Comments on

The Devil's Playground

Original entry posted: Tue Oct 30 03:49:59 2007

pseudonymous @ Tue Oct 30 07:20:32 2007 EST

From William O. Douglas' dissenting opinion in Wisconsin v. Yoder:

I agree with the Court that the religious scruples of the Amish are opposed to the education of their children beyond the grade schools, yet I disagree with the Court's conclusion that the matter is within the dispensation of parents alone. The Court's analysis assumes that the only interests at stake in the case are those of the Amish parents on the one hand, and those of the State on the other. The difficulty with this approach is that, despite the Court's claim, the parents are seeking to vindicate not only their own free exercise claims, but also those of their high-school-age children.... On this important and vital matter of education, I think the children should be entitled to be heard. While the parents, absent dissent, normally speak for the entire family, the education of the child is a matter on which the child will often have decided views. He may want to be a pianist or an astronaut or an oceanographer. To do so he will have to break from the Amish tradition. It is the future of the students, not the future of the parents, that is imperiled by today's decision. If a parent keeps his child out of school beyond the grade school, then the child will be forever barred from entry into the new and amazing world of diversity that we have today. The child may decide that that is the preferred course, or he may rebel. It is the student's judgment, not his parents', that is essential if we are to give full meaning to what we have said about the Bill of Rights and of the right of students to be masters of their own destiny. If he is harnessed to the Amish way of life by those in authority over him and if his education is truncated, his entire life may be stunted and deformed. The child, therefore, should be given an opportunity to be heard before the State gives the exemption which we honor today.

This is what really gets to me when I hear about the Amish, Christian Scientists, homeschooling, school choice - it's never about what the kid wants. With all this talk about religious liberty, it's always the religious liberty of the parents we protect, and if that's all we're looking out for, then religious liberty has become exactly what we feared it would be: the right to impose your dogma on somebody else.

Thomas @ Tue Oct 30 16:17:05 2007 EST

Indeed. The metaphor of being "harnessed to the Amish way of life" is particularly fitting, since they're usually taken out of school to work as unskilled labor.

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