EDUCATIONAL POLICY AND THE LAW
SCHOOLING AND THE STATE
I. The “Pierce Compromise” and its Implications for Education Governance
Pierce v. Society of Sisters: the basic constitutional framework within which the states compel and regulate schooling. There are limits on the authority of the state to eliminate or circumscribe educational choices.
“Democratic Education” – by A. Gutmann
The Family State (Plato)
The purpose of education in the family state is to cultivate that unity by teaching all educable children what the (sole) good life is for them and by inculcating in them a desire to pursue the good life above all inferior ones.
All states that claim less than absolute authority over the education of children will therefore degenerate out of internal disharmony.
Family state is at best the artificial parent of its citizens.
The more telling criticism of the family state proceeds by accepting the possibility that someone sufficiently wise and conscientious might discover good. How people are brought up from the very beginning made them the person they became later in life; if that individual was badly brought up is not going to accept the thoughts or ideas of those people brought up in a good manner.
The family state attempts to constrain our choices among ways of life and educational purposes in a way that is incompatible with our identity as parents and citizens.
The State of Families (John Locke)
The state of families places educational authority exclusively in the hands of parents, thereby permitting parents to predispose their children, through education, to choose a way of life consistent with their familial heritage.
The consequentialist argument is surely unconvincing: Parents cannot be counted upon to equip their children with the intellectual skills necessary for rational deliberation.
The strongest argument against the state of families is that neither parents nor a centralized state have a right to exclusive authority over the education of children.
The children then become immersed in the traditions of the parents, however they are not introduced to other cultures or environments or biases.
The state of families rightly recognizes, as the family state does not, the value of parental freedom, at least to the extent that such freedom does not inter
cipating in democratic politics, to choosing among (a limited range of ) good lives, and to sharing in the several sub-communities, such as families, that impart identity to the lives of its citizens.
Democratic states can acknowledge two reasons for permitting communities to use education to predispose children toward some ways of life and away from others: (1) One reason is grounded on the value of moral freedom, a value not uniquely associated with democracy; and (2) The second reason for supporting the non-neutral education of states and families is that the good of children includes not just freedom of choice, but also identification with and participation in the good of their family and the politics of their society.
One limit is nonrepression. The principle of nonrepression prevents the state, and any group within it, from using education to restrict rational deliberation of competing conceptions of the good life and the good society.