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Education Freedom Day - June
By David W. Kirkpatrick (April 24, 2008)
Senior Education Fellow
U.S. Freedom Foundation www.freedomfoundation.us
This suggestion was first made five years ago. It is being renewed since there are still people who don't realize they have a constitutional right to determine how their children will be educated, and there are others who don't want them to know. An Education Freedom Day would constitute an annual recognition of this important right.
June 1, 1925 marks the date of one of the most fundamental decisions ever rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court in its more than 200 year history. That was Pierce vs. Society of Sisters in which a unanimous Court declared
"The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the state to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the state; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations."
The 9-0 decision remains the law of the land and has never been challenged.
Yet it is doubtful that one person in a hundred could identify the subject of the case if asked to do so. The lack of awareness is so pervasive that it is sometimes still debated whether parents should have the right to determine how their children are educated, a right all parents have. What some lack is the ability to exercise this right.
Many opponents of school choice are more concerned with protecting their jobs rather than with the education and welfare of the students. There are also those who believe government can do a better job of educating, or training, children than can parents, a philosophy with a long history.
Sparta, in ancient Greece from 400-600 B.C., took all boys from their families at age seven, placed them in state-run boarding schools. Spartan girls did receive some public education but in other city-states most women were illiterate. a condition that exists in some parts of the world today.
One of the first proposals for a government system here came from Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphian and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He argued that, "Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property. Let him be taught to love his family, but let him be taught at the same time, that he must forsake them ... when the welfare of his country requires."
The first actual statewide plan, coincidentally also in Pennsylvania, in 1834, was largely the result of the efforts of Thaddeus Stevens, best known as the leader of the Congressional Radical Republicans at the end of the Civil War. Like Rush, he argued that "the rich and poor man's sons (are all) deemed children of the same parent – the Commonwealth."
In 1922 citizens in Oregon adopted an initiative requiring, with a few stated exceptions, students between 8 and 16 years of age who had not completed eighth grade to attend public schools. In 1925 arguments before the Supreme Court spokesman for the state of Oregon boldly stated, "As to minors, the state stands in the position of parents patriae, and may exercise unlimited supervision and control over their contracts, occupations and conduct, and the liberty and right of those who assume to deal with them."
As Governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton promoted a number of educational reforms including mandating kindergarten. When asked specifically if the state knows better than the parents, he said yes.
So parents and those who support parental rights in education should remember the anniversary of the Supreme Court's declaration of parental rights regarding their children's education. One way to do that would be to recognize June 1st of each year as National Education Freedom Day. By so doing the nation would regularly recognize and emphasize the essential constitutional principle upheld in the Pierce decision.
At the very least, all governmental education entities - departments of education, public schools and their related administrative and other buildings and collegiate and university schools of education, should have over their doors these key ten words from the Pierce decision: "The child is not the mere creature of the state."
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The (Compulsory Education) Act ‘unreasonably interferes with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.' In order to impose such limitations on the choices of parents, the state must be furthering a legitimate interest. Such is not the case in this instance as uniformity of children appears to be the only end served." --Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U .S., 510 (1925)
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Copyright 2008 David W. Kirkpatrick
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