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Michigan State Law Review





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Lawmakers must care more to educate children than to cater to their parents. While parents and the state both have roles in childhood development, the difficulty is finding the proper balance. Lawmakers must decide who should determine exposure of children to new and different ideas. Arguments that limit exposure to ideas should be pursued with the good of a child as the desired end, and not the means to some other end. These arguments fall into two categories: negative arguments and affirmative arguments. Affirmative arguments are less likely to be made with ulterior motives in mind. In the spirit of legal perfectionism, lawmakers have the obligation to make laws for the good of children, and these laws must keep the proper balance Amazon between the responsibilities of parents and the state.

Applying the model of Ian Shapiro, a political scientist, the state is responsible for a child’s basic interests and the parent is responsible for the child’s best interests. Basic interests can be viewed as those interests attributable to all children, rather than best interests, which can be seen as unique to the individual child. The state is obliged to provide children with a quality education, where they can be exposed to new ideas and values. This is a basic interest for all children and will allow for success in the adult world. Parents do not have the right to keep children in intellectual slavery. A parent cannot, for example, keep a child from knowledge of evolutionary biology or the germ theory of disease, because of the parents’ hope for the child’s future religious preference that would contradict the child’s basic interest. Instead, parents should expose children to various new and different perspectives, even if they feel it is in the best interest of the child to rebut these views.

Recommended Citation

Stephen M. Sheppard, Children and the First Amendment Symposium: Officials’ Obligations to Children: The Perfectionist Response to Liberals and Libertarians, or Why Adult Rights are Not Trumps Over the State Duty to Ensure Each Child’s Education, 2005 Mich. St. L. Rev. 809 (2005).

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