Protect your Children from the Nanny State

Commentary by

Prof. William Wagner

WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at SAU

Abridged version published in The Detroit News on December 19, 2023

Many fit Michigan parents choose to home educate their children.  These parents’ choice concern some Michigan lawmakers and the State’s Attorney General.  Their latest legislative effort to control and direct the upbringing of your children unconscionably contends home education enables child abuse.  Based on this misrepresentation, an increasingly authoritarian government seeks to impose, under the guise of protecting your children, intrusive state regulation of fit parents choosing to homeschool their kids.

Certainly, any act of child abuse is despicable and properly prosecutable.  Falsely concluding that child abuse occurs because of home education, though, illogically presupposes a relationship between an evil event and its supposed cause.  For authorities seeking to regulate fit parents it also conveniently demonizes, with no evidence, parents supporting home education sans an authoritarian Nannie State. 

In times like these, citizens must bring truth to the public square.  For 30 years, Michigan helped lead the nation in successful home education, balancing freedom with clear statutory responsibility resulting in well-rounded academically excellent students

Homeschoolers do not experience abuse at a higher rate than public or private school peers.  Indeed, one study revealed that homeschooled students are far less likely to be sexually abused than those in public schools.  Moreover, another recent study proved no connection existed between regulation of homeschooling and incidents of abuse.  To be sure, a lot of great teachers work in Michigan’s public schools. Nonetheless, state-run schools are far more dangerous, exposing children to violent crime, rampant bullying and harassment, ideologically-charged material, substance abuse, suicides, and a tragically high rate of sexual abuse by public school staff.

Naturally, and as a matter of religious conscience, parents raise their children making education choices in their best interest.  Indeed, many American parents view these decisions as a sacred parental responsibility of the highest order.  Self-evident to any fit parent is that that they, not government, are vested with the responsibility and authority to decide matters concerning the raising of their children. This is so because they naturally are best equipped to do so.  These unalienable liberties, and the idea that government is to preserve them, became part of the American experience.

Given these deeply rooted cultural and legal traditions, it is not surprising that the U.S. Supreme Court consistently held, throughout our nation’s history, that parents enjoy a fundamental constitutional right to direct and control the upbringing of their children.  Where the state failed to recognize this constitutional liberty as a limit on its power, the Supreme Court regularly invalidated laws infringing on this right, especially in cases concerning a parent’s education choices.

Thomas Jefferson lamented that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground.”  The right of parents to direct and control the upbringing of their children stands among the most established of our inalienable constitutional liberties.  As State authorities seek to force parents to relinquish this fundamental freedom limiting the exercise of government power, homeschooling parents from all political points of view must stand for their families by demanding their government obey the Constitution.

About the Author

Prof. William Wagner
WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at SAU
Professor Wagner holds the WFFC Distinguished Chair for Faith & Freedom at Spring Arbor University. He has a special interest in building and preserving environments where Christians may share the Good News of Jesus, free from persecution and oppression.

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