School Surveys and Children's Education: The Argument for Shared Authority between Parents and the State

By Eichner, Maxine | Journal of Law and Education, July 2009 | Go to article overview

School Surveys and Children's Education: The Argument for Shared Authority between Parents and the State


Eichner, Maxine, Journal of Law and Education


Few areas of the law involve a more poignant clash of interests than disputes between parents and the state concerning children's education.1 On the one hand are the parents, who love their children, know them well, and pursue what they think is best for them. On the other hand are the larger community and the state,2 both of which may have differing views about children's welfare than the children's parents, and who must prepare children to become good citizens of the polity.3 Between them are the children themselves, whose interests are not self-explanatory, but instead are often contestable, controversial, and in need of interpretation.

In recent issues of the Journal of Law and Education, two different authors, Tara Dahl and Kathleen Conn, address these difficult disputes. In the first of these pieces, Surveys in America's Classrooms: How Much Do Parents Really Know?, Tara Dahl argues for a broad understanding of parents' rights to control their children's education.4 Dahl objects to a recent Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, Fields v. Palmdale School District,5 which rejected a parental challenge to a survey administered to children in public school, on the ground that it too narrowly circumscribes parents' authority over their children.6 Dahl likens parents' authority over their children in public schools to their authority when they leave a child with a babysitter or a summer camp.7 Parents who leave their children in the hands of others, she argues, "[are] temporarily yielding authority over the child to the babysitter while maintaining the ability to give instructions regarding the care of the child."8 This same doctrine of in loco parentis, she insists, should apply when parents leave their children at school.9 Dahl contends that courts err when they hold that the state has any independent authority to make decisions on behalf of children, except where the intrusion on a parent's authority over their children is negligible.10

In a recent counterpoint to Dahl's article, Kathleen Conn takes a very different stance regarding parents' authority over their children's education. In Parents' Right to Direct Their Children's Education and Student Sex Surveys,11 Conn argues for a broad view of schools' rights to direct children's education. She contends that "[d]eciding what information students need ... is the prerogative of school boards, not of the parents or courts."12 In Conn's view, parents may choose to which school they send their children, but schools have the rights to determine their own curriculum and to do so in the manner they determine to be appropriate.13 Based on this principle, Conn argues, the Fields decision was correctly decided.14

This counterpoint argues that the balance of interests at stake regarding young citizens' education is both more significant and more complex than either Dahl or Conn portrays it. Contrary to Dahl's argument, as a practical matter, public schools could not function if they were forced at every turn to implement parents' views about how their own children should be educated. Further, as a normative matter, the state should do more than simply cede to parents' views of their children's interests. The state is properly charged with ensuring that children receive civic education and that they develop their own autonomy, even over parents' objections. Further, since children are members of the polity as well as their families, the state is entitled to assert its own views about the education that best furthers children's welfare.

Contrary to Conn's argument, however, the state's authority to decide what and how to teach children should not be absolute and impervious to all but political challenges. Parents' opinions about what is in their children's interests should be given considerable weight, even when these opinions relate to issues beyond the schoolhouse door. This does not mean that parents' views on their children's education should automatically trump the school's views, but neither should the reverse be the case. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

School Surveys and Children's Education: The Argument for Shared Authority between Parents and the State
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.