This post is part of the series Education?
I have already discussed what education is and given arguments for why parents are ultimately responsible for their child’ s education. However, there are a few more matters to be mentioned before digging deeper into the nature of education. These are two different issues. First, what is the role of the government in education. Second, if parents are responsible for their child’ s education, must they homeschool their kids? The answers to these questions are related. The government must ensure justice when parents fail to do their duty. They are also permitted to establish universal education provided that they do not act against the responsibilities of parents.
Governments exist in order to maintain public order. In regards to education, this takes two forms. First, governments are responsible to ensure that society is just. If particular parents are not educating their kids, then this is unjust. Justice requires both the punishment of parents for failing to educate their kids and the education of kids so that they receive what they deserve. Second, governments are responsible to maintain any infrastructure item that is required for society to function. In education, this is the specialized knowledge that only some people have. While parents can teach basic math, reading and writing, most parents cannot teach advanced science, history or literature if that is what their kids are interested in. Therefore, the government must provide infrastructure so that these things can be taught.
In our society, establishing an infrastructure for specialized education amounts to establishing universal education. If we lived in a different society, then we might promote a combination of homeschooling and apprenticeships instead. When we establish universal education, this does not mean that everyone must attend public school. What it means is that advanced subjects should be available for everyone regardless of cost. If some believe that private schools are better, or homeschooling is better for their situation, then the government has no right to interfere. If they did interfere, then they would be acting against the responsibilities of parents.
So should parents homeschool their kids? Not necessarily. Remember that education is the preparation of someone to pursue their good. If you can prepare them at home, then homeschooling is an option for you. If you cannot, then you cannot exclusively homeschool. Perhaps you could share the schooling with other parents. Perhaps you could send your kid to private or public school for certain classes. Since the ultimate responsibility lies with parents, so does the ultimate choice of how to educate.
Continue reading this series:
How Much Education is Enough?