Without Peers? The Blind Spot in the Debate Over How to Allocate Educational Control between Parent and State
47 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2000
Date Written: 2000
Courts, policy makers and scholars have long struggled with the question of how to allocate educational control between parents and the state, particularly where parents' preferences are religiously motivated. While the debate reflects a broad range of viewpoints, these viewpoints share a common blind spot: They focus on the state's interest in imparting certain knowledge and skills, and ignore the state's interest in facilitating interactions among ideologically diverse peers. This paper argues that, particularly for older adolescents, the nature of their peer interactions has a far bigger impact on their development than does the content of their curriculum. Drawing on the psychological literature of child development, the paper suggests that exposing these older adolescents to ideologically unlike peers will facilitate identity development that best balances their interest in maintaining a sense of affiliation with their parent's religious community, on the one hand, and their interest in exercising autonomy in the making of religious choices, on the other. The paper raises questions about the appropriateness of home schooling and even private religious schools in the late teenage years, and considers measures short of prohibiting such forms of education that might encourage ideological mixing among these students.
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