Bob Dylan’s song “The Times, They are a-Changin'” accurately described the turbulent 1960s in America. Today, countries like New Zealand and Germany are embracing their own times of change as they take from parents the God-given right to discipline and educate their children.
The New Zealand Parliament recently followed the lead of many European Union countries when it made spanking of children, or “smacking” as they call it, a criminal offense. One Parliament member, Pita Sharples, hailed the new law as an important step toward a “brave” new world. “Our support will not be popular with many people … but we are asking New Zealand to be brave, to look at the possibility of a culture where we don’t hit our children.”
In Germany, as WorldNetDaily has reported, families who seek to homeschool their children are battling a government that claims it must prevent “parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions.” Parents of homeschooling families, many of whom are Christian, are being arrested and their children forcibly removed to public schools and foster homes because Germany claims its “obligation to provide for education” includes the exclusive right to produce “responsible citizens who participate in a democratic and pluralistic society” – a category that apparently excludes homeschoolers. The European Court of Human Rights gave its stamp of approval last year to this recent tyranny by the German government.
Even some in America are trying to emulate these assaults on parental authority. In February of this year, California Assemblywoman Sally Lieber proposed a law that would make spanking of children younger than 3 years old a criminal offense punishable by a fine and/or jail time. Fortunately, the bill did not pass this time. And in many states there are increasing attempts to regulate and restrict the growing trend of homeschooling, which seems to pose a threat to proponents of government-monopolized education.
Our Western legal heritage has always recognized that the law of nature and nature’s God has given parents – and not the state – the authority to control the education and discipline of their children. Any government usurpation of that family jurisdiction is an unwarranted abuse of power that runs contrary to historical, legal and biblical precepts.
In his “Commentaries on the Laws of England” (1765), Sir William Blackstone wrote that while parents have duties to their children with respect to “their maintenance, their protection, and their education,” the duty to provide an education is by far “the greatest importance of any.” Blackstone further explained that a parent would not confer any considerable benefit upon his child if, after bringing him into the world, “he entirely neglects his culture and education, and suffers him to grow up like a mere beast, to lead a life useless to others and shameful to himself.”
The duty to provide an education for one’s child springs directly from the biblical requirement to “[t]rain up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” In Deuteronomy 6:7, we are taught the necessity of teaching God’s law “diligently unto thy children,” and in Ephesians 6:4 to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
If a parent chooses to educate his or her child outside of the home, Blackstone explains that the parental authority is then delegated “to the tutor or schoolmaster of his child; who is then in loco parentis [in the place of a parent].” Government schools, therefore, have no inherent right or duty to educate children, but operate solely on that authority delegated to them by the parents. They certainly have no authority, as the German schools claim, to squelch “separate philosophical convictions” cherished by parents who choose to exercise their authority to teach their children at home.
Regarding discipline, Blackstone noted that a parent “may lawfully correct his child, being under age, in a reasonable manner, for this is for the benefit of his education.” Of course, child abuse and physical mistreatment are not considered to be “in a reasonable manner” and are rightfully declared to be unlawful. But reasonable discipline, including spanking, should never be prohibited by law.
The Bible is explicit that spanking is part of the authority of a parent. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). I can still remember, as a boy, my father’s words to me before he gave me a good taste of his belt of correction for my disobedience. I now realize that it did “hurt him more than it hurt me” because he loved me. As the Scriptures instruct, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Proverbs 13:24).
Blackstone spoke of a timeless truth when he said that an undisciplined child grows up to be an undisciplined adult, “like a mere beast, to lead a life useless to others and shameful to himself.” If we allow the state to erode parental authority over discipline and education, we will reap, among other things, higher crime and even lower morality in the next generation. Abandoning God’s unchanging law is a sure way to really see the times “a-changin’,” but not for the better.
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