September 03, 2009
"A House Divided"
Jody Bottum has a must-read post over at First Things, about a -- to me -- very disturbing family-law decision in New Hampshire. (Eugene Volokh comments on the same case here.) A "10-year-old daughter lives during the week with her mother, Ms. Voydatch, who homeschools her. The father, Mr. Kurowski, objected to the homeschooling, and the court adopted the father’s proposal that the girl be sent to public school.” And the court said, among other things, that:
The Guardian ad Litem . . . concluded that the daughter would be best served by exposure to different points of view at a time in her life when she must begin to critically evaluate multiple systems of belief and behavior and cooperation in order to select, as a young adult, which of those systems will best suit her own needs. . . .
[T]he Court is guided by the premise that education is by its nature an exploration and examination of new things, and by the premise that a child requires academic, social, cultural, and physical interaction with a variety of experiences, people, concepts, and surroundings in order to grow to an adult who can make intelligent decisions about how to achieve a productive and satisfying life.
The parties do not debate the relative academic merits of home schooling and public school: it is clear that the home schooling Ms. Voydatch has provided has more than kept up with the academic requirements of the [local] public school system. Instead, the debate centers on whether enrollment in public school will provide [the daughter] with an increased opportunity for group learning, group interaction, social problem solving, and exposure to a variety of points of view. . . . [T]he Court concludes that it would be in [the daughter’s] best interests to attend public school. . . .
As Prof. Volokh observes, "the decision [is] constitutionally troublesome, whether implemented in broken families or in intact families. It may well be in the child's best interests to be exposed to more views in public school — or it may well be in the child's best interests to avoid the views that public school will expose her to. Those are not judgments that courts should generally make given the First Amendment."
One suspects that this particular court would not conclude, in a similar case, that a child's best interests would be served by removing her from the public school, and sending her to a Catholic school, given that the Catholic school provides exposure to new points of view and a fuller account of life and living.
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