Schoolchildren Are Not ‘Mere Creatures of the State’

Robert Pondiscio

In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Oregon law requiring that parents or guardians send their children to public school in the districts where they lived. The Society of Sisters, which ran private academies, claimed that the law interfered with the right of parents to choose religious instruction for their children. The Court agreed, unanimously. States are permitted to run and regulate schools, even to require that all children receive an adequate education. But the Justices held that the state may not “unreasonably interfere with the liberty of parents and guardians to direct the upbringing and education of children under their control.”

The decision in Pierce v. the Society of Sisters featured one of the more memorable turns of phrase in Supreme Court history. “The child is not the mere creature of the State,” wrote Justice James C. McReynolds. “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only.”

The notion that the state must not interfere with parents and their right to direct their children’s upbringing and education has cast a long shadow over U.S. education. But now, nearly a century after Pierce, the state seems increasingly inclined to relitigate the matter—if not in court, then in practice and policy in America’s public schools. There is a rising and unmistakable tendency on the part of teachers and school districts to assume that government is better positioned than a child’s parents to judge what’s best for children and to act on that assumption, often aggressively, making critical decisions about children’s upbringing and well-being without their parents’ consent or even their knowledge.

There have been myriad recent examples of schools imposing their staffs’ ideological preferences, and in so doing being disingenuous or openly dishonest about critical race theory, trangenderism, “social and emotional learning” programs, and other controversial aspects of school curriculum and culture. The picture that has begun to emerge is of an education establishment straying beyond its remit, emboldened to ignore parents, and determined to subvert local control of schools to advance a social-justice agenda. “It’s infuriating, it’s harmful to children, and it’s unacceptable,” says Vernadette Broyles, an attorney and the founder of the Child and Parental Rights Campaign. “And it’s contrary to law.”

The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”

2017: West High Reading Interventionist Teacher’s Remarks to the School Board on Madison’s Disastrous Reading Results 

Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district, despite spending far more than most, has long tolerated disastrous reading results.

My Question to Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers on Teacher Mulligans and our Disastrous Reading Results

“An emphasis on adult employment”

Wisconsin Public Policy Forum Madison School District Report[PDF]

WEAC: $1.57 million for Four Wisconsin Senators

Friday Afternoon Veto: Governor Evers Rejects AB446/SB454; an effort to address our long term, disastrous reading results

Booked, but can’t read (Madison): functional literacy, National citizenship and the new face of Dred Scott in the age of mass incarceration.

No When A Stands for Average: Students at the UW-Madison School of Education Receive Sky-High Grades. How Smart is That?