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Education is speech. This simple point is profoundly important. Yet it rarely gets attention in the First Amendment and education scholarship.

Among the implications are those for public schools. All the states require parents to educate their minor children and at the same time offer parents educational support in the form of state schooling. States thereby press parents to take government educational speech in place of their own. Under both the federal and state speech guarantees, states cannot pressure parents, either directly or through conditions, to give up their own educational speech, let alone substitute state educational speech. This abridges their freedom of speech and even compels them to adopt government speech.

The argument can be understood in terms of Pierce v. Society of Sisters. That case forbids compulsory state education. Here it must be added that states cannot evade that decision by using other means to impose state education.

The vindication of parents’ freedom of educational speech would have far reaching consequences. It would secure parental authority, protect against governmental conformity, defend religious liberty, accomplish a second disestablishment, and move toward fulfilling Brown v. Board of Education’s promise of equality. Last but not least, it would serve the best interest of each child.


Education | Education Law | First Amendment | Law