If there is life in the educational field, it is in the marketplace. Where liberty exists among consumers of educational services, the market stands in all its human genius.
The homeschool curriculum fair set for this week at Camp Jordan Arena suggests the power of the free market to serve a sector of local economy. Education in the home is a growing phenomenon in Southeast Tennessee as more parents take their children back from the public school.
Moms and dads not only see the problems of institutional schooling, but seek the freedom to instill grace and the Christian worldview. Many individuals on staff in the state system may be Christians. But the official atheism of the party line -- its pragmatism, its zesty materialism, its denial of Genesis 1:1 and its creation account -- is a moral and intellectual acid for children.
"Our goal is to supply families with the best materials available to support them in their endeavor to educate their children in the manner that God has called them," says Jan Bontekoe, expo coordinator.
"One of the things that encourages me is that the majority of our exhibitors are homeschool families themselves, and they have developed family businesses that serve the purpose of supporting our homeschooling endeavors and provide support for their families."
The home education expo is Friday and Saturday. It features 80 exhibitors and 65 workshops. Details are available at www.csthea.org.
The moms and dads who stop by the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Home Education Association table take a personal interest in the spiritual and intellectual welfare of their children and are full of questions about what to do. Many of the moms I talk to have children too young to be in school -- the tykes are napping in a stroller as we chat. Veteran homeschool moms often have to tug against youthful zeal by suggesting a new mom not start too early with formal teaching.
The public school system instructs parents to be just the opposite -- to be largely indifferent to educational questions and duty. After all, state-licensed experts have care of their children. And one can't change the system. Building a misplaced trust in experts, the taxpayer-subsidized system makes parents heedless of cost and content. They don't have to pay; so they don't have to worry.
Home educators are part of the great American tradition of self-help. They resource their own decisions rather than rely on those of bureaucrats at the Department of Education in Nashville. The home education expo is an ideal resource for people whose children, or grandchildren, remain in the school system.
"We try to select a wide variety [of exhibitors] to meet as many different styles and educational philosophies as possible," Mrs. Bontekoe says. "I try to find something for the literature-based moms all the way to the curriculum-in-a-box moms."
In this way free markets are supple, elastic. Human beings create demand across a wide spectrum. Meanwhile, others of like mind create solutions and service.
David Tulis writes for Nooganomics.com, which covers local economy and free markets. He is editor of the homeschooling newsletter, Esprit.