It's not the sort of news that many major news outlets would emphasize. But the outcome of a preholiday moot court debate in England has implications for America infinitely larger than the outcome of many contests attracting far more attention. Even the Super Bowl.
The victors were two home-schooled students at Patrick Henry College, a 4-year-old, Christian-based, conservative institution in Purcellville, Va., with just 277 students. Their opponents were students at Oxford University, so pre-eminent in producing intellectually gigantic debaters that a gasp is obligatory whenever anyone at all is so brazen, so dedicated and so smart as to defeat them.
The accomplishment, for starters, would seem further evidence that home-schooling is hardly the mind-diminishing experience some in the education establishment would have you believe. I looked at the issue some years ago after home-schooled students had twice won the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee and discovered there are more than anecdotal reasons to conclude this alternative to public schools or expensive private education can produce sterling results.
Statistics illustrate that, on the average, the academic achievements of home-schooled students outstrip those of public school students. Individualized instruction and the intelligent use of community resources by caring parents have a lot to do with making this option work exceptionally well for many of the government-estimated 1.1 million children who take advantage of it.
But there's something even more interesting about this debate story than the attainment of home-schooling. It's the fact that the two students come from a college started by the Home School Legal Defense Association with the intention of molding leaders whose success in government, journalism and such cultural adventures as making movies will give us a different kind of America.
As reported in articles in The National Journal and the Akron Beacon Journal, the association was started by a lawyer, Michael Farris, to provide legal help to parents home-schooling their children, and has since become politically active. Farris knows White House adviser Karl Rove and confers with members of Congress. Volunteers from the organization helped get out the vote in Ohio in the presidential election, particularly among evangelical Christians. Among the group's causes: Populate the courts with judges respectful of the Constitution, ban gay marriage, oppose abortion.
Farris also serves as the president of Patrick Henry College, which may be small in student population, but not in its ambitions, nor in the SAT scores of its students. According to a Washington Times account of the debate, the students' numbers are right up there with students at the nation's most prestigious universities.
Farris, who has sought out the best and brightest conservative Christians from the ranks of the home-schooled, makes sure they get superb training and practical experience.
And here is my bet. Just as two students from Patrick Henry College won a debate about a made-up case in England, other Patrick Henry students will eventually make themselves felt on real issues, and America will have reason for gratitude.