Most parents undoubtedly believe that their children are their responsibility. But a contrary view has a long history.
The point was made by Philadelphian Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Ten years later, in proposing a plan for education in Pennsylvania he wrote, “Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property.”
His plan died but not the sentiment. It was in Pennsylvania nearly a half century later, in 1834, that the first plan for a common school system was adopted. Its prime sponsor and defender, Thaddeus Stevens, said that the sons of both the rich and the poor are all “deemed children of the same parent–the Commonwealth.”
That Stevens’ view was not shared by the general public was demonstrated when most of the Representatives who voted for that measure were defeated at the next election. Stevens himself was reelected and in one of the most influential speeches in American legislative history, he persuaded a majority in the new session to not repeal the new law, as they had been elected to do.
Fortunately the view that children belong to the state is not shared by the U.S. Supreme Court. In its unanimous Pierce decision in 1925, which still stands, the Court upheld parental rights to control their children’s education, declaring that “The child is not the mere creature of the state,” and “those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”
I remember speaking with a former Madison School District administrator a few years ago. This person used the term “we have the children”.