By Kay Henderson
DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Three potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates expressed hostility toward the public school system at a home schooling rally on Wednesday in the early presidential caucus state of Iowa.
Texas Congressman Ron Paul told the crowd government wants "absolute control" of the "indoctrination" of children. Paul spoke along with Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.
"The public school system now is a propaganda machine," Paul said, prompting applause from the crowd of hundreds of home schooling families. "They start with our kids even in kindergarten, teaching them about family values, sexual education, gun rights, environmentalism - and they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American."
Bachmann said home schooling is the "essence" of freedom and liberty. "It's about knowing our children better than the state knows our children," she said.
Bachmann, who home-schooled her five biological children, lamented that she and her husband had been unable to teach the 23 foster children who have lived in their home because Minnesota authorities said foster children could not be home-schooled.
"It is not up to a bureaucrat to decide what is best for your children," Bachmann said, drawing cheers from the crowd. "I am so tired of the establishment telling us that they know best. We know best."
Cain, former chief executive of Godfather's Pizza and another prospective Republican candidate, denounced government involvement in education at all levels.
"That's all we want is for government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way," Cain said.
Justin LaVan of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators said it was encouraging to see potential presidential candidates talking about the home-schooling movement.
"More importantly, talking about our Creator - our rights that came from our Creator, acknowledging that and giving him the glory, folks," said LaVan, who served as master of ceremonies at the rally.
(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)