| January 4, 2013

Parents Responsible for Johnny’s Education

Who’s responsible if Johnny’s education isn’t up to snuff?

Certainly schools must accept their share of the blame for the well-documented school-performance woes I mentioned on page 12.

But consider this: If Johnny becomes malnourished, who’s to blame? The school cafeteria? The local grocery store? Of course not. They’re not responsible for feeding the child—his parents are.

Likewise, parents are responsible for Johnny’s education. “To educate children well,” Noah Webster wrote in the first edition of his American dictionary, “is one of the most important duties of parents and guardians.”

This doesn’t mean every parent must become a homeschooler, any more than every parent must become a farmer, a grocer, or a restaurateur. It simply means that, whether Johnny goes to a public, private, or home school, his parents are duty-bound to superintend his education. “Those who nurture (the child) and direct his destiny,” the Supreme Court declared in 1925, “have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Nature declares in no uncertain terms that children belong to parents. (It wasn’t Johnny’s schoolteacher who conceived and bore him.) “The duties of parents to their children as being their natural guardians,” legal scholar James Kent wrote in 1826, “consist in maintaining and educating them during the season of infancy and youth, and in making reasonable provision for their future usefulness and happiness in life.”

Zachariah Montgomery, an assistant U.S. Attorney General in the 1880s, said, “historically, every standard writer on the subject of either laws or morals proclaims with one voice that parents are bound by the natural law to feed, clothe, and educate their children.”

Schoolteachers don’t have any original authority over Johnny; they simply act in loco parentis (in the place of parents), exercising the limited authority parents have delegated to them. If Johnny is barely literate in the ninth grade, the school system certainly has a lot of explaining to do. But where on God’s earth have Johnny’s parents been for the last nine years?

The debilitating effects of the paternal state are by now well known: government usurps another of the family’s responsibilities, causing citizens to become increasingly irresponsible. We’ve seen it in the third-generation welfare mom, or in the retiree living from Social Security paycheck to paycheck.

It’s also evident in education. “Don’t blame the schools for poor student performance,” many people say. “With the decline of the family, many kids nowadays are damaged and learning is much more difficult.” That’s true. But what if the massive government school system is itself a cause of this family decline?

Historian Allan Carlson says “there is direct evidence of a strong linkage between the spread of mass state education and the decline of the family.” He demonstrates how mass state education “disrupts family integrity” and how it has “quite literally ‘consumed’ children, and weakened families.”

“Using solid empirical evidence,” he says, “we actually can indict public education as a direct cause of family decline.”

In any case, it’s time for parents to recognize and accept their responsibilities. If a nighttime intruder were to burst into Johnny’s room, no responsible parent would simply wait for the police to arrive on the theory that “it’s the policeman’s responsibility—after all, I pay my taxes.” Parents are responsible.

They must have a clear idea of what kind of education they want Johnny to receive, and then oversee and direct that education. If their delegates fail to teach satisfactorily, or if they teach things which contravene parental intent, parents must find another teacher or another school.

Sound like a hassle? Perhaps. Do you have something more important to be doing?

An earlier version of this article appeared in the Biloxi Sun Herald and several other newspapers.

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