“Our Founding Fathers DId Not List Education As A Right”


HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on August 11, 2013.

I‘ve been having a discussion with a few  former homeschoolers over Libby Anne’s recent exposure of HSLDA, our homeschool legal defense.

The discussion was first over her articles on how HSLDA has scoffed over abuse, and second over her latest summary of an article from HSLDA who basically said, to a guy who got very little education, that a little education is at least better than public school.

I admit HSLDA floors me sometimes.

Anyway, this guy, rather than arguing with the facts, said this whole Libby Anne debate boils down to the question: who do the children belong to and at what age do they belong to themselves? Then he had this to say:

Our founding fathers did not list education as a right.

He then goes on to make the case that education isn’t a right after all, and that once we become of age, we can teach ourselves to read.

A few thoughts. (Besides “What the crap!”)

First, kids belong to themselves. We are obligated to take care of them. I think we could even pull that one out of the Bible, without the constitution.

Second, what’s up the constitution purity teaching in fundamental circles? Our constitution is not only not the Bible but it was also influenced by humanism. The constitution came out of enlightenment ideas. It came out of everything that fundamentalism was a reaction against. Yet fundies will say, “Children don’t have a right to education because the founding fathers forgot to mention it.”

This is not the first time I’ve been quoted the constitution.

Third, kids have a right to an education because they are people of earth. People were made to learn, to interact, to grow, to discuss ideas, and usher in new ideas. Withholding an education not only wrecks their future in the first world, but it takes away the wings of a person.

Homeschoolers — of all people — should know this.

Education isn’t just about jobs. It’s about critical thinking, it’s about independence, it’s about being a person. You wanna take away a person’s rights? Take away the heart of what it means to be an thinker.

How would you respond when someone says education isn’t a right?

8 thoughts on ““Our Founding Fathers DId Not List Education As A Right”

  1. Joy Felix August 21, 2013 / 1:36 am

    It’s about freedom. I am guessing from your travels in SE Asia, you saw that: education empowers the poor to do more and become more. It brings up the status not only of the individual but of the village as well. Compassion was recently a part of a long-term study on the effects of homeschooling on the communities. In many countries homeschooling is illegal because the education of future generations is considered to important to gamble with.

    The founding fathers had their place in their time. But they made a lot of mistakes too (3/5 persons?) that need to be reevaluated. Something that so successfully helps children out of poverty should be at the top of the list.


  2. Ricker August 21, 2013 / 4:36 am

    What’s interesting is that the Liars that most influence fundy homeschoolers (David Barton, etc.) try to use the section of the Northwest Ordinance that explicitely stated money and land should be set aside from public education as proof that the Founders intended for religion to be a part of public schooling. Yet for someone to turn it all around and say the Founders didn’t view education as a right is absolutely dumbfounding.

    Also, I don’t understand this obsession with the Founding Fathers and what they intended. Yeah they may have come up with the best government at the time. But to cling to the centuries old words of dead people is to effectually believe that our society, our intelligence, has never advanced past that of the 18th century. It’s like someone clinging to the abacus as the best way to do math.


    • Ricker August 21, 2013 / 4:37 am

      Slight typo: “Money and land should be set aside FOR public education…”


  3. Lindsey August 21, 2013 / 11:45 am

    This is something I heard all the time and thought was normal. “Education is a privilege, not a Right” – so, finish your housework/helping with children/employment before you do school. The standards of 95% mastery weren’t lowered, but time wasn’t set aside for school. I remember doing homework at midnight and later, hiding in the bathroom or closet so I wouldn’t disturb sleeping kids. All my siblings did this, and so did everyone I knew (all in the bubble of course).
    Strange the things you learn when you leave.


  4. Whitechocolatelatte August 23, 2013 / 7:11 am

    Such funny logic they have there–“the right to homeschool” isn’t in the constitution either, but they believe it’s an inherent right regardless.


  5. mandassassin August 25, 2013 / 7:36 pm

    The Constitution does, however, include the right to liberty; and the Declaration of Independence (while not having force of law) is commonly understood to set forth rights of citizens according to the founding fathers, includes the pursuit of happiness. Given that in today’s society, you can’t get the vast majority of jobs without a high school diploma/equivalent, it’s nigh impossible to pursue happiness if your parents chose not to bother to educate you. By depriving a child of an education while still a minor, that child will be at best delayed and at worst entirely prevented from pursuing happiness once they’ve achieved majority. (Also, I believe, infringing in a major way on your liberty as an adult to choose a life path.)
    Teaching yourself to read at 18 isn’t even remotely comparable to having a decent education starting at an early age. Childhood is the time it’s easiest to learn to read. I know our ability to learn languages is highest when we’re very young (single digits) and deteriorates to its lowest by our early twenties. Missing this crucial learning period can severely restrict a person’s ability to achieve as an adult.


  6. Jemima January 5, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    “but it takes away the wings of a person.

    Homeschoolers — of all people — should know this.”

    But that is exactly why homeschoolers teach their children at home. Whether they do it well or badly, it’s about control – the parents are the ones that decide whether their children have wings.


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