Recently a Harvard law professor proposed a presumptive ban on homeschooling as a way to combat “absolutist parental rights”.1 She joins an increasing number of academics who argue that parents - in particular, homeschooling parents - can too easily deprive their children of rights and even abuse them. We will address the claims made by Elizabeth Bartholet in a series of articles.
Is the state best situated to care for children, or are parents still the best guardians? Our country’s legal tradition and the natural bonds of affection between parent and child argue that parents are those best situated to exercise their children’s rights.
What prompted this discussion? In some ways, children have been at the center of political battles for centuries. The ability to control children’s education as a means to social change has been a tenet of Marxism, Communism, Nazism and now globalism.
In contrast, America has historically treated parental rights as fundamental, recognizing that
[t]he law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children.
The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant to American tradition. - Parham v. J. R., 442 U.S. 584 (1979)
The statist view dismissed by the Parham court is not new, but is experiencing resurgence as our country struggles with an identity crisis. Will we be a constitutional democratic republic that values individual rights or shift further into a socialist/communist country?
Globalism is expanded statism and has been at work in organizations like the United Nations. For example, the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child expresses several “rights” that children everywhere should have. That sounds noble on its face, but it does not answer the question: Who will exercise those rights? Science shows us that children are not able to make fully informed choices,2 which is why someone - either the parent or the state - must step in to make decisions for them. As the Parham court noted, we have historically recognized that parents are best situated to make decisions in the best interests of their children.
Ironically, in her article, Ms. Bartholet’s accusation that homeschooling parents are “absolutists” is more a psychological projection of her own proposal. The homeschooling community has not argued for absolute rights, which would mean the unbridled right to abuse one’s children. We have acknowledged and commended those laws that operate to protect children from abusive parents. It is Bartholet who argues for absolutism in the form of a presumptive ban on homeschooling, subject to change only by the government.
The idea of increasing governmental care is not new. It was suggested in 2015 by then Education Secretary Arne Duncan.3 Now we see it revitalized with the recent proposal of Kamala Harris to expand government after school and summer care for children.4 This expansion of the government’s intrusion - and resulting diminishment of family influence - does not serve children well. Reporting on Canada’s Universal Childcare program, a study found “that children’s outcomes have worsened since the program was introduced along a variety of behavioral and health dimensions.”5 Intrusion into the family destroys trust between parent and child, to the detriment of the child’s psyche.6
Increasing institutionalization of our children serves the goal of governmental control. It does not serve the children. We must maintain parents as the agents of children’s rights as the best way to maintain our children’s health and future.