State Interference with Parents’ Duties and Rights Over Their Children’s Education

America’s founding and tradition and the current thinking of many of its citizens are consistent with the premise that people are free to pursue life, liberty, and happiness unless they are harming others while doing so. This free-of-state-control perspective includes the education and upbringing of children. The correct and pertinent question in the land of the free and the home of the brave is not, for example, “Is it legal to operate a private school with three unlicensed teachers and 45 students?” or “Is it legal to homeschool?” The correct question is, “Does the state have a right or the moral authority to interfere with or make illegal the education parents decide to give to their children?”  Or, in other words, “Who should have first and final authority over a child’s education?” Followers of classical liberalism would largely agree that the education of children should be under the authority and responsibility of their parents.1  Christians clearly understand that God gives to parents the duty to educate their children and the full authority over that education. Various forms of statism, however, claim that the state (statism’s devotees might claim it is “the people” if democratism’s majority decides thus) should and shall have final authority over a child’s educationand upbringing. Either the family, with freely chosen associations such as extended family and church organizations, have crucial authority over a child’s education, or the state does. These are the only two choices. Some have argued that there are three stakeholders—that is, parents, state, and children—and that all three can in some way hold the authority.2  This claim does not hold legally, however, because for minors (in the United States) children essentially have no say in their education. For over a century, the clearly prevailing view in the United States was that parents do and should have the ultimate authority over a child
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