State’s Duty to Children Only Secondary to Parents [The Hub Debate]

thomas-jefferson1This is a Hub Debate on the role of boards of education. For more background, read this.  Participate in the comments or submit a response for publication to The question is: “Who do you think the board should serve?  Parents? Students? Why?

Thomas Jefferson addressed who should be in charge of education nearly two centuries ago.   ‘…[I]f it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by …any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward, it is a belief against all experience.’

Parents have a natural and a legal right to be responsible for their children.  The state’s role is a secondary one of support.  Parents should never become subordinate to or even co-equal with the state.

We have been serenaded with the Siren’s song of “College and Career-ready education” that seeks to replace the focus on an individual’s potential and growth with an alignment to careers that meets the Governor’s and the State Board’s definition of economic success and global competitiveness.  Lost is the emphasis on learning and knowledge for its own sake.  Education becomes a means to an end, not the end itself.  And the student?  Reduced to a cog in the wheels of the state’s economic health.

Parents and families are the building block of all civilized societies.  This accomplishes two things.  First, it allows for children to be nurtured, as individuals, by those who are closest to them–those who are the most invested in their success. Second, it decentralizes the power and control of government.  Jefferson continued his above quote, ‘the way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to.’ By requiring the state to address the different perspectives, desires, and goals of so many parents, we create a system of innovation, creativity, and decentralization.  This distribution of power allows not only for good education, but safe government, as well.

Children are not indentured servants to the state.  Their education is not a commodity to be capitalized upon by the state.  The idea that the State Board of Education exists to serve students, separate from their need to serve the parents of those children, removes the natural rights and responsibilities of parents, without the benefit of a court of law. As former Utah Supreme Court Justice Dallin H. Oaks said, ‘Much of the rich variety in American culture has been transmitted from generation to generation by determined parents who were acting against the best interest of their children, as defined by official dogma….[T]here is no surer way to threaten pluralism [freedom] than to terminate the rights of parents who contradict officially approved values imposed by reformers empowered to determine what is in the “best interest” of someone else’s child.’  Parents MUST be the ones who are served.


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