Compulsory-attendance laws force parents to send their children to public schools. These laws presume that the politicians we vote into office, our agents, have the right to take away parents’ liberty and inalienable rights.
Compulsory education means that in America, contrary to the common view, we no longer live in the land of the free. Local and state governments that claim the right to control our children’s education also claim, in effect, that they own our children’s minds and lives for twelve years. That is an appallingly arrogant claim, especially in America.
One reason public schools get away with educational murder, year after year, is because local governments violate parents’ liberty and parental rights with impunity. Local governments don’t own or run food stores, auto showrooms, office-supply stores, or pre-schools and private colleges in America. Yet they own the public schools and control 1st through 12th grade education in America.
Do government officials have any right to dictate how we should educate our children? To answer this question, we have to examine what our Founding Fathers understood to be the real function of government. In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson clearly stated the moral nature and purpose of government:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . . ."
The Declaration of Independence affirms that we have natural rights as human beings to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It establishes the principle that we, the people, acting individually and by free consent, created our government only to protect and secure our natural rights as human beings. That is government’s sole legitimate function.
Look again at the phrase from the Declaration that says, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” The “governed” means all the people, not just some, not a minority, and not a majority. It means that all citizens, including parents, have the same inalienable rights.
That phrase also means that government is our agent, not our master. It means that we, as free human beings, voluntarily grant limited powers to government for a specific purpose, to protect our natural rights. It means that government should only have those powers we specifically grant to it for that purpose.
Yet, nowhere in the Constitution is the word “education” mentioned. The Constitution did not give the federal government any right or power to control how parents educate their children. By implication, state governments do not have any such right or power either, because such a power would violate our fundamental liberties.
Nature and justice confirm that parents have the right to decide who educates their children. Like parents of all species, most human parents protect and nurture their children and teach them the skills and knowledge they need to survive. Parents in all cultures make teaching their children a first priority. Since reading, writing, and arithmetic are skills needed to prosper in a modern society, it stands to reason that most parents will find a way to teach these skills to their children if the means are available.