Does the State Have the Right to Compel
All Children to Attend the Public School?

Louis Berkhof

1. Affirmative:
The State is vitally interested in the education of its citizens. This is particularly true in the case of a democracy. Illiteracy spells doom for a nation in these times of enlightenment.

Instruction given in sectarian schools is only narrowly effective. It is education for the Church rather than for the State, and does not meet the demands of life in a broad way.

Moreover, it is only education in the public school that truly unifies the people and creates a national spirit. Education in sectarian schools, on the other hand, divides the people and is a drag on patriotism.

2. Negative:
The State is not the proper educator of the children. The parents are responsible for the education of their children, and only in case they are negligent has the State the right to show its hand.

The main object of education is not to make good citizens, but to perfect the man of God, that he may be perfectly furnished unto all good work. State education is too narrow for this broad purpose.

It is impossible for the State to educate the children in harmony with the religious convictions of all the parents. To compel parents to send their children to schools that go contrary to their religion is against Article I of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.