Parental Rights and Public Education
International Journal of Ethics
Though more than a century has elapsed since the doctrine of abstract rights was at the height of its credit, it has never ceased to afford a convenient resource for indifferent thinkers. To affirm the existence of an inherent right in a certain class of persons is perhaps no more than a specious form of ignoratio elenchi, but it offers at least a temporary vantage-ground. It is not easy to dislodge those that take refuge here, and the wisest course for an antagonist who is not satisfied to
... ot satisfied to rest in a metaphysical abstraction, is generally to pass by on the other side and seek more promising encounters. The use of the term "rights," however, in the sense of justifiable claims, has its value if its significance is realized. Where the claim is not based on a priori considerations, but is regarded as a privilege which is granted, or which ought to be granted, to individuals or classes by society in the interests of the whole, it may form a perfectly fair subject of debate. In this aspect alone can there be any profitable discussion of parental rights. The apportionment of control over the destiny of ,the rising generation between the community and the individual parents must be a matter of social expediency, but the line that is drawn will naturally be determined by experiences of a general character that admit of being formulated into principles. The vindication of a claim or right on either side will fitly be based on such generalizations. It will be admitted that the well-being of a race or nation has been often affected prejudicially in the past both by too much and by too little interference on the part of the community with the responsibility of parents. The State upbringing of children in Sparta, on the one hand, and the sanction that has frequently been given to infanticide on the other, may serve as illustrations of policies that have been condemned in the name of general principles which rest on historical inductions. It is, of course, possible to argue that to class the exposure of children under the head of murder is to assert the supremacy of eternal law over This content downloaded from 128.