I read this article this morning and it made me wonder: where did the concept that it is a parent's right to choose how his or her child is educated come from? After all, that isn't entirely true. As I understand it, children are required by law to attend a school, and if a parent cannot afford a private school, then that school must be a public one or home-school. Therefore, the right isn't a complete one anyway. The parent has no right to say, "I run a farm, and I want my kids to grow up to be farmers like me. They don't need any of that fancy schooling, they just need to stay home and learn how to work the farm equipment." While home-school is an option, there are still certain requirements that must be met. Enforcement of those requirements is an issue in and of itself, but there is still the precedent that the state dictates that a child needs to be educated in some manner, and a certain amount of that educational requirement is specifically outlined. Since that has been accepted, I am not sure what right is being violated by changing the standards of required education to become more rational and secular. Of course the argument can be made that the right to religious practise is being violated if teaching one's religious doctrine as fundamental truth is a vital tenant to one's faith. Yet that is the crux of the whole right to religious practise - depending on how one defines religious practise, virtually any law or ruling can be interpreted as violating one's religious rights. No one tries to make the argument that sanctified murder through ritual sacrifice is a valid exercise in religious freedom in our modern society, even if ritual sacrifice is a fundamental tenant to one's religious practise. It is therefore seen that there are and must be limits on the right to religious practise, which immediately draws the questions of what are those limits and who gets to decide on them? It is this amorphous nature to the right of religious practise that, to me, makes it fundamentally untenable. It would seem indoctrinating children with religiously based education is a greater violation of the children's right to a proper education aimed at giving them an equal opportunity for participating in society than it is a violation of the parents' right to choose the content of the children's education.
(In a related issue, I have always thought it a little bit unfair that a person's anathema toward a particular object or behaviour, if under the blanket of religion, is given more credence than another person's individual loathing or obsessions. This is particularly troublesome when there is no way to measure the degree to which a person is invoking his right to avoid a particular action or practise based on religious reasons actually cares about the religion in question)
I know this fairly outside of my purported subject matter of science (with an emphasis on computational neuroscience), but I thought it was worth writing about. I know I've recently told some of less-computer savvy relatives about this blog, so I'd like to point out that it is possible to leave comments if you think I've come to erroneous conclusions or made false claims (or if you agree with me and would like to shower me with adulation).