Public Interest and Parental Authority in the Compulsory School

in School, Society, & State

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2012 | ISBN: 9780226772097
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226772127 | DOI:
Public Interest and Parental Authority in the Compulsory School

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In the 1890s, state legislatures in America passed laws to ensure that parents educated their children, but gave parents the freedom to define an adequate education and control how it was delivered. By the end of the 1930s, state governments had shown a broader interest in children's education and developed state goals and minimum standards for the public schools. They saw public education as the norm and introduced compulsory attendance requirements to universalize public school standards for children in every state. From simply being a familial responsibility, education also became a public interest as compulsory attendance policies set new restrictions on what was once virtually unlimited parental autonomy. During the Progressive Era, school reformers and child welfare activists redefined the meaning of compulsory attendance and expanded its scope. This chapter examines how the shift from voluntary to compulsory school extended public power over children in new ways and redefined parental authority and rights. In addition to targeting truants, attendance enforcement regularized the attendance of all enrolled students and consequently expanded public surveillance of children and households.

Keywords: parents; children; public education; public schools; compulsory attendance; public interest; parental authority; public surveillance; public power

Chapter.  15897 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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