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Complusory Education

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The 13th amendment prohibits "involuntary servitude".

Currently, all students up to the age of 16 (with parental consent), or 18 (with own consent), are legally required to be in school.

Is this a violation of the 13th amendment?

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The 13th amendment prohibits "involuntary servitude".

Currently, all students up to the age of 16 (with parental consent), or 18 (with own consent), are legally required to be in school.

Is this a violation of the 13th amendment?

INAL, but probably not. Students aren't there to work to produce value for the benefit of others.

JJM

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Is this a violation of the 13th amendment?
Servitude is legally defined as laboring for another person, and neither condition is met with compulsory school. Also see Butler v. Perry on the question of the compulsory labor for the state, where it is concluded that "involuntary servitude" was not intended to include "compulsory work on road crews", which has a much greater resemblance to involuntary servitude than being made to go to school.

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Servitude is legally defined as laboring for another person

By that definition you could easily make the case that programs like Social Security amount to violations of the 13th Amendments' prohibition on involuntary servitude. Forcing children to go to school is not servitude, forcing a man to pay for the schooling of another man's children is.

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The 13th amendment prohibits "involuntary servitude".

Currently, all students up to the age of 16 (with parental consent), or 18 (with own consent), are legally required to be in school.

Is this a violation of the 13th amendment?

Keeping the legal definition of "involuntary servitude" in mind, I can see how the law could fail to view schooling as "laboring for another person" and would not, therefore, consider it a direct violation of the 13th amendment. That, however, does not necessarily mean it doesn't violate one's rights in a larger sense than the amendment speaks to, in that making one have to attend school could represent a violation of the individual's freedom to choose his own action (I'm speaking of both the student's rights as well the parents' right to choose for their children). I would consider that violation a form of involutary servitude, but that's an interpretation the law does not make. Of course the interpretation of the amendment, or any part of the Constitution, is always up for grabs depending on the Supreme Court members' inclinations to be loose or strict constructionist of the Constitution. There are a lot of things I would consider involuntary servitude -- such as most taxation and military draft -- that the Constitution, ironically, protects. So while compulsory schooling may indeed represent a violation of one's right to independent action in a greater abstract sense, that's not the interpretation the courts have historically been willing to make. The amendment itself came out of the Civil War, and spoke directly to the position of slavery. Is being forced to attend school where you may or may not be getting the education that you could have otherwise a form of slavery? At the very least, it is the government controlling your time; slavery is, in essence, a lack of control over one's own time and effort. I think compulsory schooling fits the bill, but try getting that past a court. Having to pay for other's children to attend school also qualifies as a form of slavery in my opinion, for it is governmental control over what you do with your money; money you earned with your own effort.

By having to attend school (or by being forced to put one's kids in it) you may not be directly laboring for someone else, but the deprivation of control is clear. The question, then, seem to become not whether or not compulsory schooling violates the amendment so much as it is that compulsory schooling represents government overstepping its proper role. It is meant to protect individual's rights, not to strip them away, which is what compulsory schooling seems to do. It tells the individual this is one matter they cannot make their own choice about, just as it also tells everyone in society it is soemthing they have to accept and financially support.

Edited by 4reason

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The 13th amendment prohibits "involuntary servitude".

Currently, all students up to the age of 16 (with parental consent), or 18 (with own consent), are legally required to be in school.

Is this a violation of the 13th amendment?

No. Any such claim will be shredded in court, if it ever got to court.

Bob Kolker

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By that definition you could easily make the case that programs like Social Security amount to violations of the 13th Amendments' prohibition on involuntary servitude.
It would fail the "another person" test. You might argue that you are being forced to work for the state, but that is not legally prohibited. The difference would be forcing Jones to work for Smith directly, vs. forcing Jones to work for the state, and the state paying Smith. The problem is that there is no basic and fundamental legal recognition of a man's right to his life, so the prohibition against involuntary servitude does not mean there is a total ban on forced working. You can always be forced to work for the government, until a constitutional amendment prohibiting it comes into existence. The 13th amendment is really a rather limited protection of man's actual justified rights.

