No mere creature of the state : American jurisprudence on the right of parents to direct their children’s education.


Access rights

No access - Contact

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation examines the American judiciary’s many attempts to adjudicate disputes between parents and the state concerning the education of children. I argue that by following the common-law tradition courts have been able—and can continue—to hold the middle ground between state and parental absolutism: common law instructs courts to begin with a general presumption that parents generally have affectionate and knowledgeable care for their children and then to judge the particular, competing interests of parents and the state in a way that does the least damage to each. This broad tradition—found in the writings of common-law jurists in England and America; articulated in state supreme court decisions in the mid-nineteenth and early twentieth century; and reinforced by the Supreme Court throughout the twentieth century (including in Meyer v. Nebraska, Pierce v. Society of Sisters, and Wisconsin v. Yoder)—can help guide America’s jurisprudence today.



Constitutional law. Parental rights. American political thought.