1. "Such a law would create a new crime."
I reply, it ought to. To bring up children in ignorance is a crime and should be treated as such. As the most prolific source of criminality it should be under the ban of legal condemnation and the restraint of legal punishment.
2. "It interferes with the liberty of parents." I reply again, it ought to, when they are incapacitated by vice or other causes for the performance of essential duties as parents.... If the law may prohibit the owner from practicing cruelty upon his horse or ox, it may restrain the parent from dwarfing the mind and debasing the character of his child.... The child has rights which not even a parent may violate. He may not rob his child of the sacred right of a good education.... When a parent is disqualified by intemperance, cruelty, or insanity, society justly assumes the control of the children.... The State should protect the helpless, and especially these, its defenseless wards, who otherwise will be vicious as well as weak.
3. "It arrogates new power by the Government." So do all quarantine and hygienic regulations and laws for the abatement of nuisances. Now, ignorance is as noxious as the most offensive nuisance, and more destructive than bodily contagions.
4. "It is un-American and unadapted to our free institutions."
To put the question in the most offensive form, it may be asked, "Would you have policemen drag your children to school?" I answer, "Yes, if it will prevent his dragging them to jail a few years hence."
5. "Compulsory education is monarchical in its origin and history." Common as is this impression it is erroneous.... Before the peace of Westphalia, before Prussia existed as a kingdom, and while Frederick William was only "elector of Brandenburg," Connecticut adopted coercive education.
6. "Attendance would be just as large without the law as it is now."
It may be so. But so far from being an objection, this fact is strong proof of the efficiency of that law which has itself helped create so healthful a public sentiment. Were the law to be abrogated tomorrow the individual and general interest in public education would remain. The same might have been said of Connecticut for more than 170 years after the adoption of compulsory education. During all that period a native of this State of mature age unable to read the English language would have been looked upon as a prodigy. Still, in Connecticut as well as in Germany, it was the law itself which greatly aided in awakening public interest and in fixing the habits, associations, and traditions of the people.