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It would fail the "another person" test. You might argue that you are being forced to work for the state, but that is not legally prohibited. The difference would be forcing Jones to work for Smith directly, vs. forcing Jones to work for the state, and the state paying Smith. The problem is that there is no basic and fundamental legal recognition of a man's right to his life, so the prohibition against involuntary servitude does not mean there is a total ban on forced working. You can always be forced to work for the government, until a constitutional amendment prohibiting it comes into existence. The 13th amendment is really a rather limited protection of man's actual justified rights.

So, in other words, the state can enslave you, but your neighbor cannot. Thats not very comforting.

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I don't think I understand how this is an issue - besides the fact of taxation which is not what you're discussing. What about homeschooling?

I know private schools must conform to regulations and the state curriculum, but what about groups of homeschooled children being sometimes taught by private tutors instead of their parents? What if this gets organized but not institutionalized, as a neighboorhood homeschool, staffed with informal tutors as academia and parents instead of an administration? Are you telling me that in the United States the government would crack down on them as if it was a meth lab?

You're discussing the law, I don't live in America so I don't know if this is a real life situation.

Edited by volco

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What about homeschooling?
Well, we've sorted out the fact that it's not involuntary servitude. Generally, following state law, you have to attend a school, e.g. because of section 3321 of the Ohio Code. If you are home-schooled, there is some element of supervision where you have to make the case that you're minimally competent and providing comparable coverage, following ORC 3321.04 and OAC 3301-34-03(A)(9). I doubt that there is any penalty for "conspiracy to home school".

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Can you not argue that the servitude is toward the teachers or the school administrators?

These people being the recipients of the funds derived from taxes, they are the ones being served by the students and the funding attached to each one.

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Can you not argue that the servitude is toward the teachers or the school administrators?

Thats a real stretch. Sounds like someone is trying to get out of class. Do you have a big test on Monday, or something? :)

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Can you not argue that the servitude is toward the teachers or the school administrators?

These people being the recipients of the funds derived from taxes, they are the ones being served by the students and the funding attached to each one.

Using the word "servitude" here would imply that the teachers and administrators are the direct recipients of the fruit of the students' labor. That's not exactly what is going on within a school. While the students' presence and the school's existence does allow the employees of education to benefit, I don't think that the benefit could legally be traced backed to the students' deprivation. Taxpayers' deprivation, maybe, but not the students'.

I really do believe it is more a matter of government stepping outside its rightful bounds (though, keep in mind its rightful bounds are, as of yet, not completely stipulated by the Constitution or any of its amendments) than it is a matter of the students being servants of the state. While I agree that you could argue that being told you have to endure being filled with ideas some government bureacracy deemed proper does smack of servitude in a broader conceptual sense, I think it will fail to meet the legal standard which I suspect would require direct proof that they benefited from you and your efforts in a way that you did not. It does seem like their forcing of ideas could cause deprivation on the individual's behalf, but with education having the value that it does in the public and legal system's eye, it would be a difficult assertion to prove legally. However, there are others ways to pursue change in matters such as this besides through the courts (at least initially). Public awareness is a great venue to make philosophical arguments; it is a great place to get people thinking. Once you get people thinking they can begin putting pressures on the system and possibly beget change. Maybe that's the political idealist in me speaking, but it's the only method I'm able to see as plausible.

To begin this argument over compulsory schooling in the courts would defeat it from the start. You need to build a philosophical argument against it and use it to appeal to others (ie, not government employees) reason. Then maybe the laws would change in such a manner so as to allow your defense.

Edited by 4reason

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The 13th amendment is really a rather limited protection of man's actual justified rights.

Exactly. If the Constitution did clearly stipulate a defense of man's right to life, this compulsory schooling argument would be able to hold water. With the system as it is, though, it's a futile legal battle.

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