. My other thoughts turned to the first Gulf War, at which time we were waiting for the ground war to begin. For some reason I linked my own birth pains with the start of the ground invasion of Iraq. I was right. As we sat there watching Mel Gibson lose his mind, for pretend, General Schwarzkopf was plowing through Kuwait and into Iraq.
By the time we left the theater, John and I knew we were only going home to collect our overnight bag and head to Palos Hospital. We left the kids with the Berns and checked in at the hospital around 8:00 p.m. By 2:00 a.m. Margaret Elizabeth Danaher was finally released into the world. It was my first REAL delivery and at least once during the worst of it, I begged the doctor not to let me die “because I have four other kids at home!” The nurse tried not to laugh and replied, “Mrs. Danaher, we’ve never let anyone die.”
My little Maggie became the biggest personality in the family by the time she was two years old. Her determination to keep up with her siblings sometimes brought them to tears even as teenagers. Eventually she mellowed and became the talented young woman that she is today. She is my best friend and intellectually I live vicariously through her now that the student has surpassed the teacher in wisdom and knowledge by being a stellar student at Hillsdale College.
The other night I had the local news on while doing some bookwork. I was only half paying attention to a report on the technological advances in prenatal testing of fetuses for birth defects. The reporter was very impressed by the ability of these medical "advances" to ferret out the slightest oddities, the most detrimental being Down Syndrome. Slowly, I began to pay attention and then I started to get sick as the piece featured a young couple, parents of one toddler and currently pregnant with baby #2, who availed themselves of a less invasive procedure, which measured the angle of the ear on the fetus via ultrasound. Here I sat, watching an expert in the field of prenatal testing, showing the viewers how the ear of a very developed baby is measured.
“Dr. Norman Ginsberg with Reproductive Genetics Institute did a detailed exam of the angle of the fetus' ear. ‘We know that Down syndrome children have low set ears and they're posteriorly rotated, which means they are turned back,’ Ginsberg said.”
How does any human being, staring at the very vivid ultrasound, determine that if that child’s ear is set wrong, he should be aborted? Yet, this man and woman, very calmly went through the process of all the testing.
“For the Jemseks, the ear screen offered an extra level of comfort early in the pregnancy but they still decided to go forward with more traditional definitive tests. The Jemseks learned everything is fine.”
Fine for whom? I was chilled to the bone knowing that the test could have resulted in a death sentence for that baby. This brings me to the inspiration for this post. The first link is to this story of prenatal testing. The second link is to a story about a young man who is living a quality life in spite of his “birth defect” providing us with the reminder that no one is perfect. Everyone should have the opportunity to reach for the highest level of accomplishment possible according to the gifts with which they have been blessed.
This coming Tuesday I will, for the second consecutive week, be heading down to Springfield, Illinois, to lodge my objection to Senate Bill 136, which will require home educators to “register” with the state or local school districts in order to prevent truancy. This might seem reasonable until one takes the time to ask just how making responsible parents register their children will prevent truancy? That question was asked of several legislators, but was never answered. The concern of home school parents is that registering with the state will open the door to control of the curriculum and general interference from a bureaucracy that really does not understand the various philosophies of home education. That too was evident to me as we conversed with several Senators.
I was pregnant with my twin daughters and living in Texas when I decided that I wanted to home school my children. That was 30 yrs. ago. I spent the first 5 yrs. of their lives preparing to be their teacher by reading books on education philosophy and methods and attending workshops. I can’t imagine any parent embarking on such a task with anything but the goal of honestly educating the children for whom they are responsible. The largest segment of the home school population is actively Christian and the primary reason for choosing home education is based in faith.
For the past 25 yrs. I have bragged to friends in other states that Illinois is the most liberal state in the nation for home education. In 1951 the Illinois State Supreme Court essentially ruled that home schools are to be given the same status as private/parochial schools. We parents have had very little interaction with the local school districts and therefore very little stress outside of what we put on ourselves. We have always appreciated that liberty more than we could express and therefore, we knew we could not squander such a blessing. And I believe we home school parents have proven ourselves to be worthy of that liberty.
Therefore, this requirement to register our children, with an institution we have chosen NOT to be a part of, is blatantly unjust and is rightfully suspect. Adding to that suspicion is the fact that the Senate Education Committee, having overlooked the ruling in 1951, is now rewriting the bill to separate the home schools from the parochial schools and apply the registration requirement to home school children only. They appear to being going through a great deal of trouble to monitor and possibly control this small but very independent group.
Illinois’ troubles are legion. The graduation rate for the Chicago Public School System is dismal, somewhere between 50 and 60%. One must wonder why registering home school children is so important to the bill’s author, State Senator Ed Maloney. The opposition to SB136 has been passionate and yet Senator Maloney is refusing to table the bill.
Regardless of truancy, the fundamental issue is this – To whom do the children belong? The philosophical difference between the politicians and the objects of their control is that we parents are absolute in our conviction that our children are blessings from God and we have been given primary stewardship over them. It is only when we fail in our stewardship that the state has any right to exercise authority over the children in our place. And in America we have the right to fail.
Given that, according to my faith, I believe I derive my rights from God and not the State, I and my daughters have already determined that we will not register my grandchildren when we officially begin the education process. What has not been determined, because it had not been thought through by the powers-that-be, is what the penalty will be for refusing to comply with SB136. Our punishment remains to be seen.