Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Old Virginia System--R. L. Dabney

"This system of our fathers had superiority in its principles, as great as in its practical workings. Of these, I will, in concluding, present two. One was, that the State government left to parents those powers and rights which are theirs by laws of God and nature, and which cannot be usurped by a just, free government: those of directing the rearing of their own children, and choosing its agents and methods. Clusters of parents were left to create schools, to elect teachers, to ordain the instruction and discipline. When the parents had used their prerogatives, then the State came in as a modest ally and assistant, and by providing for the teaching in those schools of such children as their helpless poverty made proper wards of the State's charity, helped on the work of education, and supplied that destitution which private charity did not reach. There was a system conformed to the good old doctrine of our fathers, that 'governments are the servants of the people.' . . . The other [superior principle] was, that our wise fathers, by this simple plan, resolved the otherwise insoluble difficulty about the religion of the schools. The State, which knows no church in preference to another, did not create schools; did not usurp that parental authority, did not elect the teachers; did not ordain their discipline that parental function, did not elect the teachers; did not ordain their discipline or religious character. Parents have the right to do all these things in the light of their own consciences and spiritual liberty, and the parents made the schools. No other solution will ever be found that is as good."

The Beginnings of Public Education in Virginia, p.60,
qtd. R.L. Dabney

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