Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Why it matters 

Arthur Brooks' column in the WSJ yesterday on the fertility gap between liberals and conservatives is the kind of fun thing Art often writes. It isn't necessarily new though -- James Taranto has called out the 'Roe effect' for years now. But this morning, David French makes a very interesting observation about the effect of the fertility gap.
If this doesn�t highlight the importance of education to both sides of the political and cultural divide, I don�t know what does. For a long time, liberals and conservatives have argued over who ultimately controls a child�s education � the parents or the state. With parents typically more conservative and the education bureaucracy more left than even the mainstream Democratic party, it is easy to why and where the battle lines are drawn.

After decades of litigation, the balance of power is increasingly clear: While parents who can afford to do so have a right to opt out of public schooling (through home schools or private schools), if the kids are in public schools they are essentially wards of the state and can be subjected to all kinds of state indoctrination without parental consent. Just check out cases where students were forced to sit through lewd sexual programs (Brown v. Hot, Sexy, and Safer Productions), take sexually explicit and suggestive surveys at a young age (Fields v. Palmdale School District), and even participate in Wiccan rituals (Brown vs. Woodland Joint Unified School District). For a nice summary of the rights of parents to control their kids� education, read this.
After the discussion in No Bright Lines last week, it is worth remembering what the stakes are. Should children born into modest circumstances become wards of the state? One side seems to say yes: It wants to determine that math and science should get special importance, for example, or use preschools to conduct mental health screening. Not to say that any of these things are bad things -- just that it is an appropriate discussion to have whether the proper decisionmakers are parents or the government education establishment. It gets more emphasis now because liberals are choosing not to be parents and thus have weaker stakeholdings.