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As labor unions once again mobilize activists to campaign for Democratic candidates, a small but increasingly potent grass-roots force on the other side of the political spectrum is emerging from the burgeoning homeschool movement.
Students campaigned for GOP candidate Jay Dickey in Arkansas two years ago.
Generation Joshua director Ned Ryun – son of the track star and Republican Kansas congressman, Jim Ryun – believes homeschool students have the activist traits that make outstanding citizens and leaders because of their hands-on experience in the battle for homeschool freedom.
As WorldNetDaily reported, an unprecedented new study of 7,300 adults who were homeschooled showed homeschool graduates work for candidates, contribute to campaigns and vote in much higher percentages than the general population of the United States.
Estimates of the number of homeschoolers in the country range as high as 2.5 million.
Ryun said the “Joshua” is a reference to the biblical hero who led the nation of Israel into the Promised Land.
“The adult generation of the homeschool movement are the ‘Moseses’ who brought the people out of Egypt,” he told WorldNetDaily. “The young, second generation, are the ‘Joshuas’ who will help defeat the giants of abortion, same-sex marriage and judicial activism.”
Generation Joshua’s aim, to “help tomorrow’s leaders elect today’s,” is carried out through civics education, voter registration and Student Action Teams, which campaign for candidates.
“We want to give the young people a vision and a hands-on opportunity to make a difference now, including young people who are not even of voting age,” Ryun said.
Members, who sign up online, can participate as much or as little as they wish, he added.
The program is designed for students 14-19 years of age, but those a year or two younger and anyone older can join.
Although most members are Christian homeschoolers, the group says on its website, “We encourage and welcome all students, home, private and public schooled.”
As part of its civics education program, members participate in moderated online chat sessions on relevant topics. Recent chat guests have included Rep. Jim Ryun, Rep. Pat Toomey, Wallbuilders founder David Barton, HSLDA President Mike Farris, and Scott Somerville, an attorney with the homeschool group.
Generation Joshua’s online civics curriculum includes courses on campaigning, the founding fathers and constitutional law. And members develop their communication skills by writing and posting forums and contributing to threads on current issues and other important topics of interest. In the summer, Generation Joshua camps were held at Purcellville, Va.-based Patrick Henry College – the well regarded four-year college launched in 2000 by Farris, created specifically with Christian homeschoolers in mind.
The most active students join Student Action Teams, which are funded by a political action committee, HSLDA PAC.
Ryun said about 1,300 have signed up for the teams, and he hopes to have about 50 to 200 campaign in each of more than a dozen races.
‘Allowed us to win’
While Generation Joshua is new, already, like-minded students have a proven track record, in evidence by the accolades from candidates assisted by the seven teams of homeschool and Christian college students that worked on federal House and Senate races in 2002.
- Republican campaign official Jim Terry said, according to Ryun, “By far, the best grass-roots workers in the nation are homeschoolers. They will give you 100 percent, 10 to 12 hours a day.”
Terry runs STOMP, a grass-roots-oriented division of the National Republican Congressional Committee, which supports the election of Republicans to the House through direct financial contributions to candidates and Republican Party organizations.
- In 2002 in Kentucky, House candidate Geoff Davis said his team of homeschool and college students was worth four to eight points in a race he ended up losing by a slimmer margin than expected. Based on his promising run, Davis is back again this year vying for the District 4 seat.
- GOP officials in Missouri two years ago credited a team of 90 students with putting Sen. Jim Talent over the top. A party official said the student project “allowed us to win,” increasing voter turnout by at least 15 percent in southwest Missouri.
- A team of 60 in New Mexico helped turn a neck-and-neck race into a 12-point win for Republican Steve Pearce in a Democrat-dominated district.
HSLDA founder Farris says Generation Joshua will carefully screen the races in which it places volunteers.
“Only candidates who are pro-homeschooling, favor the original intent of the Constitution, and possess a strong loyalty to liberty and self-government will receive our assistance,” he wrote in a letter to supporters earlier this year.
Ryun said some are selected because “we think we can make a difference” but with others, like Geoff Davis, it “may be a long shot but we help set them up for next time.”
This year, Senate campaigns by Tom Coburn in Oklahoma and Jim DeMint in South Carolina are a couple of possibilities, and some students will campaign for President Bush in the crucial swing states of Ohio and Florida. As an organization, Generation Joshua is backing George W. Bush for president.
Some students are involved in non-partisan activities, including working with their pastors to mount what the group describes as “the largest church-based voter registration drive in modern history.”
Members of Generation Joshua, based on their participation and achievement, can earn awards such as scholarships to Patrick Henry College.
Membership in the program is $10 a year for HSLDA members and $20 for non-members.
Ryun says he would like to see another 2,000 young people join Generation Joshua by mid-October, to exert maximum impact on November’s election.